Now is the time to prepare for the premier astronomical event of 2019!
While there are at least 20 solar eclipses in a decade, there will be only 13 transits of Mercury each century! The next one, on November 11th is less than 8 weeks away. You should be checking your gear and doing dry runs on the Sun now (hopefully with sunspots) to prepare for this rare event: the one after this will be a long way off in the year 2032.
This past July’s Total Solar Eclipse was a southern hemisphere event with most of the path over the open waters of the Pacific. Starting east of New Zealand, the eclipse path made continental landfall in Chile and crossed over some major astronomical facilities in the Elqui Valley before entering Argentina. With the Sun setting and close to the horizon the shadow path crossed Argentina in just 3-minutes. The centerline just missed the capital city of Buenos Aires.
Each year, the World Science Festival features amazing talks and experiences in the New York City (NYC) area, such as stargazing in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park, with stunning views of the lower Manhattan skyline and special sights like the Statue of Liberty.
Beginning amateur astronomers soon encounter the term “Messier objects.” They learn that this is a list of objects outside our Solar System that are visible through small telescopes. This list was originally compiled by Charles Messier, in the 18th century, from his observations and those of contributors. The catalog has been updated over time, as recently as the mid-20th century, to 110 objects in total.
This week’s AstroFest 2019 show, at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre in London, inaugurates Tele Vue’s exhibition season. I’ll once again be guest of The Widescreen Centre. Want to talk about Tele Vue eyepieces? Have questions on DIOPTRX? Need advice on imaging with Tele Vue telescopes? Please find me at The Widescreen Centre stand in the Exhibition hall, open 9am to 6pm, on February 8th and 9th. You can find complete details on the Exhibition Hall on the AstroFest website.
It’s summer in the southern hemisphere and Bruno Yporti, in Londrina, State of Paraná, Brazil, had great weather for imaging last Sunday’s Total Lunar Eclipse of the “Supermoon” over the Americas. At his private, roll-off roof, “Ophiuchus Observatory”, he readied his Tele Vue-85 APO refractor with Tele Vue 2x Powermate and Canon 6D DSLR on an Atlas EQ-G mount for the event. The sky was clear, with almost no wind, when he took the above single exposure — about 8-minutes after mid-totality. In this phase of the eclipse, the Moon was illuminated by the refracted light skimming along the entire circumference of the Earth. The deep-red light bathing the Moon is what we see at sunrise and sunset on the horizon.
Sky watchers are in for a double-treat with lunar and planetary events on the schedule in the next few days. Brilliant Jupiter and Venus dazzle in the morning as the planets approach conjunction. Sunday night in the Americas will be dominated by the total lunar eclipse.
At only 30-lunar distances from Earth, Comet 46P/Wirtanen brightened to magnitude 3.6 as it brushed by our planet on December 16th — just 4-days after perihelion (closest to sun). The anticipation of this close pass-by engaged the attention of many amateurs that observed and imaged this “dirty-snowball” in the weeks leading up to the fly-by. But the most iconic image of this comet’s apparition was made two-weeks before its closest approach to Earth.
On the 23rd, the “ice giant” Uranus will be visible all night, as it rises when the sun sets (hence it is opposite the sun). It will also be at its largest for the year: a diminutive 3.73″ of arc. Due to its distance and close-to-circular orbit, Uranus doesn’t vary that much in brightness over time. It will reach magnitude 5.7 from mid-October through early November before slightly fading to magnitude 5.9 in late March 2019. This makes it a naked-eye target in dark skies and easy to locate in a binocular or finderscope.
With the moon a waning crescent, it is a good time to pick out some faint objects in the sky.
On Friday, September 7th, Neptune rises opposite the sun and is closest to earth. Being in the sky all-night, and at it’s brightest, presents a good opportunity to sight this rarely-seen telescopic planet. Unlike the naked eye planets, you’ll have to crank-up the power to make sure you’ve really found it. Even at 100x it just looks like a magnitude 7.8 star. So don’t expect to see a Voyager 2 quality image through your eyepiece.