Last night was the last total lunar eclipse for two years and it was quite good. Pittsburgh weather cleared long enough for me to snap a couple shots of the unobstructed moon with Regulus (the brightest star in the constellation Leo) bright above it and Saturn even brighter to the bottom left. There was still a light haze that I think made it difficult for me to get the focus right. I was able to capture the rich, red color while the moon was still exposing a sliver of sun-drenched rock. Then the clouds came in earnest and I was getting tired, so I went to bed, missing the full umbra. But at least I got to see some of it this time. Last time there was a lunar eclipse, I was completely out of luck.
Posts Tagged ‘saturn’
Tags: astronomy, clouds, lunar eclipse, moon, pittsburgh, regulus, saturn
Tags: astronomy, comets, leonids, meteor showers, meteor storms, meteors, pittsburgh, saturn, snow
This weekend will be the peak time for the Leonid meteor shower. It is so-named because the meteors originate from the section of the sky corresponding to the constellation Leo. The most locateable star in Leo is Regulus, which rises these days just after midnight on the eastern horizon. A little while later, Saturn rises behind it. Saturn and Regulus are both fairly bright so they make an easy pair to spot. The sky map below is from a perspective of Pittsburgh, PA at 1:51 am tonight (November 17, 2007). Peak time for the shower will be around 4am tonight and tomorrow night. [source]
Of course, you don’t have to find the constellation Leo in order to enjoy the Leonids. The comet Tempel-Tuttle leaves a trail of dust as it orbits the sun and occasionally we stray right into it. In 1833, the event was so huge people from Europe and North America took note of it. Estimates of the storm activity put it at over 200,000 meteors per hour! I dream of such a thing. It even led to the song “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Another big storm occurred in 1866 and again in 1966. Unfortunately, it looks like this year will be a modest viewing year, which puts the Leonids lower on the totem pole than the Perseids, which occur back in early August.
Viewing conditions for Pittsburgh look grim, which is typical of this time of year. This morning we had our first real snow. It had snowed a week or two ago briefly, but that was more of a snowy drizzle/wintry mix. Today there was actually accumulation on the dead leaves in the yard and on some cars. Nothing major yet.
Tags: astronomy, cassini, contest, kids, nasa, nobel prize, nobel turds, saturn, science education, space, spacecraft, spaceflight
I caught Randy Pausch on Oprah yesterday (and yes, a dying CMU professor IS the one of the few things that will make me endure watching Oprah). His last lecture focused on the importance of childhood dreams and he mentioned the landing of men on the moon as a pretty fundamental motivator. Heck, it inspires me still and I wasn’t even alive. So I especially love it when NASA gets kids involved in the space program (I’ll return to this after a brief rant). Too much today, launches of the shuttle, the existence of the International Space Station, and probes sent to other planets are just routinely ignored or sidelined by the mainstream press. Discovery launched today carrying the Harmony module to the ISS and it got about 3 seconds on the Today show. The result? People think the space program is totally useless. It doesn’t help when Nobel laureates like Stephen Weinberg call the space station an “orbital turkey” that “has produced nothing of scientific value.” That brings to three the number of Giant Turds with Nobel Prizes (joining James Watson the Racist and Al Gore the Murky-Green Fraud). For a nice rebuttal of the Weinberg gibberish, there is this article from adAstra that mirrors the point by Randy Pausch a bit.
Anyhow, returning from my rant. NASA has announced a contest for school kids to name a place for the Cassini probe to point. Cassini is currently in the Saturn system. It recently left Iapetus, which I indicated looks like the Death Star. Currently it is focusing on Saturn’s moon Titan and will be doing some close flybys of it over the next few months. For students to participate the contest, they need to write a 500-800 word essay on why Cassini should look at one of four possible targets on November 30, 2007. So if you know a kid in grades 5-12, let them know.
- Mimas (a moon) coming out from behind Saturn
- Saturn’s rings and a lot of moons
- Prometheus (another moon) and the F-ring (Prometheus seems to actually steal matter from the ring)
- Tethys (yet another moon) and its Odysseus impact basin