The CAA will host a public star party for the Medina County Park District at 9:00 PM at Letha House Park West. See Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and more! A cloudy night alternative program will be offered should weather conditions be an issue. Members: please bring your scope to help if you can.
Road closure/detour: Due to a Medina County Highway Engineer’s road improvement construction project, Spencer Lake Road will be closed just east of Richman Road where you would normally access Letha House Park West. This section of road will be closed from June 6 through the end of July 2016. Click HERE for a detour map.
Over recent weeks we have watched as several planets have appeared close together in our morning sky — when clear, that is — and even seen them shift their positions as the days passed! Beginning this frigid week and continuing into mid-February, five of Earth’s Solar System siblings will be visible, spanning the southern sky. This is the first time since 2005 that this planetary lineup has occurred. If we get a break in morning cloud cover go out, just before dawn’s early light, and look for the planetary parade. Little Mercury will be the hardest to spot being both dim and close to the horizon. Venus and Jupiter will be easy as they are the brightest of the bunch. Golden Saturn and finally reddish Mars should also be easy to find though Mars isn’t a standout. The gathering will occur again late this summer and in the evening sky. The planets aren’t really very much closer together in space during this time. The chart below illustrates the current relative positions of the planets; it’s our point of view from Earth that makes creates the scene: something like watching racers on a race track, appearing closer and farther apart as they run laps in their concentric lanes.
Let’s hope for clear skies the evening of June 30 when the ongoing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus gets really cozy! Tuesday evening will see the two planets sharing a space only 1/3-degree apart in our sky; they will look like a brilliant double star. After Tuesday’s encounter, the planets will drift slowly apart night-by-night but will remain a beautiful sight in twilight. Chart courtesy Sky & Telescope – www.skyandtelescope.com
In spite of mostly-cloudy weather during the day, we had between 30 and 40 guests attend our public star party last night (June 20) at Letha House Park.
By the time the program started at 9 PM, the sky had cleared to the west and we had a great view of Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent Moon in a group. The sky continued to clear from west to east and more objects became visible, including Saturn, Arcturus, Vega, etc. Jay Reynolds was able to get the Ring Nebula, Saturn, M13, and other objects with the big scopes in the observatory.
Jay and I were the only ones operating telescopes — Jay in the observatory and me outside showing the crescent Moon — so we got quite a workout. Many thanks to Carl Kudrna, and to new members Nora Mishney and Lester Morris who helped at my scope giving me a chance to talk with guests at our indoor display.
Saturday night, May 23, the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) held our first Public Star Party for 2015. The event took place at the club’s observatory situated on the grounds of the Medina County Park System’s Letha House Park in Spencer, Ohio. Members of the public were generally enthusiastic, excitedly moving between telescopes. The sky was beautifully clear and allowed excellent views of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, the Hercules Star Cluster (M13), M81 & M82, and other astronomical wonders.
CAA President William Murmann wrote, “Thanks to everyone who attended and who brought scopes to help with the program!
“The park staff said we had about 50 guests join us, including families with children. We had clear skies all day, but some high, thin wispy stuff moved in during the evening, although we had good observing.
“It was nice to see to James Guilford, Steve Spears, Chris Christe, Chris Burke, Paul Leopold, Suzie Dills, Trevor Braun, Bob Wiersma, Jay Reynolds, Rich Rinehart, Bill & Carol Lee, Tim Campbell and Mary Ann, Steve & Gail Korylak, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Dave & Jan Heideloff, Carl Kudrna, Larry Smith — and new member Anita Kazarian, who joined us. Sorry if I missed anyone.
“Noteworthy for the evening–Steve Korylak spotted Comet Lovejoy with his scope.
“It was a nice program and a nice get together for members. Thanks again.”
Among the objects the public viewed in beautiful detail was Earth’s Moon. Early in the evening not only could observers see the brightly-lit portion of the Moon but also the Earth-lit shadowed portion of the disk. Adding to the scene was a beautiful speck of a star near the horn of the Moon: Acubens, a star in constellation Cancer.
February 6, 2015 — Every 13 months, Earth and Jupiter have a close encounter. Astronomers call it an “opposition” because Jupiter is opposite the Sun in the sky. Our solar system’s largest gas planet rises in the east at sunset, and soars overhead at midnight, shining brighter than any star in the night sky.
This year’s opposition of Jupiter occurs on Feb. 6. It isn’t an ordinary close encounter with Earth (approximately 640 million kilometers), but in Feb. 2015, Jupiter is edge on to the Sun.
Jupiter’s opposition on Feb. 6 coincides almost perfectly with its equinox on Feb. 5 when the Sun crosses Jupiter’s equatorial plane. It is an edge-on apparition of the giant planet that sets the stage for a remarkable series of events. For the next couple of months, backyard sky watchers can see the moons of Jupiter executing a complex series of mutual eclipses and transits.
The eclipses have already started. On Jan. 24, for example, three of Jupiter’s moon’s, Io, Europa, and Callisto, cast their inky-black shadows on Jupiter’s swirling cloudtops. The “triple shadow transit” happened while Jupiter was high in the sky over North America, and many backyard astronomers watched the event.
As Earth’s crosses the plane of Jupiter’s equator in the weeks and months ahead, there will be many mutual events. For instance, on Feb. 5, volcanic Io will cast its shadow on Mercury-sized Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. On Feb. 7, icy Europa, home to what may be the solar system’s largest underground ocean, will cast its shadow on Io. Events like these will continue, off and on, until July 2015.
During the last edge-on apparition in 2009, some observers managed to obtain the first resolved time-lapse videos of mutual phenomena. Experienced amateur astronomers recorded satellites ducking in and out of one another’s shadows, moons in partial and total eclipse, and multiple shadows playing across the face of Jupiter. Backyard telescopes have come a long way in the past six years, so even better movies can be expected this time.
You don’t have to be an experienced astronomer to experience Jupiter’s opposition. Anyone can see the bright planet rising in the east at sunset. It outshines by far anything else in its patch of sky. Point a small telescope at the bright light and, voila!–there are Jupiter’s cloud belts and storms, and the pinprick lights of the Galilean satellites circling the gas giant below.
Try it; 640 million kilometers won’t seem so far away at all.
Despite the fact it was 9 degrees (F) and just before 11:00 PM, I simply had to go out and try a shot of the Monday night (January 21) close conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. Skies had cleared and the day’s occasional snows stopped, so I had a good opportunity. I stepped out on to our sidewalk and, tolerating the frigid breeze as long as I could, shot several exposures, bracketing the shutter speed. I only got one or two that were acceptable to me mostly due to focus being off. The image I’m sharing is sharp enough that (in the uncompressed original) even shows hints of Jupiter’s cloud belts, diagonal here in its tiny disk. None of Jove’s moons show due to the short exposure needed to record Earth’s Moon, just hours away from apogee. Pictures done and shared, it was off to slumberland having witnessed a cold celestial dance before bed. — James Guilford
Notes: Single-exposure image — Canon EOS 50D: ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/500 sec., 400mm lens (600mm equiv.), cropped and adjusted in Adobe Photoshop.