This Week in Space

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 31, 2010 – 9:24 am -

Check out a new episode of This Week in Space hosted by Miles O’Brien. Take a peek at the next shuttle mission and the new Mars mega-rover being built.

“VSS Enterprise” takes flight and “space for the rest of us” moves a step forward, the Martian Rite of Spring commences while the folks at JPL prep a “rover on steroids” for departure for the Red Planet, the Wizard Nebula is ready for its close-up, Roller Derby on Saturn’s rings, Discovery is “go” for launch, orbital Olympics, the crew of STS-134 prepares to go where no one has gone before, and Buzz “Twinkle-Toes” Aldrin wows the judges on “Dancing with the Stars” – or (ahem!) not.


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Big Bang Machine Begins Work

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 30, 2010 – 9:37 am -

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva, are celebrating after achieving another world first at 12:06 BST today (30 March 2010) — proton collisions at 7 trillion electron volts (TeV). This significant milestone, the highest energies ever achieved by a man-made particle accelerator (3.5 TeV per proton beam), marks the start of a two-year campaign that could see scientists make new discoveries about the Universe and answer some of the unresolved questions in physics. Professor John Womersley, particle physicist and Director of Science Programmes at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC),which funds the UK particle physics program, said: “Achieving collisions at 7 TeV marks the start of a new era in physics research.

The LHC aims to explore the nature of the Universe just moments after the Big Bang and will increase our understanding of how it was created, what it is made of and how it will evolve. Over the coming months scientists will use data collected at these high energies firstto cross-check data and theories from previous experiments, and thento search for particles and forces which we know must exist in the universe but which have never been observed. In the next couple ofyears this could lead to the discovery of a new law of physics called supersymmetry — which could explain the dark matter that seems todominate our universe — and even to the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson particle.”

The Higgs Boson particle was proposed by British theoretical physicist Professor Peter Higgs as a solution to one of the most basic puzzles in particle physics — why some particles possess mass and others do not, such as the photon, the particle of light which is massless. (NB: in physics, mass is not the same as weight and the words must not be interchanged). It will also test the predictions of a number of theories and might uncover evidence of dark matter,supersymmetry or extra dimensions.


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Tonight: Luna and Lord of the Rings

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 28, 2010 – 4:41 pm -

If you found it a challenge to pin down Saturn the last couple of nights then this evening will be your best bet tracking this ringed jewel down in the sky. Check out the pretty celestial pairing of our nearest cosmic neighbour and a planet 1.3 billion km away. The waxing gibbous Moon and Saturn, which looks like a bright, yellowish star, will be side by side in the southeastern sky this evening.

mar28-2010


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Saturn in all its Glory

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 26, 2010 – 7:35 pm -

The true lord of the rings is putting on its best show for skywatchers the next few weeks. It is dominating the entire night sky as it reaches opposition this week. This term means that the planet is on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun. In terms of orbits, Earth is sandwiched between the Sun on one side and Saturn on the other. For stargazers this basically means that as the sun sets in the west,  the ringed planet rises in the east. Over the course of the night it will ride across the southern sky and set in the west as the sun rises in the morning.  So you basically get to see Saturn all night!

To find Saturn in the sky, just look towards the east after sunset. If you have a lot of buildings or trees obstructing your views, then just wait an hour or two for it to rise higher. It will appear as a creamy looking star-like object to the naked eye, but in a small telescope Saturn reveals its rings in all its beauty. Its kind of amazing to imagine that it lies about 1.3 billion km away from Earth!


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Mars and Moon Meeting

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 24, 2010 – 4:50 pm -

Moon and Mars together Tuesday and Wednesday; click image to enlarge

Moon and Mars together Tuesday and Wednesday; click image to enlarge

This evening and tomorrow you can take a peek at a pretty double bill showing of our own Moon hanging in the sky close to the fourth planet from the Sun – Mars. The pair will be separated by 14 full moon disks, high in the southwest sky.

 If you get clouded out tonight, no worries, then you can see the waxing gibbous Moon jump to left side of the orange-starlike planet tomorrow, Wednesday night.  Despite the Red Planet being only one-thrid the Earth’s size and over 130 million km away, it still shines brightly to the naked eye, even from within cities.


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New Night Sky Episode

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 20, 2010 – 4:31 pm -

Check out my new stargazing episode aired Friday on the Weather Network.


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Worlds Line Up

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 17, 2010 – 8:12 pm -

Got lucky tonight with clear skies again so I took advantage and snapped a nice photo of the Moon/Venus duo. If you have a chance get outside and take a gander at this beautiful cosmic sight!

mar17-2010-pix


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Tonight: Moon and Venus, Act Two

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 17, 2010 – 11:17 am -

If you missed yesterday’s sky show with the super thin crescent moon and Venus in the West at twilight- the planet/moon duo will be at it again this evening. This time look for a slightly fatter crescent above star-like Venus. Since the Moon is now 2 days old and higher in the sky it should be easier to spot.

Look for Crescent Moon and white star-like Venus dominating the western sky; click to enlarge

Look for Crescent Moon and white star-like Venus dominating the western sky; click to enlarge

Don’t  forget you can always get late-breaking stargazing news anytime by following me on Twitter and Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox

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Luna and Venus at Play

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 16, 2010 – 8:00 pm -

Stepped outside this evening and caught brilliant Venus and the super-thin crescent Moon hanging out in the low western  horizon at twilight. Seeing the 1 day old crescent Moon is quite a challenge because it is so razor thin, but should be visible even from within city limits. Actually tonight’s Moon is about 27 hours old (counting from New Moon that occurred yesterday). Is this the youngest moon you have ever seen?

the Goddess of Love and Luna paired up in the Western Sky

the Goddess of Love and Luna paired up in the Western Sky above Montreal suburbia; click image to enlarge


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Sunset Show: Venus and the Moon

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 16, 2010 – 3:34 pm -

Moon and Venus Pair up in the West at Dusk; click image to enlarge

Moon and Venus Pair up in the West at Dusk; click image to enlarge

Take a peek at the western horizon just after sunset and you can watch a razor thin crescent Moon appear next to brilliant star-like Venus.  The cosmic pair will be separated by about 6 degrees in the sky – about 12 full Moon disks.

While they may appear to be close, the moon is 397,000 km from Earth while Venus is 247 million km away. The Moon/planet combo should be visible for about an hour after local sunset before they sink below the horizon. 

 If you miss the show, tomorrow night (Wednesday, the Moon will have jumped above and a little further from Venus – but still a beautiful sight.


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