Category Archives: Astronomy

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.

National Star Party at Irving Nature Park

Photo showing National Star Party to be celebrated at Irving Nature Park July 29, 2017

The National Star Party at Irving Nature Park was well attended with about 290 people showing up to look at the night sky. For many, it was their first look at Saturn, Jupiter and its moons, double stars, and our Moon itself. Clear skies and low humidity afforded good viewing.

A 360 pano of the National Star Party at Irving Nature Park celebrating Canada's Sesquicentennial in July of 2017.Above~ Have a look around (click the pic, use your mouse to navigate). This was at the Observing Area, above the Interpretative Shelter. Most of the crowd had left by this point.

Looking up at the National Star Party at Irving Nature Park, July 30, 2017

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday with a Canada-wide National Star Party.
In Saint John, Irving Nature Park hosted the public along with local members and guests of the SJAC and RASC NB Centre with an evening of stargazing, Starting at 9:00 pm with a brief talk by Saint John astronomer Curt Nason at the observing area, about a dozen telescopes were set up to give the public night sky views. It continued till about 11:30.

Chris Curwin of Astronomy by the Bay also hosted a Facebook Live Event. Many tuned in from all across the country. He also posted an video which you can view on Facebook here (8.37 min).

Photo at the National Star Party celebrated at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Photo of setting up at the National Star Party celebrated at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Photo of crowd at the National Star Party celebrated at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Photo of crowd at the National Star Party celebrated at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Photo at the INP National Star Party

Photo of looking through a telescope at the National Star Party celebrated at Irving Nature Park, Saint John, NB.

Photo at the INP National Star Party

Photo of nighttime at the INP National Star Party

James Carroll, Irving Nature Park’s Site Manager, gave the crowd a welcome followed by Curt Nason from the SJAC and RASC.NB informing everyone what to expect.

Early evening highlights were the craters and mountains on the Moon, Jupiter with its moons, and Saturn with its fascinating rings.

As with all park events, this was offered free of charge by J.D. Irving, Limited. The Park also provided hot chocolate, and stayed open late to accommodate the public and astronomers.

You may be also be able to see more pics on the Facebook Event page.

Irving Nature Park has been good for local astronomy and has made the Park and staff available for many events, among them the annual Moonlight Snowshoe Walk. Leading into the Park is also the site of Saints Rest Beach, where astronomer Chris Curwin sets up a telescope on most clear evenings for public viewing which he calls Astronomy by the Bay.

See also National Astronomy Day 2018 at Irving Nature Park


Maps~

Photo showing location of Interpretative Shelter at Irving Nature Park

Photo showing location of Interpretative Shelter at Irving Nature Park


 

 Logo of the RASC New Brunswick Centre


See also~

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

Partial Solar Eclipse in Saint John
Astronomy Day in Rockwood Park
Moonlight Snowshoe Walk

Sky at a Glance July 29 – August 5

Photo showing the constellations Aquila and Sputum with locations of the star Altair in Aquila and  the Wild Duck cluster in Sputum.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 29 – August 5 ~by Curt Nason

After twilight the bright star Altair is halfway up in the southeastern sky, forming the lower peak of the Summer Triangle with Vega and Deneb. It is flanked by two somewhat dimmer stars, Tarazed and Alshain, and the trio forms the head of Aquila the Eagle. The eagle’s body and tail stretch southward, while the wings reach forward to propel it up the Milky Way. In Greek mythology the eagle was the pet of Zeus and the bearer of his deadly thunderbolts. In Chinese mythology Tchi-Niu (Lyra) was a princess and royal weaver, and Kien-Niou (Aquila) tended the king’s cows. The two fell in love and were married but they subsequently neglected their chores. Angered, the king placed the herder on the opposite side of the river, represented by the Milky Way. On the seventh day of the seventh month all of the magpies in the country form a bridge to allow the lovers to be together for one day.

Following a string of stars beyond the eagle’s tail, over the constellation border into Scutum the Shield, a binocular search will pick up a smudge of light which is a cluster of stars called M11 or the Wild Duck Cluster. From the eagle’s head toward Cygnus or Lyra is a tiny constellation called Sagitta the Arrow. Look to the upper right of the arrow’s fletching with binoculars to see a popular asterism of about a dozen stars. Although it is upside down you will recognize the Coathanger Cluster.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:58 am and sunset will occur at 8:52 pm, giving 14 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (6:05 am and 8:55 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:06 am and set at 8:43 pm, giving 14 hours, 37 minutes of daylight (6:13 am and 8:45 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Sunday, allowing for great views at star parties this weekend, and it passes near Saturn on Tuesday. Jupiter is sinking lower in the west as dusk, setting before 11:30 pm this week. Mercury is at greatest elongation this weekend, about halfway between the Sun and Jupiter and setting an hour after sunset. Venus is the bright Morning Star, rising around 3 am and situated approximately where the Sun resides at the summer solstice.

Astronomy clubs across the country are participating in a public National Star Party on the evening of July 29. New Brunswick locations are at Mactaquac Provincial Park, the Irving Nature Park in Saint John, and the Moncton High School Observatory. The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on August 5 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance July 22 – 29

A view of the constellations at their zenith.

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

Many people grew up watching Zenith televisions, which are now made by LG Electronics. Stargazers prefer zenith observing because that is when we should have our best views of objects in a telescope or binoculars. The zenith is the imaginary line running from north to south, separating the sky into eastern and western hemispheres. Objects are at their highest when they cross the zenith, shining through a minimal thickness of atmosphere en route to our eyes. Unstable pockets of atmosphere will distort the light from stars and planets, blurring the view. The less atmosphere light must pass through, the less distortion. Astronomers use the term “seeing” to describe the steadiness of the atmosphere; good seeing means steady air and we can use higher magnification for observing details of the Moon and planets.

Around 10 pm now we have several prominent constellations at the zenith. Moving southward from the North Star we have Ursa Minor or the Little Dipper. A small telescope with good seeing conditions will show the close companion star of Polaris, which is actually a triple star although only two can be seen in a telescope. Heading southward we pass through Draco the Dragon on our way to Hercules. The faintest of the four stars in the dragon’s head is an easy double star to resolve in binoculars. The globular cluster M92 is about halfway between the head and the Keystone asterism of Hercules, and don’t forget M13 along the western side of the Keystone.

Hercules goes head-to-head with Ophiuchus to its south, which contains a few globular clusters itself. Ophiuchus stands on Scorpius, keeping the scorpion underfoot so that it cannot fatally sting Orion again. Scorpius at the zenith is the best time to observe globular clusters M4 and M80, and open clusters M6 and M7. Observing all of these objects near their zenith is much more fun than watching a television of any brand.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:50 am and sunset will occur at 9:00 pm, giving 15 hours, 10 minutes of daylight (5:58 am and 9:02 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:58 am and set at 8:52 pm, giving 14 hours, 54 minutes of daylight (6:05 am and 8:55 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Sunday and it passes near Jupiter on Friday evening. Mercury is 5 degrees to the upper left of the very slim crescent Moon on Monday, and on Tuesday it is 6 degrees to the lower right and just below dimmer Regulus. Jupiter is best observed in the first hour or so after sunset, before it gets too low in the west for steady viewing. Saturn is well placed for observing all evening between Scorpius and Sagittarius. Venus is the bright Morning Star, rising around 3 am. If you are out past midnight later in the week, keep an eye out for shooting stars from the South Delta Aquariid meteor shower. Mars is in conjunction with the Sun on Wednesday, emerging from the glare of sunrise in mid-September.

Astronomy clubs across the country are participating in a public National Star Party on the evening of July 29. New Brunswick locations are at Mactaquac Provincial Park, the Irving Nature Park in Saint John, and the Moncton High School Observatory.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance July 15 – 22

Photo of the constellation Serpens in the southern night sky.

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

Serpens the Serpent is unique among the 88 constellations in that it is split in two by another constellation, Ophiuchus. As the name suggests, Ophiuchus is the Serpent Bearer, and he is often depicted holding a large snake behind his back. The two constellations are also intertwined in mythology.

Ophiuchus represents Asclepius, a renowned healer who could raise the dead. After killing a snake one day, he watched as another snake placed an herb on its dead companion and revived it. From this, Asclepius learned the healing arts and his success at reviving people drew the ire of Hades, a brother of Zeus and ruler of the underworld. Receiving a complaint from Hades that he was being robbed of subjects, Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt.

The part of Serpens west of Ophiuchus is called Serpens Caput (meaning head); to the east is Serpens Cauda (for tail). M16, the Eagle Nebula, is a rather faint nebula with a star cluster in Serpens Cauda. It gained fame as the iconic Pillars of Creation photo from the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. The delightful globular cluster M5 is found in Serpens Caput.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:43 am and sunset will occur at 9:06 pm, giving 15 hours, 23 minutes of daylight (5:51 am and 9:08 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:50 am and set at 9:00 pm, giving 15 hours, 10 minutes of daylight (5:58 am and 9:02 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Sunday, and it passes near Venus on Thursday morning. Mercury continues to pull away from the Sun in the evening sky but it still sets 70 minutes after sunset midweek. Jupiter is best observed in the first hour or so after sunset, before it gets too low in the west for steady viewing. Saturn is well placed for observing all evening between Scorpius and Sagittarius. Venus is the bright Morning Star, also called Phosphorus by the ancient Greeks and Lucifer by their Roman counterparts.

Astronomy clubs across the country are participating in a public National Star Party on the evening of July 29. New Brunswick locations are Mactaquac Provincial Park and the Irving Nature Park in Saint John.

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

Sky at a Glance July 8 – 15

A photo showing deep sky objects in the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpius.

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

With the Milky Way becoming prominent on summer evenings, binocular stargazing is a great way to pass the time. Save the campfire and ghost stories for cloudy evenings. A good place to start this year is with Saturn, which is as bright as orange Antares to its lower right. If you steady your binoculars on a railing or tripod you might be able to discern the planet’s rings or at least see that it looks elongated. Check out the colour of Antares, and pick out the globular cluster M4 in the same field of view to its right.

Lower left of Saturn is the Teapot asterism that makes up much of Sagittarius the Archer. If you extend the two stars at the top of the teapot’s spout to the right you will find M6, the aptly named Butterfly Cluster. To its lower left is a large star cluster called M7 or Ptolemy’s Cluster. To the right of M7 is a pair of bright stars, Shaula and Lesath, which marks the stinger of Scorpius. They have been nicknamed the Cat’s Eyes.

About a binocular-field width above the teapot’s spout you will find a fuzzy patch with a small cluster of stars in or near it. The fuzzy patch is a cloud of dust and gas called M8, the Lagoon Nebula, where stars are forming. Radiation from hot young stars makes the gas glow, and it can be seen with the naked eye in rural areas. The cluster of stars is called NGC 6530, where NGC stands for New General Catalogue. A telescope will reveal dark dust lanes in the nebula that suggest its lagoon name. Just above M8 is a smaller cloud, M20 or the Trifid Nebula, and the nearby star cluster M21. A large scope will show M20’s dust lanes that separate it into three petals; no relation to the mobile plants that had their day in the 1962 movie based on John Wyndham’s novel.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:36 am and sunset will occur at 9:11 pm, giving 15 hours, 35 minutes of daylight (5:45 am and 9:13 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:43 am and set at 9:06 pm, giving 15 hours, 23 minutes of daylight (5:51 am and 9:08 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Sunday, the Mi’kmaq Birds Shed Feathers Moon. Mercury sets 70 minutes after sunset midweek but binoculars are recommended to locate it. Jupiter is best observed in the first hour or so after sunset, before it gets too low in the west for steady viewing. Saturn is well placed for observing all evening between Scorpius and Sagittarius. Venus spends the week moving through the Hyades star cluster, which forms the V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on Saturday, July 8 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

Sky at a Glance July 1 – 8

Photo of the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 1 – July 8 ~by Curt Nason

Saturn is in the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer this summer; “in” meaning in the same direction. The stars are much farther than the planets, but how much farther? Neptune is the most distant planet from the Sun, about three times farther than Saturn and 30 times farther than Earth. Sunlight takes 4.2 hours to reach Neptune and 4.2 years to reach the closest star, Proxima Centauri. Stand on one leg* while you read this article, and then try to imagine continuing for 4.2 hours. Doing that for 4.2 years is as incomprehensible as picturing a distance of 4.2 light years.

Rasalhague, the brightest star of Ophiuchus and which marks his head, is 49 light years away, while the one at his waist is about ten times farther. We are closer to Rasalhague than some of the stars that form the constellation. The constellation shapes are a matter of perspective but they will look the same from Saturn’s moons as they do from Earth.

Centuries ago the area where Saturn currently resides was shared by Scorpius and Ophiuchus. When the constellation borders were set by the International Astronomical Union in 1930, this area was designated for Ophiuchus and, since the ecliptic runs through here, it became the 13th constellation of the zodiac. But don’t expect to find it in the daily horoscope.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:32 am and sunset will occur at 9:13 pm, giving 15 hours, 41 minutes of daylight (5:40 am and 9:15 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:36 am and set at 9:11 pm, giving 15 hours, 35 minutes of daylight (5:45 am and 9:13 pm in Saint John). Earth is at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun for the year at 152, 092,504 kilometres, around suppertime on Monday. Don’t bother putting on a sweater.

The Moon is at first quarter and near Jupiter on June 30, giving great views for holiday partiers who are fortunate enough to have clear skies this weekend. The waxing gibbous Moon is near Saturn on Thursday. On Wednesday, those with a telescope might catch Jupiter’s moon Europa playing “now you see me, now you don’t.” At 10:43 pm it starts emerging from behind Jupiter, only to disappear into the planet’s shadow four minutes later. Saturn’s rings are on display in a scope all evening, and in steady binoculars it will look somewhat elongated. Mercury sets an hour after sunset midweek but you will likely need binoculars to locate it. Venus rises two and a half hours before the Sun and dominates the morning sky with its brilliance.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets on Saturday, July 8 at 7 pm in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre. All are welcome.

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

*I am not responsible for any physical or emotional damage resulting from doing this. My lawyer tells me I do have a leg to stand on.

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.