The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 3, Full Moon, Supermoon

Full Moon, Supermoon

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.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 24, Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

This November 24, the planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 22.0 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 17-18, Leonids Meteor Shower

Leonids Meteor Shower

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.

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Flag Day and the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s Flag

the US flag at lasm

Today, June 14, is Flag Day and here at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum we are home to a very special flag, donated to us by Congressman Richard H. Baker on April 22, 2002, to memorialize the events surrounding the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Jan. 19, Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury elongation

This January 19th, the planet Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation of 24.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Ursids Meteor Shower, Dec. 21-22 peak

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd.

The second quarter moon will block many of the fainter meteors but if you are patient, you might still be able to catch a few of the brighter ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. The Meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Great Red Spot is Changing Shape

great red spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a swirling anticyclonic storm that was previously large enough to fit three Earths inside.  However, observations taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed that this is changing, both in shape and size.

So why is Jupiter’s trademark feature beginning to downsize?

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Carl Sagan’s Solar-Powered Spacecraft Gets a Test Flight

solar spacecraft

Carl Sagan once proposed the idea of sailing through the cosmos via a solar-powered spacecraft.  This spaceship would use sunlight radiation to power its flight much like a boat uses the wind for propellant.  On May 20th, the Sagan co-founded Planetary Society will initiate its first test flight for such a solar vehicle:  the LightSail.

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National Astronomy Day – April 25

national astronomy day

This upcoming April 25th will be Astronomy Day.  It is an annual event in the United States that promotes interaction between the general public and the various astronomy based organizations, enthusiasts, groups, and professionals.  Baton Rouge has several events planned to celebrate this day including the participation of the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the Highland Road Park Observatory.

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Orion Launch Rescheduled

Orion, nasa

Due to technical issues, the launch of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft has been postponed until Friday, December 5.
Join us tomorrow in the planetarium to learn more about Orion, create your own spacecraft, and watch video of Orion’s liftoff and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere before each planetarium program.
Orion is NASA’s version of a next generation spacecraft that is designed to eventually take astronauts to asteroids, Mars, and beyond!