The December solstice occurs at 16:28 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
This December 3, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 15:47 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. This is also the only supermoon for 2017. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The nearly new moon will not be a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for what should be good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
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.
The Quadrantids is an above average meteor shower averaging about 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains and particles left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, first discovered in 2003.
The shower runs annually from January 1st through the 5th but it peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. Once the first quarter moon sets just after midnight it will leave the skies dark enough for a nice show. The best time and place to view this shower will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing the face of the moon in its tidal locked rotation around the Earth. In fact, the dark side of the moon has become a mystery and a thing for fictional devices. It’s not that the dark side of the moon has never been photographed or explored, but it sure looks great when see from a million miles away, crossing in front of Earth.
EurtheCast (pronounced ‘earthcast’), a Vancouver company, has launched aboard a Russian Progress 53 cargo ship two cameras that will continuously photograph the surface of Earth 24/7 and relay pictures in near-real time back to earth.
One of the instruments is a still camera with a five-meter resolution and takes pictures of a 40km swath as the ISS circles the globe. The other instrument is a video camera with a one-meter resolution and will take 150 videos a day. These videos will be approximately 90 seconds long and have a 4k resolution.
With your free EurtheCast account, you can have a real time alert sent to you about locations on earth you want to watch as the UrtheCast cameras capture new imagery and video of your favorite places.
So, stand by for some great views of our planet from a place few people have been lucky enough to enjoy.
Great news, everyone! Astronomers world wide have confirmed that in the last day or so, ISON has increased in brightness to the point where it is visible to the naked eye. You still have to look closely, as it is still on the border of visibility. Astronomers expect the comet to brighten as it continues to approach the Sun, but no one can know for sure. Through telescopes the green color of the comet is visible.
So why is the comet green? It isn’t uncommon for comets to glow green. This is due to the presence of certain chemicals inside the comet that are released as the nucleus sublimates away into space. Most often these chemicals are cyanogen (CN) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both of these chemicals emit greenish-blue light when in a vacuum (like outer space) and exposed to large amounts of energy (which they are getting from the Sun).
Today I came across this awesome interactive website that allows you to track ISON (as well as other Solar System objects) through the sky from different points of view. I’ll be using it to see where ISON will be over the next view weeks, it also gives you key dates and info. Click the picture below to visit the site:
Unfortunately for us here in Baton Rouge, the next few days have a lot of clouds in the forecast! There will still be time to view the comet early next week once the sky clears… Between now and November 28 the comet is approaching the Sun. From Earth it will be getting closer and closer to the horizon in the early morning sky. If you can, try and view it before Thanksgiving. All you have to do is:
1. Wake up very early, around 5:00 AM!
2. Find a place with a clear view of the eastern horizon.
3. Find the constellation Virgo (outlined in the image above), it will be nearly due east.
4. Look for a faint fuzzy object
5. If you’re feeling up to it, bring the camera out and snap a picture. Click here for a past article about astrophotography tips, it is for a meteor shower, but similar rules apply.
6. While you’re out, don’t miss Saturn, Mercury, and Mars.
Astronomers are unsure of ISON’s fate after it’s close approach to the Sun (which will occur on Thanksgiving Day), it is possible that the Sun’s gravity will cause ISON’s nucleus to break apart. If ISON survives its close encounter with the Sun, it will be visible once again in the morning sky around December 6th. Cross your fingers for ISON’s safe passage around the Sun, and happy viewing!
NASA just released a panoramic image of Saturn and some of its closest moons, but it also includes the tiny, blue dot we call home – planet Earth, some 900 million miles away. Taken by the Cassini probe now orbiting Saturn, the image also captures our companion worlds Venus and Mars. The panorama was pieced together from natural-color photographs taken in July.
Each pixel in the photograph represents about 45 miles. Seven out of Saturn’s 53 known moons are visible in their planet’s seven rings. There’s Prometheus, Pandora, Janus and Epimetheus near Saturn’s slim F ring. There’s Enceladus in the bright blue E ring. There’s Tethys, a yellow bulb, and Mimas, just a crescent, wedged between rings.
Venus is located to Saturn’s upper left, which is seen as a bright, white spot. Mars, a pale red dot, is above and to the left of Venus. There are 809 stars captured by Cassini’s lens in this image. And we Earthlings are on the blue dot at Saturn’s lower right.
This cosmic portrait had been planned for months and on July 19, NASA announced that all the conditions were right for such a picture, including that on this date, Saturn completely eclipsed the sun, allowing Cassini’s sensors to image this portrait. The cosmic photo is a composite of 141 images taken over four hours, selected out of 343 images total. The photograph was then digitally enhanced to pull from the blackness Venus, Mars, Earth, Saturn’s moons, and all the stars in the frame. Most of the objects in the photograph, including Earth, were brightened by 8 times relative to Saturn; some of the stars were brightened by as much as 16 times.
This was also the first time that humans were told in advance that Earth was being put before a camera. So, in what was called NASA’s “Wave at Saturn” campaign, the Cassini’s Imaging team asked us all to turn out for the July 19 picture day to wave and smile for the camera in the cosmos.