Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 2/16-2/22

GEMS

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!  

Behind-the-Scenes – Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior
Tuesday, February 17
6:00 p.m.
Witness the exquisite objects related to the legendary Samurai warriors of Japan in the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Museum master docents will lead you through the collection that includes full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as exquisite objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs. 

Behind-the-Scenes – Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Tuesday, February 17
6:00 p.m.
Featuring 100 awe-inspiring images, from fascinating animal behavior to breathtaking wild landscapes,Wildlife Photographer of the Year harnesses the power of photography to promote the discovery, understanding and responsible enjoyment of the natural world. Tour this visually stunning exhibition with our resident photographers David Temple and Janell Nelson.

GEMS 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and the Houston Museum of Natural Science invite you to attend the Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) event. The Museum will be filled with hands-on science and math for everyone to experience. Local professionals will be at the Museum to answer questions about their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Thanks to the Society of Petroleum Engineers / Gulf Coast Section for its support of GEMS 2015!

Telescope Classes
George Observatory

Saturday, February 21
Did you get a new telescope? The box made it sound easy to use. Come let an expert astronomer help you set it up and polar align your scope so that it will work. It is not as easy as the box would lead you to believe! After you get some help, then it will be easy and enjoyable. 

Refractor And Reflection Telescope Class
1:00 – 2:30

Go-To Computerized Telescope Class
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Seeing Stars With James Wooten: Celestial rarity, Canopus appears this month

Star Chart - Feb 15 This star map shows the Houston sky at 9 pm CST on February 1, 8 pm CST on February 14, and dusk on February 28. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. Taurus, the Bull, is almost overhead. Dazzling Orion, the Hunter is high in the south, with his two dogs behind him. Sirius, the Big Dog Star, is the brightest star we ever see at night. Look for Canopus on the southern horizon below Sirius. Jupiter, in Cancer, is up almost all night long in early February. In the north, the Big Dipper has re-entered the evening sky. Venus and Mars are less than one degree apart on the 21st.[/caption]

This month, Mars remains in the southwest at dusk this month as it moves through Aquarius. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind.

Venus is low in the southwest at dusk. Watch Venus approach the much dimmer Mars, until they are less than one degree apart on February 21.

Jupiter is up all night long on February 6. That’s when Earth passes between the Sun and Jupiter, an alignment called ‘opposition’. At opposition Jupiter rises at sundown and sets at sunrise. Jupiter outshines all stars we ever see at night, so it will be obvious in the east at dusk and in the west at dawn.

Saturn is in the south southeast at dawn.

In February, the Big Dipper only partly risen at dusk.  Its two pointer stars—the stars farthest from the handle which point at the North Star, may be high enough to see over trees and buildings.

Taurus, the Bull is now high in the south. Look for the Pleiades star cluster above reddish Aldebaran.  Dazzling Orion, the Hunter takes center stage on winter evenings Surrounding Orion are the brilliant stars of winter. Orion’s belt points down to Sirius, the Dog Star, which outshines all other stars we ever see at night. The Little Dog Star, Procyon, rises with Sirius and is level with Orion’s shoulder as they swing towards the south. To the upper left of Orion’s shoulder is Gemini, the Twins.

Under Sirius and low to the southern horizon this month is a star that most Americans never get to see—Canopus. Representing the bottom (keel) of the legendary ship Argo, Canopus is the second brightest star ever visible at night. Thus, it is clearly noticeable along the southern horizon on February and March evenings. However, you must be south of 37 degrees north to see Canopus rise. (This is the line that divides Utah, Colorado, and Kansas from Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.)

The sky we see depends on our latitude as well as on the time of night and time of year. From any given location in our hemisphere, there is an area of the sky around the North Star in which stars never set (circumpolar stars), and an equivalent area around the South Celestial Pole in which stars never rise. The closer you are to the pole, the larger these areas are. The closer you get to the equator, the fewer circumpolar stars there are, but there are also fewer stars that never rise for you. At the equator, no stars are either circumpolar or never visible; all of them rise and set as Earth turns.

That’s why, down here in south Texas, the Big Dipper sets although it’s always up for most Americans. On the other hand, Canopus, too far south to rise for most Americans, rises for us.

Moon Phases in February 2015:
Full                               February 3, 5:10 pm
Last Quarter                  February 11, 9:52 pm
New                              February 18, 5:49 pm
1st Quarter                    February 28, 11:15 am

The New Moon of February 18 is the second New Moon after the winter solstice.  Accordingly, it marks Chinese New Year. The Year of the Horse ends and the Year of the Sheep begins.

Click here for the Burke Baker Planetarium schedule. 

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer.  If you’re there, listen for my announcement.

 

The stars at night are big and…. falling: Geminid Meteor Shower Returns December 13!

Of the many meteor showers that occur throughout the year, the Geminid Meteor Shower in December may be the most reliably active. This meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes near 3200 Phaethon, a Palladian Asteroid. The Geminids were first observed in 1862. The shower gets its name because they appear to originate in the Gemini constellation. 

Under ideal conditions, one may see as many as 50-100 meteors an hour. The meteors from this shower are also especially bright, and many astronomers believe that the shower is intensifying every year. The shower should peak around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday December 13th. That’s good news because most of the other significant showers, like the Perseids, peak after midnight. With no Moon until after midnight, we should be able to see a lot of meteors (weather permitting of course). 

The George Observatory will be open Saturday, December 13th until midnight for viewing the shower. Tickets for viewing the shower are $5 and include access to our telescopes.  That night, we’ll be able to view several star clusters and nebulae with our scopes. Jupiter should rise in time to be viewed as well. We’ll also have our Discovery Dome available for $3. 

If you can’t make it out to the George, you can still view the shower anywhere with dark skies.

 

 

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Come out to the George for Astronomy Day November 8!

This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CDT on November 1, 7 pm CST on November 15, and dusk on November 30.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high in the west.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest, with Mars to its left.   Pegasus, the Flying Horse, is high in the east.  To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CDT on November 1, 7 pm CST on November 15, and dusk on November 30. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
The Summer Triangle is high in the west. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest, with Mars to its left. Pegasus, the Flying Horse, is high in the east. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

This month, Mars remains in the southwest at dusk this month as it pulls away from the teapot of Sagittarius. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind

Jupiter is now higher in the east at dawn; it is the brightest thing there. 

Venus is passing behind the Sun and thus out of sight this month. Superior conjunction (Venus in line with the Sun, on the far side of the Sun) was on October 25.

Saturn is also out of sight behind the Sun this month. Conjunction with the Sun is on November 18.

The Summer Triangle now shifts towards the west as the Great Square of Pegasus appears higher, approaching the zenith. As the autumn ‘intermission’ in between the bright stars of summer and winter continues, Houstonians with a clear southern horizon can try to find a star that few Americans get to see. Due south and very low to the horizon at about 10:00 pm in mid-November is Achernar, 9th brightest star in the sky. It marks the end of the river Eridanus, one of the dim watery patterns that fill the southern autumn sky. If you can find it, Achernar will seem of average brightness because it is shining through so much air. Still, it is a good way to remind yourself that the stars we see depend on our latitude, and that the sky on the Gulf Coast is similar to, but not the same as, what most Americans see. 

Moon Phases in November 2014:
Full: November 6, 4:22 pm
Last Quarter: November 14, 9:17 am
New: November 22, 6:31 am
1st Quarter: November 29, 4:06 am

Our annual Astronomy Day at the George Observatory is this Saturday, November 8!  On Astronomy Day we have activities from 3-10 pm, and all of the telescopes, even the ones that normally cost $5 to look through, are free.  What’s more, the weather looks just great so far!  Surf to www.astronomyday.net for more information.

Click here for the Burke Baker Planetarium Schedule.

On clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement.