PostHeaderIcon Spring Equinox Sunset Watch – 2014

It’s time for the 20th seasonal sunset watch!! (Wow! That’s 5 years of these things …)

I’m going to try the special-for-preschoolers activities again, and hope the weather cooperates this time. If you’re bringing young’uns, come on over and say hi, we’ll have some special books and materials. If your kid would rather just run around in circles, that’s fine with me too. We’ll probably practice with toilet-paper-tube binoculars, and decorate them as well. The ground will be muddy, and I don’t have a good sized table to work at, so bring rain pants.

Non-preschoolers and adults are more than welcome, as usual. I’ll be available to answer questions about the new planet discoveries by Kepler (yay!), and all the usual bits.

  • When: Thursday, March 20 at 7:12pm (so come at 6:45pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 7:22pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it.
    • The equinox moment is at 9:57am… but we’re watching the sunset not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the spring equinox sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle on Thursday the 20th. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Thursday
20 March 2014 Pacific Daylight Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 6:41 a.m.
Sunrise 7:12 a.m.
Sun transit 1:17 p.m.
Sunset 7:22 p.m.
End civil twilight 7:53 p.m.

MOON
Moonrise 11:00 p.m. on preceding day
Moon transit 4:06 a.m.
Moonset 9:06 a.m.
Moonrise 12:06 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 20 March: waning gibbous with 83% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

Last quarter Moon on 23 March 2014 at 6:47 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon More Exoplanets!

My FAKE exoplanet, which I made in NASA's Extreme Planet Makeover Game

My FAKE exoplanet, which I made in NASA’s Extreme Planet Makeover Game

I expect posts announcing confirmations of new exoplanets to become fairly regular over the next few years. We (well, Dr. Jack and his team, and Dr. Jason and his team) confirmed more exoplanets!

The Upshot

Dr. Jack (Lissauer) and Dr. Jason (Rowe) confirmed 715 new planets out of the 4 years of planetary candidate data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission between 2009 and 2013. Our confirmed total is now 1792 1690, according to the Kepler team, though not all discovered by Kepler.

Why is this Important?

Batch Processing via Probabilities

This is a meaningful discovery not simply because that’s 715 more planets that aliens might live on, but also because Jack and his team figured out a way to confirm planets in the Kepler data much faster than anyone else, so far. If you remember when Craig Vetner and Celera scooped the Human Genome Project and quickly produced what was then called the first complete human genome, this is a similar breakthrough (hopefully less controversial!).

Jack & Jason’s team uses probabilities to determine if candidates are actually planets. Read more about it in the press release.

What counts as dead, for a mission?

If you remember last May, you’ll have a vague inkling about some news that the Kepler spacecraft had finally failed. This is somewhat true, but misleading if you remember it like that. The third gyroscope (stabilizer) onboard Kepler failed, making it so it could no longer point accurately enough to continue the extension of the original mission.

Lucky for us, not only had Kepler already finished it’s original mission and a continuation, but we still haven’t finished processing all the data from the original mission. This latest press release is just the beginning of a slew of announcements confirming more and more exoplanets out of that collected data. There are over 3,000 more candidates yet to confirm.

Beyond that, there is a new mission proposed for Kepler, using only the two remaining gyroscopes. This mission is called K2 and hopes to study “planet formation processes, young stars, stellar activity, stellar structure and evolution, and extragalactic science” by examining other parts of the sky that are easier to point at steadily with two reaction wheels.

All in all: it’s not dead yet!

Some Details

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

You know I’m more a fan of comparisons in blog posts, rather than focusing on numerical values, but these ones are neither so large nor so small as to be mind-boggling, they’re just cool:

  • Total Confirmed Exoplanets, as of today: ~1792
    • Confirmed Exoplanets from Kepler: ~1656
    • Confirmed Exoplanets from other sources: ~136
    • All current Exoplanet Candidates from Kepler: 3,845
    • 7286 sources identified by Kepler, including the ones that aren’t planets

Whoops! Some of my numbers are a bit off. Here’s the fix (Thanks Toshi!)

  • Total Confirmed Exoplanets, as of today: ~1690 (depends on exactly which database you use)
    • Confirmed Exoplanets from Kepler: ~961
    • Confirmed Exoplanets from other sources: ~729
    • All current Exoplanet Candidates from Kepler: ~3,845
    • ~7286 sources identified by Kepler, including the ones that aren’t planets (no change)

The source of my error was mostly the database I chose to use and it’s lack of recent updates.

SO, I turned this into “batting averages” for Tom Hutyler since he’s always asking me for stats on my astronomy reports! Kepler currently rests at .227 .132 and can only go up from there, with a top-out possibility at .755 .528. I suspect we’ll have a good mostly-final “batting average” in about two years, based on how much data is left.  I also suspect it will be on the high end, but that’s just a guess… or a friendly wager if you care to take it.

There is a press release out there that says these 715 planets have tripled the number of confirmed exoplanets. I can’t work that out with all the numbers of planets I can find. So don’t say tripled” unless you can back it up. And please comment if you can figure out how 715 more planets triples what we knew of before. Toshi helped! Thanks!

Want More?

If you’re trying to doodle around on the internet for a while more, go play with the Extreme Planet Makeover game from NASA!

Kepler

K2

Where I got my numbers: Exoplanet Archive:1077; Kepler before today: 941; Kepler totals.

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon How Many Times Can One Spacecraft Leave the Solar System? – 365 Days of Astronomy

Head on over to 365 Days of Astronomy to hear my short podcast today about the defintion of the edge of the Solar System.

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Go to West Seattle Blog this week…

My latest post is over at West Seattle Blog! It’s a nice run down of the year.

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Winter Solstice Sunset Watch – 2013

It’s time for the 19th seasonal sunset watch!!

  • When: Saturday, December 21 at 4:05pm (so come at 3:30pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 4:20pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it.
    • The equinox moment is at 9:11am… but we’re watching the sunset not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the winter solstice sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle on Saturday the 21st. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Saturday 21 December 2013 Pacific Standard Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 7:19 a.m.
Sunrise 7:55 a.m.
Sun transit 12:08 p.m.
Sunset 4:20 p.m.
End civil twilight 4:56 p.m.

MOON
Moonrise 7:59 p.m. on preceding day
Moon transit 3:09 a.m.
Moonset 10:09 a.m.
Moonrise 8:59 p.m.
Moonset 10:35 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 21 December: waning gibbous with 83% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

Last quarter Moon on 25 December 2013 at 5:48 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing the last few!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Comet ISON from Seattle, after Perihelion (November 28)

Latest Updates on Comet ISON
by Alan MacRobert
“Only a dim “ghost of ISON” survived the comet’s November 28th passage around the Sun. The comet’s head dwindled away as it raced through the Sun’s greatest heat, but a headless streak emerged into spacecraft view out from the other side of the encounter. It’s traveling along the comet’s originally prescribed track but fading steadily, with no sign of cometary activity. Very little or nothing is likely to become visible from Earth.”

From: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/observingblog/193909261.html which is a good, trustworthy general observing resource

Me again:

So as we come out of the blind period today and tomorrow, we are not going to be able to observe Comet ISON from Seattle unless something unexpected and unprecedented happens. Comets are notably unpredictable, but that unpredictability peaks as they pass the Sun, and then they are usually much more normal and not so erratic in their brightness and tail-length after their closest approach.

So, the “Comet of the Century” is relegated to being “the most-anticipated comet of the decade.” Not to worry, we still have two other visible comets in our night sky: Lovejoy and Encke. There’s also Comet LINEAR, but that one is also for experienced viewers.

Advanced viewers can use the finding charts at Waiting For ISON to find Comet ISON with telescopes: http://waitingforison.wordpress.com/november-2013/Text Block 1

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Watch the MAVEN Launch With Me: Monday at 10am Pacific

Hey everyone, I’ll be live-Google-Hangouting from the MAVEN launch (next mission to Mars) in Florida on Monday morning (November 18th. The launch is at about 10:20 Pacific Time, so tune in around 10am.). That’s right, you get me as an on-location reporter for this launch for the first time ever … I’ve never been to a real in-person launch before. I’ll be watching from the Causeway.

I’ll be co-hosting with Shannon Hall and Sarah Culp, who will be Hangouting from Pacific Science Center. Turn on NASA TV in one browser, and join our Hangout in another. Can’t wait to see you! I’ll be posting links here as I get them, and if all else fails check in on my Twitter and Pacific Science Center’s Twitter to get the full scoop that morning!

You can also join Shannon and Sarah in person at Pacific Science Center, details to follow later this afternoon.

 

Edit to add: You can listen to my interview on KOMO about the MAVEN launch if you missed this hangout or the interview on the actual day of launch.

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Comet ISON from Seattle

Ready to view Comet ISON? Here’s useful rise, set, and estimated magnitude for viewing from Seattle between now and March. I’ve color-coded it according to east of viewing. Magnitude (brightness) will change as we get more observations of ISON and see how it is responding to the Sun.

This is a useful table if you know what visual magnitude is. If you don’t, just go out too look for it on days that are highlighted yellow. Also, check out the “Special circumstances” for great viewing opportunities.

In this, I’m assuming a generic pair of binoculars can see down to about magnitude 10, and have a 5-7 degree field of view. Your binoculars may be different, but if you pull out a random pair that’s in your closet these assumptions probably aren’t that far off.

Local Date Sun Sun C/2012 S1 (ISON) C/2012 S1 (ISON) C/2012 S1 (ISON) How should you see it? Special circumstances
Rise Time Set Time Rise Time Set Time Visual Magnitude
9/4/2013 6:32 19:44 3:16 18:48 11.9 Telescope
9/4/2013 6:32 19:44 3:16 18:48 11.9 Telescope
9/5/2013 6:34 19:42 3:14 18:45 11.8 Telescope
9/6/2013 6:35 19:40 3:12 18:42 11.8 Telescope
9/7/2013 6:36 19:38 3:10 18:39 11.7 Telescope
9/8/2013 6:38 19:36 3:09 18:36 11.7 Telescope
9/9/2013 6:39 19:34 3:07 18:33 11.6 Telescope
9/10/2013 6:40 19:31 3:06 18:29 11.6 Telescope
9/11/2013 6:42 19:29 3:04 18:26 11.5 Telescope
9/12/2013 6:43 19:27 3:03 18:23 11.5 Telescope
9/13/2013 6:44 19:25 3:01 18:20 11.4 Telescope
9/14/2013 6:46 19:23 3:00 18:17 11.4 Telescope
9/15/2013 6:47 19:21 2:58 18:14 11.3 Telescope
9/16/2013 6:48 19:19 2:57 18:11 11.3 Telescope
9/17/2013 6:50 19:17 2:55 18:08 11.2 Telescope
9/18/2013 6:51 19:15 2:54 18:05 11.2 Telescope
9/19/2013 6:52 19:13 2:53 18:02 11.1 Telescope
9/20/2013 6:54 19:11 2:51 17:59 11 Telescope
9/21/2013 6:55 19:09 2:50 17:56 11 Telescope
9/22/2013 6:56 19:07 2:49 17:53 10.9 Telescope
9/23/2013 6:58 19:05 2:48 17:50 10.9 Telescope About 2 degrees from Mars, about 1 degree from the asteroid Eros (take a photo with your telescope)
9/24/2013 6:59 19:03 2:47 17:48 10.8 Telescope Conjunction: about 2 degrees from Mars, about 1 degree from the asteroid Eros (take a photo with your telescope)
9/25/2013 7:00 19:01 2:46 17:45 10.7 Telescope About 2 degrees from Mars, about 1 degree from the asteroid Eros (take a photo with your telescope)
9/26/2013 7:02 18:59 2:45 17:42 10.7 Telescope
9/27/2013 7:03 18:57 2:44 17:39 10.6 Telescope
9/28/2013 7:05 18:55 2:43 17:36 10.5 Telescope
9/29/2013 7:06 18:53 2:42 17:33 10.5 Telescope
9/30/2013 7:07 18:51 2:41 17:30 10.4 Telescope
10/1/2013 7:09 18:49 2:40 17:27 10.3 Telescope
10/2/2013 7:10 18:47 2:40 17:24 10.3 Telescope
10/3/2013 7:11 18:45 2:39 17:22 10.2 Telescope
10/4/2013 7:13 18:43 2:38 17:19 10.1 Telescope
10/5/2013 7:14 18:41 2:38 17:16 10 Telescope
10/6/2013 7:16 18:39 2:37 17:13 10 Telescope
10/7/2013 7:17 18:37 2:37 17:10 9.9 Good binoculars
10/8/2013 7:18 18:35 2:37 17:08 9.8 Good binoculars
10/9/2013 7:20 18:33 2:37 17:05 9.7 Good binoculars
10/10/2013 7:21 18:31 2:37 17:02 9.6 Good binoculars
10/11/2013 7:23 18:29 2:37 16:59 9.6 Good binoculars
10/12/2013 7:24 18:27 2:37 16:57 9.5 Good binoculars
10/13/2013 7:26 18:25 2:37 16:54 9.4 Good binoculars About 1 degree from Mars, about 2 degrees from Regulus (all three fit within a binocular’s field of view)
10/14/2013 7:27 18:23 2:37 16:51 9.3 Good binoculars About 1 degree from Mars, about 2 degrees from Regulus (all three fit within a binocular’s field of view)
10/15/2013 7:28 18:21 2:38 16:49 9.2 Good binoculars Conjunction: about 1 degree from Mars, about 2 degrees from Regulus (all three fit within a binocular’s field of view)
10/16/2013 7:30 18:19 2:38 16:46 9.1 Good binoculars About 1 degree from Mars, about 2 degrees from Regulus (all three fit within a binocular’s field of view)
10/17/2013 7:31 18:18 2:39 16:44 9 Binoculars About 1 degree from Mars, about 2 degrees from Regulus (all three fit within a binocular’s field of view)
10/18/2013 7:33 18:16 2:40 16:41 8.9 Binoculars
10/19/2013 7:34 18:14 2:41 16:39 8.8 Binoculars
10/20/2013 7:36 18:12 2:42 16:36 8.7 Binoculars
10/21/2013 7:37 18:10 2:43 16:34 8.6 Binoculars
10/22/2013 7:39 18:09 2:44 16:31 8.5 Binoculars
10/23/2013 7:40 18:07 2:46 16:29 8.4 Binoculars
10/24/2013 7:42 18:05 2:48 16:27 8.3 Binoculars About 2 degrees from M95, M96, about 3 degrees from M105 (Beautiful photo opportunity, all four fit in a binocular’s field of view)
10/25/2013 7:43 18:03 2:50 16:24 8.2 Binoculars About 2 degrees from M95, M96, about 3 degrees from M105 (Beautiful photo opportunity, all four fit in a binocular’s field of view)
10/26/2013 7:45 18:02 2:52 16:22 8.1 Binoculars
10/27/2013 6:46 17:00 1:55 15:20 7.9 Binoculars Earliest morning rise time
10/28/2013 6:48 16:58 1:58 15:18 7.8 Binoculars
10/29/2013 6:49 16:57 2:01 15:16 7.7 Binoculars
10/30/2013 6:51 16:55 2:04 15:14 7.6 Binoculars
10/31/2013 6:52 16:54 2:08 15:12 7.4 Binoculars
11/1/2013 6:54 16:52 2:12 15:10 7.3 Binoculars
11/2/2013 6:55 16:50 2:16 15:09 7.2 Binoculars
11/3/2013 6:57 16:49 2:21 15:07 7 Binoculars
11/4/2013 6:58 16:47 2:26 15:06 6.9 Binoculars
11/5/2013 7:00 16:46 2:32 15:04 6.7 Binoculars
11/6/2013 7:01 16:45 2:38 15:03 6.6 Binoculars
11/7/2013 7:03 16:43 2:44 15:02 6.4 Binoculars About 4 degrees from asteroid Vesta (both fit in binocular field of view)
11/8/2013 7:04 16:42 2:51 15:01 6.2 Binoculars
11/9/2013 7:06 16:41 2:59 15:00 6.1 Binoculars
11/10/2013 7:07 16:39 3:07 14:59 5.9 Eyes in dark skies
11/11/2013 7:09 16:38 3:16 14:59 5.7 Eyes in dark skies
11/12/2013 7:10 16:37 3:26 14:59 5.5 Eyes in dark skies
11/13/2013 7:12 16:36 3:36 14:59 5.3 Eyes in dark skies
11/14/2013 7:13 16:34 3:47 14:59 5.1 Eyes in dark skies
11/15/2013 7:15 16:33 3:59 14:59 4.9 Eyes in Seattle
11/16/2013 7:16 16:32 4:12 15:00 4.7 Eyes in Seattle
11/17/2013 7:18 16:31 4:25 15:01 4.5 Eyes in Seattle About 1 degree from Spica — makes it easy to find ISON
11/18/2013 7:19 16:30 4:39 15:03 4.2 Eyes in Seattle About 1 degree from Spica — makes it easy to find ISON
11/19/2013 7:20 16:29 4:54 15:05 3.9 Eyes in Seattle
11/20/2013 7:22 16:28 5:10 15:08 3.6 Eyes in Seattle
11/21/2013 7:23 16:27 5:26 15:11 3.3 Eyes in Seattle
11/22/2013 7:25 16:26 5:43 15:15 2.9 Eyes in Seattle
11/23/2013 7:26 16:26 6:01 15:19 2.5 Eyes in Seattle
11/24/2013 7:27 16:25 6:19 15:25 2 Eyes in Seattle About 2 degrees from Comet Encke (estimated magnitude 5, at the edge of visibility in Seattle with just your eyes) — Great photo opportunity
11/25/2013 7:29 16:24 6:37 15:31 1.3 Eyes in Seattle
11/26/2013 7:30 16:23 6:56 15:40 0.2 Only up during daylight
11/27/2013 7:32 16:23 7:16 15:53 -1.8 Only up during daylight
11/28/2013 7:33 16:22 7:38 16:33 -4.8 Only up during daylight Perihelion (closest approach to the Sun)
11/29/2013 7:34 16:22 7:14 16:45 -0.7 Only up during daylight
11/30/2013 7:35 16:21 6:56 16:50 0.7 Only up during daylight
12/1/2013 7:37 16:21 6:40 16:54 1.5 Eyes in Seattle
12/2/2013 7:38 16:20 6:25 16:57 2 Eyes in Seattle Begins to be visible briefly after sunset/twilight as well as in the morning
12/3/2013 7:39 16:20 6:12 17:01 2.5 Eyes in Seattle
12/4/2013 7:40 16:20 5:58 17:04 2.8 Eyes in Seattle
12/5/2013 7:41 16:19 5:45 17:07 3.1 Eyes in Seattle
12/6/2013 7:42 16:19 5:33 17:11 3.3 Eyes in Seattle
12/7/2013 7:43 16:19 5:20 17:15 3.5 Eyes in Seattle
12/8/2013 7:44 16:19 5:07 17:19 3.7 Eyes in Seattle
12/9/2013 7:45 16:19 4:54 17:24 3.8 Eyes in Seattle
12/10/2013 7:46 16:19 4:41 17:29 4 Eyes in Seattle Visible in the evening as well as the morning
12/11/2013 7:47 16:19 4:28 17:35 4.1 Eyes in Seattle
12/12/2013 7:48 16:19 4:14 17:41 4.2 Eyes in Seattle
12/13/2013 7:49 16:19 3:59 17:48 4.3 Eyes in Seattle
12/14/2013 7:50 16:19 3:44 17:57 4.3 Eyes in Seattle
12/15/2013 7:51 16:19 3:28 18:06 4.4 Eyes in Seattle
12/16/2013 7:51 16:19 3:11 18:18 4.5 Eyes in Seattle
12/17/2013 7:52 16:20 2:53 18:31 4.6 Eyes in Seattle
12/18/2013 7:53 16:20 2:33 18:46 4.6 Eyes in Seattle
12/19/2013 7:53 16:20 2:10 19:05 4.7 Eyes in Seattle
12/20/2013 7:54 16:21 1:45 19:28 4.8 Eyes in Seattle
12/21/2013 7:54 16:21 1:15 19:59 4.8 Eyes in Seattle
12/22/2013 7:55 16:22 0:37 20:48 4.9 Eyes in Seattle About 5 degrees from M31 (photo opportunity)
12/23/2013 7:55 16:22 NoRis NoSet 5 Eyes in Seattle Becomes circumpolar (visible all night, also up all day though not visible then)
12/24/2013 7:56 16:23 CirPl CirPl 5 Eyes in Seattle
12/25/2013 7:56 16:24 CirPl CirPl 5.1 Eyes in dark skies
12/26/2013 7:56 16:24 CirPl CirPl 5.2 Eyes in dark skies
12/27/2013 7:57 16:25 CirPl CirPl 5.3 Eyes in dark skies
12/28/2013 7:57 16:26 CirPl CirPl 5.4 Eyes in dark skies
12/29/2013 7:57 16:27 CirPl CirPl 5.5 Eyes in dark skies
12/30/2013 7:57 16:28 CirPl CirPl 5.6 Eyes in dark skies
12/31/2013 7:57 16:29 CirPl CirPl 5.7 Eyes in dark skies
1/1/2014 7:57 16:30 CirPl CirPl 5.8 Eyes in dark skies
1/2/2014 7:57 16:31 CirPl CirPl 5.9 Eyes in dark skies
1/3/2014 7:57 16:32 CirPl CirPl 6 Eyes in dark skies
1/4/2014 7:57 16:33 CirPl CirPl 6.1 Binoculars
1/5/2014 7:57 16:34 CirPl CirPl 6.3 Binoculars
1/6/2014 7:56 16:35 CirPl CirPl 6.4 Binoculars About 3 degrees from Polaris (both fit in binocular field of view)
1/7/2014 7:56 16:36 CirPl CirPl 6.5 Binoculars
1/8/2014 7:56 16:37 CirPl CirPl 6.6 Binoculars
1/9/2014 7:55 16:38 CirPl CirPl 6.8 Binoculars
1/10/2014 7:55 16:40 CirPl CirPl 6.9 Binoculars
1/11/2014 7:55 16:41 CirPl CirPl 7 Binoculars
1/12/2014 7:54 16:42 CirPl CirPl 7.1 Binoculars
1/13/2014 7:54 16:44 CirPl CirPl 7.2 Binoculars
1/14/2014 7:53 16:45 CirPl CirPl 7.4 Binoculars
1/15/2014 7:52 16:46 CirPl CirPl 7.5 Binoculars
1/16/2014 7:52 16:48 CirPl CirPl 7.6 Binoculars
1/17/2014 7:51 16:49 CirPl CirPl 7.7 Binoculars
1/18/2014 7:50 16:50 CirPl CirPl 7.8 Binoculars
1/19/2014 7:49 16:52 CirPl CirPl 8 Binoculars
1/20/2014 7:48 16:53 CirPl CirPl 8.1 Binoculars
1/21/2014 7:48 16:55 CirPl CirPl 8.2 Binoculars
1/22/2014 7:47 16:56 CirPl CirPl 8.3 Binoculars
1/23/2014 7:46 16:58 CirPl CirPl 8.4 Binoculars
1/24/2014 7:45 16:59 CirPl CirPl 8.5 Binoculars
1/25/2014 7:44 17:01 CirPl CirPl 8.6 Binoculars
1/26/2014 7:43 17:02 CirPl CirPl 8.7 Binoculars
1/27/2014 7:41 17:04 CirPl CirPl 8.8 Binoculars
1/28/2014 7:40 17:05 CirPl CirPl 8.9 Binoculars
1/29/2014 7:39 17:07 CirPl CirPl 9 Good binoculars
1/30/2014 7:38 17:08 CirPl CirPl 9.1 Good binoculars
1/31/2014 7:37 17:10 CirPl CirPl 9.2 Good binoculars
2/1/2014 7:35 17:12 CirPl CirPl 9.2 Good binoculars
2/2/2014 7:34 17:13 CirPl CirPl 9.3 Good binoculars
2/3/2014 7:33 17:15 CirPl CirPl 9.4 Good binoculars
2/4/2014 7:31 17:16 CirPl CirPl 9.5 Good binoculars
2/5/2014 7:30 17:18 CirPl CirPl 9.6 Good binoculars
2/6/2014 7:28 17:19 CirPl CirPl 9.7 Good binoculars
2/7/2014 7:27 17:21 CirPl CirPl 9.8 Good binoculars
2/8/2014 7:26 17:23 CirPl CirPl 9.8 Good binoculars
2/9/2014 7:24 17:24 CirPl CirPl 9.9 Good binoculars
2/10/2014 7:22 17:26 CirPl CirPl 10 Good binoculars
2/11/2014 7:21 17:27 CirPl CirPl 10.1 Telescope
2/12/2014 7:19 17:29 CirPl CirPl 10.1 Telescope
2/13/2014 7:18 17:30 CirPl CirPl 10.2 Telescope
2/14/2014 7:16 17:32 CirPl CirPl 10.3 Telescope
2/15/2014 7:14 17:34 CirPl CirPl 10.3 Telescope
2/16/2014 7:13 17:35 CirPl CirPl 10.4 Telescope
2/17/2014 7:11 17:37 CirPl CirPl 10.5 Telescope
2/18/2014 7:09 17:38 CirPl CirPl 10.6 Telescope
2/19/2014 7:08 17:40 CirPl CirPl 10.6 Telescope
2/20/2014 7:06 17:41 CirPl CirPl 10.7 Telescope
2/21/2014 7:04 17:43 CirPl CirPl 10.8 Telescope
2/22/2014 7:02 17:44 CirPl CirPl 10.8 Telescope
2/23/2014 7:00 17:46 CirPl CirPl 10.9 Telescope
2/24/2014 6:59 17:47 CirPl CirPl 10.9 Telescope
2/25/2014 6:57 17:49 CirPl CirPl 11 Telescope
2/26/2014 6:55 17:50 CirPl CirPl 11.1 Telescope
2/27/2014 6:53 17:52 CirPl CirPl 11.1 Telescope
2/28/2014 6:51 17:54 CirPl CirPl 11.2 Telescope
3/1/2014 6:49 17:55 CirPl CirPl 11.3 Telescope
3/2/2014 7:47 18:57 CirPl CirPl 11.3 Telescope
3/3/2014 7:46 18:58 CirPl CirPl 11.4 Telescope
3/4/2014 7:44 19:00 CirPl CirPl 11.4 Telescope
3/5/2014 7:42 19:01 CirPl CirPl 11.5 Telescope
3/6/2014 7:40 19:02 CirPl CirPl 11.5 Telescope
3/7/2014 7:38 19:04 CirPl CirPl 11.6 Telescope
3/8/2014 7:36 19:05 CirPl CirPl 11.7 Telescope
3/9/2014 7:34 19:07 CirPl CirPl 11.7 Telescope
3/10/2014 7:32 19:08 CirPl CirPl 11.8 Telescope
3/11/2014 7:30 19:10 CirPl CirPl 11.8 Telescope
3/12/2014 7:28 19:11 CirPl CirPl 11.9 Telescope
3/13/2014 7:26 19:13 CirPl CirPl 11.9 Telescope
3/14/2014 7:24 19:14 CirPl CirPl 12 Telescope
3/15/2014 7:22 19:16 CirPl CirPl 12 Telescope
3/16/2014 7:20 19:17 CirPl CirPl 12.1 Telescope
3/17/2014 7:18 19:19 CirPl CirPl 12.1 Telescope
3/18/2014 7:16 19:20 CirPl CirPl 12.2 Telescope
3/19/2014 7:14 19:21 CirPl CirPl 12.2 Telescope
3/20/2014 7:12 19:23 CirPl CirPl 12.2 Telescope
3/21/2014 7:10 19:24 CirPl CirPl 12.3 Telescope

Yay!

This chart was created for viewing in Seattle by Jason Enevoldsen using XEphem and ephemeris data from NASA JPL.

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Fall Equinox Sunset Watch – 2013 – Toddler Special and ISON Q&A

Back on. See you in a few minutes!

CANCELLED.

It’s pouring rain, and if you’ll look below, absolute soaking rain (not just drizzle) is a reason I might cancel the sunset watch. Sadly. Take yourselves and your toddlers out to splash in the puddles somewhere closer to home, then turn in for a nice warm drink and reading your favorite book.
I recommend: Kitten’s First Full Moon in honor of Moon festival this past week.

____________________

It’s time for the 18th seasonal sunset watch!! 

I’ll be doing two special things for this special sunset watch: First, I’m going to bring some toddler-focused activities. I don’t know exactly what they are yet – but I have some books, a fluffy stuffed solar system (only if it isn’t raining), and some dances we can do. I know it is nearly bedtime, but bring your toddlers and preschoolers out for a special early-childhood edition of the sunset watch.

Second, I’m going to be available to answer questions about preparing for viewing Comet ISON in November (or right now, if you’re ambitious). I’ll do this part after the sunset and after the toddler activities have wrapped up a bit. That’s because you grown-ups and older kids have a slightly easier time waiting than the little ones.

  • When: Sunday, September 22 at 6:51pm (so come at 6:30pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 7:06pm, but at the last summer solstice we noticed that the Sun set about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it. Last autumn the timing seemed to line up correctly – what will it do this time?
    • The equinox moment is at 1:45pm… but we’re watching the sunset not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the fall equinox sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle on Saturday the 22nd. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Sunday 22 September 2013 Pacific Daylight Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 6:26 a.m.
Sunrise 6:57 a.m.
Sun transit 1:02 p.m.
Sunset 7:06 p.m.
End civil twilight 7:37 p.m.

MOON
Moonrise 8:08 p.m. on preceding day
Moon transit 3:19 a.m.
Moonset 10:40 a.m.
Moonrise 8:42 p.m.
Moonset 11:43 a.m. on following day
Phase of the Moon on 22 September: waning gibbous with 88% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

Full Moon on 19 September 2013 at 4:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing the last few!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon BREAKING NEWS: Possible Nova in Delphinus

There is a new object, probably a nova, visible right now in the tiny constellation of Delphinus, between the bright stars Altair and Deneb in the Summer Triangle. This so-called “transient” object (because it wasn’t there before and will dim away and be gone at some point) is technically easy to see from Seattle. You’ll need binoculars, the clouds to go away, and some patience with yourself and the finder charts. The main barrier to seeing this object yourself is going to be knowing exactly which star is the nova, and learning to read increasingly-zoomed-in star-finder charts.

The Basics

Current object name: PNV J20233073+2046041

Discoverer: Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan

Equipment: an approximately 7-inch reflector (and a CCD). This is not quite twice as large as Pacific Science Center’s Orion Starblaster, and yet less than half the size of our Columbia Telescope.

Visibility: This object is currently a little dimmer than magnitude 6 – which is the limit of unaided human vision with perfect, dark skies. This object should be easy to pick out with binoculars, and there is a little evidence that it is getting brighter. See Sky and Telescope and Universe Today for finder charts. The constellation Sagitta is pointing straight at the new object.

Discovery Date and Time: Wednesday 8/14/2013 around 12pm Universal Time (a bit past 5am in Seattle)

Here is Mr. Itagaki’s discovery photo:

K. Itagaki's image of the Possible Nova in Delphinus

K. Itagaki’s image of the Possible Nova in Delphinus

Here is my mostly unprocessed and much larger photo pointing in the right direction. These two photos are at VERY different scales, and the nova is not necessarily visible in my image. It might be, but I need to do more processing. The only thing I did here was brighten it up and add the lines and arrow.

Possible Nova in Delphinus ©2013 Alice Enevoldsen

Possible Nova in Delphinus ©2013 Alice Enevoldsen

And I DID catch the possible nova! Jason did the processing on these photos. These photos are copyright by me, but you may use them, with attribution, for educational use. Please let me know if you are using these images. Click the image to see the full-resolution version.

Delphinus Nova Closer

nova-cc-crop-marked marked

nova-cc-crop marked

Interpretation hints:

Remember that there are multiple kinds of novae, one of the most common being a two-star system of a giant star and a white dwarf. As material falls from the giant star onto the dwarf star it makes novas every once in a while. This transient object is not confirmed to be a nova at all, let alone a supernova, and we don’t know how far away it is (though it is definitely far enough to pose no threat). Therefore, I recommend against comparing this nova to star-death supernovae (so no Hoberman sphere), though if it comes up you might as well just clarify that there are different types.

This also might be a wonderful time to talk about light-years and distance and time. This supernova definitely happened hundreds, thousands, or millions of years ago. The light just began to reach us yesterday. It isn’t that the nova happened yesterday, it’s that the light just got to us.

Want More?

http://www.aavso.org/bright-68u-possible-nova-del

http://www.cbat.eps.harvard.edu/unconf/followups/J20233073+2046041.html

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/Bright-Nova-in-Delphinus-219631281.html

http://www.universetoday.com/104103/bright-new-nova-in-delphinus-you-can-see-it-tonight-with-binoculars/

~ A l i c e !

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