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Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing  

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stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

I feel bad about being a spoil sport, but...

I'm not sure where that site got that information. In May Venus and Jupiter will be (as they are now) on opposite sides of the sun in the sky (Jupiter is a morning object and Venus is out in the evening). They cannot be in conjunction then. In addition, on that date the moon will be in Aquarius, about 10 or 15 degrees southeast of Mars, but nowhere near either Venus or Jupiter.

(I used the interactive sky map feature on heavens-above to confirm my suspicions).

Then I wondered if they had just gotten the date wrong. It turns out there are no Venus-Jupiter conjunctions at all this year. (The next one is on February 11, 2021, with both planets pretty close to the sun in the sky and thus hard to see - and the moon is new that same day and thus unobservable).

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : April 21, 2020 7:34 pm
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

I was hoping that would be true! :)) 'Though the news did seem odd to me (without really checking it out), since currently Jupiter is visible in the morning and Venus in the evening, so thanks for the confirmation, 'gazer.

I actually went back into the article to look at the date it was written, thinking it might be an April Fool's joke. But it was published on April 7. :P

And that's cool that you, Rya, and her dad saw the satellite train. But in some ways, it just seems so, what's the word ... intrusive? As you said, very different than seeing the occasional satellite in the night sky. Apparently astronomers aren't pleased with this 'parade', and I can understand why.

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Posted : April 22, 2020 2:26 am
fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Awww, that's too bad. But thanks for the info Gazer. I will be sure to sleep in that day. ;)

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Posted : April 22, 2020 8:19 am
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

I can relate, fantasia. I find it harder to get up to observe in the wee hours (especially as the days get longer) than it is to stay up late to see the stars.

SpaceX just launched its sixth set of Starlink satellites, and observers have talked about seeing them as a compact train of satellites moving across the sky together. As time goes by they separate more, so it may be worth looking for them if your sky is clear tonight (heavens-above can provide location-specific predictions for seeing them).

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : April 24, 2020 10:56 am
fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Question, is it possible that the previous article mistyped and it's supposed to be the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter?

Also, where's the best place to find out when and where the satellites are supposed to be viewable? We tried to spot them the other night and didn't know where to look.

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Posted : May 3, 2020 1:47 pm
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

fantasia, that's a good question, and I did try to rule that out in my earlier investigation. The Moon is fairly close to Jupiter the morning of May 12, and that should be worth getting up early for, skies permitting. (But it won't look like that configuration in the original tweet. A formation like that would have astronomers world-wide buzzing because it is so rare - I'd almost say impossible, but incredibly unusual at best).

There are a variety of sites showing the Starlink satellites, but I'm most familiar with heavens-above.com. You'll need to enter your location (upper right corner), and then there are two options from the main page.

"Daily predictions for brighter satellites" lists everything available (depending on the magnitude you choose to filter by - magnitude 3.0 is the brightest and will leave out some results, but you might miss something using it if your sky is very dark). There might a lot of "noise" in that list, making it harder to pick out specific Starlink parades.

The other option is "Starlink passes for all objects from a launch." This will filter out all the other stuff, making it easier to pick out a parade. There is a drop-down available for launch date, so if the default option (Starlink 6) gives no results, try an earlier one. (We saw some Starlink 3 satellites the other night).

The magnitudes listed are still uncertain. Our Starlink 3 satellites had predicted brightness around magnitude 4 - almost impossible from an urban area - but were easy to see, approaching magnitude 0 at times.

It may look like just a jumble of numbers, but you can click on the time at highest point and it will give a star chart with the path, including tick marks for each minute, so you can find where to look and also when to expect it.

It takes some luck I think - we've seen some great groups of satellites but other times we've seen nothing despite the predictions.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : May 5, 2020 11:15 am
fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Last night my husband was out very late unloading our truck from a long day working on wheat harvest, when he noticed that things suddenly became slightly illuminated. He looked up and watched the biggest and brightest meteor he had ever seen streak across the sky. I was sorry I missed it. That must have been quite something. 

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Posted : June 19, 2020 10:13 am
johobbit liked
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

That meteor sounds spectacular, fantasia! Reports on the American Meteor Society pages indicate it was seen in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, with some brightness estimates of magnitude -20 (brighter than the full moon). Wow!

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : June 19, 2020 11:58 am
johobbit liked
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

It's been a few years since we've had a reasonably-bright comet here in mid-northern latitudes. Comet NEOWISE is currently visible to early risers with a good view to the east and a chart showing them where to look. It's rather low and binoculars should help. It'll move into the evening sky in a week or two, lurking below the Big Dipper.  Read more here

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : July 9, 2020 5:02 pm
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

Wow! for that meteor your husband saw, fantasia! Unexpected sky treats like that are fantastic! And some estimates are a magnitude of -20 ... Shocked  

I would love to awaken extra-early one morning to see Comet NEOWISE! Alas, after nearly a month of basically no rain, we have a very rainy few days now, with very overcast skies, so, believe me, the first clear morning, I hope to be out there, trying to find it—naked eye and with binoculars. Thanks for this info, stargazer! Smile

(Don't get me wrong, though, we badly need the rain, so we are grateful for that.)

EDIT later in the day: good news! After all the rain we had today, the skies will be clearing tonight before more rain arrives tomorrow afternoon. So, I am going to try to be out at my viewing point towards NE around 5 tomorrow morning to see if I can spy NEOWISE. Excited! Dancing  

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Posted : July 11, 2020 8:38 am
fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Yesterday morning was a bust for spotting the comet as we had ONE STORM to the east of us blocking the view. But this morning was a success. We trucked out to the driveway at about 5:10am this morning and it was bright enough that my husband spotted it with his naked eyes. Pretty good considering we weren't sure where to look other than east. It was pretty much exactly northeast. 

Picture of NEOWISE

The above is the one halfway decent picture I got, which wasn't very good because it was taken with my cell phone camera held up to our telescope. LOL We're hoping when better viewing is at sunset to get a much better picture. 😀 

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Posted : July 12, 2020 12:08 pm
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

That's awesome! Glad you got to see it. Seeing it here will require driving somewhere with a better horizon (too many trees and houses here) - that will be a little more convenient once it becomes an evening object.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : July 12, 2020 12:31 pm
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

I love that you saw NEOWISE, fantasia! That is one fantastic picture. If I didn't know better, the orb-shape behind the comet looks like the Moon (rather than the end of the telescope). Giggle I have shared the photo with my family, who also exclaimed over it with oooohs and aaaahs. Cool  

I woke up at 4:30 EDT yesterday morning to get out to my viewing point by 5 a.m., but, alas, there was a haze in the NE, and as dawn was starting to light the eastern sky, I could not spot it, try though I did with naked eye and binoculars. Tomorrow morning (the forecast is for clearing tonight) I will be at my spot around 4:15 instead, eager and anticipatory.

But getting up that early was not a complete waste. It has been awhile since I have seen the night sky, being the summer months here for us (I am not a night owl! Yawn Giggle ), so I have sorely missed that great expanse. The Moon was beautiful through the binoculars, not too far from ruddy Mars, with the bright eye of Venus in the east. ♥

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Posted : July 13, 2020 6:50 am
stargazer
(@stargazer)
Member Moderator

Good luck finding the comet, Jo!

The trees here make finding it low in the morning sky difficult, so I'm going to wait a few days until it comes out in the evening since our view to the northwest is better.  The S&T article I linked above has been updated with new star charts that should make it easier to locate since they show the constellations and comet relative to the horizon.

Glad you got to see Venus. I've been watching it of late and its brightness is so spectacular. Note Aldebaran nearby.

Rain is in our forecast for tonight and tomorrow so any more observing may have to wait.

But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

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Posted : July 13, 2020 12:58 pm
johobbit liked
johobbit
(@jo)
SO mod; WC captain Moderator

Success early this morning! Grin ( Yawn Giggle )

My alarm was set for 3:45, but I awoke naturally one minute before. Smug I was at my first viewing location by 4:15 a.m.; at my second location by 4:35. Both are only a few minutes from our house, but have unique views, so I wanted to see from each. I parked the car at the first, got out, turned my eyes toward the NE, and there it was. What a sight. Of course I grabbed my binoculars to get a better view. Wow! Beauty.

I then drove to the second site (by the Old Silo: some of you have heard me mention that, as it's my favourite place on my morning walks to view the dawn), saw clouds moving in from the N, heading NE, but was able to enjoy NEOWISE for a few more minutes before it was overtaken.

I also reveled in bright Venus again, and yes, @stargazer, I saw ruddy Aldebaran. Really lovely. The Moon was again a wonderful view, particularly through the binoculars, as were the Pleiades and Cassiopeia, amongst others. I was all alone out there ... just me and the night sky ♥, with the dawn barely glowing on the eastern horizon. Glorious! Ursa Major (in which is the commonly known Big Dipper) was covered with the clouds moving in, so I missed seeing that always interesting constellation. This reminded me of one of the Ohio Moots when we couldn't find a major night sky landmark (wasn't it the Big Dipper, DiGs? refresh my memory Giggle ), which meant something was cosmically wrong with the universe that night. LOL @DiGoRyKiRkE

There is a very distinct star at 4:45 a.m. in the South, about 15° above the horizon (give or take Wink ), and I am not sure what it is. Just checked our very handy and informative star chart, so I believe it is either Deneb or Fomalhaut. Not sure which yet. Hmmm Is Deneb the brightest of the two?

stargazer, I sure hope you get to see the comet when it's clear to view in the evening hours. I hope to see it again then, too, as it climbs higher and higher. Can't get enough of these marvels.

 EDIT: I just read that NEOWISE is nearly five kilometres wide and over 100 million kms away from us now. And we can quite easily see it from earth. Shocked  

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Posted : July 14, 2020 8:59 am
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