In 1991, stargazer Steve Cariddi walked into a Boston bookstore and noticed most desk calendars were about cats, or puppies, or sailboats. There was not a single astronomy calendar in sight. So he decided to create his own, and in late 1993 he published his first “astronomy and space” desk calendar. He’s been publishing these calendars every year since. And now he’s released the large-format ‘Year in Space’ wall calendar for 2016 [Read more…] about 2016 ‘Year in Space’ CalendarShare This:
General articles and links about astronomy and the night sky.
The Moon is on the wane this week, a boon for stargazers who crave the darkest sky. But the Moon remains a pretty sight in the early-morning sky before sunrise, thinning down to a slender crescent by the July 12th as it passes through the sprawling Hyades star cluster in the eastern sky and close to the orange giant star Aldebaran. The Hyades is a V-shaped group of stars about three finger-widths wide. Look for the resplendent Pleiades star cluster above the Moon and Hyades. If you can see down to the horizon, you might even see Mercury before it disappears into the glare of the Sun for the month.Share This:
The Sun flared late last week and sent a series of coronal mass ejections in our direction. The high-speed charged particles smacked into the Earth’s upper atmosphere on June 22, 2015, and ignited aurorae borealis as far south as Georgia and Virginia, for example. The deep-southern hemisphere had fine shows of aurorae australis as well. If you missed these splendid vistas, the striking timelapse by astrophotographer Alan Dyer will give you a taste of the intensity and color of the display. Dyer is a master of nightscape and timelapse photography, and when he learned of the possibility of a striking auroral display, he packed his equipment and set to work. He wrote of his impromptu timelapse project on the night of summer solstice: [Read more…] about Aurorae at Summer SolsticeShare This:
The tiny planet Mercury lingers in the western sky after sunset, still tangled in the lacework of star clusters in the constellation Taurus. The planet reaches greatest eastern elongation on May 7, 2015 at an angular distance of 21º from the Sun. Mercury is visible over the next few days about 10 degrees above the NW horizon for northern-hemisphere observers, and just 5 degrees above the horizon for southern-hemisphere observers. Here’s what to look for in the next few days…
Now to a superb think piece by Lee Billings about a recent search for advanced alien civilizations in other galaxies. While it may sound far-fetched, the search was grounded in hard science. Assuming advanced civilizations have learned to harness the energy of stars to build solar-system-wide habitats, we should be able to see the waste energy in the form of infrared (IR) light over and above the background light of a galaxy. After searching 100,000 galaxies for excess IR, no sign was found beyond what’s expected from natural processes. So maybe there are no advanced civilizations, at least yet. Or perhaps there’s a subtler answer… that advanced life, assuming it exists, might evolve to be efficient and integrated with its natural environment. It’s a fascinating read.<
It’s galaxy season! Between the constellations Leo and Virgo, in a patch of sky no larger than your outstretched hand, you can see dozens of the more than two thousand galaxies of the Virgo cluster, the largest major galaxy cluster to our Milky Way. Have a look at this superb image of part of the Virgo cluster taken with a backyard telescope, and learn a little about how galaxy clusters evolve….
The last few years have seen an explosion of nightscape photography, a combination of landscape and astrophotography using new DSLR cameras with the latest large, low-noise sensors. It’s not an easy form of photography, least of all because you need to stand in complete darkness, in the middle of nowhere, for hours at a time. But I love this art form. One of my very favorite nightscapes is by David Kingham, who from Death Valley, California, managed to image a remarkable “sailing stone” in a dried mud flat with the stars of Orion and Canis Major in the background. It’s a superb piece of photography.
>Finally this week, just to show that sometimes I get to do a little stargazing myself, I present a short observing report from my ‘observer’s log’ taken during a night of backyard galaxy hopping.
Wishing you clear skies,