Usher in the New Year with Comet Catalina

By Mario Carr

If you’ve received a pair of binoculars for Christmas, you could see Comet Catalina just before dawn in the south eastern morning sky.

Catalina will appear higher in the sky each night and will be above the handle of the Big Dipper passing near galaxy M101 on January 16. The next night, on January 17, Catalina will make its closets approach to the Earth at 108 million kilometres. After that date, the comet will fade rapidly each night.

The comet is thought to be a first time visitor around the Sun arriving form the distant Ort cloud beyond the realm of Pluto. After its brief encounter near the Sun, it will be flung out of our solar system never to return again.

Also known as C/2013 US10, the comet was discovered on Halloween night in 2013 at the Catalina Observatory near Tucson, while searching for asteroids.

Here are January stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is currently on sale.

Planet watching

Mercury can be seen in the evening western twilight sky January 1-9. Starting January 20, it can be seen in the eastern twilight morning sky. Venus is bright in the eastern morning sky. Mars and Jupiter rise late evening in the eastern sky.

Saturn can be seen in the eastern dawn sky. Uranus can be seen in the western evening sky setting late evening. Neptune can be seen low in the western evening sky.

January 2 – The Earth is closer to the Sun than at any other time of the year at 147,100,176 km.

January 3 – Mars is close to the Moon in the evening sky.

January 4 – The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks.

January 6 – Venus is close to the Moon in the eastern morning sky.

January 9 – Venus and Saturn are extremely close in the eastern morning sky.

January 15 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected and appreciated.

January 27 – Jupiter is close to the Moon in the evening sky.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca. Twitter: @MarioCCarr

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A comet, meteor shower and a daytime disappearing act by Venus in December

By Mario Carr

Who says astronomical events only happen at night?

This month, Venus will disappear behind the crescent Moon in the southern sky during the day at 12:32 p.m. on December 7. However, you’ll probably need a telescope or binoculars to see it since sunlight will dim out these two objects. Venus will reappear from behind the pale Moon into the blue sky at 1:36 p.m.

Earlier in the day just before dawn, the Moon was close to Venus and Comet Catalina. The comet should be bright enough to see with binoculars. This should be one of the best astronomical sites of the year and a good photo opportunity.

The comet should continue to put on a good show for the rest of the month as it rises higher and earlier in the south eastern dawn sky. However, comets can be unpredictable. Here are December stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar, which is currently on sale.

Planet watching

Mercury can be seen in the western evening sky from December 7. Venus shines brightly along with Mars in the eastern dawn sky. Jupiter rises in the east late evening. Saturn reappears low in the eastern dawn twilight sky later in the month. Uranus is in the evening sky setting after midnight. Neptune is in the western evening sky setting late evening.

December 6 – The crescent Moon is between Mars and Spica in the morning sky.

December 11 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected and appreciated.

December 13 & 14 – The Geminids Meteor shower peaks under ideal conditions since the Moon sets early in the evening. It’s considered to be the best shower of the year and best seen lying on a lounge chair away from city light in a dark location. Watching the Geminids could be a rewarding experience because of the meteor’s slow speeds and long duration.

Christmas – Full Moon

December 30 – Jupiter is close to the Moon after midnight.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca. Twitter: @MarioCCarr

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November’s dawn dance of planets and Leonid meteor shower

By Mario Carr

October’s grouping of Mars, Venus and Jupiter in the eastern dawn sky continues in early November.

Mars and Venus meet on November 2 and 3. Mars then climbs higher while Venus drops towards the Sun. On November 6, the crescent Moon is close to Jupiter by only 2 degrees.

On November 7, Mars and Venus group for a grand finale in the morning sky. The Moon will only be 2.5 degrees below Venus and 3.5 degrees below Mars. All these events should look spectacular through binoculars.

Here are November stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury appears in the morning sky for a few days at the beginning of the month. Venus is bright in the dawn sky. Jupiter rises in the east after midnight and Mars rises around 3 a.m. Saturn disappears into the evening twilight sky mid-month moving behind the Sun on November 30. Uranus can be seen in the evening sky. Neptune can be seen in the early evening sky setting near midnight.

November 1 – Don’t forget to turn your clocks back by an hour since standard time begins.

November 13 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers General meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Guest speaker will be retired McMaster University professor Peter Sutherland, who will discuss Testing Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (Gravity). Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected and appreciated.

November 17 – The Leonid Meteor shower peaks as Leo rises around midnight. It’s best seen from a dark location and you could see 10-20 meters per hour. This year, it occurs under ideal conditions without the glare of moonlight. The Moon sets at 10:30 p.m.

November 20 – Want to buy a telescope for yourself or as a Christmas gift? Come to the Fall Scope Clinic, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Spectator Building 44 Frid St, Hamilton. Free admission and everyone is welcome. This is your opportunity to talk with amateur astronomer to learn about this hobby.

November 25 – This month’s Full Moon is called the Beaver Moon.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca. Twitter: @MarioCCarr

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Last lunar eclipse until 2018

By Mario Carr

Don’t miss the September 27 lunar eclipse because the next one won’t happen until 2018.

This year, it occurs during the Harvest Moon, which is the closest Full Moon to the Autumn Equinox. The next time a lunar eclipse coincides with a Harvest Moon will be 2025. The Moon will also seem a little bigger than usual this year because it’s a supermoon.

The eclipse technically begins at 8:11 p.m. when the Full Moon touches Earth’s outer penumbral shadow. However, we won’t see anything until 9:07 p.m. when the umbral phase darkens the left edge of the Moon.

The best time to see the eclipse is during totality, which begins at 10:11 p.m. and lasts until 11:23 p.m. when Earth’s shadow darkness the entire lunar surface. It will look a deep red because of refracted sunlight from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Here are August stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury is seen in the western evening twilight sky and Venus shines brightly in the eastern dawn sky. Mars is low in the eastern twilight morning sky, while Jupiter is also low in the eastern dawn sky after the middle of the month. Saturn is low in the southwest mid-evening sky setting late evening.

Sept. 12 – Sunlight reflecting off dust particles in the solar system known as Zodiacal Light can be seen for the next two weeks in the dawn sky.

Sept. 18 – Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission, door prizes and everybody is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods would be appreciated.
Also on this date, the crescent Moon will be extremely close to Saturn in the evening sky.

Sept. 19 – Observe the Moon Public Stargazing Night , T.B.McQuesten Park
1199 Upper Wentworth St, Hamilton, 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Sept. 21 – Venus will be at its greatest brightness in the morning sky. There will also be a First Quarter Moon.

Sept. 23 – Autumn officially begins at 4:21 a.m.
For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca. Twitter: @MarioCCarr

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Perfect conditions for Perseid Meteor Shower

By Mario Carr

This year, the Perseid Meteor Shower will peak 2 a.m. Thursday August 13 under a moonless sky. The absence of any glare from the moon means you can see fainter meteors this year.

For best viewing, start watching the northeast skies in the evening of August 12 from a dark location away from city lights. Laying on a lounge chair or blanket is the preferred method to see the show.

The meteor shower receives its name because it appears to be radiating from the Perseus constellation. Most meteors will be faint but some will have long bight tails lasting several seconds.

You could see 40-100 meteors per hour but it could be higher than usual this year. If you start looking tonight, you could see some meteors and the show is expected to last until August 26.

The meteor shower happens every year, at this time, when the Earth moves through dust particles left behind from Comet109P/Swift-Tuttle that burn in the atmosphere. The comet appeared in 1992. There was a better show in back the 1990’s, when the Earth moved through denser particles.

Here are August stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury is hard to see in the evening sky. Venus is close to the Sun on the 15th and can’t be seen until later in the month, low in the eastern morning sky just before sunrise.

Jupiter vanishes into the western evening twilight sky early in the month. Saturn is in the western evening sky, setting after midnight. Uranus rises late evening and Neptune rises mid-evening.

August 5 – Uranus is close to the Moon.

August 6 – Mercury, Jupiter and Regulas will be in a tight group low in the western evening sky after sunset. There will also be a last quarter moon.

August 20 – Mars will be in the Beehive Cluster or M44 low in the eastern dawn sky.

August 22 – The last quarter moon will be close to Saturn in the south evening sky.

August 29 – The full moon this month is called the Sturgeon Moon. First Nations people caught more Sturgeons during this full moon.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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Searching for dwarf planet Pluto

By Mario Carr

2015 will be remembered as the year of Pluto because on July 14 at 7:49 a.m. EST, New Horizons will be the first space probe to visit and take pictures of the dwarf planet and its companion Charon.

The probe will be 7,800 miles above Pluto’s icy rocky surface after travelling three billion miles. It will take a few days before we see the first pictures and several months until we receive everything. What we’ll see is really anyone’s guess, but it’s guaranteed to be a big surprise. Pluto exists in the far reaches of the solar system known as the Kuiper belt.

The space probe was launched nine years ago in 2006. NASA purposely hired young people to make sure they would still be around by the time the mission ended. The New Horizons space probe is carrying the names of more than 400,000 people. You can search NASA’s website at http://www.nasa.gov to find out if your name is onboard.

Here are July stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury is best seen in the morning sky from July 1-16. Venus is at its maximum brightness on July 9 in the western evening sky. Jupiter is low in the north western evening twilight sky. Saturn is well placed in the evening sky. Uranus rises around midnight and Neptune rises late evening.

July 1 – Jupiter and Venus are extremely close in the western evening sky. This would make a great photo opportunity. There will also be a Full Moon.

July 6 – Pluto is at opposition at its closest point to the Earth. If you have a large telescope you might see it close to the summer teapot. The Earth is also at its furthest point away from the Sun at 152 million km.

July 12 – The crescent Moon is close to Aldebaran and the Hyades in the dawn sky.

July 16 – The crescent Moon will be near Venus and Jupiter low in the evening sky.

July 25 – The Moon is close to Saturn in the evening sky.

July 31 – The second Full Moon this month is called the Blue Moon.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.
Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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Mastering astrophotograhy

Award-winning astrophotographer Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn will reveal her secrets on taking great pictures of the night sky at the next meeting of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers.

In her presentation called Capturing the Stars, Kerry-Ann will discuss her journey into the intense hobby, current projects and future goals. Her photographs have been featured in calendars, magazines and books such as Sky News, POW and NASA APOD.

The meeting will take place Friday, May 8 at the Spectator Building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Free admission with door prizes and everyone is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods would be appreciated.

Here are May stargazer events. Most are listed in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers calendar.

Planet watching

Mercury is well placed in the western evening twilight sky until May 21. Venus shines brightly, high in the western evening sky after sunset. Jupiter can be seen in the western evening sky moving eastward setting around midnight. Saturn is visible most of the night. Uranus and Neptune are in the eastern morning sky.

May 3 – This month’s Full Moon is called the Flower Moon.

May 4 — Saturn is close to the Moon in late evening sky.

May 5– The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks, unfortunately, under a bright moonlight sky.

May 6 — Mercury is at its greatest angle away from the glare of the Sun making it the best time of the year to see the planet.

May 19 – The thin crescent Moon is close to Mercury, low in the evening sky.

May 21 – Venus is close to the Moon in the evening sky.

May 22 – Saturn is at opposition and closest to the Earth for the entire year. You can see it all night rising in the east at sunset and setting in the west at sunrise.

May 23 – Jupiter is close to the Moon in the evening sky.

May 27 – If you have a telescope, you can see a double-shadow transit on Jupiter. Moons Ganymede and Io cast their dark shadows on the planet staring at 10:01 p.m. Around 11:45 p.m. the two shadows merge and the transit ends at 12:18 p.m.

For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at http://www.amateurastronomy.org or call (905) 627-4323. The club offers a basic astronomy course for members.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of publicity and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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