Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, IYA, meteor shower, observing, sidewalk astronomy, space, Student Astronomy, Universe Today, urban skies with tags , , on November 26, 2009 by bellaireastro

Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Here are some tips for viewing the upcoming Geminid meteor shower from Sean Welton from Universe Today

Geminids 2009

Occurring every year in mid-December, the Geminid meteor shower is commonly referred to as the most reliable meteor shower of the year. That is, it almost always puts on a great show!

The Geminid meteor shower is sure to be a stunning show this year, as the Moon will not be visible at night, so its glow will not impede your meteor viewing ability. In addition, the Geminids’ radiant is favorably positioned for most viewers at this time of year. In order to see the most meteors, I suggest the following tips:

  • The Geminid meteor shower has a very broad maximum peak. Because of this, the night on which you view the meteors isn’t critical. You will of course, see more meteors on the peak nights. This year the Geminid meteor shower’s peak is the night of December 13th-14th, 2009.
  • The best time to view a meteor shower is in the late night to early morning hours. The best time to view a meteor shower typically begins around 2 AM. This is because as the Earth rotates toward dawn, the forward velocity of the planet adds to the linear velocity of the surface and atmosphere. This has the effect of “sweeping up” more meteors.
  • If you’re not normally awake at 2 AM, like many people, simply go to sleep very early and set an alarm clock to wake you up to view the meteor shower. Trust me on this point, it is definitely worth it.
  • The Geminid meteor shower’s radiant is right near the twin bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Click the image at top right to see a map (thanks to Stellarium). The trick, however, isn’t to look towards the radiant, but to keep your eyes on the whole sky. While it’s impossible to look at the whole sky, just keep your eyes scanning and alert. This increases your chances of seeing a fleeting meteor or one out of the corner of your eye.
  • Darkness is key to proper meteor shower viewing. If you live in a city or other light polluted area, try going to a dark sky site to truly experience a meteor shower. You might be surprised how close a dark sky site is to you! Here are some tips on finding a dark sky near you.



Astronomy Education Gets It Right – Interactive is Better

Posted in astronomy eduction, books, Student Astronomy with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by bellaireastro


I just finished reading an article published in the October 2009 issue of Physics Today by Prather, Rudolph, and Brissenden titled Teaching and
learning astronomy in the 21st century

As a high school astronomy teacher I have benefited from the techniques mentioned in the article over the past 2 years as I try to figure out how best to get students involved in their own learning.

Essentially what Prather, Rudolph, and Brissenden have been able to show is that when instructors use the right tools an astronomy course can cover difficult and meaningful material even with non-science majors and produce a measurable gain in student knowledge about the topics in question.


Look-Back Time Lecture-Tutorial Question

The lecture-tutorials, concept questions with peer-instruction, along with the general attitude that students should be engaged in the learning process has helped me to have some very fun and productive astronomy classes so far.

I have used the Astronomy Diagnostic Test in class with some success but I haven’t used the newer Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory although I will at the start of the Spring semester. Since I’ve never had any professional development or training with these materials I sometimes struggle to use them effectively, but a motivated instructor can go a long with with just what’s available out there and some willingness to work. Many of these concepts I myself had wrong in some way or another and that has helped me to look for the same sorts of mistakes from my students.


Moon Phases Ranking Tast


Radial Velocity Think-Pair-Share Question

Two great resources to get you started:

1) Astronomy 101 by the Center for Astronomy Education has ways to connect with others wanting to add to astronomy education research or to learn from those that have come before. Check out the teaching strategy section for some fantastic ideas.

2) Astronomy Education Review is an open journal of astronomy education that covers college as well as high school level issues.

I can attest to the fact that using these techniques and these tools really help to create an astronomy course that belongs to everyone and encourages active participation from everyone. It can be hard to let go of a full-class lecture but in the end everybody has a better experience if you just trust in the process.

Cassini Equinox Mission: The Rite of Spring

Posted in NASA, observing, robotic astronomy, Saturn, space with tags on October 1, 2009 by bellaireastro

The Cassini Equinox Mission has produced some INCREDIBLE images of Saturn during the planet’s equinox. This one is completely awe inspiring.


You can follow the mission too and see many many more images.

Check it out.

More New Looks at Mercury from MESSENGER | Universe Today

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, Mercury, MESSENGER, NASA, observing, robotic astronomy, space with tags on October 1, 2009 by bellaireastro

There is a post over at Universe Today all about the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and the latest and greatest photos of the under-explored planet.

Universe Today: More New Looks at Mercury from MESSENGER

Bright spot on Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Check out the paw print made from craters. Cool….

Craters form a paw print on Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

LRO Sees Bouncing, Rolling Boulders on the Moon | Universe Today

Posted in astro blogs, Lunar Exploration, moon, NASA, observing, robotic astronomy, space, Student Astronomy with tags , , on September 5, 2009 by bellaireastro

I saw a really cool post over on Universe Today about the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and yet another close-up of the moon.

This time there is evidence that really big boulders rolled down the slopes of the Tsiolkovskiy Crater

Closeup of LROC image showing boulders that have rolled down the slope of Tsiolkovskiy Crater.  Credit: NASA

You can see the path the boulders took and the tracks they left behind them.

Tsiolkovskiy Crater from LROC. Click for larger "Zoomifiable" version. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The crater rim in stark relief in this image. Dark and deep it looks!

Amateur Astrophotographer Christopher Go Images Io Transiting Ganymede

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, Jupiter, observing, space with tags , , on August 20, 2009 by bellaireastro

Christopher Go of Cebu City Phillipines managed to catch an incredible transit of Io’s shadow over Ganymede. These are 2 of the moons of Jupiter aka the Jovian moons. This is a very difficult series to actually catch.

Io and Ganymede dance

Io passes Ganymede in this series of photos taken August 16, 2009. © 2009 Christopher Go

Check out the original post over at

We have seen many amateur astronomers in the news lately. Earlier this year Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley captured an image showing the impact scar left on Jupiter by an apparent comet. Then in late 2008 a ninth-grader in NY named Caroline Moore discovered a supernova as an amateur. So this just adds to the list of things amateur astronomers are doing to further the field of astronomy with their own equipment and time.

Wired’s Best Science Visualization Videos of 2009

Posted in software, space, stellar astronomy with tags , , on August 20, 2009 by bellaireastro

I have found videos to be some of the best ways to get ideas across in terms of visualizing data or complex ideas. Wired published the best Science Visualizations Videos of 2009 and some are very very cool.My favorite is the explosion of type Ia supernova. Dang…. awesome stuff!

Vodpod videos no longer available.