Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Amateur Astronomy

Transit of Venus Map in Many Languages

On 6 June, an event that takes place only four times every two centuries will enthral the world’s astronomers, as it has ever since the 1600s – but now it can provide priceless data in the hunt for habitable planets in deep space and in re-measuring the distance of the sun from Earth.

Venus will appear as a tiny speck on one side of the Sun in a few weeks and will slowly traverse the solar disc for a few hours. The movement of that little black dot may seem insignificant. But it is one of the rarest sights in astronomy, an event known as a transit of Venus. Miss this one and you will have to wait until 2117 for the next.

Image credit: NASA/LMSAL

As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible. On average, there are 13 transits of Mercury each century. In contrast, transits of Venus occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair.

For Northern Hemisphere locations above latitude ~67° north (including the Philippines) all of the transit is visible regardless of the longitude.

A lot of astronomy-enthusiasts globally are preparing for this rare event. Some are even planning to travel in places where the transit will be fully visible.

As part of this preparation, visibility maps of the transit were created by volunteer groups to guide local observers. One of the efforts is called the Transit of Venus Project which is part of the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) program. AWB is a global collaboration in astronomy.

Aside from providing useful information to the public about this event, the TOV Project also aims to form a collection of translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages so that the transit of Venus will be enjoyed by more people around the world. Of course,  some people would appreciate a map in their own native language.

Michael Zeiler of  Eclipse-maps.com (and also one of the curators of the TOV Project website) sent me a message via Twitter asking for help with translating a summary map of the transit of Venus (June 5-6, 2012) into Filipino.

Here is a copy of the map:

These are the phrases to translate: World visibility of the transit of Venus on June 5 & 6, 2012 Venus overhead at transit maximum Entire transit visible Transit not visible Transit starts before sunset and ends after following sunrise Transit starts before sunrise and ends after sunset Transit visible from sunrise until end Transit visible from start until sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunset

I made a draft of the translation in Filipino and consulted some professors from the Filipino Department of UP Diliman. Upon deciding that it the translated words were good enough, I emailed everything to Mr. Zeiler and he produced this map containing the translated phrases.

6 June 2012 Transit of Venus Visibility Map in our local language, Filipino. Credit: (map) Michael Zeiler/(translation) Raven Yu

Please take note that some of the phrases were not translated into its direct meaning but more of its contextual meaning so as not to confuse the map users.

Check out this link to view the translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages.

If your language is not provided, you can help add a new map by following the simple instructions at this page.

You can also find local contact times of the transit at http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/where-when/local-transit-times/.

Remember that it is not safe to view the sun directly because it might damage your eyes. Read here for tips on how to safely view and photograph the transit using the right equipment and proper eye protection.

Don’t miss this rare spectacle! 🙂 Clear skies!

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UP Astrosoc’s Summer 2012 Application

UP Astronomical Society is now open for Summer Application!
See you this thursday, 19 April 2012 6pm at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Moon Deck near CHE.

Get the chance to look through the largest telescope in the Philippines, Andre the Giant!

Don’t miss it! 🙂

For inquiries, please contact

Andro 09162309138
CR 09065880080

Credit: Kin Enriquez (UP Astrosoc associate member)

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About UP Astrosoc…

The  University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) is a non-profit, non-political and non-partisan organization in the University of the Philippines, Diliman established in 1991. UP Astrosoc now resides at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory inside the UP Diliman Campus in Quezon City.


A Dark Moonless Night for the 2012 Lyrids

The New Moon this month will guarantee the perfect dark sky to watch the Ancient April “shooting stars” called the Lyrid Meteor Shower or the Lyrids.

The Lyrids fall from Comet C1861 G1 Thatcher as the Earth passes through her tail. Activity from this meteor shower can be observed from 16 April to 25 April, but the perfect time to catch the Lyrids is during late night of the 21st to the early morning of the 22nd.

The Lyrids can offer a display of 10 to 20 per hour or have a surge of activity of up to 100 per hour.

The Lyrids, so named because they appear to originate from the constellation Lyra (The Lyre), have been observed in the night sky during mid-April for at least 2,500 years, NASA scientists say. On 21 – 22 of April you can see Lyra rise at around 11PM (local time) from the north east and continue to rise high into the sky towards the south east during the darkest hours of the night sky.

A screencap from Stellarium showing the radiant of the Lyrids located near the star Vega of the constellation Lyra.

The fifth-brightest star of the sky, alpha Lyr, called Vega (arabic for “stone eagle”), radiates from the top of Lyra with a pure white colour. Together with alpha Cyg, Deneb , and alpha Aql, Atair, Vega forms the famous asterism, the Summer Triangle (shown above).

Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2, which is bright enough to be visible from most cities, but you’ll see more and enjoy them more if you leave the city for a less light-polluted area where the stars shine brighter. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Some Lyrids will be brighter, though, and the occassional “fireball” can cast shadows for a split second and leave behind glowing, smoky debris trails that last for minutes.

So, how do you watch these meteors? Like any other meteor shower event, watching the Lyrids requires no special viewing equipment like binoculars or  telescopes. All you need is an open sky and a place to lie down and relax. Someplace dark, away from trees and buildings is best. Meteors zip across the sky, so the more sky you see the better.  Gaze into the stars, and be patient. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, usually straight up, perhaps with a little inclination toward the radiant.

As an observer, you can make a careful meteor count and report it to the International Meteor Organization. Such counts are analyzed to yield the shower’s zenithal hourly rate (ZHR), which is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour under ideal conditions: with the radiant directly overhead (at the zenith) and the sky dark enough to reveal 6.5-magnitude stars.

Meteors Without Borders: #LyridsWatch

During Global Astronomy Month (GAM 2012), everyone is encouraged to observe the Lyrids and send in the reports of what they saw. You can also share your data by tweeting your postcode, your country (click here to find your country code) and, optionally, the meteor count along with the hashtag; #MeteorWatch (you are welcome to use GAM hastags as well – #GAM2012 #LyridsWatch)

The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org. This is an excellent way to get more immersed and socialize during your observations.

Observe the Lyrids with UP Astrosoc

For Philippine observers located near Quezon City, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) invites you to its Lyrids observation on April 21-22, 9PM-6AM at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Sundeck (located within the UP Diliman Campus).

The event is for free and open to all, so feel free to bring along with you your friends and family.

For more information, please visit UP Astrosoc’s Facebook fanpage.

Meteor showers can be a lot of fun, so I hope you see some good ones this coming weekend!  Clear skies!


Mars, Regulus and the Waxing Gibbous Moon

Situated well above the 88% illuminated waxing gibbous moon tonight were two bright objects — one is the planet Mars and the other one is the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.

These three formed a nice cosmic triangle in the night sky just like what is shown above. (Please take note that the image was a composite.)

Reddish Mars has been in Leo close to the star Regulus for the past few weeks, and the two will remain companions all April. During May and June, Mars will drift away from Regulus, and will head toward the constellation Virgo where Saturn is currently residing.


Venus, the Pleiades and Hyades

Image

Tonight, the planet Venus shining bright in the western sky appeared close to the dipper-shaped open star cluster, Pleiades.

Just above them was the V-shaped Hyades, another noticeable cluster. In mythology, the Hyades are the half sisters to the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas.

Image taken with Nikon D60 DSLR camera (24 mm, f/5.6, 20 sec. exp. at ISO 1250).

More photos below:

(From bottom to top) Jupiter, Venus, the Pleiades, and the Hyades.

The streak of light was an airplane which happen to pass in between Venus and the Pleiades while the shot was being taken


AWB’s Venus-Jupiter Conjunction Image Collection

Enjoy the beautiful views of the Venus-Jupiter conjunction as seen from various parts of the globe through Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) image collection.

Last March 13-15, a lot of amateur astronomers participated in AWB’s event, “Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory” which highlighted the closest encounter of Jupiter and Venus — the two brightest planets in the night sky.

Images were submitted to AWB by uploading the them in Twitter and using the hashtag #VenusJupiter. Two of my images got included in this collection as well. Thank you, AWB!

Under the motto “One People, One Sky”, AWB brings people together from around the world through our common interest in astronomy .

True enough, “the boundaries we place between us vanish when we look skyward.” 🙂


Closest Encounter of Venus and Jupiter in 2012

If you’ve been looking west after sunset recently you can’t have failed to see Venus blazing there so bright, outshining everything else in the sky. To Venus’ upper left is another bright” star”, which is actually another planet, Jupiter.

Jupiter and Venus - 8 degrees apart. Image captured 5 March 2012 at 6:45 pm.

These two bright planets visible in the night sky have been putting on quite a show this past month as they have been slowly getting closer together in the western sky just after sunset.

Next week, Venus and Jupiter will be MUCH closer than they are now. 🙂

On March 15, an impressive celestial show at twilight will surprise sky observers as these two planets reach what astronomers call conjunction – the closest they can appear in the sky together.

Getting closer - 5 degrees apart. Image taken 9 March 2012 at 6:24 pm.

The pair of planets will appear to be only 3 degrees apart in the western sky. That is equal to the width of your three middle fingers at arms’ length. Their proximity in the sky is an illusion, of course, as Venus is 180 million km away from Earth and Jupiter is more than 600 million km farther away.

After their mid March close encounter, the two planets will quickly go pass each other – Jupiter dropping down towards the horizon, getting closer to the Sun, while Venus moves higher up in the sky, moving away from the Sun, and brightening as it does so.

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.

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Beauty Without Borders: Conjunction of Glory

13 – 15 March 2012

The Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright. This will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together.

In line with this, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), in collaboration with Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan & Opportunity Astronomical Observatory (Iraq), presents “Beauty without Borders: Conjunction of Glory”.

All the amateur/professional groups out there are invited to participate and enjoy the beautiful views.

Participate by hold an observing night with your local astronomy group or do a backyard astronomy session with your family and friend. Take your scope to the street for a “guerilla-astronomy” session.

Connect:
Join the conversation on Twitter @awb_org using #VenusJupiter with other groups around the world. Post your images on our Flickr or Facebook page.

Chat by NASA on 25 March 2012

Join and share with your friends!

Clear skies!

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Here is a video from Newsy.com to help you know more about this event: http://www.newsy.com/videos/venus-and-jupiter-set-for-cosmic-meetup/


Finding Mercury at Twilight

March 5, 2012 – This would have been a very fine evening for skygazing if only the clouds weren’t so annoying.

Various sky events were happening all at the same time, but nothing can be seen but the clouds.

This day marked the closest encounter of Mars to Earth until the year 2014. Mars is now displaying its greatest brilliance in our sky. Also on this day, the planet Mercury arrived at its greatest eastern point, 18 degrees to the east of the sun. This was Mercury’s best eastern apparition in 2012.  In addition, a bright ISS (almost as bright as Jupiter) passed near Venus at around dusk. It was a nice opportunity to capture this ISS pass because of its proximity to two of the brightest objects in the night sky this month.

I was originally planning to take photos of Mars and Mercury during twilight – Mercury in the western sky, and Mars on the eastern side – but as I said, thick clouds came in and obscured my view.

Waxing gibbous moon at 6:01 pm. I took this photo while waiting.

Mercury, now shining at magnitude -1.2, is only a little fainter than Sirius (the brightest star in the sky). Though this planet is often cited as the most difficult of the five brightest naked-eye planets to see, there is now a fine “window of opportunity” for seeing Mercury in the evening sky. This window which began last February 22 and will close after March 12, provides several good opportunities to see this so-called “elusive planet” with our own naked eyes.

Locating Mercury in the west after sunset is quite a  challenge because it’s so close to the horizon. Moreover, although it is actually as bright as a first-magnitude star, the glow of evening twilight tends to subdue its brilliance.

This month, Mercury starts become visible around 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. This tiny planet can be found hanging beneath the brighter planets Venus and Jupiter. Using Stellarium, I estimated its location to be about 25 to 30 degrees below Venus. It was hard to spot Mercury at first glance but after a few seconds, my eyes were able to detect its faint glow.

However, it was visible only for a very brief moment.

As soon as I finished setting up the tripod and the camera, the clouds have already covered about 5 degrees of the horizon and Mercury was nowhere to be seen.

Western sky - March 5, 2012. Mercury was hidden beneath those clouds near the horizon.

I tried my luck to look for this planet on the following evenings but the sky was not any better until March 8.

Weather was not so bad as the past few days  so I was slightly optimistic.   The sun set promptly at 6:06 pm  and I searched in the same area of the sky, expecting to see Mercury.    After more than half an hour, Jupiter and Venus popped into the view – still there is no sign of Mercury.   A nice big full moon in the east was rising, and it seemed to grin at me cruelly!

I was just about to give in when at 6:40 pm, Mercury sailed into view;  flashing yellow and orange and battling the murkiness. Having just enough time to take a few photos before it disappeared a few minutes after, I hurried and managed to get off a few shots.

It was a pleasant surprise. 🙂

Jupiter, Venus and Mercury at 6:44 pm | UP Diliman, Quezon City

 

Photos above were taken using my Panasonic Lumix digital camera and were post processed in Photoshop to enhance the visibility of Mercury. The planet was too dim and too small to be seen without zooming into the images.

Mercury is quickly decreasing in altitude as each day passes, so take the opportunity well this month to spot it.

Clear skies!


AWB March 2012 Events

Global Astronomy Month 2012 (www.gam-awb.org) is merely a month away. Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) has organized three exciting events in March to do the warm-ups!

Spread the word and join in.

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“Hello Red Planet”

3-5 March 2012

Mars will come into Opposition on March 3, 2012 in the constellation Leo with its face fully illuminated by the Sun and two days later, on March 5, 2012, the planet will have its closest approach to Earth during this apparition: 100.78 million km (0.6737 AU)—the best time to say “Hello” to the Red Planet.

Read more…

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“Conjunction of Glory”

13 – 15 March 2012

Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the sky, will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky of 15 March 2012 at 10:37:46 UTC.  This will be quite a spectacle, as both planets are very bright—and this will be a fantastic visual and photographic opportunity, as it’s not often that you get the brightest planets in our Solar System so close together. 

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013. 

Read more…

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“March Equinox 2012”

20 March 2012

The March equinox occurs at 05:14 UTC, Tuesday 20 March.  The Sun will shine directly down on the Earth’s equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world.  This is also the first day of spring (Vernal Equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (Autumnal Equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

Wherever you are on 20 March, 2012, celebrate your season in the cycle of life with Astronomers Without Borders.  Enjoy your own unique Equinox this year—and why not tell others about the experience?

Read more…

To the stars! 🙂

More about GAM 2012:


Mars at Opposition – March 2012

Mars will reach opposition (when it is directly opposite the Sun in the sky and brightest for this apparition) on the night of March 3rd 2012, positioned 5º.4 SSW of the star Coxa ( Leo or Theta Leonis, mag. +3.9) and 4º.5 West of Leonis. Mars is now brighter and closer than it’s been for two years – and brighter and closer than it will be again until 2014.

However, Mars’ perigee (closest point  to the Earth) will take place two days later – on March 5th – when it is 0.6737 AU (100.7 million kms or 62.6 million miles) from the Earth. This is due to the eccentricity of the orbit of Mars.

The motion of an outer planet, as seen from a "fixed" Earth. | image from cseligman.com

It’ll be hard to miss Mars because it’s the fourth-brightest star-like object to light up the night at this time, after the planets Venus and Jupiter, and the star Sirius.

You can find Mars in the eastern sky at nightfall and early evening, in front of the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, is to the upper right of Mars when they are in the east in the evening hours.

Looking for Mars | image: Stellarium

On opposition day this 2012, Mars will shine at magnitude -1.2 and will have an apparent disk diameter of 13″.9. This is not as bright nor as large (when seen through a telescope) as it was at its previous opposition in January 2010, when the planet reached magnitude -1.3 and had an apparent diameter of 14″.1.

Trivia: At opposition,  the Earth passes in between the sun and Mars, so that the sun, Earth and Mars lie along a line in space. During this event a superior planet like Mars rises around sunset, is visible throughout the night and sets around sunrise. Its highest point in the sky is reached when it crosses the observer’s meridian at local midnight (due South at midnight in the Northern hemisphere and due North at midnight in the Southern hemisphere).

Say “Hello” to the Red Planet

Through the Beauty without Borders program, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) will bring together groups around the world to enjoy the event through observing, webcasts, activities, photography and poetry.

Beauty without Borders: Hello Red Planet

Mars will come into Opposition on March 3, 2012 in the constellation Leo with its face fully illuminated by the Sun and two days later, on March 5, 2012, the planet will have its closest approach to Earth during this apparition: 100.78 million km (0.6737 AU)—the best time to say “Hello” to the Red Planet.

For more info visit http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/projects/observing-activities/beauty-without-borders/1045.html

Join this event and share it with your friends!

Clear skies!

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Useful links: