Our May meeting will take place tonight, Tuesday, May 14th, 7:00pm at Keck Observatory HQ in Waimea. This month we have local photographer Ethan Tweedie in to talk.
MOSFIRE is the newest and the most advanced astronomical instrument available today. Dr. Ian McLean from UCLA will describe some of the technical challenges developing and commissioning this multi-year, multi-million dollar instrument. He will also share early science results ranging from the discovery of ultra-cool, nearby substellar mass objects, to the detection of oxygen in young galaxies only 2 billion years after the Big Bang.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Show starts at 7 p.m.
Free and Open to the Public
The sunset is getting crowded. This evening will see a trio of the sky’s brightest objects low in the shades of sunset. Venus is still quite low, ony 10.3° from the Sun, shining brightly at -4 magnitude and rising higher each day. Well above Venus can be seen Jupiter, somewhat dimmer at -2 magnitude and 23° from the Sun.
In between the two a pretty crescent Moon is positioned, 4.4% illuminated and about 5° below Jupiter. Tomorrow night will see the Moon above and south of Jupiter with about 7° separation.
This is just the start of a sunset dance that will play out over the coming month. Stay tuned for Mercury to join Venus and Jupiter.
Venus is currently beginning an evening apparition. This evening the planet should be visible about 10° above the setting Sun. At magnitude -4 it should be easy to spot with a good western horizon. The bright planet will spend the remainder of 2013 in the evening sky, with maximum elongation occurring on Oct 31st.
Tonight also features a pairing with a very thin crescent Moon. The Moon will be a mere 1.3% illuminated and be located 2° south of Venus. A very nice pairing indeed!
Look forward to a number of planetary conjunctions in the coming months. With Jupiter approaching solar conjunction and Venus leaving, the two will cross paths nicely.
Gone are the days of being able to count the number of known planets on your fingers. Today, there are more than 800 confirmed exoplanets — planets that orbit stars beyond our sun — and more than 2,700 other candidates. What are these exotic planets made of? Unfortunately, you cannot stack them in a jar like marbles and take a closer look. Instead, researchers are coming up with advanced techniques for probing the planets’ makeup.
One breakthrough to come in recent years is direct imaging of exoplanets. Ground-based telescopes have begun taking infrared pictures of the planets posing near their stars in family portraits. But to astronomers, a picture is worth even more than a thousand words if its light can be broken apart into a rainbow of different wavelengths.
Those wishes are coming true as researchers are beginning to install infrared cameras on ground-based telescopes equipped with spectrographs. Spectrographs are instruments that spread an object’s light apart, revealing signatures of molecules. Project 1640, partly funded by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., recently accomplished this goal using the Palomar Observatory near San Diego.
We were all ready to view to eclipse from Keck HQ in Waimea. The gear was ready to go, our astronomers setup to answer questions, the public invited…
Not to be deterred I grabbed my little telescope and headed for the Sun. The satellite showed a reasonable possibility of clear skies in Kawaihae. As I rolled into the parking lot at Pu’u Kohala Heiau National Historic Site I found the hole in the clouds needed for eclipse photography.
I was not the first there, I met another gentleman setup with a 70mm Meade ETX, we chatted as I set up beside him. I found out later that a couple of the gals from CFHT were setup at Spencer Beach just below the heiau. For clear skies this was about the only reliable place on the island other than the summit.
I quickly setup my little TV-76mm and got the images I was looking for at maximum. We only got to 47% here on the big island, but still worth the effort to see.
Please exercise caution when viewing the Sun! Use appropriate eye protection or indirect observing techniques to project an image of the Sun. The link at the start of this paragraph leads to a great discussion on viewing the Sun safely. As always the single best source on the web (or anywhere) for eclipse and transit information is Fred Espenak’s eclipse website at NASA. Stop by whenever you have a question on upcoming events as well as viewing and photography tips.
During a deep partial such as this one check out the shadows under nearby vegetation. Small gaps in leaves can act like pinhole cameras projecting small crescent images of the Sun.
An annular solar eclipse will sweep across Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. For viewers in the Hawaiian Islands this eclipse will be seen as a deep partial eclipse, with a maximum of over 40% of the Sun obscured.
Our May meeting will take place Tuesday, May 14th, 7:00pm at Keck Observatory HQ in Waimea. This month we have local photographer Ethan Tweedie in to talk.