Girl of the 21st Century

Where You and the Future Collide

weekend astronomy alert!

I know that not all of you are the literal space geek that I am…some of us just like the space-and-star style.  Others of us make it their lives and are willing to brave the cold, grab some binoculars, find a red-bulb flashlight, and go looking for the universe.  I’m of both the former and the latter.  :-3

So if any of you space cadets out there are interested in taking a peek at what our universe has to offer tonight, you’re in for a treat!

Jupiter is easily visible to the south.  It looks like a star, but don’t let that fool you!  If you take a look through a telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s cloud bands (it’s Big Red Spot isn’t visible right now, sorry!) and all four of its Galilean moons.  There are about 59 others you can’t see, but the biggest four (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) are just as bright and beautiful as ever!  Be sure to go looking for it early — it’s bright enough to see before total darkness, but it won’t be above the horizon for much longer, so get a peek in while you can.

Jupiter in Pastels + Moon Shadows

Jupiter in Pastels + Moon Shadows

Venus has recently come into the spotlight and is at a diagonal with Jupiter, farther up and to its left.  Soon, it will be the brightest object in the night sky, but for right now, Jupiter still reigns supreme.  The two planets will get closer and closer to each other as the night’s progress, but as of right now, they’re about a hand’s breadth apart.
Saturn is visible, but only right before dawn.  Soon, it’ll be one of the main attractions in the night sky…if you catch a glimpse of it, notice how the rings will be virtually edge-on with the telescope and nearly invisible.  For many people, seeing this object through backyard telescopes is what first got them into astronomy.  See if you fall under its spell, too!
— See if you can find the brightest star in our night sky right now, Vega.  Once night falls, it should be a little to the west but almost directly overhead.  Vega, as evidenced by the picture in the previous link, is part of the Summer Triangle together with stars Deneb and Altair.  See if you can point out the triangle to your friends and impress them all with your astro-prowess.
Taurid meteors will be shooting around all over the place for at least the next week.  Make sure you wish on the “shooting stars” if you’re lucky enough to find one!
— Go to your local public observatory and see what they’re showing through their professional ‘scopes.  Since the moon‘s pretty bright right now, you’ll most likely get a good look at its craters, mountains and maria (the dark spots on the moon’s surface made by lava seepage during the moon’s formation, which are very clearly visible in the linked photo).  See if they’ll swing the scope around to Uranus, Neptune (when it’s not too close to the moon), and maybe the bright double-binary star systems found in Epsilon Lyrae.
— The brightest asteroid that passes through our neighborhood, Vesta, is making its way across the sky during November.  It’ll be close to the head of the constellation Cetus, moving a little more each night in a half-oval pattern until it fades into the distance and is no longer visible.  Its peak has already passed, but if you look close each night, you’ll see a tiny white dot moving slowly across the background of stars.

Get out there and enjoy the night sky while it’s nice and cool, too!  The colder the weather is where you live, the clearer the sky tends to be.  Also, it minimizes heat radiating from the earth that would normally inhibit telescope-viewing.  Even if you don’t have the big guns like a 12″ reflector telescope (I’m in the same boat!), go out with some decent binoculars and see what you see.  Here’s wishing you plenty of cloudless nights and cups of hot coffee to keep you warm.  Happy star-hunting, and you can expect another Weekend Astronomy Alert next Sunday!

— G21C

(Used for reference in this post was the “This Week’s Sky at a Glance” article over at SkyandTelescope.com, the website that corresponds to one of the best astronomy magazines on the market.  If you don’t get the magazine, can’t afford the subscription, or would just like a handy and convenient online source to get your astronomy fix, this is site that will cure all your ills.  Give it a peek!  And nearly all the image links were taken from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website hosted by NASA.gov.  Flip through the archives…there’s sure to be plenty of fascinating material, and it changes every day, so keep going back for more fun each morning.)

Advertisements

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy | , | Leave a comment