Monday, January 26, 2015

Transcript for January 25th to 31st

PAUL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the last week of January. We’re your hosts, Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
This is star cluster week.

RACHEL
So get your binoculars ready.

PAUL
The moon forms a triangle with the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters on the night of the 28th.

RACHEL
Bright star clusters are perfect objects for your binoculars or spotting scope.

PAUL
While the fainter ones will appear as fuzzy spots...

RACHEL
...the brighter ones can appear as a scattering of diamond dust.

PAUL
Star clusters formed from one giant cloud of dust and gas.

RACHEL
A disturbance, perhaps a supernova shockwave creates a wave of compression that lets gravity’s attraction overcome the random motions of the molecules inside the cloud.

PAUL
When this happens, the cloud shrinks and fragments into many pieces.

RACHEL
Each fragment shrinks into a spinning pancake of dust and gas.

PAUL
As it gets smaller, the cloud of gas grows ever hotter.

RACHEL
At some point, the center of the cloud gets hot enough to start fusing hydrogen into helium.

PAUL
The remaining dust and gas fragments into smaller pieces that eventually collapse into planetesimals, or the building blocks of planets.

RACHEL
Planetesimals collide with each other as they orbit the new born sun.

PAUL
Many of them will stick together to build larger structures that will eventually become planets.

RACHEL
Our solar system most likely formed in such a way 4.5 billion years ago.

PAUL
Unfortunately, the sun’s siblings drifted away long ago.

RACHEL
The moon drifts past the edge of the Hyades star cluster on the 29th.

PAUL
The Hyades appears as a large triangle of stars.

RACHEL
Look for the orange star at the end of the triangle nearest the moon.

PAUL
The star is not actually a member of the Hyades star cluster.

RACHEL
It’s much closer to our solar system than the Hyades.

PAUL
And it just happens to lie in a line between our solar system and the Hyades star cluster.

RACHEL
The star’s name is Aldebaran and it represents the glowing red eye of Taurus the Bull.

PAUL
Aldebaran means the follower in Arabic.

RACHEL
Why the follower?

PAUL
Probably because the star follows the Pleiades star cluster.

RACHEL
That’s Idaho Skies for the last week of January. Join us next month for the space and astronomy events for Idaho.

PAUL
Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Idaho Skies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Transcript for January 11th to 17th

PAUL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the second week of January. We’re your hosts, Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
Venus is visible once again as the Evening Star.

RACHEL
And it has a friend for the next two weeks.

PAUL
Look low in the southwest at 6:00 PM on the 11th for Venus; it’s the brightest star in that part of the sky.

RACHEL
Just located to the right of Venus is a fainter star that’s actually the planet Mercury.

PAUL
A pair of binoculars is useful for observing this duo.

RACHEL
But please be careful, don’t use your binoculars until after the sun sets.

PAUL
A relatively bright star appears just below the moon on the morning of the 13th.

RACHEL
The star is Spica, the alpha star of Virgo the Maiden.

PAUL
The distance between the moon and Spica is 2.5 degrees, or about five times the moon’s apparent diameter.

RACHEL
That means the pair will fit nicely within the field of view of your binoculars.

PAUL
Spica is the 15th brightest star and its 250 light years away.

RACHEL
However, Spica is not just one star.

PAUL
That’s right; it’s actually a pair of giant stars orbiting each other in just four days.

RACHEL
The stars orbit each other so quickly because they’re very close together.

PAUL
They’re so close that their gravity stretches them into egg-shapes.

RACHEL
Mercury reaches it greatest distance from the sun on the night of the 14th.

PAUL
Astronomers call this Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation.

RACHEL
In astronomy talk, that means Mercury appears as far east of the sun as possible.

PAUL
So as its getting dark at 6:00 PM, look for Mercury just right of brighter Venus.

RACHEL
The pair will be 10 degrees above the southwest horizon, which is about twice the angle your binoculars can see.

PAUL
Saturn and the moon appear just one degree apart on the morning of the 16th.

RACHEL
So as you drive to work on Friday morning, look for a star to the moon’s right.

PAUL
If you’re not driving to work that morning and you have a telescope, then take a few minutes to look at Saturn.

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Even at low power, the planet’s rings are visible as a yellowish disk surrounding Saturn’s equator.

PAUL
Don’t confuse for an orangish star below the moon.

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That’s a real star, the red giant Antares.

PAUL
Antares is the brightest star of Scorpius the Scorpion.

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It represents the heart of the scorpion and its just over 600 light years away.

PAUL
That means the light you see tonight left in the year 1410.

RACHEL
That’s Idaho Skies for the second week of January. Next week you have the opportunity to see a very young moon and Earthshine.

PAUL
Be sure to read our blog for additional information. It’s at idahoskies.blogspot.com. For Idaho Skies this is Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Transcript for January 4 - 10

RACHEL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the first week of January. We’re your hosts, Rachel...

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
The first major meteor shower of the year reaches its peak on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th.

PAUL
It’s the Quadrantid meteor shower and we can expect to see as many as 45 bluish meteors per hour.

RACHEL
Unfortunately, the moon is one day from full.

PAUL
Which means its light will interfere with some of the fainter meteors.

RACHEL
However, the average brightness of the shower’s meteors is pretty high.

PAUL
So there’ll still be plenty of meteors to see.

RACHEL
If you plan to watch the Quadrantids, be sure to dress warmly and watch for meteors originating from the low north.

PAUL
The moon leads you to nice star clusters on the 9th.

RACHEL
The clusters are located in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

PAUL
To find them, point your binoculars at the moon at around 9:00 PM.

RACHEL
Approximately half a binocular field of view below the moon is a small star cluster named M-67.

PAUL
It’s not very difficult to see the cluster as a fuzzy patch, but you’ll need to lower your binoculars a little bit further.

RACHEL
That way the moon’s light won’t wash out the star cluster.

PAUL
A much easier to see star cluster is the Beehive star cluster, however.

RACHEL
And you’ll find it to the upper left of the moon.

PAUL
The distance between the Beehive star cluster and the moon is just over a binocular field of view.

RACHEL
So place the moon in the lower right edge of your binoculars.

PAUL
Then you’ll see the star cluster in the upper left corner of your binoculars.

RACHEL
The Beehive star cluster is visible to the unaided eye in the dark skies that you’ll find outside of Boise.

PAUL
It appears just like it did to the ancients, a small fuzzy spot in the sky.

RACHEL
Searching for Jupiter?

PAUL
Then look for the moon after 8:30 PM on the 7th.

RACHEL
The bright star located to the moon’s upper left is Jupiter.

PAUL
You may notice that Jupiter doesn’t twinkle like the other bright stars.

RACHEL
That’s because Jupiter’s large size lets it average out all the brightness fluctuations caused by moving pockets of air.

PAUL
This is pretty much true for all the planets.

RACHEL
Even though stars have much larger disks than the planets, they’re so far away that they appear smaller than pin points of light.

PAUL
As a result, even small pockets of moving air can twist and bend the beams of starlight enough to make their color and brightness fluctuate.

RACHEL
You can see all four of Jupiter’s large satellites through a spotting scope.

PAUL
From bottom to top, you’ll see Io, Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

RACHEL
They’ll form a compact group, so you might not be able to separate the satellites as well through a pair of binoculars.

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the first week of January. Several planets make the news next week.

RACHEL
Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Idaho Skies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Rachel...

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This month look for the star Betelgeuse or Alpha Orionis in the constellation of Orion the Hunter. Betelgeuse is the second brightest star in Orion, which is one of the most recognizable constellations in the winter sky. Betelgeuse is located in the upper left corner and is orangish in color. Betelgeuse and Orion are located high in the southeast on January nights after sunset.

Betelgeuse comes from the Arabic for “hand of the central one”. The central one is a female Arabic character. Feminine names in Orion the hunter are not unusual, one of the constellation’s other bright stars is named Bellatrix, which is also has a female connotation. The light you see from Betelgeuse left the star in the year 1371.

Betelgeuse (the name sounds like beetle juice) is one of the largest stars in our galaxy. If it replaced our sun, its vaporous surface would reach over half way to Jupiter, engulfing the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars in the process. That’s 600 times larger than our sun! Betelgeuse is a giant cool red star today; but in its stellar youth was a massive white hot star. Being seven times more massive than the sun, Betelgeuse burned through its main supply of hydrogen faster than the sun. Today, deep in its core, nuclei of helium atoms are fusing into carbon and oxygen. Outside that core is a shell of fusing hydrogen. Since that helium is denser than hydrogen, the helium created by the fusion of hydrogen sinks into the star’s core where it is fused into more carbon and oxygen. The increased heat generated by star’s fusion of hydrogen and helium has puffed up its atmosphere. The expanded atmosphere is a cool red-orange color as a result. However, because of its great size, Betelgeuse over 40,000 times brighter than our sun even though its surface is cooler.

Betelgeuse is so massive that it may eventually fuse the atoms in its core all the way to iron. When it does, the star will face an energy crisis that pales to anything we’ll ever see. That’s because iron is a dead end element and it’s impossible to fuse it into heavier elements to release energy. Since stars need that energy to support their weight, they collapse when their cores contains too much iron. The inward collapse of a massive iron core squeezes subatomic protons and electrons into neutrons and an immense blast of neutrino radiation that will outpace the emission of light from the dense core of the star. Betelgeuse’s blast of neutrino radiation will arrive at earth some 643 years after the core collapses, signally that the star is beginning to exploding as a supernova. When it goes, Betelgeuse will shine as brightly as the crescent moon and be visible in broad daylight.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Transcript for December 21st to 27th

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

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

BRING DOWN MUSIC

PAUL
The sun reaches its southernmost declination at 5:00 PM on the 21st.

RACHEL
That means it appears overhead to anyone residing at 23 degrees south latitude.

PAUL
That makes it the first day of summer in Australia and the first day of winter for us in the Northern hemisphere.

RACHEL
Ahh, just imagine, spending Christmas on an Australian beach.

PAUL
The distance between the sun and Earth has nothing to do with the seasons.

RACHEL
That’s right; the seasons are solely the result of Earth’s tilt with respect to its orbital plane around the sun.

PAUL
As a result of this tilt, the sun crosses the sky at its lowest path on the first day of winter.

RACHEL
And the hours of daylight are at their shortest length.

PAUL
The result is that the sun’s light is less intense and provides warmth for least number of hours.

RACHEL
Adding insult to injury, the night lasts it longest.

PAUL
Therefore, the ground has even more time to radiate its warmth back into the sky.

RACHEL
The combination of these three effects creates the coldest days of the year.

PAUL
However, its takes the ground and atmosphere another month to catch up to all that cold.

RACHEL
A minor meteor shower peaks on the night of December 22nd and morning of the 23rd.

PAUL
It’s the Ursid meteor shower and you can see it radiating out of the high north, near the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor.

RACHEL
Usually we don’t see more than 10 meteors per hour from this shower.

PAUL
However, it once produced an outburst of 100 meteors per hour.

RACHEL
The moon is only a day old tonight, so its light won’t interfere if you choose to watch the Ursid meteor shower.

PAUL
The 23rd presents us with the opportunity to observe a two-day old moon.

RACHEL
This is such a thin crescent moon that most people won’t chance upon it unless they know to look for it.

PAUL
So begin your search low in the southwest at around 6:15 PM.

RACHEL
You might find a pair of binoculars helpful.

PAUL
But please, please only use them after the sun has set.

RACHEL
After all these months, Mars is still visible in our night sky.

PAUL
Yep. And you can find the red planet on the 24th.

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You first need to find the moon in the low southwest.

PAUL
Mars will be the slightly yellowish star located to the moon’s left.

RACHEL
Mars is not really red; its surface is more orange in color.

PAUL
That color comes from the oxidized iron in its soil.

RACHEL
So the surface of Mars is actually rusty.

PAUL
Because its soil doesn’t contain organic material, we actually call the soil of Mars its regolith.

RACHEL
That’s Idaho Skies for the fourth week of December. You can use your Christmas binoculars to observe a star cluster next week.

PAUL
Be sure to read our blog for additional information. It’s at idahoskies.blogspot.com For Idaho Skies this is Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Transcript for December 14-21

RACHEL
Welcome to Idaho Skies for the third week of December. We’re your hosts, Rachel...

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
The brightest star of Virgo the Maiden is located below the moon on the morning of the 16th.

PAUL
The star’s name is Spica and it represents a wheat stalk in the hand of Virgo.

RACHEL
Look for the moon in the low southeast as you drive to work this morning.

PAUL
Spica is the brightest star below the moon.

RACHEL
Double stars are fun astronomical objects.

PAUL
They are excellent tests of an astronomer’s visual acuity and the optical quality of his or her telescope.

RACHEL
Astronomers and physicists have even used the motion of double stars around each other to prove that gravity works light years away just like it does on Earth.

PAUL
So take some time to look for an easy double star on the morning of the 18th.

RACHEL
Its name is Zubenelgenubi and it’s located below the moon.

PAUL
Zubenelgenubi means Southern Claw of the Scorpion in Arabic.

RACHEL
Wait, isn’t Zubenelgenubi is the brightest star in Libra the Scales?

PAUL
It is today, but over 2,000 years ago, Libra was actually the claws of Scorpius.

RACHEL
This changed after precession carried the sun to the claws of Scorpius on the first day of autumn, otherwise known as the autumnal equinox.

PAUL
Because the equinox is a time when day and night are equal in length, the Greeks and Romans declawed Scorpius and turned its starry claws into a scale.

RACHEL
Listeners with sharp eyes are capable of seeing Zubenelgenubi as two closely spaced stars without using binoculars.

PAUL
Use your binoculars however and you’re sure to see two unequally bright stars next to each other.

RACHEL
This stellar pair is 77 light years away.

PAUL
Saturn is a morning planet this month.

RACHEL
You can locate it on the 19th if you look for the brightest star below the moon at 7:00 AM.

PAUL
That may be a bit early to look for this planet, but you’ll be the first on your block to see Saturn.

RACHEL
If you have a telescope or spotting scope handy, then point it at Saturn.

PAUL
A telescope magnification of 25-power is enough to see its rings.

RACHEL
Which means even a spotting scope is up to the task.

PAUL
The distance across the rings is slightly larger than the distance between Earth and its moon.

RACHEL
Saturn is not the only planet to have rings.

PAUL
That’s right; all the large planets have their own rings.

RACHEL
However, Saturn’s are the most wonderful and stunning.

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the third week of December. The winter solstice occurs next week.

RACHEL
Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Idaho Skies for this week’s event reminders and sky maps.

For Idaho Skies this is Rachel...

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
Dark skies and bright stars.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Transcript for December 7 - 13

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

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
The constellation of Gemini the Twins consist of two rows of stars

RACHEL
The two rows of stars are horizontal in the eastern sky during December evenings, but become more vertical at around midnight.

PAUL
You can locate Gemini on the 7th by looking for the two rows of stars located to the moon’s left.

RACHEL
One row is higher than the moon and the other is lower.

PAUL
The two bright stars at the left end of the row of stars are named Castor and Pollux.

RACHEL
You can tell the difference between them because Pollux is slightly brighter than Castor.

PAUL
In Greek mythology, Castor was the mortal twin and Pollux his immortal brother.

RACHEL
The light of Pollux left 34 years ago, so if you’re 34 this year, Pollux is your birthday star.

PAUL
And Castor is the birthday star of everyone 51 years old.

RACHEL
New Horizons is scheduled to wake up from its hibernation on the 7th.

PAUL
New Horizons is an American spacecraft bound for Pluto.

RACHEL
The spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto occurs on July 14th next year.

PAUL
This will be the first time humans have ever been able to see Pluto as more than just a few pixels or a faint smudge.

RACHEL
And who knows what we’ll discover, perhaps geysers of liquid nitrogen.

PAUL
The eighth brightest star in the sky is located to the moon’s right on the night of the 9th.

RACHEL
The star’s name is Procyon and it’s the alpha star of the constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog.

PAUL
Procyon is so bright because it’s only 12 light years away from the solar system.

RACHEL
Hey, where’s Jupiter?

PAUL
Why it’s above the moon late on the evening of the 11th.

RACHEL
Through a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, you’re likely to see all four of its Galilean satellites.

PAUL
Starting from the bottom and going up, the moons are Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

RACHEL
Jupiter is next and through a spotting scope or small telescope, it will show a disk.

PAUL
Above Jupiter is Callisto.

RACHEL
You may have difficulty splitting Io and Europa in binoculars, but not through a spotting scope.

PAUL
Don’t forget that through an astronomical telescope, the order of the satellites is backwards.

RACHEL
One of the year’s best meteor showers peaks on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

PAUL
Normally the Geminid meteor shower does not disappoint with its plentiful number of yellowish meteors.

RACHEL
In fact, when viewed from dark skies, you can expect to see more than a meteor per minute on average.

PAUL
Unfortunately, this week the moon is a waxing gibbous.

RACHEL
Therefore, its large and bright surface will wash out many of the fainter members of the shower.

PAUL
If you have some time and the inclination, dress warmly and spend a little time observing this shower.

RACHEL
That’s Idaho Skies for the second week of December. Next week we’ll tell you how you can observe Saturn’s rings.

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

For Idaho Skies this is Paul...

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
Dark skies and bright stars.