November Moon at Perigee

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit on Monday November 26th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.74 Earth diameters 227,809 miles (366,623 km) from the Earth.

   The 18-day old Waning gibbous rises after sunset and is visible all night between the Gemini Twin stars and the bright star Capella in Canis Minor. Off to the east is the inner planet Venus shining brightly with an apparent magnitude of -4.6, and within about 4o from the blue-white star Spica (0.9 apparent magnitude) in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. About 10o east from Venus is the closest Dwarf Planet, Ceres. With an apparent magnitude of 8.0 Ceres is not visible to the unaided eye.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*
   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.


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Perseids: The Peak Night

   This morning I was set up and the camera was clicking away by about 3 am CDT. Once again I had the camera set to Burst mode taking 10-second exposures with the ISO 1600; F 4.0. The skies were very clear and the humidity seemed lower than yesterday. I started with my 28mm wide-angle lens and then used the 18-55mm lens set at 18 mm with the same shutter settings. After about 30 minutes I added the wide-angle lens for about 25 minutes, and then the 18-55 mm lens for about 15-20 minutes. By then, around 5 am CDT dew had condensed on the lenses and me to the point where it was time to stop. Below are some highlights from this session.
   I saw a total of 4 meteors in a 2-hour time span, as well as 4 airplanes with their lights blinking and leaving long dash-like lines in several picture frames. What was enjoyable was watching the stars of the open star cluster the Pleiades coming into view over the tree tops. That cluster of stars is very obvious in the star trail pictures.


   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

ISS and the Kids

iss-labeled-ani   This evening despite the low temperature the sky was clear, for a change, and after checking to see if there were any ISS flyovers and finding one about an hour after sunset I made my plans. This particular flyover would start at 6:12 pm CST as the ISS appeared above the northwestern horizon. It’s 6-minute path was toward the southeast and at its maximum altitude it would be around 45 degrees. From my Astronomy software I noted that its path would take the ISS past the North Star and then past Capella and the 3 ‘Kid’ stars in Auriga. From there it would angle down toward the southeastern horizon. Before fading from view the ISS passed near the reddish star Aldebaran in the v-shaped open star cluster the Hyades.
issdec26-ani   I was set up on my back deck so I knew it would be a minute or so at least before I could see the ISS over my roof. I had my camera set for 2-second shutter speeds, the ISO was set to 3200, and the aperture set to f4.5. As the ISS came into view I started hitting the shutter release as soon as each image was captured resulting in a series of streaks as the picture above shows.

Click on picture to see it screen-size.

Click on picture to see it screen-size.

   This picture is a composite of 19 separate pictures all taken with the same camera settings during approximately a 1-2 minute time span as the ISS traversed this part of the sky. I use a freeware software program called DeepSkyStacker to make images like this one. There is some blurring of the stars due to not using a tracking guide with my camera – to keep it aimed at the same part of the sky as the Earth rotates.

   Click here to read about and see additional pictures of the ISS and Iridium flares.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

When the Moon Hits You In The Eye…

   This evening the 17.75 days old waning gibbous Moon rises in the face of Taurus the Bull as the banner graphic shows. hyades1-aniThe Moon is very close to the open star cluster the Hyades, a v-shaped grouping of stars that form the face of the bull. The reddish star Aldebaran is one of the eyes and its reddish color signals an angry bull. The bottom or point of the v-shape is the nose and the star at the top of the v-shape across from Aldebaran is the other eye.

Close-up View with 7x50 Binoculars

Close-up View with 7×50 Binoculars

   The Hyades is a large open star cluster consisting of several hundred stars all of about the same age and at a distance of around 150 light years. The brighter reddish star Aldebaran, at a distance of about 70 light years, is not part of this open star cluster but is coincidentally in the line of sight toward the Hyades.

   
   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mom and the Kids

   This evening the 16.8-day old waning gibbous Moon rises within about 7 degrees from the open star cluster, the Pleiades, marking the shoulder of Taurus the Bull. Off to the left, or toward the north is the pentagon-shaped star of Auriga the Charioteer.
capella-bino   The alpha, or brightest star in Auriga is Capella which from Latin means something like ‘female-goat’. The three nearby stars to Capella, Almaaz, Hoedus I, and Hoedus II, are called the ‘kids’ as these are the babies from their mother goat Capella. Capella at a distance of 42 light years is the 6th brightest night time star, and Capella is actually a double pair of stars.
auriga-ani   Within the pentagon-shape of Auriga lie two open star clusters, M-36 and M-38. Both are about 7th magnitude in apparent brightness and are within 2-3 degrees of each other meaning that both are visible within the field of view of binoculars or with a telescope and a low power wide-field eyepiece.

   
   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

ISS and the Sisters

Click on picture for full-screen size

Click on picture to see it full-screen size

   This morning was rather cool as September mornings go with few clouds but mostly clear skes and many stars. My plan was to follow the ISS as it orbited over the midwest starting with its appearance above the southwest horizon and then following its flight path past the open star cluster the Pleiades to very near the bright star Capella in the constellation of Auriga, and then on to the northeast horizon where it was no longer at an angle to reflect sunlight from the solar panels. That plan worked out well although I got distracted by my dog Tyler and missed the picture during the Capella flyby. Nonetheless I captured a nice exposure of the ISS flying past the Pleiades.
   This was an awesome fly over as it lasted nearly 5 minutes and at its maximum elevation the ISS was at 88 degrees, or almost straight overhead. For the exposures this morning I had the camera set for 8-second exposures, at F5.6, and ISO at 1600.

Click on picture to see it full screen.

Click on picture to see it full screen.

   Part of the exciting things about this pastime is that while waiting for the ‘main event’ several other satellites flew by. I didn’t have the camera aimed where the ISS first appeared but as it rose above the southwest horizon another satellite crossed ISS’s path at right angles. Additionally as I was setting up the camera and taking a few test exposures another satellite, the Cosmos 1812 flew past the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades as this picture shows. That satellite is a Soviet ‘spy’ satellite that was launched in 1987. This picture has been digitally enhanced. Click here to see the original.

   I use a variety of programs and web sites for tracking and planning my pictures. Typically I use an App on my Kindle, ISS Detector Pro, the ISS Sightings web site, SATVIEW web site (see banner picture), and the Starry Night software.

   Click here to read about and see additional pictures of the ISS and Iridium flares.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Winter Hexagon and Jupiter

11 p.m. CST

11 p.m. CST

   The first quarter Moon rises and sets this evening near the stars of two open star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades, and is also close to the planet Jupiter. This part of the sky also contains a large asterism known as the winter hexagon. This is a loosely drawn figure composed of six bright stars from six constellations (go figure!). Starting with Rigel in Orion move to Aldebaran in Taurus, to Capella in Auriga, through the twin stars of Pollux and Castor in Gemini (count as one), then on to Procyon in Canis Minor, and finally to the brightest night time star, Sirius (no kidding!) in Canis Major.
   Click here to see or download a full size graphic showing the winter hexagon.

      
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.