Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Astronomical Calendar: 2016 June

View larger. | This image shows our neighbouring planet Mars, as it was observed shortly before opposition in 2016 by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Some prominent features of the planet are clearly visible: the ancient and inactive shield volcano Syrtis Major; the bright and oval Hellas Planitia basin; the heavily eroded Arabia Terra in the centre of the image; the dark features of Sinus Sabaeous and Sinus Meridiani along the equator; and the small southern polar cap. Image via NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team, J. Bell, M. Wolff.
New photograph of the Planet Mars, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on 2016 May 12.
During the first week of June, Mars is at its brightest in the evening and early morning sky in a decade! More Information: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/05/end-of-may-start-of-june-best-view-of.html
[Image Sources: NASA,  ESA, Hubble Heritage Team, J. Bell, M. Wolff]


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

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 May 31.

                                                               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!

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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 >

Saturday, May 21, 2016

End of May / Start of June: Best View of Mars in a Decade!


View larger. | This image shows our neighbouring planet Mars, as it was observed shortly before opposition in 2016 by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Some prominent features of the planet are clearly visible: the ancient and inactive shield volcano Syrtis Major; the bright and oval Hellas Planitia basin; the heavily eroded Arabia Terra in the centre of the image; the dark features of Sinus Sabaeous and Sinus Meridiani along the equator; and the small southern polar cap. Image via NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team, J. Bell, M. Wolff.
New photograph of the Planet Mars, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, on 2016 May 12,
just before the closest approach to Earth on May 30.
[Image Sources: NASA,  ESA, Hubble Heritage Team, J. Bell, M. Wolff]

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

In what should be the best view in a decade during the last weeks of May and the first weeks of June, the Planet Mars will be bright and quite noticeable in the evening and early morning sky! This is the brightest Mars has appeared since the Martian opposition of 2005 November 7.

On Saturday night (May 21) after sunset, Mars will be extremely easy to find as it is passed by the smallest Full Moon of 2016 (and, a “Blue Moon” by one definition!). During the mid-evening after sunset, Mars can be found just to the right of the Full Moon as both planetary bodies are rising in the southeastern sky. While Mars is known as the red planet, a bright reddish-orange star, Antares (in the Constellation Scorpius the Scorpion), can also be seen below Mars. And, to the left of Antares, below the Moon, is another planet: the beautiful ringed-planet, Saturn.

In the early morning sky before sunrise, on Sunday morning (May 22), the configurations will be different. Now, Mars can be found below the Full Moon as both planetary objects are getting ready to set in the southwestern sky. Antares is to the left of Mars, while Saturn is above Antares and to the left of the Full Moon.

After May 22, over the next few weeks Mars will continue to be found rising in the southeast after sunset and setting in the southwest before sunrise.

As with all planets, the best time to view Mars and Saturn with a telescope is when they are highest in the sky—right now, that would be between 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, local daylight saving time.

Known as the red planet, particularly during the weeks around the time of opposition, Mars does appear in the sky with a bright, easily seen orange-yellow tint. With a modest-size telescope, or even binoculars, the orange color is even more pronounced.

In a telescope, and with good seeing conditions, one might be able to see a few vague lines on the planet, and perhaps even a tiny white polar cap. Although the bright, white ice at the north polar region of Mars is currently shrinking, this polar region is now tilted 12 degrees toward the Earth

Due to Mars further distance from the Sun than the Earth, Mars closely approaches the Earth once every two years. The fourth planet from the Sun, at a distance from the Sun of 141.6 million miles / 227.88 kilometers, it takes Mars 686.971 days (1.88 Earth years) to make one revolution around the Sun. The next close approach of Mars, to Earth, will be in July of 2018.

During some of these close approaches, such as in 2016 and also in 2018, Mars comes closer than usual. Mars will be at its closest to the Earth on May 30 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 22:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), at a distance of 46.78 million miles / 75.28 million kilometers.

This distance can also be expressed as 0.50 Astronomical Units (one Astronomical Unit, abbreviated a.u., is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) or as 4.2 light-minutes (similar to a light-year, a light-minute is the distance it takes light to travel in one-minute's time). At this distance, the disk of Mars will have a relatively large appearance, measuring 18.4 to 18.6 arc-seconds in diameter.

At the time of closest approach, Mars, astronomically, will have an apparent visual magnitude of -2.1. This is just-about the brightest Mars can appear in Earth's sky, although Mars will appear a little brighter during the Summer of 2018. And, this is almost the same brightness as the bright Planet Jupiter (which now is just a bit brighter at an apparent visual magnitude of -2.2), which can now be seen fairly high in the southwestern sky, during the evening hours.

Although the closest approach is not until May 30, Mars reaches the point in its orbit called “opposition” on Sunday Morning (2016 May 22) at 7:00 a.m. EDT / 11:00 UTC. Opposition, the point in the orbit of an outer planet when the Earth is directly between that particular planet and the Sun, cannot occur for Mercury or Venus, the two planets closer to the Sun than the Earth. At the point of opposition, the planet is brightly visible in the Earth's sky, from approximately local sunset to local sunrise.

At this time, Saturn is also near its brightest, as Saturn will reach its own opposition on June 3 at 3:00 a.m. EDT / 7:00 UTC, when it will be at an apparent visual magnitude of 0.0. The Star Antares shines at an apparent visual magnitude of +0.96. Visual magnitudes of stars do not vary, as such magnitudes vary for planets in our Solar System.

At the moment of posting of this blog post (Saturday Afternoon, 2016 May 21 at 5:14 p.m. EDT / 21:14 UTC) the Moon reaches the Full Moon phase. This is the smallest visible Full Moon of 2016, due to a lunar apogee three days earlier. The lunar apogee for May, the point in the Moon's orbit where it is the farthest from Earth for the month, occurred Wednesday Evening, 2016 May 18 at 6:00 p.m. EDT / 22:00 UTC, at an Earth – Moon distance of 252,235 miles / 405,933 kilometers.

The May Full Moon is primarily known as the Flower Moon to Native Americans. Due to increasing fertility in mid-Spring, along with the end of hard frosts and warmer temperatures better attuned to the bearing of young and the raising of crops, in Earth's Northern Hemisphere the Full Moon of May is also known as the Mother's Moon, and the Corn-Planting Moon or just Planting Moon. And, as the second cross-quarter day of the year on May 1 called Beltaine, or better known as May Day, was the time when farmers in Medieval Europe would move their cows to the better Summer pastures, the Full Moon of May was also known as the Milk Moon.

As the Southern Hemisphere begins to enter their colder months, their Full Moon names for the month of May include Hunter's Moon, Beaver Moon, and Frost Moon.

And, this year, there is one more name for this particular Full Moon. May's Full Moon can also be called a “Blue Moon.” However, this is not the “common” Blue Moon, which in recent years has been defined as the second Full Moon in a calendar month (monthly Blue Moon). And, the Moon will not actually appear with any type of blue tint.

This month's Blue Moon designation uses an older, more traditional, definition: the third of four Full Moons to occur in a single calendar season (seasonal Blue Moon), the present season of Spring. Normally, each calendar season only has three Full Moons.

Following the 2016 May 21 seasonal Blue Moon, the next seasonal Blue Moon will occur on 2019 May 18. The next Blue Moon by the more common definition, monthly Blue Moon, will be on 2018 January 31.

                            Internet Links to Additional Information

More about Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

News: Cornell University. "Ancient Tsunami Evidence on Mars Reveals Life Potential." 2016 May 19:
Link >>> http://www.rdmag.com/news/2016/05/ancient-tsunami-evidence-mars-reveals-life-potential

More about today's Blue Moon:
Link >>> http://earthsky.org/tonight/blue-moon-from-dusk-until-dawn

More about a Blue Moon: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_moon


More about Saturn: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn

More about Antares: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antares

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 May 21.


                                                               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 >

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mon. AM & Early PM: Rare Astronomical Event w/ Web-Casts


Close-up of the profile of Planet Mercury during the last Transit of Mercury event on 2006 November 8. NEVER look directly at the Sun, a solar eclipse, or a solar transit by a planet with a telescope, binoculars, or other optical device, unless you have the special training and special equipment to do so safely. Otherwise, this would cause PERMANENT BLINDNESS INSTANTLY !
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By EricandHolli at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6021555 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The Transit of the Planet Mercury across the front of the Sun, a fairly rare event that will only happen 14 times this century, will occur this-Monday morning and early afternoon (2016 May 9) and will be visible throughout North America, as well as most of the rest of the planet except Australia and east Asia. Live web-casts of this event can be seen on the Internet, if there is no safe observing event in your community, or you live in one of the areas experiencing nightfall. Links to the live, Internet web-casts of this event are at the end of this blog post.

A solar transit of a planet is when the profile of the planet can be seen (using safe viewing techniques) in the daytime as it moves in front of, and across, the image of the surface of the Sun. From Planet Earth, Mercury and Venus are the only planets that can be seen transiting the Sun, as these are the only two planets closer to the Sun than the Earth.

NEVER look directly at the Sun, a solar eclipse, or a solar transit by a planet with a telescope, binoculars, or other optical device, unless you have the special training and special equipment to do so safely. Otherwise, this would cause PERMANENT BLINDNESS INSTANTLY !

NEVER look directly at the Sun or a solar eclipse with your unaided eye. This could cause MAJOR EYE DAMAGE and POSSIBLE BLINDNESS. Eye damage can occur rapidly, without any pain, as there are no nerve cells in the eyes.

In addition to safely viewing a solar transit of a planet on the Internet, sometimes scientific and educational institutions sponsor a live, safe observing opportunity of such an event for the general public, utilizing professional equipment operated by trained astronomers. Such a live, safe observing session for the public may occur at a local planetarium, astronomical observatory, science center or museum, the Astronomy and / or Physics Department at a local college or university, amateur astronomers' club, or local library.

A Solar Transit by the Planet Mercury occurs from time-to-time, but is fairly rare and difficult to see due to the small size of Mercury and the planet's great distance from the Earth.

A Solar Transit by the Planet Venus is extremely rare, as it only happens twice, each spaced eight years apart, during a period of more than a century! Indeed, only eight such events have occurred since the 1609 invention of the astronomical telescope (1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, 2004, and 2012).

The last two Solar Transits by Venus occurred on 2004 June 8 and 2012 June 5. In Pittsburgh, Friends of the Zeiss provided the only public observing event of the 2004 Transit of Venus in the City of Pittsburgh, in cooperation with The Duquesne Incline, using several telescopes.

For the 2012 event, Friends of the Zeiss also had telescopes available for public viewing at the Mount Lebanon Public Library in south suburban Pittsburgh. Regrettably, they were not able to use the telescopes during the 2012 event, due to cloud cover. However, the public still saw the event via a live, Internet web-cast shown in Library Conference Room A.

In the Pittsburgh area, live, safe public viewing of Monday's Transit of Mercury event will be offered, free-of-charge, at the Mount Lebanon Public Library, 16 Castle Shannon Boulevard, near Washington Road in Pittsburgh's suburban South Hills.

A live, Internet web-cast of the event will be shown in Conference Room A on the Library's Lower Level. If outdoor observation conditions are optimum, we may also try to observe the event using a 4-inch refractor telescope.

The Mount Lebanon Public Library is located at the southern end of Mount Lebanon's “Uptown” Washington Road business district, about three blocks south of the Port Authority Transit's Mount Lebanon “T” Light Rail Rapid Transit Station. Free-of-charge automobile parking is available at the Library.

On May 9, the complete Transit of Mercury, from one side of the Sun to the other, will take almost exactly seven and one-half hours. Although the event actually begins at 7:12:19 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 11:12:19 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Library coverage of the event will commence upon the Library's opening at 9:00 a.m. EDT / 13:00 UTC. Library coverage of the event will continue until the event's conclusion at 2:42:26 p.m. EDT / 18:42:26 UTC.

This free-of-charge event is co-sponsored by Friends of the Zeiss and the Mount Lebanon Public Library.

If we are able to use a telescope for viewing this event, we will project the image of the Solar Transit by Mercury onto a portable movie screen, for safe viewing. It is probable that while viewing Mercury crossing in front of the Sun, sunspots (most of them larger than Mercury, and some larger than Earth) will be visible on the Sun's surface. Observing the Sun with a telescope, binoculars, or any other type of optical device should only be attempted by people who have received the proper training and possess the proper equipment to do so safely.

Observing the Transit of Mercury at the Mount Lebanon Public Library will be supervised by former Buhl Planetarium Astronomical Observatory Coordinator and Planetarium Lecturer Glenn A. Walsh.

For further information about safely viewing the Transit of Mercury ---
Electronic Mail: < mercurytransit@planetarium.cc >
Telephone: 412-561-7876.

Friends of the Zeiss is a fourteen-year-old, non-profit organization with the mission to promote Astronomy, Space Sciences, and related sciences to the general public through Internet web sites and a blog, as well as public observing sessions of special astronomical events. This organization also promotes the history and preservation of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, including the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector (prior to 2002 dismantling, oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!) and the fairly unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope (2016 is the 75th anniversary of this telescope). More information ---
Internet Web Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
Electronic Mail: < Jake@planetarium.cc >
Telephone: 412-561-7876.

Transit of Mercury Internet Web-Casts ---
2016 May 9, 7:12:19 a.m. EDT / 11:12:19 UTC to 2:42:26 p.m. EDT / 18:42:26 UTC --

NASA: Link >>> http://mercurytransit.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles:
Link >>> http://livestream.com/GriffithObservatoryTV/MercuryTransit2016
 
Slooh Community Observatory: Link >>> http://main.slooh.com/event/transit-of-mercury/ 

Virtual Telescope Project: Link >>> http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/

                                          Additional Information

More on a Solar Transit by Mercury: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_of_Mercury

Publicity regarding 2016 Transit of Mercury event at Mt. Lebanon Public Library ---
Poster / Flyer:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/transit-mercury/2016/Poster-MercuryTransit2016.htm
News Release:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/transit-mercury/2016/NR-MercuryTransit2016.htm

"Astronomers Await 'Transit Of Mercury'."
The Pittsburgh Press 1940 Nov. 1: 5.
Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium to broadcast information program on upcoming Transit of Mercury on KQV radio. Buhl Planetarium Director Arthur L. Draper credited Pittsburgh's "No. 1" amateur astronomer, Leo Scanlon, with proposing the radio broadcast of the event.
Link >>> https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19401101&id=8Y4cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=i44EAAAAIBAJ&pg=3935,3135562&hl=en

More on the 2004 and 2012 Transit of Venus events: Link >>> http://venustransit.pghfree.net/

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 May 6.

            May 9 - Safe Public Viewing of Rare Astronomical Event


                                                               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, May 2, 2016

Astronomical Calendar: 2016 May


Photograph of the last Transit of Mercury across the front of the Sun, on 2006 November 8.
Mercury is the small dot near the center of the Sun's image, which also shows sunspots
which are much larger than Mercury. The next Transit of Mercury will occur in the
morning and early afternoon of May 9, a fairly rare event that will only happen 14 times this century.
NEVER look directly at the Sun, a solar eclipse, or a solar transit of a planet with a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device unless you have the special training and special equipment to do so safely. Otherwise, this would cause PERMANENT BLINDNESS
INSTANTLY !
Check with a local planetarium, astronomical observatory, science center or museum, the Astronomy or Physics Department at a local college or university, amateur astronomers' club, or local library. Sometimes, one or more of these organizations will sponsor a safe observing session of this Solar Transit of the Planet Mercury, utilizing professional equipment operated by trained astronomers.
Live, safe images of this event can be viewed on the Internet at < http://live.slooh.com/ >. In south suburban Pittsburgh, live, safe images of this event can be viewed at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library - More Information.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By Brocken Inaglory - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3974418 )

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

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 May 2.

            May 9 - Safe Public Viewing of Rare Astronomical Event


                                                               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, April 25, 2016

Beautiful Celestial Grouping in Pre-Dawn Sky Mon., Tue.



The Moon, Mars, Saturn, and Antares on the mornings of April 24-26, 2016
Beautiful celestial grouping before dawn on Monday
and Tuesday (2016 April 25 and 26).
(Graphic Source: Sky and Telescope Magazine)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Monday and Tuesday mornings (2016 April 25 and 26), before dawn, early risers will be able to view a beautiful quasi-conjunction or celestial grouping of the Moon, two planets (Mars and Saturn), and the bright Star Antares.

Before dawn on Monday and Tuesday, this celestial grouping can be found in the south-southwestern sky.

On Monday morning the four objects will form a sort-of square or diamond with the Moon above the rest. Saturn will be to the left of the Moon, with Mars below the Moon. The bright Star Antares, which is dimmer than the two planets, can be found 5 degrees to the lower left of Mars.

On Tuesday the configuration of the planets and star remain, pretty-much the same. However, Tuesday morning the Moon can be found to the upper left of Saturn. Hence, the Moon, Saturn, and Mars create almost a straight-line, with Antares still to the lower left of Mars.

The Moon is now in its Waning Gibbous Phase, having passed Full Moon (the “Pink Moon”) early Friday morning at 1:24 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 5:24 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). As a Waning Gibbous Moon, the Moon now rises very late in the evening, but is in the sky by local Midnight. So, these celestial configurations could also be seen earlier in the morning, as well.

Mars is brightening as it grows closer to the Earth. Currently, Mars has a visual magnitude of about -1.3. Mars will be at opposition (when the Earth lies directly between Mars and the Sun) on May 22 at 7:00 a.m. EDT / 11:00 UTC, when Mars will be visible from Earth from approximately local sunset to approximately local sunrise.

Mars will reach its closest point to Earth, for the next two years, on May 30 at 4:00 a.m. EDT / 8:00 UTC, when Mars will have a visual magnitude of -2.1 and a light-speed distance from Earth of 4.2 light-minutes. This will be the closest Mars has been to the Earth since 2005. In two years (July of 2018), Mars will approach about the closest it ever comes to the Earth.

Saturn is somewhat dimmer than Mars at the visual magnitude of +0.3. Like Mars, it rises in the late evening, but about a half-hour later.

Both Mars and Saturn are now in retrograde motion, with Mars having begun the retrograde motion following the Mars movement becoming stationary (from normal motion) on the evening of April 16 at 10:00 p.m. EDT / April 17 at 2:00 UTC. This means that both planets can be seen, from one night to the next, moving from east to west relative to the background stars. When these planets are in normal or prograde motion, they move from west to east relative to the background stars, from one night to the next.

Antares is the brightest star in the Constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, and hence, the astronomical designation for Antares is Alpha Scorpii. However, Antares is the dimmest of the four objects with an apparent visual magnitude of +0.96. The Constellation Scorpius will be in good view below the two planets, until the sky brightens for dawn.

More on the Moon: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon

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

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

More on Star Antares: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antares

More on Constellation Scorpius: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpius

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

            May 9 - Safe Public Viewing of Rare Astronomical Event


                                                               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!

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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 >

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laser Cloaking of Earth From Alien Civilizations?

A 22W laser used for adaptive optics on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. A suite of similar lasers could be used to alter the shape of a planet's transit for the purpose of broadcasting or cloaking the planet. Credit: ESO / G. Hüdepohl
(Image Sources: ESO / G. Hüdepohl)

From: EarthSky.org

In a paper published on Wednesday, 2016 March 30 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, two astronomers at Columbia University in New York propose that humanity could use lasers to conceal the Earth from searches by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations.

The new work is in line with suggestions by several prominent scientists, including Stephen Hawking, who have cautioned against humanity’s broadcasting its presence to intelligent life on other planets, lest those civilizations be warlike and desirous of Earth resources.

And it’s in line with an abundance of work over past decades in which earthly astronomers have sought distant planets in our Milky Way galaxy. A primary method for finding these exoplanets is the transit method, which is a high-tech search for a minute dip in starlight when a planet moves directly in front of the star it orbits. Transits are the main way that the Kepler mission and similar projects have discovered some 2,000 planets orbiting distant suns. So far, a few tens of these worlds appear to be similar in size to the Earth.

The suggestion for Earth-cloaking by the Columbia astronomers supposes that other civilizations might also try to find Earth-like planets using the transit method.

More - Link >>> https://earthsky.org/space/use-laser-cloaking-to-hide-earth-from-aliens

Sources: Royal Astronomical Society, EarthSky.org .
              2016 April 19.

Related Blog Post ---

"Laser-Propelled Nano-Space Probe to Reach Alpha Centauri in 20 Years?"

2016 April 14.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/04/laser-propelled-nano-space-probe-to.html

 
            May 9 - Safe Public Viewing of Rare Astronomical Event


                                                               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 >

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Laser-Propelled Nano-Space Probe to Reach Alpha Centauri in 20 Years?



Photograph of the spaceship depicted
in the 1960s science-fiction television
series, "Lost in Space," where a family
had launched from Earth in 1997 for a
voyage to a planet orbiting the closest star,
Alpha Centauri. Now, scientists hope to
send an unmanned probe to the Alpha
Centauri star system within a generation.
(Image Source: Pinterest.com )

By Lee Billings, Scientific American

For Yuri Milner, the Russian Internet entrepreneur and billionaire philanthropist who funds the world’s richest science prizes and searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, the sky is not the limit—and neither is the solar system. Flanked by physicist Stephen Hawking and other high-profile supporters in New York, Milner announced his most ambitious investment yet: $100 million toward a research program to send robotic probes to nearby stars within a generation.

“The human story is one of great leaps,” Milner said in a statement released shortly before the announcement. “55 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap—to the stars.”

“Breakthrough Starshot,” the program Milner is backing, intends to squeeze all the key components of a robotic probe—cameras, sensors, maneuvering thrusters and communications equipment—into tiny gram-scale “nanocraft.” These would be small enough to boost to enormous speeds using other technology the program plans to help develop, including a ground-based kilometer-scale laser array capable of beaming 100-gigawatt laser pulses through the atmosphere for a few minutes at a time, and atoms-thin, meter-wide “light sails” to ride those beams to other stars. Each pinging photon of light would impart a slight momentum to the sail and its cargo; in the microgravity vacuum of space, the torrent of photons unleashed by a gigawatt-class laser would rapidly push a nanocraft to relativistic speeds.

"Without new methods of propulsion we simply cannot get very far," Hawking said at the announcement. "Light is the most pragmatic technology available."

Deployed by the thousands from a mothership launched into Earth orbit, each nanocraft would unfurl a sail and catch a laser pulse to accelerate to 20 percent the speed of light—some 60,000 kilometers per second. Using a sophisticated adaptive-optics system of deformable mirrors to keep each pulse coherent and sharp against the blurring effects of the atmosphere, the laser array would boost perhaps one orbiting nanocraft per day. Each laser pulse would contain as much power as that produced by a space shuttle rocketing into orbit.

The array would need to be built at a dry, high-altitude location in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps on a peak in Chile, South Africa or even Antarctica—somewhere within sight of Breakthrough Starshot’s primary targets: the twin stars of Alpha Centauri, which at 4.37 light-years away make up the nearest neighboring star system to our own. NASA has already sent five spacecraft on trajectories taking them beyond our solar system, although even the fastest of these would require more than 30,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. The nanocraft would make that same interstellar crossing in just 20 years. With no onboard ability to decelerate, they would briefly gather data about any planets in the Alpha Centauri system and beam it back toward Earth before plunging deeper into interstellar darkness and out of communication range.

More - Link >>> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/100-million-plan-will-send-probes-to-the-nearest-star1/

More on Project Breakthrough Starshot:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Starshot

Related Blog Posts ---

"Laser Propulsion: Earth To Mars in 3 Days?" 2016 Feb. 25.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/02/laser-propulsion-earth-to-mars-in-3-days.html

"Supersonic Laser Propulsion." 2014 Nov. 13.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/11/supersonic-laser-propulsion.html


Source: Scientific American Magazine.
              2016 April 14.

            May 9 - Safe Public Viewing of Rare Astronomical Event


                                                               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 >