Archive for the Uncategorized Category

The Big Picture covers Cassini and Saturn

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2009 by bellaireastro
Small, battered Epimetheus before Saturns A and F rings, and and smog-enshrouded Titan (5,150 km/3,200 mi wide) beyond. The color information in the colorized view is artificial: it is derived from red, green and blue images taken at nearly the same time and phase angle as the clear filter image. This color information was overlaid onto a previously released clear filter view in order to approximate the scene as it might appear to human eyes. The view was acquired on April 28, 2006, at a distance of approximately 667,000 km (415,000 mi) from Epimetheus and 1.8 million km (1.1 million mi) from Titan. The image scale is 4 km (2 mi) per pixel on Epimetheus and 11 km (7 mi) per pixel on Titan. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Small, battered Epimetheus before Saturn's A and F rings, and and smog-enshrouded Titan beyond. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

The Cassini mission to Saturn has entered the next phase and one that is a complete bonus. The probe has exceeded expectations and been so successful that a new mission was crafted for this prodigious robotic scientist.

Recently the extremely cool photo blog The Big Picture featured some stunning images from the new Cassini mission. The new science we have gathered about how saturn, the rings, and the moons are connected changes weekly. It is the kind of re-teaching I find particularly exciting.


Star Party April 4th from 6 – 9

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 1, 2009 by bellaireastro


This Saturday April 4th from 6pm – 9pm the Bellaire astronomy class and the Stafford campus of HCC will host a star party as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy event in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy. Come out and see some stars and learn some stuff about astronomy. Everyone is welcome at this public event so come join us.

For more information including a map to the Missouri City HCC campus see the 100HoursOfAstronomy entry for the event.

GLOBE at Night Light Pollution Awareness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2009 by bellaireastro

The GLOBE at Night program starts today, March 16th and runs through April 7th. This is the 2nd year of the GLOBE at Night program but this year they are part of the IYA2009 effort to report on light pollution around the world.

2008 Observations

2008 Observations

The cool thing is how easy it is to participate. You need no telescope, just your eyes, a clear sky, and some information about your location.

The website guides you through the process of getting your latitude and longitude and then tells you how to find the constellation Orion, and then has you compare the pattern of stars you see to some templates that represent how light polluted your skies are so that data can be added in to help give a clearer picture of how much light pollution there is.

You are encouraged to participate more than once and hopefully from different locations, so give it a try.

Looking W from Lat 20N

Looking W from Lat 20N (click to enlarge or print)

GLOBE At Night: March 16th – April 7th; Location: Earth

HCC & Bellaire to host 100HoursofAstronomy Star Party

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2009 by bellaireastro

As part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy the Houston Community College Southwest and Bellaire HS will be hosting a star party at one of the HCC Southwest campuses.

100 Hours of Astronomyiya_logo

This event is open to the public so come out and see what the skies have to offer. There will be presentations and stargazing and lots of cool stuff to see and learn about.

Come on out! Saturday April 4th 2009 from 6pm – 9pm.

Looking Directly At The Sun Can Be Fun

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14, 2009 by bellaireastro

This week the Bellaire astronomy class was lucky enough to borrow a Coronado PST and to have a nearly cloudless sky. We managed to get a full hour of observation in and everyone got a look and made a sketch. It was a great lab.

SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind and you can get in on the fun. You can check out the view from SOHO daily. The images through the PST were similar in color to the 304-angstrom-view from SOHO. The SOHO image represents a higher layer of the solar atmosphere than does the PST view.

SOHO view of our Sun 2/14/08 in H-Alpha Light

SOHO view of Sun 2/14/09 in 304 angstrom wavelength light

Since the sun gives off much more light in the visible yellow region than it does in the Hydrogen-alpha type of light we can’t see the chromosphere of the sun unless we look in JUST that range and don’t look at the other colors. Special filters help us out to do this. Check out this cool animated GIF of the sun at this wavelength.

Suns curve vs perfect blackbody

Sun's curve vs perfect blackbody

It was a great time and the sun looked really awesome with red and black speckles. No one even minded that the solar minimum makes for a less exciting solar surface. There were a few prominences and other features but they were small so it was a great lesson in observational techniques.

Find satellites with Heavens Above

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2009 by bellaireastro

Amateur astronomers not only try to spot dim nebulae and the rare cosmic events but also man made astronomical objects in the night sky such as communication satellites, the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope. There is also an ever-growing cloud of space junk up there too.

One great way to find out when you can see a bright satellite zoom overhead is Heavens Above. You can enter a latitude and longitude or you can choose one of the location from the provided list. Track the ISS or the HST or any number of other satellites. There is also a helpful list of periodic comets that may be visible from your location.

For example, tonight viewers that happened to be at Belliare High School at7:30 would be able to see the Hubble Space Telescope as it zooms past bright Venus in the west.


Chart of path of HST For Bellaire TX

Try it out and see if you can catch HST going overhead.