Archive for June, 2009

Sidewalk Astronomy at Houston Downtown Library 6-29-09

Posted in moon, observing, sidewalk astronomy, space, Student Astronomy, sun, urban skies with tags , , on June 28, 2009 by bellaireastro
Kirby S checks out the view at a local star party

Kirby checks out the view through the scope

Come out on Monday June 29th to the downtown Houston Public Library Central location for some sidewalk astronomy from 6pm – 8pm.

by Flickr user Fatty Tuna

Photo by Flickr user Fatty Tuna

The location is the plaza outside the downtown Houston public library. The library has an underground parking garage on Lamar and there is street parking on Lamar and McKinney  and on nearby Smith Street. There is also a handy Google Map.

There will be telescopes and solar scopes on hand for observations of the sun and moon which will be at first quarter. Come on out and help create a tradition of sidewalk astronomy in downtown Houston.

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Recent scenes from the ISS from The Big Picture

Posted in astro blogs, observing, space, The Big Picture with tags on June 27, 2009 by bellaireastro

Recent scenes from the ISS – The Big Picture

Man these images shot from the International Space Station posted on a recent blog entry of The Big Picture are truly amazing. Head over there and take a look.

Book Review: Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars | Universe Today

Posted in astro blogs, books, observing, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on June 24, 2009 by bellaireastro

Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars

Book Review: Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars

Most people new to astronomy hear the advice to try binoculars first at some point. I know they are the first implement I grab when heading outside.

This review from Universe Today is worth a look. Perhaps this book is in your future!

Sidewalk Astronomy at HPL Central

Posted in astronomical history, IYA, moon, observing, space, Student Astronomy, sun, urban skies with tags , on June 15, 2009 by bellaireastro
Kirby S checks out the view at a local star party

Come on out June 29th to the downtown Houston Public Library Central branch for some sidewalk astronomy from 6 pm – 8 pm. The moon and sun will be our targets as well as anything else worth taking a look at. Check out the Google Maps view of the area to figure out how to get there.

During the summer months night comes very late to the Houston area but there is still plenty of astronomy to be done. Most people assume urban environments prevent any astronomy at all but that isn’t true by a long shot. Besides if we don’t try to educate people about the joys of astronomy they are less likely to help prevent light pollution in our cities.

Sidewalk astronomy in the big city has been an ongoing effort ever since John Dobson set up his home-made scope in the 1960’s in San Francisco.

Come out and see the sky from downtown Houston!

Sun dogs and Moon dogs explained

Posted in astro blogs, moon, observing, Student Astronomy, sun, urban skies with tags , , , , on June 12, 2009 by bellaireastro

Sun dog effect seen inside solar halo from Wikipedia

When I was in one of my college physics courses dedicated to the study of optics, one of my most dreaded and beloved professors Dr. Joe Ferguson explained a strange optical solar phenomenon called a sun dog which to this day is something I look for every time I’m outside and the conditions are right.

Dr. Ferguson retired from the Mississippi State Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2005 but is still a professor I strive to emulate in many ways. His lessons were often very hard but very memorable.

Sun dogs (and moon dogs) are caused by the prism-like refraction of sunlight through hexagonal ice crystals in a specific configuration in the Earth’s atmosphere. Halos around the Sun and Moon are often seen 22 degrees out from the celestial body and the sun or moon dog (or parhelia and paraselenae) will be in a horizontal line coinciding with this ring.

There doesn’t have to be a halo or ring to see strange prismatic patterns 22 degrees from the sun or moon and they happen fairly often here in Houston Texas. So next time you are out and sun or moon are not too high in the sky and there are some clouds out and about try covering the sun or moon with your hand and looking a bit to the left or right of the sun or moon and you just might get lucky and see a sun dog or moon dog.

Check out the wonderful explanation of sun dog formation over at the Atmospheric Optics website.

sundog_geometry

Sun dog geometry explained - Atmospheric Optics

The Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 11th features a beautiful moonlit sky and one of these paraselene effects or a moon dog.

APOD for 2009 June 11

APOD for 2009 June 11

LookUP is neat astronomy data tool

Posted in observing, software, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on June 8, 2009 by bellaireastro

LookUP is a fantastic service from operated by Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester and is offered free.

You can find out astronomical details on things in the night sky using a very cool and simple interface.

You get a mash-up of available data sources on the item you look up. There is even an image supplied by WikiSky.

Check out the entry on Saturn.

LookUP

Mercury and MESSENGER – The Big Picture

Posted in Mercury, MESSENGER, observing, robotic astronomy, space, The Big Picture with tags , , on June 8, 2009 by bellaireastro

Mercury and MESSENGER – The Big Picture – Boston.com.

Awesome photo blog “The Big Picture” often shows fantastic astronomy photography and the entry all about the MESSENGER mission to the planet Mercury is no exception. Check out these incredible Mercury photos.

You won’t find any of these in textbooks yet either. Enjoy!