Monday, May 22, 2017

Comet Johnson Getting Brighter in Small Telescopes

https://assets.cdn.astronomynow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/02211027/Comet_C2015_V2_40x10s_2Apr2017_0044BST_v3.jpg
Image of Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) at Apparent Visual Magnitude +8, with an obvious tail, photographed in the Constellation Hercules the Hero on the night of April 1-2 by Ade Ashford.
(Image Source: AstronomyNow Magazine from the United Kingdom)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) has now become the brightest comet visible in small telescopes and possibly binoculars. It will come closest to the Earth on June 5.

Currently, Comet Johnson is passing through the Constellation Bootes the Herdsman. An hour after sunset, it can be found about 40 degrees above the eastern horizon. It will pass Bootes' brightest star, Arcturus, on June 6. Comet Johnson is visible most of the night. It is highest in the southern sky around local Midnight.

Comet Johnson will appear as a diffuse white ball, looking nothing like the pinpoint-like stars or oval planets of our Solar System. Only in the larger, professional telescopes are the two tails visible. The larger one is the traditional dust tail, while a much thinner tail is composed of gas.

At closest approach to Earth, Comet Johnson will be at a distance of 0.812 Astronomical Units or 75,480,115.505697 miles / 121,473,471.0084 kilometers. Used by astronomers to measure the great distances within our Solar System, one Astronomical Unit (AU) is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun: 92,955,807.273026 miles / 149,597,870.70 kilometers.

Visible in small telescopes and binoculars evenings after dusk, the Comet currently shines at an Apparent Visual Magnitude +7.05. Comet Johnson will reach perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on Monday Morning, 2017 June 12 at 5:31:39 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 9:31:39 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

In late June, after Comet Johnson reaches perihelion, it could possibly reach a maximum brightness of +6—which would be barely (particularly considering the diffuse nature of a comet) bright enough to be seen with the naked-eye under ideal conditions. However, it should continue to make a good target for small telescopes and, possibly, binoculars.

For the first part of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, Comet Johnson will be particularly visible to northern viewers due to its favorable orbit, which has a high inclination of 50 degrees relative to the ecliptic. However, by the end of July this comet will become an almost exclusively Southern Hemisphere object, as it continues progressing southward in the sky.

On the evening of 2015 November 3, astronomer Jess Johnson discovered Comet Johnson as part of the Catalina Sky Survey. When first seen, the Comet had a very dim Apparent Visual Magnitude of +17, at a distance of 6.17 AU or 573,537,330.874568 miles / 923,018,862.219 kilometers.

This is the first and last time we will see Comet Johnson, at least in the Inner Solar System. Comet Johnson has a hyperbolic orbit. Once it goes around the Sun, it will move away and never come back, eventually leaving our Solar System for-good.

American astronomer Fred Whipple described a comet as a “dirty snowball.” Comets are a combination of rocks, dust, water ice, and other frozen gases, from the early days of our Solar System.

The solid core of a comet is known as the nucleus. Streams of dust and gas released from the comet, as it nears the Sun, form a thin atmosphere around the comet nucleus called the coma. The coma is composed mostly (90 per-cent) of water, with dust making-up the rest of the coma.

Most, but not all, comets have one or more visible tails. The tail(s), which is usually not visible in the Outer Solar System, is composed of dust and gases emanating from the comet, caused by solar radiation as the comet comes closer to the Sun; this radiation usually is too weak to create tails in the Outer Solar System. Normally, a comet's tail(s) points away from the Sun, no matter the direction of movement of the comet; hence, a comet leaving the Inner Solar System often has a tail pointing in the direction of the comet's motion.

Comets usually have a highly-eccentric, elliptical orbit around the Sun, which brings a comet into the Inner Solar System for a short time, while it spends most of its time in the Outer Solar System. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper Belt, just beyond the orbit of the Planet Neptune, while long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies beyond the Kuiper Belt.

Short-period comets may have an orbit of only a few years, while long-period comets, potentially, could have an orbit of several million years. Some comets have very short lives, and they disappear into the Sun before they can resume traveling to the Outer Solar System. Other comets, known as hyperbolic comets, go around the Sun once and never come back, continuing into Interstellar Space forever.

To more easily see comets, it is better to be away from city lights, as artificial lighting can drown-out the dimmer comets. Bright moonlight can also drown-out some of the dimmer comets, so monitor the Moon Phase on the monthly SpaceWatchtower Astronomical Calendar.

When looking for a comet, it is best to be in an area that gets a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees, or hills). Of course, you definitely want an unobstructed view for the area of the sky where you expect to find the comet. And, if the comet is expected to be low on the horizon where you expect to view it, you want your observation site to be as high in elevation as possible.

Of course, viewing comets, like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If there are more than a very few clouds in the sky, a comet will be much more difficult to find.

And, you want to go out ahead of time, before you actually start looking for comets, to get your eyes accustomed to the dark sky. Dark-adapting your eyes for comet-watching could take up to a half-hour.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

SpaceWatchtower Monthly Astronomical Calendar ---
Current Month (2017 May):
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/05/astronomical-calendar-2017-may.html
Calendar Archives: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/Buhlnews.htm#astrocalarchiv

Comet: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet

Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) -
Link 1 >>> https://theskylive.com/c2015v2-info
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C/2015_V2

Related Blog Post ---

"4 Comets May Be Visible w/ Small Telescopes." 2017 April 12.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/04/4-comets-may-be-visible-w-small.html


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 May 22.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Citizen Science: Another Way to Help Scientists Search Our Universe


(Image Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Over the last few months, NASA and the Carnegie Institution for Science have started projects asking the general public to help scientists find other planets. Another Citizen Science project has also recently been unveiled, asking for help from the public to restore decades-old astronomy photographs. An Internet link to this project can be found at the end of this blog-post.

                                                   Astronomy Rewind

Astronomy Rewind is another initiative of the Citizen Science project known as Zooniverse, which asks the public to view and classify astronomy photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries. People can help to classify these old photographs into the proper categories of the Astronomy Image Explorer.

A service of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the Astronomy Image Explorer contributes to a digital sky atlas originally developed by Microsoft Research, but now managed by AAS. These restored photographs will also join new photographs, such as those from the Hubble Space Telescope, in data-bases managed by NASA and other academic organizations.

Many of the images and maps, which appear on the Astronomy Rewind Internet web-site, come from past journals of the American Astronomical Society. These journals include the Astronomical Journal, Astrophysical Journal, ApJ Letters, and the ApJ Supplement Series, from an archive funded by NASA and housed at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Public assistance is sought for this project because computers are not very good in recognizing stars and other celestial objects in digitized images. Human eyes still have a much better knack for pattern recognition in such computer files.

“There's no telling what discoveries await,” says Alyssa Goodman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the project's founders. She went on to say, “Turning historical scientific literature into searchable, retrievable data is like turning the key to a treasure chest.”

Astronomy Rewind Citizen Science Project:
Link >>> https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/zooniverse/astronomy-rewind

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

News Release from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics - "With Astronomy Rewind, Citizen Scientists Will Bring Zombie Astrophotos Back to Life."
Link >>> https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2017-11

More Citizen Science Projects:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/citizenscience.html

Related Blog Posts ---

"Public Invited to Search for Planets in Other Star Systems." 2017 March 27.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/03/public-invited-to-search-for-planets-in.html

"Citizen Science: Help NASA Find 'Planet Nine'." 2017 March 10.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/03/citizen-science-help-nasa-find-planet.html


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 May 10.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, May 1, 2017

Astronomical Calendar: 2017 May

Downtown Mars, PA.JPG
The Martian New Year (the time of the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere of Mars, beginning Mars Year 34) begins on May 4. NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are co-sponsoring a STEAM celebration in the Mars business district--that is, Mars, Pennsylvania (about 25 miles / 40 kilometers north of Pittsburgh). The New Year on Mars occurs every 686.98 Earth days; the next Martian New Years will occur on 2019 March 23 and 2021 February 7. Pictured is the Mars "Flying Saucer," located in a parklet in the middle of the Mars business district.
More information ---
Link 1 >>> http://www.marsnewyear.com/
Link 2 >>> https://stardate.org/radio/program/martian-spring-0
By coincidence, May 4 is also the annual "Star Wars Day" ("May the Fourth Be With You").
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By Mvincec - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3951658 )

Astronomical Calendar for 2017 May: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#may

 Related Blog Post ---


"Astronomical Calendar: 2017 April." 2017 April 1.

Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#apr


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2017 May 1.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday: March for Science in Cities Around the World

Washington October 2016-6 (cropped) (cropped).jpg
The Washington Monument, on the Washington DC
National Mall, will be the beginning of the Washington
March for Science.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By Alvesgaspar - Own work, 
CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?
curid=56582162)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

On the annual Earth Day this Saturday a new event, the March for Science, is a series of marches and rallies which will occur in Washington DC and more than 500 other cities world-wide including Pittsburgh. According to the March for Science Internet web-site, “The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.”

The organizers and supporters of the March for Science insist that it is a non-partisan event. The goal of the March for Science is to call for science which upholds the common good and provides for evidence-based information to be used for developing good public policy.

The March for Science was inspired by the Women's March held on January 21, the day after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. The organizers of the March for Science have been skeptical of the lower priority that the Trump Administration, thus far, has given to scientific issues related to public policies.

It is hoped that the March for Science will give greater exposure to all of the elements of science which provide us with the good quality of life we have today and impress upon policy-makers that advancement in the sciences is a necessity to maintain such a good quality of life. It is also hoped that the March for Science will inspire the public to engage policy-makers regarding the decisions being made, or neglected, regarding science public policy.

The March for Science in Washington, along with all satellite marches (including the one in Pittsburgh) is free-of-charge to the public and open to everyone! No prior registration is required. All events will go-on, rain or shine!

For people who do not live in or near Washington and would like to participate in a satellite march, the March for Science Internet web-site (link to this web-site at the end of this blog-post) provides a listing of all satellite marches that are currently planned.

In Washington, the March for Science will be an all-day event concentrating on the National Mall in Downtown Washington. The event begins at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) on the National Mall just north of the grounds of the Washington Monument, on Constitution Avenue NW between 15th and 17th Streets NW.

The Washington event will include 21 science teach-in sessions, beginning at 9:00 a.m. EDT and running until around Noon, or a little after. The 18 organizations sponsoring these teach-in sessions include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Anthropological Association, American Chemical Society, and the University of Rochester. Several other special events, as part of the March for Science, are also scheduled throughout the weekend at different venues in Washington.

The actual Washington March begins at 2:00 p.m. EDT. The March will form on the National Mall at the grounds of the Washington Monument. The March will proceed east on Constitution Avenue NW from 15th Street to 3rd Street NW, then south on 3rd Street NW terminating in Union Square.

In Pittsburgh, the March for Science will center on the University of Pittsburgh campus in the Oakland Civic Center section of the city. Scheduled for 12:00 Noon to 2:00 p.m. EDT, it will begin on Bigelow Boulevard between Fifth and Forbes Avenues [between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Student Union (originally, the historic Hotel Schenley)]. The main event will be a march completely around the large city block encompassing the University of Pittsburgh's signature, 42-story Cathedral of Learning (tallest academic building in the Western Hemisphere, second tallest in the World!).

Around 1:00 p.m. EDT, the Pittsburgh March will be followed by several speakers from the Pittsburgh scientific community in the closed block of Bigelow Boulevard (between Fifth and Forbes Avenues).

Friends of the Zeiss, parent organization of the SpaceWatchtower Blog and Twitter News Feed, will participate in the March for Science in Pittsburgh.

Friends of the Zeiss is a non-profit organization with the mission to promote Astronomy, Space Science, and other sciences to the general public through Internet web sites, SpaceWatchtower Blog, and SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed, as well as public observing sessions of special astronomical events and other public educational programs and services regarding Astronomy, Space Science, and other sciences. This organization also promotes the history and preservation of the historic equipment, artifacts, and building of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, including the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector (prior to 2002 dismantling, oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!) and the fairly unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

March for Science -
     Internet Web-Site: Link >>> https://www.marchforscience.com/
     Wikipedia Page: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_for_Science
     March for Science Pittsburgh: Link  >>> https://www.facebook.com/MarchForSciencePGH/

Related Blog Posts ---

"NASA & the Trump Administration." 2017 Jan. 23.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/01/nasa-trump-administration.html

 

"U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer Science Questions." 2016 Sept. 18.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/09/us-presidential-candidates-answer.html


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 April 21.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

4 Comets May Be Visible w/ Small Telescopes

https://assets.cdn.astronomynow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/02211027/Comet_C2015_V2_40x10s_2Apr2017_0044BST_v3.jpg
Image of Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) at visual magnitude +8, with an obvious tail, photographed in the Constellation Hercules the Hero on the night of April 1-2 by Ade Ashford.
(Image Source: AstronomyNow Magazine from the United Kingdom)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

This month, four comets may be visible to stargazers with small telescopes, and possibly binoculars. Although it is unlikely any of these comets will be bright enough to see with the naked-eye (at least, not this month), those with a small telescope, or possibly good binoculars, may have a chance to see one or more of these cosmic “dirty snowballs.”

American astronomer Fred Whipple described a comet as a “dirty snowball.” Comets are a combination of rocks, dust, water ice, and other frozen gases, from the early days of our Solar System.

The solid core of a comet is known as the nucleus. Streams of dust and gas released from the comet, as it nears the Sun, form a thin atmosphere around the comet nucleus called the coma. The coma is composed mostly (90 per-cent) of water, with dust making-up the rest of the coma.

Most, but not all, comets have one or more visible tails. The tail(s), which is usually not visible in the Outer Solar System, is composed of dust and gases emanating from the comet, caused by solar radiation as the comet comes closer to the Sun; this radiation usually is too weak to create tails in the Outer Solar System. Normally, a comet's tail(s) points away from the Sun, no matter the direction of movement of the comet; hence, a comet leaving the Inner Solar System often has a tail pointing in the direction of the comet's motion.

Comets usually have a highly-eccentric, elliptical orbit around the Sun, which brings a comet into the Inner Solar System for a short time, while it spends most of its time in the Outer Solar System. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper Belt, just beyond the orbit of the Planet Neptune, while long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies beyond the Kuiper Belt.

Short-period comets may have an orbit of only a few years, while long-period comets, potentially, could have an orbit of several million years. Some comets have very short lives, and they disappear into the Sun before they can resume traveling to the Outer Solar System. Other comets, known as hyperbolic comets, go around the Sun once and never come back, continuing into Interstellar Space forever.

To more easily see comets, it is better to be away from city lights, as artificial lighting can drown-out the dimmer comets. Bright moonlight can also drown-out some of the dimmer comets, so monitor the Moon Phase on the monthly SpaceWatchtower Astronomical Calendar.

When looking for a comet, it is best to be in an area that gets a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees, or hills). Of course, you definitely want an unobstructed view for the area of the sky where you expect to find the comet. And, if the comet is expected to be low on the horizon where you expect to view it, you want your observation site to be as high in elevation as possible.

Of course, viewing comets, like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If there are more than a very few clouds in the sky, a comet will be much more difficult to find.

And, you want to go out ahead of time, before you actually start looking for comets, to get your eyes accustomed to the dark sky. Dark-adapting your eyes for comet-watching could take up to a half-hour.

                                    Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacombini-Kresák

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacombini-Kresák has been called by some the “April Fool's Comet,” because it approached Earth, on the first day of this month, at a closer point than any other fly-by since the comet's discovery in 1858: 13.2 million miles / 21.2 million kilometers. Today (April 12), this comet reaches the point in its orbit called perihelion (closest approach to the Sun for this apparition): 97.1 million miles / 156.3 million kilometers.

This is a short-period comet, which comes around once every 5.5 years. Astronomer Horace Tuttle of the Harvard College Observatory first discovered this comet on 1858 May 3. It was next observed by Professor M. Giacombini of France's Nice Observatory on 1907 June 1, and after that by Slovak astronomer Lubor Kresak on 1951 April 24.

It was only after this third observation that it was realized that the comets of 1858, 1907, and 1951 were all the same comet. Hence, all three astronomers' names were given to this comet as the comet's discoverers.

On April 18 and 19, this comet will be in the Constellation Draco the Dragon, passing the bright Star Rastaban, in the dragon's head on the 18th. After that, the comet heads into the Constellation Hercules the Hero, where it will start to fade in brightness as it travels further from the Earth.

                                          Comet Lovejoy (C/2017 E4)

A new Comet Lovejoy should not be confused with the Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) SpaceWatchtower reported on back on 2015 January 7. Discovered just last month by a prolific amateur astronomer, Terry Lovejoy in Australia, this Comet Lovejoy has continued brightening to about +7.0 visual magnitude.

This Comet Lovejoy rises in the early morning just above the east-northeast horizon, having just passed the Constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse a few days ago.

                                         Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2)

Discovered in 2015, it is unsure whether Comet Johnson is a long-period comet (that might not come back to the Inner Solar System for another 14 million years) or a hyperbolic comet (which is destined to leave our Solar System after this one pass around our Sun).

Later this month, Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacombini-Kresák will join Comet Johnson in the Constellation Hercules. Comet Johnson will be easier to spot when it passes three bright stars in Hercules on April 22 [when it will lie between Stars Tau (τ) Herculis and (υ) Upsilon Herculis], and again on April 25 [when it will lie between Stars Phi (φ) Herculis and (υ) Upsilon Herculis].

Comet Johnson is expected to reach visual magnitude +7.4 by the end of the month. However, since it will not fly-by the Sun until mid-June, there is a chance it could get even brighter—perhaps, reaching naked-eye brightness. So, this is a comet to keep watching!

                                    Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2015 ER61)

This month, we may get to see another Comet Pan-STARRS, this time C/2015 ER61. On 2013 March 5, SpaceWatchtower reported on a Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4), that was then brightening in the sky.

Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) is a robotic system of astronomical cameras, telescopes, and computers continually watching the sky for asteroids (particularly near-Earth asteroids which could one day threaten Earth), comets, variable stars, and other celestial objects. It is expected to eventually create a data-base of space objects, down to 24th visual magnitude, over 75 percent of the sky—the part of the sky visible from its base in Hawaii.

Although this Comet Pan-STARRS was very dim (visual magnitude +21) when it was discovered two years ago, it has brightened considerably as it approaches our Sun. This month, it has brightened to visual magnitude +6.5.

It passes the Earth on April 19 at a distance of 109 million miles / 175 million kilometers, before it swings around the Sun on May 10. So, it could brighten even more over the next few weeks.

Currently, this Comet Pan-STARRS appears as a tiny fuzz-ball in Constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer, very low in the pre-dawn sky. It may become a little easier to spot as it rises just before dawn, but it will become more difficult to see as the sky brightens.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

SpaceWatchtower Monthly Astronomical Calendar ---
Current Month (2017 April):
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/04/astronomical-calendar-2017-april.html
Calendar Archives: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/Buhlnews.htm#astrocalarchiv

Comet: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet

Comets ---
Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacombini-Kresák:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/41P/Tuttle%E2%80%93Giacobini%E2%80%93Kres%C3%A1k
Comet Lovejoy (C/2017 E4): Link >>> https://theskylive.com/c2017e4-info
Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2): Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C/2015_V2
Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2015 ER61):
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C/2015_ER61_(PANSTARRS)

Pan-STARRS: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-STARRS

Related Blog Posts ---

"Two Dim Comets May Be Visible in a Telescope." 2017 Feb. 19.

 Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/02/two-dim-comets-may-be-visible-in.html

 

"Comet Lovejoy: Best View Next 2 Weeks." 2015 Jan. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/01/comet-lovejoy-best-view-next-2-weeks.html

 

"European Space Probe Aims for 1 Comet, Finds 2." 2014 July 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/07/european-space-probe-aims-for-1-comet.html

 

"Comet ISON vs. the Solar Storm." 2013 Nov. 26.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/11/comet-ison-vs-solar-storm.html?m=0

 

"Comet LINEAR Suddenly Brightens." 2013 Oct. 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.de/2013/10/comet-linear-suddenly-brightens.html

 

"Comet ISON to Fly by Mars." 2013 Aug. 24.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/08/comet-ison-to-fly-by-mars.html?m=0


"Comet: Source of Mysterious Water on Jupiter." 2013 May 4.
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/pearcee/pe-jupiterwater.html


"Possible Naked-eye Comet in March." 2013 Feb. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/02/possible-naked-eye-comet-in-march.html


"Comet of the Century?" 2013 Jan. 19.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/01/comet-of-century.html


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 April 12.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Astronomical Calendar: 2017 April


A very rare color photograph from 1917 (although digitally enhanced), of a Nieuport Bi-Plane Fighter used during World War I. The United States of America entered World War I on April 6, one hundred years ago.
(Image Source: Wikipedia.org , By Paul CastelnauThe factual accuracy of this description or the file name is disputed.Reason: Attributed to Fernand Cuville by Réunion des musées nationaux [1] - Source BNF Available at http://gallica.bnf.fr/scripts/ConsultationTout.exe?E=0&O=03300083 (bad link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5967740 )

Astronomical Calendar for 2017 April: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#apr

 Related Blog Post ---


"Astronomical Calendar: 2017 March." 2017 March 1.

Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#mar


     Safe Public Viewing of the Great American Solar Eclipse
                         Monday, August 21, 2017
     Mt. Lebanon Public Library, South Suburban Pittsburgh
More Info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/archivenews/releases/poster-flyer/2017SolarEclipse-Flyer.htm

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2017 April 1.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, March 27, 2017

Public Invited to Search for Planets in Other Star Systems

KeckTelescopes-hi.png
W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By T. Wynne / JPL - http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/images/keckTelescopes-hi.tif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4963229 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Last month, NASA opened an Internet web-site to engage the public in the search for the long-sought “Planet Nine” in the outer reaches of our Solar System. A huge data-set has also been released on the Internet, by a team led by the Carnegie Institution for Science (a.k.a. Carnegie Institution of Washington), inviting the public to help in the search for exo-planets, planets outside of our Solar System.

With a technique called radial velocity being used to help hunt for exo-planets, this data-set is the largest collection of observations utilizing this particular technique. It took more than two decades for the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to collect all of these observations. At an elevation of 13,600 feet / 4,145 meters, Keck's twin telescopes, each with a 10-meter / 33-foot mirror-aperture, saw “first-light” in the mid-1990s.

The huge observation data-set is being made available for public use, along with a computer software package to help process the data and an on-line tutorial of how to use the data-set. With almost 61,000 observations of more than 1,600 nearby stars, scientists are hoping that fresh, public eyes using this user-friendly data-base will bring new results in the search for exo-planets.

Internet links to this data-base, along with tools to assist in its use, are located at the end of this blog-post.

Much of this observation work was done by a spectrometer mounted on the Keck-I Telescope called HIRES. HIRES (High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer), a large and complex instrument of the Keck Observatory, analyzes the light spectra coming into the telescope from the various star systems observed.

"HIRES was not specifically optimized to do this type of exoplanet detective work, but has turned out to be a workhorse instrument of the field", said Steve Vogt of the University of California Santa Cruz, who built the instrument. "I am very happy to contribute to science that is fundamentally changing how we view ourselves in the universe."

Thus far, scientists looking over this data have found more than 100 possible exo-planets, including one orbiting Star GJ-411, the fourth closest star to our Solar System (8.1 light-years from Earth). An academic research paper about this find was recently published in the scientific journal, The Astronomical Journal.

“This is an amazing catalog, and we realized there just aren’t enough of us on the team to be doing as much science as could come out of this dataset,” says Jennifer Burt, a Torres Postdoctoral Fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “We’re trying to shift toward a more community-oriented idea of how we should do science, so that others can access the data and see something interesting.”

"I think this paper sets a precedent for how the community can collaborate on exoplanet detection and follow-up", said team-member Johanna Teske of Carnegie’s Observatories and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. “With NASA’s TESS mission on the horizon (scheduled for launch a year from now), which is expected to detect 1000+ planets orbiting bright, nearby stars, exoplanet scientists will soon have a whole new pool of planets to follow up.”

Keck Observatory Observation Data-Base: Link >>> http://home.dtm.ciw.edu/ebps/

Software Package (Downloadable) to Assist with Searching Data-Base:
Link >>> http://www.stefanom.org/console-2/

On-Line Tutorial for use of Software Package: Link >>> http://oklo.org/

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

News Release from the Carnegie Institution for Science:
Link >>> https://carnegiescience.edu/news/team-makes-planet-hunting-group-effort-finds-more-100-candidates

News Release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Link >>> http://www.rdmag.com/news/2017/02/scientists-make-huge-dataset-nearby-stars-available-public?et_cid=5828674&et_rid=544605860&location=top&et_cid=5828674&et_rid=544605860&linkid=content

Carnegie Institution for Science: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Institution_for_Science

W.M. Keck Observatory: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._M._Keck_Observatory 

HIRES - High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._M._Keck_Observatory#Instruments

TESS: Transiting Exo-Planet Survey Satellite:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transiting_Exoplanet_Survey_Satellite

Citizen Science Projects: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/citizenscience.html

Related Blog Post ---

"Citizen Science: Help NASA Find 'Planet Nine'." 2017 March 10.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/03/citizen-science-help-nasa-find-planet.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 March 27.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
TransportWatchtower Blog: < http://transportwatchtower.blogspot.com  >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >