I’m now writing a monthly column on the night sky for the Gettysburg Times. Look for it on the third Monday of the month (starting today) in the “Living” section. (It’s not available on the web site, so far as I know).
Today and tomorrow we present our final shows of the fall semester. We’ll be featuring some research news from the Gettysburg College Observatory as we’ll as a total lunar eclipse viewable from our region in the early AM hours of Dec 21. It’s the last favorable for eastern North America until 2015, so let’s hope it’s clear!
The Spring 2011 schedule is set and available at the planetarium (paper) and on the web site. In addition to the monthly skyshows, we’ll be doing the New Year show again, and in April something new: a solar system scale model made by taking a 1,000-yard walk.
We inadvertently scheduled shows over the Easter Break.
The April 4 & 5 shows have been moved to
April 11 & 12.
See the schedule on our website.
Venus and Mercury will appear together in the evening sky in late March and early April. Look very low in the west about 20 minutes after sunset. It’s a difficult sight, for which you’ll need clear skies and an unobstructed western horizon. Mercury is a greatest elongation on April 8 and will rapidly descend toward the sunset afterward. Venus, by contrast, will be setting later and later over the next few months. Image created by Stellarium. Local horizon panorama shows the Gettysburg College Observatory outdoor platform.
Press release from ESO highlighted in the March skyshow.
Some unpredicted (at least according to the forecast I read) clouds moved in in the early AM of the 17th, interfering with local views of the shower. Some people reported seeing a few meteors earlier in the evening. Further summary at the December skyshow. If you have a Leonid story to share, send me an e-mail.
Should be clear tonight. Read the following message forwarded by Larry Marschall, if you are still looking for more info:
LEONID METEOR SHOWER TO PERFORM LATE TONIGHT
The annual Leonid meteor shower should be reaching its climax late
tonight in the U.S., from about 1 a.m. your local time to dawn Tuesday
morning November 17th. “Viewing conditions will be excellent, because
the Moon won’t be lighting the sky this year,” says Alan MacRobert,
senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. “You might see 20 or 30
meteors per hour under ideal dark-sky conditions.”
Most people, unfortunately, don’t have a dark, natural night sky
anymore. “But even if there’s light pollution in your sky, the
brightest meteors will shine through,” says MacRobert. “Just find a
dark spot with a wide open view overhead and no glary lights nearby.”
Another point in our favor: Sky & Telescope predicts that the most
reliable part of the annual shower will reach its peak when North
America is having its prime meteor-watching hours from midnight to
A second, more intense outburst of Leonids may happen about 12 hours
later, during the early-morning hours of November 18th in Asia.
There’s only an off chance that some activity from that later burst
will still be going on by the time the Earth turns halfway around and
the Leonids again become visible from the Americas on the morning of
Wherever you are, no Leonids will be visible before the shower’s
radiant point (in Leo) rises around local midnight. The “radiant” is
the perspective point from which all the meteors would appear to
originate if you could see them coming from the far distance. In
reality, you see them for only the last second or two of their lives
as they plunge into the top of Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in
Be sure to bundle up warmly; meteor-watching is always colder than you
expect. The ideal equipment is just a comfortable lounge chair, a warm
sleeping bag, and a pillow. Just lie back, watch the stars, and be
patient. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest,
probably straight up.
Notice the meteors’ flight paths. Only those streaking away from the
direction to the constellation Leo, in the eastern sky, are Leonids.
Another, less-known meteor shower is going on simultaneously: the
Taurids. They’re sparse but tend to be very bright. If you see a slow,
bright meteor heading away from the direction to Taurus, that’s a
“And you’re bound to see a few ‘sporadic’ meteors that aren’t
associated with any major shower,” says Sky & Telescope editor in
chief Robert Naeye.
For more about meteor-watching, check out SkyandTelescope.com, the
website of Sky & Telescope magazine.
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We began work this morning on calibrating the moon and planets on our 1966 Spitz A3P. They are controlled by the analogs (little mechanical models) seen here. Each analog models the motion of the earth, sun, and its respective planet. That motion is transferred to the diagonal mirror that reflects a dot for that planet onto the planetarium dome.