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

Meteor Showers

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!


Notable Celestial Events in 2012

This year comes with its share of many remarkable skywatching events that we can participate in.  The most important is the rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in  June 2012. The next time this will occur again is in 2117. We have the unique opportunity to observe this. (A note to Philippine observers: We are in a good location for this event!)  Moreover, there’s also the Mercury elongation in February, Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 13-15, the solar eclipses on May 21 and November 14 and  our favorite annual meteor showers.

The list below also contains some tips for Philippine observers.

Clear skies and happy observing! 🙂

February 20 – March 12 :  Best Chance to see Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough from the Sun’s glare to be visible shortly after sunset. Mercury will reach greatest elongation from the Sun on March 5, reaching a relatively bright magnitude of about -1. This will be your best chance to see the planet this year.

February 26 : Moon, Jupiter and Venus at Dusk

Look westward after sunset to see the moon and the dazzling planets Jupiter and Venus lighting up the western sky.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter | 6 pm | Manila

March 3 : Mars at Opposition

The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph this planet. Mars will be an imposing naked-eye sight, shining at magnitude -1.2, just a bit dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star, and will be visible in the sky all night long.

March 14 : Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

The two brightest planets in the sky will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky. On March 25 and 25, the crescent Moon will be near the two planets, creating a dazzling evening spectacle.

March 26 : Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus line up at Dusk

Watch for the young waxing crescent moon and the planets Jupiter and Venus near each other in the west after sunset. The moon, Venus and Jupiter rank as the brightest, second- and third-brightest heavenly bodies of nighttime respectively. This will be last chance in 2012 that you will see them all-together at dusk.

moon, venus, jupiter - march 2012

March 27: Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation and will be separated from the Sun by 46°, its greatest apparent distance from the sun on our sky’s dome. Venus will set about three hours after sunset during this event. At this superb evening elongation for the Northern Hemisphere, Venus will stand above the setting sun. This is a good time to look out for the Schroter Effect, which predicts that dichotomy the 50% lit phase occurs a few days early for evening elongation.

April 3: Venus near the Pleiades

Venus will appear to the left of the Pleiades star cluster.  Especially with binoculars or a small telescope, this bright plant should appear swimming in a sea of stars.

April 15 : Saturn at Opposition

The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.

April 21, 22 : Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. With no moon to get in the way this year, this really should be a good show. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.

*April 2012 is Global Astronomy Month!

May 21 : [Annular] Solar Eclipse

The path of annularity will begin in southern China and move east through Japan, the northern Pacific Ocean, and into the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of eastern Asia and most of North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (Note: In the Philippines, we will be able to see a crescent sun at dawn.)

Partial Solar Eclipse | 6am | Manila

June 4 : Partial Lunar Eclipse

The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Asia, including the Philippines  Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Americas. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) In the Philippines, we can observe this event as an eclipse at dusk, meaning we will be able to see an eclipsed moon rising.

eclipse magnitude:  37.6%
moonrise: 6:17 pm PHT
greatest eclipse: 7:03 pm PHT
partial eclipse ends: 8:07 pm PHT
penumbral eclipse ends: 9:19 pm PHT

(source: PAGASA)

June 4 Partial Lunar Eclipse | 7 pm | Manila

Go to http://shadowandsubstance.com/ to see an animation of the eclipse.

June 6 : Transit of Venus Across the Sun

This extremely rare event will be entirely visible throughout most of eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and Alaska. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunrise throughout Europe, western Asia, and eastern Africa. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunset throughout most of North America, Central America, and western South America. The next transit will not take place until the year 2117. (NASA Transit Information | NASA Transit Map)

Local circumstances for Philippine viewers

Venus transit of the Sun in June, 2004. Photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis.

July 15 : Moon, Venus and Jupiter near the Hyades and the Pleiades Star Cluster

See the three brightest objects in the night sky next to the Pleiades and the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus before dawn on July 15th.

Moon, Venus, the Hyades and Pleiades | 6 am | Manila

August 12, 2012: Occultation of Jupiter by the Moon

For Philippine observers, the morning of 12 August sees the waning crescent Moon pass in front of Jupiter and its moons in a so-called occultation. Occultations are comparatively rare events, which offer good photo opportunities for amateur astronomers. Prospects and timings for the event vary with location.

The event takes place while Jupiter and the Moon are low in the sky during the wee hours of the morning.

Local circumstances:

2012 Aug 12 02:43 Occultation disappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:16 Occultation reappearance of Io (Mag 5.5)
2012 Aug 12 03:17 Occultation reappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)
2012 Aug 12 03:18 Occultation reappearance of Europa (Mag 5.7)
2012 Aug 12 03:20 Occultation reappearance of Callisto (Mag 6.1)
2012 Aug 12 03:32 Occultation reappearance of Ganymede (Mag 5.0)
source: Pyxis Astronomy Educational Services

August 11, 12 : Perseids Meteor Shower

The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 11 & 12, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 24. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. The near last quarter moon will be hanging around for the show, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a shower with up to 60 meteors per hour. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.

October 5 : Moon-Jupiter Conjunction

The King of the Planets and the crescent moon will reunite for a close celestial pairing. Check the eastern sky around midnight to spot these two objects that are less than one degree apart!

Moon and Jupiter at 11 pm | Manila

October 21, 22: Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid Meteor Shower usually reaches its peak around October 21, having an average of 20 meteors per hour. The Orionids are fast meteors and also have fireballs. These meteors radiate near the boundaries between the Great Hunter Orion and Gemini. The cometary debris left behind by Comet Halley — bits of ice, dust and rubble — create the Orionid meteor shower. It last visited Earth in 1986.

A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, but some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. The first quarter moon will set by midnight, leaving a dark sky for what should be a good show.

The best time to view these meteors is usually in the wee hours before dawn. That time holds true no matter what time zone you’re in.

The red lines illustrate the position of the radiant for the Orionid Meteor Shower. The radiant is the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate from.

November 13 : Total Solar Eclipse

The path of totality will only be visible in parts of extreme northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of eastern Australia and New Zealand. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information (Note: This event is not visible in the Philippines.)

November 17, 18 : Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight, and be sure to find a dark location for viewing.

November 27 : Conjunction of Venus and Saturn

These two bright planets will be within 1 degree of each other in the morning sky. Look to the east around sunrise.

December 3 : Jupiter at Opposition

The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.

December 11 : Saturn, Venus, Mercury and the Crescent Moon at Predawn

Check the eastern sky about an hour before dawn to see this magnificent celestial display of the three planets and the thin lunar crescent.

Eastern sky at around 5 am | Manila

December 13, 14 : Geminid Meteor Shower

Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. This year the new moon will guarantee a dark sky for what should be an awesome show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.

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References:

  • Stellarium Planetarium Software

Skywatching Highlights: January 2012

Well-known constellations like the ones in the Winter Hexagon – Gemini, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga and Taurus – can be easily seen during the longer hours of darkness in the Northern hemisphere this month.

Most of the events listed here can be readily observed with the naked eye, but some objects such as the planets and some star clusters are best seen through binoculars or a small telescope.

All of the times and dates found here are in Philippine Standard Time (PHT) unless otherwise indicated. Note that PHT = UT+8.

Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂

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This month’s highlights:

  • The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
  • Planetary conjunctions with the Moon
DATE EVENT TIME NOTES
Jan. 1 First Quarter Moon 2:15 PM
Jan. 2 Moon-Jupiter close pairing (~7° apart)
Jan. 3 Moon at apogee 4:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
Jan. 3-4 Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower 3:23 AM Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120
Jan. 5 Earth at perihelion  (0.9833 AU) 8:00 AM closest distance to the Sun
Jan. 5 Moon near the Pleiades (3.1° N)
Jan. 9 Full Moon 3:30 PM
Jan. 16 Last Quarter Moon 5:08 AM
Jan. 16 Moon near the star Spica (2° N)
Jan. 17 Saturn 6° north of the Moon 3:00 AM
Jan. 18 Moon at perigee 5:00 AM nearest distance to Earth
Jan. 23 New Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 25 Neptune 6° south of the Moon 8:00 PM
Jan. 27 Moon-Venus close pairing dusk Venus 7° south of the Moon
Jan. 30 First Quarter Moon 3:39 PM
Jan. 30 Moon-Jupiter close pairing
Jan. 31 Moon at apogee  2:00 AM farthest distance to Earth
January 2: Moon-Jupiter Conjunction

Image: Stellarium

An eventful sky year begins with brilliant Jupiter high up on the Aries-Pisces border at nightfall. On January 2, Jupiter will be about 7 degrees away from the 61% full moon in the constellation Pisces.

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January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Image: SkyandTelescope.com

This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers like the  Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. This meteor shower should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5.  The Moon sets around 3 AM local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6 AM. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.

References:


Bataan Escapade: Observing the Perseid Meteor Shower 2011

Despite the 50% chance of a thunderstorm and a full moon, I and my UP AstroSoc friends braved our way to Bataan last August to observe this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower during its peak event.

Waxing Gibbous Moon – August 12, 2011

We stayed at Stella Maris Beach Resort in Bagac to observe overnight.

The Moon by the beach.

The sky was totally overcast when we came. Nevertheless, we were fortunate that the Full Moon was already low in the west when the eastern sky cleared up around 3:00 to 5:00 AM just in time for the Perseids.

Cassiopeia and Perseus. The radiant of the Perseid Meteor Shower can be found at the region in between these two.
Pleiades, Hyades, and Orion. A few meteors were seen passing by this region

We were able to spot a few fireballs zooming across the region near Perseus and around the Winter Hexagon. The highest meteor count that we had was 23.

We also got to observe Jupiter (with its Galilean Moons!) and the planet Mars though a friend’s Dobsonian telescope which we fondly call Lulin.

Peeking through Lulin

Here are some images of Jupiter taken through afocal method:

Jupiter and its Galilean moons
A closer look at Jupiter

We finished our Perseid viewing at dawn and left the place a couple of hours after to tour around Bataan. Some of the places we visited were the Bagac Friendship Tower, Dunsulan Falls in Pilar, and the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor)  at the summit of Mt. Samat.

The beach resort were we stayed at.

The Bagac Friendship Tower

Dunsulan Falls
Dambana ng Kagitingan and the Memorial Cross on top of Mt. Samat

Mount Samat was the site of the most vicious battle against the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 during the Battle of Bataan. The shrine there was built as a symbol of courage and gallantry to all Filipino soldiers who shed their blood in defending our beloved country to foreign invaders. I felt honored to have been able to visit this place and pay respect to my fellow Filipinos who died during the war. 

Going at the top of Mount Samat was the best experience ever!  It felt like I can almost touch the clouds with my two bare hands when I was up there. I also love the cool gentle breeze and the nice view (you can see the whole town of Bataan and the Manila Bay from there). My friends and I were very excited as we climbed up the stairs going up the cross. It was a bit tiring though.

Overall, I consider this trip as one of the most memorable trips I ever had. 🙂 Aside from successfully catching the Perseids despite of the bad weather, we were also blessed with a great opportunity to visit some of the historical places in the country and experience nature at its finest. It was truly a sweet escape!

Thanks to Elaine, Kiel, Bea, Josh, Saeed, Ron and Pinyong for being with me in this endeavor. 🙂

*All images above courtesy of Bea Banzuela


Orionid Meteor Shower 2011 Viewing Guide

Created using Stellarium. Click on image to enlarge.

This year’s Orionids will peak on the evening of October 21/22 . These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border.

The cometary debris left behind by Comet Halley — bits of ice, dust and rubble — create the Orionid meteor shower. It last visited Earth in 1986. As the comet moves through space, it leaves debris in its wake that strikes Earth’s atmosphere most fully around October 20-22. Around this time every year, Earth is more or less intersecting the comet’s orbit.

Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour under dark skies.  The moonlit glare of the waning crescent Moon, however will probably reduce the numbers somewhat this year.

The best time to view these meteors is usually in the wee hours before dawn. That time holds true no matter what time zone you’re in.

Clear skies to all and happy viewing! 🙂

References:


The Draconid Meteor Shower and InOMN 2011 on October 8!

There will be two special events for tonight (October 8 ) — the Draconid Meteor Shower and the celebration of the 2011 International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN).

InOMN is an annual event celebrated world-wide to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon. For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!

Get involved!

Meanwhile, the meteor activity of the Draconids (or Giacobinids) is also expected to be at maximum tonight, 8 October 2011 between 16h00m and 21h00m Universal Time (UTC)*.  This irregular shower that sometimes produces meteor storms is linked to comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The radiant point for the Draconid meteor shower almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky.

Radiant point for Draconid meteors | image credit: Earthsky.org

The glare of moonlight is sure to interfere with this year’s Draconid shower, but you should try viewing it tonight, anyway, to see if the predicted outburst will occur.

Note:
* The predicted date of maximum is the date when the meteoroid density encountered by the Earth is expected to be maximum. Actual maximum local rate observed from a specific area is likely to happen at a different time, depending on your location. Therefore, it is incorrect to just convert the UTC maximum date to local time, as your local circumstances are likely to be different (for example, the radiant not even being visible at the time of nominal maximum!). In the Philippines, the peak activity is expected to occur on October 9 between 12:00 -5:00 AM PHT. The radiant, however will set around 11:00 PM (which means we cannot observe the peak) so it would be best to observe earlier — between 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM.

Looks like the rain will spoil both of these events 😦 But let’s all try our luck tonight and see what will happen. Clear skies!


Skywatching Highlights: October 2011

As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities. 

Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.

DATE

EVENT

TIME (PHT)

2 Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer
4 First Quarter Moon 11:15 AM
8 Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)
8 International Observe the Moon Night 2011
12 Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon) 10:05 AM
13 Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart
14 Saturn Conjunction
15 Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades
16 Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth
20 Last Quarter Moon 11:30 AM
20 Mercury-Venus Conjunction dusk
22 Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)
27 New Moon 04:00 AM
28 Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation dusk
29 Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth) 08:40 AM



Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids 

*DRACONIDS (Giacobinids)
The Draconids peak will this year on the evening of October 8th with a higher than normal meteor count expected. Periodic (6.6 year orbit) comet 21P/Giacobini/Zinner is the source of these meteors, and this year Earth is predicted to cross a dense debris stream from the comet. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass as high as 500 per hour, radiating from the northern constellation Draco, near the Dragon’s head. This is not without precedent as the Draconids stormed briefly to 10,000 meteors per hour in 1933!
*ORIONIDS 

The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.

Comet Elenin
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.

Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.

Full Hunters Moon
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.

Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.

International Observe the Moon Night 2011

Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.

For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!

 

Happy skygazing! 🙂

References:


The Longer Nights Are Here!

Hello everyone! 🙂

It’s been ages since I posted my last entry here. I missed this blog so much.

I’ve been really busy doing and organizing a lot of stuff during the last couple of months that I rarely had time to write. Moreover, the observing conditions were very seldom good because of the rainy season — several typhoons hit the country and it’s too cloudy most of the time.

It is not until towards the end of September that the rainy season in the Philippines will start receding.  Its normal termination usually occurs by the end of October.

Anyhow, the coming of October also marks the coming of longer nights in the Philippines. Just last October 1, the Sun rose at 5:46 AM and set at 5:46 PM (Manila time). This day signaled the transition point in nature when the light changes. The days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere — everyone can feel the shortening of the days and sense, innately, that the changes in daylight and darkness are sudden and surprising.

During the equinox last September 23, the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. This is because the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator, and because the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations. The axial tilt of the earth affects the day/night duty cycle most strongly at the poles and has no effect at all at the equator. Equal day and night usually occurs a few days after the equinox. For simplicity, we may assume that it has actually occurred on October 1. Take note that there is really no equal day and night at the equator.

For amateur astronomers, longer nights mean extra hours of uninterrupted stargazing! 🙂

The fine meteor showers usually come in by October to December of each year. October 2011 has two meteor showers worth getting outside to see — the Draconid meteor shower on the evenings of October 7 and 8 and the more reliable Orionid meteor shower on the mornings of October 20 and 21.

As the Draconids and Orionids kicks off the meteor shower season, observing the night sky would be more fun and interesting.

 Clear skies to all!


Skywatching Highlights: May 2011

From PAGASA:

The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5  respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.

Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.

Date Event Time (PHT)
1 Mars Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
1-2 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
2 Jupiter 6° south of the Moon 03:00 AM
3 New Moon 04:50 PM
5 The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west. dusk
7 Jupiter Conjunction  
7 Mercury at greatest western elongation dawn
7 Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 —  ZHR 70  
8 Venus Mercury at minimum separation dawn
10-14 Mercury-Venus-Jupiter conjunction dawn
11 First Quarter Moon 04:35 AM
11 Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise. dawn
11 Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
12 Venus Jupiter at minimum separation dawn
14 Saturn 8° north of the Moon 11:00 PM
17 Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon) 07:10 PM
18-26 Mercury Venus Mars conjunction dawn
18 Mercury Venus at minimum separation dawn
22 Jupiter 8° below the Moon dawn
25 Last Quarter Moon 02:50PM
30 Mars-Jupiter-Mercury-Venus-Moon conjunction dawn
31 Mars 4° South of the Moon dawn

Clear skies! 🙂

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References:

  • PAGASA Astronomical Diary
  • Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
  • 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org

Planets Align for This Year’s Lyrids!

Tonight presents the expected peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, from late night Friday (April 22) until dawn Saturday (April 23). Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.

Sky at 5:00 AM, April 23 (21:00 UT April 22) as viewed from Manila, Philippines. The point where the yellow lines converge shows the "radiant" for the Lyrid meteor shower. The radiant is the spot in the sky that the meteors seem to fan out from. | image: Stellarium

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 dark place 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. Lyrid meteors disintegrate after hitting our atmosphere at a moderate speed of 29.8 miles per second.

In observing these meteors, the hour before dawn is usually best, except that a bright waning gibbous moon will be lighting the sky hiding most of the fainter meteors in its glare. This year, it is more favorable to watch late at night, during the dark hour before moonrise.

Tweet your data!

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 – #GAM2011 #LyridsWatch)

The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org


While the best meteor-watching will be late night through daybreak, it’s well worth staying outside just before sunrise for a beautiful planetary alignment will be joining the Lyrids.

Venus is so bright in the eastern sky you can’t miss it, and below it Mercury, Mars and Jupiter could be found hanging a few degrees away from each other. If you have hazy skies or live in an urban area, you may need binoculars to see Mars and Jupiter.

All four heavenly objects will fit within a circle about 15 degrees in diameter, beaming together through the colors of the predawn sky. 

This planetary grouping is visible from April 23 to May 30.

Enjoy the show! 🙂


Catching the Quadrantids

 

Despite the 50% predicted cloud cover and significantly large uncertainty in the precise time of the peak, I and some of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc tried our luck in observing  the first meteor shower of the year during the night of January 3 until the dawn of January 4, 2011. According to British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath, the narrow peak of this shower is predicted to occur some time between 2100 UT  on 3 January (5AM on January 4) and 0600 (UT) on 4 January 2011 (2PM on January 4), however the radiant of the shower  is very low in the evening hours, and will rise higher towards dawn so the best time to view this event in the Philippines was during the predawn hours of January 4.

 

This was my first time to observe the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Unlike the other popular annual meteor showers like the Perseids, Leonids and the Geminids, this shower is expected to be less spectacular due to lower activity and unfavorable position of the radiant to a country near the equator like the Philippines. Nevertheless, the moonless night during January 4 and 5 enticed me to give it a chance.

We chose to observe in Marikina City, at a friend’s house which has a roof deck. From there, we had a fine view of the north and eastern sky wherein most of the Quadrantids are expected to pass.

 

The radiant of the meteor shower which is found a little below the Big Dipper and beside the constellation Bootes, was set to rise at around 1AM of January 4. While waiting, we spent the time preparing our simple reclining chairs and sleeping bag which we intend to use as a mat where we could lie down. We also set up our organization’s 4.5″ Meade Reflector — which we fondly called Datascope — to look for deep sky objects. We pointed it first at the famous stellar sisters, the Pleaides or M45, in Taurus. We enjoyed stargazing and constellation-hopping because the sky was fairly clear then.

At around 1:30 AM, I saw my first Quadrantid. 😀 It was a short and swift one having a thin  trail and a pale bluish big head, typical of a Quadrantid meteor. It passed between the pointer stars, Dubhe and Merak in Ursa Major. It was an amazing scene!

After about 30 minutes, patches of clouds began to block our view. We decided to pause our observation for a while to pick up a friend who would join us.

We continued on our observation with a less cloudy sky (around 40% cloud cover)  by 3:20 AM  during which we saw another Quadrantid passing near Corona Borealis. Another one zoomed past by the Bootes at  4 AM.

At 5 AM (21:oo UT), during the time of the peak we saw more meteors flying across the northeast in between cloud gaps of the 50-60 % clouded sky. In my previous post,  I calculated for the number of meteors that could be seen given the 50% cloud cover and 4.0 limiting magnitude using the formula given by IMO. The actual meteor count we got during the peak is 6, which was relatively comparable to the 8 meteors per hour which I had calculated. 🙂

Venus and the light-polluted suburban site

By 5:40 AM, we also saw one artificial satellite flying from the northwest. During this time, Venus and Mercury were already shining high in the east though they seemed to disappear from time to time as clouds pass in front of them. We also took sometime to capture a few bright constellations like my favorite, Crux in the south.

We ended our observation at past 6:00 AM when the Sun started to climb up in the east. A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we finished our observation and ate our breakfast — McChicken Fillet Meal from McDonalds — courtesy of our friend Saeed, who had his birthday during that observation.

Beautiful Sunrise!

Silhouette shot for your birthday, Saeed 🙂

 

UP AstroSoc members

The following night two of my fellow UP AstroSoc friends — Bea and Aaron — went to Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo City, accompanied by some of our UP AstroSoc associates, to observe the Quadrantids from there. The sky there offers a more favorable viewing condition because  it was farther from the light-polluted city. They were even lucky to have less cloudy sky during that night. 🙂

Below are some of the pictures taken during their observation at the Seven Suites Hotel Observtaory. All images are by Bea Banzuela.

 

A lone Quadrantid along Ursa Major!

 

Star trails - exp. time is 30 mins. According to Bea, a slight ground movement made this shot a bit shaky 😦

The Winter Triangle

The constellation Crux in the south

Viewing Venus with the observatory's 12" Dobsonian Telescope -- the 4th largest in the Philippines

Big Dipper

I never expected that this event would turn out to be another memorable and fun observation. 🙂 Thank you, UP Astrosoc!

To all those who were able to say hello to this year’s Quadrantids, congratulations and good luck on your observation of the next meteor shower. 😀


2011 Skywatching Highlights

2011 promises to be a  great year for astronomy enthusiasts as it was filled with several upcoming spectacular lunar and solar eclipses, beautiful planetary conjunctions, celestial groupings and of course, annual meteor showers.

What excites me most about this year is that all of Asia including the Philippines —  where I live — will be able to see all of the eclipse phases of a Total Lunar Eclipse on December 10, 2011, including a “Reddish Moon” during the peak stage. 🙂 Such is truly a rare event to witness, but how rare is that? Well, according to what I found during my online research, I think the last total lunar eclipse that was visible from the Philippines occurred during the 1980s. I wasn’t even alive then.

Anyway, below is a list of astronomical events for this year (arranged according to date) to serve as a guide on your skygazing and give you a preview on your 2011 cosmic journey.

January 3 – 4 Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on January 3 & 4, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.
January 4 Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of northern Africa, Europe, and Asia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
January 10 Crescent Moon and Jupiter approximately 10 degrees apart.
March 20 Equinox The March Equinox occurs at 23:21 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the 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.
April 3 Saturn at Opposition
April 22 -23 Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.
May 5 – 6 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.
March 15 Mars-Jupiter Conjunction Like two ships passing in the twilight, Mercury and Jupiter come within 2 degrees of each other this evening. For comparison, your fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of arc in the night sky.Jupiter will be heading toward the sun, while Mercury is moving away from the sun during this time. Immediately after sunset, concentrate on that part of the sky just above and to the left of where the sun has just set. Using binoculars, sweep around this part of the sky to see bright Jupiter sitting just below and to the left of the harder-to-spot Mercury.
May 11 (all month long) Four of the five naked-eye planets will crowd together into what could be described as a Great Celestial Summit Meeting.Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are contained within a 10-degree span on May 1, shrinking to a minimum of less than 6 degrees on May 12, then opening back up to 10 degrees on May 20.Twice during May, three planets close to within nearly 2 degrees of each other: Mercury-Venus-Jupiter (on May 11-12) and Mercury-Venus-Mars (May 21).  And the crescent moon joins the array on May 1 and again on May 30-31.
June 1 Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts eastern Asia, Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
June 15 Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.(NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
June 21June 23- 27 June SolsticeOccurs at 17:16 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the southern hemisphere.Pluto+Charon+Hydra occultation by 2 bright starsRead more …Link 1Link 2, Link 3
July 1 Partial Solar EclipseThis partial eclipse will only be visible off the coast of Antarctica. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
July 28 -29 Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower The Delta Aquarids can produce about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on July 28 & 29, but some meteors can also be seen from July 18 – August 18. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. This year the thin, crescent moon will be hanging around for the show, but it shouldn’t cause too many problems. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.
August 12 -13 Perseid Meteor Shower The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 13 & 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. Look to the northeast after midnight.
August 22 Neptune at Opposition The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Neptune, although it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
September 23 Equinox The September equinox occurs at 09:05 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.
September 25 Uranus at Opposition The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Uranus, although it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 8 Draconid Meteor Shower Many meteor experts are predicting a good chance that an outburst of up to many hundreds of Draconid meteors will take place. Unfortunately, like the Perseids, a bright moon could severely hamper visibility.  The peak of the display is due sometime between 16h and 21h UT, meaning that the best chances of seeing any enhanced activity from these very slow-moving meteors would be from Eastern Europe and Asia.
November 10 Mars and bright star A colorful conjunction takes place high in the predawn sky between the yellow-orange Mars and the bluish-white star Regulus in Leo, the Lion.  They are separated by 1.3 degrees, but they’ll be within 2 degrees of each other for five days and within 5 degrees of each other for nearly three weeks, so they will be a rather long-enduring feature of the mid-autumn morning sky.
October 21-22 Orionids Meteor Shower The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. This shower usually peaks on the 21st, but it is highly irregular. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight.
October 29 Jupiter at Opposition The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.
November 17 -18 Leonids Meteor Shower The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight.
November 25 Partial Solar Eclipse This partial eclipse will only be visible over Antarctica and parts of South Africa and Tasmania. (NASA Map and Eclipse InformationNASA Eclipse Animation)
December 10 Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the North America. ((NASA Eclipse Information)
December 13 – 14 Geminids Meteor Shower Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.
December 21 December Solstice The December solstice occurs 05:30 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.


Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂

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Sources:

SPACE.com — Solar Eclipse and Meteor Shower to Launch 2011 Skywatching Season

AstronomyOnline.org — Dates for conjunctions, eclipses, meteor showers and transits

Astronomical Almanac Online


The 2011 Quadrantid Meteor Shower [UPDATED]

The year 2011 will begin with an eye-catching sky show for well-placed observers when the annual Quadrantid meteor shower hits its peak during the first week of January. The new year promises to be a great one to see the Quadrantids since the moon, which can sometimes outshine the display, will be completely out of the picture.

This shower has one of the highest predicted hourly rates of all meteor showers, comparable to the two great annual showers, the Perseids and the Geminids, occurring in August and December respectively. However unlike the Perseids and Geminids, the Quadrantids peak is very narrow, occurring over just a few short hours.  (You can read the IMO’s rather technical summary of the 2011 Quadrantids here.) Quadrantid meteors are of medium speed : slower than the Leonids and Perseids, yet faster than the Geminids. They usually appear bluish, accompanied by fine, long spreading silver trains.

This annual celestial event is active from January 1st through January 10th and peaks on January 4th. The peak is defined as the moment of maximum activity and the most meteors can be seen by observers.

The predicted Zenith Hourly Rate for this shower is around 120. According to British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath, the narrow peak is predicted to occur some time between 2100 (UT) on 3 January and 0600 (UT) on 4 January 2011, however the radiant* of the shower – the now-defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis – is very low in the evening hours, rising higher towards dawn. Current sky maps place the radiant near the constellation Bootes.

This sky map shows where to look in the northeastern sky to spot the annual Quadrantid meteor shower, which peaks overnight on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, 2011. It will appear between and below the Big Dipper and Little Dipper constellations. Credit: NASA/JPL

Most almanacs are highlighting 8 p.m. EST Jan. 3 (0100 GMT Jan. 4) as the “most likely” time, because that is about when Earth is expected to pass through the densest part of this meteor stream, based on observations dating back to 1992. But McBeath points out that other investigations have found that the Quadrantid rates can vary from year to year, so that its peak timing may not be consistent.

If the 0100 prediction is correct, then the best chances of seeing the peak of the 2011 Quadrantids would be for Europe east to central Asia, where the radiant will be rising in the northeast during the morning hours of Jan. 4.

Quadrantids Viewing  in the Philippines

Time Zone: UTC/GMT +8 hours

Best time to observe:

2:00am – 05:30am (PHT) on January 4 and  5, 2011

Shower rate: 60-120 per hour

The radiant will rise due N and get to its highest before dawn due E, so look roughly in a NE direction to maximize your chance of seeing some Quadrantids. As always with meteor showers, don’t use binoculars or a telescope – your naked eyes are best.

Where are you observing from? Limiting magnitude Number of Quadrantids per hour if peak occurs at 21:00 UT  Jan. 3 (5 AM PHT Jan. 4)
50 %  cloud cover (actual weather forecast by Wunderground.com) 0 % cloud cover (perfect clear sky condition)
Very light polluted city center 3 4 8
Suburban Site 4 8 17
Rural Site 5 17 49
Dark Sky Site 6.5 49 99
Note: These values were computed using the ZHR and formula by IMO.

Actual Hourly Rate = (ZHR x sin(h))/((1/(1-k)) x 2^(6.5-m)) where

h = the height of the radiant above the horizon

k = fraction of the sky covered in cloud

m = limiting magnitude

Using Stellarium (a free planetarium software available from here), I estimated the height of the radiant at 5:00 AM PHT for the Philippines to be at around 56 degrees above the northeastern horizon. I also assumed two values for k to illustrate the difference between seeing meteors during a 50% cloudy sky and a perfect clear sky condition. Special thanks to Steve Owens — a professional science communicator, writer and astronomer — for giving me a guide on how to compute for the number of meteors that could be seen during the peak of this shower. Some parts of this article were also taken from his very informative Quadrantids blogpost that could be found at the website http://darkskydiary.wordpress.com. UK observers may consult his post to find out what they might see during the Quadrantids Meteor Shower there.

Weather forecast for Manila, Philippines

(includes %  probability of precipitation and % cloud cover)

As a bonus, a partial solar eclipse on January 4 will also be visible at, or soon after sunrise. (Visibility: Europe, North Africa and central Asia )

No matter how many meteors are observed during the 2011 Quadrantids Meteor Shower, just remember to have fun and use this as a learning experience. 😀

Enjoy and clear skies to all!

=================

*Radiant – point from where the meteors appear to come from throughout its peak

Other References:


U.P. AstroSoc’s Public Observation of the 2010 Geminids

It’ Geminids season again! 🙂

Join the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) as it observes the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower at its peak on the night of Dec. 13 until dawn of Dec. 14, at the PAGASA Observatory Sundeck in U.P. Diliman, Quezon City. Click on this page to RSVP and also to see a map showing the location of the observation site.

The Geminids is described by the International Meteor Organization (IMO) as “one of the finest, and probably the most reliable, of the major annual showers presently observable”, and this year’s shower is set to put on a good show.

The Geminid meteor shower active from Dec. 7 until Dec. 17. Unlike many meteor showers, you can start watching for the Geminids around 9 to 10 p.m. – in years when the moon is out of the sky. The First-Quarter Moon interferes during the evening hours this year, and doesn’t set till around midnight. However, this shower tends to gain strength after midnight and to climax at roughly 2 o’clock in the morning, after moonset and when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky.

Meteors or “falling stars” can be seen at an average rate of sixty meteors per hour under a dark and cloudless night.

Studies of past displays show that this shower has a reputation for being rich in slow, bright, graceful meteors and fireballs as well as faint meteors, with relatively fewer objects of medium brightness. Many appear yellowish in hue. Some even seem to form jagged or divided paths.

If you trace the paths of all the Geminid meteors backward, they appear to radiate from the same point in front of Gemini. This point is called the meteor shower radiant, and is located near the star Castor. To see Castor, look fairly low in the east-northeast sky around 9 p.m. Castor and the Geminid meteor shower radiant swing upward through the night, and climb pretty much overhead by around 2 a.m. Here’s what is important about a meteor shower’s radiant point: the higher the radiant rises into in your sky, the more meteors you’ll likely to see. That means you can expect to see the most Geminids around 2 a.m., when Castor will be highest in the sky, and the meteors will be raining down from overhead.

But you don’t have to find the meteor shower radiant to see the Geminid meteors, for these meteors shoot all over the sky.

Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of ‘shooting stars.’ The Geminids are different. The parent is not a comet but a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon that sheds very little dusty debris—not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.

Also on Dec. 13, Mercury and Mars will appear closest (1° apart) while very low in the southwest after sunset. A pair of binoculars would help you see these two objects better.  Jupiter and Uranus could as well be seen just 10 degrees away from the First Quarter Moon.

This event is open to all. Bring your family and friends and enjoy the most spectacular meteor shower of the year. 🙂 You won’t need binoculars or a telescope, the naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors.

 

 

Clear skies and happy viewing!

 

 

======================

poster by Aaron Misayah of UP AstroSoc


Astronomy Highlights – December 2010

A total lunar eclipse, meteor showers, and the Winter Solstice are the highlights of this month’s stargazing. 🙂

Dec. 1 Moon at perigree (nearest distance to earth)
Dec. 1-4 Catch Venus, Saturn, Spica and the Crescent Moon in a celestial grouping during the predawn sky. Best time to observe will be an hour or two before sunrise. The star Arcturus could also be found just about 30 degrees away in the northeast.
Dec. 1-8 Dark Matter Awareness Week
Dec. 2 Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation (21 deg.)
Dec. 4 Venus at greatest illuminated extent. Check eastern sky a few hours before sunrise.This morning Venus will be at its most brilliant, exposing the largest area of sunlit clouds of the current apparition. Two things are going on. The illuminated crescent of Venus is getting larger, percentage wise, as the planet moves towards full sunshine. At the same time, Venus is receding from the Earth, and so getting smaller in diameter. On this date the two balance out, giving Venus its greatest illuminated extent, and making it appear at its brightest, magnitude –4.9.
Dec. 7 Mercury is 1.8° south of the thin crescent Moon. Check the western sky a few minutes after sunset. A pair of binoculars would help you see these two objects better.
Dec. 10 Monocerotid Meteor Shower
Dec. 10 Chi Orionid Meteors
Dec. 11 The nearly first-quarter Moon this evening forms a roughly equilateral triangle with bright Jupiter to its upper left and Fomalhaut to its lower left.
Dec. 13 A twilight challenge! Mercury and Mars appear closest, 1° apart, very low in the southwest after sunset. A pair of binoculars would help you see these two objects better.
Dec. 13-14 Jupiter and Uranus  just 10 degrees away from the First Quarter Moon
Dec. 13-14 Geminid Meteor Shower
Dec. 19 Moon near Pleiades Open Star Cluster in Taurus
Dec. 20 Delta Arietid Meteors
Dec. 20 Mercury in Inferior Conjunction
Dec. 21 Total Lunar Eclipse*
Dec. 21 Winter Solstice (23:38 UT)
Dec.22 Ursid Meteor Shower
Dec. 25 Moon at Perigree
Dec. 30 -31 Moon and the Predawn Planets
Dec. 31 Jupiter and Uranus less than 0.5 degrees of each other


*Total Lunar Eclipse

A Total Lunar Eclipse will darken the Moon on December 21. The entire event will be visible from North America with areas to the east, such as South America, Europe, and western Africa, catching the eclipse during Moonset and areas to the west, such as Australia and eastern and northern Asia, seeing the event at Moonrise. Only southern and eastern Africa, the Middle East and India and surrounding countries will miss out on the eclipse entirely. The limb of the Moon begins to fall into the dark shadow of Earth at Dec. 21 6:32 a.m. UTC. The total stage, when the Moon is completely within Earth’s shadow, lasts for approximately 73 minutes, from 5:40 a.m. to 8:53 a.m. UT. During totality, the Moon can take on strange shades, from orange to red to violet, depending on the particulates in the atmosphere at different locations. The event is over by 10:02 a.m. UT.

A total lunar eclipse happens when the moon is full and passes exactly through the line connecting the Earth and the sun.

 

Rising partially-eclipsed Moon at 5:45 p.m. PST. Click to enlarge.

For Philippine observers, this event will be witnessed as a Partial Lunar Eclipse at moonrise. In Manila, the moon will rise at 5:36 P.M. on December 21 and will set at 6:57 A.M. on 22 December. The major phases of the eclipse are as follows:

PHASE TIME (PST)
Penumbral eclipse begins 1:29 PM (PST)
Partial eclipse begins 2:32 PM (PST)
Greatest eclipse 4:16 PM (PST)
Partial eclipse ends 6:01 PM (PST)
Penumbral eclipse ends 7:04 PM (PST)

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. A pair of binocular will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration of the Moon brighter.

Winter Solstice

The Sun will reach the Winter Solstice on December 22 at 7:38 a.m. PST (23:38 UT). This marks the time when the Sun lies at its farthest point south of the equator. It signals the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Nights in the Philippines will be longer than daytime. Earth has now completed another annual circuit around the Sun.

The 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids is described by the International Meteor Organization (IMO) as “one of the finest, and probably the most reliable, of the major annual showers presently observable”, and this year’s shower is set to put on a good show. This shower is known to produce colorful bright fireballs that often leaves smoky trails along its way. (For those enthusiast meteor observer, you can report your observation using the methods and report forms at the IMO’s  site. You can also read the IMO’s rather technical summary of the 2010 Geminids from there.) It spans from December 7 – 15 and peaks the evening of December 13-14.

Meteors or “falling stars” can be seen at an average rate of sixty meteors per hour under a dark and cloudless sky which the Quarter Moon set just after midnight. If you trace the paths of all the Geminid meteors backward, they appear to radiate from the same point in front of Gemini. This point is called the meteor shower radiant, and is located near the star Castor. But you don’t have to find the meteor shower radiant to see the Geminid meteors, for these meteors shoot all over the sky.

 

Geminids 2010 - Looking East at 11 PM local time. Lines indicate the radiant. Click on the image to enlarge.

The zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the radiant were at the zenith and +6.5 magnitude stars were visible. For your count to be corrected to this standard, note your naked-eye limiting magnitude for stars in the part of the sky you are watching. Record the beginning and end times of each of your observing periods to the minute.

All the other known meteor showers were believed to have been produced by debris left behind by comets, but the asteroid 3200 Phaethon is probably the parent of the Geminid meteor shower.

Also during the same night, watch out for Jupiter and Uranus near the Moon before they set after midnight.

Other Meteor Showers for December

Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!

MONOCEROTID meteors – A fair year to explore this minor meteor shower, since the nearly first quarter moon will hamper observations early in the evening during its mid-peak on Dec. 10. However observations in the later hours of the night should reveal several more of these elusive meteors. Look for these meteors as early as December 1 and lasting through the 17th. They emanate very close to the Gemini-Monoceros border, rising in the SE sky at dark local time and overhead/south about 1:00 a.m., very favorable for both southern and northern hemisphere observers but attempt to observe when the moon is not in the sky. In some years up to a dozen meteors per hour can be seen from this shower; the point of radiant is: RA 06h 50m; DEC +10d.

CHI ORIONID meteors – like the Moncerotid meteors that peak on the same night, the light from the moon will hamper observations until moonset just before midnight. It is very interesting that the Monocerotid and this shower both peak at nearly the same night….as its name implies,the CHI ORIONID stream has its radiant very near that fairly bright star, and thus the shower members from both showers are hard to differentiate many times; even more interesting is that the Chi Orionid meteors have TWO radiants apparently, one very close to the “horns of the bull” in Taurus and the other further into the constellation of Orion.

DELTA ARIETID meteors – If you want one early in the evening, this is IT!; look for about 10 meteors per hour (the moon this year will be a full one during this meteor shower, so only the brightest of these should be seen this year)  coming from the tiny constellation of Aries.  Overall a poor year for this minor shower.

URSID METEORS – This meteor shower, coming from within the “Little Dipper” will never rise nor set and you can watch it all night; however, best observations would be about 11 p.m. local time and into the early morning hours. However, the light from the full moon this year will blind out all but the brightest meteors. The meteoroids in this group have origins with the famous Comet Tuttle, and leave many spectacular wakes and smoky trails in their wakes. Up to 20 meteors per hour under dark skies can be see to any observer looking nearly due north and “up” a bit!

Planets

Mercury will be an “evening star” at the very beginning of the month, but will be too close to the Sun to observe for the rest of the month. This is an unfavorable apparition for observers in the northern hemisphere, but a good one for southerners.

Venus is a brilliant “morning star” all month. It reaches greatest brilliancy on December 4.

Mars is pretty much lost in evening twilight, on the far side of the Sun.

Jupiter is well placed all evening, dominating the southern sky. It is in the constellation Aquarius for the first half of the month, moving into Pisces on December 17. It sets around midnight.

Saturn is now a morning “star” in Virgo. Its rings have returned to their usual glory after being on edge for the last two years.

Uranus is in Pisces all month, and remains within a few degrees of Jupiter.

Neptune is in Capricornus and sets around 10 p.m.

 

Moon Phases (PST = UT+8)

New Moon: Dec. 5 at 17:36 Universal Time (UT)

First Quarter: Dec. 13 13:59 (UT)

Full Moon: Dec. 21 08:13 17:27 (UT)

Last Quarter: Dec. 28 04:18 (UT)

 

To remind you of the important astronomical events this month, here is a poster created by UP Astronomical Society member, Carlo Selabao.

Clear skies to all!

===================

references:

Stellarium Planetarium Software

PAGASA Astronomical Diary – December 2010

Arksky.org

Space.com Sky Calendar

Astronomy.com



Leonids Observation and Catching Venus in the Predawn Sky

Due to a busy schedule, I was not able to observe the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower last Nov. 17 to 18. According to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the best time to look for these fast moving meteors would be  around two to three hours before dawn when the waxing gibbous Moon has already set and the constellation Leo is  high in the Eastern sky.

I planned on observing the following night. However, I realized that aside from missing the peak of the meteor shower, I would probably have less chances to see the Leonids because the light from the nearly full Moon will wash out the fainter meteors. The angular difference of the plane of revolution of Earth around the Sun and that of the Moon around the Earth causes the Moon to rise and set about 50 minutes later each successive night, so I would have an even smaller chance of seeing a meteor every night I wait after the peak.

Nevertheless, because of my eagerness and keen determination to see even a single Leonid, I tried my luck during the night of Nov. 19-20. 🙂

Together with some friends and fellow orgmates, we drove home to Marikina City at around 2am. While on the way, I noticed the Moon shining brightly in the west. Jupiter was nowhere to be found as it has set earlier along with Uranus.

After arriving at my friend’s house, I immediately told her of my plan and we prepared to set up at the topmost part of the house. It was cold and a bit foggy outside during that time. We took a sleeping bag with us so we could lie down on the floor of the roof deck as we watch for meteors. Unfortunately, the floor was already wet – probably because of the dew – when we climbed upstairs. So instead, we spread out the sleeping bag across the roof just below the topmost deck and began our quest for that night. Below us, all the little houses and buildings stood silent as the little spots of light coming from the street lamps appeared to twinkle just like the stars above us.

We found the very conspicuous Leo, the constellation where the meteors seem to radiate from, lying high in the northeastern sky. As we started out to look for zooming meteors from other parts of the sky, we were stunned by the total beauty of the night sky surrounding us. Luna was already low and obstructed by a building to the west, which allowed the stars of the bright constellations to shine brightly against the dark sky. In the west, the Winter Triangle – which is composed of red Betelgeuse of the mighty Orion, Procyon of Canis Minor and Sirius of Canis Major – stood out together with Castor and Pollux of Gemini, Aldebaran of Taurus, Capella of Auriga, Mirphak of Perseus and Arneb of Lepus. Of course, the heavenly sisters, Pleiades and Hyades, could be easily noticed as well. In the south, bright Canopus greeted us with the other stars of the former Argo Navis. Looking northwards, I  was surprised to see the famous seven stars comprising the Big Dipper in Ursa Major again. It has been a long time since this asterism, which serves as a guide in finding the North Star, became visible once again. The eastern horizon was practically covered with dark, low-lying clouds so it remained blank for a few hours.

After several minutes of searching the sky, I saw my very first Leonid – a swift yellow meteor with a long trail. 😀 As I traced back its path, it appeared to have come from the sickle of Leo which confirmed that it was indeed a Leonid! After that I saw 7 more meteors, 3 of which were big yellowish-orange with long trails. We were so astounded by their beauty that we screamed with delight every time we saw one. The best one I saw was very bright with a long, lingering, smoky tail behind it which lasted for about 5 seconds.

Meanwhile, we also saw several artificial satellites moving across the northwestern sky from 4am-5am.

At about 5:15 am, we decided to end our meteor counting and go inside because it’s getting too cold and our sleeping bag was already wet due to the morning dew. But before we went downstairs, we noticed this very bright apparition in the eastern sky. At first, we thought it was an airplane because of its intense luminosity. However, we noticed that it wasn’t moving at all. I thought that maybe it was another celestial object. Was it a big meteor that was about to hit Earth or a UFO? Or, was it a star that had just risen? I know that there’s only one celestial object that could shine that bright then – the planet Venus. After undergoing inferior conjunction with the Sun, Venus was now back to being a morning star. However, I wondered why we didn’t see it rising. I suddenly recalled that maybe it was covered by the thick clouds in the east that we saw a while ago as it rose up in the horizon.

Upon checking Stellarium, I realized that Venus was also perfectly placed near Saturn and the star Spica of Virgo then. My friend, Bea, had her Canon 400D DSLR camera with her that time so we decided to capture this remarkable view at that moment.

Venus, Spica, Saturn and Arcturus at 5:24 am PST – Click on image to enlarge.
Venus and Spica close up

Though I caught a cold, got no sleep, and had itchy mosquito bites all over my arms and feet during this observation (such is the life of an amateur astronomer, ha ha), seeing all those beautiful sights of the heavens would always be more than enough for me to go to great heights for astronomy and continue on this passion of exploring the cosmos and sharing it to everyone . 🙂

“For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.” – John Calvin


The 2010 Leonid Meteor Shower

The Leonid radiant (perspective point from which all the meteors would appear to originate if their paths were traced backward) is within the so-called "Sickle" of Leo; a backwards question-mark pattern of stars that outlines the head and mane of the constellation Leo, the Lion (hence the meteors are known as "Leonids") image credit: StarDate.org

Luna looked great a while ago with a colorful corona topped off with Jupiter as a glittering diamond just a few degrees away from it 🙂 Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries went out when I was about to take an image.

This evening, don’t forget to go outside after midnight to look out for the Leonids that will zoom across the heavens just as soon as brave Leo where it would appear to radiate from, climbs up in the east. Best viewing of the Leonid meteor shower comes in two to three hours before dawn on November 17 and 18, when the  waxing gibbous moon that would interfere with your skygazing has already set.

Leonids in particular are well known for having bright meteors or fireballs which may be 9 mm across. The shower is created by bits of debris left behind by the repeat passages through the inner solar system of comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), there is always some uncertainty in the number of meteors the Leonid shower will produce, but viewers could expect to see at least 20 meteors per hour if they have clear skies.

For those enthusiast meteor observer, you can report your observation using the methods and report forms at the International Meteor Organization site.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc) will hold a public observation of this event at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Sundeck in U.P. Diliman on the 19th at 10 PM to 6AM. Everyone is invited. 🙂

poster courtesy of member Francis Bugaoan (UP AstroSoc Observation and Instrumentation Cluster)

 

 

Happy observing! 🙂

Luna looked great tonight with a colorful corona topped off with Jupiter as a glittering diamond just a few degrees away from it :)Also don’t forget to go outside after midnight to look out for the Leonids that will zoom across the heavens just as soon as brave Leo climbs up in the east.Clear skies to all! 

 

Luna looked great tonight with a colorful corona topped off with Jupiter as a glittering diamond just a few degrees away from it 🙂

Also don’t forget to go outside after midnight to look out for the Leonids that will zoom across the heavens just as soon as brave Leo climbs up in the east.

Clear skies to all!


The Southern Taurids Meteor Shower plus some possible “Hartley-ids”

 

The constellations Cygnus (radiant of the Hartley-ids) and Taurus ( radiant of the Taurids) at 9:00 PM (UTC+8) Philippine sky

 

This week, watch out for the Southern Taurids Meteor Shower and some possible “Hartley-ids”!

The South Taurids are extremely long lasting (September 17 – November 27), but usually don’t offer a whole lot more than about 7 meteors per hour, even on the expected peak date of November 5. They are known  as “Halloween fireballs” because of its association with the meteors seen during Halloween and also for its  cool pumpkin-colored slow moving fireballs.

The greatest number of meteors generally fall around midnight to one in the morning, when the constellation Taurus the Bull rides high in the sky. Just remember that under any dark sky on any given day a person can see about five meteors if conditions are optimal. Southern Taurids meteor streams are groups of meteoroids originating from dust grains ejected from Comet 2P Encke.

Also on this week, there is a possibility of a “Hartley-id” shower coming from Comet 103P/Hartley – which has put on a good show for backyard astronomers last month — according to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. If there is a Hartley-id shower, it would emanate from the constellation Cygnus the Swan, visible to observers in the northern hemisphere almost directly overhead after sunset in early November. NASA’s Epoxi mission will sweep past the Hartley 2 comet on Thursday (at about 2:00 PM UT) and take detailed measurements and images.

Lunar interference should not be a problem in observing these showers. Fortunately, the new moon falls on November 6, thus providing dark skies for a meteor watch.

* * *

More info…

The Taurids are actually divided into the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids (which will peak on November 13 this year).

Like the South Taurids, the Northern Taurids shower is long lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour.

==========================

sources:

SPACE.com

EarthSky.org


Lunar Halo and Jupiter

In hope of observing the Orionids Meteor Shower, I and some UP Astrosoc friends planned to go to the south to avoid the unfavorable weather in Manila. Unfortunately, we were not able to pursue the plan due to the heavy rain. Instead, we went to Naic, Cavite, a town just a few kilometers outside Manila, a day after super typhoon Megi left the country to try our luck.

We arrived at the local beach resort and started setting up our things including our tent at around 11:00 PM. The sky was totally overcast, but the waning gibbous moon and a star, which I know was the planet Jupiter, were visible then.

After a few minutes of observing the two, we noticed a faint but full 22 degree lunar halo circling the moon. Jupiter was just within the circle. We even got more amazed as the halo became clearer when the moon reached the zenith. One of us took a shot of this stunning view using her Canon 400D Digital SLR camera.

Lunar halos are caused by sunlight being refracted by cirro-stratus clouds.  Cirro-stratus clouds are thin clouds, very high in the atmosphere, and are composed of ice crystals. The shape of the ice crystals results in a focusing of the light into a ring. They bend light at a 22 degree angle, which creates a solar halo or lunar halo that is 44 degrees in diameter.

Since the ice crystals typically have the same shape, namely a hexagonal shape, the Moon ring is almost always the same size. Less typical are the halos that may be produced by different angles in the crystals. They can create halos with an angle of 46 degrees.

 

Image courtesy of  Bea Banzuela.  Photo details: 18mm f/10 ISO-800 at 30 sec exposure. Click image to see larger version.

The sky remained overcast during the rest of the evening until twilight and so we were not able to see even a single fireball.

Nevertheless the attempt was worth a try, thanks to that wonderful halo which left us amazed and happy. 😀

 

Image courtesy of UP AstroSoc member Bea Banzuela.Taken using Canon 400D 18mm f/10 ISO-800 at 30 sec exposure 

 


2010 Orionids Meteor Shower and Comet 103P/Hartley 2 Chasing

The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. Astrosoc) will be holding its public observation of the 2010 Orionids Meteor Shower on October 21, 6PM (until 6AM of the following day) at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Sun Deck in the U.P. Diliman.

This event is for everyone. 😀

The Orionids meteor shower usually reaches its peak around October 21, having an average of 20 meteors per hour. The Orionids are fast meteors and also have fireballs. These meteors radiate near the boundaries between the Great Hunter Orion and Gemini. Orion will rise high late at night and the moon will be near full. Orionids will be best watched after moonset and before dawn.

Also, get a chance to see the beautiful green comet, 103P/Hartley which has been  a brilliant target for backyard astronomers this month. This comet provides naked eye visibility in some parts of the country under normal dark sky condition. But this week this beautiful visitor will be in closest approach, crossing within 11 million miles of earth. It could be best spotted during predawn hours near the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga.

 

Bring your friends and your wish list, and have fun counting meteors!

Clear skies! 😀

 

UP Astronomical Society is inviting everyone to its public observation of the Orionids Meteor Shower on Oct 21-22 at the PAGASA Observatory.

Also, get a chance to see the green Comet Hartley that could be found in the constellation Auriga before dawn of October 22.

Make your wish list and invite your friends to this event. Clear skies everyone!


October 2010 Night Sky Guide

 

October is my favorite month when it comes to sky gazing 😀 My favorite constellation, Orion, starts become visible again during this time of the year.

Also, the famous Orionids – which I consider as one of the best meteor showers because of the high chance of “fireballs” lighting up the sky during this shower – make their appearance during this month.

Aside from these, the night sky is usually clear during October. Rain is infrequent and nights become longer and colder. As soon as early evening comes, the stars of different noticeable colors fill the sky like scattered jewels. Sagittarius, Scorpius and Corona Australis in the southwest, Bootes in the west, the royal family of Cepheus, Cassiopeia, and Andromeda with winged-horse Pegasus on the northeast, and the very prominent Summer Triangle up high, fill up the sky dome. As the evening wears on, more and more interesting constellations also show themselves like the Charioteer Auriga beside Taurus which contain the spectacular open star clusters, Hyades (the V-shaped one) and Pleiades (the rosary-like group).

So there. 🙂 I hope I have somewhat convinced you why I love this month. If you’re interested to do your own skygazing at your own backyards, I have compiled here a list of other special astronomical highlights for October 2010 as a guide in observing the night sky and to encourage more people to look up and appreciate the awesome sky display this season.

All dates are set for Philippine sky observers. (Note: PST is equivalent to UTC+8)

 

This month’s observing highlights:

Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)

The Draconids will start on October 6th and will continue until October 10th, when the Earth passes through the dust from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

Although this particular meteor shower may not present a lot of meteor activity this year, it has been known to produce hundreds of meteors in an hour at times.

We are  in luck with the Draconids meteor shower this year for the new moon is scheduled for October 7, promising darkened conditions for easy observation. One of the best parts is that activity occurs earlier in the evening, so no one has to stay up till after midnight to catch a glimpse or obtain a full view, of the meteor shower.

Some people had reported to have seen 2 or more meteors during early this month in the northwestern direction around 6:30 – 7:00 PM.

Try to find these yellowish, slow-moving meteors around your area, too. Use the picture as a guide to locate the radiant point of the Draconid meteor shower which almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon, in the northern sky.

phtoto credit: meteorblog.com

 

Oct 6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 (officially designated 103P/Hartley) which is said to be the brightest comet this year, will be near the double cluster in Perseus.

Comet Hartley is expected to reach magnitude 5 during month. It is said to be large and diffuse, meaning its light is spread out over a wide area. You will definitely need a dark  sky – free of city lights – to see it. Also, when searching for the comet, remember to use averted vision. That’s the technique of looking to one side of the faint object you seek on the sky’s dome, instead of directly at it. Through binoculars, it should look like a smudge of light, like a faint, fuzzy green star against the dark sky background.

To find the comet near the the double cluster in Perseus, first find the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen, that is shaped like the letter M or W. Draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae) just like the one shown below. It will point to the double cluster and Comet Hartley will be just within its vicinity.


Guide to finding Comet Hartley during early October

 

Comet Hartley 2’s path as shown against the background of constellations (click to enlarge view)

 

Oct 10 : Moon – Venus Conjunction

The Waxing Crescent Moon and Venus are both very close to the southwestern horizon at sunset.

Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares in Scorpius

Oct 20: Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth.

For a few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just before sunrise.

This comet will be near the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga. Capella is about 30 degrees above the northeastern horizon at 11 PM (PST) on this date.

Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

These two will be less than 10 degrees apart. Check the eastern sky after sunset.

Oct 21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower peaks

The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight. The radiant of the shower will be observed north of Betelgeuse, the brightest star in the constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter.

Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran in Taurus

 

* * * *

Planets

Mercury will be a “morning star” at the very beginning of the month, then will be too close to the Sun to observe for the rest of the month.

Venus sinks ever closer to the Sun as the month begins, making it very hard to observe in the Northern Hemisphere. Experienced observers with accurate setting circles or goto can follow it quite close to the Sun but should use extreme caution. The narrowing phase of Venus will be visible even in binoculars if you block the Sun with a rooftop or chimney. Inferior conjunction is on October 30.

Mars is pretty much lost in evening twilight.

Jupiter is just past opposition and visible most of the night, dominating the southern sky. It is in retrograde motion, so spends the first half of the month in the constellation Pisces, moving into Aquarius on October 15.

Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun on October 1, and reappears as a morning “star” late in the month. Its rings have now returned to their usual glory after being on edge for the last two years.

Uranus is in Pisces all month, and remains within a few degrees of Jupiter.

Neptune is visible most of the night in northeastern Capricornus.


* * * *

Moon Phases

October 7 – New Moon

October 15 – First Quarter Moon

October 23 – Full  Moon

The Full Moon of October is usually known as the Hunter’s Moon. This will spoil the Orionid meteors, which peak the night before.

October 30 – Last Quarter Moon

 

 

 

Clear skies and happy observing! 😀

 

 

 


===========

In astronomical terms…

+ Conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky

+ Radiant – (meteor shower) is the point in the sky, from which (to a planetary observer) meteors appear to originate. An observer might see such a meteor anywhere in the sky but the direction of motion, when traced back, will point to the radiant. A meteor that does not point back to the known radiant for a given shower is known as a sporadic and is not considered part of that shower.

 

sources: SPACE.com, EarthSky.org

October 2010’s night sky :)Oct 7 : New Moon
Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)
Oct
6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 near the double cluster in Perseus [to locate
this, draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma
Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae)]
Oct 10 : Waxing Crescent Moon-Venus Conjunction (check western sky a few minutes after sunset)
Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares
Oct
20 : Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth ( For a
few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view
with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just
before sunrise)
Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction (check Eastern sky)
Oct
21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower Peak (The Orionids is an average shower
producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be
to the east after midnight.)
Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran
Clear skies!=====
*conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky

October 2010’s night sky 🙂

Oct 7 : New Moon

Oct 7-8 : Draconids Meteor Shower (Expect a peak rate of 10 meteors per hour under clear, moonless conditions.)

Oct

… 6-9 : Comet Hartley 2 near the double cluster in Perseus [to locate

this, draw an imaginary line downward through the Navi (Gamma

Cassiopeiae) and Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae)]

Oct 10 : Waxing Crescent Moon-Venus Conjunction (check western sky a few minutes after sunset)

Oct 11 : Moon near red Antares

Oct

20 : Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth ( For a

few days around October 20, the comet should be bright enough to view

with the naked eye in the early morning sky. Look to the east just

before sunrise)

Oct 20 : Waning Gibbous Moon – Jupiter Conjunction (check Eastern sky)

Oct

21-22 : Orionids Meteor Shower Peak (The Orionids is an average shower

producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. Best viewing will be

to the east after midnight.)

Oct 26 : Moon in between Pleiades and the star Aldebaran

Clear skies!

=====

*conjunction – two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky


Lucky Friday the 13th! — Planet Parade and the 2010 Perseids

Many astronomy enthusiasts gathered last Friday, August 13 to observe the peak of the annual Perseids Meteor Shower as well as the beautiful display of planets after sunset.

My astronomy organization here in the Philippines, the UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc), held a public observation for this event at the Sun Deck of PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in the University of the Philippines – Diliman. It was attended by around 30-40 guest who patiently waited for the Perseids despite the partly cloudy sky before midnight. The org’s telescopes were also set up so the attendees could view the planets Venus and Jupiter (with 4 of its moons!) which were visible during that night.

This observation was even featured in a news report of GMA’s Saksi, a local news program. Below is the video containing  interviews by some of the attendees:

 

Saksi: Astronomy enthusiasts await celestial alignment of 4 planets with Moon


Note: It was mentioned in the report that the planetary conjunction (planets appear near one another in the sky) is difficult to see without the use of telescopes. This is not true because seeing planetary groupings require a wider field of view (extent of the observable area) of the sky. Telescopes offer more details but have smaller field of view than our eyes.


I and two of my colleagues, Andre Obidos and Bea Banzuela, chose to observe from Marikina City. The skies were also cloudy there but we were still lucky enough to see and capture the ghostlike Moon with the planet Venus an hour after sunset in the west. Mars and Saturn however, were too dim to shine through the clouds.

We waited for the constellation Perseus (where the meteors would seem to radiate from) to rise around midnight but the sky was still full of clouds. We went out again around 3am but we saw nothing except for an overcast night sky with just a few bright stars like Altair, Vega and Deneb and the planet Jupiter which was nearly overhead. Following are some our images which were taken using Canon PowerShot SX 20:

Moon and Venus

Crescent Luna

Venus (15-sec exposure)

Reddish Moon

Other members of the organization went to different locations to help facilitate the other public observations of the event.

Below are photos taken by some UP AstroSoc members* during the observations.

members while waiting for the Perseids

UP AstroSoc members and guests at the PAGASA Sundeck while waiting for the Perseids

members posing beside one of the org's telescopes

a member peeks into the telescope to observe the planet Jupiter with its moons

Moon and Venus (viewed from Seven Suites Hotel in Antipolo)

members who went to Los Banos, Laguna posed beside the UPLB AstroSoc banner

Due to the coming of the rainy season here in the Philippines, having a clear night sky this month was almost impossible. Nonetheless, observers were still thankful that the clouds cleared up for even a short while, allowing them to see 4 or more of those beautiful bright streaks of light with the planets. 😀

According to the IMO measurements  the 2010 Perseid meteor shower was above normal with a peak activity of over 100 meteors per hour under optimal viewing conditions but not spectacular. In the coming nights the Perseids will still be visible, but with fewer and fewer meteors night by night.

==============

*Photo credits:

Ana Geronimo (in UP Diliman)

Regyn Avena (in UP Los Ba ños)

Zal Gerente (Seven Suites Hotel in Antipolo)

All photos were used with their permission.

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Public Observations of the Perseids on the 13th

Wondering what to do on this Friday night? Dance with the meteors and the planets. 😀

The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) invites everyone to its public observation of the spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower and planetary grouping of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury on August 13th (Friday) from 6pm to 6am of the following day at the PAGASA Observatory Sun Deck in the University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman.

Likewise, the UP-Los Banos Astronomical Society (UPLB Astrosoc) will hold an Astronomy Camp entitled “Astra La Vista: The First Encounter” also on the 13th at D.L. Umali Hall in UP Los Banos, Laguna. Aside from observing the Perseids and the planetary grouping, this event will be its launching activity as well.

So don’t forget to mark your calendars on this date, list down your wishes and watch these events from  your local areas.

Let’s pray for clear skies 🙂


Perseid Meteor Shower and Planetary Grouping

A lot of Filipino amateur astronomers  including me 😀 are excited for this month’s sky display.

For Philippine observers, the annual Perseids Meteor Shower which often shows 50 meteors per hour will be observed with its peak on the late night of August 12-13. The Perseids appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, which is located in the eastern horizon during August.

View of the Northeastern sky on August 12 at 11:30 PM (via Stellarium)

2010 is a great year for the Perseids. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for this year’s Perseid show.

The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. The Perseid Meteor Shower is famous for its Earthgrazers –meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond. Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors.

The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is nowhere near Earth, the comet’s tail does intersect Earth’s orbit. We glide through it every year in August. Tiny bits of comet dust hit Earth’s atmosphere traveling 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light–a meteor–when it disintegrates.

Friday the 13th will never be unlucky for sky observers on this night. Those who plan to watch the Perseids will also have the chance to see a beautiful planetary grouping before the radiant rise in the East.

Coincidentally, on August 13  at around 7pm the crescent Moon will join the groupings of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury in the western horizon.

View of the western sky on August 13 at 7:00 PM

I can’t wait to watch these events 😀 Here is also a video trailer for the 2010 Perseid Meteor Shower by Meteorwatch and a sky update for August by NASA-JPL.

Happy observing and Clear Skies to all!

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source: PAGASA