Halley Came to Jackson

   The other day I posted about Comet Lovejoy and its proximity to the Keystone of Hercules. This morning color me frustrated! My opportunity for getting any pictures of Comet Lovejoy have vaporized! The past couple of mornings have been cloudy or hazy which is somewhat normal for this time of year, but adding to my astro-misery is the Moon, now at full phase, lighting up the sky from the west while the Sun, not quite up, is already making the eastern skies too bright to see the Keystone stars of Hercules let alone the much dimmer Comet Lovejoy.

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   So as a sort of consolation here is a picture from a Science Educator colleague from Tucson AZ who takes many of his pictures from Kitt Peak where the skies are much darker and clearer than around here in west-central Missouri. Be sure to visit Robert Sparks at his Flickr pages to see more of his pictures of celestial objects.

(Click here to see the complete full-size banner graphic.)

Below is a wonderful video and song by Mary Chapin Carpenter about Comet Halley to brighten our day!

   
   
   
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.

Hercules and a Comet

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   In the morning skies before the local time for sunrise are the two stars that one follows from the arc in the Big Dipper’s handle — Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman and Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Also part of this early morning cosmic scene the planets Mars and Saturn are visible. This graphic to the right shows a view of the sky including the two stars and two planets plus Comet Lovejoy. Comet Lovejoy is currently at about 9th magnitude making it too dim for naked-eye viewing but certainly within the reach of binoculars and telescopes, and of course time exposure pictures as you can see in this beautiful picture taken by P-M Hedén that appeared on the APOD River website on 13 December.
hercules
   Locating Comet Lovejoy should be relatively easy as the comet is within a few degrees from the keystone-shaped asterism that forms the chest of Hercules the Hero. Using 7×50 binoculars the entire asterism fits within the field of view of binoculars and if one scans toward the right away from the Keystone Comet Lovejoy may come into view – assuming the sky is dark enough.
M-13

M-13

   You may notice a fuzzy appearing object on a line between the stars Eta Hercules and Zeta Hercules. This is the globular star cluster known as the Hercules Cluster or M-13 from the Messier Catalog.

   
   
   
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.

Which Way Are You Going?

   This semester I have a Physical Science class in addition to my Astronomy class and during last night’s discussion about speed and acceleration I mentioned that the speed of an object is always relative or with reference to something else. I even added that “quote” from Einstein’s mother, “Everybody is a relative.”
4 motions   Seriously, in discussing this I dipped into Astronomy and talked about how the Earth and other planets in our solar system all have at least 4 general motions relative to the Sun and the galaxy. And that even the galaxy is in motion and its speed is also relative. On the Earth we rotate (1,000 mph at the equator); we revolve around the Sun (67,000 mph); along with the rest of the solar system we are following the Sun toward the star Vega (43,920 mph); and with regard to the galaxy we are revolving around the galactic center (483,000 mph) as are other stars in the galaxy.
   
   
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.