25 October 2009

Jupiter and the Moon dominate the sky

For the next few evenings Jupiter and the Moon put on a show as they brighten up the southern sky. Jupiter is in Capricornus moving gradually eastward across the constellation. The Moon, just past first quarter phase, is also speeding across Capricornus and will appear very near to Jupiter on Monday evening October 26th.

Jupiter will remain a brilliant light high in the southern sky for the remainder of 2009. I enjoy the close-up view of the planet through a telescope or binoculars because you can see the four Galilean satellites, moons that are big enough to see with just 10 or 20x magnification, moons that move so quickly that you can detect the change of position of the four Galilean moons with respect to each other in just one evening of watching.

24 October 2009

The Urban Astronomer LIVE!

I recorded a few videos of myself talking about star parties, what to see in the night sky, how to use a telescope, and more. They are short and to the point. I haven't done a lot with video up until now, but I think it will be a nice way to share some basics on observing and astronomy. So if you have a few minutes to spare, click here for the Urban Astronomer LIVE!

22 October 2009

Get Involved: Galilean Nights Star Parties in San Francisco

As part of the ongoing International Year of Astronomy (IYA), this weekend, October 23-25, is being hailed "Galilean Nights" in honor of the Italian scientist who used a telescope to open a new era of understanding of the heavens. Astronomy clubs around the world are hosting star parties and inviting the public to take part.

The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers (SFAA) will hold two star parties on Saturday October 24th, one in the city of San Francisco and one at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. I have often blogged about the SFAA events on Mt. Tam, where there are great lectures by professional astronomers and scientists as well as star gazing through amateur and professional telescopes. This month the lecture is at 7:00 pm with Professor Michael Dine of UCSC. I love to attend these events and share the night sky with attendees. This month, however, I'll be at the "City Star Party" (weather permitting) at Lands End in San Francisco. This event will start at 6:30 pm at the end of El Camino del Mar just off Point Lobos above the Sutro Baths ruins.

If you don't live near San Francisco or Marin, you can check out the Galilean Nights website for details of an event near you. See you under the stars.

19 October 2009

Galileo's Findings 400 Year Ago: KALW Broadcast

I was a guest on the Crosscurrents Program on KALW Radio (91.7 FM in San Francisco) today talking about Galileo.

Listen in and learn a few things about the his discoveries, fundamental concepts that changed our understanding of the world around us. This is what the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) is all about.

12 October 2009

Planetary Motion

The morning sky continues to be a busy place, showcasing just how much action is taking place in the Solar System. Saturn, a relatively slow moving outer planet is gradually rising up in the east, emerging each morning a minute or two earlier so that it will soon be a true morning star. As it graces the dawn sky just ahead of the sunrise, it is encountering the two fast-moving inner planets, Venus and Mercury. This week they have close encounters and beautiful alignments that will be a sight to see. The illustrations provide a sense of how far Venus and Mercury move over the course of just a few days. The passing of the waning Moon on the mornings of the 15th and 16th add a nice touch to an already impressive lineup of Solar System objects.

04 October 2009

Morning Spectacle

Three planets make a nice showing in the early hours of the morning this week, with Mercury and Saturn having a close encounter. Autumn mornings are particularly interesting here in San Francisco because the weather is generally more reliable and the first light of dawn comes so late in the morning -- right now around 6:45 am with sunrise around 7:15 am. The view in the image shows what you can expect to see this week as Saturn and fast-changing Mercury line up on Thursday morning October 8th. All of this will stand in stark contrast to bright Venus, the brilliant beacon dominating the eastern sky in the morning.

Later this week there will be another amazing event in the morning sky. Stay tuned!