Star Map: September 2016

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Star Map September 2016

Venus is a little higher in the evening sky this month.    Look low in the west in evening twilight.

 

Mars and Saturn are now in the southwest at dusk. 

 

Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind.  Also, it moves faster than Saturn against the background stars, so you can watch Mars pull away from Saturn this month.   

 

Jupiter is behind the Sun and out of sight this month.  Conjunction (Jupiter directly behind the Sun) is on September 26.  

 

The Big Dipper is to the 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 right above Antares.  The Summer Triangle is almost overhead.  The stars of summer are here.  Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk, and is fully risen by month’s end.  Autumn is here.

 

Moon Phases in September 2016:

 

New 1st quarter Sept. 1, 4:03 am; Sept. 30, 7:11pm        

 

  1st Quarter  1st quarter1

September 9, 6:49 am       

 

  Full   full

September 16, 2:05 pm        

 

3rd Quarter3rd quarter

 September 23, 4:56 am  

 

The New Moon of September 1 blocks the Sun, causing an eclipse.  However, the Moon is too far away at the time to block the Sun completely, resulting in an annular rather than total eclipse.  Further, the whole event happens at night for us and is visible only in Africa. 

 

At 9:21 a.m. CDT on Thursday, September 22, the Sun is directly overhead as seen from the equator.  This marks the Autumnal Equinox, the ‘official’ start of fall.  On this date, everyone on earth has the same amount of daylight and night.  After this date, night becomes longer than day for us in the northern hemisphere.  Below the equator, day now becomes longer than night, and spring begins. 

 

This makes September one of the best months to observe an interesting effect.  You may have noticed that the spot where the Sun sets on the horizon varies day to day.  This variation is greatest, however, near the equinoxes in March and September.  Therefore, if you watch the Sun set each evening you can this month, the change will be quite noticeable. 

 

Come see us Saturday nights at the George Observatory!  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. 

 

satr mat sep 2016

 

       This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on September 1, 9 pm CDT on September 15, and 8 pm CDT on September 30.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.

 

The Summer Triangle is overhead.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the southwest, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left.  From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ in the west.  The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk, heralding the coming autumn. 

You can learn more about the stars over Texas by visiting the Burke Baker Planetarium, here at HMNS. 

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Jupiter is Shining Bright

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on August 1, 9 pm CDT on August 15, and dusk on August 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high overhead.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left.  From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest.  Mars begins to pass under Saturn in the south at dusk.  The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east, heralding the coming autumn.

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on August 1, 9 pm CDT on August 15, and dusk on August 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
The Summer Triangle is high overhead. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left. From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest. Mars begins to pass under Saturn in the south at dusk. The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east, heralding the coming autumn.

Jupiter is low in the west at dusk; this is the last month to see it in the evening sky until March 2017. It outshines all stars we ever see at night, so you can’t miss it even as it sets in twilight.

Venus begins to re-emerge into the evening sky this month. How soon can you spot it low in the evening twilight? Towards the end of the month, watch Venus approach Jupiter; they are only 0.07 degrees apart on August 27. On that night you must observe right after sunset to catch that pair, as they set before twilight ends.

Mars and Saturn are now in the south southwest at dusk.

Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind. Also, it moves faster than Saturn against the background stars, so you can watch Mars overtake Saturn this month. Today, Mars is to the right and is much brighter. By August 23-24, however, Mars will pass between Saturn and the bright star under it, Antares in Scorpius. By the end of the month, Mars is to the left of Saturn.

The Big Dipper is above 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 west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is right above Antares. The Summer Triangle is almost overhead. The stars of summer are here. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east at dusk, and is fully risen by month’s end. Autumn is on the way.

Moon Phases

Moon Phases in August 2016:

New Aug. 2, 3:45 p.m.

1st Quarter Aug. 10, 1:21 p.m.

Full Aug. 18, 4:27 a.m.

Last Quarter Aug. 24, 10:41 p.m.

As of Jul 19, 2016, Brazos Bend State Park is all dried out from the floods of April and May and back open to the public. Come see us Saturday nights at the George Observatory! 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.
Clear Skies!

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Mars and Jupiter Shine Bright

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on July 1, 9 pm CDT on July 15, and dusk on July 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high in the east.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left.  Leo, the Lion, sets in the west with Jupiter.  From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest.  Mars and Saturn remain in the south at dusk.

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on July 1, 9 pm CDT on July 15, and dusk on July 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
The Summer Triangle is high in the east. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left. Leo, the Lion, sets in the west with Jupiter. From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest. Mars and Saturn remain in the south at dusk.

Jupiter is now in the west at dusk. It outshines all stars we ever see at night, so you can’t miss it.

Mars and Saturn are now in the south at dusk. As you watch them, Mars is to the right and is much brighter.

Although Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind, this month Mars still outshines all of the stars and even rivals Jupiter in brightness! By the end of the month, Mars begins to approach Saturn.

Venus is lost in the Sun’s glare and out of sight all month.

The Big Dipper is above 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 west at dusk. Leo, the Lion, is also in the west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is right above Antares. The Summer Triangle has fully risen in the east. The stars of summer are here.

Moon Phases
Moon Phases in July 2016:

New July 4, 6:01 a.m.

1st Quarter July 11, 7:52 p.m.

Full July 19, 5:57 p.m.

Last Quarter July 26, 6:00 p.m.

At 11:00 am on Monday, July 4, Earth is at aphelion. This means that on this date Earth is as far from the Sun as it will get this year. But all of us can feel how hot and sticky it is outside now, compared to January, when Earth was at its closest. This is because the Earth’s orbit is almost a circle; the difference between closest and farthest distance from the Sun is small. Indeed, Earth is only 1.6% farther than average from the Sun on July 4. The effect of Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt easily dominates the tiny effect of Earth’s varying distance from the Sun.

Also on July 4, the Juno spacecraft enters Jupiter orbit. For just over a year and a half, Juno will execute 37 orbits of Jupiter before a controlled orbit into Jupiter in February 2018. The spacecraft is designed to explore the inner composition of Jupiter, giving more information about what’s far beneath the cloud layers we see.

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. As of now, however, George is closed while Brazos Bend State park dries out from yet another round of floods on the Brazos River. The park could reopen as early as July 12.

Clear Skies!

James G. Wooten
Planetarium Astronomer
Houston Museum of Natural Science

A Wedding Under The Planetarium Stars

Written by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager

The Burke Baker Planetarium at The Houston Museum of Natural Science has been recently renovated, and is now the premiere planetarium in the galaxy. It’s the first and only True8K™ planetarium, offering an unprecedented 50,000,000 pixels of beautiful brightness, resolution and brilliance. We wanted to show off its versatility as one of the perfect backdrops as you say your vows. Recently, we hosted a contest to be the first to get married in our updated planetarium, and below is our winner Katie’s story.

 

HMNS: Congratulations on winning the contest. We are very excited to share your special day with you. How did you hear about the wedding contest?
Katie: I receive emails from HMNS and follow the HMNS Facebook page. The first time I heard about the contest was through email, but I saw it again on the HMNS Facebook page a few days later.

HMNS: Do you remember your first time to the museum and/or planetarium?
Katie: It would have been as a child, actually attending a meeting of the spelunker’s society that my father was a member of rather than visiting the museum. The meetings were held in the basement of HMNS on weekday evenings, and I had full access to that floor during the time. While the meetings were being conducted, I would visit the basement exhibits to entertain myself. It was far different from what you see today. I remember there was a stuffed bear in one part, some kind of machine (perhaps a cotton gin?) in the center of the basement, and an exhibit on the periodic table of elements. The periodic table was my favorite part.

wedding blog 1

HMNS: What is your favorite part/exhibit in the museum?
Katie: Aside from the Planetarium, my favorite things are the Cockrell Butterfly Center, the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, and, of course, the gift shop!

HMNS: Have you seen a planetarium show since it reopened this March after renovations to become 8K?
Katie: I haven’t but I can’t wait to visit! The email about this contest was the first I’d heard about the upgrades.

HMNS: What is your favorite planetarium show?
Katie: I’ve seen several over the years, but my favorites explore the Big Bang Theory and the expansion of the universe. I tell people that I think my mind is too feeble to ever be able to fully grasp how the universe is continuing to expand, but I keep trying to understand it. As a teenager, I enjoyed the laser light shows set to Pink Floyd music.

HMNS: Have you ever been to an event at the museum?
Katie: I have been to a couple of weddings at the museum and some HMNS Mixers & Elixers events. Also, both of my children attended summer camp at HMNS in their younger years.

HMNS: Getting back to your special day, where will your reception be?
Katie: We will be serving a build-your-own street taco bar at El Big Bad downtown while a DJ plays 80’s dance tunes. We have put instructions on the reception card about how to get downtown via light rail from HMNS.

HMNS: How did you tell your fiancé you won?
Katie: I had been up since 6 am checking emails on June 1. I remembered from the rules that I only had 24 hours to respond and confirm acceptance of the prize if I won, and I didn’t want to miss it if I did. So when I got the email, I took a screenshot of it and texted it to him immediately. He responded with, “Was there any doubt?” Both he and my friends could not imagine that there would be anybody else out there more desirous of a Planetarium wedding than I was.

wedding blog 2

HMNS: How does your fiancé feel about getting married at the museum?
Katie: He’s excited about it because it makes me happy. He hasn’t seen the potential visuals yet, though. I think it’s going to be beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.

HMNS: What types of things will you be showing in the planetarium for your ceremony?
Katie: This is a difficult question because there are so many possibilities! I am currently working with the museum to stage the show, but it will definitely include imagery from both outer space and places on Earth that are special to us. There might even be a bit of time travel involved, incorporating the slingshot around the sun that we all know from Star Trek IV.

HMNS: What do your children think about your getting married at the museum of natural science?
Katie: My 11-year-old son thinks it is super cool that I won the contest, and has been texting the video to people. My 18-year-old daughter responded with, “I thought you said that if you ever got married again, you would just go to a Justice of the Peace.” I told her that was before I knew that the Planetarium was an option!

HMNS: We hear you are wearing a blue dress for your wedding, how did you come to choose a blue dress?
Katie: I chose a blue dress before I knew I would be getting married at the Planetarium partially because I wanted something other than white for a second wedding, and partially because this particular color spoke to me as the most beautiful color I could find for my wedding. The fact that it is celestial blue makes it perfect not just for me, but for the wedding itself now.

wedding blog 3

HMNS: Will you have any flowers or other décor?
Katie: The only flowers will be bouquets and boutonnieres. My décor will be the Planetarium visuals. I don’t think anything else is necessary.

HMNS: If someone asked you for your best advice on planning a wedding or event what would it be?
Katie:
A successful event requires good memories. These are achieved through fun times and visuals that remain in people’s minds long after the event has ended. In talking to people involved in weddings and events, I have been told to always focus on the ceremony itself and the surroundings for both the ceremony and reception to achieve this visual memory, rather than spending money on small details that are quickly forgotten or possibly never noticed. I couldn’t be luckier to have won a ceremony venue that achieves this so easily!

If you would like to host at The Houston Museum of Natural Science please contact one of our event specialist at specialevents@hmns.org, or you can find more information at www.rentthemuseum.com.