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

Posts tagged “stellarium

Crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter at Predawn on July 15th

Eastern sky at 4:00 am local time. Manila, Philippines. Image: Stellarium

Philippine sky observers will have a great chance to see all of the three  brightest objects of the night sky in close proximity to each other this weekend (weather permitting). On the morning of July 15th, the waning crescent moon will join the very bright “stars” Jupiter (upper) and Venus (lower) to form a nice celestial grouping, along with two prominent open star clusters — the Pleiades and the V-shaped Hyades —  in the constellation Taurus.

Venus has reached its greatest illuminated extent in Earth’s sky last July 12. Thus, it appears so dazzling now as a “morning star”  in our predawn sky, near Jupiter.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the globe, this celestial grouping event will be viewed as an occultation of Jupiter by the moon. An occultation is an event in which a celestial body covers another, farther away object, such as when the moon covers a star or a planet or when a planet or an asteroid covers a far away star. For this event, the moon will cover Jupiter for about an hour (the exact time and durtaion of the occultation is  dependent on the observer’s location). View the visibility map and timings of this event from IOTA.

Seeing Jupiter’s occultation is possible with the naked eye, but the look through a telescope, even using a small magnification, is marvelous. At first, two of Jupiter’s large moons (Io and Europa) will disappear behind the moon, then Jupiter will disappear and then the other two moons (Ganymede and Callisto).

Places close to the southeast will witness a ‘grazing occulation’ when Jupiter and its moons will skim the edge of the Moon. This will be well worth seeing through a telescope and Jupiter’s moons may be seen blinking in and out of view as they pass behind the lunar mountains. Further north and west a very close conjunction will be seen.

Don’t worry because even though we won’t be seeing this event in the Philippines this weekend, we are still lucky enough to see a very rare version of such an event next month, during the morning of August 12, 2012. That will be surely worth getting up to see!

jupiter-occultation-jul-201

Moon occulting Jupiter with its moons. Image: Stellarium

Observing occultations can also contribute to science. During the 80’s, Uranus occulated a distant star. Photos of the events showed that just before and after the occultation the star blinked several times. The theory then was developed that Uranus has a set of rings (like Saturn). When Voyager 2 reached Uranus it detected and photographed the predicted rings.

Don’t miss this event. Clear skies!

Related link: List of Notable Celestial Events in 2012

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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:


Skywatching Highlights: June 2011

This month’s skywatching highlights:

  • June Solstice. The Sun reaches its most northerly point in the sky, the June solstice, on June 21 at 17:16 Universal Time (UT).  This marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the south.
  • Partial Solar Eclipse.  Visible from the Arctic, Siberia, and parts of Iceland on June 1.  The eclipse peaks at 21:16 Universal Time.
  • Total Lunar Eclipse.  Completely visible on June 15 from South Africa and western Australia, this long and deep eclipse is the first of 2011.  The eclipse peaks at 21:12 UT.
  • Boötids Meteor Shower. Peaks on or about June 27 near midnight, this unpredictable meteor shower has shown up to 100 meteors an hour.  Or it could be a dud.  The Moon isn’t a factor this year, so take a look and see what happens.  The radiant is just off the peak of Boötes, though you can see meteors anywhere in the northern sky.

DATE

EVENT

TIME (PHT)

2

Partial Solar Eclipse – This will not be visible in the Philippines. The eclipse will begin at exactly 3:25 a.m. (Philippine Standard Time). It will be visible in Eastern Asia, northern N. America, the N. tip of Scandinavia, Greenland and Iceland.

2

New Moon 5:05 AM

9

First Quarter Moon 10:10 AM

11

Saturn 8° North of the Moon 5:00 AM

12

Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth) 10:00 AM

13

Mercury in superior conjunction 8:00 AM

16

Total Lunar Eclipse of the Moon — The eclipse will begin at 1:23 AM Philippine Standard Time (PHT) and will end at 7:02 AM (PHT).

22

Summer solstice  — Philippine nights are at their shortest and daytimes are at their longest around the Summer solstice.This is the time when the Sun attains its greatest declination of +23.5 degrees and passes directly overhead at noon for all observers at latitude 23.5 degrees North, which is known as the Tropic of Cancer. This event marks the start of the apparent southward movement of the Sun in the ecliptic. 1:16 AM

23

Pluto occultation 7:15 AM

24

Uranus 6° South of the Moon 11:00 PM

24

Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth) 12:00 NN

27

Peak of the June Bootids (Active from June 22 to July 2 ZHR=0-100+)
— The radiant of the shower will originate from the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, which lies nearly overhead when darkness falls.

27

Pluto Occultation 10:15 PM

28

Pluto at opposition 1:00 PM

29

Mars 1.7° south of the Moon (These two objects can be found hanging in-between 2 notable star groups – the Pleiades and Hyades in Taurus) 3:00 AM

* PHT = UT + 8

 
Read the guide on how to find the 5 visible planets this month — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn from EarthSky.org. If you are looking for star maps for June, you may check them here. You may also download the free planetarium software, Stellarium to see the the positions of the heavenly bodies each day according to your location.
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Clear skies!

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References:


Waxing Gibbous Moon in the Winter Hexagon

 

Moon and the Winter Hexagon directly above at 9 PM local time

Tonight’s waxing gibbous moon resides inside the Winter Circle – an incredibly large star configuration made of six brilliant winter stars.  Be sure to notice the variety in the colors of these stars.

The Winter Circle – sometimes called the Winter Hexagon – is not one of the 88 recognized constellations. Rather, it’s an asterism – a pattern of stars that’s fairly easy to recognize. Our sky chart cannot adequately convey the Winter Circle’s humongous size! It dwarfs the constellation Orion the Hunter, which is a rather large constellation, occupying the southwestern part of the Winter Circle pattern.

Clear skies!

 

reference: EarthSky.org


Celestial Grouping on May 2011

Here is another rare planetary grouping that is hard to miss! 🙂

As soon as I came across this website shared by Daniel Fischer and read about the proximity of Venus and Jupiter to each other  on May 2011, I immediately ran my Stellarium software and simulated planetary positions throughout that month.

I got excited when I saw the nice planetary grouping of Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury (you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope) with the thin waning crescent Moon during the predawn hours of May 1 and 2.

Uranus could be found a few degrees above Venus but is too faint to see. Image: Stellarium screenshot

All of these celestial objects will lie just within the constellation Pisces, separated by only a few degrees from each other. 😀 This is a good opportunity to spot all these planets close together during one occasion.

In order to observe this, you must have a clear eastern horizon because they will appear very low in the sky. Also, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to help you see these objects better and wake up early to avoid the glare of the sun.

Venus is, as always, the brightest and most visible of the planets, and it can be your guide to spotting the others. About half way between Venus and the rising sun is Jupiter, the second brightest planet.

Mars will be a tiny speck just above Jupiter, and Mercury another tiny speck about half way between Jupiter and Venus. Uranus is slightly more than one binocular field above and to the right of Venus, and Neptune is much farther to the right, about 40 degrees away in Aquarius.

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

Checkout the eastern sky during the next mornings. Note: The time is in PST (UT+8)

Astrologers have always been fascinated by planetary alignments, and the doomsayers of 2012 have been prophesying a mystical alignment on Dec. 21, 2012. They view planetary alignments as foretellers of disasters. Modern amateur astronomers look forward to them as nothing more than grand photo ops. In fact, the modern tools of astronomers, such as planetarium softwares, show otherwise: absolutely no alignment at any time in 2012.

Happy observing 😀


Moon and Predawn Planets on Dec. 30 – 31

The final mornings of 2010 (during Dec. 30 and 31) will feature the waning crescent moon with the planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise.

4:00 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 30, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag.-4.39) and Saturn (mag. 1.21) | Manila, Philippines | Click image to enlarge.

Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and the moon will rise above the eastern horizon some 3 to 4 hours before sunrise, to light up the wee morning hours until daybreak. For Philippine observers, the screenshot from Stellarium above shows that the Moon – Venus separation is ~20 degrees on December 30, 2010. During this time, the moon will also be ~20 degrees below Saturn. The bright stars Spica in Virgo and Arcturus in Bootes could also be found within this celestial grouping.

5:30 AM PST (UT+8) of Dec. 31, 2010 - Moon, Venus (mag. -4.39 ) and Mercury (mag. 0.39) | Manila, Philippines

Venus is very bright and easy to find. If you look at Venus with a telescope before dawn, you’ll see this planet shining as a wide waxing crescent.

By December 31, the moon and Venus will shine nearly side by side with only 10 degrees of angular separation. Also on this date, Mercury which was in evening dusk during early December will now be in the predawn sky, closer to the horizon. In the screenshot above, it was ~8 degrees above the horizon and ~25 degrees away from Venus. December 2010 provides you with the unique opportunity to catch Mercury in both the evening and morning sky in a single month. Using binoculars will help you see this tiny planet.

Clear skies to all! 🙂

 

 

Note: The general rule amateur astronomers use is that the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees. Read more about this here.

 

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reference: EarthSky.org