Friday, July 18, 2014

Sunrise on Crater Ptolemaeus, July 4, 2014

As you may or may not know, I love lunar observing. I can't seem to resist staring at Luna whenever she is up, and if I have the chance to get my telescope out, I can explore the lunar surface for hours. On the evening of July 4, I skipped attending Independence Day fireworks shows, and went down to Conway Observatory, to see the close apparent conjunction of asteroids 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta, and other observations. Of course, the not quite first quarter Moon sent plenty of photons to my telescope's primary mirror.

Early in the evening, I noticed that the "Snowman" of Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel, were right along the terminator.

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As Luna continued through her orbit, I compared views through two 5" refractors that my friend Bill was testing, and he had the power cranked. I noticed a streak of daylight starting to fall across Ptolemaeus, then went back to my 6" Dobsonian to photograph it.

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After that, I kept checking periodically to see how the light and shadows were falling on the crater floor of Ptolemaeus.

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Finally, just before 11:00 PM, only a couple long shadows from the eastern rim of Ptolemaeus were falling across the crater floor.

By that time, I had found the space rocks in conjunction in Virgo, and was observing them, looking for proper motion, and helping my friend Javier find them, so that he could image the asteroid pair. My lunar observing was pretty much over for the night, and Luna was already low, seen through turbulent atmosphere, where observing is worst, and imaging is nearly useless.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

2014's "Super Moons"

When I got into the hobby of astronomy six years ago, I had never heard of a "Super Moon." In the last few years, though, it seems that at least one full Moon each year has been called a "Super Moon" by the media. This year we have a whopping three "Super Moons." As an avid lunar observer, I absolutely detest this term. It's misleading. Naked eye, I cannot tell a difference in the size of the full Moon from month to month.

Michael Bakich has a great article on "Super Moons" in the August 2014 issue of Astronomy magazine. While Bakich states that the term "Super Moon" "beats the astronomical term, perigee syzygy Moon," I disagree. Give me the geeky name, and let folks use their Google skills.

The first of these three 2014 "Super Moons" will be Saturday, July 12. Here in Northwest Indiana, the Moon will reach the moment of "full" at 7:04 AM CDST according to Arlington Heights astronomer Curt Renz, not long after the Moon sets. Of course, seeing it close to the horizon, just before it reaches full, it will no doubt look bigger because of the Moon Illusion. From North America, you could justifiably call either Friday or Saturday night's Moon "full," although Friday the Moon will be more fully illuminated.

Curt Renz has nice graphics showing the relative distances of the full Moons for 2014, seen below.

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For full resolution, and other Moon related graphics, go to

It just so happens that I observed both the June 2013 perigee (closest) full Moon and the January 2014 apogee (farthest) full Moon. While I can tell that the June Moon appears slightly larger in my images, keep in mind these were taken at 60x magnification. With the naked eye, the difference is rather negligible. 

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June 2013 perigee Moon observation at Valparaiso's Central Park Plaza.

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January 2014 apogee Moon observation in front of the Porter County Courthouse, in the extreme polar vortex cold.

For more on this year's "Super Moons," try the following articles.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Close Conjunction of Ceres & Vesta Observed, July 4, 2014

This weekend, asteroids 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta made a close conjunction, only 10' apart. I observed this at Conway Observatory in Lowell, Indiana on the night of July 4, 2014.

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For full details of the observation, and a GIF of the asteroids by my friend Javier, check here.

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Javier's first image of the asteroids.