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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 May 25 – June 1

Asteroids, like comets, are solar system objects that some amateur astronomers like to collect; that is, identify them at least once with binoculars or a telescope. They are not as interesting to see as comets are, being just points of light, but they are usually more challenging to identify. If you are lucky one might be near an easily identifiable star or group of stars, and if you are even luckier you might be able to detect its movement relative to a star over several minutes or an hour. The few near-Earth asteroids that I have located, which can be seen moving in real time with a telescope, are among my lifetime observing highlights.

The first asteroid was discovered on January 1, 1801, and Ceres was initially called a planet once its orbit was calculated. In the 18th century a mathematical progression known as the Titius-Bode Law was formulated which fit the distances of the six known planets from the Sun. Uranus was discovered in 1781 and its distance fit that formula, but there was an inexplicable gap between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres filled that gap nicely, but over that decade three more new “planets” were found within the gap. Later in the century many more were found when astrophotography became a tool for astronomers, and now thousands are discovered monthly by automated telescopes programmed to look for asteroids that could potentially collide with Earth.

Ceres is by far the largest asteroid and it is now categorized as a dwarf planet along with distant Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea. Ceres is at opposition on Tuesday and it can be seen easily with binoculars over the next month about a fist-width to the upper right of Jupiter. However, you will likely have difficulty distinguishing it from the stars. The Heavens-Above website has an Asteroids section which includes two maps for each of the brighter asteroids; one with a wide-field view of the constellations in the area (photo above), and an expanded inset with a binocular-size view showing the asteroid among the nearby stars (photo below). Currently, Ceres is moving westward relative to the stars and within a few weeks it will pass above the claws of Scorpius.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:36 am and sunset will occur at 8:55 pm, giving 15 hours, 19 minutes of daylight (5:44 am and 8:58 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:31 am and set at 9:02 pm, giving 15 hours, 31 minutes of daylight (5:39 am and 9:04 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter this Sunday, rising at 2:21 am and setting at 12:38 pm. Mercury has moved into the evening sky, setting 50 minutes after the Sun by midweek. Jupiter is now getting high enough for late evening observing, while Saturn rises after midnight and is best seen in early morning twilight. Mars sets around 11:15 pm, and Venus continues to herald the sunrise by 50 minutes.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on June 1at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 May 18 – May 25

Amateur astronomers have a Messier Marathon around the new Moon in mid-March to early April, in which they try to observe all 110 fuzzy objects in the Messier catalogue in one night. This week casual stargazers have an opportunity to do an ISS marathon.

The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the earth at an altitude of about 400 km, and at this height it completes an orbit in approximately 90 minutes. The ISS has large solar panels that reflect sunlight earthward, which make it bright enough to rival Jupiter and Venus at times. Usually, we can catch it once or twice in morning twilight for a period of about ten days, then in the evening twilight for the same stretch, and then it is unseen for a while as the overhead passes are in daylight. For a few weeks either side of the summer solstice, when we have long periods of twilight, the ISS can be seen four or five times from evening through to morning. If you see it in each pass throughout the night you have completed the ISS marathon. This week is one of those times.

To determine when and where to look I use the website Heavens-Above, but there are other apps such as Satellite Safari that give the same information and may even give you an alert when a pass is about to occur. Heavens-Above defaults to zero degrees latitude and longitude so be sure to enter your location. Information includes the date and time, brightness, and altitude and azimuth of when it is first visible (usually ten degrees above the horizon), at its highest, and when it disappears into earth’s shadow or below ten degrees. Brightness is given in stellar magnitude, where the lower the number the brighter is the object, and the ISS is usually bright enough to be a negative number (magnitude -3 is about 2.5 times brighter than -2). With the Heaven’s-Above website, clicking on the date brings up a sky map showing the path of the ISS through the constellations. Since earth rotates under the satellite, the path through the constellations will differ with each pass but it is always approximately west to east.

[Links to Heavens-Above visible ISS passes: Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton].

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:43 am and sunset will occur at 8:48 pm, giving 15 hours, 5 minutes of daylight (5:51 am and 8:50 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:36 am and set at 8:55 pm, giving 15 hours, 19 minutes of daylight (5:44 am and 8:58 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full this Saturday, the Mi’gmaw Frog Croaking Moon. Jupiter rises around 10:30 Monday evening, about 20 minutes before the Moon. Mars passes just above the M35 star cluster in Gemini on Sunday evening, making a pretty sight in binoculars or a telescope. Saturn rises at 12:30 and is well placed for early morning observing. Venus can be seen in morning twilight rising 50 minutes before sunrise, and Mercury reaches superior conjunction behind the Sun on Tuesday.

The provincial astronomy club, RASC NB, meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry-Earth Sciences building this Saturday at 1 pm. All are welcome. The Ganong Nature Park near St. Stephen is hosting a presentation on the Moon and a full Moon hike this Saturday at 8:30 pm, weather permitting. Donations to the park are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

[Image Credit: NASA]

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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 May 11 – May 18

The constellation Hercules is up in the east after sunset, recognizable by the Keystone asterism that forms the legendary strongman’s body. He is usually pictured kneeling upside down in the sky, having a tête-à-tête with Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, with his foot placed triumphantly on the head of Draco the Dragon. The Keystone is situated two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega.

Hercules (Heracles in Greek mythology) was the result of one of Zeus’s many affairs with a mortal woman. Consequently, Hera (wife of Zeus) did whatever she could to have Hercules killed. As a baby Hercules strangled two snakes sent by her, and the Twelve Labours he performed were assigned by King Eurystheus, a representative of Hera.

Two globular clusters, M13 and M92, can be seen with binoculars in the constellation. M13, the finest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere, is along the right side of the Keystone, two-thirds of the way from bottom to top. A line from the bottom right star of the Keystone to the middle of the top side, and extended not quite that same distance, will put you near M92.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:52 am and sunset will occur at 8:39 pm, giving 14 hours, 47 minutes of daylight (5:59 am and 8:42 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:43 am and set at 8:48 pm, giving 15 hours, 5 minutes of daylight (5:51 am and 8:50 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Astronomy Day, May 11, and it is full on the following Saturday. Jupiter rises before 11 pm midweek, followed by Saturn two hours later, and both are well placed for early morning observing. Mars sets about an hour after Jupiter rises. Mercury is too close to the Sun for morning observing, while Venus rises 50 minutes before sunrise.

On Friday evening, May 10, public observing events are scheduled at Dutch Point Park in Hampton (8-11, with a cloud date of May 11) and at Moncton High School (9:30-11). The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry-Earth Sciences building on Tuesday at 7 pm, and RASC NB meets in the same location on May 18 at 1 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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Photos of the Month – May 2019

[Featured image above by Sophie Melanson]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.


 

 


François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the June issue of this blog is May 30th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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Photos of the Month – April 2019

[Featured image above by James Cleland – see panoramic version below]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.


 

 


François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the May issue of this blog is April 29th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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Photos of the Month – March 2019

[Featured image above by Stephen Townsend]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.


 


François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the April issue of this blog is March 30th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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Photos of the Month – February 2019

[Featured image above by Astena Marsh]

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.



François has this story to share for his Horsehead nebula photo:

This is a Swedish – Canadian collaboration.

A fellow astronomer in Sweden contacted me wanting to cooperate on an image we both had targeted. I had added some Ha data in my data set that I had taken with a 8 inch newtonian.
Göran noted that my Ha data would complement his image nicely by adding contrast and luminance to the one shot colour data set he had captured of the horsehead. He was absolutely right!
While I cannot take credit for the processing or the colour image, I am thrilled with the resulting image.

Göran’s data was collected by an ES 127ED apo refractor with a TS 0.79 reducer giving at FL 750mm and a Canon 60Da (10 x 300″ at ISO 1600) His observatory is in Varmland, Sweden.
My data was collected by an Antares 200mm Newtonian (FL 1000 mm) and a SBIG ST8300M (Baader Ha filter, 11 x 300″) from my observatory in Moncton.

To this day, I still cooperate with Goran, sharing my imaging data with him for his processing. I am also cooperating with a fellow astronomer in Brazil since December 2018.

Hope you enjoy. The original full size image is found at https://www.astrobin.com/236913/

François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the March issue of this blog is February 27th.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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Photos of the Month – January 2019

This is our first Photos of the Month blog post. We hope to make this a regular monthly thing, but we’ll need to keep receiving photo submissions from our members to keep this going.

Click on any image to view a larger version. While viewing the larger version, click on the image to show/hide the description. You may also click on the left/right arrows to go to the previous/next image.

All images are copyright of their respective authors. You may not use or redistribute these images without their permission.



François’ complete astrophotography gallery is available on his Astrobin page.

The deadline for members submitting their photos for the February issue of this blog is January 31st.

If you are a RASC-NB member, and have not received instructions via email about how to submit your photos, please contact the webmaster here (choose Concerning: Website).

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