Saturn’s Moon Titan on Display

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 29, 2010 – 7:20 pm -

Tonight take a gander at Saturn – it will be the bright creamy star shining in the southwest sky after dark. for telescope users it will be easy to track down the ringed giant’s biggest and brightest of its 34 moons – Titan. it will be located to the far east of Saturn – about 4 ring lengths away.


Saturn's brightest moon Titan will be easy to see through even the smallest telescope tonight

Saturn's brightest moon Titan will be easy to see through even the smallest telescope tonight

Posted in Uncategorized | 442 Comments »

Star Gobbles Planet

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 25, 2010 – 2:49 pm -

The hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy may also be its shortest-lived world. The doomed planet is being eaten by its parent star, according to observations made by a new instrument on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). The planet may only have another 10 million years left before it is completely devoured.

WASP-12 is a yellow dwarf star located approximately 600 light-years away in the winter constellation Auriga. The hot planet is so close to the star it completes an orbit in 1.1 days.

The planet, called WASP-12b, is so close to its Sun-like star that it is superheated to nearly 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and stretched into a football shape by enormous tidal forces. The atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times Jupiter’s radius and is spilling material onto the star. The planet is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter.

This effect of matter exchange between two stellar objects is commonly seen in close binary star systems, but this is the first time it has been seen so clearly for a planet.  “We see a huge cloud of material around the planet which is escaping and will be captured by the star. We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own solar system,” says team leader Carole Haswell of The Open University in Great Britain.

Check out this short video interview with astronomer discussing discovery of a star which is devouring one of its orbiting planets.

Posted in Space Exploration, stars | 86 Comments »

Stargazing Technology

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 25, 2010 – 9:32 am -

Take a listen to my latest CBC Radio column on how technology has transformed backyard stargazing…

Stargazing CBC Radio One Edmonton, May 20, 2010

note: If having problems playing in browser, just save it onto your computer by right-clicking on link and choose ‘Save Link As’…

Posted in Uncategorized | 430 Comments »

Watch Jupiter Mystery Unfold

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 21, 2010 – 11:28 am -

You may have heard the big astronomy news the last few days about Jupiter’s lower cloud belt going missing. It is a big mystery that has left stargazer’s scratching their heads trying to explain the disappearance of one of the gas giants famous brown bands which encircles it.  According to a recent NASA press statement,”This is a big event,” says planetary scientist Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and do not yet fully understand what’s going on.” Known as the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), the brown cloudy band is twice as wide as Earth and more than twenty times as long.  The loss of such an enormous “stripe” can be seen with ease halfway across the solar system.

Courtesy NASA

Courtesy NASA

This is a celestial event which anyone who wakes up at dawn and looks towards the eastern horizon can easily see. Look for a bright star hanging halfway up the eastern sky – that is Jupiter – easily seen with the naked eye but a small telescope will bring out the details and you can see the missing stripe for yourself.

“In any size telescope, or even in large binoculars, Jupiter’s signature appearance has always included two broad equatorial belts,” says amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia. “I remember as a child seeing them through my small backyard refractor and it was unmistakable. Anyone who turns their telescope on Jupiter at the moment, however, will see a planet with only one belt–a very strange sight.”

Posted in Planets, Solar System | 123 Comments »

Mars Rover Sets Record

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 20, 2010 – 12:36 pm -

Today NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project will pass a historic Martian longevity record. The Opportunity rover will surpass the duration record set by NASA’s Viking 1 Lander of six years and 116 days operating on the surface of Mars.

Posted in Uncategorized | 370 Comments »

Moon Mars Combo

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 19, 2010 – 10:17 pm -

Stepped out onto my Montreal suburban driveway this evening and looked up to catch this beauitful sight!

Credit:Andrew Fazekas

Credit:Andrew Fazekas, Canon 450D, 3 sec., f/5.4, ASA 800

Posted in Uncategorized | 134 Comments »

Tonight: Moon Points to Mars

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 19, 2010 – 2:59 pm -

If you have clear skies this evening after sunset check out the waxing gibbous Moon in the southwest sky in the constellation Cancer. Just to its immediate upper left will be a bright orange-hued star – this is Mars.  While the Red planet is not really at its prime in terms of viewing since it is quite a distance away (220 million km) it is still pretty cool to observe.i think it’s neat just knowing that the distinct ruddy colour you see with your eyes is caused by sunlight bouncing off the iron-oxide rich deserts covering this planet.


Tags: ,
Posted in Solar System | 198 Comments »

Tonight: Bits of Halley’s Comet

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 6, 2010 – 2:35 pm -

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is peaking tonight (into the early Friday morning hours) with a sprinkle of debris from Halley’s Comet.

image credit:

image credit:

Favouring southern hemisphere observers, from a dark sky as many as 20 to 30 shooting stars may be visible. for folks in the North, we can expect more modest numbers  of 10 to 20 per hour at peak time after local midnight tonight thanks to the  Moon’s glare and the shower radiant appearing very close to the southeastern horizon.  Experts are predicting that these numbers may persist into the following night.  But there may be surprises in store. Experts at  International Meteor Organization are saying that activity could be near the peak of a theoretical 12-year cycle with rates as high as 85 per hour at peak times between 2 am and 4 am Friday. Aquarid parent, Halley’s Comet last passed by Earth in 1986, and is due to arrive again in 2061.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Meteors | 417 Comments »