Category Archives: amateur stargazing tips

Prepare For A Blood Moon

For this Throwback Thursday, I’d like to open with a classic movie scene:

Well, don’t worry, the world won’t end, but I can promise you an epic, blood red moon! There will be a super moon, a blood, moon, and a lunar eclipse all on the same day on September 27th, and I can’t wait to see it!

Read more about it here at Space.com http://www.space.com/30546-supermoon-blood-moon-total-lunar-eclipse.html 

If you want to read more about  and red moons, click on some of my previous posts below.

  1. The Tale of the Blood Red Moon
  2. Super Moon Madness

New Scary Posts for Halloween!

Here are my best posts on Halloween:

 

  1. History of Halloween, NEW https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/astronomy-myths-and-legends/
  2. My exploration of the myths of Werewolves! https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/new-page-astronomy-myths-and-legends-new-wolf-moon-hooowl/ 
  3. Harvest Moons: https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/2013/09/ 

Enjoy the Harvest Moon!

Harvest_moon

Tonight is the second night of the Harvest Moon, the time when the Moon rises earlier than ever before, right before the Autumnal Equinox.

 As I mentioned in “The Tale of the Lucky Red Moon,” Harvest Moons have a profound cultural significance. China has its own Mid Autumn Moon Festival that tries to unite cultures under one Moon. You can read about this in a wonderful article at Earthsky.org

So get out tonight and enjoy this rare Harvest Moon! I plan to take a few pictures with the telescope if it’s not too cloudy here at Primland.

Happy Stargazing!

Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

Tonight will be an excellent opportunity to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.with very little Moon out tonight, it should be spectacular!

For a little sneak peak, click here..

Happy Stargazing!

Announcing Hawaii Week

Hi everyone!

Well, I’ve been away from my blog and from Primland for a while, but I had a good reason- I got Married! The wedding was beautiful and my new wife and I are very happy. For our honeymoon, we went to Hawaii, which in addition to being gorgeous and a tropical paradise, also has a lot to offer me as a historian and stargazer. I kept hearing stories and facts about Hawaii’s connection to the stars, so to demonstrate what I’ve learned, I’ve decided to devote this week to Hawaiin astronomy and astrology, which includes my trip to the Mauna Kea Observatory, the tallest observatory on Earth!

Stay tuned for new entries each day starting with a new Picture Of the Week!

Happy Stargazing and Aloha!

20130728-234325.jpg

SUPER MOON MADNESS!

Tonight is the beginning of what astronomers call the Moon’s Perigee, the point in which the Moon is closest to the Earth. This means that tonight, the Moon will appear 12% bigger than usual!
Find out how to spot craters and

Not only is this the biggest Moon of the year, it’s also one of the most interesting. June 23rd’s full moon is classified as a “Strawberry Moon,” or “Rose Moon” It was called Strawberry by the Algonquin Native Americans because they knew this full moon was an ideal time to gather fruit. To learn more about this particular full moon, I’ve posted a link to a video created by the good folks at “The Farmer’s Almanac”, a trusted astronomy resource for over 100 years.

So I hope to see some of you down at Primland to look at this beautiful full moon. I know I’ll be training the telescope on it!

Happy Stargazing

Cool Astronomy Resources For Kids

Hello everyone!

In addition to running this blog and giving nightly astronomy tours, I am also working on developing a kid’s astronomy program for the resort. In my quest to make astronomy fun, accessible, and interactive for young people, I came across some valuable free resources that I’d like to share with you. Obviously there are hundreds of blogs, podcasts, video channels, and websites out there and I could never share them all, so if you like this post and think something should be added, let me know! I’d be happy to make this a new page on the blog and follow up weekly with new resources.

So here is a short multimedia collection of links that you can show to your young ones to get them excited about space:

Video channels

Deep Sky Videos– An excellent channel, not only for astronomy, but for science all together. It features great pictures by professional astro-photographers and lots of valuable data.


NASA TV- Here’s NASA’s official YouTube Channel, which provides you with simple, clear explanations of what our space agency is doing. Sometimes they interview astronauts on the International Space Station, and get them to talk about life in space.

NASA JPL Live This is not Youtube, but a live feed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Whenever there is any kind of live event at NASA, such as the docking of a spacecraft, or live pictures from Mars, you can access it with this link!

Video streaming by Ustream
Apps

Exoplanet- A free app that allows you to keep track of any new planets discovered outside our solar system. You can use your mobile device to find each planet in an interactive map of the galaxy, zooming at warp speed to newly discovered worlds.

Sky Viewer- This app tells you exactly what planets and constellations you are looking at by overlaying names and a connect-the dots pattern over the night sky. A GPS compass keeps track of where you are, and you can see the stars using the display. There is a pay version that also shows you more planets and keeps track of satellites, but the free version is a nice way to learn the constellations and keep track of where you are in the sky.

NASA Space Weather Map (Android App only)

View near real-time images of outer space from current NASA missions. Learn about weather near the Sun, Solar Wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora, and Heliosphere from scientists who study them

I did find some neat pay apps from this website too, just in case you aren’t  satisfied with the free stuff:

Websites

Astronomy.com– The official website of Astronomy Magazine, loaded with pictures, articles, and tips for amateur astronomers, and yes, there’s a kids’ page.

ISS Tracker- A website that allows you to know where the International Space Station is at all times!

NASA’s JPL Planet Quest- A great interactive site which teaches kids about planets beyond our solar system, by allowing them to create one, studying the ideal conditions for creating life in the universe.

Social Media

The Curiosity Rover’s Twitter Page- Updates from the mission, written in the first person by the robot.

Kids Needs Science (Tumblr Page)-Full of beautiful pictures of space objects and links to articles.

International Space Station Facebook -Regularly updated with videos, pictures, and news articles.

So there’s a rough start to the vast world of astronomy for kids on the web. Like I said earlier, I’d be happy to post any of your suggestions, or turn this into a regular feature on the blog. Let me know in the comments. In closing, just to show you how far we’ve come with online education, I’d like to post an oldie but a goodie- Bill Nye the Science Guy explores comets and meteors:

Happy Stargazing!

 

Mars discoveries, Curious?

The Curiosity Rover in Self-Portrait

The Curiosity Rover in Self-Portrait

Well, the Curiosity Rover is still working, though it will be unable to communicate with the Earth for over a month. However, it won’t  stop working, using its 10 scientific instruments to peer into the chemical, geological, and atmospheric makeup of Mars. Today I want to give you a general overview of the project, and some of its hopes and dreams; above all, the dream of finding life. Curiosity has the tools to find the building blocks of life, not just water but the chemical compounds that allow us to exist on Earth. If Curiosity can find these on Mars, someday we may be able to sent people to Mars and make it a new home for sustaining Earth plants and animals on another world.

What Is Curiosity?

The Curiosity is a rover, a robot that can roll around the surface of another planet, taking pictures, soil and gas samples and other scientific data back to Earth.

What’s It Up To?

Curiosity’s basic objective is to investigate the presence of water on Mars. As far as we know, water is the essential ingredient of all life. Other NASA missions have found clues that there was water on Mars, but in order to get a better view of Mars, Curiosity is here to use its advanced instruments to find a clear answer. Curiosity also trying to find clues in the Martian atmosphere, to see how different it is from Earth. Just yesterday, after 248 days on Mars, NASA announced that ancient Mars could have supported life:

“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably — if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,”   said John Grotzinger, NASA’s chief scientist for the Curiosity Project.

11 Cool Facts About the Curiosity Rover

  1. The mission cost $2.5 billion!
  2. The MSL spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral FLA, the same place where in 1971, NASA launched the first ever spacecraft to orbit Mars, (Mariner).
  3. Around 1,000 people gathered in New York City’s Times Square, to watch NASA’s live broadcast of Curiosity’s landing.
  4. The landing site of the Curiosity Rover is called the “Bradburry Landing Site,” named in honor of author Ray Bradburry, author of “The Martian Chronicles,” who died just two months after the rover landed.
  5. The Bradbury landing site rests within a 3.5 billion year old crater that could have actually been formed by wind erosion and water sediment, which is one reason for the trip- to discover whether Mars could potentially support life as we know it, or if it did support life in the past.
  6. Because of the vast distance between Earth and Mars, it took over 7 minutes to send a message from the Curiosity Rover to the scientists over at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a period which the JPL dubbed, “The Seven Minutes of Terror”
  7. Just two days ago, (4/9/13) Curiosity found proof that the Martian atmosphere used to be thicker, and more Earth like. Now the atmosphere is mostly full of Greenhouse gases, which suggests that some kind of Global Warming might have happened on Mars
  8. The Rover is about the size of a small car, and weighs about 2,000 pounds
  9. Curiosity is powered by a small Nuclear Reactor, called a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator
  10. The Rover actually has a lucky penny! To calibrate its complex cameras, the rover has a 1980 Lincoln penny attached to its  Mars Hand Lens Imager
  11. Curiosity is the only robot in the solar system to have a Twitter Account, which by the way, has been nominated for a Webby Award. If you visit the page and like what you see, you can vote to make Curiosity, a very happy interplanetary robot.

Key moments in the Curiosity Timeline

  • November 26, 2011- The MSL spacecraft, containing the Curiosity Rover, launches from Cape Canaveral
  • August 6, 2012- The Curiosity Rover lands on Mars, after a journey of 127 million miles.
  • August 7th, 2012- First pictures from the surface of Mars. Later photos would also be broadcast in 3D!
  • August 22nd- Curiosity Rove tests out its on-board laser, and tests its driving motors around the surface of Mars.
  • August 29- Curiosity beams a song from the surface of Mars back to Earth, composed by Will.I.am from the Black Eyed Peas.
  • September 27th- The rover discovers the remnants of an ancient river bed on Mars, making  a great case for the existence of water.
  • October 27th- Curiosity discovers mysterious pockets of Methane gas below the surface of Mars, which might be by-products of microscopic life forms.
  • November 24th- Curiosity tracks a dust storm on Mars.
  • February 7th- Curiosity starts drilling into the surface of Mars, to find the chemical composition of the soil.
  • March 12th- Samples from the drilling uncover evidence of ancient microorganisms, and chemicals that are necessary building blocks for Carbon-based life.
  • April 9th- The Curiosity Rover’s atmospheric sensors show the gradual decay of the atmosphere from primarily oxygen and argon rich, to mainly Carbon Dioxide, not unlike the Greenhouse Gasses in our atmosphere.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this re-cap of Curiosity’s great career so far, and we wish it luck as it wonders on alone, without parental supervision from Earth. If you want to see Mars yourself, you’ll have to wait until its path takes it away from behind the Sun, on June 20th.

Happy Stargazing!

Sources:

Time Magazine: “A Cosmic SUV Blasts Off for Mars” http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2100299,00.html

LA Times: “Signs Of Life On Mars” by Amina Khan http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-signs-of-life-on-mars-live-video-discussion-20130313,0,3183926.story

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover

Week of the Comet!

EXCITING NEWS! On March 10th, Comet Panstarrs will reach its closest point to the Sun, and be visible at last for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere! The comet has been visible in the skies below the equator since early February, but at last those of you who join us at Primland can see it!

First ever photo of Panstarrs, 2011

First ever photo of Panstarrs, 2011

Comet Pannstarrs was discovered in 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Panstarrs) in Maui, Hawaii. It is a non-periodic comet, which means that it very rarely passes within this solar system. In fact, once the comet leaves the solar system, it might not be back for over 100,000 years!

At first, the comet was barely visible with a telescope, but since its re-appearance in February, it has become bright enough to see with the naked eye. As it reaches its closest place to the Sun on the 10th, it grows steadily brighter and brighter. Predictions are already afoot that after it reaches parahelion ( the closest distance from the Sun), Comet Panstarrs will shine as bright as the planet Venus, the brightest planet in the sky!

 

Photo of comets Lemon and Panstarrs taken March 3rd, 2013 at Las Campanas observatory, Chile. Photo courtesy Juri Beletsky (public domain).

Photo of comets Lemon and Panstarrs taken March 3rd, 2013 at Las Campanas observatory, Chile. Photo courtesy Juri Beletsky (public domain).

When to Look- Starting March 10th, the comet will be visible in the western sky, in the constellation Pisces. Over the next few days, it will move North, until it will pass the North Star on March 29th. For more info on where to look and where to look for teh comet, visit Astronomy.com’s guide.

Chart of the ideal times to see Pannstarrs, courtesy of the Griffith Observatory

Chart of the ideal times to see Pannstarrs, courtesy of the Griffith Observatory

How to Look: The Griffith Observatory has a whole guide on the best way to view the comet from where you are, click here.

For some tasty photos and videos of the comet from earlier this year, click here:

Rest assured, if you come down to Primland, we will be on the watch every night looking for the comet, and hopefully snapping a shot! If you sign up for a Tour Of the Universe, you might even be able to see the comet pass overhead!

Till then,

Happy Stargazing!