Category Archives: Astronomy

Sky at a Glance June 24-July 1

A photograph showing the constellation Lyra

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 24 – July 1 ~by Curt Nason

With Canada’s 150th birthday just around the corner, I will highlight once again my idea of our National Constellation. Although Lyra the Lyre (Harp) is not circumpolar in New Brunswick, it is circumpolar in NB West (aka Edmonton). For us it is below the northern horizon for about five hours daily, so it is in either the morning sky or evening sky every day. It is a rather modest constellation but it stands out thanks to its lucida Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky and third brightest as seen from Canada. You will need a moderately-sized telescope, a steady sky and perhaps a coffee to see my point.

Near Vega is a fifth magnitude (too dim to see from urban or overly lit suburban areas) star called Epsilon Lyrae. Binoculars will easily show this as two stars, and a good quality telescope under steady skies (minimal star twinkling) can just distinguish each of those as a pair. Naturally, Epsilon Lyrae has been dubbed the Double-Double. The body of the harp is marked by a parallelogram of stars. Approximately midway between the two stars forming the short side of the parallelogram farther from Vega are the gaseous remnants of a dead star, a planetary nebula called M57 or the Ring Nebula. Ultraviolet radiation from the dead but very hot white dwarf star makes the expelled gases glow. In a small telescope this might look like a fat star, but a larger scope will show it as a smoke ring or doughnut. And if you need another clue, half the parallelogram forms a 7, the number worn by Tim Horton in a Leafs sweater.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:28 am and sunset will occur at 9:14 pm, giving 15 hours, 46 minutes of daylight (5:36 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:32 am and set at 9:13 pm, giving 15 hours, 41 minutes of daylight (5:40 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). The nights are getting longer!

The Moon is new just before midnight on June 23, less than a day after perigee, so expect higher than usual tides this weekend. It is at first quarter and near Jupiter next Friday, well placed for observing during the holiday fireworks. On Wednesday, as darkness sets in, Jupiter’s stormy Red Spot may be visible through a telescope at high magnification. Also that evening, a small telescope could reveal its moon Europa emerging from the planet’s shadow at 10:35, and 13 minutes later Ganymede reappearing from behind the planet. Saturn’s rings are on display in a scope all evening, and in steady binoculars it will look somewhat elongated. Venus rises two and a half hours before the Sun and dominates the morning sky with its brilliance.

The next meeting of the Saint John Astronomy Club will be on Saturday, July 8 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason

Sky at a Glance June 17 – 24

Photo of constellations and the summer solstice.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 17 – June 24 ~by Curt Nason

With the late sunsets and extended twilight near the summer solstice, it is quite late before the constellations emerge. Therefore, I will give my fingers a rest and concentrate on the affairs of the solar system.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:27 am and sunset will occur at 9:12 pm, giving 15 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (5:35 am and 9:14 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:28 am and set at 9:14 pm, giving 15 hours, 46 minutes of daylight (5:36 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). The Sun reaches its most northerly declination at 1:24 am on Wednesday, marking the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

The Moon is at third quarter on the morning of June 17 and it is new just before midnight next Friday. That it goes through a quarter phase in less than seven days indicates it is near perigee, its closest to Earth, at which time it orbits faster. Perigee occurs on Friday morning, bringing very high tides for next weekend. Jupiter and Saturn will delight evening observers for the next few months. On Monday a telescope at high magnification might reveal Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa in transit before 10:27 pm. A somewhat easier task will be observing the shadows of those moons on the planet’s cloud tops between 11:04 and 11:38 pm. Saturn is at its best viewing for the next 15 years, just past opposition and with the rings about as wide open as they get.

Venus rises two hours before the Sun and dominates the morning sky with its brilliance. Mercury is at superior conjunction behind the Sun on Wednesday, and it will join Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky early next month. Mars is pretty much on summer vacation. It won’t be readily visible until mid-September in the morning sky.

If you have yet to plan your summer vacation, here are some opportunities to observe the sky through a variety of telescopes. RASC NB will be participating in a Canada-wide star party on July 29 with observing at Mactaquac Provincial Park and at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John. Weekend star parties with RASC NB members and park staff are being held at Mount Carleton on August 11-13 at the height of the Perseid meteor shower, at Fundy on September 15-17, and at Kouchibouguac on September 22-24. The summer astronomical highlight will be a partial eclipse of the Sun on the afternoon of August 21. RASC NB members will be offering safe views of this event through filtered telescopes and a limited number of free eclipse glasses for personal viewing. Locations will be provided in the August reports.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Stargazing is Like a Box of Chocolates

Photo of the Northern Lights

Stargazing is Like a Box of Chocolates ~by Curt Nason

A memorable line from the movie Forrest Gump compared life to a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Although the night sky is full of predictable observing targets and events, it is the unexpected treasures that make stargazing so enjoyable.

I was cat-sitting at my childhood home in McAdam last weekend, where the backyard night sky is much darker than at my home in suburban Saint John. I was struggling with a topic for this monthly column and I put it aside hoping for inspiration overnight. Around midnight I stepped out on the deck with binoculars to view a comet, one of my pet observing projects, and my attention was drawn to a wall of light to the north. My first impression was of light pollution, but then I noticed a few spikes of light with a subtle green tinge and I recalled an email alerting stargazers to the possibility of northern lights. After a quick dash inside for warmer clothes, I was treated to more than an hour of shimmering green lights that at times reached the North Star, halfway to the zenith; the best aurora I have seen in 13 years.

As I watched the northern lights I thought of how fortunate I was. My quick dash outside to see a gray blur in binoculars, which I had seen several times already this spring, had revealed Nature’s fireworks, accompanied by the restful chirping of peepers rather than resonating booms. Several airplanes passed by, all seemingly on the same path, and I envied the view that the pilots and alert passengers must be getting. The Milky Way was like a bright cloud rather than the hint of light I see from my backyard at home; its pearly stream split by clouds of interstellar dust between us and the inner spiral arm of our galaxy. A meteor flashed silently across the sky, the result of a tiny pebble shed from a comet long ago entering our atmosphere, making the thin air glow as it disintegrated from the heat of friction. Then I recalled why I went outside in the first place.

The comet was an easy find with binoculars, beside a fairly bright star in a prominent constellation overhead, looking much better than from my deck at home. Saturn and Jupiter called for my attention, and then I noticed the orange star Antares between two trees. In the same field of view was a globular cluster called M4, the fourth object in Charles Messier’s list of objects that resemble comets. I cannot always see it with a telescope from home because with its low altitude it gets lost in urban skyglow, but here it looked huge with just binoculars from its distance of 7000 light years.

Another comet was near Antares, one I have yet to see, so I set up a telescope. Life is not always a bowl of cherry chocolates, for this comet was too faint for my equipment, but it should brighten soon. The view of Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s cloud belts in the telescope made up for any disappointment. It was now two o’clock, and back on the deck I could still see the aurora teasingly fading away and spiking up again. I herded the cats inside and went to bed, tired but inspired to write.

Stargazing is a wonderful hobby. Every clear night the sky is a familiar friend and yet serendipitously different, and I have never regretted dragging myself outside to look up. I never know what surprise might await me, but I do know it won’t be fattening.

Sky at a Glance June 10 – 17

A photo showing locations of various Globular Clusters in the June night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 10 – June 17 ~by Curt Nason

Summer is globular cluster season. Globulars are massive, spherical clusters of old stars that orbit the core of a galaxy. They are typically composed of hundreds of thousands of stars in a volume of space where, in our galactic neighbourhood, there might be a few hundred stars. Picture a snow globe after you shake it, and imagine the tiny flakes as stars. Globular clusters formed about the same time their host galaxies were forming, approximately 12 billion years ago. The area of sky around Sagittarius, Scorpius and Ophiuchus above them is where we find many of the brighter globulars in the Messier catalogue.

The brightest star in Scorpius is the red supergiant Antares, which marks the heart of the scorpion. Easily within a binocular field to the right of Antares is the globular cluster M4, one of the closest to us at 7000 light years. Viewing from a rural location makes a big difference in how well you will see this and other globular clusters. Further to the right of Antares a bow of three bight stars forms the scorpion’s claws, and halfway between Antares and the upper star of the bow is M80, looking much tinier than M4 because it is nearly five times more distant. To the upper left of the Sagittarius Teapot’s lid is M22, another globular gem, and just above the lid is the tougher target of M28.

Although these objects are a hazy patch of light in binoculars, they are spectacular in a telescope at high magnification under a dark sky, when several of the individual stars can be seen. A common description is that of sugar crystals on black velvet.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:27 am and sunset will occur at 9:09 pm, giving 15 hours, 42 minutes of daylight (5:36 am and 9:11 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:27 am and set at 9:12 pm, giving 15 hours, 45 minutes of daylight (5:35 am and 9:14 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full and a day past apogee on Friday, June 9, making this the smallest full Moon of the year, the annual Puny Moon. It is also called the Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon, or the Trees Fully Leaved Moon. The Moon is at third quarter on June 17. Jupiter will look a little different in a scope or binoculars for an hour after midnight on the evening of June 10, with only one of its four large moons visible. One moon is behind the planet and two are passing in front of it. Saturn is at opposition on Thursday, rising at sunset and being visible all night. Its rings are at their best viewing for the next 15 years, and around opposition they are also brighter due to the sunlight reflecting directly back toward us. Venus dominates the very early morning sky and it is near its greatest extent from the Sun. Around 10 am, try finding it high in the sky with binoculars, and if you are successful try to see it without binoculars.

The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry / Earth Sciences Building on June 13 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Free Astronomy Workshops

Series of 6 Free Astronomy Workshops for 2017

~hosted by Paul Owen and the Saint John Astronomy Club

Free Astronomy Workshops

The Saint John Astronomy Club has started a series of free astronomy workshops for both beginners and seasoned stargazers alike.
The first two in the series  of interactive workshops were held at The Old St George Restaurant in west Saint John and were well attended.
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Workshops were at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. Location of the 6th in June to be announced.

Overall Concept~

Members of the Saint John Astronomy Club and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) – New Brunswick Centre will be on hand to show you what to look for in your first, or next, telescope, or to help you get the most out of the telescope you have. If you have a telescope, bring it along, and make sure you dress warmly, as, weather permitting, the workshop will include a hands-on observing session. Future sessions will include the basics of astro-photography, observing with binoculars, time lapse photography, adjusting and maintaining your equipment, and more!


1st Session~ Telescope Basics   January 2017

Photograph of the first workshop hosted by the Saint John Astronomy Club was well attended.

Photograph of various telescopes set up at the first free astronomy workshop.

Photograph of Paul Owen pointing out different types of telescopes at workshop.

Photograph of Paul Owen showing different types of equipment at astronomy workshop.


2nd Session~  Navigating the Night Sky & Imaging the Moon

Photograph speaking at the second free astronomy workshop.Like the 1st Workshop, the 2nd one in February was well attended. Paul gave an in-depth view on photographing the Moon with a variety of devices, including using iPhone adapters on a telescope. Chris Curwin also gave hints and an overall view using the free astronomy app Stellarium in night sky navigating.
Photograph of Chris Curwin of Astronomy by the Bay showing how to use Stellarium.

Photograph of Paul Owen showing how to use a camera adapter on a telescope.


3rd Session~Observing the Solar System~ March, 2017

The Saint John Astronomy Club held its 3rd in the series of free interactive workshops at The Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre in St. John on March 8. Next one will be Wednesday, April 12.

Paul Owen giving a talk on observing the solar system.Paul Owen gave a presentation on Observing The Solar System and our position in the Milky Way Galaxy. He talked about the various sizes of the Planets, Comets, the Astroid Belt, and what to look for.
Paul Owen giving a talk on observing the solar system at the 3rd SJAC workshop.
As usual, everyone always enjoys the prizes the prizes too.Paul Owen giving away prizes at the 3rd SJAC workshop.

Chris Curwin from Astronomy by the Bay giving a talk on various free software programs to help in observing the planets.
Chris Curwin from Astronomy by the Bay gave a talk on using various free software programs to help in observing the planets. He talked about using Stellarium, Time and Date, and Heavens Above for help in navigating the night sky.
An outdoor observing session after the 3rd free astronomy workshop hosted by the SJAC and Paul Owen.
The skies cleared after a day of rain, drizzle and fog and we managed to work in some observing time after the workshop.
Observing with telescopes after a free astronomy workshop hosted by the SJAC.


4th Session~Astrophotography: Part II~ April 12, 2017

The 4th in the series of Free Astronomy Workshops was Wednesday, April 12 at the Interpretation Centre, Rockwood Park.
A photo of star trails taken by Paul Owen
For this Workshop the Theme was Astrophotography: Part II –Using your DSLR, Nikon and Cannon free software, shooting Star Trails, the Milky Way, advantages of a modified DSLR, etc. [photo above taken by Paul Owen].

Paul Owen discussing which lens to use at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop

Paul Owen discussing which settings to use for photographing Constellations at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop

Paul Owen discussing which settings to use for photographing Twilight at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop

Paul Owen discussing which settings to use for photographing Startrails at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop

Paul Owen discussing which settings to use for photographing the Aurorae at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop

Paul Owen discussing our position in the Milky Way at the 4th Free Astronomy Workshop Also included was Star Parties, what they are, when they are. Weather did not permit Observing after.


5th Session~Using Binoculars & Selecting Mounts

The 5th in the series of Free Astronomy Workshops was Wednesday, May 10th at the Interpretation Centre, Rockwood Park.

1st Half: Using Binoculars~

Paul Owen gave a comprehensive view of using Binoculars for night sky astronomy observing–how to use them, get the most out of them, and what to look for in buying.
Paul Owen explaining the tradeoffs of using different size binoculars for viewing different objects in the night sky.

Paul Owen explaining how binoculars are perfect for viewing wide star clusters.

Paul Owen explaining the exit pupil size in binoculars.

Paul Owen explaining how to mount binoculars for steady viewing.

A list of some of the best links to get the most out of binocular night sky viewing.

The links shown above are listed here for your convenience~
RASC Observer’s Handbook, Wide Field Wonders (in back of book)
RASC Calgary Centre, Binocular Observing Certificate
Astronomical League, Deep Sky Program (for binoculars)
Binocular Sky Website
Sky & Telescope, Binocular Stargazing Catalog
Light and Matter, BinoSky

2nd Half: Selecting Mounts~

In the second part of the Workshop, Paul showed how he sets up an EQ (equatorial) mount, start to finish, for night sky viewing. He also demonstrated how you can use a wifi connection and free software for controlling the scope and giving you more information about objects in the night sky.

Paul Owen demonstrating how to set up an equatorial telescope.

Paul Owen looking through the polar alignment scope on an equatorial mount.

Paul Owen mounting a refractor scope on an equatorial mount.

Paul Owen demonstrating using a wifi connection on a telescope mount to control the scope and give you more information about the object you are looking at.

Matt West explaining his refactor scope mounted on an a-z mount.
Above–Matt West shows his scope mounted on an  Alt-Azimuth (A-Z) mount, and how he uses it. Also shown was a Dobsonian Mount [no photo].

Below is a short video about Workshop #5~


Free Astronomy Workshop wraps up June 14, 2017~
Wrap-up Session, Prepping for Summer, Q&A

Free Astronomy Workshop # 6

Paul Owen with a picture of John Dobson

Paul Owen showing a small refactor telescope at the Free Astronomy Workshop # 6

Paul Owen going over Moon photography at the Free Astronomy Workshop # 6

Paul Owen at the Free Astronomy Workshop # 6

Paul Owen giving some pointer about a SCT Telescope at the Free Astronomy Workshop # 6

Photo of Paul Owen, host of the Free Astronomy Workshop series.

The Free Astronomy Workshop Series has ended for 2017. The Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre was the setting for the 6th and final in the series on June 14th. We will be posting a summary of the Workshops when it is available.

These free workshops covered information that you may not easily find anywhere else. The response from the public was gratifying.

These Free Workshops were hosted by Paul Owen and the SJAC. You can still ask questions about anything you are curious about or need clarification. Contact the host, Paul Owen.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets @ 7pm the 1st Saturday of every month (long weekends excepted) at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. As with the workshops, all are welcome, no experience necessary.

 

 

 

Sky at a Glance June 3 – 10

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, June 3 – June 10      ~by Curt Nason

The basis for ranking stars by brightness dates back to the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century BC. He grouped several hundred stars by their apparent size, with the biggest being in the first magnitude group and the faintest to the naked eye being sixth magnitude. Magnitude in this sense means size, and even now many people refer to bright stars as big. The telescope and astrophotography allowed us to detect stars much fainter, and in the 19th century Norman Pogson adapted the old system to a standard. A five magnitude difference was defined as a difference in brightness of exactly 100. Therefore, a first magnitude star is a tad more than 2.5 times brighter than a second magnitude star, about 16 times brighter than a fourth magnitude star, and 100 times brighter than one of sixth magnitude. The scale extends into negative numbers for very bright objects, including planets and a few stars.

Check out a cloudless sky this week when it is dark. The bright star Vega is often regarded as the benchmark, being very close to mag 0 (astronomers usually shorten magnitude to mag). Arcturus is slightly brighter, edging into the negative decimals at mag -0.05. Spica, the brightest star in Virgo and currently near Jupiter (now at mag -2.2), is mag 0.98, almost 1.0. A mag 2 star is Alphard in the constellation Hydra. It will look dimmer this time of year because it is low in the sky when darkness settles in, shining through a thicker layer of our atmosphere which will absorb more of the starlight. This effect is called extinction. A mag 3 star is Pherkad, the dimmer of the two stars at the base of the Little Dipper. By the way, that star we see in daytime is mag -26.75 at midday.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:30 am and sunset will occur at 9:04 pm, giving 15 hours, 34 minutes of daylight (5:38 am and 9:06 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:27 am and set at 9:09 pm, giving 15 hours, 42 minutes of daylight (5:36 am and 9:11 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full and at apogee on Friday, June 9, making this the smallest full Moon of the year, the annual Puny Moon. Watch it rise around the time of sunset: Does it really look small? Jupiter is in great position for viewing all evening, while Mars is getting lost in twilight. The shadows of Jupiter’s moons Io and Ganymede might be seen on the planet’s cloud tops through a telescope at high magnification this Saturday beginning at 11:21 pm. Saturn rises soon after sunset and will be at opposition on June 15. Venus dominates the morning sky and reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun on Sunday.

Those attending the Nature NB Festival of Nature at Kouchibouguac National Park this weekend should also check out the RASC NB star party at the park for solar observing, talks and evening observing. See the park website for a schedule. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on June 3 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance May 27-June 3

A picture of the night sky showing the Summer Triangle

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 27 – June 3 ~by Curt Nason

Warmer days and extended twilights are indications that the summer solstice is only a few weeks away. Also, the celestial advent of the season, the Summer Triangle asterism, is completely above the horizon in twilight. Halfway up in the eastern sky is blue-white Vega; lucida of the constellation Lyra the Lyre and the fifth brightest star of the night sky. Just above the eastern horizon is Altair, the central star of a linear trio that marks the head of Aquila the Eagle. The isosceles triangle is completed in the northeast by Deneb in the tail of Cygnus the Swan.

Just as the Big Dipper is an asterism in Ursa Major, Cygnus contains a well-known asterism called the Northern Cross. The long neck of the swan, or the base of the cross, terminates almost between Vega and Altair at the star Albireo. A small scope or binoculars will reveal Albireo as a pair of yellow and blue stars (or gold and sapphire if you have expensive equipment). A short distance from Altair toward Vega is the tiny constellation Sagitta the Arrow, and beyond Sagitta is elusive Vulpecula the Fox.

Look to the upper right of Sagitta’s feathered end with binoculars for the upside-down asterism of the Coathanger. Just below the arrow shaft is the distant star cluster M71, appearing as a tiny blur. Another blur can be seen in a binocular field above the arrowhead: M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, which is the remnant of a Sun-like star after it ran out of fuel and blew off its outer layers of gas. Next, point your binos behind the western (upper) wing of the swan. Can you find the large Happy Face asterism?

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:34 am and sunset will occur at 8:58 pm, giving 15 hours, 24 minutes of daylight (5:42 am and 9:00 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:30 am and set at 9:04 pm, giving 15 hours, 24 minutes of daylight (5:38 am and 9:06 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Thursday, providing great views in a scope all week to share with your friends. Jupiter is highest in the sky and at its best soon after twilight, while Mars is dimming and sets at 10:30 pm. The shadows of Jupiter’s moons Io and Ganymede might be seen on the planet’s cloud tops through a telescope at high magnification this Saturday between 9:16 and 9:40 pm, and again the following Saturday between 11:11 and 11:21 pm. Saturn rises around 11 pm and is still well-placed for observing by morning twilight. Venus dominates the morning sky, rising nearly two hours before sunrise.

There will be free public observing at the Moncton High School Observatory after sunset on Friday, May 26. Those attending the Nature NB Festival of Nature at Kouchibouguac National Park on June 2 – 4 should also check out the RASC NB star party at the park for solar observing, talks and evening observing. See the park website for a schedule. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on June 3 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance May 20 – 27

View of the night sky showing the Sombrero Galaxy

Closeup showing the Sombrero Galaxy

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 20 – 27 ~by Curt Nason

A favourite galaxy among stargazers is M104, number 104 in the 18th century Messier catalogue of fuzzy objects that could fool a comet hunter. This object is better known as the Sombrero Galaxy as it resembles such a bonnet in astrophotos, thanks to a central dust cloud that forms the brim. The dust cloud can be seen from a rural location with a medium-size amateur telescope. The galaxy is seen as a small gray smudge with binoculars.

Although M104 is officially within the borders of the constellation Virgo, most people start their search from the recognizable quadrilateral of stars that forms Corvus the Crow. In mythology, Corvus was sent by Apollo to fetch a cup of water from the river but the bird was distracted by ripening figs. When the crow returned late it made up a tale that it had been deterred by a water snake (Hydra). In a fit of rage, Apollo tossed the bird, the cup and the snake into the sky. To the right of Corvus is the constellation Crater the Cup, and they both sit atop Hydra. They can be seen in the southern sky when twilight fades to darkness.

To find M104, imagine a line from the middle of the bottom of Corvus to the upper left star, and extend it not quite that distance. Look in this area for a small arrowhead of three or four stars. This asterism has been called the Stargate. The arrowhead points to a small line of a few stars, which in turn points toward M104 nearby. That line of stars also forms the mouth of an asterism called the Shark, which has a fin and a curved body stretching away from the Stargate. Good luck, and wear your Sombrero proudly.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:41 am and sunset will occur at 8:51 pm, giving 15 hours, 10 minutes of daylight (5:48 am and 8:53 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:34 am and set at 8:58 pm, giving 15 hours, 24 minutes of daylight (5:42 am and 9:00 pm in Saint John).

The waning crescent Moon lies 2 degrees below Venus around 10 am Monday, providing an opportunity to see Venus in daylight. Locate them first with binoculars and then try to see Venus with just your eyes. The Moon is new and at perigee on Thursday, so we can expect to see extreme tides into next weekend. Jupiter is highest in the sky and at its best soon after twilight, while Mars is dimming and sets at 10:30 pm. Saturn is well placed for observing during the wee hours. Mercury is brightening as it heads sunward but you will need to rise with the birds and use binoculars to see it in the dawn twilight.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance May 13 – 20

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 13 – May 20  ~by Curt Nason

The constellation Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair, is high in the south at 10 pm this week, between the tail of Leo the Lion and kite-shaped Boötes. It is the only constellation with a mythological tale based on a real person. In the fourth century BC, King Ptolemy Soter of Egypt went to war against Assyria. His worried wife Berenice made a vow to the goddess Aphrodite that she would sacrifice her beautiful locks if he returned safely. He did return and she kept her vow against his wishes. When he visited the temple the next day he discovered the hair had been stolen, and he threatened to kill the temple priests. The court astronomer claimed that Zeus had taken the hair and placed it in the sky for all to admire, and that night he showed Ptolemy a cluster of stars. The Coma Star Cluster can be seen with the naked eye in rural areas, and fills the field of view in binoculars. At one time it was considered to be the tuft of Leo’s tail.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:49 am and sunset will occur at 8:41 pm, giving 14 hours, 52 minutes of daylight (5:55 am and 8:44 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:41 am and set at 8:50 pm, giving 15 hours, 9 minutes of daylight (5:48 am and 8:52 pm in Saint John).

The Moon rises with Saturn just after 11 pm on Saturday, May 13, and it is at third quarter on Thursday. Jupiter is highest in the sky and at its best observing at 10:30 pm, while Mars is setting around that time. Brilliant Venus dominates the morning sky, but also look for Mercury to its lower left as the elusive planet reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun on Wednesday. With the Moon out of the sky later in the week, try for comet C/2015 V2 Johnson in the constellation Boötes with binoculars or a small scope. See the Heavens-Above website for a map.

The provincial club, RASC NB, meets on Saturday, May 13, at 1 pm in Room 203 of the UNB Fredericton Forestry / Earth Sciences Building. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance May 6 – 13

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, May 6 – May 13 ~by Curt Nason

Last week we found the constellation Hercules by looking two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega, the fourth and fifth brightest stars in the sky. One third of the way to Vega is a pretty semicircle of stars that makes up Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. In the middle of the semicircle is the constellation’s brightest star, called Gemma (jewel) or Alphecca (bright star of the broken ring), among other names. In the past year the International Astronomical Union approved official names for about 240 stars, and Alphecca was chosen over Gemma.

Some ancient societies regarded the constellation as a begging bowl, and in local aboriginal legend it is the cave from which the bear (the bowl of the Big Dipper) emerges in spring. In Greek mythology it was a crown worn by Bacchus, the god of wine, who lived on the island of Naxos. Theseus, an Athenian prince, went to Crete as part of a group of youth who were to be placed in the labyrinth as food for the Minotaur. With the aid of Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos, Theseus slew the Minotaur and found his way out of the labyrinth. In love with Ariadne, he took her aboard to sail back to Athens. They stopped at Naxos where Bacchus also fell in love with Ariadne, and made Theseus leave without her. To prove his love and his godliness to the skeptical Ariadne, he tossed the crown into the sky as a symbol of her beauty. Immortality and a lifetime supply of wine, who could pass that up?

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:58 am and sunset will occur at 8:34 pm, giving 14 hours, 36 minutes of daylight (6:05 am and 8:36 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:48 am and set at 8:42 pm, giving 14 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (5:56 am and 8:45 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is near Jupiter on Sunday and full on Wednesday, the Frog Croaking Moon. Jupiter rules the sky throughout the night, something Venus cannot do. Perhaps this is why Jupiter was selected to represent the king of the gods in ancient Rome. Mars passes above the Hyades star cluster this week, a good opportunity to compare its colour with that of orange Aldebaran using binoculars. Brilliant Venus starts its morning shift 30-40 minutes before Jupiter ends the night shift. Mercury rises 45-50 minutes before the Sun but you might need binoculars to see it. Next Saturday, May 13, the Moon and Saturn rise together shortly after 11 pm.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre at 7 pm on Saturday, May 6. The Fredericton Astronomy Club meets on Tuesday at 7 pm in the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences Building, That will also be the venue for a 1 pm meeting of the provincial club, RASC NB, on May 13. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance April 29-May 6

Photo showing the Constellation Hercules in the night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 29 – May 6  ~by Curt Nason

The constellation Hercules is up in the east after sunset, recognizable by the Keystone asterism that forms the legendary strongman’s body. He is usually pictured kneeling upside down in the sky, having a tête-à-tête with Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, with his foot placed triumphantly on the head of Draco the Dragon. The Keystone is situated two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega.

Hercules (Heracles in Greek mythology) was the result of one of Zeus’s many affairs with a mortal woman. Consequently, Hera (wife of Zeus) did whatever she could to have Hercules killed. As a baby Hercules strangled two snakes sent by her, and the Twelve Labours he performed were assigned by King Eurystheus, a representative of Hera.

Two globular clusters, M13 and M92, can be seen with binoculars in the constellation. M13, the finest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere, is along the right side of the Keystone, two-thirds of the way from bottom to top. A line from the bottom right star of the Keystone to the middle of the top side, and extended not quite that same distance, will put you near M92. Currently there are comets near both feet of Hercules, bright enough to be seen in a small scope or perhaps in binoculars with a dark sky. Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is near the left foot by Draco’s head, and C/2015 V2 Johnson is near the right foot past the knee of Hercules. See the Comets section of the Heavens-Above website for their current locations.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:08 am and sunset will occur at 8:24 pm, giving 14 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (6:15 am and 8:27 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:58 am and set at 8:33 pm, giving 14 hours, 35 minutes of daylight (6:04 am and 8:36 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Tuesday, giving great views in a scope all week. Jupiter is highest in the south around 11:30 pm. On Wednesday evening, with a scope or even binoculars, you can watch its volcanic moon Io approach and finally disappear behind the planet at 11:11 pm. Late the next evening Io will be in nearly the same position, having emerged from a transit in front of Jupiter at 10:39 pm. Mars approaches the Hyades star cluster, which is anchored on one side by orange Aldebaran, and sets around 10:45 midweek. Venus is at its brightest for its current morning apparition on Sunday, while later in the week Mercury rises 45 minutes before the Sun. By midweek Saturn is rising before midnight.

To cap off Astronomy Week RASC NB members in Moncton will be holding public observing at the soccer field next to Lou MacNarin School from 9-11 pm on Friday, April 28; solar observing at that location Saturday, April 29, from 9 am to 1pm, and observing at the Moncton High School Observatory from 9-11 pm that evening. In Saint John, members are holding public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (Fisher Lakes entrance) from 9-11 pm on Saturday, April 29, with Sunday as a back-up date if it is cloudy.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park

Stargazers on International Astronomy Day. International Astronomy Day was celebrated in Rockwood Park on April 29 with members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Saint John Astronomy Club, and members of the public. About 50-60 people showed up.

EVENT: Public Stargazing Night   
WHERE: Rockwood Park Bark Park
WHEN: Saturday, April 29 from 9 – 11 pm
ADMISSION:  FREE

Despite less than ideal conditions, several telescopes were set up for observing the treasures of the night sky. Craters on Moon, Mars, and Jupiter with its cloud belts, 4 moons and a giant storm called the Great Red Spot. As darkness set in we also observed star clusters, galaxies millions of light years away, and an interstellar cloud where stars are forming called the Orion nebula.

Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park

Setting up for the SJAC Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park


A couple of new telescopes were set up, some right out of the box.

 

From Curt Nason, April 21:

April 24 -30 is International Astronomy Week, and April 29 is Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day had its beginning in 1973 in California when amateur astronomers set up telescopes in busy urban areas to let people have views of the Moon and planets, hence its motto of “Bringing Astronomy to the People.” Astronomy Day is usually held on the Saturday nearest the first quarter Moon between mid-April and mid-May. Ten years ago a Fall Astronomy Day was added between mid-September and mid-October, when sunset is earlier and the weather is often better for observing.

Sidewalk astronomy, setting telescopes up in within a busy area of a community, is a popular activity during Astronomy Week. Often people will question why we are set up there, near streetlights, when their expectation is that nothing can be seen. The Moon and most planets, those celestial objects having the greatest “Wow Factor” for first-time observers, are bright enough that lighting has little effect on the views. If they are intrusive you can simply block them with your hand. Sidewalk observing events are often done on short notice, depending on the weather and whether the Moon or planets are visible.

Astronomers in Saint John are celebrating Astronomy Day with public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (using the Fisher Lakes entrance to the park) from 9 pm to 11 pm, with Sunday (April 30) as a back-up date in case it is cloudy on Saturday. The Moon, Jupiter and Mars will hold court until after twilight. As darkness falls a variety of telescopes will be turned toward star clusters, double stars, galaxies, maybe a comet, and more. Such events are great places to learn the constellations, have questions answered, and to scope out any equipment you might have thought about buying. If you need a break from hockey playoffs, please join us.

Bringing astronomy to the people; hoping to bring more people to astronomy. Happy Astronomy Week!


You can also respond to our Facebook Event:
International Astronomy Day Public Stargazing Night

 

 

Sky at a Glance April 22 – 29

Photo of Venus and the Moon near the constellation Virgo in April

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 22 – 29   ~by Curt Nason

April 24 -30 is International Astronomy Week, and April 29 is Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day had its beginning in 1973 in California when amateur astronomers set up telescopes in busy urban areas to let people have views of the Moon and planets, hence its motto of “Bringing Astronomy to the People.” Astronomy Day is usually held on the Saturday nearest the first quarter Moon between mid-April and mid-May. Ten years ago a Fall Astronomy Day was added between mid-September and mid-October, when sunset is earlier and the weather is often better for observing.

Sidewalk astronomy, setting telescopes up in within a busy area of a community, is a popular activity during Astronomy Week. Often people will question why we are set up there, near streetlights, when their expectation is that nothing can be seen. The Moon and most planets, those celestial objects having the greatest “Wow Factor” for first-time observers, are bright enough that lighting has little effect on the views. If they are intrusive you can simply block them with your hand. Sidewalk observing events are often done on short notice, depending on the weather and whether the Moon or planets are visible.

Astronomers in Saint John are celebrating Astronomy Day with public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (using the Fisher Lakes entrance to the park) from 9 pm to 11 pm, with Sunday (April 30) as a back-up date in case it is cloudy on Saturday. The Moon, Jupiter and Mars will hold court until after twilight. As darkness falls a variety of telescopes will be turned toward star clusters, double stars, galaxies, maybe a comet, and more. Such events are great places to learn the constellations, have questions answered, and to scope out any equipment you might have thought about buying. If you need a break from hockey playoffs, please join us.

Bringing astronomy to the people; hoping to bring more people to astronomy. Happy Astronomy Week!

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:20 am and sunset will occur at 8:14 pm, giving 13 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (6:26 am and 8:18 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:08 am and set at 8:24 pm, giving 14 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (6:15 am and 8:27 pm in Saint John).

The waning crescent Moon is near Venus in the morning sky on Sunday and it is new on Wednesday. Jupiter is in good position for observing all evening, but at its best near midnight when it is highest in the south. Its moon Europa emerges from the planet’s shadow at 11:29 pm on Tuesday. Mars can be seen low in the west between the dipper-shaped Pleiades and V-shaped Hyades star clusters this week. Venus continues to brighten in the morning sky while Saturn puts its rings on display for early risers with a small scope. Early risers might also catch a few shooting stars from the minor Lyrid meteor shower on April 22.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Picture: Moon and Venus at 5:30 am Sunday.

Sky at a Glance April 15 – 22

A photograph of Constellations in the springtime sky showing Virgo

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 15 – April 22 ~by Curt Nason

With Jupiter being prominent in the east after twilight our eyes are also drawn to Spica, the 14th brightest star, which trails the planet by about seven degrees. Jupiter’s retrograde motion will carry it toward the star Porrima until mid-June, after which it will head eastward again to pass above Spica in September when they are setting an hour after sunset. When no bright planets are nearby, Spica is located by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to bright Arcturus and driving a spike to Spica.

Spica represents an ear of wheat in the hand of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. In Greek mythology she was Demeter, the goddess of wheat or agriculture (Ceres in Roman mythology). The Sun passes through this constellation in harvest time, and it is in the head of Virgo at the autumnal equinox. Virgo is the second largest of the 88 constellations in terms of area of sky, trailing only Hydra the Water Snake. Coincidentally, it also trails Hydra in the sky, which can be seen stretching below Leo.

The region of sky encompassed by Virgo, Leo, Ursa Major and Boötes is known as the Realm of the Galaxies. The Galactic North Pole is in this direction, so we are looking away from the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and its obscuring dust clouds. Dozens of distant galaxies can be seen in a small telescope and many with binoculars. Spring is galaxy season for amateur astronomers.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:32 am and sunset will occur at 8:05 pm, giving 13 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (6:38 am and 8:09 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:20 am and set at 8:14 pm, giving 13 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (6:26 am and 8:18 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Wednesday, rising in the middle of the night and setting early afternoon. Jupiter is in position for observing all evening but at its best near midnight when it is higher. Its moon Europa emerges from the planet’s shadow at 8:55 on Tuesday, and Io does the same trick at 10:10 on Wednesday. Mercury is at inferior conjunction on Thursday, moving to the morning sky late in the month. Mars passes below the Pleiades and they are a scenic couple in binoculars toward the end of the week. Brilliant Venus rises around 5 am, about the same time Saturn is at its highest in the southern sky. Early risers might catch a few shooting stars from the minor Lyrid meteor shower on April 22.

Questions? You can contact Curt Nason here.

Sky at a Glance April 8 – 15

A photo of the Spring sky showing Constellations.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, April 8 – April 15   ~by Curt Nason

The spring star is springing up in the east these evenings. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky and the second brightest we can see from New Brunswick. It is just a tad brighter than Vega, the summer star, which rises around 9 pm this week. The winter star, Sirius, sets around midnight and Capella, the autumn star, never sets in southern New Brunswick.

Arcturus anchors the constellation Boötes (bo-oh-teez) the Herdsman, and the star’s name means “bear driver.” Boötes is seen chasing the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, around the celestial North Pole. To many people the constellation resembles a tie, a kite or an ice cream cone. The head of the herdsman, at the tip of the constellation opposite Arcturus, is the star Nekkar, which sounds somewhat like necktie.

Halfway between Arcturus and the hind leg of Ursa Major is the star Cor Coroli in Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs. Use binoculars to look for a fuzzy patch halfway between Arcturus and Cor Coroli. This is a globular cluster called M3, the third entry in Charles Messier’s 18th century catalogue of things that resemble a comet but aren’t. This cluster contains half a million stars at a distance of 34,000 light years, nearly a thousand times farther than Arcturus.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:45 am and sunset will occur at 7:56 pm, giving 13 hours, 11 minutes of daylight (6:51 am and 8:01 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:32 am and set at 8:05 pm, giving 13 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (6:38 am and 8:09 pm in Saint John).

The Moon passes near Jupiter on Monday and on Tuesday it is full; the Mi’Kmaw Birds Laying Eggs Time Moon. Jupiter is higher in the east after sunset each evening. Use binoculars over the next few weeks to see its retrograde westward motion relative to the nearby star Theta Virginis. Mercury is ending its best evening viewing for the year, working its way sunward toward an inferior conjunction on April 20. Mars is seen as an orange star in the west, setting before 11 pm. Venus brightens the morning sky before sunrise in the east, and look south for Saturn above the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot. With binoculars around 5:30 am this weekend you might see comet C/2014 E4 Lovejoy as a small fuzzy patch near the northwest corner of the Square of Pegasus. Another comet, C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS, has apparently brightened to binocular range above Capricornus. See the Heavens-Above website for finder maps of both comets.

The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at 7 pm on Tuesday in the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences building in Fredericton. All are welcome.

Questions? You can contact Curt Nason here.