The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 13, Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

This November 13, a spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the Eastern sky just before sunrise.

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Huge and bright new storms are raging on Uranus

uranusIR

The planet Uranus is usually relatively calm when compared to its other companion gas giants in our solar system.  Up until recently if you aimed a telescope at the distant planet you would have just observed a bland and hazy blue-green looking body without a whole lot going on.  However, lately several extremely bright and large storms have been erupting around the northern hemisphere, and 7 years later than its closest approach to the Sun when astronomers would expect any activity to occur.  Some of theses features are now even bright enough to be visible to amateur astronomers with a telescope, and this unusual activity has now sparked great interest in the unusual planet.  It is now an active topic of research to understand these new phenomena since these wild storms were first discovered by astronomer, Dr. Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley.

Read more about it here:

http://www.space.com/27770-extreme-uranus-storms-puzzle-astronomers.html?adbid=10152450832696466&adbpl=fb&adbpr=17610706465&cmpid=514630_20141114_35587277

The Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor shower occurs each December, and this year we can expect to see up to 50 meteors each hour. Check out this awesome timelapse that I wish I could say I did, but someone else made it…. This timelapse was taken of the Geminids last year over the Pacific Coast.

Meteor showers are caused when Earth passes through the orbital path of a comet, the debris left behind by the comet falls into Earth’s atmosphere creating many shooting stars. The Geminid shower is different. Scientists have determined that this shower occurs when Earth passes through a debris field of an asteroid. This asteroid is called 3200 Phaethon. Observations show that this object is strange indeed, and sometimes behaves similar to a comet. Its orbit brings it in close to the Sun, and then back out again. Jets of dust and gas have been seen spewing from the asteroid at times. Tiny pieces of dust and rock are left behind by 3200 Phaethon as it travels through space, and these cause the Geminid Meteor Shower. The tiny arrows in the image below point to 3200 Phaethon, this image was created by combining multiple images over the span of 20 minutes to show the asteroid’s movement relative to the background stars.

3200paetheon

Meteor showers are named for constellation that their radiant lies in. The radiant is the point from which the meteors appear to radiate from in the sky. The constellation Gemini will rise above the horizon around 9 PM Central Time tonight (December 13th). It will be nearly overhead around 2 AM. This year the moon will also be visible in the sky, which will make it more difficult to see the fainter meteors.

Gemini

While Baton Rouge forecasts are saying rain throughout this evening, some reports indicate that the sky will clear a bit after midnight. Incidentally this is the best time to go out and find meteors! Meteor watching requires patience and sharp eyes, each year the number of meteors changes. Happy viewing!

New Show: Dynamic Earth

Coming July 2, 2013!

Dynamic_Earth_Poster

Get excited, our new lineup of planetarium shows begins this Tuesday!

Explore the inner workings of Earth’s climate system. With visualizations based on satellite monitoring data and advanced supercomputer simulations, this cutting-edge production follows a trail of energy that flows from the Sun into the interlocking systems that shape our climate: the atmosphere, oceans, and the biosphere. Audiences will ride along on swirling ocean and wind currents, dive into the heart of a monster hurricane, come face-to-face with sharks and gigantic whales, and fly into roiling volcanoes.