Friday, January 4, 2013
Want to keep tabs on the moon this year? Check out the spectacular lunar calendar for the year of 2013 and never miss a full moon. Designed by Evans & Sutherland, a provider of fulldome digital theater systems and producer of fulldome shows, Lunar Calendar 2013 is available for free download as a PDF. You can also purchase a printed version on the company's Cafepress store. Image credit: Evans & Sutherland.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Tycho is a 110 million years old lunar crater about 51 miles (82 km) in diameter. Earlier this summer, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft "angled its orbit 65° to the west", allowing its camera to capture this dramatic sunrise view of Tycho (Click image for high-res version).
More about Tycho:
- The summit of the central peak is 1.24 miles (2 km) above the crater floor.
- The distance from Tycho's floor to its rim is about 2.92 miles (4.7 km).
- Tycho crater's central peak complex, shown above, is about 9.3 miles (15 km) wide, left to right (southeast to northwest in this view).
Monday, April 27, 2009
World's greatest spectacle yesterday (April 26, 2009) was taking place at dusk, high above all of us in the western sky. At that time, the crescent Moon, Mercury and the Pleiades star cluster had gathered for a three-way conjunction, potentially visible to the naked eye even from light-polluted cities. This was not an everyday event, as described by Dr. Tony Phillips from Science @ NASA:
The show begins before the sky fades to black. The Moon pops out of the twilight first, an exquisitely slender 5% crescent surrounded by cobalt blue. The horns of the crescent cradle a softly-glowing image of the full Moon. That is Earthshine- dark lunar terrain illuminated by sunlight reflected from Earth [...] Shortly after the Moon appears, Mercury materializes just below it [...] To the naked eye, Mercury looks like a pink 1st-magnitude star. The planet itself is not pink; it only looks that way because it has to shine through dusty lower layers of Earth’s atmosphere.But wait, according to Dr. Phillips, there was even more:
Next, do nothing. Spend some quiet moments absorbing the view. As the twilight deepens, your eyes will dark-adapt and - voilà! There are the Pleiades [...] The brightest stars of the cluster are only 2nd magnitude, not terrifically bright. Nevertheless, the Pleiades are compelling in disproportion to their luminosity. Every ancient culture -- Greek, Maya, Aztec, Aborigine, Māori and others - put the cluster in its myths and legends. On April 26th you may discover why, even if you cannot articulate your findings.So, we are no astronomy photo experts but below are a few photographs we managed to take yesterday night, in spite of some pretty bad air pollution over the nearby western city of Netanya. Just as Dr. Phillips said, it's very hard to articulate our findings... We think we did capture our own Crescent Moon plus, we suspect we got a view of the so called Earthshine. Yet, what a bummer - we could not have identify any materializing Mercury below the moon... Can you see any?
8:05 PM + detail. No materializing Mercury...
A wide angle shot including some of the area, 8:15 PM
8:30 PM + detail
OK, we also see there is something else there, we are not that blind. The problem is that, according to Phillips, the Pleiades are "a cluster of young stars about a hundred light years from Earth" forming "a miniature Little Dipper located, on this particular evening, halfway between Mercury and the Moon." (See infographic). Therefore we don't believe the small cluster of lights shown in the below detail is actually the Pleiades, but we thought it might worth adding nevertheless. Just in case anyone of you kind readers can help us find out what it was.
Another 8:30 PM detail (cropped from left side) showing a bright cluster of lights. Probably not The Pleiades...
- Article by Dr. Tony Phillips via RedOrbit
- Photos by CultCase, April 26, 2009
- Taken with Nikon CoolPix 8800
- Kfar Netter, Israel
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Did you know Meteor Showers recur each year, in some cases for hundreds or even thousands of years? Technically speaking, Meteor Showers are bursts of cosmic debris entering Earth's atmosphere at extremely high speed and thus vaporizing, leaving a streak of light that quickly disappears. Normally named after the constellation from which they originate these bursts are the result of interactions between a planet and a comet in which a number of meteors are observed. As they all travel in parallel paths and at the same velocity, to their viewer Meteor showers appear to radiate away from a single point in the sky. This is called the "radiant" of the shower.
So, as we know you don't like spending your early mornings outside at the desert or up the mountains, but still love fantastic meteor showers, the following are 7 of the most prominent ones you may expect each year. We collected the most interesting snapshots for you, demonstrating how these event looked like in previous years. For full lists of Meteor showers expected this year see theskyscrapers.org or this 2009 Meteor Shower Calendar courtesy of the International Meteor Organization. For a full list of all (or most) known Meteor showers see here.
The parent body of the strong January shower of Quadrantids was recently tentatively identified as the minor planet 2003 EH1 and may be the same one which was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers 500 years ago. The best date to view the Quadrantids is January 3, although they can normally be viewed on any day from the 1st to the 5th of the month. The radiant rises after local midnight. Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech created the above composite image of the 2008 Quadrantid shower combining short exposures of meteors and aurora seen during the returning leg of the Quadrantid MAC mission.
- When: January 3-4
- Frequency: 31-45 per hour
- Illumination: 56.1%
- Parent Comet: 2003 EH1
Quadrantid 02:38 UT January 03-04, 2008 by Krzysztof Polakowski (detail)
Quadrantid 04:15 UT January 03-04, 2008 by Radek Grochowski (detail)
Quadrantid 05:13 UT January 03-04, 2008 by Krzysztof Polakowski (detail)
The Lyrids are a strong meteor shower lasting from April 16 to April 26 each year and resulting from a periodic Comet named C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The Lyrids showers are well known for the past 2600 years. Titled 4 Meteors in 4 Minutes the above 4 minute exposure image of the northern sky by Wally Pacholka includes two Lyrid meteors in addition to two sporadic ones. The photo was taken during the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower on the morning of April 22, 2003. The two Lyrid meteors can be distinguished as the parallel streaks pointing back to the constellation Lyra.
- When: April 21-22 and June 14-16
- Frequency: 16-30 per hour in April, 0-15 per hour in June
- Illumination: 5.4% in April, 48.8% in June
- Parent Comet: C/Thatcher
3. Alpha Capricornids
Though you can expect only 15 meteors per hour at best under dark sky conditions, the Capricornids are noted for producing brilliant fireballs. Today astronomers generally seem to agree that two or three distinct maximums occur during the time the Alpha Capricornids are active. The shower is created from the debris in the meteor stream, which becomes visible on the earth when the earth passes through the stream. Astronomers have not identified the object responsible for producing the Alpha Capricornids. Yet, the discovery of this meteor shower is attributed to a very cool Hungarian astronomer named Miklós von Konkoly Thege, who first plotted several meteors emanating from the region of the star Alpha Capricorni on the nights of July 28 and 29, 1871! The above photo was taken by Zhong on the night of July 29, 2008. The meteor on the top of the photo has been processed to make more visible. See a few more from Zhong below.
- When: July 29-30
- Frequency: 0-15 per hour
- Illumination: 58.7%
Alpha Capricornids by Zhong 7/29/2008 (processed)
Alpha Capricornids by Zhong 7/30/2008
Named after the radiant they appear from - Perseus - the Perseids is a meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. Most of nowadays Perseids dust cloud is estimated to be about a thousand years old but some of it boiled off the comet in 1862. Luckily for us who like meteor showers, the rate of meteors originating from these parts is much higher than for the older part of the stream. Above: the night sky Aurora of Perseids, taken by Enest in Colorado on the night of August 21, 2000.
- When: August 12-13
- Frequency: 45+ per hour
- Illumination: 60%
- Parent Comet: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Raining Perseids by SpaceShuttle
These annual meteor showers occur at and are named after their radiant which is located between the Orion and Gemini constellations. Orionid meteor showers peak around October 21 and normally include 16-30 meteors per hour. The Orionid meteor showers are caused by one of the most well known comets - Halley. Above: 10 seconds exposure photograph of a meteor streak from the Orionids shower, shot by midendian on October 21, 2006 from Blue Canyon, Highway 108 near Sonora Pass, Sierra Nevada, California.
- When: October 21-22
- Frequency: 16-30 per hour
- Illumination: 7.5%
- Parent Comet: 1P/Halley
The top image in the above combination image was recorded on the 21, 22 and 23 of October 2006 by Steve Quirks of the Frog Rock Observatory cyber-space, a privately owned astronomical observatory located outside of Mudgee, NSW, Australia. It shows about 240 Orionid meteors with the Pleiades ones seen right of the image centre. The meteors are from the debris left in Comet Halley's orbit. The lower combination image above was recorded by Quirks on the 16th to the 23rd of October 2007 and shows 192 Orionid meteors.
The above Orionid set by Marsha Adams was taken from Sedona AZ, looking south-east over the Sedona Airport on the night of Oct. 21, 2008. A time lapse camera was taking pictures at one minute intervals. The bolide explosion evidently left a bubble of glowing debris that expanded for at least 15 minutes. The composite picture has been enhanced to make the glowing clouds more visible. Via spaceweather.com
Named after the location of their radiant in the constellation Leo, The Leonids occur every year on or about November 18, resulting from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. This shower is widely considered to be among the most spectacular of all meteor showers. A great Leonids storm in 1833 have had a major effect on the development of the scientific meteor study which had previously been mistakenly thought to be an "atmospheric phenomena". Top left: The peak of the 1998 Leonid meteor shower shown in a four-hour time exposure through a fisheye lens as taken by Juraj Toth of Modra Observatory. This photograph demonstrates how the meteors in a particular shower appear to emanate from a certain point in the sky (radiant). The two other images above were taken by Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano of ISAS during the 1999 Leonid storm.
- When: November 17-18
- Frequency: 31-45 per hour
- Illumination: 0%
- Parent Comet: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Above left: Leo Coppeta of New Haven watches as several meteors stream by in the early morning sky at Hammonasset State Park. Above right: A Leonid fireball blazed across the sky above Wrightwood, Calif., during the meteor storm of 1966. (Via reference.aol.com)
Above: 3 Leonid Meteor Shower shots taken by Lauri A. Kangas on the night of November 18, 2001. Those are 2-5 minute exposures using a Nikon F2, 35mm, 28mm and 50mm lenses, a Fuji Superia X-tra 800 Film and an equatorial mount.
Taken by Jerry Lodriguss also during the great Leonid meteor storm of November 18, 2001, and selected as the Astronomy Picture of the Day (November 22, 2001), the fabulous masterpiece above shows a clear view of three Leonid meteors streaking through the constellation of Orion into Eridanus. According to Lodriguss, the fantastic colors you can see in the meteor's path come from different emissions as the meteor burns up and interacts with molecules in the upper atmosphere. After the meteor disappeared "a persistent train was left behind which appears as a twisting smoke trail to the left of the meteor".
Above: a composite image by Lorenzo Comolli showing 44 Leonid meteors and the planet Jupiter. Shot on November 19, 2001 from a mountain near St Tropez in southern France named Notre Dame des Anges. (Via spaceweather.com)
Above: an amazing 20 seconds exposure shot by Frank S. Andreassen taken in Harstad, Norway on November 19, 2001. Equipment included a Nikon F801s camera and Fuji Provia 400F film. (Via spaceweather.com)
Unlike Perseids and Leonids mentioned above, the Geminids were observed for the first time only about 150 years ago. Considering the fact they are caused by something that does not even exists any more - an extinct comet named 3200 Phaethon - the Geminids are perhaps the most amazing and spectacular of all Meteor showers and are definitely our favorite one. To get a look at those beauties you'd have to hold your breath until mid-December as they usually peak around 12-14 of the month. The Geminid is the most reliable meteor shower and intensifies every year: recent showers were reported to include 120-160 visible meteors per hour under optimal conditions. The above photograph (detail) was taken from the ancient fire temple of Zorostrian in Niasar, Iran by Babak Tafreshi. It was shot just a few weeks ago on December 14, 2008.
- When: December 13-14
- Frequency: 45+ per hour
- Illumination: 12.6%
The Geminid meteor shower as seen from frosty Maghera in North Ireland on December 14, 2008 around 00.00-07.00 UT. Photographed by Martin Mc Kenna. (Via spaceweather.com)
Shot by Radek Grochowski, near Swidnica, Poland on December 13, 2008. The nearly-full moon interferes but six Geminid meteors are captured during a 2-hour observing session. (Via spaceweather.com)
Lastly, check on the above shot taken on December 14, 2008 by an amateur radio astronomer named Thomas Ashcraft, who operates a dual radio-optical meteor monitoring system in New Mexico, USA. A special "all-sky" video camera operated by Ashcraft records fireballs as they streak overhead. An antenna array records the reflections of distant radio stations from the meteor's ionized trail.
Want even more meteor showers? Check on our recommended resources: