The Sky Tonight Update: Supermoon #3, Dec. 14

December 14th will bring the third and last of what is known as the “supermoon.”  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 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.

The third supermoon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. This 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: Geminids Meteor Shower, Dec. 13-14 peak

The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17.

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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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INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION OVER BATON ROUGE

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Wed Aug 28, 7:58 PM 4 min 77° 36 above NW 11 above SE
Thu Aug 29, 8:46 PM < 1 min 10° 10 above SW 10 above SW
Fri Aug 30, 7:57 PM 3 min 20° 19 above WSW 11 above S

Tonight, Wednesday August 28, the International Space Station, ISS, will cross the Baton Rouge sky at 7:58pm for about 4 minutes.  If you have not ever seen the ISS move like a star across the sky it is well worth the effort.  Look for a faint object towards the northwest about 36 degrees above the horizon moving towards you.  It will move towards the southeast for about 4 minutes and the peak height in the sky will be 77 degrees which is almost over head.  As it travels towards you it will get brighter and it will dim as it passes until it fades from sight in the southeast at about 11 degrees above the horizon. 

Here is the link to find the ISS anywhere in the world. There is a link in this NASA site to sign up for email or sms text sent to let you know when the ISS will be over your location.

 

SUPER MOON Saturday

590x393_06201718_page Moona

“Coming up this weekend the moon will be full. To be precise, it will be full at Sunday morning at 7:32 EDT. Because of the time that the moon is full, it will basically appear to be just as full Saturday night as Sunday night. At the same time, the moon will make its closest approach to Earth (called lunar perigee) of 2013. Don’t believe the internet hype, the Moon will not appear drastically larger in the sky. The Moon will appear slightly bigger in the sky by a very small amount. It will be difficult to notice the difference without a comparison (see above image).

A new or full moon at 90% or greater of its closest perigee to Earth has been named a “SuperMoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle. This term has made it to the field of astronomy as well as the mainstream media and Richard readily gives credit to us here at AccuWeather Astronomy on Facebook for helping this occur.

Please visit Richard Nolle’s fascinating page by clicking here. His page is full of interesting information and I highly recommend it.

An extreme “Supermoon” is when the moon is full or new as well as at its 100% greater mean perigee (closest) distance to earth. By this definition, the Supermoon this weekend will be an extreme “Supermoon”. This Supermoon will pass 356,991 km away from the Earth. In comparison, the March 2011 Supermoon passed 356,575 km away and the average distance between the Earth and the Moon at any particular time is 384,400 kilometers.

A Supermoon is not a rare event. In fact, there are several Supermoons by definition each year. An extreme Supermoon is a rarer event, occurring about every 13 or 14 months. The next extreme Supermoon will be in August of 2014.”  Mark Paquette

30 Year Anniversary of First American Woman in Space

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30 Years ago on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride flew into space aboard the Challenger mission STS-7. She was the first American woman to travel to space. She paved the way for 44 more American women who have so far become astronauts, in addition to countless more in the future. This year in 2013, four out of the eight astronauts are women. Sally Ride passed away last July, but she remains an inspiration to women in science.

Mission patch for the STS-7 mission.

Mission patch for the STS-7 mission.

Mercury Up Close….

mercuryclose

Hopefully you were able to see Mercury in the twilight sky over the weekend! Now see the first planet from the Sun up close… This awesome image was taken by the Messenger Spacecraft a few weeks ago. The border between the night and day sides of a planet is called its terminator.  Look closely at the image… Notice in some of the craters there are central peaks. These happen when objects smash into the surface with exceptional force, this causes the land to deform downward then back upward again. (Imagine a droplet falling into a glass of water). Messenger is studying the topography of Mercury using lasers. Remember how Mercury wasn’t very bright in the sky? In this image you can see that Mercury’s surface is rough and somewhat dark, you can see that Mercury is not a very shiny planet.