For those of us who reside in the northern hemisphere, the spring season provides only one decent meteor shower to watch shooting stars streak across the sky. While not as productive as the August Perseids or the December Geminids, the annual Lyrids meteor shower’s usually mediocre numbers can occasionally be enhanced.
On any clear night there are tens of comets visible in the night sky. The majority are faint and require large telescopes to view them visually. They can be detected because they shine by reflected sunlight, just like all the planets and moons in our solar system. Once in a while a new comet will be discovered that shows potential for putting on a good show that anyone in a dark sky can observe and appreciate.
It’s difficult to know exactly when the alleged Mayan doomsday prophecy drivel started. I’ve had an interest in the Mesoamerican cultures of Central America for many decades, so I was aware of their advanced calendar system. However, in all my studies of these cultures I never encountered any reference to a Mayan prophecy regarding the end of the world on December 21, 2012. Misinterpretation, lack of knowledge of Mayan calendar reckoning, and downright falsehoods have conspired to feed the doomsday scenario.
Mild comfortable nights of observing are now behind us. As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21 at 6:12 a.m. (the earliest date and time for this astronomical event since 1896), our days grow shorter while the nights grow longer. Amateur astronomers like the early sunsets and the longer nighttime skies, but the cold temperatures can shorten one’s observing session quite effectively.
We will all be anxiously awaiting news of Curiosity’s successful landing in Gale Crater during the early morning hours of August 6 as it begins a new chapter in the exploration of Mars and the search for evidence of life on the planet.
Right now is a good time to be recruited by Saturn. While this article is primarily intended for individuals with telescopes, those of you who do not own these wonderful instruments can still learn about the Saturnian system and then visit one of the local observatories.
This notice is a brief reminder about the rare transit of Venus that will be visible here on the evening of June 5. A more detailed account appeared last month, which can also be viewed at the Skyscrapers website (http://www.theskyscrapers.org). Following are the highlights of this event, the last one to occur until the year 2117.
On the night of May 5-6 the Eta Aquarids will grace our skies. This display is an old and declining one and is best seen from the southern hemisphere, and this year will be mostly blotted out by the light of the Full Moon.
As the Sun’s activity continues to climb to solar maximum in 2013, you can expect the frequency and intensity of geomagnetic storms to increase as well, and with it the chance to witness a beautiful display of the northern lights from right here in southern New England.
I haven't written about the April Lyrids for a few years now because the shower had been in decline, and the observing conditions were always poor to fair at best. Well, this year the shower peaks at around midnight on the night of April 21-22, and, best of all, the Moon will be New and will not blot out any of the meteors.
This brief Mars observing guide will help you to discern and appreciate the planetary detail a telescope may show you of this neighboring world. While this 2012 apparition is not one of the closer ones, medium-sized backyard telescopes should still coax some detail out of the small image. And of course the local observatories will be able to share even more Martian detail when steady seeing allows them to “crank up” the magnification.
What continues to draw us to Mars? Is it because we still believe life may once have flourished upon or beneath its now lifeless terrain? Spacecraft images and sensors may provide a wealth of data, but nothing can compare to the experience of seeing firsthand even a fleeting image of some Martian surface features through the telescopes at the local observatories or even through one’s personal backyard telescope.
There is a lunar phase which is not observed as regularly as those phases leading up to and just after full. Today’s column will highlight a few of the features that can be observed during the Last (or Third) Quarter Moon. Binoculars or a telescope will be required to adequately observe these formations.
Several years ago I wrote a series of articles highlighting “space places” in Rhode Island. I neglected one important astronomical facility located down on Rhode Island’s south coast. Natives of the smallest state don’t like to drive far for any event. We often joke that someone from the northern environs of our state needs to bring a passport, lunch, and an overnight bag to make a journey to Newport or Westerly. That state of mind even has a name, it’s called being provincial.
What connection could there possibly be between astronomy and the once grand experiment called the Midland Mall? Well, those of you who have been Rhode Island residents for just more than 36 years may already know the answer to that question. Perhaps you were one of many visitors who experienced a memorable display presented by Skyscrapers at the Midland Mall during a ten-day span from April 7 – 17, 1975. I dedicate this remembrance to the Midland Mall and all the people who helped to make the event a memorable one.
The date for the celebration of Easter is tied to astronomical events. In 352 A.D. the Council of Nicaea declared that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the Full Moon on or next after the vernal equinox (Spring - March 20 or 21). However, if the Full Moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday. This reckoning allows for Easter to occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Everyone with an interest in astronomy probably has a favorite constellation. It may be because of the star pattern’s mythology, or its shape in the sky, or for the beautiful objects that reside within its boundaries, or possibly because it’s your astrological sign.
This month Dave Huestis examines the 5th largest constellation in the sky - Hercules. While there are many mythological stories about this giant, one of the most beautiful objects in the heavens resides within its borders. It's full of stars!
Skyscrapers' historian Dave Huestis has written a brief summary of the life and achievements of Frank Evans Seagrave to celebrate the sesquicentennial birthday of this great "amateur" astronomer. Our observatory and 8 1/4-inch Alvan Clark refractor was once Seagrave's property, which Skyscrapers purchased in 1936. One of the most amazing facts that both amateur astronomers and the public alike envy the most is that Frank received that exquisite telescope for his 16th birthday in 1876!
One Leonid of about 1st magnitude appeared to the east of Betelgeuse, leaving a two second train of dust behind it. Not bad. Much later a bright Leonid, perhaps as bright as Jupiter, shot about 15 degrees to the west of Sirius. I saw it disappear below my tree line to the south. These were the highlights.
“That’s one small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind.” On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong first set foot upon the Moon and spoke those words. It is perhaps the quote that most people of all cultures throughout the world recognize.
This year we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing which set the stage for a total of 12 men to walk the surface of another world. Dave Huestis gives us a brief review of this crowning achievement and honors all those who made the Moon landings possible.
I have watched the Moon occult stars in the Pleiades star cluster on many occasions. And I have also observed the Moon occult a planet or two during my 37 years of amateur astronomy. But just seeing a single star either pass behind the lunar limb or move tangentially to it never seemed to interest me.
Just as the summer sky has the Summer Triangle, the winter sky has its own special asterism, and this one is huge and includes a total of eight bright stars. It’s called the Winter Circle or Winter Hexagon. I’ll explain why you can get both shapes from the stars.
While you are out there casually stargazing from a dark sky location, you might see some other interesting objects. You’ll see some familiar constellations, and of course there are a few meteors on any clear night. And you might see the Moon and a naked-eye planet or two.
But every now and then some unknown object may traverse the sky. You might even see a brief, but bright flash.
What continues to draw us to Mars? Is it because we still believe life
may once have flourished upon or beneath its now lifeless terrain?
Spacecraft images and sensors may provide a wealth of data, but nothing can
compare to the experience of seeing firsthand even a fleeting image of some
Martian surface features through a backyard telescope.
Easter can occur as early as March 22 or as
late as April 25. Why this range? The varying date for the
observance of Easter is determined by astronomical circumstances.
And this year it is celebrated almost as early as it can be, on
Historian Dave Huestis gave a presentation at the February 4, 2005 meeting highlighting the 30th anniversary of the portable planetarium project undertaken by Sksyscrapers in 1975, which became a significant turning point for the organization.
In July 1994, Skyscrapers were both ecstatic and sad at the same time. While we and the world were anxiously awaiting the icy fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 to plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere, our colleague Brian D. Magaw lost his courageous battle with cancer.
Humankind has never been satisfied with what merely lies in his
own backyard. We must explore. We have to know what is beyond the next
hill. The more questions we answer about our existence, the more
questions we ask.
Every season has its share of interesting astronomical wonders for us to marvel at in the heavens. But whether you are using your naked-eye or a newly acquired telescope, can you navigate your way around the constellations to find a particular object?
Have you gotten it yet? Mars mania? Mars fever? Mars madness? If not,
you will soon. Astronomers have been anxiously awaiting August 27, 2003.
Mars will then be closer to our world than it has for 60,000 years,
34,646,418 miles. Even small backyard telescopes will reveal detail only
fleetingly glimpsed before in larger aperture scopes under the best of best
conditions. Get ready for a close encounter of your lifetime.
One of those bright and easily recognizable constellations is Orion, the mighty hunter. Though one does not need a telescope to view all the stars that comprise this star pattern, you can put your Christmas telescope to good use and go outside this February and focus your attention on one of the most beautiful celestial objects that resides within Orion's starry boundaries.
A total of 25 guests enjoyed clear skies on March 30 and viewed Jupiter, the Orion Nebula and one of the open clusters in Auriga during our two hour observing session. In the field, Bob Horton brought his homemade 4.25" reflector and Conrad had first light with his new Astro-Tech 106mm refractor.
The name of this Society shall be “Skyscrapers, Inc. (Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode Island).” The object of this Society shall be to educate the general public and membership on matters pertaining to astronomy. It shall be an educational, nonprofit organization. This Society is incorporated as a non-business corporation under the laws of the State of Rhode Island.