Posts Tagged ‘Mercury’

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Astronomy Events – May 2016

April 30, 2016

by Adam Welbourn

Summer is just around the corner, you can almost feel it in the tingles of warmth you get from the Sun, for those few moments when the wind drops…

After an unusually cold April the forecasts finally show some sign of improvement, and it’s about this time of year that stargazing becomes even more enjoyable!

Yes night might arrive slightly later as each evening passes, but it’s still dark enough early enough to keep kids entertained and help them discover the joys and wonders of the night sky.

So to help you get started (as you knew we would) below we’ve provided some happenings of interest over the coming month, so now you’ve no excuse not to get out under the stars!

Keep watching those skies…

Thursday 5th May – Tonight sees the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, where the streaks are caused by burning particles shed by Halley’s Comet burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere

With the New Moon tomorrow it could be a good show, so get out and look up!

Meteor showers are fascinating to watch! (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Meteor showers are fascinating to watch! (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Friday 6th May – Today the New Moon rises and sets with the Sun, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, or get a clearer look at objects usually blurred and faint in light polluted skies

The Moon is also at Perigee at a distance of 357,825 km (222,342 miles) from the Earth, the closest it will come on its current orbit

Monday 9th May – This afternoon innermost planet Mercury transits the Sun! It starts its journey across the face of our star about 11:10 UTC (12:10 BST) appearing as a well defined dark dot on the left side of the Sun

Then over the course of the afternoon it slowly travels in an arc towards the middle, before dropping to the bottom of the Sun’s disc and moving out of view around 18:45 UTC (1945 BST)

Shown above at 15:00 UTC (16:00 BST) Mercury will spend all afternoon ambling across the face of the Sun! (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown above at 15:00 UTC (16:00 BST) Mercury will spend all afternoon ambling across the face of the Sun! (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

If you have certified solar viewing equipment it’ll be well worth a look. The next transit of Mercury will be in November 2019

Remember – Never look directly at the Sun, it will damage your eyes!

Friday 13th May – This evening the Moon will be seen at First Quarter phase

Monday 16th May – To help you identify the constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided guide images for both southern and northern skies in May

Shown at 00:00 UTC (01:00 BST) on 16th May, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Shown at 00:00 UTC (01:00 BST) on 16th May, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in May (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in May (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Wednesday 18th May – The Moon is at Apogee today at a distance of 405,935 km (252,236 miles), the furthest point its orbit will take it away from the Earth this month

Saturday 21st May – Today’s Full Moon is sometimes known as the Milk Moon, Dragon Moon or Bright Moon, and appears in the sky above Mars

Full Moon taken using a Canon EOS 550D DSLR mounted to a SkyWatcher Explorer 200mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Full Moon taken using a Canon EOS 550D DSLR mounted to a SkyWatcher Explorer 200mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Sunday 22nd May Mars is at opposition this evening (meaning it is opposite the Sun in the sky) rising at sunset and setting at sunrise

Wednesday 25th May – Now is about the time of year to start looking for noctilucent clouds, which sometimes appear low down in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise)

Noctilucent clouds as captured over Sweden (click to enlarge) – Credit: P-M Hedén

Noctilucent clouds as captured over Sweden (click to enlarge) – Credit: P-M Hedén

These clouds are in the upper atmosphere and are usually too faint to see, becoming visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow

Sunday 29th May – This afternoon the Moon is at Last Quarter phase

Monday 30th May Mars is the closest it has been to the Earth since 2005 this evening. Get out and give it a look, rising to the south east about 19:30 UTC (20:30 BST)

As usual, if you take any photos throughout May you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!

Planets visible this month:

Saturn
Mars
Jupiter
Mercury
Venus

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – April 2016
Astronomy Events – March 2016
Astronomy Events – February 2016

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Astronomy Events – December 2011

November 30, 2011

by yaska77

Ever get that feeling that you always suffer bad luck? The main nemesis of the amateur astronomer is clouds, and it just feels that every chance we’ve had time to get our ‘scopes out recently have coincided with clouds/rain/wind. We remain ever hopeful however that December will give us some opportunities for sky-watching and image taking! 🙂

Here is a list of upcoming astronomy events for December to inspire your own astronomical interests.

Friday 2nd December – First quarter Moon. This is possibly the best time to view the Moon with optical aids, as the area around the terminator (the line between the day/night sides of the Moon) is a fantastic sight full of lunar craters and mountains

Tuesday 6th December – Moon at Apogee (405,415 km), with a very bright Jupiter just beneath it. Following them across the sky you’ll see first the Pleiades cluster, the Hyades cluster and then the constellation of Orion (the Hunter)

Jupiter and the Moon are together in the sky all evening, followed by some great winter sky sights (click to enlarge) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

Saturday 10th December – Full Moon (also known as the Snow or Christmas Moon). There is also a total lunar eclipse visible from Eastern Europe, East Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific

Unfortunately from the UK the Moon will have already started leaving the umbra before moonrise (about 16:00 UTC/GMT), and the Earth’s shadow will only partially cover the Moon for another 15 minutes or so

Tuesday 13th December – Jupiter’s moon Ganymede will cast a shadow across the southern part of the giant planet this evening. It should start just before 18:00 UTC/GMT and will continue for around 2 hours

Wednesday 14th December – The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak this evening (see below for radiant guide) but as with the Leonid shower in November the Moon will be very close to the radiant.  Don’t let this discourage you though, as meteors can appear far from the radiant so you should still see some (the ZHR is expected to be anything up to 100 per hour)

Geminid Meteors are named for the constellation closest to their radiant (click to enlarge) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

Sunday 18th December – Last quarter Moon

Wednesday 21st December – Winter Solstice is tonight (this actually happens at 05:30 UTC/GMT on 22nd). The Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky (as viewed from the Northern Hemisphere) so we get the shortest day and the longest night

Friday 23rd December – Mercury is at it’s greatest western elongation today, meaning it is visible as an early morning object until the end of the year, appearing above the southeast horizon just before 06:30 UTC/GMT with the Moon directly below it

We got this image of M31 - Andromeda in early October (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Saturday 24th December – New Moon. Over the coming evenings with the Moon out of the way it’s a great time to have a look at some deep sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies.  During December the constellation Cassiopeia is virtually overhead (as seen from Northern Europe and North America) and is an easily recognisable “W” pattern, with our closest neighbour galaxy Andromeda (see above) a beautiful object to view. See if you can find it!

Tuesday 27th December –  The waxing crescent Moon will make a nice pairing with Venus in the evening twilight sky. Visible to the south west from nightfall it could provide a good target for those with a DSLR camera (see below)

Venus is a planet we've yet to have a good look at! Image shows sky at 17:00 UTC/GMT (click to enlarge) Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

Planets visible this month:

Mercury
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

We’ve also added the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right (where this guide will appear), so next time you visit you can find it again easily!

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – November 2011
Astronomy Events – October 2011
Astronomy Events – September 2011

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Mercury – hardly ever visible when it is truly dark

September 8, 2011

by tte-77

Mercury profile from Mariner skywatching

Mercury profile from Mariner - Credit: NASA

In his book “The Solar System and Back” (Doubleday, 1970), famed science writer Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) argued that the planet Mercury:

“… is hardly ever visible when it is truly dark. Mercury … will be seen only near the horizon in dawn or twilight, amid haze and sun glare. I suspect, in fact, that many people today (when the horizon is dirtier and the sky much hazier with the glare of artificial light than it was in centuries past) have never seen Mercury.”

Weather permitting 8-15 September amateur astronomers will be presented with an excellent opportunity to view Mercury in the early morning dawn sky. An “inferior planet” because its orbit is nearer to the sun than the Earth’s, Mercury, as Asimov indicated, always appears from our vantage point to be in the same general direction as the sun.

Mercury will be surprisingly easy to see from now through 15 September and will be rising before the sun in the northern hemisphere. Just look low above the eastern horizon during the morning twilight and be sure that it’s about 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise – search for a bright yellowish-orange “star.”

As mentioned in our monthly events guide Mercury was at its greatest elongation just west of the sun, on 3 September. The planet, like Venus, appears to go through phases like the moon.

At its greatest elongation Mercury appeared roughly half-illuminated and the amount of its surface illuminated by the sun has steadily increased as each day passes helping keep it in relatively easy view over the next 7 days.

Mercury and Regulus early September Sky-Watching

Position of Mercury and Regulus early September (click to enlarge) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

As a bonus, early on Friday morning, Mercury will have a close conjunction with the bright bluish 1st-magnitude star, Regulus, in the constellation of Leo. Look for them, they will appear to be almost side by side, low near the east-northeast horizon and around 45 minutes before sunrise.

If you intend to view, Mercury will be to the left of Regulus and will shine about 8x brighter than the star. Binoculars may make it easier to sight Regulus – Mercury will then pull rapidly away to the east on successive mornings.

By 15 September it will have substantially brightened, more than any star in the sky with the exception of Sirius. Days later, despite its brightness it will be swallowed up by the dawn glow.

Let’s hope for clear skys over the week ahead!

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Astronomy Events – July 2011

June 27, 2011

by yaska77

Latest edition of our monthly posts, listing upcoming Astronomy events for July. Should all go to schedule the last ever Shuttle launch will happen on 8th July, so keep an eye on Sky-Watching for details and updates!

Friday 1st July – Start the month with a new Moon!  Darker skies provide great conditions for astrophotography.  There is also a partial solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere. Noctilucent clouds are still sometimes visible in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise) at the beginning of July.  Try catching them on camera using a 5 to 10 second exposure, trying different ISO’s to find which work best for you! Also, Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede will transit the planet’s South Pole region early this morning (best viewed through a telescope around 03:50 (BST))

Sunday 3rd July – The crescent Moon can be located close to the western horizon soon after sunset, with Mercury located to the right of it just about visible in clear skies. Photographing the Moon when it’s waxing or waning can reveal the features behind the shadow, a phenomenon known as Earthshine. This is where light reflecting back off the Earth is strong enough to illuminate the night side of the Moon

Earthshine on a crescent Moon (7th March 2011) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Monday 4th July – The Earth will be at aphelion today, the farthest point from the Sun on its elliptical orbit. Remember if planning to observe the Sun only use certified filters or Solar Telescopes

Thursday 7th July – Moon at Perigee, the closest its orbit comes to Earth (369,570 km)

Friday 8th July – Although generally fairly weak, the Capricornids Meteor Shower reaches the first of three predicted peaks tonight.  The ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) is around 5 meteors per hour (peaking up to 9), with similar rates expected on both 15th and 26th July. NASA’s last ever shuttle mission (STS-135 Atlantis) is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 EDT (15:26 GMT/ 16:26 BST)

NASA STS-135 astronauts Commander Chris Ferguson (center right), Pilot Doug Hurley (center left), and Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus (mission specialists) - Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Tuesday 12th July – Today the planet Neptune completes its first full orbit of the Sun since its discovery in 1846. That’s some year!

Friday 15th July – Full Moon. Tonight is another good night to witness the “Moon-Illusion” as it lies quite low in the sky.  It’s also the only night this month the Moon will be in visible in the sky all night, from sunset to sunrise.

Thursday 21st July – The weak Alpha Cygnids Meteor Shower peaks tonight, with ZHR predicted at 5 per hour. Moon at Apogee (404,355 km)

A Perseid Meteor captured in 1993 - Credit: S. Kohle & B. Koch, Bonn University (Image links to NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day from 2002)

Saturday 23rd July – The Perseid Meteor shower begins today and should run until 20th August.  While the shower peak isn’t until 13th August, this will coincide with a full Moon meaning many of the meteors will be washed out in the glare

Sunday 24th July – Jupiter is easily spotted this evening (best seen after midnight), just to the right of the waning crescent Moon. It should appear very bright and be difficult to miss, despite the light coming from the Moon nearby

Our image of Jupiter captured with a colour CCD camera - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Monday 25th July – The Moon will be close to the Pleiades Open Cluster in the morning sky. Best viewed around 03:00 BST the glow from the Moon shouldn’t be too strong allowing you to locate the Pleiades with ease

Friday 29th July – The fairly active Delta Aquariids Meteor shower will reach its first peak this evening, with a ZHR of up to 20 meteors per hour

Saturday 30th July –  Tonight will see the second new Moon of July, so if your skies are sufficiently dark enough you should easily spot the Milky Way, crossing the sky in an arc from north to south (and up high to the east) from nightfall

Should the weather allow we’re targeting the Milky Way for imaging this month (with two new Moons helping keep the skies dark), with any luck we’ll bring you some new photos so wish for clear skies!

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

Archive:
Astronomy Events – June 2011

Astronomy Events – May 2011
Astronomy Events – April 2011
Astronomy Events – March 2011

Also, now follow us on Twitter @sky_watching

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Astronomy Events – June 2011

May 29, 2011

by yaska77

Latest edition of our monthly posts, listing upcoming Astronomy events for June.  Get inspired, get involved and get sky-watching!

Wednesday 1st June – It is a new Moon today so it will be virtually absent all week, a great time for observing deep sky objects like galaxies and nubulae.  There is also a partial solar eclipse in the northern hemisphere. NASA space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 02:32 EDT (06:32 GMT/ 07:32 BST)

Thursday 2nd June – Double star Epsilon Lyrae is a challenging target.  The split star is near to Vega and will be in an overhead position at about midnight BST

Friday 3rd June – Keep watching the skies for noctilucent clouds, which sometimes appear low down in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise).  These clouds are in the upper atmosphere and are usually too faint to see, becoming visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow

Noctilucent clouds over Sweden - Credit: P-M Hedén

Friday 10th June – Saturn is close to the double star Porrima in Virgo this evening (and has been getting closer in the past few weeks).  The planet will be located at just 15 arcminutes (about half a full Moon diameter) from the star

Saturday 11th June – The waxing gibbous Moon is about 80% lit, and will appear to the south east of Spica (also in Virgo) the 15th brightest star in the night sky

Sunday 12th June – Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun and not currently visible.  After this date however the planet will slowly start to re-appear in the evening sky being visible from around 16th onwards. Moon is at Perigee (367,190 km)

Monday 13th June – Watch out for the Moon over the next couple of nights as it rises over the southern horizon. Now is the best time of year to experience the “Moon-Illusion” which makes the moon look bigger than it actually is

Wednesday 15th June – Tonights full Moon will be completely eclipsed as it appears above the south east horizon in the UK.  It will be visible from Moon-set in Austraila to Moon-rise in the UK. Totality for UK viewers should last for about an hour from rise at 21:00 BST, and will get easier to see as the Moon gets higher

We're hoping the skies are clear so we can take similar pictures of the actual eclipse! Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Sunday 19th June – Another beautiful double star Beta Cygni (or Albireo) is a must see tonight through a small telescope.  Located at the foot of the asterism of the northern cross (in Cygnus the Swan), Albireo has a bright yellow primary star next to a dimmer, blue companion

Tuesday 21st June – Summer solstice is today, so the Sun will be at its highest in the sky all year, perfect for solar observing. Remember, do not look directly at the Sun, or use unmodified telescopes.  Always use correctly certified filters, or better still a purpouse built Solar Telescope

Friday 24th June – Mercury is visible as a point of light low down in evening twilight sky just after sunset. Look just to the left of the point the Sun disappeared below the horizon at around 21:45 BST (20:45 GMT). Moon at Apogee (404,270 km)

Saturday 25th June – The centre of the Milky Way Galaxy will be visible in dark skies to the south just after midnight.  For the remainder of the month the Moon will be below the horizon giving you a great opportunity to view and photograph this most spectacular part of our home galaxy

The Milky Way as photographed over the French Alps - Credit: Marc Sylvestre (Image links to NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day from 2002)

Monday 27th June – The June Boötids Meteor Shower should reach its peak tonight, and although it usually only sees 1 to 2 meteors per hour, it has been known to give bursts of up to 100 per hour.  Keep an eye towards the constellation Boötes from around 22:30 BST.

Should the weather allow we’re targeting the Lunar eclipse and the Milky Way for imaging this month, so keep watching for any new photos and wish for clear skies!

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

Archive: Astronomy Events – May 2011
Archive: Astronomy Events – April 2011
Archive: Astronomy Events – March 2011

Also, now follow us on Twitter @sky_watching

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