Lunar Eclipse Paints Sky Red

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 15, 2014 – 12:40 pm -

The full moon blushed in the skies above the entire Western Hemisphere this morning.

The lunar eclipse has come and gone and it was a hit and miss affair for many as some locations were clouded out in North America.  But many got great views of the moon gliding through Earth’s shadow and stunning photo opportunities presented themselves. Check out this amazingly crisp and vivid portrait of our moon while in the totality phase by Joel Tonyan in Colorado.

Check out this great gallery for more eclipse shots.  Remember the next lunar eclipse will be on October 8, 2014!  Let’s hope for clear skies.

Credit:Joel Tonyan

Credit:Joel Tonyan


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Watch Lunar Eclipse LIVE Webcast

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 14, 2014 – 6:07 pm -

The Virtual Telescope Project and Astronomers Without Borders are teaming up to present the total lunar Eclipse on April 15 to everyone on the planet through live broadcasts from telescopes located throughout North America.

Catch the action starting at 2:30 am EDT /  06:30 UT right here. If video does not load on this page then go directly here.

2014TotalLunarEclipse

Also check out this alternate broadcast provided by the Coca-Cola Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia. Feed should start Monday @ 11 pm EDT.

Live streaming video by Ustream


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Where is the Total Lunar Eclipse Visible?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 14, 2014 – 6:13 am -

eclipsemap

Here’s a wonderful map of the Earth and link for the upcoming lunar eclipse that will tell you whether it’s visible where you are (weather permitting). If you’re in any of the red zone, all or part of the eclipse will be visible to you April 14-15!

Clouded out or wrong side of the Earth during eclipse time? Then join a special LIVE webcast and watch the eclipse unfold on your laptop or mobile device.  Check back  at 11 pm EDT (Monday) for the video feed right here…  eclipse begins at 2 am EDT (06:00 UT April 15).

For a viewer’s guide please check out my previous posts and links below.


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Video: Lunar Eclipse 101

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 13, 2014 – 4:23 pm -

Check out my Weather Network interview on the science behind the April 2014 total lunar eclipse.

Read my observer’s guide to this total lunar eclipse at National Geographic.


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Space News Roundup for April 13 2014

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 13, 2014 – 2:33 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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Lunar Eclipse Coming Monday

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 12, 2014 – 4:32 pm -

Sky-watchers across North and South America continents and most of the Pacific basin are in for a real cosmic treat this coming April 14/15!

The first total lunar eclipse in well over two years will grace our skies and will be the first of four – a tetrad – of eclipses of the moon that will occur over the next 18 months.  Best part of this celestial phenomenon is that everyone can watch it unfold- even from light-polluted cities – without any optical aid. All you need are your eyes – and of course clear skies!

Courtesy of Fred Espenak

Courtesy of Fred Espenak

Here is a quick timetable chart for folks in North America – so you know when to look up.  Remember the entire event – as the moon travels across the Earth’s shadow – will take over 3.5 hours. The best part of the eclipse however is when the moon reaches totality and turns a shade of orange – red.

eclipsetimes-apr2014

For a complete viewer’s guide check out my story at National Geographic.


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Luna Visits Red Planet

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 18, 2014 – 6:29 pm -

This is the view towards the southwest in the early morning of February 20th. Credit: SkySafari by Simulation Curriculum

This is the view towards the southwest in the early morning of February 20th. Credit: SkySafari by Simulation Curriculum

Early bird sky-watchers get to see the Moon glide past our neighboring planet, Mars.

Before Dawn on Thursday, February 20, the brilliant moon will join the Red Planet and the bright, white star Spica.
Riding alongside Spica, the red planet is easy to spot rising in the northeastern sky around 10 pm local time. However the best views are through a telescope at high magnification just before local dawn, when the planet sits nearly overhead, looking toward the south.

The best is yet to come in April when the views of Mars will get better as the distance between our two planets decrease and its planetary disk therefore increases in size, even now some of its surface features are visible.


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Tonight: Jupiter Joins the Moon

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 10, 2014 – 3:47 pm -

On February 10th after nightfall Jupiter and the moon pair up in the southeast sky. Credit: Stellarium

On February 10th after nightfall Jupiter and the moon pair up in the southeast sky. Credit: Stellarium

At some point  tonight look up at the moon and check out a sparkling visitor nearby.

On Monday, February 10th throughout the night the largest planet in the solar system pairs up with the silvery moon for a beautiful cosmic sight.

Jupiter sits some 660 million kilometers from Earth while the moon is less than 400,000 km away. Yet the two objects look so close in the sky – an illusion of course.  If you hold a pair of binoculars steady you can glimpse the 4 main moons of the gas giant and with a small backyard telescope you can see the planet’ two dark brown cloud bands where winds blow as fast as 800 km per hour!

Positons of Jupiter's 4 largest moons as seen through a telescope on February 10, 2014. Credit: Stellarium

Positons of Jupiter's 4 largest moons as seen through a telescope on February 10, 2014. Credit: Stellarium


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Galaxy Mapping Space Scope Snaps First Stellar Portrait

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 7, 2014 – 7:05 am -

Open Star Cluster NGC 1818 sitting some 180,000 light years from Earth is Gaiai ission's first test image. Credit: ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS

Open Star Cluster NGC 1818 sitting some 180,000 light years from Earth is Gaia mission's first test image. Credit: ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS

Europe’s new space telescope named Gaia, launched in December 2013, finally opened its eyes and snapped its first test image.

And what a stunner!  The new image shows off a  dense open cluster of stars, called NGC 1818 sitting some 180,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.

Seeing the first magnificent images from Gaia’s UK-built billion pixel camera first of all generates a huge vote of thanks to all those scientists and engineers who have worked so hard to make this happen. Second, it provides just a tiny taste of the excellence and challenges ahead, to turn Gaia data into human understanding of the Milky Way’s origins. One substantial step for astronomy, one huge leap still to come,”  said astronomer Gerry Gilmore, from the University of Cambridge and UK Principal Investigator for Gaia mission said in an online statement.

Gaia was launched on 19 December 2013, and is orbiting around a virtual point in space called Lagrange 2, located some 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

Gaia’s goal is to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. It will make precise measurements of the positions and motions of about 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars in our home Galaxy to help answer questions about its origin and evolution.

NGC 1818 is an open cluster located in the southern constellation Dorado anshines at a magnitude 9 making it visible in small backyard telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: Starry NightSoftware / A.Fazekas

NGC 1818 is an open cluster located in the southern constellation Dorado and shines at magnitude 9 making it visible in small backyard telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas

Repeatedly scanning the sky, Gaia will observe each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. In addition to positions and motions, Gaia will also measure key physical properties of each star, including its brightness, temperature and chemical composition.

To achieve its goal, Gaia will spin slowly, sweeping its two telescopes across the entire sky and focusing the light from their separate fields simultaneously onto a single digital camera – the largest ever flown in space, with nearly a billion pixels.

While all one billion of Gaia’s target stars will have been observed during the first six months of operations, repeated observations over five years will be needed to measure their tiny movements to allow astronomers to determine their distances and motions through space.

As a result, Gaia’s final catalogue will not be released until three years after the end of the nominal five-year mission. Intermediate data releases will be made, however, and if rapidly changing objects such as supernovae are detected, alerts will be released within hours of data processing.

Eventually, the Gaia data archive will exceed a million Gigabytes, equivalent to about 200 000 DVDs of data. The task of producing this colossal treasure trove of data for the scientific community lies with the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, comprising more than 400 individuals at institutes across Europe.

source: UK Space Agency


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Night Sky Hits for February

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 4, 2014 – 3:45 pm -

While February nights are down-right cold, its crisp, clear skies offers some of the best stargazing of the year.

Look for amazing cosmic pairings between some of the brightest objects in the night-time sky, courtesy of the brilliant Moon.

On February 10, face towards the high southern sky for brilliant Jupiter perched above the waxing gibbous moon. The pair will appear about 5 degrees from each other – equal to the width of your fist at arm’s length.

The gas giant is the largest world in our solar system and shines bright throughout the month in the zodiacal constellation Gemini- the twins. Jupiter looks great – with tis cloud bands and moons- through small telescopes and conveniently sets well after midnight.

On February 18 gaze towards the eastern sky near midnight for the waning gibbous Moon gliding by stellar beacon Spica.  The lead star of the constellation Virgo, the blue-white giant star will appear less than 2 degrees from the Moon and form a squashed triangle with nearby Mars.

The moon near Spica and Mars in the constellation Virgo this month. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas

The moon near Spica and Mars in the constellation Virgo this month. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas

Of course these close encounters are just an optical illusion -set up thanks to our viewing perspective here on Earth. While the Moon is no more than 400,000 km away, Mars sits at a respectable 133 million km and Spica is placed 262 light years from Earth.

Amazing to think that light we see from this star left on its journey the same year that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite and key in his famous experiment to prove lightening is electricity, and Canada’s first newspaper was published.

On February 21 and 22, the majestic last quarter Moon will pay a visit with the lord of the rings, Saturn high in the southern sky at dawn. If you have a telescope, check out the beautiful rings. They are made of billions of chunks of ice and rock - everything from house-size down to a the size of a particle of dust. Looking like an old style phonograph  record the rings are about 250,000 km wide, which would make the entire planetary system fit snugly in between the Earth and the Moon.

The moon finishes its planetary rounds for the month on the 26th when early bird sky-watchers get a chance to see a spectacular pairing between the crescent moon and the brightest of all planets, Venus. Look high in the southeast for the cosmic duo about an hour before sunrise. The will appear so close together that you can easily cover both worlds with your thumb at an outstretched arm’s length.

Credit: NOAO

Credit: NOAO

Finally on moonless nights take a gander at the brightest and closest star clusters visible with the naked-eye. After nightfall anytime this month, look towards the high southwest for the Pleiades open cluster – which looks like a small, fuzzy patch of seven stars. Sitting at 400 light-year away binoculars will reveal a jewel-box of white diamonds huddled together in the sky.

It’s amazing to think that the Pleiades – also known as the seven sisters – from ancient Greek mythology, contains about 100 hot blue stars. Astronomers estimate these hot, young stars sky formed less than 100 million years ago, making them young teenagers. That may seem a long time, but remember that our own Sun is a middle aged- having lived already for about 5 billion years.


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