In the Sky this Week- September 19, 2017
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A veritable riot of conjunctions is happening all week in the eastern predawn skies; Venus is VERY close to the star Regulus, and Mercury and Mars continue to be low in the sky before sunrise. These conjunctions can also be seen from the southern hemisphere; note how the position of the planets differs from the northern hemisphere. Saturn continues to be a good observing target in the southern skies after sunset. The southern skies seen from Perth after sunset are something I’d REALLY like to see; visible are the two Magellanic Clouds, the Carina Nebula In the eastern sky seen from Perth at 1:00 AM on Sept. 18th we see a good example of the different orientation of constellations seen from the southern hemisphere. The Pleiades star cluster can be seen high in the eastern sky at 2:00 AM. The Pleiades open star cluster consists of approximately 3,000 stars, and is among the nearest star clusters to Earth; the cluster … Continue reading

In the Sky this Week – September 12, 2017
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Mercury is about as high as it’s going to get in the eastern predawn sky on the 12th, and will start getting lower each morning. Sirius is high in the sky, and the constellation Canis Major is now fully visible above the southeastern horizon before sunrise. Mercury and Mars will appear very close to each other in the eastern predawn sky on the 16th. Saturn continues to be a great observing target in the southern sky after sunset. The Moon will be in conjunction with the star Aldebaran on the morning of the 12th, and will appear between(ish) the stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse on the 13th. The eastern predawn sky on the 18th should look pretty interesting: Mercury, Mars, a sliver of a waning crescent Moon, the star Regulus and Venus will all appear in a line. Sunspot AR2680 has rotated into view; this sunspot is about the same size as AR2673 was from last week – which ballooned out and blew off … Continue reading

In the Sky this Week – September 5, 2017
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Mercury and Mars make a reappearance very low in the eastern morning sky – so low in fact, you may have trouble seeing them if you have low shrubs; atmospheric turbulence and light pollution may also make them difficult to spot. Over the week, Mars will not get any higher in the sky, but Mercury will get visibly higher each morning. Mercury will be very close to the star Regulus in Leo on Sept. 10th. Catch Mercury while you can – by next week, Mercury will start getting lower in the sky, and will vanish entirely by late September. The full Moon rises in the east with the sunset on Sept. 5th; Saturn remains high in the southern sky, after sunset. Polaris, the North Star, is visible above the northern horizon before dawn. Two of Polaris’ three stars can be made out in a modest sized telescope; Polaris A, the primary component of the trinary is a Cepheid variable star, … Continue reading

Mercury Transit 2016 from St Cronans National School Bray, Ireland
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On May 9th 2016 the tiny planet Mercury passed between our Earth and the sun.This rare event was viewed by about 150 children and their teachers at St Cronan’s National School in Bray Co Wicklow Ireland.  We were very lucky indeed to get a few good hours to share the event as the Irish weather can be very unforgiving to astronomers large or small. The Transit of Mercury only occurs 13 times a century. Our event was for most people the first time and perhaps the only time they would see the planet.  Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system , a bit bigger than our moon but a lot closer to the sun, a difficult target.   St Cronan’s Stargazers astronomy club was founded in 2010 and was from the start a club for parents and children learning together.  When we have an event such as an eclipse, a transit or even a  large active region,  we … Continue reading

2016 Mercury Transit
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On Monday, May 9th, the planet Mercury will cross the face of the Sun, in what is known as a “transit.” The Earth and Mercury must be aligned properly in their orbits for the transit to be visible. Mercury’s orbit is inclined 7° to the plane of the ecliptic, making Mercury transits an uncommon astronomical event, occurring only about 13 times a century. The next Mercury transit will occur in 2019. The transit begins at 7:12 a.m. EDT; a telescope or high-powered binoculars are required to observe the event. Observing events will be taking place all over the world.  CAUTION: Please do not look at the Sun with the unaided eye; use solar glasses, or telescopes or binoculars with solar filters. The entire transit will be visible to persons in eastern North America, and western Europe. The western U.S., most of Europe, Africa, and Asia will be able to observe a portion of the transit. There are numerous websites broadcasting … Continue reading

MESSENGER Mission at Mercury Comes to an End
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  The MESSENGER mission at Mercury has come to a close, with the spacecraft running out of fuel, and impacting the surface of Mercury around 3:26 pm EDT on April 30, 2015. I was following @MESSENGER2011 on Twitter as the impact time drew near – it was heartbreaking. MESSENGER by the numbers. pic.twitter.com/7BsMMs0z6v — MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015 Story source and tribute video credit: Bill Dunford: The robotic spacecraft MESSENGER has run out of fuel. With no way to make major adjustments to its orbit around the planet Mercury, the probe will smash into the surface at more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second). The impact will add a new crater to the planet’s scarred face that engineers estimate will be as wide as 52 feet (16 meters). The end is likely to come at about 3:30 p.m. EDT on April 30, 2015. None of this is a surprise to MESSENGER’s handlers on Earth, who have … Continue reading