Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Total Lunar Eclipse this Month

Stars

Saturn is now in the southwestern sky at dusk. It outshines the stars around it, so it’s also easy to see. 

Mars is a little higher in the morning sky this month. Look for it low in the east at dawn. Mars remains dimmer then average, though, and won’t rival the brighter stars until next spring.  

Venus and Jupiter reappear in the morning sky this month. Venus is already visible in the east at dawn; Jupiter will join it after the middle of the month. Venus outshines everything but the Sun and the Moon, while Jupiter is next brightest after Venus. Both, then, easily outshine all the stars we see at night and are clearly visible even in twilight.

Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will come close together in the sky late next month.

The Big Dipper is left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ in the west at dusk. 

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the southwest, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is to the right of the scorpion’s head. The Summer Triangle is overhead. The Great Square of Pegasus is now in the east, indicating the approaching fall.

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Moon Phases in September 2015:

Last Quarter: Sept. 5, 4:54 a.m.

New: Sept. 13, 1:41 a.m.

First Quarter: Sept. 21, 3:59 p.m.

Full: Sept. 27, 9:50 p.m.

The Full Moon of September 27 enters the Earth shadow, causing a total lunar eclipse. Partial eclipse begins at 8:07 pm CDT, about an hour after sunset and right as twilight fades. The Moon is totally eclipsed by 9:10. Totality lasts 74 minutes, until 10:24. The Moon then comes out of eclipse until the eclipse is over at 11:27. This is the last of a series of four total lunar eclipses in 2014-2015, all visible from Houston. Unlike the previous three, which occurred at midnight or at dawn, this eclipse takes place in evening hours while everyone is still awake. Remember, whoever can see the Moon can watch the eclipse. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and we can all enjoy it. Our George Observatory will be open Sunday evening, September 27, for this event.

If we miss this eclipse, the next one we can see is at dawn Jan. 31, 2018.

At 3:21 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator, shifting southwards. This, then, marks the autumnal equinox, the ‘official’ start of fall. On this date (and on the spring equinox in March) everyone on Earth has the same amount of daylight.  After this date, night is longer than day for us and keeps getting longer until our longest night at the winter solstice. Below the equator, day becomes longer than night after this equinox. It is springtime down there. 

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.

Clear Skies!

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 8/10-8/16

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! 

princess-bride-poster

Last Week of Xplorations Summer Camp
Monday, August 10 – Friday, August, 14
Xplorations Summer Science Adventures are week-long, hands-on science summer camps featuring science activities for children ages 6 – 12. 

Lecture – NASA’s Year Of The Dwarves: Exploration Of Ceres And Pluto By Paul Schenk
Tuesday, August 11
6:30 p.m.
2015 marks the first exploration ever of dwarf planets. The two unprecedented missions-Dawn and New Horizons-will be mapping the icy dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto. Dr. Paul M. Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute will review the missions as they explore the inner and outer solar system, and will share the top questions scientists hope to answer with the data they gather. Dr. Schenk will show spectacular images taken just prior to the lecture as New Horizon reaches Pluto. Dr. Schenk is currently assisting the New Horizons team as plan Pluto encounter observations for July 2015 and was a participant in the Dawn mission to Vesta in 2011. He specializes in impact craters and other features on icy satellites from Jupiter to Neptune, and in 3-D imaging, which he uses to measure topography and create really amazing views.
This lecture is sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Perseid Meteor Shower
George Observatory
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
7:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Join us as we watch the dazzling Perseid Meteor Shower! Beautiful earth-grazing meteors with colorful tails will light up the skies for all to enjoy during this annual summer meteor shower. Visitors should plan to bring a lawn chair, mosquito repellant, snacks and a blanket. No telescope required to enjoy the meteor show!
Admission fee: $7 (please note this does not include park fees)

Take Two: The Princess Bride 
Friday, August 14
7:00 p.m.
While home sick in bed, a young boy’s grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride.

Class – Creating Stone Age Tools
Saturday, August 15
9:00 a.m.
Discover how antler, stone and bone can be used to fashion a Paleolithic survival knife through proper percussion and pressure methods. Learn how to make an arrowhead by pressure alone and a simple stone knife using traditional hand tools. Your lithic art is yours to keep for your collection. Paleolithic archaeologist Gus Costa will teach the prehistoric skills needed to master the ancient art of stone tool making.

Mixers & Elixirs
Saturday, August 15
7:00 p.m.
The social set has never looked so smart! Mixers & Elixirs is back and it’s better than ever! We’re celebrating the year’s geekiest holidays with a cool twist, so pop on over to our place to mingle, clink your cocktail glass, and break out your best dance moves. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the live band, dancing, cash bars, and the city’s best food trucks. Hitting this scene is a sure sign of intelligence!
This event is for 21 and up only.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Saturn and Perseid meteors bright in August

Star map Aug

Saturn is now in the south-southwestern sky at dusk. It outshines the stars around it, so it’s also easy to see.

Mars emerges into the morning sky this month. Look for it low in the east at dawn.  Mars remains dimmer then average, though, and won’t rival the brighter stars until next spring.

Venus and Jupiter are in line with the Sun and out of sight this month. Venus emerges into the morning sky fairly quickly, though; try looking for it low in the east at dawn the last week of August.

The Big Dipper is left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are in the southwest at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is to the right of the scorpion’s head. The Summer Triangle is almost overhead. The Great Square of Pegasus now rises soon after dusk, indicating that despite this 100 degree heat, autumn is on the way.

 

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Moon Phases in August 2015:

Last Quarter: Aug. 6, 9:03 pm

New: Aug. 14, 9:53 am

First Quarter: Aug. 22, 2:31 pm

Full: Aug. 29, 1:35 pm;

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks every year in mid-August—this year on Aug. 13. Remember that this is a shower, not a storm; you can expect a meteor per minute on average. Also, Earth is actually running into the meteor stream, rather than the meteors running into us. This means that the shower gets better as you get closer to dawn. Our George Observatory will be open late Wednesday night, Aug. 12, until 2 a.m. and Thursday, Aug. 13, for viewing the Perseids. 

For the Planetarium schedule, see www.hmns.org

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. I generally do one such tour on short August evenings.

Clear Skies!

 

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 7/27-8/2

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! 

starry night express to pluto

Rocket Day At The George Observatory!
Saturday, August 1
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m
Bring your junior Rocket enthusiasts out for a day of rocket launches and a mission to the Moon! Kids learn about rockets and how they work, build a water rocket and then launch it. After the launches, we blast into space aboard the S.S. Observer for a simulated spaceflight.

NEW Planetarium Film – Starry Night Express: To Pluto!
Embark on a live tour of the night’s sky. With the Planetarium’s Astronomer as your guide, audiences will practice finding what constellations, planets and other astronomical events are out in the sky. Then take part in a 3 billion mile journey to the edge of our Solar System and explore Pluto. Using the late breaking images and data from the New Horizons spacecraft, voyage through the spacecraft’s 9 ½ year trek through our planetary system. Learn what was encountered along the way, what we have found and waiting to discover.