Star Party – Tonight, Monday Aug 8 @ 8 pm

UPDATE – VERY successful party.  Miraculously the skies cleared and we saw a number of interesting sights.  We managed to pull Venus and Jupiter out of the murky atmosphere near the horizon, with three of Jupiter’s moons visible.  Mars showed an intense red/orange color and we could perceive some banding on Saturn.  Add in the moon, M57 (ring nebula), M8 (lagoon nebula), albireo (binary), M5 (globular), an Iridium flare, and an ISS pass and we had a great night.  Thanks to all that could come out!

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The APL Astronomy Club will host a star party tonight (Monday August 8th) starting ~ 8 pm.  The weather forecast is not good, but there is a chance we’ll be down to 50% cloud cover by 9 pm and if so we should be able to find some interesting things to look at.

If the weather is actually stormy we will cancel – watch this website for updates!

Where:  On the lawn in front of Building 200 (the new Space Department building on the opposite side of Johns Hopkins Road from the main lobby (Building 1).
B200
Clothing:  Normally you dress as though it were 10 degrees colder than expected to allow for the lack of physical activity and the breeze.

PLEASE – NO FLASHLIGHTS (unless you have red filtered light)

 

 

 

Mercury Transit – Monday May 9th

UPDATE – 5/9 @ 12:10 pm –  APL Astro Event CANCELLED due to inclement weather.  See http://www.nasa.gov/transit for great views!

UPDATE – 5/9 @ 8:20 am  Weather not looking good.  You must be able to see distinct shadows for us to see an image of the sun through a solar telescope.  There will be nothing to see if there are no distinct shadows.

 

Monday is the next (and last until 2019*) Mercury Transit of the Sun! We will be well placed for  viewing the entire thing – if only we had a full day to take off and observe it! The last time this event occurred was 10 years ago (November 2006).

The current weather forecast for Monday is: Mostly sunny! High of 71!  We have to have a clear view of the sun to view it through our special-purpose Solar telescopes (NEVER LOOK ANYWHERE NEAR THE SUN WITH A CONVENTIONAL TELESCOPE!).

The transit will start at 7:12:19am EDT, and be fully underway (the entire disc of Mercury will be silhouetted against the Sun) within a few minutes, at 7:15:31am EDT. The midpoint of the transit will happen at 10:57:26am EDT. Finally, the finish to the transit will begin at 2:39:14pm EDT, when the outer edge of Mercury’s disc will touch the far edge of the Sun. The transit will wrap up a few minutes later when Mercury completely disappears from view at 2:42:26pm EDT.

Based on volunteer availability, we expect to have the Lunt 60 mm H-alpha telescope set up on the lawn in front of Building 200 and the Coronado 40 mm H-alpha telescope set up on Central Green near the pergolas.

Approximate times –

Central Green – 11 – 1:30 pm

Bldg 200 – once at the beginning of transit, a couple times during the middle/near lunch (around 11am and again around noon), and once at the end of transit.

 

 

Spring Friends/Family Star Party – Friday April 15, 2016

The APL Astronomy Club’s Friends & Family Star Party will be held on Friday, April 15th from 8 pm to 10 pm or so, depending on sky conditions. Rain date is May 13th.  Sunset is at 7:45.  Club members will be setting up telescopes prior to that, so if you are interested in club telescopes or their setup feel free to come earlier.  Setup will likely commence by 7 pm or so.  We expect to have several types of telescopes set up, including:

  1. Refractor – Stellarvue 102 mm Apochromat
  2. Reflector – Orion 12″ Dobsonian
  3. Schmidt-Cassegrain – Celestron NexStar 6″
  4. Aplanatic (Schmidt-Cassegrain with corrector for flat field and coma-free) – Celestron EdgedHD 8″
  5. Binoculars – Celestron 15 x 70 on parallelogram mount
  6. Schmidt-Cassegrain with Mallincam video camera and display – Celestron 9.25″
  7. 125 mm Maksutov or 6″ RV Reflector

Where: On the lawn by the Big Dish, outside the security fence, on the west side of the main campus.

Star Party on the West lawn near the Big Radio Dish
Star Party on the West lawn near the Big Radio Dish

 

Clothing: dress as if the temperatures will be 10 degrees colder than what the weather prognosticators are calling for! (standing around looking through telescopes is not the most heat-generating activity you can do at night) Hats and hoods are most helpful in keeping warm.

Star gazing (and telescope viewing) is always dependent and contingent upon the weather. Please check back to this post as the date draws near to verify whether or not the star party has been cancelled due to inclement weather (rain or significant cloud cover). We will be putting weather updates here as necessary.

APLers and their friends and families are all invited to attend. Club members will have several telescopes out for your viewing pleasure, but feel free to bring your own optics if you have them – the more, the merrier!

PLEASE: NO FLASHLIGHTS! (red light or red cellophane covered flashlights would be perfectly fine, though) Also, turn the screen brightness *down* on personal electronics.
Sunset: 7:45 pm EDT

End civil twilight: 8:13 pm EDT

Moonset: ~3:30 am EDT April 16

Moon phase: First Quarter (~50% illuminated)

Solar Viewing

Solar viewing using special SOLAR telescopes (NEVER point a conventional telescope anywhere near the sun!) FRIDAY October 23 by one of the pergolas (wooden structures) in Central Green from around 11:30 to around 1:00 pm. Come out and see a few sunspots along with some spicules and prominences if we are lucky! Bring a hat. We should have the Coronado PST and the Lunt H-Alpha set up. Please watch this page for updates – we need mostly clear to clear skies for observation.

Image of Sun, 22 October 2015
Image of Sun, 22 October 2015

Fall Friends and Family Star Party – 18 September 2015

The APL Astronomy Club’s Friends & Family Star Party will be held on Friday, September 18th, at 7pm until 9pm or so, depending on how things are going, how many enthusiastic people are present, etc.

Star gazing (and telescope viewing) is always dependent and contingent upon the weather. Please check back to this post as the date draws nigh to verify whether or not the star party has been cancelled due to inclement weather (rain and clouds being the biggest impactors). We will be putting weather updates here as they are necessary, though at this point the conditions for Friday evening look favorable for us (finally!). There will be no rain date.

APLers and their friends and families are all invited to attend. Club members will have several telescopes out for your viewing pleasure, but feel free to bring your own optics if you have them – the more, the merrier!

PLEASE: NO FLASHLIGHTS! (red light or red celophane covered flashlights would be perfectly fine, though) Also, turn the screen brightness *down* on personal electronics.

Where: On the lawn by the Big Dish, outside the security fence, on the west side of the main campus. See map to right.

Clothing: dress as if the temperatures will be 10 degrees colder than what the weather prognosticators are calling for! (standing around looking through telescopes is not the most heat-generating activity you can do at night) Hats and hoods are most helpful in keeping warm.

Sunset: 7:11 pm EDT
End civil twilight: 7:38 pm EDT

Moonset: ~10:16 pm EDT
Moon phase: 5 days old(~30% illuminated)

2014 Geminid Meteor Shower – Peaking In The Sky Near You This Weekend

Hey, everyone,

Just wanted to post a reminder note about the Geminid Meteor Shower that is peaking this weekend. Given the holiday craziness, end of year craziness, and general Life Craziness, I know how quickly things can become lost in the….what was I writing this email about again? Oh, right, meteor shower.

So, the Gemini Meteor Shower has been going on for more than a week now, but the peak is this Saturday evening/Sunday morning. If the skies will be clear for you, I encourage you to go out and check it out. It normally averages 100-120 or so meteors/hour at peak, but two years ago it jumped up over 200/hour. Don’t know what this year will bring, but even at 100/hour, your odds of seeing some are pretty good.

The only drawback for those living in the northern hemisphere is that it’s getting on winter, and the weather isn’t always the best (and when it is, it’s usually too cold for most folks to stand around for long staring at the star-studded sky). But, if you’ve got clear skies forecasted for this Saturday night, and want to check out a good meteor shower, this is an ideal one a few reasons.

Firstly, the radiant (the spot in the sky the meteors would appear to “come from” if you were to trace them out on a star chart/sky map as you saw them) is in the constellation Gemini (hence the meteor shower name), and it rises about 9pm. This means you’ll have a pretty good  chance of seeing some meteors in the pre-midnight hours than having to wait until 1am or later to catch the show (that said, it will be best time is between 1a and 3a, but that’s only if you are die-hard enough to want to stay out all night 😉 ). Note: all times here are local to you! Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you’ll have a shot at seeing meteors from this shower. Just apply the times noted as if they were local to you (though one caveat: given that the radiant is in Gemini, northern hemisphere observers will have a better time of it in seeing more meteors than southern hemisphere observers – but you all in the southern hemi can still see it!)

Secondly, this meteor shower, under ideal conditions (totally dark sky, completely unobstructed horizons all around), typically yield anywhere from 80-150 (or more, in 2011 and 2012 it  got upwards of 200+) meteors per hour. I.e., the chances are pretty damned good you’ll see some if you wait around for 10-15 minutes.

The Moon. This year the shower coincides with the Last Quarter Moon, so there will be some extraneous light to wash out the sky. But the Geminids are so bright that even a quarter moon won’t make it a hopeless endeavour to get out and see the show.

Some details.

+ Dress WARMLY! I’ve mentioned it before, but can’t stress this enough. Check the temperature forecasts for the night, and dress as if it will be 10-15 degrees *colder*! Standing, sitting, laying around watching meteor showers is not a very body heat-generating experience. You will cool off quickly. Wear warm socks, gloves, and a hat, in addition to whatever else you might normally wear.

+ Be comfortable. From where ever you plan to watch the show (your backyard, your hot tub*, a park, etc), either bring a chair you can relax in and watch the sky, or a tarp and blanket (and maybe a sleeping pad and sleeping bag; sleeping bag good for chair use as well).

* – if you’re watching from a hot tub, I probably don’t need to say anything about your being comfortable *or* warm.  😉

+ Having hot chocolate is nice (unless you’re a coffee drinker or like hot tea).

+ Binoculars, telescopes, etc. You don’t need them, and you really don’t want them for watching for shooting stars. Meteors travel across long distances of the sky compared to the field of view that binoculars or telescopes afford you. If you’re meteor hunting, you don’t want to distract yourself with closing down your field of view to a tiny part of the sky (unless you see something unusual and want to check it out – like a star cluster, a dust cloud, a galaxy, a planet*, etc)

* – Jupiter will be high in the sky most of the night, the brightest star-like object up there, and Saturn will be rising to the east about an hour before sunrise

+ Cameras and photographing meteors. Meteors last anywhere from a couple/few seconds to a short flash in the sky. To capture a photo of one, you’ll need a tripod and a camera capable of doing long exposures and having reasonably high ISO settings (1600-3200 or so). If you want to know more about this, email me separately.  🙂

Some links for you to read up on:

EarthSky (there may be a video ad that plays when this comes up, but you can mute and delete it)
http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

Wiki overview of the Geminids
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GeminidsStardate.org:
http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteorsThis is a webpage from two years ago. I only include it as it has some good graphics illustrating the ‘radiant’ I mentioned earlier, for both the Northern and Southern hemisphere views:
http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/2012/12/10/observing-2012-geminid-meteor-shower/

Another good site to keep tabs on, for meteor showers, lunar and solar eclipses, etc.:
http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/geminids.html

And if that’s not enough for you, if you google “2014 Geminid Meteor Shower” you’ll get a host of other pages to browse through.

Also, since you now have a few days, you might try and track down/contact a local astronomy club to see if they are going to be hosting any meteor watching outings somewhere near you. For weather forecasting, there are a number of sites, chose your favorite and keep tabs. 🙂   Personally I use weather.gov, but that’s just my go-to. Weatherunderground does a good job with hourly forecasts, if there’s a chance it might be cloudy for you.Finally, IF you happen to stumble upon this video, it is not, repeat NOT a meteor, much less a Geminid, but rather a satellite breaking and burning up on re-entry
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiIXcMEs5jAAnyway, for all those who can get out, good luck, and good hunting!

Mk

PS: please feel free to share this as you see fit.