To be a Planet, or Not to be a Planet?

Astronomers are constantly rethinking old theories and designing new ones to fit new ideas

Astronomy News – astrophysics: planets; the number and type of planets

Count the planets in the solar system and make an assessment of their various sizes and distances from Sol and the Earth as you leave on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. You’ll find that the line between planet and smaller planetoids, like asteroids and meteorites, has yet to be firmly set in place in the astronomy books, and in the universe.

We were all taught during our school indoctrination of nine planets circling Sol at varying distances. Mercury and Venus lie closest to Sol, with the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn residing at greater distances from Sol, while Uranus, Neptune, and disputed Pluto orbit at the greatest distance on average as compared to the other planets. Millions of school and reference books, thousands of articles, and countless periodicals also include references to Pluto being officially recognized as the ninth planet in the solar system. The publishers of these publications will be calling for a rewrite of all of this material and the history books will have to be changed if some astronomers and space scientists have their way.

Planet X came spinning into the view of Caltech astronomer Michael Brown on July 29, 2005 and changed the way astronomers and star gazers think about Pluto and the definition of a planet. An icy, Kuiper Belt resident Michael named after Xena the warrior goddess of the famed television series, at least until the International Astronomical Union speaks on this matter, Planet x orbits Sol at a distance nearly twice as great as Pluto’s. Planet X’s 560-year orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic by nearly twice as much as Pluto’s, which results in Planet X being closer to Sol than Pluto during its orbit, at times.

Planet X is still a bit of an enigma to astronomers

Astronomy takes you to the Kuiper Belt
The largest Kuiper Belt objects compared

How much bigger is Planet X than Pluto? Astronomers have measured the brightness and distance of Planet X from Sol, as compared to objects of known brightness in the solar system. Based on their data and calculations, astronomers believe Planet X to be bigger than Pluto, but just how much bigger has yet to be firmly etched in stone by the various astronomical societies and agencies tasked with determining if Planet X is indeed bigger than Pluto and by how much. This fuzzy-news has pushed Pluto into tenth place in the nine planet race in the solar system and into second place in the size ranking of the objects in the Kuiper Belt and astronomers, and star gazers have only searched a small percentage of the Kuiper Belt for objects bigger than Pluto.

Will bigger objects than Planet X be discovered in the Kuiper Belt or somewhere on the outer fringes of the solar system? The first Kuiper Belt objects were viewed by star gazers and astronomers in the early 1990s, but since this time, larger and larger objects have been located in the Kuiper Belt. In 2002, an object half the size of Pluto was discovered floating in the Kuiper Belt, which astronomers named Quaoar. Just two years later, 2004DW and Sedna were discovered, each respectively two-thirds and three-quarters the size of Pluto. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if star gazers and astronomers were to find an even larger object floating in the Kuiper Belt than Planet X at some point in the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.

The definition of a planet has changed over the years

Hubble has given us our best views of Pluto, so far. This photo shows Charon as well.
Compare the various sizes of the planets as you pass by
A distance object at best, Pluto looks quiet and serene here

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Take a Nightly Celestial Ride during September

Astronomy during September is amazing

Astronomy News – Huddle around a campfire and journey to the stars –

The nights of September 2010 will feature essentially the same night sky as the one your ancestors used as a basis for many of the myths and stories that have been passed down to the modern world of today. September’s star gazers can sit huddled around the fire each night of the month, just as their ancestors did thousands of years in the past. The perfect time to board your time machine to the stars and take a journey through space and time or lay your back upon the cold earth and let the night’s sky open your mind to the possibilities of the universe.

The nights of September 2010 will feature essentially the same night sky as the one your ancestors used as a basis for many of the myths and stories that have been passed down to the modern world of today. September’s star gazers can sit huddled around the fire each night of the month, just as their ancestors did thousands of years in the past. The perfect time to board your time machine to the stars and take a journey through space and time or lay your back upon the cold earth and let the night’s sky open your mind to the possibilities of the universe.

Astronomy during September is unforgettable

The Moon is one of the first places the human journey to the beginning of space and time visited

The Last Quarter Moon will step onto September’s celestial stage on September 1, at 1:22 P.M Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and start September’s celestial dance. Heavenly Venus will join the dance at 2 P.M. EDT on September 1, as she passes to within about 1.2 degrees south of Spica and will form a line with Mars on one side and Spica spinning in the middle.

Mercury will be in inferior conjunction at 9 A.M. EDT on September 3. Mars will dance to within 2 degrees north of Spica at 10 A.M. EDT on September 4, but this dancing pair will slowly fade from view over the next few days, as the Moon moves closer to the Earth.

Mercury is the hardest of the planets to view, but if you look late in September, you have the best chance of seeing Mercury.

Moon astronomy takes patience

The Moon will light up the night sky at 11:58 P.M. EDT on September 7. Earth’s satellite moves to within 221,948 miles of spaceshipearth1 on this date and the show on this night can light up the night sky. A New Moon will greet star gazers at 6:30 A.M. EDT on September 8 and on September 9 the moon will pass to within 8 degrees south of Saturn at 6 P.M. The celestial dance between Saturn and the Moon can light up your imagination as the Moon makes a pass by Saturn.

Saturn is part of astronomy royalty
On September 1, Saturn will set an hour after the Sun and will stand about 5 degrees high in the west sky 30 minutes after sunset

Asteroid Flora will take astronomy lovers for a ride

Asteroid Flora will be in opposition on the tenth of September at 11 P.M. EDT. Asteroid Flora is a difficult celestial body to view for beginning stargazers. Should you desire to take a look at asteroid Flora at her finest on this night, it might be wise to obtain the help or advice of veteran stargazers in your search.

The Moon will also be dancing in the night’s sky on September 10. The Moon will pass to within 5 degrees south of Mars at 4 A.M. EDT and will then dance across the night sky and pass within 0.3 degrees south of Venus at 9 A.M. EDT.

Asteroid Laetitia will be in opposition on September 14 at 6 A.M. EDT. This is your chance to view a celestial body that has been entertaining star gazers and filling them with awe and wonder for thousands of generations.

The third week of September begins with a First Quarter Moon 1:50 A.M. EDT on September 15. Four days later, on September 19, Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation of 18 degrees at 1 P.M. EDT. The Moon will pass within 5 degrees north of Neptune at noon EDT on September 20, viewers should see both Neptune and the Moon in the night sky, but this will depend on environmental conditions at the time of viewing.

Asteroid 8 Hebe is at opposition at 2 A.M. EDT on September 21. The thirteenth biggest asteroid by mass in the known solar system and the fifth brightest celestial body in the asteroid belt, asteroid 6 Hebe is believed to be the source of H chondrite meteorites and IIE iron meteorites, which account for about 40 percent of the meteorites that land on Earth.

The Moon is at apogee (252, 379 miles from Earth) at 4:02 A.M. EDT on September 21. Apogee is the point at which the Moon is at its farthest distance from the Earth in its orbit.

Mighty Jupiter rules the night on September 21, the largest planet in our solar system will be in opposition at 8 A.M. EDT on this day and Neptune will follow into opposition at 1 P.M. EDT. Jupiter shines at magnitude 2.9 on this night and will look bigger visually than at any time since October 1963, at about 49.9 ” across.

Jupiter is the king of the planets
Jupiter will be as visible as it has since 1963 during opposition on September 21.

Astronomy royalty takes center stage

Jupiter will still be one of the brightest celestial objects in the night sky on September 22 and viewers should be able to get a great view of mighty Jupiter in all its glory using their time machine to the stars throughout the month. Jupiter will pass within 0.9 degrees south of Uranus on September 22, at 3 P.M. EDT, and this is a great time to take a look at two of the biggest celestial bodies in the solar system. Watch for a few hours, before Jupiter passes to within 0.9 degrees south of Uranus, and you can see the Earth enter autumnal equinox at 11:09 P.M. EDT.

A Full Moon will occur at 5:17 A.M. EDT on September 23. The Moon will travel toward Neptune and Jupiter during the next hour and forty-five minutes and will pass within 7 degrees north of Jupiter and 6 degrees North of Uranus at 7 A.M. EDT. Viewers that watch throughout the day will get to see Venus at her brightest at 4 P.M. EDT, at this time, Venus will shine at magnitude 4.8, the perfect time to view demure Venus in September’s night sky.

Venus, for lovers, and unforgettable astronomy

Venus is once again the main attraction on the night of September 29. Venus will pass within 6 degrees south of Mars at 2 A.M. EDT on this night and will shine bright enough for good viewing using your time machine to the stars or good viewing binoculars.

September 30 will see Saturn enter into conjunction with Sol, at 9 P.M. EDT. This is a great opportunity to view the ringed planet and view a celestial body that has fascinated the human imagination for generations. Keep watching until 11:52 P.M. EDT and you’ll see the Last Quarter Moon appear in the night sky at 11:52 P.M. EDT.

Astronomy continues next month

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

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.

The Planets Dance Across September’s Night Sky

September astronomy rocks!

Astronomy News – September is one of the year’s most entertaining and awe-inspiring months to lay on your back on a dark hill and view the delights of the celestial dance in the sky as your ancestors did on a nightly basis. Four of Sol’s dance partners will be in the spotlight in September 2010, taking part in a nightly dance that includes their less observable brothers and sisters, while Mercury will once again dance privately in the eastern sky each morning during September.

Jupiter will be spectacular to view during September
Mighty Jupiter rules the night sky in September 2010

Mighty Jupiter is astronomy royalty

Mighty Jupiter will rule the night’s sky in the Northern Hemisphere during September, especially after he reaches the point in his orbit opposite the sun as seen from SpaceshipEarth1, which space scientists call Jupiter’s opposition. This celestial event will occur on the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, on this day the 24 hour period of the day will be evenly separated into night and day, and the evening temperature will still be warm enough to make star-gazing comfortable. The perfect time to set up your celestial time machine to the stars or to just lay back on the cold Earth and watch the celestial dance above you unfold before your eyes as millions of your ancestors have since mankind first perceived the possibilities the night’s sky creates in the human imagination. This will be the most comfortable and best time to view Jupiter in the past 47 years and it will definitely be more comfortable viewing than during Jupiter’s next opposition on October 29, 2011. During Jupiter’s opposition on October 29, 2011, the weather will be a lot of colder than on September 21, 2010, and you’ll have to wait another year to have a look at the largest planet in our solar system.

Mighty Jupiter will be at his brightest when he reaches opposition on September 21, 2010, on this night the King of Sol’s planets will shine brighter in the night’s sky than during any time in the past 47 years. Jupiter will also appear bigger during its September 21, 2010, opposition, subtending an angle of almost 50 “, and shining at magnitude 2.9. This means that after Venus sets at around 8 P.M., mighty Jupiter will be the brightest star-like object in September’s night sky.

Viewing Venus is astronomy fun for all
Venus fluctuates in visible size in September

Astronomy is for lovers

Mighty Jupiter will travel near the border between the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces for several months on both sides of opposition. This region of space-time has few bright stars to outshine Jupiter and the contrast allows viewers to get a good look at Jupiter. The nearest 1st magnitude star, Fomalhaut (Alpha) Piscis Austrini, is over 30 degrees away and mighty Jupiter is easily observed in the night’s sky at this time.

Stargazers in the mid-northern latitudes will find that due to their location mighty Jupiter only climbs halfway up the night’s sky in September 2010. This doesn’t make for the best viewing during Jupiter’s opposition and Jupiter’s altitude will be at its greatest at local midnight time. Stargazers at latitude 40 degrees north will see Jupiter at 48 degrees above the southern horizon. In the northern hemisphere of Earth, star gazers will view Jupiter 1 degree higher in the night’s sky, for each degree of latitude south of 40 degrees north at which they’re viewing Jupiter. In contrast, for each 1 degree north of 40 degrees north at which you observe Jupiter, you’ll see Jupiter 1 degree lower in the night’s sky.

Stargazers that want to view mighty Jupiter as he dances across September’s night sky can so without a pair of binoculars. Stargazers will need a pair of binoculars or telescope to see Uranus, Sol’s seventh planet will lie within 2 degrees of Jupiter throughout September, and can be difficult to view Uranus at this time. Sol’s eighth planet, Neptune, will be found about 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Uranus during September. Stargazers that want to view Venus and Mars should look in the evening twilight near Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.

Neptune is steak and potatoes for the hungry astronomy lover
Neptune can be found 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Saturn in September’s night sky

Planet astronomy is exciting and something that fills a young mind with awe

We’ll begin our journey across September’s night sky during the first week of Earth’s ninth month, Saturn will be dancing in the twilight of the low horizon of September’s night sky. We’ll board our time machine to the stars and planets on September 1 and start the first leg of our celestial “Journey to the Beginning of Time and Space” in human terms by traveling across space and time to Saturn. Sol’s ringed planet will set an hour after the sun on this day and can be found dancing in the sky about 5 degrees above the horizon after the sun goes down.

Venus and Mars can be found dancing in the evening twilight close to Spica in the constellation Virgo

To locate Saturn, use Venus as your visual guide. Earth’s evening star will be visible a few minutes after the sunsets. Look for Spica in the constellation Virgo, to the right of Venus. Saturn and Spica glow at the same relative magnitude, so if you take your time and can find Spica, you should be able to see Saturn in the night’s sky above you. Saturn will be found 20 degrees to the right of Venus in September’s night sky and at around half the distance from the horizon as Venus. Saturn will continue to be viewable from Earth, throughout the first week of September 2010, and observing Saturn from SpaceshipEarth1 will become increasingly difficult after this time.

On September 1, 2010, Venus will be dancing in the night’s sky in line with Spica and Mars. Spica will be in the middle of this dance, and if you continue to watch this celestial dance unfold for two more nights, Spica will dance toward the center of the trio. The trio will begin to fall back from each other as September enters the second week and will form an ever-widening triangle. Venus will shine the brightest during this celestial dance across September’s night sky while Spica will outshine Mars as the trio does their nightly dance across the skies of September.

On September 10 a crescent moon will join this celestial dance. Mars will be viewable about 6 degrees above the Moon while Venus will be to the lower left of Mars. Continue to watch this dance unfold and you’ll see the Moon travel 6 degrees to the left of Venus by the time September 11, 2010, arrives. The Moon will also grow in visible size each night after September 11, 2010, until reaching full moon at 5:17 A.M. EDT on September 23.

Venus is one of the most recognized planets of astronomy

Venus will continue to be viewable in September’s night sky as she dips closer to the horizon each night during September. Venus will shine her brightest on September 23, 2110, when the evening star will shine at magnitude 4,8 and will set an hour after Sol retires for the night. Watch Venus during this time and she’ll draw you into her nightly dance and fascinate you as she goes through obvious changes in visible size and phase. View Venus on September 1 and you’ll see a planet with a disc 29 ” across and at 41 percent illumination. By the time the dance reaches September 30, Venus has slimmed to 19 percent illumination and swelled to about 45 “, a change that can be easily discerned by patient stargazers.

Mars will appear small and dim compared to the Evening Star, the Red Planet will shine at magnitude 1.5 throughout September 2010, which is around 300 times dimmer than Venus will shine. Mar’s disk also measures only 4″ and very little detail will be seen by viewers looking at Mars through a telescope. Mars will become more visible late in 2011, so if you want to have the best view of Mars, you’ll have to wait until this time.

September will be a great time to view Sol’s ninth planet though as Pluto will dance an elegant loop in northwestern Sagittarius, close to an 8th magnitude star that’s only 2.6 degrees north-northwest of 4th magnitude Mu Sagittarii. This will make this 14th magnitude dwarf planet, which some claim isn’t really a planet, easier to view due to its proximity to this relatively bright star. You’ll still require an 8-inch telescope and a dark sky to be able to see Pluto in September’s night sky, but the view is spectacular, and you can get a good idea of the distance involved.

Astronomy is in the human soul

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

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.