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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Transcript for November 30th to December 6th

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

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
The moon helps locate the seventh planet on the 1st.

PAUL
The 7th planet is named "your anus", although I prefer to pronounce it as Uranus to keep people from giggling.

RACHEL
To find Uranus, look for two stars on the right side of the moon that form a triangle with the moon.

PAUL
That means the moon is the left corner of the triangle.

RACHEL
The star closest the moon is the top of the triangle and it’s called 96 Piscium.

PAUL
Twice as far away from the moon is slightly fainter Uranus.

RACHEL
The moon, 96 Piscium, and Uranus will all fit within half of your binocular’s field of view.

PAUL
Do you want to find the constellation of Aries the Ram?

RACHEL
It’s the flat triangle of stars right above the moon on the evening of the 3rd.

PAUL
Many of our listeners are familiar with Aries; in Greek mythology, it’s the ram with the Golden Fleece.

RACHEL
Some of the best star clusters are among the closest ones to our solar system.

PAUL
And they’re visible to us in the Northern hemisphere.

RACHEL
Look for two of these star clusters above and below the moon on the evening of the 4th.

PAUL
The Pleiades is the small dipper-shaped cluster of stars above the moon.

RACHEL
The other is the Hyades star cluster and it’s the larger V-shaped splash of stars below the moon.

PAUL
Both are excellent objects for your binoculars.

RACHEL
The moon immerses itself within the Hyades star cluster on the evening of the 5th.

PAUL
When observed separately, the moon seems larger than the Hyades star cluster.

RACHEL
On the 5th however, you’ll be able to see how much larger the Hyades is than the moon.

PAUL
Be sure to use your binoculars on this attractive sight.

RACHEL
The moon is located above Orion the Hunter on the evening of the 6th.

PAUL
Orion appears as a tall rectangle of bright stars.

RACHEL
Going from left to right, the top two stars are named Betelgeuse and Bellatrix.

PAUL
The two bottom stars, also going form left to right are names Saph and Rigel.

RACHEL
Check out Betelgeuse.

PAUL
Betelgeuse has a reddish-orange tint because it’s a red giant star.

RACHEL
It’s a red giant because it is nearing the end of its life.

PAUL
Its core is now filling with the helium ash from its fusion of hydrogen.

RACHEL
Some day in the near future, it may accumulate enough helium to start fusing it for energy.

PAUL
Until then, it will remain a huge and bloated star.

RACHEL
Betelgeuse is so bloated that if it replaced our sun, the star would engulf all the inner planets out to Mars.

PAUL
Ouch!

RACHEL
That’s Idaho Skies for the first week of December. The moon passes by the Heavenly Twins next week.

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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Polaris, the star for December

This month look for the star Polaris, the lucida (brightest star) of Ursa Minor the Little Bear. Polaris is also known as Alpha Ursae Minoris, The North Star, The Pole Star, and The Lode Star. Polaris is the guide to true north (as opposed to magnetic north) so it appears nearly straight up to anyone standing on the North Pole. Polaris is not the brightest star in the sky nor is it exactly true north. Polaris is actually the 40th brightest star in the sky and ¾ of a degree (1-1/2 moon diameters) away from the point of true north in the sky. In long duration photographs, Polaris makes a tiny little circle around the true North Pole. Polaris is the star marking the end of the Little Dipper’s handle.

Polaris is a bit hotter than our sun and older. It’s at the point in its life where it is fusing helium in its core and fusing hydrogen in a shell above its core. This makes Polaris slightly unstable and its outer layers pulsate in size and slightly in brightest. At 430 light years away, you’re seeing light from Polaris that was emitted in the year 1584.

Polaris is an easy star to find since most people can locate the Big Dipper in the sky. The two stars at the end of the Big Dipper’s bowl are called the Pointers and a line drawn up from the Pointers just about runs into Polaris.

Idaho Skies Transcript for November 23rd to 29th

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

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
On the evening of the 24th, you have a second chance to see a very thin moon this month.

PAUL
This time however, it’s an evening event.

RACHEL
The moon is three days old on the 24th, so it will still be crescent shaped.

PAUL
So look for the moon low in the southwest just after it gets dark.

RACHEL
And don’t forget to use a pair of binoculars so you can see Earthshine.

PAUL
In Earthshine, you should faintly see the lunar seas as dark patches, but you won’t be able to see lunar craters.

RACHEL
The moon passes next to Mars on the evening of the 25th.

PAUL
Look in the low southwest after dark for the brightest star to the moon’s left.

RACHEL
Mars will appear as a star with a decidedly yellowish tint.

PAUL
The Solitary One gets some company on the 29th.

RACHEL
The Solitary One is Fomalhaut, the brightest star beneath the moon that night.

PAUL
Fomalhaut is the brightest star in the constellation of Pisces Austrinus, or the Southern Fish.

RACHEL
The Southern Fish is a faint constellation, just like Pisces above it.

PAUL
At 25 light years away, Fomalhaut is one of the closest stars to our solar system.

RACHEL
But don’t make plans to visit it in search of new life and civilizations.

PAUL
That’s because Fomalhaut is much younger than the sun.

RACHEL
It’s so young that Fomalhaut is still in the process of forming its planets.

PAUL
Within the disk of dust and gas surrounding the star, the Hubble Space Telescope has observed a pin point of light over several years.

RACHEL
That pin point is star light reflecting off a young planet orbiting the outer reaches of Fomalhaut’s disk of dust and gas.

PAUL
The ancients named Fomalhaut the Solitary One because of its location in the sky.

RACHEL
The southern autumn sky around Pisces Austrinus contains mostly large sea-based constellations.

PAUL
And these constellations contain mostly faint stars.

RACHEL
This really lets Fomalhaut stand out.

PAUL
So go outside after dark on the 29th and get acquainted with the Solitary One.

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

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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Transcript for Nov 16 - 22

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

RACHEL
...and Rachel.

PAUL
We get to see a decent meteor shower on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th.

RACHEL
It’s the Leonid meteor shower and in dark skies you can expect to see 20 meteors per hour for m this shower.

PAUL
That’s three times as many meteors as you might see on a quiet night.

RACHEL
Better still, this week the moon is a thin crescent.

PAUL
That’s good news because the moon’s feeble light is unable to interfere with the meteor shower.

RACHEL
As you drive to work on the 19th, look for the brightest star beneath the moon.

PAUL
It’s Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo.

RACHEL
Spica is close to the moon, only twice the moon’s apparent diameter away.

PAUL
Looks can be deceiving however.

RACHEL
While the moon is only 1.5 seconds away at light speed, Spica is 262 years.

PAUL
Here’s your chance to see a very thin crescent moon.

RACHEL
On the 20th at 6:30 AM, the moon is only two days away from being new.

PAUL
That means it appears as a very thin crescent.

RACHEL
Look at the moon through binoculars and you may notice that you can see the rest of the moon, even though its night time on that part of the moon.

PAUL
This is called Earthshine.

RACHEL
Earthshine is caused by the reflection of sunlight off of Earth.

PAUL
Earth is much more reflective to sunlight than is the moon, so it can illuminate the dark portion of the moon well enough for us to make out some lunar surface markings.

RACHEL
Astronomers call the reflectivity of an astronomical body its albedo.

PAUL
And the moon’s albedo is 0.07, or just 7%.

RACHEL
That’s about as dark as fresh asphalt.

PAUL
Earth’s albedo on the other hand is 0.39, or 39%.

RACHEL
If you were an astronaut standing on the moon during the night, you could look up and see Earth shining overhead.

PAUL
Earth would be five times brighter and four times larger than the moon appears to us on Earth.

RACHEL
So its no wonder we can see the effects of Earthshine on the moon.

PAUL
Look for the thin crescent moon very low in the east-southeast.

RACHEL
Not many people have ever observed the moon this close to new.

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the third week of November. Next week go look for the Solitary One, we’ll tell you how to find it.

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.

Transcript for Nov 9 - 15

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

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
The moon will help you locate Orion the Hunter on the 9th.

PAUL
The majority of the constellation is the tall rectangle located below and right of the moon.

RACHEL
Above the rectangle of Orion is his raised arm and club.

PAUL
This is where the moon is located on the 9th.

RACHEL
So it looks like Orion is about to bat the moon with his club.

PAUL
Be sure to look for the row of three stars located inside the rectangle of Orion.

RACHEL
That’s Orion’s Belt.

PAUL
If you have a pair of binoculars handy, then scan downward from the middle star in Orion’s Belt.

RACHEL
The stars represent his sword, but you’ll notice the second star looks a little fuzzy.

PAUL
That fuzzy spot is located 1,300 light years away.

RACHEL
And it’s not a star, it’s a seething cauldron of star formation called the Orion Nebula.

PAUL
Astronomers have counted at least 700 stars in the process of forming within the Orion Nebula.

RACHEL
Here’s an easy way to identify Gemini the Twins; look for the moon on the night of the 10th.

PAUL
You’ll need to go outside after 10 PM to locate it, however.

RACHEL
Look right above the moon for two horizontal rows of stars.

PAUL
The brightest stars of the constellation, which are located to the left side of the moon, are called Castor and Pollux.

RACHEL
They represent the heads of the twins.

PAUL
Pollux is the brighter of the two stars and nearer the horizon.

RACHEL
Look for a bright star to the moon’s lower right on the 11th.

PAUL
It’s Procyon, the brightest star of Canis Minor, or the Little Dog.

RACHEL
The name Procyon means "Before the Dog".

PAUL
It got this name because it rises shortly before the Dog Star, Sirius.

RACHEL
Procyon appears bright in our sky not because it is a truly bright star, but because it’s so close to Earth.

PAUL
It’s just under 12 light years away for our solar system.

RACHEL
So if you know someone born in 2002, then Procyon is their birthday star this year.

PAUL
Get your binoculars out on the morning of the 13th.

RACHEL
That’s because you’ll be able to find and see the Beehive star cluster.

PAUL
After 3:00 AM, aim your binoculars at the moon and follow it's terminator straight north.

RACHEL
The terminator is the boundary between day and night on the moon.

PAUL
If you put the moon at the bottom edge of your binocular’s field of view, then the star cluster will be located near the center of your binoculars.

RACHEL
In your binoculars, and in dark skies, you should observe at least two dozen stars in the star cluster.

PAUL
That’s Idaho Skies for the second week of November. Next week a fine meteor shower gives us a show. 

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

PAUL
...and Paul.

RACHEL
Dark skies and bright stars.