Category Archives: Astronomy

Sky at a Glance October 21 – 28

Photo showing the location of the constellation Camelopardalis.

Photo showing the location of Kemble's Cascade in the constellation Camelopardalis

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 21 – 28 ~by Curt Nason

With an early-setting Moon this weekend it might be a good time for some good old fashioned giraffe hunting. No guns allowed, just find a place where the sky is not tainted by light pollution, and bring binoculars for an added treat.

The large constellation Camelopardalis (try ka-mellow-par’-da-lis) is somewhat easier to pronounce than it is to locate in the sky. Look below Cassiopeia, and between Perseus and Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper, which has the North Star at the end of the handle). Any stars you can see in this area compose the not-so-stellar giraffe. The constellation was imagined and charted on a globe by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in 1612 and later adopted by other prominent makers of star charts. The name derives from how the Greeks regarded giraffes as camel leopards, with their long neck and spots.

An interesting binocular object called Kemble’s Cascade is an observing highlight within Camelopardalis. This asterism, forming a line of about 20 stars, was noticed by Canadian amateur astronomer Father Lucien Kemble, who reported it to a columnist at Sky and Telescope magazine. One method of finding your way there is to imagine a line across the top stars of Cassiopeia’s W shape, right to left, and extend it an equal distance. Near one end of this asterism a telescope will reveal the open star cluster NGC 1502. Happy hunting.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:44 am and sunset will occur at 6:22 pm, giving 10 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (7:48 am and 6:28 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:54 am and set at 6:10 pm, giving 10 hours, 16 minutes of daylight (7:58 am and 6:17 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Friday, October 27; a great target for telescopes later in the week. Saturn continues to awe observers with views of its rings in early evening. Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun on Thursday, while Mercury sets about 20 minutes after them. Mars is nine degrees above Venus this weekend in the morning sky, and they increase that spread by a few degrees over the week. Look for meteors springing from Orion’s club early in the morning this weekend. This minor meteor shower is one of two arising from Halley’s Comet.

International Observe the Moon Night is on Saturday, October 28. Members and guests of RASC NB will have telescopes and binoculars set up at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John for this event on Friday, October 27 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, with a back-up date of Saturday.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Observe the Moon Night 2017

Graphic showing Observe the Moon Night at Irving Nature Park 2017

Event: International Observe the Moon Night at Irving Nature Park
Where: Observing Area, above the Interpretative Shelter at Irving Nature Park, Saint John
When: Friday, October 27, 2017 6:30 – 9:00pm (cloud date Oct. 28)
Admission: Free
Parking: Parking lot at the Interpretative Shelter
Facebook Event: Observe the Moon at Irving Nature Park

Enjoy an evening of Moon-watching and stargazing with members of the RASC NB provincial astronomy club. Starting at 6:30 PM with a brief welcome at the observing field above the Interpretive Shelter, we will follow with spectacular views of the first quarter Moon and the rings of Saturn through various telescopes and binoculars. Soon after, the legends of Greek mythology appear as constellations to share their stellar wonders within. See the Double Cluster of Perseus, the Andromeda Galaxy (which is on a collision course with our Milky Way…in a few billion years), and Cassiopeia will show you where film legend ET calls home. Some telescopes will be equipped with adapters to allow you to capture close-ups of the Moon with your phone camera. The amateur astronomers will be happy to show you the constellations and answer your questions on telescopes and stargazing. Please park in the lot beside the Interpretive Shelter.

As with all park events, this is offered free of charge by J.D. Irving, Limited. Don’t forget to bring a mug for hot chocolate, and bring an extra layer or two as the park is chilly this time of year. If it is cloudy we will try again on Saturday, October 28.

Questions? Please contact the park at (506) 653-7367

Don’t miss it~

Photo of nighttime at the INP National Star Party

This event presents a beautiful way to close out October. Irving Nature Park is an ideal place to unwind, photograph, walk, hike and explore. The observing area overlooking the Bay of Fundy, accompanied by views of the Moon and stars, provides great way to end your day and enjoy the last weekend in October.

Location~

Photo showing location of Interpretative Shelter at Irving Nature Park

Photo showing location of Interpretative Shelter at Irving Nature Park

Other astronomy events at Irving~

Moonlight Snowshoe Walk 2017
National Star Party at Irving Nature Park
Partial Solar Eclipse in Saint John


FYI: The photo of the Moon used in the graphic at the top of this page was taken by Paul Owen of the Saint John Astronomy Club. Paul is offering a free astronomy course Photographing the Night Sky this November, every Tuesday night 6:30 – 9:00 PM at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. You can find more info including how to register by going to the Page. You can also check out the Facebook Event.


      

 

Sky at a Glance October 14 – 21

Photo showing location of Uranus and Neptune in the southern night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 14 – 21 ~by Curt Nason

The planet Uranus is at opposition this Thursday, rising at sunset and sitting high in the sky by late evening. I usually try to observe Uranus and Neptune at least once a year in binoculars or a telescope, often as part of an effort to see all eight planets (Earth is fairly easy) in one night or calendar day. Uranus can be seen with just your eyes around opposition but it requires a dark, transparent sky, good eyesight and knowledge of exactly where to look. Both of these planets are near dim naked-eye stars, making them easier to hunt down. A detailed star map including their locations is essential, such as the one published annually on the Sky and Telescope website.

See Path of Uranus and Neptune.pdf

Uranus is about one degree above Omicron Piscium and is brighter than any star that close, using binoculars, and over the next two months it will move west of that star. Neptune can be found less than one degree below Lambda Aquarii over that time span, much dimmer than Uranus but still brighter than any star within that distance below Lambda. With binoculars, the two planets will resemble stars with, perhaps, a slight blue-green hue and less twinkling. A telescope at moderate to high magnification will expand the planets into discs, which I usually see as pale green for Uranus and pale blue for Neptune. Stars, being at vast distances from us, do not look larger under higher magnification, and using this technique was how these planets were distinguished from stars in 1781 and 1846, respectively.

Uranus and Neptune are nearly twins, with Uranus four times wider than Earth and Neptune just a bit smaller but more massive. They are referred to as ice giants. Although their atmospheres are composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, they also contain frozen water, ammonia and methane. In addition, their interiors are predominantly rock and ices. Methane absorbs wavelengths of light in the red part of the visible light spectrum, passing the shorter-wavelength green and blue light. Methane in the planets’ upper atmosphere is responsible for the colours we see through a telescope.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:35 am and sunset will occur at 6:34 pm, giving 10 hours, 59 minutes of daylight (7:39 am and 6:40 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:44 am and set at 6:22 pm, giving 10 hours, 38 minutes of daylight (7:48 am and 6:28 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Thursday, making this a great week for autumn deep-sky observing. Saturn continues to awe observers with views of its rings in early evening. Mercury and Jupiter are too low in the west for observing after sunset. Mars is about five degrees above Venus this weekend in the morning sky. Next weekend, look for meteors springing from Orion’s club early in the morning. This minor meteor shower is one of two arising from Halley’s Comet.

International Observe the Moon Night is on Saturday, October 28. Members and guests of RASC NB will have telescopes and binoculars set up at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John for this event on Friday, October 27 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, with a back-up date of Saturday.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.


FYI– below is a slide showing the relative size of the planets at a recent Learning the Night Sky astronomy course evening. Uranus and Neptune are the greenish and blueish objects [click photo to enlarge].

Photo showing relative size of the planets at the Learning the Night Sky free astronomy course Series

Sky at a Glance October 7 – 14

Photo showing the location of the Triangulum Galaxy in the Triangulum Constellation.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 7 – 14 ~by Curt Nason

Small constellations tend to get overlooked unless, like Delphinus the Dolphin, they have fairly bright stars or an eye-catching pattern. Aries the Ram and cleverly named Triangulum aren’t quite as pretty as Delphinus but they do get noticed. Okay, Triangulum isn’t pretty but it is acute, situated below Andromeda in mid-evening. Below it is brighter Aries, which resembles a somewhat squashed triangle.

In mythology, the god Hermes sent a flying, golden ram to rescue a prince who was being sacrificed to end a famine. The prince showed his gratitude by slaughtering the ram and giving its fleece to a man in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Golden Fleece later became the quest of Jason and the Argonauts. Over 2000 years ago the Sun was in Aries on the first day of spring, and the vernal equinox is still called the First Point of Aries despite having moved into the constellation Pisces long ago. That movement is due to the precession of the equinox, a wobble of the Earth’s polar axis that completes a circuit every 25,800 years.

Triangulum is not associated with an exciting tale from mythology but at times it had been regarded as a tribute to both the Nile Delta and the island of Sicily. I use the tip of the triangle as a reference for locating the Triangulum Galaxy, also called M33. It is almost halfway and a tad to the right of a line from the tip to orange Mirach in Andromeda. Smaller and slightly more distant than the nearby Andromeda Galaxy (M31), this face-on spiral galaxy is dim but attainable with binoculars in a reasonably dark sky.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:25 am and sunset will occur at 6:47 pm, giving 11 hours, 22 minutes of daylight (7:30 am and 6:52 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:35 am and set at 6:34 pm, giving 10 hours, 59 minutes of daylight (7:39 am and 6:40 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Thursday, rising around 11:30 the previous evening and setting a little before 3 pm. Jupiter is just a few weeks from being in conjunction with the Sun so Saturn rules the early evening sky. Following their recent rendezvous, Venus and Mars proceed in opposite directions in the morning sky. Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun on Sunday, and moves into the evening western sky late in the month. The minor Draconid meteor shower is at its modest peak from Saturday evening to Sunday morning. You might see a few slow-moving meteors per hour coming out of the north, but it has surprised with intense activity a few times in the past century.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on October 7 at 7 pm. The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the Forestry-Earth Sciences building at UNB Fredericton on Tuesday at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance Sept 30 – Oct 7

A view of the southwester night sky showing locations of two "crown" constellations.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, Sept. 30 – Oct. 7 ~by Curt Nason

Two stellar crowns are included among the 88 official constellations. Both are above our horizon around 8 pm but one requires an unobstructed and near-pristine sky to the south. Both crowns arise from mythological tales of the popular demigod Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman mythology), the god of wine.

Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, is a pretty semicircle of stars situated high in the west, one third of the way from Arcturus to Vega. In mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete. She helped Theseus slay the bull-headed Minotaur and escape from the Labyrinth, and then accompanied him and his crew on a voyage home to Athens where they were to wed. Along the way they stopped at the island home of Dionysus, who was a great and wily host. After a night of revelry Theseus was forced into leaving without Ariadne, and Dionysus presented her with a beautiful crown if she would be his bride. The crown was placed in the sky to commemorate their wedding.

The Sagittarius teapot asterism is low in the south before 8 pm this time of year, and Corona Australis, the Southern Crown, rides the horizon below. This semicircle of stars is sometimes called the lemon wedge asterism, to go with the teapot and the teaspoon above the teapot’s handle. Dionysus was the result of an affair between Zeus and a mortal woman. The gods had to be careful in such affairs as mortals could not withstand the full passionate heat of their embrace. Vengeful Hera, the wife of Zeus, tricked the now-pregnant woman into requesting Zeus hold her as he would a goddess, and as expected she did not survive. The unborn child was sewn into the thigh of Zeus and raised by his aunt after birth. Later, Dionysus honoured his mother by placing a wreath in the sky. Such a start in life would drive anyone to drink.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:16 am and sunset will occur at 7:00 pm, giving 11 hours, 44 minutes of daylight (7:21 am and 7:06 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:25 am and set at 6:47 pm, giving 11 hours, 22 minutes of daylight (7:30 am and 6:52 pm in Saint John).

The full Harvest Moon occurs on Thursday, it being the full Moon near the autumnal equinox. Jupiter is pretty much out of the sky now, setting 20 minutes after sunset. Saturn is in the southwest after twilight, setting around 10:20 midweek. In the morning sky Venus has a close conjunction with Mars late in the week, appearing at its upper left on Thursday and lower left on Friday. Mercury is well on its way toward superior conjunction with the Sun on October 8.

RASC NB members in Saint John will be celebrating Fall Astronomy Day with public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (First Arch) on Friday, September 29, with a cloud date of September 30. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on October 7 at 7 pm.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance Sept 23 – 30

Photo showing the constellations of Autumn

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 23 – 30 ~by Curt Nason

Autumn has arrived, and dedicated stargazers are happy to have the longer observing time afforded by earlier sunsets. The summer constellations appear reluctant to move on, however; emerging from twilight in nearly the same place each night because the earlier darkness masks that they rise four minutes sooner each day. But move on they do, and by mid-evening the two groups of autumn constellations lord over us.

Perseus sits below W-shaped Cassiopeia in the northeast these evenings. Cepheus, the king of ancient Ethiopia, is a house-shaped constellation fenced within his wife Cassiopeia, Cygnus and the North Star. The feet of Princess Andromeda are below the W of Cassiopeia, and her head is at the tail end of Pegasus the winged horse. The asterism called the Great Square of Pegasus rises as a large diamond, a harbinger of the baseball post season. Rounding out the mythological tale is Cetus, playing the role of a ferocious sea monster that is stoned, in a manner of speaking, by Perseus in his rescue of Andromeda. Cetus is actually a whale, and segues to the second group – the water constellations.

To the left of the Sagittarius Teapot we see the large chevron of Capricornus the sea goat, representing the goat-boy flautist Pan who didn’t completely morph into a fish when he tried to escape monstrous Typhon. Above and left is the source of all this water – Aquarius, the water bearing servant of the Olympians. Below him is the southern fish, Piscis Austrinus, and further east we have Aphrodite and Eros as Pisces the fishes. Cetus swims below them, and well above Capricornus we see Delphinus the dolphin trying to leap back into summer.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:07 am and sunset will occur at 7:14 pm, giving 12 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:12 am and 7:19 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:16 am and set at 7:00 pm, giving 11 hours, 44 minutes of daylight (7:21 am and 7:06 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Wednesday, making the week a great time for lunar observing. Jupiter now sets less than an hour after sunset, but Saturn hangs around until 11 pm and hangs out with the Moon on Tuesday. Venus makes a move on Mars in the morning sky, while Mercury slowly drops sunward.

RASC NB members will offer views of the night sky and the Sun at the Kouchibouguac National Park Fall Festival on September 22 and 23. Visit rascnb.ca/events for details. RASC NB members in Saint John will be celebrating Fall Astronomy Day with public observing at the Rockwood Park Bark Park (First Arch) on Friday, September 29, with a cloud date of September 30.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

Sky at a Glance September 16 – 23

Photo showing the location of the constellation Andromeda and some of it's features.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 16 –  23 ~by Curt Nason

From late summer into autumn, the Greek tale of Perseus and Andromeda plays out on the eastern stage of the night sky each evening. Princess Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, is chained to the rocky coast of Ethiopia as a sacrifice to a vicious sea monster, portrayed by the constellation Cetus the Whale. Our hero Perseus, on his way home aboard Pegasus after beheading Medusa, rescues the princess and wins her unchained hand in matrimony.

The constellation Andromeda consists of two lines of stars stretching toward Perseus from a common point. That point is the bright star Alpheratz, which is officially Andromeda’s head but it also forms one corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. The bottom line of stars is more prominent, containing the orange star Mirach and ending with Almach, which resolves as a pretty double star in a small scope.

The highlight of the constellation is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. A telescope is not required to see this. It looks great in binoculars, and in a rural area on a cloudless night you can see it with the naked eye as a smudge of light. Place Mirach at the bottom of your binocular view and perhaps raise it a bit to see a slightly dimmer star in the upper line of Andromeda. Continue up about the same distance to another star and find the fuzzy expanse of the Andromeda Galaxy nearby. A small telescope will show two other galaxies, M32 and M110, in the same field of view. M31 is 2.5 million light years distant and heading our way. We will have a spectacularly starry sky in a few billion years.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:58 am and sunset will occur at 7:28 pm, giving 12 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (7:04 am and 7:32 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:07 am and set at 7:14 pm, giving 12 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:12 am and 7:19 pm in Saint John). The Sun crosses the equator at 5:02 pm on Friday, September 22 to begin the autumn season in the northern hemisphere.

The Moon is new on Wednesday, making midweek a great time for seeking out those faint fuzzy objects with a telescope or binoculars. Jupiter sets around 8:30 this week, followed by Saturn a few hours later. It will be worthwhile to step outside around 6 am on Monday for a scenic view of Venus, Regulus, the crescent Moon, Mars and Mercury in a line about ten degrees long. Mercury appears very near to Mars this Saturday as it heads sunward, and Venus drops near Regulus on Wednesday.

The RASC NB star party at Fundy National Park takes place September 15 and 16 at the South Chignecto campground, and their telescopes will be set up on September 22 and 23 for the Fall Festival at Kouchibouguac National Park. Visit the website RASC.NB for details.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Fall Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park

Fall Astronomy Day weekend was celebrated at Rockwood Park on Friday, September 29. Mild temperatures and some cloud cover provided comfortable views of the Moon and Saturn for the public to enjoy.

It was a great way to finish up what has been a beautiful September.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

Photo of Fall Astronomy Day at Rockwood Park in September 2017.

About Rockwood Park~

Photo of Rockwood Park, Saint John, New Brunswick

Rockwood Park in Saint John is one of the largest and diverse urban parks in North America. With over 2000 acres, 11 lakes, 55 trails, a zoo, stable, off-leash dog park, golf course, Interpretation Centre, and restaurant, it has something for everyone. An all season natural amusement park, it is also part of the Stonehammer Geopark System.

Photo of a bench beside a lake in Rockwood Park.

The park was designed by Calvert Vaux, one of the designers of New York City’s Central Park, during the “golden age of the city park” in the mid-19th century. It offers a myriad of activities, summer and winter.


Event: Fall Astronomy Day
Where: Rockwood Park Bark Park (Fisher Lakes Entrance)
When: Friday, September 29,  7:30–10pm (cloud date Sept. 30)
Facebook Event: Fall Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park

 


See also~

Outreach Events
Outreach~ Summer 2017
Outreach~ Spring 2017
Outreach~ Winter 2016-17
Outreach~ 2016

Moonlight Snowshoe Walk
Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park
National Star Party at Irving Nature Park
Partial Solar Eclipse in Saint John

Sky at a Glance September 9 – 16

Photo showing the constellation Capricornus, rising due south about 10 pm this week.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 9 – 16 ~by Curt Nason

The constellation Capricornus is a large chevron shape that is due south around 10 pm this week. A pair of stars marks each upper corner, and both stars of the western pair are colourful wide double stars in binoculars. The sea goat arises from a tale of the Olympian gods being surprised by Typhon, the most ferocious of the rival Titans. Knowing Typhon was not fond of water, the gods changed into fish and escaped to the sea. The god Pan, who was half-goat and half-man, panicked and dove in before the transformation was complete and wound up with a goat’s head and the tail of a fish.

There are four common targets for backyard telescope users near Capricornus, but only the globular cluster M30 off the east side of the chevron is officially within its borders. It is also the easiest of the targets for binoculars. The globular cluster M75 lies west of the chevron in Sagittarius, while globular cluster M72 and the four-star (literally four stars, it is not an observing highlight) asterism M73 are above in Aquarius. Nearby is the more challenging, but worth the effort, Saturn Nebula, the gaseous remnant of a dead star that somewhat resembles the ringed planet.

A few millennia ago the Sun was in Capricornus at the winter solstice, when at midday it is overhead at its most southerly point at latitude -23.5 degrees. This is the southern border of the tropics, and it is still called the Tropic of Capricorn despite the Sun being in Sagittarius at this time. Earth’s 25,800 year polar wobble, called the precession of the equinox, is responsible for this shift.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:50 am and sunset will occur at 7:41 pm, giving 12 hours, 51 minutes of daylight (6:55 am and 7:46 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:58 am and set at 7:28 pm, giving 12 hours, 30 minutes of daylight (7:04 am and 7:32 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Wednesday, rising a little before midnight Tuesday and setting at 3 pm. Around 10 am Tuesday, telescope users at high magnification might be able to see the Moon occult Aldebaran in daylight. Jupiter was in astronomical conjunction with Spica on September 5, having the same right ascension as Virgo’s brightest star. From our viewpoint, they will appear to be in conjunction on September 16 as Jupiter sits a few degrees above Spica, having the same azimuth. Saturn remains in good viewing position in the south after sunset, with its rings proudly on display for telescope users. Venus dominates the eastern morning sky despite being near its dimmest. Mercury is at greatest elongation on Tuesday, and it can be seen with binoculars near Regulus on Sunday and near Mars next Saturday.

The Saint John Astronomy Club and RASC NB share a meeting at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, September 9 at 1 pm. The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Forestry / Earth Sciences Building in Fredericton at 7 pm on Tuesday. All are welcome. The RASC NB star party at Fundy National Park takes place September 15 and 16 at the South Chignecto campground.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance September 2 – 9

Photo of the night sky showing the location of the constellation Delphinus.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 2 – September 9

Another solar system event highlights this weekend, a relatively close encounter with the fourth largest near-Earth asteroid (NEA), 3122 Florence. This 4.4 kilometre diameter rock passed within seven million kilometres of Earth on the morning of September 1. It is fading slowly but will remain within reach of small telescopes over the long weekend. I have seen two NEAs in the past 15 years and consider them to be among my observing highlights, both for the challenge and the uniqueness.

The trick to observing one is ambush it. Get a detailed star map of its path through the sky and pick out an easily identifiable star or group of stars that it will be passing during your observing time. Set your scope on that area ahead of time – then keep watch for a moving star entering the field of view. A smaller NEA making a closer passage can be affected by Earth’s gravity and have its orbit changed slightly, so a wide-field eyepiece helps (higher focal length eyepiece). However, Florence is large and still quite distant (no need to wear a helmet), making orbital perturbations unlikely. It moves among the starry background by about two-thirds the width of the Moon every hour, visible motion at higher magnification when it is near a star. The best time to try for it is around 9 pm Saturday when it passes between the belly and the nose of Delphinus the Dolphin. A map on the Sky & Telescope website can be found here:
http://wwwcdn.skyandtelescope.com/wp-content/uploads/3122-Florence-Chart-B-1.pdf

Delphinus is one of the prettiest constellations and can be seen high in the southeast around 9 pm. It is composed of a small diamond-shaped asterism with a couple of stars tailing off to the right, and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture a dolphin leaping out of the sea. Although its stars are not bright, its compact shape is eye-catching. Below it are the watery constellations of Capricornus, Aquarius, Piscis Austrinus and Pisces. In mythology, Poseidon had designs on the sea nymph Amphitrite but she was afraid and hid from him. The dolphin ratted her out and was rewarded with a place of honour in the sky. The diamond part of the constellation has also been called Job’s Coffin but the origin of this has been lost to time.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:41 am and sunset will occur at 7:55 pm, giving 13 hours, 14 minutes of daylight (6:47 am and 7:59 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:50 am and set at 7:41 pm, giving 12 hours, 51 minutes of daylight (6:55 am and 7:46 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Wednesday, the Mi’kmaq Moose Calling Moon. Jupiter lies low in the west after sunset as it approaches a conjunction with Spica. Saturn remains in good viewing position in the south after sunset, with its rings proudly on display for telescope users. Venus rises after 4 am now and dominates the eastern morning sky despite being near its dimmest. Mercury, Mars and Regulus can be seen with difficulty within the same binocular field this week, rising about 75 minutes before the Sun.

The Saint John Astronomy Club and RASC NB share a meeting at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, September 9 at 1 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance Aug 26 – Sept 2

Photo of constellation Cepheus, how to find it, and some of it's features.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, Aug 26 – Sept 2 ~by Curt Nason

The constellation Cepheus the King is quite large but it can be difficult to pick out. Around 9:30 pm, look northward for a group of five moderately bright stars in the shape of a house on its side, situated above the W-shape of Cassiopeia the Queen. The peak of the house is only about a fist-width to the right of Polaris, the North Star, and the constellation lies just below a line from Polaris to Deneb at the tail of Cygnus the Swan. A colourful star can be seen in binoculars or a scope just below the base of the house. Herschel’s Garnet Star, a red supergiant, is one of the most luminous stars known and is a thousand times wider than the Sun. If placed in the middle of our solar system it would stretch beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

Another famous star in Cepheus is Delta ( δ) Cephei, which is situated near the bottom left of the house, it being the namesake of the Cepheid variable stars. Such giant stars pulsate with a regular frequency and subsequently dim and brighten consistently over that time. For example, Delta Cephei dims and brightens by a factor of two over about five days. Early in the 20th century, Harvard astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered that the intrinsic brightness of a Cepheid variable was proportional to its period and worked out a formula for this relationship. Using the 100-inch telescope on Mount Wilson in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble detected Cepheid variables in what was then called the Andromeda Nebula. Knowing the intrinsic brightness of these stars based on their periods, and how stars dim with distance, he determined the distance to these stars and proved that the nebula was actually a galaxy outside of the Milky Way.

In mythology, Cepheus and Cassiopeia were the rulers of Ethiopia. Poseidon had made a ferocious sea monster to ravage the land as punishment for Cassiopeia’s boasts of their daughter Andromeda’s beauty. To get rid of the monster, they chained Andromeda to the rocks at the seashore as a sacrifice to the monster. She was rescued by Perseus, whose namesake constellation is seen below Cassiopeia.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:32 am and sunset will occur at 8:08 pm, giving 13 hours, 36 minutes of daylight (6:38 am and 8:12 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:41 am and set at 7:55 pm, giving 13 hours, 14 minutes of daylight (6:47 am and 7:59 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter and approaching Saturn on Tuesday, providing a scenic opportunity for stargazing. Setting around 9:30 pm, Jupiter is getting too low in the west for steady viewing in a telescope. Venus makes a pretty binocular companion for M44, the Beehive Cluster, on Thursday and Friday mornings. Mercury is at inferior conjunction this weekend, passing between us and the Sun. It will be at its best morning viewing for the year in September, when it has some close encounters with Mars, Regulus and the Moon.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason

Sky at a Glance August 19 – 26

Photo showing an illustration of coverage of the Sun during the partial solar eclipse in New Brunswick.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, August 19 – 26 ~ by Curt Nason

There is no doubt about the astronomical highlight for New Brunswick this week – a partial solar eclipse on Monday afternoon. Times will vary a little across the province but 2:30 to 5:00 pm will cover it. At the peak, between 3:45 and 3:50, approximately 50% of the Sun’s surface area will be covered by the Moon. This is our best solar eclipse since August 11, 1999, when more than 90% of the Sun was covered, and slightly better than the Christmas 2000 partial eclipse.

Solar eclipses occur at new Moon, but since the lunar orbit is tilted to Earth’s orbit by five degrees (ten times the Moon’s apparent diameter) it is usually above or below the Sun at that phase. For a period of a few weeks, twice a year, new Moon occurs when it is near to crossing Earth’s orbit and there will be a partial, annular or total eclipse somewhere on the planet. With a total eclipse, a rarity at any one location, the Moon’s shadow races across part of Earth on a path 100 to 200 kilometres wide. Locations outside of the shadow get a partial eclipse, with percent coverage decreasing with distance. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is near apogee and its apparent width is smaller than that of the Sun.

Staring at the Sun without proper eye protection can cause permanent eye damage, even blindness, and since the eye has no pain receptors you may not notice any damage for several hours. Proper protection is #14 welder’s glass or approved eclipse viewers / glasses from a reputable dealer. Note that these are not safe for use with binoculars and telescopes; other filters can be purchased for this purpose. A cheap and effective way to view the partial eclipse is to project the sunlight through a pinhole onto a white surface. Check the Internet for methods of doing this. Or, use Nature’s projection method by looking at the shadows of leaves, which often have tiny holes to project the Sun’s image.

The RASC and other organizations are hosting eclipse events in the province on Monday afternoon, with free eclipse viewers supplied by the RASC and views through filtered telescopes. Locations include the Irving Nature Park and Rockwood Park Bark Park in Saint John, UNB and Science East in Fredericton, Resurgo Place in Moncton, Riverview Community Centre, and Mount Allison University. Don’t take chances with your eyesight. Observe the eclipse but do it safely, and start thinking about where you will be on April 8, 2024 when the Moon’s shadow crosses the central half of New Brunswick.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:23 am and sunset will occur at 8:20 pm, giving 13 hours, 57 minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:24 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:31 am and set at 8:08 pm, giving 13 hours, 37 minutes of daylight (6:38 am and 8:12 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Monday afternoon, partially occulting a prominent star for a couple of hours, and it poses with Jupiter in evening twilight next Thursday and Friday. Jupiter sets by 10:00 pm next weekend and it is approaching Spica nightly. Saturn, in the southern sky in evening twilight, is the main telescopic attraction for the month. Venus, the bright Morning Star, moves from Gemini into Cancer late in the week. Mercury is at inferior conjunction on August 26, passing between us and the Sun.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Partial Solar Eclipse in Saint John

Incredible turnout for the Partial Solar Eclipse~

Photo listing public observing locations of the partial solar eclipse in Saint John, NB

About 700 people showed up to witness the Partial Solar Eclipse of the Sun at Irving Nature Park and Rockwood Park Bark Park on August 21. What a show! In addition to the Eclipse, the Sun put on quite a display with numerous sunspots.

Special Eclipse Edition of the Horizon Newsletter~

A great recap of the August 21 eclipse is captured in a special Eclipse Edition of the RASC NB newsletter Horizon. It includes experiences from all across the Province plus some members who were lucky enough to go to the States. By Curt Nason. Good stuff.

The Scene at Rockwood and Irving Nature Parks~

Partial Solar Eclipse Day at Rockwood Bark Park, Sant John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day at Rockwood Bark Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day at Rockwood Bark Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day at Rockwood Bark Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day at Rockwood Bark Park, Saint John, NB.

Members and guests of the Royal Astronomical Society of CanadaRASC.NB, and the Saint John Astronomy Club observed the Moon passing in front of the Sun through safely filtered telescopes and glasses. Despite running out of eclipse viewers, between the 15 telescopes and binoculars we were able to give everyone a chance to view the Eclipse in varying stages.
Above~ Rockwood Park Bark Park. Below~ Irving Nature Park.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Chris Curwin doing a Facebook Live Feed at the Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Astronomer Chris Curwin (under the umbrella at the scopes) doing a Facebook Live Feed via Astronomy by the Bay.  Over 24,000 viewers from all across Canada, over 300 shares! From right here beside the Bay of Fundy. Wow!

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Partial Solar Eclipse Day On August 21, 2017 at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.Chris Curwin​ from Astronomy by the Bay quietly doing his narrative on a Facebook Live Feed towards the end of the Eclipse. Two scopes set up, the one on the right is a special “dedicated” solar telescope with a Hydrogen-Alpha filter. One on the left is a regular telescope with Baader Solar Filter Film (Sun appears as white) covering the opening. You can view his interview with Radio 94.1fm here.

Photos~

Photo by Paul Owen of the Partial Solar Eclipse in Saint John, NBThe Eclipse, as photographed by Paul Owen at Rockwood Bark Park.

The Partial Solar Eclipse as photographed by David McCashion of the Saint John Astronomy Club

For many of the people looking through scopes or binoculars at the events, the Eclipse appeared similar to the above photo taken by David McCashion of the Saint John Astronomy Club. This is because the protective filter over the scope makes the Sun appear as white.
Below~ a composite photo by Patty Maillet of the Saint John Astronomy Club.

A composite photo of the partial eclipse by Patty Maillet of the Saint John Astronomy Club.

The Partial Solar Eclipse , as explained by Curt Nason~

On the afternoon of August 21 more than half the Sun will disappear over New Brunswick. Don’t be alarmed, but be safe. Join local members and guests of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in observing the Moon pass in front of the Sun through safely filtered telescopes.

We will be set up at two locations in Saint John: Irving Nature Park (above the Interpretative Shelter) and Rockwood Park Bark Park (Fisher Lakes entrance). This is the best partial solar eclipse for our area in the past 18 years.

The eclipse begins at 2:37 pm, reaches maximum eclipse at 3:49 when 59% of the Sun is covered, and it ends at 4:56 pm. With luck we might see sunspots and prominences on the Sun through the filtered telescopes. Special eclipse viewers will be available to watch the event safely with just your eyes, courtesy of the RASC. Do not observe the eclipse without proper eye protection!

Photo of eclipse glasses for proper eye protection.

What is an Eclipse?

Photo linking to a short pdf by Curt Nason about solar eclipses.Click the pic to open a short pdf by Curt Nason about solar eclipses, and some information about the Moon which causes the eclipse in the first place.

Our Canadian view of the Partial Solar Eclipse~

Photo of what the eclipse will look like in different regions of Canada and the times.

Above photo (click to enlarge) courtesy Canadian Space Agency.

Other Interesting Information~

A short pdf presentation of Saint John astronomer Mike Powell about the Sun.Click the pic above to take you to a short pdf presentation by Saint John astronomer Mike Powell about the Sun. Good stuff.A photo of Saint John astronomer Mike Powell's IBRT (Itty Bitty Radio Telescope) listening to the Sun

A photo of some various parts Saint John astronomer Mike Powell uses in his IBRT (Itty Bitty Radio Telescope) while listening to the Sun.Above~Mike Powell’s IBRT (Itty Bitty Radio Telescope), cobbled together from various electronic parts.
Below~ an infrared shot of Mike listening to the Sun’s activity at a Star Party in Fundy National Park with his IBRT setup. FYI–he also listens to Jupiter, which you can check out here in a short pdf called Radio JupiterA black & white infrared photo of astronomer Mike Powell listening to the Sun with his homemade IBRT (Itty Bitty Radio Telescope).

Questions? (you are encouraged to ask them) Email Curt Nason.

Media~

Interview with Chris Curwin and 94.1fm about the Partial Solar Eclipse.Above~ click to read Chris Curwin’s interview with 94.1fm

Event: Partial Eclipse of the Sun
Date: Monday, August 21, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Locations for Observing: Irving Nature Park & Rockwood Bark Park
Facebook Event: Partial Eclipse of the Sun

Logo of the RASC New Brunswick Centre


Other Links: RASC Solar Eclipse 2017, NASA Eclipse Main Site
RASC.NB~ Viewing in Moncton at Riverview
Astronomy Moncton~ Moncton High School Observatory
Where to view the Eclipse in Canada (courtesy CBC News).

Sky at a Glance August 12 – 19

Photo of constellations showing the location of Perseus, from where the Perseids Meteors originate.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, August 12 – 19 ~by Curt Nason

This weekend is the the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on Saturday afternoon but it could delight patient stargazers throughout the weekend nights. You can see a few meteors per hour any night in a clear, dark sky, but the number increases when Earth passes through a trail of pebbles and dust left by a comet that makes frequent orbits around the Sun. The pebbles left by comet Swift-Tuttle in its 133-year orbit are quite large at a few centimetres, and they enter our atmosphere at a high relative velocity of 60 km/s (Earth travels at 30 km/s). Therefore, they can be very bright.

Meteors, also called shooting stars or falling stars, are the streaks of light created when particles enter the atmosphere at an altitude of about 100 kilometres. Those particles from comets disintegrate before they reach an altitude of 50 kilometres. Many meteors are faint and easily made invisible by moonlight and light pollution. This weekend the Moon is near third quarter and therefore it rises late in the evening, decreasing the number of visible meteors. But don’t fret; if the sky is clear there should be enough brighter ones to keep you entertained for a while. They will seem to be coming from a point, called the radiant, between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia. You should see more of them well after midnight when the radiant is high, but the evening Perseids tend to be long and bright.

Although a dark sky is preferred for watching meteors, many can still be enjoyed from an urban or suburban area. Get comfortable in a chair, have extra clothes or blankets if you plan to stay long as it can get very chilly, and select a patch of sky that is free of clouds and light. It is better to keep Perseus to your side rather than look in that direction because the meteors will look more spectacular, covering a longer distance. I recommend looking roughly northward so that the Moon is at your back. Be very happy if you see about 20 per hour on the peak night, or half that a day before or after. Anything more is a bonus.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:15 am and sunset will occur at 8:32 pm, giving 14 hours, 17 minutes of daylight (6:22 am and 8:35 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:23 am and set at 8:20 pm, giving 13 hours, 57 minutes of daylight (6:30 am and 8:24 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Monday, rising before midnight Sunday and setting around 1:40 pm Monday. It passes near Aldebaran on Wednesday morning and by Venus on August 19. Jupiter is sinking lower in the west at dusk, setting at 10:30 pm midweek and approaching Spica nightly. Saturn, in the southern sky in evening twilight, is the main telescopic attraction for the month. Venus is the bright Morning Star, rising around 3:15 am among the stars of Gemini. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the afternoon of August 12 so look for increased meteor activity on all three nights and mornings this weekend. Ignore any Internet stories of this being the most spectacular meteor shower in recorded history

The Mount Carleton Star Party runs from August 11 – 13; a great place to spend the weekend taking nature hikes and catching shooting stars.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

Sky at a Glance August 5 – 12

Photo of the Constellation Perseus showing the location of the Double Cluster and other wonders.
This Week’s Sky at a Glance, August 5 – 12   ~by Curt Nason

With the Perseid meteor shower increasing nightly to a peak next weekend, let us visit its namesake constellation. Perseus the Hero starts rising in the north before sunset now and by midnight he stands on the northeastern horizon, just below the W shape of his mother-in-law, Cassiopeia. He is a hero because, among other deeds, he prevented his near-future wife Andromeda from becoming a tasty lunch for a ferocious sea monster.

The brightest star in Perseus, Mirfak, is part and namesake of the Alpha Persei Cluster. This is one of my favourite binocular targets because it resembles a miniature version of the constellation Draco. Another popular binocular target is a close pair of star clusters located halfway between Perseus and Cassiopeia. Astronomers have cleverly called this the Double Cluster. The Perseid meteors all appear to originate from a point, called the radiant, to the left of the Double Cluster.

The constellation’s second brightest star is Algol the Demon, representing the eye of the Gorgon Medusa. Perseus beheaded the Medusa in a plan to avenge an embarrassing moment by using her head to turn his hecklers into stone. The sea monster was his first victim of this weapon. Algol is famous for dimming by a factor of three every 69 hours. It is a very close pair of stars orbiting each other in our line of sight, and their combined brightness drops when the dimmer star passes in front of the brighter one. Look for the star cluster M34 about a binocular width above Algol.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:06 am and sunset will occur at 8:43 pm, giving 14 hours, 37 minutes of daylight (6:13 am and 8:45 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:15 am and set at 8:32 pm, giving 14 hours, 17 minutes of daylight (6:22 am and 8:35 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Monday, the Mi’kmaw Ripening Moon. Mercury is moving sunward and sets 45 minutes after sunset by midweek. Jupiter is sinking lower in the west at dusk, setting before 11 pm midweek and approaching Spica nightly. Saturn, in the southern sky in evening twilight, makes an interesting colour contrast in binoculars with orange Antares to its lower right. Venus is the bright Morning Star, rising around 3:15 am among the stars of Gemini. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the afternoon of August 12 and should make its presence known later this week. Moonlight will wash out the fainter meteors but take some time on a clear night to enjoy the show.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on August 5 at 7 pm. All are welcome. The Mount Carleton Star Party runs from August 11 – 13; a great place to spend the weekend. Just think of how much closer you will be to the meteors.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.