2014: The Journey Ahead

Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow
Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow

 

Looking ahead to next year

Astronomy questions and answers – 2014 is expected to be a banner year for the human journey to the beginning of space and time. This year we are treated to a total eclipse of the Moon for the first time since December 2011. Find a good viewing spot on the night of April 14/15 and watch as the Full Moon falls far into the Earth’s shadow. Skywatchers and astronomers across North America can watch the entire show from the comfort of their favorite dark sky viewing spot. The partial phases of the eclipse will get started around 1:58 a.m. eastern standard time. Watch during the next hour, or so, as the Moon darkens as totality nears. Totality lasts from about 3:06 to 4:25 and the Moon should look orange-red during this period as sunlight filters through the Earth’s atmosphere. The show should finish around 5:33 a.m, with a wrap up of the partial phases.

The Moon once again falls into the Earth’s shadow on the morning of October 8, 2014. The partial phases of this celestial event get started around 5:14 a.m. eastern standard time, with totality occurring at 6:24 a.m. The Moon will spend about an hour immersed in the shadow of Earth, before reappearing like a phantom at 7:24 a.m. Skywatchers and astronomers located in western North America will have the best seat for the show while people on the East Coast will get a partial show.

No total eclipse of the sun in 2014

October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth
October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth

There will be no total eclipse of the sun during 2014, but on the afternoon of October 23 skywatchers and astronomers across North America will be treated to a partial eclipse of the closest star to Earth. Viewers in the majority of the United States of America should see the Moon block over 40 percent of the Sun’s disk from view while people in the northern states and lower Canada should see the Moon cover over 60 percent. The best view of this partial solar eclipse will be in the far northern regions of Canada, with about 81 percent coverage of the Sun’s disk.

Planet hunters should enjoy the show during 2014

Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014
Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014

Planet hunters can book a seat for the dramatic appearance of Mars in the sky during spring of 2014. The Red Planet reaches opposition April 8, and will shine at magnitude -1.3 and appear big (15”) and bright when viewed through a telescope. Mighty Jupiter reigns supreme in the sky during the month of January 2014 and will peak early during this month. Saturn will also be spectacular to view both a few months before and after opposition on May 10, 2014, while beautiful and serene Venus will dazzle skywatchers before dawn during late winter and spring.

Meteorite hunters look forward to potentially great 2014

People watching the Quadrantids during January won’t have to deal with much light from the Moon
Viewers planning to look at the Perseids during August will have to deal with the light from the Moon

Meteorite hunters can also look forward to a potentially great year of viewing one their favorite celestial bodies. Viewers planning to look at the Perseids during August will have to deal with the light from a Moon which will be almost full, but people watching the Quadrantids during January won’t have to deal with much light from this source. The other expected meteorite showers during 2014 should all be free from interfering light from the moon. All-in-all 2014 should be a memorable year for astronomers and backyard skywatchers taking part in the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Watch this YouTube video on the expected lunar eclipse in 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P5sQ0iSc0w.

Watch this YouTube video on the expected partial solar eclipse on October 23 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnolE2bcGUg.

Watch this YouTube video on the 2014 Quadrantids meteorite shower https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wViXDdbRC7Y.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

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Collisions in Space

Space is a dangerous place
Something might have hit THEMIS-B

You could fly around forever and never hit a thing

Astronomy News – Considering the volume of bodies circling in the solar system one might think that collisions between bodies in the solar system is commonplace, but in fact collisions between bodies circling in the solar system are relatively uncommon. This is what makes a recent report by NASA of a possible collision of one of their spacecraft with a meteorite a highlight of sorts, or at least something relatively unusual. NASA reported a possible collision between a meteorite and part of the sensitive instrumentation on board their THEMIS-B spacecraft, which is one of the two ARTEMIS spacecraft, at 0605 UT on October 14. Apparently, the flight dynamics data collected on THEMIS-B indicated that it might have been struck by a meteorite, which likely means the meteorite made a slight change in the flight path of the spacecraft. According to NASA, everything is still a go with THEMIS-B’s insertion into Lissajous orbit, and up coming simultaneous measurements of particles and the electric and magnetic fields in two different locations, using both ARTEMIS spacecraft. This will provide astronomers with the first three-dimensional look at how energetic particle acceleration happens near the Moon’s orbit, in the solar wind, and in the distant magnetosphere.

Check out my latest astronomy site at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Learn how NASA astronomers are planning on detecting extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.

Read about the latest news on life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

Take a look at the latest natural color images taken by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

A True Pioneer of the Human Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time

Crater Goddard is a good object to begin a young astronomers study of the Moon
Crater Goddard arcs past the Moons’ eastern limb during a few nights in October, beginning on the 10th

The Moon dances, spins and twirls and crater Goddard arcs past your view

On the 10th of October, you’ll see lots of real estate between the Moon’s eastern limb and Mare Crisium

The Moon was one of the first celestial objects viewed by man

Star gazers can pay respects to a true pioneer of human space travel Robert Goddard beginning on the night of October 10th, by taking a journey to the Moon to view the crater named after this gentleman of astronomy. Your view of the Moon’s crescent will show plenty of open landscape between the Moon’s eastern limb and Mare Crisium on this night.

Astronomy News – A large oval plain encompassing an area 270 miles wide by 350 miles long, with the long side running east to west, Mare Crisium will appear different on this night because of the foreshortening of the lunar globe. Mare Crisium also stands alone on the surface of the Moon and isn’t interconnected with the other maria you’ll view on the Moon’s surface during your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. The last place on the Moon’s surface to be visited by mankind, Mare Crisium, or the Sea of Crises, was host to the unmanned soviet spacecraft Luna 24 in 1976. Look for dark patches along the Moon’s limb on October 10th, which is actually hardened lava of Mare Marginis, the Sea on the Margin, and finds the short white arc just beyond the eastern shore of the sea. This short white arc is the illuminated rim of crater Goddard. Watch as Goddard arcs past the Moon’s eastern limb over the next few nights and you’ll get a good lesson in how the Earth’s satellite moves as the Moon’s eastern limb rotates away from Earth.

On October 15th, Goddard will appear in profile and you should see the rim of this crater poking outward, like two towering peaks framing a darker interior. On October 18th, Goddard will have disappeared over the limb and only about half of Mare Marginis will be viewable. On October 22nd, the Moon will be in full phase at 9:37 P.M. EDT and only an outline of the shoreline of Mare Marginis will be visible. By this time, Mare Crisium will appear much closer to the limb and is prominent in your view of the Moon.

Take a young astronomer on a journey to the Moon tonight

Why does Mare Crisium appear closer and what causes this visual sleight-of-hand? The Moon actually spins at a pretty constant rate, generally completing one rotation on its axis each month. In the same time frame, however, the Moon orbits the Earth on an elliptical path, and this means the Moon’s speed of rotation will vary. This allows viewers to see a few degrees beyond the normal limb of the Moon during specific time frames of the lunar cycle, which is an effect an astronomer refers to as the libration of the Moon.

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole

Green Cheese? Anyone!

 The Moon waxes on and waxes off in September

The Moon has astronomy treats to delight the heart
The Moon’s Mare is a land feature you don’t want to miss during September

Viewing the limb of the Moon

Astronomy News – Focus your time machine to the stars on the features along the Moon’s limb during the month of September. This is a rare chance to view a few limb sections of the Moon that star gazers have dreamed of taking a closer look at for generations, during a single month of the year. Astronauts didn’t report any green cheese, so our ancestors can rest safely as we have ruled out green cheese as the main ingredient in the physical composition of the Moon.

Watch as the crescent Moon waxes, between September 11 to 13, and take a close look at Mare Crisium, and how far this feature is from the eastern edge. The features on the limb that you’ll notice will be the elongated dark patches of Mare Smythii and Mare Marginis. The regions near the south-eastern limb will feature primarily bright highlands that will slowly change as the 18 of September approaches and the mottled Mare Australe rotates into view.

Focus your astronomy telescope on the Moon

Focus your time machine to the stars in the hilly south polar region a few nights later and you’ll see nice 3D effects that catch-the-eye of the viewer and Mare Smythii and Mare Marginis will have disappeared from view.

A Full Moon will greet star gazers on September 23 and this is the perfect time to take a look at some of the best features on the Moon’s surface. Mare Orientale will appear along the Moon’s western limb on September 23. A magnificent impact basin, with multiple visible rings and lava lakes, get your timing right over the next few nights, and you’ll witness a scene few humans have experienced. Watch patiently and you’ll see the rings appear in profile first. This scene will slowly change as the Moon’s libration and the rotation of the Earth bring the lava pools of Lacus Veris and Lacus Autumni into view.

There will be a Full Moon on September 23

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion