Saturday, August 27, 2016

Extremely Close Conjunction of Venus & Jupiter Saturday Night

2016-august-27-venus-jupiter-mercury
Low on the western horizon, Venus and Jupiter will have an amazingly
close conjunction shortly after sunset on Saturday evening, and
Mercury may be dimly visible even lower. (Image Source: EarthSky.org)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Saturday evening (2016 August 27), shortly after local sunset, the planets Venus and Jupiter can be seen in an extremely close conjunction. In fact, the brightest two planets in our Solar System will be so close that, to the naked-eye, they may look like one very bright object!

Actually, this will be a triple conjunction, as to the lower left of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, if you look very carefully you may even be able to make-out the small planet, Mercury. Right after sunset, Mercury will be hugging the horizon. So, do not be surprised if you cannot find it. To find Mercury, you will need a very good western horizon and good seeing conditions.

Venus and Jupiter, which are the third and fourth brightest objects in the sky, respectively (the Sun and Moon are the first and second brightest, respectively), will be very close to the horizon—only about 5 degrees above the horizon—after sunset; and, Mercury will be much lower. If you hold your closed-fist at arm's-length, the diameter of the closed-fist is about 10 degrees-of-arc; so, half of that distance is the height of the conjunction above the Earth's horizon.

So, to view this conjunction, you should be on the highest hill possible, with a very good view of the western horizon, with few obstructions such as trees, buildings, or other hills. At mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, you will have about a half-hour to view the conjunction, as the planets will set about an hour after sunset. In the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter will appear just below Venus, while the much smaller and dimmer Mercury will be to the lower left of Venus and Jupiter.

To view this conjunction, start watching for Venus, the brighter of the two planets, about a half-hour after sunset. After you find Venus, Jupiter should appear just below Venus just a little later. Late Summer haze and humidity, particularly near the horizon, could make the conjunction more difficult to find. But, if you see a bright spot twinkling, you will likely have found Venus; although planets do not normally twinkle, as do stars, any bright object near the horizon is likely to twinkle.

Observers in the Southern Hemisphere will have more time, as people watching at mid-southern latitudes will have about an hour-and-a-half to watch the conjunction before the planets set two hours after sunset. Hence, at sunset the planets will be a little higher in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, Jupiter will appear just above, and just a wee-bit to the left of, Venus, and Mercury will be a little to the upper left of Jupiter and Venus.

If both Venus and Jupiter can be found with the naked-eye, they will be easily seen within the same field-of-view of binoculars or a telescope. A lot of the time, both celestial objects in a conjunction cannot be seen at the same time in a set of binoculars or a telescope, as most objects are not this close during a conjunction. However, Mercury will not be seen in the same field-of-view in a telescope; Mercury may or may not be seen in the same field-of-view of a set of binoculars, depending on the size of binoculars.

This year's closest approach of two planets (as viewed from Earth) will actually occur a little before sunset. On Saturday Evening, 2016 August 27 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 22:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the two planets will be in conjunction (when they have an identical right ascension, of an east-west celestial coordinate system) at 0.1 degree of separation. Actually, about a half hour later, at 6:31 p.m. EDT / 22:31 UTC, the two planets will be at their very closest at 0.067 degree or 4 arc-minutes of separation; this closest approach is known astronomically as an appulse. So, although most people will be viewing the two planets, technically, a little bit after the conjunction and the appulse, Venus and Jupiter will still be extremely close until they set.

Of course, as with all celestial observing, viewing this conjunction will be weather-permitting. If there are too many clouds in the western sky after sunset, particularly close to the horizon, the conjunction likely will not be seen.

For several months, Jupiter has shone as the bright planet in the evening sky. Now, Jupiter's position in the sky each night is lower, as it meets Venus on August 27. Soon, Jupiter will be so close to the Sun (as viewed from Earth) that it will no longer be visible; in fact, Jupiter and the Sun will be in conjunction a month from now (September 26 at 3:00 a.m. EDT / 7:00 UTC). In October, Jupiter reappears in the morning sky.

Venus had just reappeared low in the evening sky last month. Venus had its own conjunction with the Sun, superior conjunction, on June 6 at 6:00 p.m EDT / 22:00 UTC. Now, each night Venus rises a little higher in the sky, and by Autumn Venus will be the very bright evening planet for the rest of the year.

This will be one of the closest conjunctions, without the possibility of an occultation of the two planets. An occultation of Jupiter by Venus is even more rare than a close conjunction, such as the one that will occur this evening. The last Venus - Jupiter occultation occurred in 1818, with an earlier one in 1570.. The next one will occur in 2065, but probably will not really be visible, as the two planets will only be 8 degrees from the Sun. The next one after 2065, which will occur in 2123, may be visible at 16 degrees from the Sun.

Even without a major conjunction, Venus is so bright it is often mistaken for an unidentified flying object (UFO). During the months Venus was visible in the nighttime sky, I would often receive telephone calls at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), in the evening hours during the 1980s and early 1990s, from people asking what the very bright object is in the western sky.

In fact Venus and Jupiter are so bright, the pairing of the two planets in 2014 almost caused an international incident between India and China. Indian Army sentries along the Himalayan border mistook the two planets for spy drones from China. Indian astronomers correctly identified the conjunction before the Indian Army took steps against the supposed Chinese incursion.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Precise Time for Sunset for any Location on Earth:
Link >>> http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Conjunction: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy)

Appulse: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appulse

Occultation: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occultation

Right Ascension: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_ascension

Mercury: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(planet)

Venus: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus

Jupiter: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 27.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, August 25, 2016

International Dark-Sky Parks: Part of National Park Service Centennial

Owachomo Bridge with the Milky Way overhead
In 2006, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah was designated as the world's first International Dark-Sky Park. This photograph shows the night sky at Owachomo Bridge. August 25 marks the centennial of America's National Park Service.
(Image Source: National Park Service; Photographer: Jacob W. Frank)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (2016 August 25) marks the centennial of America's National Park Service. And, since 2006, several National Parks have been designated International Dark-Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association.

What became the world's first designated National Parks has been described as “America's Best Idea,” in the 2009 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) historical, television documentary series produced by Ken Burns. Although, U.S. National Parks date long before the National Park Service was formed.

The earliest versions of National Parks were the Hot Springs, Arkansas Reservation created by the U.S. Congress in 1832 and the Congressional ceding of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (Yosemite Grant) to the State of California as a State Park for "public use, resort, and recreation" in 1864. The smallest National Park by area, Hot Springs became an official National Park in 1921. Yosemite was designated a National Park in 1890, but it did not come under Federal control until U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (influenced by Sierra Club Founder John Muir) signed a Congressional bill taking control from California in 1906.

Yellowstone National Park became the first official National Park in 1872. Yellowstone is considered the world's first National Park, even though national nature preserves had been established earlier in Germany (Drachenfels:1822) and France (Forest of Fontainebleau: 1861).

Federal control of Yellowstone was necessary from the beginning, Unlike Yosemite, no state existed where the Yellowstone National Park was formed, only a Federally-governed territory. Yellowstone's boundaries are within parts of three states, which did not join the Union until 1889-1890: Wyoming (1890), Montana (1889), and Idaho (1890).

It was not until the U.S. Department of the Interior had accumulated 39 national parks and monuments that Congress formed the National Park Service, within the Department, to administer parks and monuments in a comprehensive way. On 1916 August 25, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed-into-law the National Park Service Organic Act.

Today, of the 412 sites managed by the National Park Service, only 59 carry the designation of “National Park.” Other sites have the designations of National Monuments, National Historical Sites and Parks, National Natural Landmarks, National Wildlife Preservation Areas, and Marine Protected Areas. Completely separate from the National Park Service are National Forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service (established in 1891) which is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the later half of the 19th century and through the 20th century, National Parks have been dedicated to preserving wilderness and natural eco-systems, sites of historical, cultural, natural, scientific, and educational importance, and areas to protect wildlife. However, with increasing national and world populations, and the greater urbanization of these populations, it became increasingly evident that a new preservation was needed---to preserve dark skies due to increased light pollution.

Outdoor lighting at night, that is not properly shielded, can cause excess light to escape into the sky causing sky-glow, which brightens the sky (which does not need brightened) and drowns-out the dimmer celestial objects. Additionally, this wastes light energy which could be better used on the ground.

Excess light entering the eyes causes eye-glare, which makes driving, cycling, or even walking, more difficult. This also narrows eye pupils, greatly limiting night vision, making it even more difficult to see dim objects in the night sky.

Light pollution in most major cities, today, make it difficult to observe anything but the Moon, planets, and the brightest stars. And, since the constellations consist of both bright and dim stars, it is becoming ever more difficult to make-out constellations with the naked-eye from urban areas, since many of the dimmer stars seem to be missing from where a constellation should be found.

This light pollution also makes astronomical observatories located within major cities less usable for astronomical research. Most of these observatories are very historic, as they were built in the 19th or early 20th centuries, before light pollution became a problem. However, for cutting-edge astronomical research to continue, money has to be spent to build new observatories in remote locations away from urban areas, or launched into Outer Space.

In 2001, the International Dark-Sky Association, which had been established in 1988, started an International Dark-Sky Places program "to protect locations of exceptional nighttime visages for future generations." This program includes three categories of International Dark-Sky Places: International Dark-Sky Parks, International Dark-Sky Reserves, and International Dark-Sky Communities.

Flagstaff, Arizona became the first International Dark-Sky Community in 2001. Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first International Dark-Sky Park in 2006. The Reserve at Mont-Megantic in Quebec, Canada became the first International Dark-Sky Reserve in 2008; thus far, all International Dark-Sky Reserves are located outside of the United States.

Presently, there are seven U.S. National Parks and National Monuments which have been designated as International Dark-Sky Parks:

Special Note: To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, all National Parks will offer free-of-charge admission this weekend, including this Thursday and Friday --- Thursday through Sunday: 2016 August 25 through August 28, and also on 2016 September 24 and on 2016 November 11.
AND, all children attending school in the fourth grade can obtain a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program!
PLUS, Active-Duty Military Members and Citizens with a Permanent Disability can also obtain free passes to National Parks.
More Info - Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

International Dark-Sky Parks:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association#International_Dark_Sky_Parks

International Dark-Sky Association:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association

National Park Service ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Park_Service
National Park Service History: Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/history.htm

National Park Service Centennial ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm
Link 2 >>> http://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/celebrating-100-years-service

Grand Canyon Receives Provisional Status, in 2016 June, as an International Dark-Sky Park:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/astronomical-calendar-2016-august.html

The National Parks: America's Best Idea - 2009 PBS Documentary:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_National_Parks:_America%27s_Best_Idea

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 25.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Another Odd Object Found Beyond Neptune!


Newly-discovered Trans-Neptunian Object "Niku" revolves backwards around the Sun, with an eccentric orbit tilted 110 degrees from the orbits of other planets.
(Graphic Source: Jonny Reading @ dailymail.co.uk)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

After last month's discovery of a large asteroid in our Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune, now a smaller Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) with a very eccentric orbit has been discovered. At an orbit with an inclination of 110 degrees from the orbits of the other planets, which swings backwards in its orbit around the Sun, this new object is a mystery that cannot be easily explained.

Designated 2011 KT19 due to its original discovery in 2011, it was lost until this month when scientists realized the object's strange orbit. It could be an asteroid or possibly a large comet The object is 160,000 times fainter than Neptune, which means it could be as small as 124,000 miles / 200,000 kilometers in diameter.

This TNO has been nicknamed Niku, which is the Chinese adjective for rebellious. It is currently located above the plane of our Solar System, and it is continuing to move even higher beyond the plane, which astronomers do consider rebellious.

There are seven other TNOs that have a similar orbit around the Sun. The reasons for the unusual orbits, by these eight objects, is unknown. It is extremely unlikely that this occurred by chance, which suggests the influence of a larger object, perhaps the “Planet 9” astronomers are searching for, or a smaller asteroid.

To even make things stranger, four of these TNOs, including Niku, orbit in a retro-grade motion or in the opposite direction from the orbital direction of the major planets. Three others orbit pro-grade, or in the same direction as the major planets of our Solar System.

So, it is thought that these particular TNOs probably had a common origin. Further, it is speculated that, originally, they did have fairly normal orbits, before being perturbed by some large object.

Normally, in a solar system, all planets revolve around the star in a particular plane. This is how solar systems are formed from gas and dust. According to Queens University, Belfast, Astronomer Michele Bannister, “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way. It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.”

Of course, there are other exceptions. Pluto's orbit has an eccentric inclination, with regard to the plane of the Solar System. However, Pluto's inclination is only 17 degrees. Also, some comets, including Halley's Comet, do orbit the Sun in a retro-grade fashion.

Although the so-called “Planet 9” was the first candidate to explain the odd behavior of these TNOs, the scientists now believe this group of TNOs is being influenced by yet another unknown object in the Outer Solar System, perhaps another Dwarf Planet such as Pluto. They say that this particular group of TNOs is too close to Neptune's orbit to be influenced by the, yet-to-be-found, Planet 9.

This is because, when found, Planet 9 is expected to be fairly large, perhaps 10 times as large as the Earth. They believe that if Planet 9 was as close to the orbit of Neptune as Niku, it would have been discovered by now, due to its assumed great size. Currently, it is estimated that Planet 9 should be found 20 times the distance of Neptune from the Sun.

A team of astronomers, using the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) Telescope System developed by the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, discovered Niku. These discoverers of Niku include Ying-Tung Chen, Shiang-Yu Wang, and Matthew Lehner from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taipei, Taiwan and Hsing Wen Lin, Wing-Huen Ip, and Wen-Ping Chen of the Institute of Astronomy of the National Central University in Taiwan. The other authors of the preliminary scientific paper on Niku are Matthew J. Holman and Matthew J. Payne of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Wesley C. Fraser of Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Pedro Lacerda of the Max-Planck Institute in Gottingen, German; and Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, Robert Jendicke, Richard J. Wainscoat, John L. Tonry, Eugene A. Magnier, Christopher Wates, and Nick Kaiser of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Niku -
Link 1 >>> https://www.newscientist.com/article/2100700-mystery-object-in-weird-orbit-beyond-neptune-cannot-be-explained/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_KT19

Scientific Paper (Draft) on discovery of Niku: Link >>> http://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.01808v1.pdf

Pan-STARRS Telescope System: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-STARRS

Related Blog Posts ---

"New, Large Asteroid Found in Outer Solar System." 2016 July 18.
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/07/new-large-asteroid-found-in-outer-solar.html

"170th Anniversary: Smithsonian Institution." 2016 Aug. 10.
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/170th-anniversary-smithsonian.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 16.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tonight's 'Meteor Outburst' w/Web-Casts: 150 Years After Comet-Meteor Shower Link Found

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/geminid20091209-full.jpg
Time-lapse image of the Meteor Outburst which occurred during the annual Perseid Meteor Shower in 2009. (Image Source: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

During tonight's peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, NASA is predicting a possible “Meteor Outburst,” when 150-to-200 meteors per-hour might be visible under ideal conditions. Internet web-casts of this Shower / “Outburst” are available (Internet links to these web-casts are listed at the end of this blog-post), for areas which experience cloudy weather. This comes 150 years from the time that famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered that comets are the cause of Meteor Showers.

This year's Perseid Meteor Shower and possible “Meteor Outburst,” which peaks tonight (Thursday Evening / Friday Morning), is expected to be one of the best of the last few years, due to no moon-light obscuring the dimmer meteors after moon-set. And, before the best viewing time period for the Meteor Shower / “Outburst,” a conjunction of the Moon, two planets, and a bright star are prominent.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

An “Outburst” is a Meteor Shower with many more meteors than usual. The last Perseid Outburst occurred in 2009. The next Perseid Meteor Outburst is expected around 2027.

After evening twilight in the southern sky on Thursday night, well before the best time to view the Meteor Shower, the waxing-gibbous Moon can be seen forming a quadrangle or diamond with the Planets Mars and Saturn, and the bright Star Antares (the Moon will be a little further to the left on Friday night). At about an hour after sun-set, Mars, appearing as a small red dot, can be seen below the Moon. Saturn can be seen to the lower left of the Moon, and Antares (Alpha Scorpii – the brightest star in the Constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, as well as the 15th brightest star in the night sky), also reddish, can be seen below Saturn and to the left of Mars.

The peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, this year, actually occurs Friday Morning, 2016 August 12 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 13:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Since the peak time is closest to the early morning hours of Thursday Night / Friday Morning, this is considered the very best time to see Perseids. However, as the early morning hours of Friday Night / Saturday Morning are less than 24 hours after the peak, this time period may also feature a good share of Perseid Meteors.

This year, by around 2:00 local time both Friday and Saturday mornings, the waxing-gibbous Moon is setting or has set. The Moon had reached the First Quarter Phase yesterday, Wednesday Afternoon, 2016 August 10 at 2:21 p.m. EDT / 18:21 UTC. Bright moon-light, before moon-set, prevents the dimmer Perseid meteors from being seen. But once the Moon has set, more meteors can be seen, until astronomical twilight starts interfering with observing a little before dawn. So, looking for the many dimmer meteors which may be visible in the Meteor Outburst would be best after local moon-set.

During the peak time of most normal Perseid Meteor Showers, often 50 to 80 meteors can be seen per-hour, if observing conditions are ideal. As previously mentioned, NASA predicts the hourly rate of meteor visibility could be nearly doubled during the Meteor Outburst—again, under ideal observing conditions.

Well, what are ideal or perfect observing conditions? Ideal Meteor Shower observing conditions and viewing tips would include ---

                      Ideal Meteor Shower Observing Conditions & Viewing Tips
  1. Clear sky – Of course the sky has to be clear, or nearly clear, to be confident of viewing meteors.
  2. View meteors away from bright lights - As most meteors are often dim, it is best to view a Meteor Shower away from city lights, which cause a brightening of the sky at night, and hence, the dimmest meteors are often missed.
  3. If possible, wait until after local moon-set – Due to the dark sky, our close Moon looks very bright in that sky, particularly when near the Full Moon phase. This bright light can also drown-out some of the dimmer meteors. So, it is best to wait until after local moon-set for meteor watching.
  4. Find a good observing site where the entire sky, or nearly the entire sky with a minimum of obstructions, is visible.
  5. Observe between, approximately, local midnight and local dawn - The best time to watch most Meteor Showers, when most meteors are entering Earth's atmosphere, is usually between local midnight and dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the Meteor Shower.
  6. Use your own  “one-power,” unaided eyes (i.e. naked-eyes) – Use your own eyes to scan the entire sky looking for meteors. Binoculars and telescopes are not very useful for finding meteors. Meteors streak across the sky in a very brief period of time, too short to aim binoculars or a telescope. So, the best way to view a Meteor Shower is to lie on a beach towel or blanket on the ground, or sit in a reclining chair, in an area with a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees or hills), and keep scanning the entire sky.
  7. Always scan the entire sky for meteors - Meteor Showers appear to emanate from a radiant point in the sky. As an example, for the well-known Perseid Meteor Shower, the radiant appears to be the Constellation Perseus, named for the hero of Greek mythology. However, you should not, necessarily, be looking only at Perseus, when looking for meteors in this shower. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time. In fact, looking  towards Perseus may not result in finding the best meteors, as meteors coming from the apparent radiant may be seen for a shorter time in the sky.
  8. Go out to the night sky early, before you truly start observing, to adapt your eyes to the dark sky - Dark-adapting your eyes for meteor watching could take up to a half-hour.

Now, the information in the previous eight items are ideal Meteor Shower observing conditions and viewing tips, which would most likely result in the maximum meteors than could be observed. However, even if your conditions can not reach the ideal, so long as you follow these eight guidelines as close as possible, it is likely that you will see a fair number of meteors during a typical Meteor Shower.

Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere are fortunate that the Perseid Meteor Shower arrives during the Summer month of August, when temperatures are comfortable for nighttime viewing. Although, sometimes August can be very humid and muggy with poor seeing conditions.

A Meteor Shower normally consists of dust particles related to a comet. Each time a comet approaches the Sun, the comet loses dust particles following the melting of ice on the comet. These dust particles, called meteoroids, continue to follow the same orbit as the comet and form a meteoroid stream. Each year, as the Earth orbits the Sun, the Earth passes through several of these meteoroid streams, becoming Earth's Meteor Showers.

The Earth's gravity then attracts many of these meteoroids to fall to Earth, and they are viewed by people as meteors, as they burn-up in the atmosphere. Most are extremely small and burn-up completely. From time-to-time, larger particles enter the atmosphere and create brilliant displays known as fireballs or bolides. If these particles are large enough, they may not completely burn-up and land on Earth as a meteorite.

Most years, Earth might graze the edge of Comet Swift-Tuttle’s debris stream, the source of this well-known Meteor Shower, where there is less activity. Occasionally, though, Jupiter’s gravity tugs the huge network of dust trails closer, and Earth plows through closer to the middle, where there’s more material.

This may be one of those years. Experts at NASA and elsewhere agree that three or more streams are on a collision course with Earth.

“Here’s something to think about. The meteors you’ll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago,” said NASA's Bill Cooke. “And they’ve traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth’s atmosphere.”

Meteors can be seen any night of the year, although they are not predictable and are rare outside of one of the annual Meteor Showers. The vast majority of meteors that can be seen during the Perseid Meteor Shower originate from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has an orbital period of 133 years, leaving behind a trail of dust and grit. Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 and returned for viewing in 1992.

Comet Swift-Tuttle measures about 16-miles across, much larger than the object that is thought to have fallen to Earth which resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Comet Swift-Tuttle will make a very close approach to the Earth in the year A.D. 4479. Scientists are now studying whether some day Comet Swift-Tuttle could impact the Earth. Comet Swift–Tuttle has been described as "the single most dangerous object known to humanity."

It was 150 years ago that famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered that comets are the cause of Meteor Showers. Of course, Schiaparelli is best known for observing, what he called, “canali,” on the surface of Mars during the “Great Opposition” of Mars in 1877. In English, “canali” translates as channels. However, some people, particularly American businessman and amateur astronomer Percival Lowell, mistranslated the word to mean canals, giving the impression that such infrastructure may have been constructed by intelligent Martians.

In 1862, two American astronomers independently discovered (within three days of each other), what was originally designated Comet 1862III. Today, this rather famous comet is known by the name Swift-Tuttle, in honor of these two astronomers: Lewis Swift, his first comet discovery using a 4.5-inch refractor telescope, and Harvard College Observatory Astronomer Horace P. Tuttle, using the Observatory's 15-inch refractor telescope.

It was four years later, in 1866, when Schiaparelli matched the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the orbit he had previously plotted for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. This was the first direct correlation between comets and Meteor Showers. The same year, he calculated the orbit of the Leonid Meteor Shower, and it was soon found that this orbit coincided with the orbit of the newly-discovered, but small, Comet Temple-Tuttle. From Schiaparelli's work, it was established that Meteor Showers came from comets.

So, the time for viewing is right and the lack of moon-light is great. And, of course, with the warm weather most of us experience in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year, what could be better for viewing meteors?

Of course, Meteor Showers. like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If the weather in your area does not permit direct viewing outdoors of this Meteor Shower, it can be viewed during special web-casts on the Internet.

A cautionary note for those who find it necessary to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower on the Internet. The video camera, used for each web-cast, can only aim at one part of the sky at a time. Hence, do not expect to see as many meteors as you might see with your own eyes outside. Outdoors, you can easily scan the entire sky for meteors, while a camera aimed at one area of the sky will only be able to see the meteors that enter that particular part of the sky.

Internet Sites for Viewing Perseid Meteor Shower Near Peak ---

Bareket Observatory, Israel - Aug. 11, 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. EDT / Aug. 11, 19:00 UTC to Aug. 12 0:00 UTC (Using CCD camera, which automatically refreshes):
Link >>> http://www.bareket-astro.com/en/astronomical-webcasts/2016-s-perseids-meteor-live-webcast.html

Slooh Community Observatory - Aug. 11, 8:00 p.m. EDT / Aug. 12, 0:00 UTC:
Link >>> http://main.slooh.com/event/the-perseid-meteor-shower-2016/

NASA - BOTH on Aug. 11 and on Aug. 12 at 10:00 p.m. EDT / Aug. 12 and on Aug. 13 at 2:00 UTC: Link >>> http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

History of the Perseid Meteor Shower:
Link >>> http://meteorshowersonline.com/perseids.html
  


Perseid Meteor Shower: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids

Comet Swift-Tuttle: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Swift%E2%80%93Tuttle

Constellation Perseus: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus_%28constellation%29

Meteor Shower: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_shower

Meteor: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid#Meteor

Meteoroid: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid

Meteorite: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid#Meteorites

Fifth largest fragment of the meteorite which struck Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona, which was displayed at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/Buhlexhibits.htm#meteorite

Related Blog Post ---

 

"NASA: Perseid Meteor Shower Has Most Fireballs." 2013 July 27.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/07/nasa-perseid-meteor-shower-has-most.html


Sources: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss; NASA.

             2016 Aug. 11.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

170th Anniversary: Smithsonian Institution

Samuel Pierpont Langley.jpg
In 1887, Samuel Pierpont Langley was chosen as the third
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, then considered the
nation's highest scientific appointment. Previously Director of
Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory, in 1890 Dr. Langley
established the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By Low resolution in context, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1496860 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (2016 August 10) marks the 170th anniversary of an Act of the U.S. Congress which established a fairly unique educational institution, founded from the bequest of an English chemist who never visited America: the Smithsonian Institution, the granddaddy of America's museums!

Known as “America's Attic,” the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and actually includes 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo (officially known as the National Zoological Park). Each year, about 30 million people visit Smithsonian facilities, every visit being free-of-charge. The Institution is funded from their endowment; private, corporate, and government grants; and membership dues; as well as earned income from retail, concession, and licensing revenues.

The many Smithsonian museums include the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of American History. And, research facilities include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, which became the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1973.

The idea for a Smithsonian Institution started from the will of deceased British chemist and mineralogist James Smithson, who was the illegitimate child of a wealthy Englishman, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Upon the death of James Smithson's mother, he and his half-brother, Col. Henry Louis Dickenson, had split the inherited fortune.

However, formation of a Smithsonian Institution was not the first choice according to Smithson's will. James Smithson, who died on 1829 June 27 in Genoa, Italy, never married, so when he wrote his will, he left his fortune to his nephew (son of his half-brother), Henry James Hungerford. However, Henry James Dickenson, the actual name of the nephew, had to change his surname to Hungerford to receive the inheritance. Upon the death of Henry James Hungerford, James Smithson's will specified that the inheritance would then go to Mr. Hungerford's children.

However, Henry James Hungerford died on 1835 June 5. He, also, had never married and left no children.

So with no direct descendants, James Smithson's will stipulated:

"I then bequeath the whole of my property, . . . to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men."
James Smithson had traveled throughout Europe, but he never visited America. And, he never wrote-about or discussed his reasons for this unusual bequest, which equaled more than half a million dollars (at the time this fortune was so large, it was 1/66th of the United States' entire Federal budget!) . Of course, he probably figured that his descendants would receive the inheritance, and except for the family and a few estate attorneys, no one would have ever known about the Smithsonian Institution clause of the will.
So, he probably wrote the Smithsonian Institution clause as the expression of the importance he placed in education. And, with the recent founding of the American experiment in democracy, he may have thought that his fortune would have a greater impact in America, than in England which already had endowed educational institutions.
As the money donated by Andrew Carnegie to establish more than 2,000 libraries greatly spurred the public library movement, the educational value of Smithson's bequest has probably exceeded Smithson's wildest imagination! However, in the beginning, the actual founding of the Smithsonian Institution almost did not happen!
Six years after Smithson's death, U.S. President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest, which the U.S. Congress officially accepted on 1836 July 1. Then came the politics! Congress debated the use of the money, according to the terms of Smithson's will, for more than eight years. However, during this time the U.S. Treasury invested the money in bonds issued by the state of Arkansas, which soon defaulted!
John Quincy Adams, then former President of the United States who had returned to Congress as a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, persuaded Congress to restore the funds of the bequest, with interest, and use the money as Smithson's will had stipulated, despite efforts by other Congressmen to use the money for other purposes. Adams was very interested in science and education, and he had unsuccessfully sought the establishment of a national astronomical observatory while he was President. Shortly before his death, Adams gave his last public address at the laying of the cornerstone for the country's first public observatory, the Cincinnati Observatory, in 1843.
On 1846 August 10, U.S. President James K. Polk signed an Act of Congress officially establishing the Smithsonian Institution as a legal trust, to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary.
Joseph Henry, the Smithsonian's first Secretary, wanted the Smithsonian Institution to be a center for scientific research. However, in the beginning, it was a depository for various Washington and U.S. Government collections, which were not appropriate for the Library of Congress or the National Archives. This included thousands of animal and plant specimens from a U.S. Navy global Exploring Expedition (1838 to 1842), as well as similar specimens and artifacts from military and civilian surveys of the American West.
Shortly after the Smithsonian's founding, they set-up a plan for weather observations and meteorological research. The Smithsonian Institution soon attracted many scientists, who created the Megatherium Club, one of the earliest such groups of scientists in America.
Of the Smithsonian's 19 museums, 11 are located on the National Mall in Downtown Washington, D.C. Other museums are located elsewhere in Washington, as well as two in New York City and one in across the Potomac River from Washington in Chantilly, Virginia. A Smithsonian exhibit space in London's Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park is now being planned, and it would be their first permanent museum outside of the United States. Additionally, the Smithsonian Institution has affiliations with 168 other museums around the country, Puerto Rico, and Panama, including Pittsburgh's Senator John Heinz History Center. Traveling exhibits, from the Smithsonian, often are exhibited in these affiliate museums.
Among the many museums is the National Air and Space Museum, with 6.7 million visitors in 2014 making it the fifth most-visited museum in the world. Established in 1946 as the National Air Museum, it became the National Air and Space Museum in 1976, with the opening of the new main building on Washington's National Mall. This building includes the Albert Einstein Planetarium with a Zeiss VI-A Planetarium Projector, which was a Bicentennial gift to the nation from the people of the Federal Republic of Germany. Additionally, the Einstein Planetarium has recently been renovated to include more advanced projectors that project digital and high-definition images.

One of the Smithsonian's first research centers, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory was established in 1890 by the Smithsonian's third Secretary, Samuel Pierpont Langley, who had previously been Director of Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has been located in Cambridge, Massachusetts since 1955, to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory.

At this time, the famous astronomer Harlow Shapley, who had recently resigned as Harvard College Observatory Director, continued with Harvard as the Robert Treat Paine Professor of Practical Astronomy until his retirement in 1956. In 1947, Harlow Shapley served as Interim President at the founding of the Astronomical League, a national umbrella organization of amateur astronomy clubs. In 1941, Dr. Shapley gave the keynote address at the dedication of the rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (November 19 marks the 75th anniversary of this historic telescope).

The Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory formalized their long-time collaboration in 1973, with the formation of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The National Museum of American History preserves and displays our nation's heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history. And, they continue collecting appropriate items and artifacts for the museum. Last month, during both major political conventions, museum curators were on the convention floor seeking to obtain political memorabilia, after the conclusion of each convention.
Museum collections of the Smithsonian are vast and diverse. It includes 138 million artworks, artifacts, and specimens. Of these, 127 million specimens and artifacts are held in the National Museum of Natural History. More than 2 million library volumes are held in the Smithsonian's own library system and the Smithsonian Archives hold 156,830 cubic feet of archival material.
The Smithsonian publishes two major magazines: Smithsonian (monthly) and Air & Space Smithsonian (bi-monthly). Smithsonian Magazine started publication in 1970 after then-Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley asked retired Life Magazine editor Edward K. Thompson to create a magazine "about things in which the Smithsonian [Institution] is interested, might be interested or ought to be interested.”

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Smithsonian Institution -
Link 1 >>> http://www.si.edu/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithsonian_Institution

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum -
Link 1 >>> https://airandspace.si.edu/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Air_and_Space_Museum

Smithsonian's National Museum of American History -
Link 1 >>> http://americanhistory.si.edu/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_American_History

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History -
Link 1 >>> http://naturalhistory.si.edu/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Natural_History

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory -
Link 1 >>> https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/sao/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithsonian_Astrophysical_Observatory

Smithsonian Donor James Smithson: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Smithson

Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who helped Smithsonian establishment:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/02/presidents-day-astronomy-president.html

Smithsonian's 3rd Director, Samuel Pierpont Langley:
Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com/bio/LangleySP.htm

Halloran, Liz. "'America's Attic' Team Dredges Convention For Historical Riches." News Report.
National Public Radio 2012 Sept. 6.
Link >>> http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2012/09/06/160708601/americas-attic-team-dredges-convention-for-historical-riches

Related Blog Posts ---

"Air & Space Museum Debates Preservation of U.S. Plane at Pearl Harbor Attack." 2014 Dec. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/air-space-museum-debates-preservation.html


"$30 Million Rehab of Air & Space Museum Announced." 2014 April 5.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/04/30-million-rehab-of-air-space-museum.html


"Space Artifacts Move to New Climate-Controlled Facility." 2014 Feb. 20.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/02/space-artifacts-move-to-new-climate.html


"Presidents' Day: The Astronomy President - John Quincy Adams." 2014 Feb. 17.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/02/presidents-day-astronomy-president.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 10.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, August 1, 2016

Astronomical Calendar: 2016 August

View of night sky, Grand Canyon
The 'Milky Way,' looking into the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, visible at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. On June 6, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona received the designation of "International Dark-Sky Park" from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). August 25 marks the centennial of America's National Park Service, the world's first designated National Parks.
More on the Grand Canyon receiving Dark-Sky status:
Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nightskies/grcadarksky.htm
 (Image Source: National Park Service)

Astronomical Calendar for 2016 August: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2016.html#aug

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 August 1.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, July 25, 2016

NASA Time-Lapse Video From Space: Sunlit Earth Over One Year

DSCOVR location in relation to the Earth and sun / Image courtesy of NOAA
Location of the DSCOVR satellite, in relation to the Earth and Sun, known as
Lagrange Point 1 (L1).
(Graphic Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

On YouTube, NASA has released a time-lapse video (2 minutes, 46 seconds in length), taken from a distance of one million miles from the Earth, showing the Earth over a period of one year. More than 3,000 color photographs, taken at least once every two hours beginning on 2015 July 6, show several events (including a Solar Eclipse and Lunar Transits) that occurred on the sunlit side of our planet while rotating on its axis 366 times.

These photographs were taken by the EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera) camera on the DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) satellite, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This satellite is in orbit of the Earth, about a million miles away from our planet, at the spot in space known as Lagrange Point 1.

Lagrange Point 1 (L1) is one of five Lagrange Points in relation to three bodies in space. In this case, L1 is the point in space where the gravity of the Earth, gravity of the Sun, and, also, the Apparent Centrifugal Force of a third body (DSCOVR satellite) are in a rough equilibrium This allows the satellite, located in such a position, to remain in orbit around the Earth using a minimum of fuel, and to always remain directly between the Sun and the Earth.

The five Lagrange Points are named for 18th century mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who wrote about these points in a 1772 paper regarding, what he called, the “three-body problem.”

EPIC takes images of ten different wavelengths. Then, three of these wavelengths, correlated to the colors red, green, and blue, are combined to provide a realistic, color image of what the viewer would see, if the viewer was on the satellite.

This video shows moving cloud and weather patterns and large storms, along with continents and oceans quickly passing along on the surface as each day passes. Good views of the North Pole and the South Pole are seen in the video, during their respective Summer seasons (when the respective Pole is tilted towards the Sun, and hence, also tilted towards the satellite).

The EPIC camera caught the Moon's shadow move across the Earth's surface during the 2016 March 8 - 9  Total Solar Eclipse, which was visible from parts of Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, since this satellite is four times farther from the Earth than is Earth's Moon, the EPIC camera viewed the Moon transit, or move across the Earth's disk, a couple of times during this year of observation (2015 July 16 and 2016 July 4).

As this satellite is “parked” at L1, it could view both the Sun and the sunlit Earth 24 hours a day. The DSCOVR satellite, operated by NOAA, is an Earth observation satellite which could help weather forecasting for NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS). Another satellite located at L1, SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory), continually watches and studies the Sun.

As an Earth observation satellite, DSCOVR and the EPIC camera are tasked with watching Earth's weather patterns, as well as measuring ozone and aerosol in the atmosphere, the type and height of clouds, vegetation on Earth's land masses, hotspots on the planet, and making estimates of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the Earth's surface. This is the first time we are receiving continual images of our planet from this great a distance. The DSCOVR satellite is expected to last at least five years.

NASA Time-Lapse Video: Link >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFrP6QfbC2g

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

More on the DSCOVR satellite:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_Climate_Observatory

More on the EPIC camera:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_Climate_Observatory#EPIC

More on Lagrange Points:
Link 1 >>> http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/2002/04/01/the-five-points-of-lagrange
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point

More on Apparent Centrifugal Force and Centripetal Force:
Link 1 >>> http://phun.physics.virginia.edu/topics/centrifugal.html
Link 2 >>> http://sydney1206.blogspot.com/2013/05/centripetal-force.html
Link 3 >>> http://www.livescience.com/52488-centrifugal-centripetal-forces.html

More on NOAA:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Oceanic_and_Atmospheric_Administration

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 July 25.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >