Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trees Talk To Satellites

If no one is in the forest, can you hear a tree fall? The answer is yes. Thanks to satellite communications, the forest industry is taking a whole new stand on how it harvests trees. Currently in the testing phase, this new method from the ESA combines satcoms and cellular services to relay important information almost immediately so less trees are used to produce a higher rate of timber. Timber? Timber!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast: May 28 - June 3, 2012

Hadley Rille - Credit: Damian Peach
Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! As the Venus Transit draws closer, our bright neighboring planet is quickly disappearing into the sunset glow. As we await this astronomical piece of history, let's take the time this week to have a look at a host of wonderful lunar features and bright stars. Be sure to catch the conjunction of Spica, Saturn and the Moon - and to catch a shooting star from the Tau Herculid meteor shower! If you're ready to learn more about the history, mystery and magic of astronomy, then grab your optics and meet me in the back yard...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Observing Alert - Supernova 2012cg Discovered In Virgo Galaxy NGC 4424

It's official. According to AAVSO Special Notice #283 compiled by Elizabeth O. Waagen, there's a brand new, shiny supernova out there... at an observable magnitude! According to data taken with LOSS and reported by M. Kandrashoff, S. B. Cenko, W. Li, and A. V. Filippenko, spectra indicates a Type 1a supernova event began on approximately May 17, 2012 and has continued to brighten.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast: May 21-27, 2012

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! Here's hoping you had an opportunity to witness yesterday's eclipse! Even the partial phase here in Ohio was exciting... and to be able to watch virtually via live feeds was equally impressive! The week begins with dark skies and deep studies. Get up early to enjoy the apparition of Jupiter and Mercury just ahead of the rising Sun and check out Venus as it dances near the Earthshine Moon. When you're ready to observe, meet me in the back yard!

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 20th Annular Solar Eclipse - Time To Get Ready!

If you live in a corridor that stretches between north-central Texas and northern California, then you're in for a very special astronomical treat as the Sun will take part in an annular eclipse. However, don't count yourself out if you reside elsewhere. Most of central Mexico, the majority of the United States and Canada will still get a partial eclipse event. Want to know more? Then read on...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast: May 14-20, 2012

NGC 4565 - Credit: Palomar Observatory, courtesy of Caltech
Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! Dark skies mean galactic studies and this is going to be a terrific week for sacrificing Viginis. But, hang on to your socks... Because it's solar eclipse time! We're talking about an annular event that occurs over a 240 to 300 kilometre-wide track which crosses eastern Asia, the northern Pacific Ocean and the western United States. It's a generous event where a partial eclipse also occurs that includes much of Asia, the Pacific and the western 2/3 of North America. Whenever you're ready, just meet me outside...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lightning Strikes Twice For Planetary Atmospheric Research

Lightning lights up the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida during thunderstorms on Monday, Sept. 27, 2010. Image Courtesy of Tom Moler
If you want to get a real "charge" out of natural facts, then know this. Every minute lightning flashes 3,000 times somewhere on Earth. When they combine, they gain in strength, forming electromagnetic waves which envelop our planet. Like a heartbeat, this creates a pulse between the ground and a region about a 100 kilometers up in the atmosphere - the lower ionosphere. This electric pulse is called Schumann Resonance and it has only been seen from ground until just last year. Thanks to NASA's Vector Electric Field Instrument (VEFI) aboard the U.S. Air Force's Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite, this phenomenon has now been detected from space.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekly SkyWatcher's Forecast - May 7-13, 2012

NGC 2903 - Credit: Palomar Observatory Courtesy of Caltech
Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! With the Moon rising a bit later each night, it's time to begin the galaxy hunt once again! Keep an eye on Venus as it heads quickly towards the Sun and becomes more slender and brilliant each night. Don't forget about Mars and Saturn, too... They are both well-placed for early evening observing. When you're ready, meet me in the back yard...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 Venus Transit - The Countdown Is On!

Venus 34 Days Before 2012 Transit - Credit: John Chumack
Head outside on any clear night this week and you won't be able to miss brilliant Venus decorating the western horizon. Right now it's surrounded by a host of bright winter stars like Capella, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran and the Pleiades. But, don't stop there. Use any type of optical aid and you'll see the planet is in the crescent phase right now and bigger than Jupiter in apparent size!