Once every eight years, as dictated by orbital mechanics, planet Venus crosses the Pleiades star cluster. The star cluster is one of those nearest Earth and easy to spot: to the right and running ahead of the great Orion constellation. It’s an open cluster consisting of about 1,000 gravitationally-bound stars though only a few of them are visible to the unaided eye. Longer camera exposures reveal more and more stars in the group. The before, during, and after-transit conjunction positions of Venus and the Pleiades make for a lovely sight by eye, telescope, and a favorite target for astrophotographers. Shown below are some of the images CAA members have made of the April 2020 Venus/Pleiades combinations.
The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will, once again, be a major activity at the city of Lakewood’s annual Summer Solstice Celebration. The event takes place in Lakewood Park and on the park’s lakefront Solstice Steps feature on Thursday, June 21 from 6:00 to 10:30 PM.
Operating within the constraints of sunlight and twilight viewing conditions, club members will set up their telescopes and offer public viewing of Sun, Moon, and planets. Planets Venus and Jupiter will be readily visible, given clear skies, as will be the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Some fainter objects may be viewed later.
CAA member Jay Reynolds is coordinating the club’s participation with organizers of the very popular celebration.
An event flyer is available here: Lakewood Summer Solstice Celebration
Kim Doran emailed us on June 12 asking if anyone had seen what she witnessed the night before: a brilliant, multi-colored fireball meteor. Fireballs are meteors that flare to become brighter than the planet Venus.
We don’t know if other human observers saw the meteor’s brilliant fall but NASA’s automated cameras on the campuses of Hiram College and Oberlin College recorded the June 11 event at 10:17 PM EDT.
“(I) saw what I thought was a very large shooting star … then brighter flash and very thick trail with quick red, bright white, and some blue.” She said she is 57 years of age and has never seen anything quite like this before. “Beautiful!”
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
by William Murmann, CAA President
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.