NASA Night Sky Notes July 2021

NASA Night Sky Notes July 2021

This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Observe the Milky Way and Great Rift

David Prosper

Summer skies bring glorious views of our own Milky Way galaxy to observers blessed with dark skies. For many city dwellers, their first sight of the Milky Way comes during trips to rural areas – so if you are traveling away from city lights, do yourself a favor and look up!

To observe the Milky Way, you need clear, dark skies, and enough time to adapt your eyes to the dark. Photos of the Milky Way are breathtaking, but they usually show far more detail and color than the human eye can see – that’s the beauty and quietly deceptive nature of long exposure photography. For Northern Hemisphere observers, the most prominent portion of the Milky Way rises in the southeast as marked by the constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius. Take note that, even in dark skies, the Milky Way isn’t easily visible until it rises a bit above the horizon and the thick, turbulent air which obscures the view. The Milky Way is huge, but is also rather faint, and our eyes need time to truly adjust to the dark and see it in any detail. Try not to check your phone while you wait, as its light will reset your night vision. It’s best to attempt to view the Milky Way when the Moon is at a new or crescent phase; you don’t want the Moon’s brilliant light washing out any potential views, especially since a full Moon is up all night.

Keeping your eyes dark adapted is especially important if you want to not only see the haze of the Milky Way, but also the dark lane cutting into that haze, stretching from the Summer Triangle to Sagittarius. This dark detail is known as the Great Rift, and is seen more readily in very dark skies, especially dark, dry skies found in high desert regions. What exactly is the Great Rift? You are looking at massive clouds of galactic dust lying between Earth and the interior of the Milky Way. Other “dark nebulae” of cosmic clouds pepper the Milky Way, including the famed Coalsack, found in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Crux. Many cultures celebrate these dark clouds in their traditional stories along with the constellations and Milky Way.

Where exactly is our solar system within the Milky Way? Is there a way to get a sense of scale? The “Our Place in Our Galaxy” activity can help you do just that, with only birdseed, a coin, and your imagination: bit.ly/galaxyplace. You can also discover the amazing science NASA is doing to understand our galaxy – and our place in it – at nasa.gov.

 

The Great Rift is shown in more detail in this photo of a portion of the Milky Way along with the bright stars of the Summer Triangle. You can see why it is also called the “Dark Rift.” Credit: NASA / A.Fujii

If the Milky Way was shrunk down to the size of North America, our entire Solar System would be about the size of a quarter. At that scale, the North Star, Polaris – which is about 433 light years distant from us – would be 11 miles away! Find more ways to visualize these immense sizes with the Our Place in Our Galaxy activity: bit.ly/galaxyplace

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International SUNday June 20th, 2021

International SUNday is a once a year worldwide outreach event to celebrate the Sun and the Summer Solstice. It will be celebrated on the June 20th, 2021 Summer Solstic. 

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What’s In the Sky This Month? JUNE 2021 From High Point Scientific

High Point Scientific has just published this months What’s In the Sky for June 2021.

You can read it here Whats In the Sky – June 2021

 

M101 – The Pinwheel Galaxy

Plus night time planets.

 

 

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NASA Night Sky Notes June 2021

NASA Night Sky Notes June 2021

This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Astrophotography With Your Smartphone

David Prosper

Have you ever wanted to take night time photos like you’ve seen online, with the Milky Way stretched across the sky, a blood-red Moon during a total eclipse, or a colorful nebula? Many astrophotos take hours of time, expensive equipment, and travel, which can intimidate beginners to astrophotography. However, anyone with a camera can take astrophotos; even if you have a just smartphone, you can do astrophotography. Seriously!

Don’t expect Hubble-level images starting out! However, you can take surprisingly impressive shots by practicing several basic techniques: steadiness, locked focus, long exposure, and processing. First, steady your smartphone to keep your subjects sharp. This is especially important in low light conditions. A small tripod is ideal, but an improvised stand, like a rock or block of wood, works in a pinch. Most camera apps offer timer options to delay taking a photo by a few seconds, which reduces the vibration of your fingers when taking a shot. Next, lock your focus. Smartphones use autofocus, which is not ideal for low-light photos, especially if the camera readjusts focus mid-session. Tap the phone’s screen to focus on a distant bright star or streetlight, then check for options to fine-tune and lock it. Adjusting your camera’s exposure time is also essential. The longer your camera is open, the more light it gathers – essential for low-light astrophotography. Start by setting your exposure time to a few seconds. With those options set, take a test photo of your target! If your phone’s camera app doesn’t offer these options, you can download apps that do. While some phones offer an “astrophotography” setting, this is still rare as of 2021. Finally, process your photos using an app on your phone or computer to bring out additional detail! Post-processing is the secret of all astrophotography.

You now have your own first astrophotos! Wondering what you can do next? Practice: take lots of photos using different settings, especially before deciding on any equipment upgrades. Luckily, there are many amazing resources for budding astrophotographers. NASA has a free eBook with extensive tips for smartphone astrophotography at bit.ly/smartastrophoto, and you can also join the Smartphone Astrophotography project at bit.ly/smartphoneastroproject. Members of astronomy clubs often offer tips or even lessons on astrophotography; you can find a club near you by searching the “Clubs and Events” map on the Night Sky Network’s website at nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov. May you have clear skies!

A small tripod for a smartphone. They are relatively inexpensive – the author found this at a local dollar store!

 

The Moon is large and bright, making it a great target for beginners. The author took both of these photos using an iPhone 6s. The crescent moon at sunset (Top) was taken with a phone propped on the roof rack of a car; the closeup shot of lunar craters (Bottom) was taken through the

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What’s In the Sky This Month? May 2021 From High Point Scientific

High Point Scientific has just published this months What’s In the Sky for May 2021.

You can read it here Whats In the Sky – May 2021

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2021 Astronomy Events Calendar from High Point Scientific

Year long events for Astronomical Events that are happening in 2021, by  High Point Scientific  You can download the calendar from their site.

 

highpointscientific.com

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NASA Night Sky Notes May 2021

NASA Night Sky Notes May 2021

This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Virgo’s Galactic Harvest

David Prosper

 

May is a good month for fans of galaxies, since the constellation Virgo is up after sunset and for most of the night, following Leo across the night sky. Featured in some ancient societies as a goddess of agriculture and fertility, Virgo offers a bounty of galaxies as its celestial harvest for curious stargazers and professional astronomers alike.

 

Virgo is the second-largest constellation and largest in the Zodiac, and easily spotted once you know how to spot Spica, its brightest star. How can you find it? Look to the North and start with the Big Dipper! Follow the general curve of the Dipper’s handle away from its “ladle” and towards the bright orange-red star Arcturus, in Boötes – and from there continue straight until you meet the next bright star, Spica!  This particular star-hopping trick is summed up by the famous phrase, “arc to Arcturus, and spike to Spica.”

 

This large constellation is home to the Virgo Cluster, a massive group of galaxies. While the individual stars in Virgo are a part of our own galaxy, known as the Milky Way, the Virgo Cluster’s members exist far beyond our own galaxy’s borders. Teeming with around 2,000 known members, this massive group of galaxies are all gravitationally bound to each other, and are themselves members of the even larger Virgo Supercluster of galaxies, a sort of “super-group” made up of groups of galaxies. Our own Milky Way is a member of the “Local Group” of galaxies, which in turn is also a member of the Virgo Supercluster! In a sense, when we gaze upon the galaxies of the Virgo Cluster, we are looking at some of our most distant cosmic neighbors. At an average distance of over 65 million light years away, the light from these galaxies first started towards our planet when the dinosaurs were enjoying their last moments as Earth’s dominant land animals! Dark clear skies and a telescope with a mirror of six inches or more will reveal many of the cluster’s brightest and largest members, and it lends itself well to stunning astrophotos.

Virgo is naturally host to numerous studies of galaxies and cosmological research, which have revealed much about the structure of our universe and the evolution of stars and galaxies. The “Universe of Galaxies” activity can help you visualize the scale of the universe, starting with our home in the Milky Way Galaxy before heading out to the Local Group, Virgo Cluster and well beyond! You can find it at bit.ly/universeofgalaxies. You can further explore the science of galaxies across the Universe, along with the latest discoveries and mission news, at nasa.gov.

The first image of a black hole’s event horizon was taken in the center of one of the most prominent galaxies in Virgo, M87! This follow up image, created by further study of the EHT data, reveals polarization in the radiation around the black hole. Mapping the polarization unveils new insights into how matter flows around and into the black hole – and even hints at how some matter escapes! More details: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap210331.html  

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Find Virgo by “arcing to Arcturus, then spiking on to Spica.” Please note that in this illustration, the location of the Virgo Cluster is approximate – the borders are not exact.

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NASA Night Sky Notes April 2021

NASA Night Sky Notes April 2021

 This This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

               The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Watch the Lion: Celestial Wonders in Leo

David Prosper

Leo is a prominent sight for stargazers in April. Its famous sickle, punctuated by the bright star Regulus, draws many a beginning stargazer’s eyes, inviting deeper looks into some of Leo’s celestial delights, including a great double star and a famous galactic trio.

Leo’s distinctive forward sickle, or “reverse question mark,” is easy to spot as it climbs the skies in the southeast after sunset. If you are having a difficult time spotting the sickle, look for bright Sirius and Procyon – featured in last month’s article – and complete a triangle by drawing two lines to the east, joining at the bright star Regulus, the “period” in the reverse question mark. Trailing them is a trio of bright stars forming an isosceles triangle, the brightest star in that formation named Denebola. Connecting these two patterns together forms the constellation of Leo the Lion, with the forward-facing sickle being the lion’s head and mane, and the rear triangle its hindquarters. Can you see this mighty feline? It might help to imagine Leo proudly sitting up and staring straight ahead, like a celestial Sphinx.

If you peer deeper into Leo with a small telescope or binoculars, you’ll find a notable double star! Look in the sickle of Leo for its second-brightest star, Algieba – also called Gamma Leonis. This star splits into two bright yellow stars with even a small magnification – you can make this “split” with binoculars, but it’s more apparent with a telescope. Compare the color and intensity of these two stars – do you notice any differences? There are other multiple star systems in Leo – spend a few minutes scanning with your instrument of choice, and see what you discover.

One of the most famous sights in Leo is the “Leo Triplet”: three galaxies that appear to be close together. They are indeed gravitationally bound to one another, around 30 million light years away! You’ll need a telescope to spot them, and use an eyepiece with a wide field of view to see all three galaxies at once! Look below the star Chertan to find these galaxies. Compare and contrast the appearance of each galaxy – while they are all spiral galaxies, each one is tilted at different angles to our point of view! Do they all look like spiral galaxies to you?

April is Citizen Science Month, and there are some fun Leo-related activities you can participate in! If you enjoy comparing the Triplets, the “Galaxy Zoo” project (galaxyzoo.org) could use your eyes to help classify different galaxies from sky survey data! Looking at Leo itself can even help measure light pollution: the Globe at Night project (globeatnight.org) uses Leo as their target constellation for sky quality observations from the Northern Hemisphere for their April campaign, running from April 3-12. Find and participate in many more NASA community science programs at science.nasa.gov/citizenscience. Happy observing!

The stars of Leo: note that you may see more or less stars, depending on your sky quality. The brightness of the Leo Triplet has been exaggerated for the purposes of the illustration – you can’t see them with your unaided eye.

Your view of the three galaxies in the Leo Triplet won’t look as amazing as this image taken by the VLT Survey Telescope, unless you have a telescope with a mirror 8 feet or more in diameter! Still, even a small telescope will help your eyes pick up these three galaxies as “faint fuzzies”: objects that seem blurry against a background of pinpoint stars. Let your eyes relax and experiment with observing these galaxies by looking slightly away from them, instead of looking directly at them; this is called averted vision, a handy technique that can help you see details in fainter, more nebulous objects.

Image Credit: ESO, INAF-VST, OmegaCAM; Acknowledgement: OmegaCen, Astro-WISE, Kapteyn I. 

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THE UNISTELLAR MESSIER MARATHON March 10-16, 2021

THE UNISTELLAR MESSIER MARATHON March 10-16, 2021

By | February 26, 2021

One week to capture 110 Messier Objects

From March 10-16, 2021, astronomers and space-lovers worldwide are invited to participate in a record-setting world’s largest*Messier marathon:A race to observe all 110 Messier objects in one evening . For space-lovers who can’t spare an over-night,Unistellar has developed numerous mini marathons which can be completed in as little as one hour of observation time.

MOUNTAIN VIEW AND MARSEILLE – February 25, 2021 – Astronomers across North America, Europe and Japan have joined forces for a friendly competition to observe iconic deep-sky objects—all in hopes of getting stargazers curious about astronomy in March.

Messier Marathon Week, hosted by Unistellar and now in its second year, challenges stargazers to observe as many Messier objects as possible in one night. Events take place March 10 – 16, 2021, the only time of year that all Messier objects are visible in one night. If enough stargazers participate, Unistellar hopes to set a world record for the largest Messier Marathon event.

Some of the world’s leading astronomy institutions have signed up for the Unistellar Marathon, giving stargazers across multiple contents and languages access to diverse perspectives on space. Organizations including the SETI Institute plan to participate, either by attempting a Messier marathon or by sharing their best Messier observations.

Unistellar Marathon Website

For more information please click link above.

Whats a Messier Object or a list, visit Seasky.org

Wikipedia- Messier Objects Wikipedia – Messier

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THE UNISTELLAR MESSIER MARATHON March 10-16, 2021

One week to capture 110 Messier Objects

From March 10-16, 2021, astronomers and space-lovers worldwide are invited to participate in a record-setting world’s largest*Messier marathon:A race to observe all 110 Messier objects in one evening . For space-lovers who can’t spare an over-night,Unistellar has developed numerous mini marathons which can be completed in as little as one hour of observation time.

MOUNTAIN VIEW AND MARSEILLE – February 25, 2021 – Astronomers across North America, Europe and Japan have joined forces for a friendly competition to observe iconic deep-sky objects—all in hopes of getting stargazers curious about astronomy in March.

Messier Marathon Week, hosted by Unistellar and now in its second year, challenges stargazers to observe as many Messier objects as possible in one night. Events take place March 10 – 16, 2021, the only time of year that all Messier objects are visible in one night. If enough stargazers participate, Unistellar hopes to set a world record for the largest Messier Marathon event.

Some of the world’s leading astronomy institutions have signed up for the Unistellar Marathon, giving stargazers across multiple contents and languages access to diverse perspectives on space. Organizations including the SETI Institute plan to participate, either by attempting a Messier marathon or by sharing their best Messier observations.

Unistellar Marathon Website

For more information please click link above.

Whats a Messier Object or a list, visit Seasky.org

Wikipedia- Messier Objects Wikipedia – Messier

 

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