Monday, December 9, 2019

Idaho Skies Transcript for the weekend of December 13th


BENJAMIN
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the weekend of December 13th. We’re your hosts, Benjamin…

PAUL
…and Paul.

BENJAMIN
The moon visits Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins on the 13th. Twin brother Pollux is the row of stars on the left and right sides of the moon. Its brightest star, also named Pollux, is on the left and it represents the head of this celestial brother. In the Gemini myth, Pollux is the immortal brother of the two. 

PAUL
This weekend, the Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak intensity. Stargazers can normally expect to see upwards of 100 meteors per hour from this shower. The meteoroids of this shower travel so fast that they create white-hot shock waves. So that meteor streak you see is really the thin atmosphere glowing white hot from the passage of the meteoroid.  

BENJAMIN
Unfortunately, the nearly full moon rises in Gemini. That’s the same constellation that the Geminid meteor shower originates from. Therefore, strong moon light will out-shine most of the meteors of this shower. Your best bet to see Geminids therefore is to look for them overhead and not in the east where the moon is located.

PAUL
On Sunday night, you’ll find the moon a short distance from the Beehive star cluster. So get your binoculars out and aim them at the moon. Then shift them downwards until the moon leaves the view at the 1 o’clock position. At the bottom of your view will be a cluster of over a dozen tightly packed stars.

BENJAMIN
That’s Idaho Skies for the weekend of December 13th.

PAUL
Be sure to read our blog for additional information. It’s at idahoskies.blogspot.com.

For Idaho Skies this is Paul…

BENJAMIN
…and Benjamin.

PAUL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Idaho Skies Transcript for the week of December 9th

DAN
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the week of December 9th. We’re your hosts, Dan…

BENJAMIN
…and Dan.

DAN
Because it travels around the heavens in 30 days, the moon makes a great astronomical guide. However, it’s restricted to the path taken by the sun and planets, or the constellations of the Zodiac. Since the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters are located in Taurus the Bull, the moon visits them monthly. 

BENJAMIN
So go outside on the 9th to locate the Pleiades above the moon. Then again on the 10th to find the moon inside the Hyades star cluster. Both star clusters are ideal binocular objects. As long as the moon’s light doesn’t interfere with the fainter stars, you’ll see at least two dozen stars in each cluster.   

DAN
Moonlight is a problem, however, because the moon is full on the 11th. The full moon can be blinding through a telescope or even binoculars. After looking at the moon, don’t be surprised if you can’t see faint objects as well as you could before. Fortunately, this effect goes away in a few minutes.

BENJAMIN
You will hardly see any craters on the full moon. There are two reasons for this. First, when the sun is overhead, it casts few shadows. And two, Earth and the sun appear in the same place from the moon’s perspective. That means any shadows cast by sunlight are covered up by the terrain creating the shadows in the first place.      

DAN
That’s Idaho Skies for the week of December 9th.  

BEJAMIN
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @IdahoSkies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Benjamin…

DAN
…and Dan.

BENJAMIN
Dark skies and bright stars.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Idaho Skies Transcript for the weekend of December 6th


STEPHEN
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the weekend of December 6th. We’re your hosts, Stephen…

DAN
…and Dan.

STEPHEN
On the 8th, Comet Borisov reaches perihelion. So let’s talk about perihelion and Comet Borisov. The word perihelion comes from the Greek “peri” and that’s the prefix meaning “about” or “around”. Think of the word perimeter as an example. And the word Helion comes from the word Helios, which is the Greek name for the sun.     

DAN
Perihelion can only occur for objects that travel in non-circular orbits. That means at perihelion, objects like Comet Borisov pass their closest to the sun. However, Comet Borisov has an orbit that’s a bit odd - it’s hyperbolic and not elliptical in shape. That means the orbit of Borisov doesn’t begin nor end in our solar system. 

STEPHEN
Comet Borisov is traveling so fast that it will escape our solar system. It didn’t pick up this speed from a close pass to another planet in our solar system. Instead, it’s traveling so fast because it escaped from another star system and fell into ours. The gravity of another object in its original solar system must have kicked it into interstellar space. 

DAN
Astronomers predict that there’s at least one interstellar visitor in our solar system at any given time. They approach the sun in a hyperbolic orbit and then fly away to never be seen again. Currently, visits by interstellar objects are the best way we can study the materials and formation of other solar systems.

STEPHEN
That’s Idaho Skies for the weekend of December 6th.  

DAN
Be sure to read our blog for additional information. It’s at idahoskies.blogspot.com

For Idaho Skies this is Dan…

STEPHEN
…and Stephen.

DAN
Dark skies and bright stars.

Idaho Skies Transcript for the week of December 2nd


PAUL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the week of December 2nd. We’re your hosts, Paul

STEPHEN
…and Stephen.

PAUL
It’s easy to be a rock star when there are no bright stars near you. And that’s definitely true for Fomalhaut, the star below the moon on the 3rd. Astronomers rate Fomalhaut as first magnitude. It was the ancient Greeks who designed this magnitude system as a way to classify stars by their apparent brightness.

STEPHEN
They designed the magnitude system to start with a one for the brightest stars and six for the faintest the unaided eye can see. There are 17 stars brighter than Fomalhaut and some of them have negative magnitudes. For example, Sirius, the bright star rising at 9:45 PM this evening is magnitude is -1.5.   

PAUL
The moon reaches first quarter minutes before midnight of the 4th. That means it looks so close to first quarter on the 3rd that you won’t see the difference. First quarter occurs when the angle between the sun, Earth, and moon is 90 degrees. So the moon is nearly due south as the sun sets in the southwest.

STEPHEN
Recall that the sun always illuminates exactly half of the moon. Therefore, at first quarter we can only see half of the illuminated lunar surface. Lunar seas or lava plains cover much of the northern half that we can see and craters fill the southern half. This makes the first quarter phase the perfect moon for exploring with binoculars.   

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the week of December 2nd.  

STEPHEN
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @IdahoSkies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Stephen

PAUL
…and Paul.

STEPHEN
Dark skies and bright stars.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Idaho Skies Transcript for the weekend of November 22nd


STEPHEN
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the weekend of November 22nd. We’re your hosts, Stephen…

BENJAMIN
…and Benjamin.

STEPHEN
The moon appears as a thin crescent 6:30 on the morning of the 23rd. Thin moon’s like this are cool to see and are even more attractive through binoculars. But wait, it gets even better on the Saturday morning. That’s because Mars and the brightest star of Virgo the Maiden are close at hand. 

BENJAMIN
Recall that Mars currently resides on the other side of the solar system. That means it will be much fainter than it typically appears. In fact, it might be faint enough that it’s famous orange-tint may not be apparent. But still, it’s worth looking for Mars now and watching how it gets brighter over the months.  

STEPHEN
Brighter than Mars will be Spica, the lucida of Virgo. You can’t misidentify the two. Mars will be fainter of the two and below the moon. Spica will be brighter, purer white in tint, and to the moon’s lower right. Spica is actually two stars so close together that their mutual gravities warp them into egg shapes.

BENJAMIN
Stargazers not wanting to get up early will want to look in the low southwest as it’s getting dark. This weekend, Jupiter passes close to Venus with their smallest gap occurring on Sunday evening. Venus will appear much brighter than Jupiter, so it’s easy to distinguish which planet is which.

STEPHEN
That’s Idaho Skies for the weekend of November 22nd.  

BENJAMIN
Be sure to read our blog for additional information. It’s at idahoskies.blogspot.com.

For Idaho Skies this is Benjamin…

STEPHEN
…and Stephen.

BENJAMIN
Dark skies and bright stars.

Idaho Skies Transcript for the week of November 18th


PAUL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the week of November 18th. We’re your hosts, Paul…

STEPHEN
…and Stephen.

PAUL
The moon reaches third quarter this week. That means the moon only appears half full. But this time, it’s the western half of the moon that appears illuminated. Like the first quarter moon, shadows along the lunar terminator really bring out terrain features like craters and mountains. So concentrate your attention there. 

STEPHEN
There’s just one problem with observing the third quarter moon – it rises so late. You’ll need to go outside at around 1:00 AM to see the moon rise over the Boise mountain range. Stargazers observing the third quarter moon see a portion few people ever see. For example, its largest lunar maria, the Ocean of Storms.

PAUL
The Ocean of Storms fills the entire left edge of the moon. It’s the landing location of Apollo 12 back on late 1969. The crater of the ocean’s right edge is called Copernicus. It’s an impact scar 57 miles across. Astronomers estimate that the crater is relatively young at 800 million years old. That’s young for the moon.

STEPHEN
Moon watchers will find the third quarter moon inside Leo the Lion on the morning of the 20th. Leo’s brightest star, Regulus is located to the moon’s right. The lion’s mane is the question mark of stars above Regulus. Farther away to the left is fainted Denebola. Denebola represents the base of Leo’s tail. 

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the week of November 18th.  

STEPHEN
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @IdahoSkies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Stephen…

PAUL
…and Paul.

STEPHEN
Dark skies and bright stars.

Idaho Skies Transcript for the week of November 11th


BENJAMIN
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the week of November 11th. We’re your hosts, Benjamin…

DAN
…and Dan.

BENJAMIN
The full moon travels past two bright and large star clusters this week. The first cluster is the Pleiades. You probably know the Pleiades as the Seven Sisters, but astronomers have an official designation, M-45. M-45 is a close star cluster. So it appears large and bright in the night sky. The moon will make a distant pass of the cluster later this week.  

DAN
Get your binoculars and observe M-45. Be sure to compare the view of the Pleiades to your unaided eye and through binoculars. If you’re like most people, you’ll see six or maybe seven stars with just your eyes. However, with binoculars the number of stars explodes. You might see as many as two dozen glittering stars.

BENJAMIN
On the 13th, our moon makes it way to the Hyades star cluster. The Hyades are closer to our solar system then the Pleiades. Unfortunately, the star cluster is sparser and therefore, less dazzling. Still, binoculars will show stargazers some two dozen stars in this cluster. But don’t be fooled by its brightest star. 

DAN
The ancients named the brightest star of Taurus Aldebaran. And it just so happens to appear in the same view as the Hyades. However, Aldebaran is only half as far away as the Hyades. So from Earth, it only looks like Aldebaran is a member of the Hyades. Because of its reddish tint, people consider Aldebaran to be the eye of Taurus the Bull.

BENJAMIN
That’s Idaho Skies for the week of November 11th.  

DAN
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @IdahoSkies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is DAN…

BENJAMIN
…and Benjamin.

DAN
Dark skies and bright stars.