Category Archives: Astronomy

The Nantucket Sky for November

The Nantucket Sky in November 2008
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Courtesy of the Maria Mitchell Association

The Sun (for the first and last days of the month)
Sunrise: 7:12 am; 6:46 am
Sunset: 5.35 pm; 4:12 pm

The Moon

First Quarter: November 05, 11:03 pm
Full Moon: November 13, 01:17 am
Last Quarter: November 19, 04:31 pm
New Moon: November 27, 11:55 am

Planets visible with an unaided eye
Mercury and Saturn: Can be observed briefly at dawn in the eastern part of the sky.

Venus: an ‘Evening Star’, very bright in the western sky after sunset.

Jupiter: Still a bright object in the south-west in the evening. It will be closer and closer to Venus and the two brightest planets will meet in an impressive conjunction, 2 degrees (four moon’s diameters) apart, on November 30 and December 1.

Mars: too close to the Sun.

Meteor Showers
Leonid: November 17, 1-2 hours before sunrise. Periodically (every 33 years), when the comet Tempel-Tuttle, the source of the ‘meteoroids’ producing this shower, returns to the Sun, Leoind may be very strong. The last really spectacular one was in 1966 (up to 100,000 meteors per hour!). Another historic Leonid shower might have happened ten years ago, in November 1998, but it was much less impressive than that of 1966. In the years between the comet’s perihelion passages, Leonid is a relatively weak meteor shower (approximately 10 meteors per hour). This year, a waning gibbous moon will seriously interfere. MMA will not offer an open morning for the observations of this shower, but those of you who get early easily may be rewarded with a few bright meteors at 4-5 am

Zodiac Constellations in the evening

Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus (from west to east, in the southern and south-eastern part of the sky).

(Eastern Daylight Saving Time is used until 2:00 am on November 2; after that Eastern Standard Time is used)

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Nantucket Night Sky

The Nantucket Sky in July 2008
(All times are given in Eastern Standard Time)

The Nantucket Sky” is generously provided courtesy of Dr. Vladimir Strelnitski, Director of Astronomy at the Maria Mitchell Association.

1. The Sun (for the first and last days of the month)
Sunrise: 5:11am; 5:35 am
Sunset: 8:17 pm; 7:58 pm

2. The Moon
New Moon: July 02, 10:19 pm
First Quarter: July 10, 00:35 am
Full Moon: July 18, 03:59 am
Last Quarter: July 25, 02:42 am

3. Planets

Mercury: Low above the horizon before sunrise in the beginning of the month, higher in the middle of the month, then low again, in the North-Eastern part of the sky. (Photo of Mercury below from NASA archives.)

Venus: Still too close to the Sun

Mars and Saturn: Evening objects, in the south-western part of the sky, in Leo – close to the brightest star Regulus (especially Mars, in the beginning of the month). A spectacular trio.

Jupiter: A very bright object in Sagittarius. Rises early in the evening and is seen the best by midnight.

4. Meteor Showers
July 29: Delta Aquarid (about 20 meteors per hour).
August 12: Perseid (about one meteor per minute). Stay tuned for an Open Morning at Loines Observatory!

The Nantucket Night Sky

The Nantucket Sky in May 2008

The Nantucket Sky” is generously provided at the beginning of each month by the Maria Mitchell Observatory, 4 Vestal Street. Thank you to Executive Director Janet E. Schulte for proposing this idea, and to Astronomer Vladimir Strelnitski for the report.

(All times are given in Eastern Standard Time)

The Sun (for the first and last days of the month)

Sunrise: 5:37 am; 5:10 am

Sunset: 7:38 pm; 8:07 pm

The Moon

New Moon: May 5, 08:18 am

First Quarter: May 11, 11:47 pm

Full Moon: May 19, 10:11 pm

Last Quarter: May 27, 10:57 pm

Mercury: An unusually good opportunity to view this elusive planet with your unaided eyes in the first half of the month. Look for it in the western part of the sky after sunset. You can spot the bright planet as early as a half hour after sunset, rather high above the horizon, after which you will have less than an hour before the planet sets. In the second half of the month, it will be an excellent object for observations with binoculars; the planet will be closer to the Earth and thus larger in angular size, and, while moving closer and closer to the line connecting the Earth and the Sun, it will look more and more like a crescent.

Venus: Too close to the Sun to be observed

Mars: An evening object, in the south-western part of the sky, in Gemini (Castor and Pollux, two almost equally bright stars). It is farther and farther from the Earth, so its disk seen through a telescope or binoculars is relatively small, almost four times smaller than at its opposition.

Jupiter: A very bright morning object in Sagittarius. Rises after midnight and is seen higher and higher in the south-eastern part of the sky until sunrise.

Saturn: An all-night object. In the evening, it is seen high in the south, very close (Òhalf-fistÓ of an extended arm) to LeoÕs brightest star Regulus. Come to see this planet with its gorgeous rings and moons through our 8Ó Clark telescope at Loines Observatory, at any scheduled open night.

Nantucket Night Sky

The Nantucket Sky in April 2008
(All times are given in Eastern Standard Time)

The Nantucket Sky” is generously provided at the beginning of each month by the Maria Mitchell Observatory, 4 Vestal Street. Thank you to Executive Director Janet E. Schulte for proposing this idea, and to Astronomer Vladimir Strelnitski for the report.

1. The Sun (for the middle of the month, April 15)
Rises at 6:00 a.m.
Sets at 7:21 p.m.

2. The Moon
Full Moon: April 20, 6:25 am
Last Quarter: April 28, 10:12 am

3. Planets
Mercury and Venus: Both are too close to the Sun to be observed comfortably during most of the month.

Mars: An evening object, in the southwestern part of the sky. Three months after the opposition, it is already far from the Earth. Its disk can be seen through a telescope or binoculars, though it appears relatively small with no visible features.
Jupiter: A morning object, higher and higher in the eastern part of the sky before the sunrise.

Saturn: An all-night object (seen closer and closer to Leo’s brightest star Regulus). Come to see this planet with its gorgeous rings and moons through the Maria Mitchell Association’s 8″ Clark telescope, at any scheduled open nigh.

4. Meteor Showers
A relatively weak (about 10 meteors per hour) Lyrids meteor shower on April 22 will be further harmed by the full Moon. If you decide to observe it anyway, the radiant of this shower (the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate) is between the constellations of Lyra and Hercules seen high enough in the Eastern sky, in the second half of the night.

The Nantucket Sky

The Nantucket Sky in March 2008
(All times are Eastern Standard Time)

The Sun (for the middle of the month, March 15)
Rises at 6:51 a.m.
Sets at 6:48 p.m.

The Moon
New Moon: March 7, 12:14 pm
First Quarter: March 14, 6:46 am
Full Moon: March 21, 2:40 pm
Last Quarter: March 29, 5:47 pm

Planets
Mercury: May be observable with binoculars in the glow of sunrise at the beginning of the month.
Venus: Quickly approaches the Sun and will be still observable only in the first half of the month, close to Mercury, in the glow of sunrise.
Mars: An all-night object (in Taurus).
Jupiter: Higher and higher in the eastern part of the sky, before the sunrise.
Saturn: An all-night object (in Leo).

Meteor Showers
No spectacular meteor showers until April-May

Comets
Comet Holmes, which flared up in October 2007 and was visible to an unaided eye for more than two months, is now much weaker and can only be photographed with a telescope.

The Nantucket Sky” is generously provided at the beginning of each month by the Maria Mitchell Observatory, 4 Vestal Street. Thank you to Executive Director Janet E. Schulte for proposing this idea, and to Astronomer Vladimir Strelnitski for the report.

The Nantucket Sky

The Nantucket Sky in January 2008

(All times are given in Eastern Standard Time)

The Sun (for the middle of the month, January 15)
Rises at 7:04 a.m.
Sets at 4:36 p.m.

The Moon
First Quarter: January 15, 02:46 pm
Full Moon: January 22, 08:35 am
Last Quarter: January 30, 12:03 am

Planets
Mercury: It is a difficult planet to observe in general, because of its closeness to the Sun. Relatively very good conditions for its observations will be from about January 19th to 26th. Look at the west-southwest horizon about a half-hour after sunset. Mercury is the brightest ‘star’ at about 10 degrees (two vertically-oriented fists at an extended arm’s length) above the horizon.

Venus: The last month to see it as the Morning Star. Very bright in the East, before sunrise, but lower and lower each morning. At the very end of the month, it will be very close to Jupiter, low above the horizon before dawn. Should be an impressive view on January 31 and February 1.

Mars: An all-night object, still close to the Earth (opposition) and relatively bright.

Jupiter: Still close to the Sun in the sky. At the end of the month, it will be seen for a short period of time before sunrise. It will be low above the horizon, but at the very end of the month it will be next to Venus, and the pair of the two brightest planets seen next to each other should be spectacular.

Saturn: Rises earlier and earlier in the evening and in January will be best seen by midnight, in the south.

Comets
Comet Holmes that flared up in October 2007, may still be visible in January, in Perseus. (go to http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/10775326.html for many pictures of the comet and a map).

Another periodic comet, 8P/Tuttle, goes through its perihelion (closest point to the Sun) in January and will be easily observable with binoculars and maybe even with an unaided eye. See more at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance and/or come to the Loines Observatory open nights to observe the comets and other miracles of the sky.

The Nantucket Sky

The Nantucket Sky” is generously provided at the beginning of each month by the Maria Mitchell Observatory, 4 Vestal Street. Thank you to Executive Director Janet E. Schulte for proposing this idea, and to Astronomer Vladimir Strelnitski for the report.

The Nantucket Sky in December 2007

(All times are given in Eastern Standard Time)

The Sun (for the middle of the month, December 15)
Rises at 6:59 a.m.
Sets at 4:12 p.m.

The Moon
Last Quarter: December 1, 7:44 am
New Moon: December 9, 12:40 pm
First Quarter: December 17, 5:18 am
Full Moon: December 23, 8:16 pm
Last Quarter: December 31, 2:51 am

Planets (observable planets are boldfaced)
Mercury: Close to the Sun in the sky, not a good object for observations in December
Venus: Very bright in the east, before sunrise
Mars: An all-night object in Gemini, with the closest approach to Earth (opposition)
on December 24 (when its diameter will reach almost 16 seconds of arc; at its closest historical opposition in 2004, Mars was 24 seconds of arc).
Jupiter: Close to the Sun in the sky, not a good object for observations in December.

Saturn: Rises late in the evening and is high in the southern sky in the morning.

Meteor Showers

Geminids: The night from December 13 to 14, Castor (the second brightest star in Gemini) is the “radiant” (the apparent point of origin) for this meteor shower.

An Open Morning for public observation of the meteor shower will be offered at Loines Observatory on the 14th, starting 5 a.m., combined with telescopic observations of Saturn, Venus, Mars and other objects (weather permitting). For more information visit http://www.mmo.org or call (508) 228-9198

Comets

Comet Holmes, which unexpectedly flared up on October 23, is now fading. It was a single outburst, and its products (gas and dust) are quickly expanding and dispersing in space. However, the comet may still be observable in Perseus in December with binoculars. (go to http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/10775326.html for many pictures of the comet and a map).

Nantucket Sky Report

This week, Mahon About Town introduces a new monthly feature – “The Nantucket Sky“, generously provided at the beginning of each month by the Maria Mitchell Observatory, 4 Vestal Street. As it turns out, there’s exciting news over there behind the telescope, the sudden and astronimically unexpected brightening of Comet Holmes, now visible to the naked eye. Saw it myself the other night. Thank you to Executive Director Janet E. Schulte for proposing this idea, and to Astronomer Vladimir Strelnitski for the report.

The Nantucket Sky in November 2007

Times given follow Daylight Savings time after 2 a.m. on November 4th.

The Sun (for the middle of the month, Nov 15)
Rises at 6:28 a.m.
Sets at 4:21 p.m.

The Moon
Last Quarter: November 1, 5:18 pm
New Moon: November 8, 6:03 pm
First Quarter: November 17, 5:33 pm
Full Moon: November 24, 9:30 am
Last Quarter: December 1, 7:44 am
The moon occults the bright star Regulus (in Leo) on November 3 (by 9 am); watch it approaching Regulus in the night of Nov 2/3.

Planets
Venus: very bright, high in the East, before sunrise.
Mercury: much lower than Venus in the East, before sunrise; best view around Nov 8.
Mars: visible all night, rises early in the evening and shines till sunrise, very high
in the Southern sky.
Jupiter: sets very early in the evening, not a good object for observations at this time.

Saturn: is the second brightest object in the morning sky (brightest is Venus).

Meteor Showers
Taurids: The first week of November (weak shower, about 7 meteors per hour)
Leonids: Nov 17-18 peak (weak shower, about 10 meteors per hour)

Comet Holmes

On October 24th, a faint periodic comet, Comet Holmes, suddenly brightened by a factor of one million – a very rare event. Not previously visible to the naked eye, Holmes can now be seen with no equipment in the constellation Perseus, and is expected to be bright for a few weeks. Map.

The Maria Mitchell Observatory will open for 4 special nights, November 7 to 10, from 8 to 9:30 p.m., weather permitting, for observations of the comet with a telescope and binoculars. Here are a few photographs of Comet Holmes taken soon after its explosion by Maria Mitchell Association astronomers Peter Armstrong and Gary Walker.