Let’s Chat About the Summer Solstice

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 21, 2011 – 10:18 am -

Today, on June 21st at 17:16 UT (1:16 pm Eastern Time) everyone in the Northern Hemisphere will be officially kicking off the summer season. But did you know that the June solstice is actually  a special astronomical moment we are marking on the calendar?

The Weather Network (TWN) will be hosting a LIVE online chat on June 21st between 1 and 2 pm ET where yours truly, as the astronomy correspondent, will be fielding your cosmic questions about the solstice while TWN meteorologist, Chris Scott will be on hand to offer answers about the  summer weather. What better way to start the season?

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Moon Meets Up with Superstars

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 11, 2011 – 2:02 pm -

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

If you have clear skies over the next few nights check out the Moon pairing up with a couple of stellar luminaries in the evening sky. On June 11, Saturday night look for the Moon near Spica, the lead star int he constellation Virgo. Then on June 13 and 14 the Moon will be jump from one side to the other of the bright orange supergiant star Antares in the constellation Scorpius.

These are great opportunities to learn a bit more of your night sky thanks to the moon pointing the way to some bright stars and their constellations.  Check out my new Night Sky video on these events.

Moon points to Antares the scorpion's heart in the southern sky.

Moon points to Antares the scorpion's heart in the southern sky.

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Auroras Still Possible

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 10, 2011 – 12:19 pm -

Thursday night came and went without any geomagnetic activity from the solar blast sent off the Sun on Tuesday. According to reports on spaceweather.com scientists are saying that the incoming cloud may still be on its way and we should still be on alert for Northern lights tonight (June 10).

Whether we see anything cannot be guaranteed but there is about a 20% chance for mid-latitude skywatchers getting to see some displays from cottage country.

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Buzz about Solar Big Bang

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 8, 2011 – 10:11 pm -

There is a lot of excitement on the web the last couple of days related to the massive solar flare/prominence seen on the surface of the sun by a NASA satellite. Indeed astronomers who study our neighbouring star say they have never seen so much matter ejected off the Sun and rain back down on it. If you haven’t seen the original video posted by NASA scientists then check it out below. It really is an awesome sight – especially when you consider that this flare is hundreds of times larger than our little blue marble we live on – planet Earth.

What’s the fallout for us here from this titanic fireworks show? The solar eruption was considered a medium one by scientists and was away from the central region of the Sun.  Luckily the resulting giant particle cloud coming off of this event is not heading directly towards Earth – because if it was it would surely have fried some communication satellites and wreaked havoc with our electronic technologies. But we may still see a great light show in the form of some Northern Lights Thursday night.   Check out my National Geographic column on what we might expect to see. 

Also making big space news this week is the discovery of a new class of supernova- the most violent events known in the cosmos. THese exploding stars are 100 times more massive than our Sun and are at leaast 10 times brighter than anything seen before. 

Astronomers hope to use these cosmic flashlights to see distant galaxies which otherwise would remain invisible to us here on Earth.  Check out my news story.


Don’t  forget you can always get late-breaking, instant stargazing news anytime by joining my fanpage on Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox

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Hunting for Whirlpool Supernova

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 4, 2011 – 12:49 pm -

Since I posted my National Geographic story about the new supernova discovery in the Whirlpool galaxy (M 51) more than 10,000 15,000 people and counting have Facebook ‘liked’ it. Obviously this cosmic eruption has excited lots of stargazers out there – including me! So of course as soon as I caught wind of the discovery I wanted to hunt this elusive point of light down for myself in my  backyard scope.  I am not really an astro-imager but more of an casual observer that likes to push the limits of my observation and scope capablitiy – especially from my light polluted backyard. I knew this magnitude 14 supernova 31 million light years would do just that.

A few hours after writing the story up Friday night, June 3rd, I started searching for the supernova in M51. I actually waited until after 11 pm for dark skies to settle in and cool down the optics on my 16 inch truss dobsonian telescope. After about an hour searching and staring (using averted vision) at M51 with a 9 mm Nagler I managed to tease out some of the spiral arm details -including a few foreground stars.

Once I knew where to look – basing it on the photo below – it wasn’t too hard to ID the stellar interloper. In fact by around 1 am my dark vision must have been better because I could see the supernova directly without much difficulty. Other observers are reporting this morning that they have been able to spot it with 12 inch and even 10 inch scopes with 130x magnification.  It will be interesting to see over time what happens to its brightness.

Here are some details for those up for the hunt:

Credit: Keith from Massachusetts

M51 supernova image taken June 3, 2011; Credit: Keith from Massachusetts

Name: SN 2011d

location: Ra 13h 30m 5s and Dec +40° 10′ 11.2″   ;

Details: Located 138″ east and 92″ north of the center of M51.  Supernova near to and southeast of NGC 5194’s core.  Don’t be fooled by the bright star southwest of the nucleus.

Observing Report references where you can keep up to date: CBAT : M51 supernova ,  astronomerstelegram.org,  supernovanet

Here are some amateur images of SN 2011d:  (Bailey discovery image) (Dupouy discovery image) (Griga discovery image) (Garnier image) (Yusa image) (Joseph Brimacombe image) (Joseph Brimacombe image wide field) (R. Koff image) (Ron Arbour image) (Giancarlo Cortini image) (Pedro Re image) (Stan Howerton image) All courtesy of supernovanet.

Some predict that it may increase in brightness up to 12.2 magnitude – which would definitely make it much easier to visually see in much smaller telescopes.  So it will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the next couple of weeks at least.

Can’t wait for the next clear night!

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Posted in Stargazing, stars | 1 Comment »

Partial Solar Eclipse in Canada

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 1, 2011 – 4:21 pm -

A partial solar eclipse will occur late afternoon today  June 1 across northern Canada with upwards of 40% of the sun blocked by the Moon while Atlantic provinces will witness upwards of 12% coverage.  Otherwise this eclipse will be regulated to remote arctic regions across the globe.  Here are some viewing times for Canadians:

Place                               Max Eclipse           % covered

Alert, Nunavut                 5:36 pm                  43%

Inuvik, NWT                       3:26 pm                 10%

Yellowknife, NWT            3:52 pm                   1%

St. John’s, NL                     8:09 pm                   12%

Glace Bay, NS                     7:44 pm                  5%

Charlottetown, PEI          7:45 pm                  2%

Chatham, NB                       7:44 pm                  2%

Churchill, Man.                  5:17 pm                  2%

source:  SkyNews magazine

For a detailed story about this weird partial eclipse check out my National Geographic story

Remember to never look at the Sun directly and use safe solar filters!

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