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

The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history

Ancient Skywatchers of the American Southwest

The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history
The Anasazi Indians flourished throughout the American southwest

Anasazi Indians astronomy knowledge written in desert rocks

Ancient Astronomy – The Anasazi civilization flourished throughout the American southwest over 1,000 years ago, before vanishing into the annals of history. Forgotten on the hot mesas of the southwestern desert, remains of their stone cities and enigmatic causeways offer quiet testament to their innovation and determination. Carved in the desert rocks of New Mexico archaeologists also found symbols that indicate astronomy was an integral part of Anasazi society and that they spent hundreds of years watching and studying the sky.

Skywatchers of the American Southwest

Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers

Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers

Modern archaeoastronomers believe the Anasazi were ancient sky watchers who interpreted signs in the sky in order to construct a calendar they could use to aid farming. High on a ledge near the top of a soaring butte in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, they found three large stone slabs forming an opening, through which sunlight shined onto two spirals carved in the stone behind the slabs. For possibly longer than 1,000 years, until the slabs shifted due to erosion, beams of sunlight correctly predicted the summer and winter solstices, as well as the March and September equinoxes. Archaeologists believe the Sun Dagger, as the spectacle is called, was a calendar devised by Anasazi astronomers.

Anasazi astronomer recorded death of star

Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk
Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk

Archaeoastronomers also found marks on an overhanging rock on a cliff beneath the remains of the Anasazi town called Penasco Blanco suggesting Anasazi astronomers witnessed the death of a star almost a thousand years ago. Displayed on a rock face, they found three colored figures, a hand, a crescent, and a rayed disk. Painted on the sandstone wall beneath the figures is a dot, with two rings around it. Archaeoastronomers believe the cliff was possibly a post used by Anasazi astronomers and sun watchers, much like other similar posts archaeologists have found in the southwestern territories.

The crescent isn’t a figure archaeologists have seen carved in rock faces around the southwest very often, so they believe this could represent a spectacular event in the history of the Anasazi. The rayed disk some archaeoastronomers believe might represent an exploding star, which would have appeared in the sky around 1,000 years ago. At that time, over in China, astronomers recorded the appearance of a “guest star” in the sky on July 5, 1054. This guest star some archaeoastronomers believe was a supernova marking the death of a massive star in the constellation Taurus, the remains of which are the Crab Nebula.

Did Anasazi astronomers record the death of a star 1,000 years ago in paintings they carved in an overhanging rock below the town of Penasco Blanco? Some archaeoastronomers believe this might be the case. NASA astronomer John Brandt tried to verify this in 1979, by having a friend reproduce the night sky above the town in July 1054. They discovered the night sky above the town was almost exactly as depicted in the rock face in Chaco Canyon.

If the evidence is assembled and to be believed, around 1,000 years ago an Anasazi astronomer took up his post below the town of Penasco Blanco as the sun was about to rise above the horizon. Keeping his eyes toward the eastern horizon, he observed as the moon rose with a star of amazing brilliance suspended almost in the curve of its upside-down crescent. Captivated by the appearance of this guest star in the sky, the astronomer marked the moment in time by carving its image into the rock.

Watch this YouTube video on the Anasazi Indians https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KkJNyZUx9s.

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