Astro Bob blog: More sights for twilight eyesSpace shuttle, space station, crescent moon and Venus assemble this weekend for a twilight convention
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
More sights for twilight eyes
The moon returns to the evening sky tonight. Its low elevation and faintness will make it somewhat challenging to find but it's worth the effort. It might be the "youngest" moon you'll ever see. Created with Stellarium
Evening twilight's the time to be outside this weekend to enjoy a three-part celestial show. Tonight through Sunday the crescent moon will play tag with Venus in the afterglow of sunset. This evening the moon is just one-day-old and thin as a well-honed knife blade. You'll need an open view to the northwest if you want to see it. Start looking about a half-hour after sunset and bring binoculars to make the task easier.
Finding the moon Saturday will take far less effort since it's higher in the sky and paired with Venus. By Sunday the moon departs from the planet but it's still within shouting distance. All three nights, see if you can discern the dark, dusky portion of the moon faintly lit by earthlight or earthshine. Sunlight reflecting off Earth's water and clouds travels to the moon, reflects off the lunar surface and then back to our eyes. The crescent itself is illuminated directly by the sun, but the rest is courtesy of the planet you're standing on. Binoculars will reveal several lunar "seas" and even a few of the larger craters in the earthlit portion. What color is the dark of the moon? Is it grey or do you detect a hint of blue?
The shuttle Atlantis ticks off time on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. Assuming good weather holds, launch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CDT today. Click HERE for updates. Credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
If the weather allows, the space shuttle Atlantis will take off today to join the International Space Station (ISS). During the 12-day mission astronauts will deliver the Russian-built Mini-Research Module-1, which will serve as a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress space craft. With luck we'll get to see both Atlantis and the ISS crossing the sky near one another during twilight this weekend. For Duluth and region there are just two passes remaining: tonight across the southwestern sky starting at 9:41 p.m. and the other on Sunday, also across the southwest, at 8:55 p.m. At the beginning of Sunday's pass, the ISS will appear right under the moon and Venus. For times for your town, click HERE and type in your zipcode. Depending on where you live, you might get a quadruple whammy: ISS, Atlantis, the moon and Venus all bunched together in the western sky.
Local Wisconsin meteorite hunter Vicky Olds has found the greatest number of meteorites from the April 14, 2010 meteorite fall near Livingston, Wisconsin -- 10 individuals, 7 of which are shown. They range from 18.6 grams to 0.3 grams. Credit: Photo by Greg Hupe; courtesy of Michael Johnson
I wanted to get back to you on Monday's fireball over the Milwaukee-Oshkosh area. The hoped-for meteorite that a fellow hunter was going to check out is a "maybe". Whatever it is, the rock was there before the Monday fireball. Meanwhile, a dwindling number of meteorite hunters are picking through the grass, dirt and fields of SW Wisconsin and still finding a few fragments from the April 14 fireball. The total number of meteorites discovered as of May 13 comes to a little over 100.
The Great Red Spot stands out clearly against the pale zones of Jupiter in this photo taken May 13. The much-faded South Equatorial Belt lies just above it. Credit: Anthony Wesley
Anthony Wesley, the Australian amateur astronomer who discovered the dark impact spot on Jupiter last year, continues to shoot amazing images of the planet this week. The Great Red Spot (GRS) stands out in part because the area around it has grown so pale. The Spot is a hurricane-like weather system of ammonia clouds that's been swirling around on Jupiter since the 1600s. It rotates counterclockwise with a period of six days and could hold two planet Earths with room to spare. Astronomers believe the spot gets its red color from phosphorus and sulfur compounds. If you have a telescope and would like to know when the GRS is transiting Jupiter's central meridian -- when it's squarely in view on the center axis of the planet -- please check out Sky and Telescope's GRS Calculator. The magazine website has a similar utility for identifying which moon is which of the four brightest visible in a small scope.