Sunday, July 31, 2016

Be ready for the summer Perseid meteor shower

Hope you are all enjoying the great show in the sky! 

We now have 4 visible planets in the sky, and if you are lucky, this Friday you may be able to see all 5 visible planets at once for the first time since 2005. I will try to write more about that later, but you can see Gadi's article in Hebrew  

Next week on Thursday night (Aug 11) will be the peak of the annual Perseid shower. This years show should be great with only a crescent moon, which will set by about midnight as the shower heats up. There are lots of organized viewings around the country including at Mizpe Ramon. Gadi has put together a list of other viewing locations and events here.

I am thinking of going to the event at Mizpe Ramon, if anyone wants to join, let me know. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Who will be the first to spot Venus?
I have gotten used to sharing the evening sky with our 3 visible superior planets of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. They are called "superior" not because they are smarter, but because they are farther from the Sun then we are.

However, the "inferior" planet Venus is about to make a comeback. After spending nearly a year in the morning sky, Venus just finished rounding the far side of the Sun and is coming back to our night sky.

Because of the season, the ecliptic now makes a shallow angle with the western horizon after sunset. This means that although venus will be getting farther from the Sun each night, it will not move much above the horizon, making viewing difficult. However, I have already heard of one report of someone in Israel finding Venus in binoculars.

Tonight Venus will set by 8:20 pm, only about 35 minutes after sunset. Each night venus will set a minute or 2 later. By the beginning of August Venus will still only be about 4 degrees above the horizon 1/2 hour after sunset. But bright enough for keen observers to spot.

See this great  animation  of Venus and all the the other visible planets dancing in the western sky over the next year. It is created by the Shadow and Substance guy. Note that Venus and Jupiter will pass in a very close conjunction on Aug 28th. Stay tuned for more on that later.

So keep looking up, and let me and the list know if you are able to spot Venus!


Heavenly Update

I hope everyone has been enjoying our clear skies and views of Mars over the past few weeks. The Earth is pulling ahead of Mars now, so it is getting a little smaller and less bright each night. But Mars is still the brightest "star" in its area of the southern sky.
From Israel the Moon will be a bit to the right of what is shown here.
Now that the new crescent Moon of Tammuz is out, we can use its help to find 3 planets over the coming week. Tonight on your way home from Shul, look for the thin crescent Moon in the west. You will then see a very bright "star" to its left. That will be Jupiter!

As the Moon continues it journey around the Earth it will pass Jupiter and appear to its left by tomorrow night (Sat). By next Thursday the Moon will cruise to just above  Mars in the southern sky. Two days later on next Friday, the Moon will be to the right and above Saturn. The Ringed Planet is now about 1/2 as bright as Mars in a cluster of bright stars, but the Moon will help you spot it.