Venus and Moon: A 2-Day Affair

   After the very thin waxing crescent Moon passed the innermost planet Mercury on the evening of the 25th the Moon continues its eastward orbit, and over a 2-day period the waxing crescent Moon passes by the other inner planet, Venus. On the evenings of January 27th and 28th the 3-4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 7o from Venus. On the 27th the Moon will be to the west and on the 28th the Moon will be east from Venus. Both conjunctions will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   On the evening of the 27th Venus will be less than 0.5o from the 4th magnitude star Phi Aquarii. This is an interesting contrast in magnitudes between the 4th magnitude star and nearby Venus. Venus also has a magnitude of 4, however for Venus it is a -4.0 apparent magnitude!


   
   
   

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Holograms in Your Hand – An Unsolicited Review of the Merge Cube

   What to do on a snowed-in morning?? After shoveling the deck, driveway, and sidewalk of course!

   Learn more about the Merge Cube
   The Merge Cube is foam block with what looks like QR Codes on every side. WIth the Merge Cube software or App the device camera will project a 3D image onto the Merge Cube. Rotating the cube shows all sides or views of the object in what looks like a holographic image. So after seeing some posts about the Merge Cube and being the curious type I purchased a 2-pack of the Merge Cube. One for me and one for my granddaughter!

   The software (Apps) is in 2 parts and available for either Android or IOS, and PC or Mac.
   To download from the web site you do not have to commit to the trial. When selected the PC software comes from the Microsoft Store and installed on both my laptop and my desktop PC. The same downloads are available at the Apple Store. The cellphone Apps come from either the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.
Merge Explorer
Merge Object Viewer
Go to this web site for downloads:
https://mergeedu.com/trial

The Hubble Space Telescope with the Object Viewer


Merge Cube Experiences (downloads)
https://miniverse.io/cube

   I’m not sure about the pricing for the additional Cube Apps, or objects from the Merge Cube web site. You could subscribe for a cost but there are some free alternatives from making your own to editing other designs to simply downloading.

   So far I have found two websites and a cellphone App for working with 3D images. Both are sources for 3D objects to purchase, download and or create or edit. Both can export objects that work with the Merge Cube.
Sketchfab (online) and PC, Mac, mobile (Android OS and IOS)
http://sketchfab.com
Tinkercad (online)
https://www.tinkercad.com/

Solar System Viewed with the Explorer

   The Merge Cube is a handheld object so I wondered how it would be used in a group setting – assuming the audience will not be using a 3D viewer – the presenter is the only one ‘equipped’.

   Since the software is installed on my laptop I found out, duh, that it would work using the built-in camera. With that in mind simply hooking up to a projection system allows the audience to see the 3D object. These two screen grab pictures were taken using both programs. The Solar System using the Explorer and HST with Object Viewer. A sort of downside is that your face is part of what is projected as well!!

   Got a Webcam? I still have a couple of these and with a USB connection to my laptop or desktop PC the camera could be used to move around the cube rather then moving the cube in front of the camera. Not quite the same experience but it works!

   This could also work if the presenter is wearing a VR type viewer, either goggles or the cellphone holder type, if it is connected directly to a projection system or to a projection system via a connected PC. With a cellphone this may be using something like Chromecast. Again the audience would see what the presenter sees, but by way of the video projection.

Further Questions??
   Will the Merge Cube work if members of the audience all have 3D viewers but only the presenter is holding the cube?
Could they aim their respective cellphone toward the object and see it as 3D?
Is there a limiting distance between the camera and the merge cube?

IMHO:

Merge Cube with an Ipad tablet

   First thing I noticed is that I needed 3 hands! You have to hold the cube in one hand and then manipulate the image on the screen with the other hand. Trying to hold the cube in the camera field of view while then using your fingers on the other hand to zoom in or out, select labels,etc. at least for me was a challenge. The picture shows a kiddo using a tablet which makes more sense than using a cellphone because the tablet is stationary while a cellphone may not be. I use a mini-tripod for holding my cellphone freeing up my hands for ‘cubeing’.

Individual Users

   If a classroom already has 3D viewers like the Google Cardboard, or other makes, and assuming the kids have a cellphone with the App installed and each one has a Merge Cube then this could make for interesting learning experiences.

   Activity plans are available for download and reading but the few I looked at seemed rather light and were things I would think any Teacher using the Merge Cube would have already thought of doing or asking.

   To me the Merge Cube would be fun and engaging but I think the hologram technology is not quite ready for really good use in the classroom. What I am waiting for is a way to have a group experience where everyone wears a 3D Viewer and sees and hears an avatar, a graphic character or figure, representing each of the participants in the group. Imagine the field trip or classroom extension possibilities as you walk or swim along with your students or the audience.

   
   
   

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Sun Enters Capricornus not Aquarius- – 2019


 Monday January 20th at 9 UT the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic enters the boundaries of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat. This is the actual location of the Sun.
   Interestingly, according to the pseudoscience of astrology, 6 hours later, at 15 UT Monday January 20th, the Sun should be entering the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.

   
   
   

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Mars on the Move

   Friday morning January 17th, before sunrise, the last quarter Moon will be about 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. However the celestial highlight coming up is further east or lower and closer to the eastern horizon where there are two reddish-colored objects of about the same apparent brightness or magnitude. One object is the planet Mars and the other is the star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

click on animated graphic to see it larger

Mars passing Antares – January 17-23 – 6 am CST

   Watch over the next several mornings and you will be able to determine which one is Mars and which is Antares as one of them moves past the other – as this animated graphic is showing. Also, relative to Mars and Antares the Moon is waning in phase as it zips past the two.

   There is an interesting connection between the star Antares and the planet Mars, based on their similar reddish color. There are times like this year when the two are close and part of the mythology surrounding the two suggests that the star was given its name so as to not confuse it with the planet Mars. The name Antares comes from the Greek word translated to ‘Rival of Mars’.

   Whenever that was historically Mars was probably known as one of the ‘wandering stars’ from the Greek word ‘planetai’. So with its reddish color, like blood, this ‘wandering star’ came to represent Mars, the ‘G-d of War’. Antares, on the other hand is a red supergiant star with a diameter estimated to be such that if it were at the center of our solar system Antares would fill the solar system out to around the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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Saturn at Solar Conjunction – 2019

   Monday January 13th the planet Saturn will have reached the astronomical coordinates that officially place it at solar conjunction. From our perspective the planet is behind the Sun, or on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth.

   In reality it is not as much as Saturn moving behind the Sun as it is the Sun passing in front of Saturn – or so it seems. As a distant outer planet Saturn moves more slowly around the Sun than the Earth does. One year on Saturn is equal to 29.7 years (10,832 days) on Earth. So in one Earth day Saturn would travel how much of the 360o orbit around the Sun? That would amount to approximately 0.033o each day.

   The Sun, in its apparent motion along the ecliptic moves at the rate the Earth is moving which is 0.99o each day. So with the Sun’s apparent motion (0.99o/day) it quickly, relative to Saturn, passes Saturn while both are moving eastward. This animated graphic starts with Saturn and the Sun above the horizon a couple of hours after sunrise. The animation is set for 1-day intervals showing the Sun moving eastward away from Saturn. The sky is purposely left dark to show Saturn more easily.

   So with that in mind you could start watching for Saturn to reappear in the morning skies later next month.
   
   
   

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From a Crab to a Lion

   Over the next two evenings, January 11th and 12th, the waning gibbous Moon moves from near the Beehive Cluster, M-44, an open star cluster in Cancer the Crab to near the bright star Regulus in Leo the Lion. M-44, with an apparent magnitude of 3.50 in a dark sky without the Moon nearby is visible to the unaided eye and is easily seen with optical assistance like binoculars, or a low-power wide field eyepiece.


   
   
   

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


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Waxing Gibbous Moon Near Aldebaran

   Tuesday evening January 7th the 13-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 3-4o from the reddish star Aldebaran. Aldebaran is known as the ‘angry’ red eye of the constellation pattern Taurus the Bull.

    Aldebaran is located at one end of a v-shaped cluster of stars making up the face of the Bull. This group of stars are all part of an open star cluster known as the Hyades. They are one of two naked-eye visible open star clusters within the boundaries of the constellation. The other one is the little dipper-shaped group known as the Pleiades.

   
   
   

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


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