Sunday, September 27, 2009

Moon identifies Jupiter

On this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon glides next to bright Jupiter, giving a positive ID of the giant planet. Simply look to the southeast at 8 pm just when darkness is falling. Look at Jupiter with binoculars. How many tiny moons in a row do you see? Don't be confused by the star just to the lower left of the planet. The moons hug the planet much closer than the star which is called Iota Capricorni.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Early morning, late September

Planets roam the brightening morning sky. By the time twilight begins, Mars is high in the east near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The Red Planet slowly creeps through that constellation while rising slightly earlier each morning. Venus, on the other hand, is low in the eastern twilight. Each morning, it very slightly moves closer to the horizon, taking a few more months to reach it. Both Saturn and Mercury are currently obscured by the sun. In a couple of weeks, they will appear, inching out of the solar glare.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our morning sky

This week, the moon moves between Mars and Venus. On the morning of September 14, the waning moon hovers just below reddish Mars. Twenty-four hours later, it lies near the distant star cluster known as the Beehive. This is an interesting sight through binoculars contrasting the bright 240,000 mile distant moon with the dim stars of the 500 light-year distant Beehive.

On the 16th, the thin crescent moon sits next to brilliant Venus, making an intriguing sight. Earthshine, which is back reflected sunlight off the Earth, really enhances the scene. This will be a great way to start the day!

To see these sights, simply look to the east about 6 a.m.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Stargazing for the Curious Skywatcher

"Stargazing for the Curious Skywatcher," a six-week non-credit adult education course, will be offered at the Greenfield Education and Training Center in Daleveille on Thursdays from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. beginning September 24. The instructor is Master Observer John Goss of Fincastle, an amateur astronomer. Students will experience the wonders of the Milky Way including star forming nebulae, newly born star clusters, and the ejected shells of dying stars. They will learn to recognize early fall bright stars and constellations. They will spy craters on our Earth's moon, and watch the large moons of Jupiter shuttle around that giant planet. They will see the famous Andromeda Galaxy that lies almost 3 million light-years away. The cost of the course, which is sponsored by Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, is $85. The textbook and planisphere may be purchased the first night of class; a telescope is not needed. Call Non-Credit Coordinator Judy Clark at (540) 863-2863 or email to register.