Sky-Watchers’ Guide: Solar Eclipse Thursday

Sky-Watchers’ Guide: Solar Eclipse Thursday.

A “ring of fire” solar eclipse will darken skies on Thursday as the black silhouette of the moon will appear to glide across the face of the sun until only a bit of sunlight is visible. (See annular eclipse pictures.)

Though the celestial phenomenon will be visible mostly in remote areas in the Pacific, armchair astronomers can watch a live feed of the eclipse, thanks toSLOOH.

The Internet-based space-tracking service is broadcasting the annular eclipse via a telescope from Australia starting on May 9 at 4:30 p.m. CDT (21:30 UT).

New Moon

Lunar Phases
Lunar Phases

New Moon occurs this Thursday evening May 9, 2013 at 6:31:40 p.m. CDT. The phrase new moon means the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon, in its monthly orbital motion around Earth, lies between Earth and the Sun, and is therefore in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth. More precisely, it is the instant when the Moon and the Sun have the same ecliptical longitude.

The Moon takes 27.3 days to orbit Earth, but the lunar phase cycle (from new Moon to new Moon) is 29.5 days. The Moon spends the extra 2.2 days “catching up” because Earth travels about 45 million miles around the Sun during the time the Moon completes one orbit around Earth.

Why do we always see the same side of the Moon? Only one side of the Moon is visible from Earth because the Moon rotates about its axis at the same rate that the Moon orbits the Earth. This is known as synchronous rotation or tidal locking.

The Moon’s diameter is 2,159 miles. This is about 3.7 times smaller than the Earth, making it the Solar System’s fifth largest moon, both by diameter and mass, ranking behind Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, and Io.

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon in May

Comet Lemmon in May
Comet Lemmon in May

In late April Comet Lemmon crossed the celestial equator making its way north. Good news for us! If you missed Comet PANSTARRS in March you can search for Comet Lemmon low in the morning sky, just above the eastern horizon. You’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to spot Comet Lemmon. Begin by sweeping slowly with binoculars about one hour before sunrise, looking for a fuzzy “star” with a short tail. The comet will be fading as the days of May tick away so observe early. Tomorrow morning (May 6th) a thin crescent Moon will pass a short distance south of Comet Lemmon making it a little easier to find. Comet Lemmon, which was discovered in March 2012, is traveling alongside the Great Square in Pegasus and will continue to do so the next few weeks (see finder chart). The chart shows the sky facing east at 5:30 a.m. on the days indicated.

 

2013 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

The 2013 Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks tomorrow morning, Sunday May 5th. The best time to view the sky is that couple of hours prior to dawn. The Eta Aquarids can produce up to 20 to 40 meteors per hour. This shower favors the southern hemisphere slightly but on a good year from the southern portion of the U.S. you might see about 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

This year is predicted to be a good year as the moonlight from the waning crescent moon shouldn’t cause to much trouble. The Eta Aquarid meteors are swift-moving and seasoned sky watchers know to look for persistent trains from the brighter ones.

The graphic above shows the sky looking east at 5 a.m. on Sunday May 5, 2013. The red Telrad bulls-eye is the Eta Aquarid shower’s radiant  The radiant is that point in the sky where the meteors appear to originate from but you do not have to look only at the radiant to see the meteors. In fact, looking in that general direction if the sky a better choice.

How to bag the most meteors? I recommend finding a dark sky, a friend, don’t forget the coffee, a couple of lawn chairs that will allow you to lay back and take in as much sky as possible and enjoy the celestial show. Happy hunting!

Submit your name and a message to be sent to Mars on MAVEN.

MAVEN Spacecraft

At this posting there are less than 60 days left to get your name and a message added to the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission. According to the MAVEN web site everybody on the planet is welcome to participate. Your name will be written to a DVD and sent into Mars orbit on the spacecraft.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch this year, will explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds, such as CO2, N2, and H2O, from the Mars atmosphere to space has played over time, giving insight into the history of Mars atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.

Welcome to the new Scott’s Astronomy Page

After spending a couple of months transferring my domain to a new provider (ipage) I also realized that a freshening up was over due for the site too. I have decided to use WordPress to publish the site and doing so should also make postings much simpler and less time consuming for me. During the transition I have added new content under the Astrophotography and Telescope links with new images or scope and the addition of some new photo categories. I hope you enjoy the new look and feel. This is a work in progress so please check back often.

Thanks,

Scott

Current amateur astronomy information such as points of interest and events in the night sky, star party dates, educational information, telescopes buying tips and much more.