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

Posts tagged “Philippine Sky

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!

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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:


Orion, Jupiter and the Pleiades

This morning, I went outside again at around 4:30 AM to check the sky condition. I’ve been doing this for about a couple of days now in hopes of  seeing a clear sky despite the continuous rains over the past few weeks.

It’s really creepy out there — wind’s blowing strong & it’s totally dark! But thank God it wasn’t too cloudy and I was able to do some timelapse photography just before the stars start fading away against the blue sky at dawn.

An image of the constellation Orion [The Hunter] as it marched through the zenith at 5:21 AM local time, 2 October 2011 (SJDM, Bulacan)

The planet Jupiter & the star cluster M45 (Pleiades) separated by about 20 degrees in the western sky at 5:02 AM, 2 October 2011  (SJDM, Bulacan)

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the coming weeks. 🙂 Clear skies!


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!


New Year’s Celestial Treat

A beautiful celestial display of Mercury and Venus with the thin waning crescent Moon brightened up the first two mornings of  2011. 🙂

Heavy smog caused by the cold, foggy weather and  smoke generated by firecrackers and fireworks from the New Year’s Eve celebration blanketed our suburban place during the early morning of January 1st. Despite this, I was still lucky enough to have witnessed even just the nice pairing of Venus and the Moon in the Eastern sky, a few minutes before sunrise. Below are some of the images I took using my point-and-shoot Kodak C813 8.0 megapixel digital camera. Images were a bit blurry because I didn’t use a tripod.

A thin old Moon to the lower right of the planet Venus (1/1/11 at 5:47 AM) Mercury, the red star Antares and Saturn were difficult to see because of the smog. Click on the images to enlarge.

I also posted about this skygazing guide over my Twitter and Facebook account and I was happy that some of my fellow amateur astronomers and UP AstroSoc friends have also tried capturing  images of this sky event over their own places. With their permission, I have included their pictures into this post. 🙂

Moon and Venus over Pasig City, Philippines – images by Elaine Tacubanza

Happy Hatsuhinode (初日の出) – the first sunrise of the year – by Kathleen Rosario (Parañaque City, Philippines)

Another friend, Bea Banzuela, did her skygazing during the predawn of January 2. Aside from taking landscape photographs of this event, she also used the 4.5″ Newtonian Telescope of UP AstroSoc to view the Moon and Venus over her place at Marikina City. Notice the lovely earthshine on the Moon in her pictures. 🙂

From L to R : Mercury, Moon and Venus

Mercury, Moon and Venus with a few bright stars of Scorpius

 

A few minutes before sunrise

Thin Moon through the finderscope

Moon taken through the eyepiece of Datascope (afocal method)

 

This event was indeed a nice celestial treat to start the year off. 😀


Skygazing – Dec. 15, 2010

In hopes of observing the Geminids again, I stayed over at a friend and fellow U.P. AstroSoc member’s house which has a roof deck in Marikina City.

As soon as we were at the roof deck, we immediately looked for the constellation Gemini. Even though the eastern sky was partly covered by thin, hazy clouds and the waxing gibbous Moon shone bright in the night, we were still able to find the stars of Gemini along with the stars of neighboring constellations. My friend, Bea who had her Canon 400D DSLR with her, began taking images of the night sky. You may click on the images to see a higher resolution.

 

Auriga and Gemini at 10:17 PM (PST) Yellow lines indicate the radiant of the Geminid Meteor Shower

Auriga and Perseus at 10:38 PM (PST)

In the northwest, our attention was also caught by the stunning Cassiopeia which was in a slanted “M” position above a dormitory building.

 

Cassiopeia at 11:05 PM (PST)

We scanned the rest of the sky for several more minutes and found not a single meteor. About half an hour later, we noticed that the cloud cover was getting worse and it was getting too cold outside. As we were starting to pack up and go inside the house, a lunar corona formed around the setting Moon.

 

Lunar Corona - Dec. 15, 2010

According to Atmospheric Optics site, a corona may be seen when thin clouds partially veil the sun or moon. They are produced by the diffraction of light by tiny cloud droplets or sometimes small ice crystals.

The night sky is really full of surprises. 😀

Clear skies, everyone!


Night with the Geminids

Last December 13,  I went to the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in U.P. Diliman to observe the peak of the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower with my amateur astronomy group, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc).

When I came at around 11:00 PM, about 50 people were already at the Sun Deck of the observatory. Everyone was enthusiastically waiting for the bright Geminid meteors despite the growing chance of an overcast sky.  The other guests set up their personally-owned telescopes to view the Great Orion Nebula and other deep-sky objects not blocked by clouds.

Amidst the 40% cloudy sky, the constellation Gemini where the meteors seemed to radiate from could be seen at ~40 degrees above the northeastern horizon. In the west, bright Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon were already about to set. The pair looked beautiful as they went lower in the horizon and become partially covered behind the tree tops.

As moonlight disappeared, the sky become darker and more favorable for meteor watching.  Four big and bright fireballs zoomed across the sky before midnight. 😀 Unlike other meteor showers, the Geminids can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, making them fairly easy to spot.

However, this short-lived outburst was soon replaced with an overcast sky which lasted until about 2:00 AM. During this time, I took the chance to go online and update my twitter status regarding our observation (I was able to do this thanks to Sun Broadband plug-it!). Several groups locally and internationally were also sharing their meteor counts and meteor watching experience. Below is a screenshot showing  some of my tweets during that time.

As what I have noted there, the Observation and Instrumentation Cluster (ObsIn) of  U.P. AstroSoc kept a record of the  tally* of the number of meteors seen every hour during the Geminids observation.

Limiting Magnitude**: ~4.0

Dec. 13, 2010
22:00 – 23:00 —— 27
23:01 – 24:00 —— 29

Dec. 14, 2010
00:01 – 01:00 —– overcast sky
01:01 – 02:00 —– overcast sky
02:01 – 03:00 —– 20 (with one green fireball!)
03:01 – 04:00 —– 2
04:00 – 05:00 —– 0

Total: 78

————————–
prepared by: Francis Bugaoan and Carlo Selabao

* This report just shows the number of meteors seen.Values listed above are the max.  number of meteors observed  within each time frame which means that it includes all meteors seen by at least one person. These are not the computed Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of the meteor shower.

** This is used to evaluate the quality of observing conditions. It tells the magnitude of the faintest star visible to the unaided eye


By around 2:00 AM, clouds began to moved away which allowed us to continue on our meteor counting. One green fireball which crossed the northwest sky appeared like a falling big blob of light. 😀 Everyone cheered happily upon seeing it. It lasted for about 5 seconds before disappearing into view.

More than an hour later, Venus which is now a “morning star” lit up the eastern horizon together with Saturn, Spica and Arcturus. Gemini was then past the zenith while my favorite Winter Triangle was already in the west.

Because of this beautiful pre-dawn sky, U.P. AstroSoc members  took the opportunity to lead the guests into a star-hopping activity to familiarize them with these celestial objects and the constellations.

As sunrise approached, one member noticed a rarely seen atmospheric phenomenon called the Belt of Venus. It is an arch of pinkish band above the shadow that Earth casts on the atmosphere opposite the sunrise or sunset. It is best visible when the atmosphere is cloudless, yet very dusty, just after sunset or just before sunrise.  The arch’s pink color is due to backscattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun.

Venus rising behind the PAGASA Observatory Dome (image by Bea Banzuela)

 

We finished our observation at around 6:00 AM. A lot of the guest observers who came by told us that they enjoyed the meteor counting, as well as the stargazing activities and they’re looking forward to the next meteor shower observation.

Despite the cloudy weather, I was surprised that the Geminids still gave us a fairly spectacular cosmic  show. Truly, this shower never fails to live up its reputation as the best meteor shower.


Jupiter and Uranus Aligns with the ‘Super Harvest Moon’ on the night of Autumnal Equinox

In the Philippines, this year’s autumnal or fall equinox will occur on September 23, 2010 at 11:oo AM (UTC+8).

Equinox is the time when  the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. The real time when there would be exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of night usually occurs a few days after an equinox  — this time it will happen on October 1. After this, Philippine nights will be longer as the Sun approaches the celestial equator.

The full moon during the night of the equinox will be extra special because for the first time in almost 20 years, northern autumn is beginning on the night of a full Moon which is called the ‘Super Harvest Moon”.

Usually, the Harvest Moon (the name for the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox) arrives a few days to weeks before or after the beginning of fall. It’s close, but not a perfect match. The Harvest Moon of 2010, however, reaches maximum illumination a mere six hours after the equinox. This has led some astronomers to call it the “Harvestest Moon” or a “Super Harvest Moon.” There hasn’t been a comparable coincidence since Sept 23, 1991, when the difference was about 10 hours, and it won’t happen again until the year 2029.

On the same night, the Harvest Moon can be found soaring high overhead with the bright planet Jupiter and fainter Uranus beside it. These objects in the night sky will be in spectacular conjunction to mark the change in seasons.

You can easily catch them in the eastern sky just a few minutes after sunset. Keep an eye on the Moon as it creeps above the eastern skyline. The golden orb may appear strangely inflated but his is just the lunar illusion at work. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging Moon appears much wider than it really is. A Harvest Moon inflated by the moon illusion is simply gorgeous.

Jupiter (still shining at -2.79 magnitude) will be less than 1 degree from fainter Uranus. You need telescopes or binoculars to see Uranus though. The full moon will be just about 10 degrees apart from these two.

Clear skies and happy viewing! 😀