The Comets of November
- Category: President
- Created on Sunday, 08 December 2013 14:47
I spotted comet ISON (and Lovejoy) from my backyard on the mornings of November 17 and 22 (brrr!). On the 17th ISON was easy to find at 4:50 am in my 7 x 50 binos, even though the Moon was full. All I had to do was look just above Spica! The Moon really washed it out though. Lovejoy looked brighter, since it was much higher up, but actually both had the same predicted brightness (m=5). On the 22nd the Moon was gibbous and much dimmer, but ISON was so close to the Sun that I had to look at 5:45 am, after twilight had begun. Again it was easy to find, being directly to the right of Mercury. The comet was low (5 degrees above the horizon) and dimmed by the thicker air in addition to the moonlight and twilight. It had to be fairly bright to even be visible at all! Fortunately the air was very clear. As ISON rose higher and the twilight brightened there were several minutes when I could make out the brightest part of its tail.
I tried once more to see it, at perihelion, but thin clouds near the Sun washed out the view (I used a building to block the Sun). It was exciting to follow the perihelion passage in real time on the internet as the turkey cooked. Later I saw that some observers managed to photograph it next to the blocked-out Sun.
ISON looked small and far away, but the nucleus was bright and stellar. I could see the inner coma right away, but it took me a several minutes before I could begin to see a tail. In general, ISON looked like Panstarrs in mid-March, but lower in altitude. It was easy to find in my 7x50 binos, though afterwards I wished I had set up my scope.
By comparison comet Lovejoy was much bigger and higher up. Its tail wasn't visible in the binos but the head looked asymmetric suggesting a leading and trailing edge. I tried for a naked-eye sighting of both comets but had no success. Lovejoy was reported to be a naked-eye object for dark sites.
Announcing ASN Events
- Category: President
- Created on Sunday, 08 December 2013 12:04
The Sky Above
- Category: Member Articles
- Created on Saturday, 01 June 2013 05:03
So you ‘ re interested in astronomy ( the study of the cosmos) and you’d like to learn more about the night sky. Let’s start by dividing the celestial sphere (the visible universe) into segments or regions. This has already been done for us by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). There is a finite number of eighty-eight regions (constellations) that cover our visible universe from earth. That’s not such a big number and it gets even smaller if you live in the northern hemisphere because there are quite a few constellations that are not visible to us from here. Let us focus on a very important group.
Many people say to me, especially at public star parties that they don’t know any constellations except the BIG DIPPER ( Ursa Major) and ORION. My reply is usually “ Everybody has heard of the ZODIAC and its twelve constellations.”
Now a little ‘science lesson’ to help you locate these celestial bodies. The sun , moon and planets all travel in a specific path or band across the sky. This is called the ecliptical plane or ‘ecliptic’. Cuneiform writings from Mesopotamia circa 2000 B.C. have revealed to us that ancient astronomers gave names to the groupings of stars (constellations) as they watched the sun, moon and planets pass through them each year. The Greeks adopted them from the Babylonians and passed them on to other civilizations. The word ZODIAC is a Greek word meaning a group of animals. Ancient Egypt adopted many, as well as India and China. As time passed these constellations became known as the Zodiac and over time the number of them has varied between twelve and eighteen.
We now have twelve signs of the zodiac. Each one covers 30 degrees of the sky for a total of 360 degrees which completes the ecliptic. Let’s name these famous constellations: Aries ( the ram), Taurus ( the bull), Gemini ( the twins), Cancer ( the crab), Leo ( the lion), Virgo (the virgin), Libra (the scales), Scorpio (the scorpion), Sagittarius (the archer), Capricornus (the sea-goat), Aquarius (the water-pourer), and Pisces (the fish). You may have noticed that I did not start with Aquarius but instead Aries. Technically the zodiac begins where the sun falls on the first day of spring (the vernal equinox) which is in Aries.
When you go outside and see the path the sun cuts across the sky or the path of the moon, look for the constellations we named before and try to see the creatures that ancient astronomers saw many years ago. In my next article I will focus on a few of these constellations revealing more details about them and objects found within their fixed boundaries as well as constellations nearby. I intend to pick ones that are visible between 9 and 10 PM our time.
Come explore the night sky!
- Category: Programs Committee
- Created on Thursday, 06 May 2010 09:29
Spring, Summer and Fall are typically the best observing times here in northern Nevada. However, as you can see by the list of events to the left, we have events planned all the time. Check out our calendar to see all of the events planned for this year.
We have events planned for all members of the community:
· Public Star Parties. In addition to our regular telescope viewing at Rancho San Rafael Park on the first Friday of every month (weather permitting), we are asked by many park rangers to host activities during the summer months. During these events we pull our telescopes out and view many of the brightest and most fascinating objects in the sky.
Other Observing Opportunities...
- Category: Programs Committee
- Created on Monday, 28 June 2010 14:42
While the ASN offers many activities, we know there may be times that you wish to go star gazing and we don't have anything planned on our calendar. Fortunately, there are other organizations nearby that may have some observing events planned. Following are some of the other observing opportunities nearby: