Jupiter At Opposition

 

Set your alarms ready for the 8th of March, because it will be the best chance you will get of catching a glimpse of Jupiter for a while!

The giant planet will be at its nearest to us here on Earth, with its face fully illuminated by the sun. It will be visible for most of the night, reaching its highest point at around midnight. Bear in mind that this is absolutely the best time to view and photograph Jupiter as well as its moons,  so I will be ready waiting with my telescope to gaze at the largest planet in our solar system.

ju

If you are worried about what you will be able to see, don’t worry. A decent sized telescope should allow you to see quite a few of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands, and even with a good pair of binoculars you will be able to see the four larger moons. They will be bright dots visible on the side of the planet.

So remember to aim your telescopes (and binoculars!) towards the constellation Leo at around 12am GMT on the 8th of March to join me as we marvel at one of the most impressive planets in our solar system. I will be there waiting eagerly with my Saxon Novo 705AZ3!

Constellation of Lea in context with other constellations

Black Hole Found Swallowing a Star

There are some things we do not see often in the world of astronomy, whether amateur buff like myself or professional organizations around the world. A black hole swallowing a star has been theorized as to how it occurs for eons, but more recently we’ve caught glimpses of this rare sight.

News today came out that we not only were able to see one, only about 20 incidents in human history have allowed us a glimpse. Gemma Anderson from Curtin University said during an interview about the amazing event.

“Everything we know about black holes suggests we should see a jet when this happens, but until now they’ve only been detected in a few of the most powerful systems. Now we’ve finally found one in a more normal event.”

What makes this a first is being able to see the material falling into the black home from the star, commonly referred to as an acceleration disc, along with a jet! Never before have we seen both!

BlackHoleEatingStar

A rare glimpse of a black hole swallowing a star.

 

The discovery is the first time scientists have been able to see both a disk of material falling into a black hole, known as an accretion disk, and a jet in a system of this kind.

This is an incredible event to behold, the star almost the size of our own according to our local Independent was not just swallowed up, but partially spit back out.

The wonders of our cosmos and they mysteries of black holes continue to help us understand more about who we are, where we come from, and how it all began.

 

Planispheres and space stations

 

A planisphere, the guide to the stars and constellations

I know I have mentioned a planisphere before but not really explained what it was. I eventually bought one but weather being as it has not really done a lot with it over the past couple of months. Feeling much more enthusiastic as the weather improves, guess we all do.

A planisphere is a rotating star chart locator, it is the tool that all the experts say us newbies need to help us learn the constellations and stars. All you have to do is turn it around until the time and date match up and voila the matching sky in real time. wonderful and it never goes out of date – but don’t drop it down a deep muddy hedge, cause then you have to buy another. This is a great website for tips on how to use the planisphere. I treated myself to a new one from Amazon and bought myself  the 2015 Guide to the northern night sky as well. I got the glow in the dark planisphere so I could find it if I dropped it again but my mate complains its distracting – I can’t win, think I might order the Earthsky one.

Going to be out with binoculars later this month so I can try and see the globular cluster in Hercules and the ‘double double’. This is what appears to be a binary star via the binoculars but if seen by telecope there are actually 2 stars hence the name. This can be seen just left of Vega in Lyra is the multiple star system Epsilon Lyrae known as the double double. Later in the month around the 15th & 16th the meteor shower of  Lyrid. Been told not many meteors per hour but as it is a new moon more chance of actually seeing one.

I am actually still trying to see the space station, not managed it as yet but I am hopeful, this site gives details of when the best time to look is ..this month its going to happen, I just know it. let me know if you see it.

 

M27 - The Dumbell Nebula

Dumbell Nebula – photgraph. Fabulous

 

 

Documentaries and Spica

Well not been doing too much stargazing this past few weeks when I had the time the weather was too wet or too windy to be out. Spent a bit of time on the internet and found a few very interesting documentaries on the universe. The two I enjoyed the most was in four parts this is part one from You Tube. The best though has to be The 7 Ages of Starlight, a BBC documentary. I have watched it a couple of times now as I find it fascinating.

Now when not watching documentaries, preparing for Christmas, going to Christmas dos – well you have to don’t you? I did actually get some stargazing in on the 16th. I manage to find the star Spica. This is a blue giant and the 15th brightest star in the sky, 250 light years from Earth part of the Virgo constellation. As it is one of the largest binary star systems to the sun there are quite a few observational studies on it. The Flag of Parά has a blue star representing Spica on it – just thought you might want to know that little know fact (I had to look up Parά – it’s in Brazil.)

Spica, the 15th brightest star in the skies

The waning crescent moon rose first then after midnight you could find Spica quite easily as it follows the moon, although I saw it as I was returning home after a party about 4am!! As it was not a particularly good night for viewing I was quite pleased with myself with finding it. Hopefully after Christmas I will have a planisphere to help me. Tell you about what that is next post.

 

November Skies…

 

Star Map of Polaris, The Big Dipper or Plough in relation to Cassiopeia

Well the colder weather is here and so is the rain. So hard to do any stargazing in a stormy sky, never mind getting so wet you look like you have been swimming not stargazing. That said November can be cold and crisp and a good month for watching the sky.  For beginners like me with the longer darker nights given a clear sky it is a good time to learn the constellations. I can now find and point out The Plough (or Big Dipper) and use it to find Polaris or the Northern Star, quite proud of myself when I first did it, brought back to reality when my 10yr old nephew pointed it out as quick – to be fair they had been learning it at school!  Wonder if he knows where Cassiopeia is? My main excitement though is we are expected to get a meteor shower from the 13th  –  21st November; The Leonids, this event occurs regularly but every so often it can become a meteor storm where thousands of meteors can be seen, can you imagine seeing that? Unfortunately that is not expected this year, but you will find me ready and waiting to see the spectacle on the nights of the 17th & 18th November, the best nights to view according to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Let me know if you will be out there too, watching the sky. Kind of nice to know there are others as crazy as me.

Meteor shower/storm from 2013, The Leonids