“Resources” page update

Thanks to @spacecrazed on twitter for alerting me that the Hayden Planetarium has their ‘Digital Universe’ 3D map and software available for download.  It takes between 450 and 467 megs depending on the features you pick, is available for Windows/Mac OSX/Linux and IRIX, and has just been added to my ‘Resources‘ page.

Sunrise, sunset

No, not the song from Fiddler on the Roof…

Have you ever wanted to know the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset and twilight times for a given day?  Try http://www.sunrisesunset.com/ You can plug in one of the major cities on the main page, or drill down to your exact location by either using one of the U.S. cities, or by entering your latitude and longitude.  Once the calculator has your location, you can generate a calendar for a given month.  I print mine out and stick it in my astronomy binder.

You can select what you want to see: just sunrise and sunset, or also moonrise and moonset, and the various different ‘twilights’ (which are useful when planning observing sessions).  There’s also a nifty system tray tool that you can download.

Where to find up to date information

I look at the dashboard of this blog just about daily, to see what search terms people are using to find it, and how relevant my blog is to those terms. I see a lot of traffic that is generated by current events, like “what was bright by the moon on may 19”, or “moon venus conjunction”, etc.

My best advice for those of you reaching this blog looking for current events is to go to the Sky and Telescope Magazine website. Bookmark it and refer to it whenever you have a question regarding what you are seeing up in the sky currently. I don’t have the resources to duplicate the information available there, and really this blog is more for my own amusement than anything else, although I am pleased that other people find it informative from time to time.

Some other places are the Bad Astronomy site (Phil’s not really a bad astronomer, he just writes about bad astronomy in movies, TV shows, and news broadcasts. From time to time he’s also known to point out some current events in the sky) Toms Astronomy Blog or any of the other sites in my massive list of astronomy websites and blogs.

JPL Podcast “What’s Up” for May 2007

Email forwarded from AANC via FPOA

—–Original Message—–
From: contacts-bounces@aanc-astronomy.org
[mailto:contacts-bounces@aanc-astronomy.org] On Behalf Of Jane H Jones
Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2007 11:13 PM
To: contacts@aanc-astronomy.org
Subject: [AANC Contacts] What’s Up For May

“What’s Up – May” , the monthly amateur astronomy themed podcast is up
on the public JPL website today.

Saturn, Jewel of the solar system is joined by Venus and Mercury in the
early evening, and then after midnight, glorious Jupiter returns.
Near Jupiter, the Asteroid Vesta can be seen beginning in late May
through September. It will be bright enough to see with the unaided eye,
if you know where to look. Saturn continues to be a great target through
the amateur telescopes clear through July, when a beautiful grouping of
Venus, Saturn, Leo’s star, Regulus are all bunched together with the
slender crescent moon. Between now and then watch Venus and Saturn as
they draw closer to each other.

You can get to the 2 minute podcast from the JPL main page:

You can also get it on the JPL Amateur Astronomy page. You’ll find some
simple (aimed at the general public) downloadable sky charts, links to
NASA amateur astronomy networks, and this is where the What’s Ups are
archived, too.
This is the
permanent link for you to use if you want to bookmark the site

This month the Dawn mission’s Amateur Observer Program was added to the
JPL Amateur Astronomy page – the link I just mentioned above. The Dawn
Amateur Observers Program, is modelled on the successful Deep Impact
Amateur Observers’ Program.
http://dawn-aop.astro.umd.edu/index.shtml Check it out! There are
detailed star charts for Vesta viewing for several months on this page
and lots of other great information. I’m sure some of you will want to
participate in this Dawn Observers program.

Let me know if you use the podcast for museum or planetarium or
astronomy club programming! We love to know who uses our NASA multimedia


Jane Houston Jones
Senior Outreach Specialist, Cassini Program JPL – 4800 Oak Grove Drive,
MS 230-205 Pasadena, CA 91109 818-393-6435 jane.h.jones@jpl.nasa.gov
Cassini Saturn Observation Campaign http://soc.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm

Contacts mailing list

FPOA-Members mailing list

The Day the Sun Blew Up

This morning I received the following email from the FPOA mailing list regarding Dr. Sten Odenwald’s appearance at the California Acadamy of Science Benjamin Dean Lecture Series. Sounds like a great lecture! I hope to see you there!

Dr. Sten Odenwald

From: Benjamin Dean Lecture Series [mailto:deanseries@calacademy.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2007 7:27 PM
To: deanseries@calacademy.org
Subject: Next Benjamin Dean Lecture – Monday, May 7

Please join us on Monday, May 7 at 7:30pm for the next lecture in the Benjamin Dean Series. Dr. Sten Odenwald from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will speak about “The Day the Sun Blew Up.”

In 1859, the biggest solar storm in recorded history rocked the Sun, causing major worldwide disruptions of telegraph service and reports of fires in every major city on Earth. What will happen when such a ‘superstorm’ comes again? This talk will explore the possible human and technology impacts of the next solar superstorm.

You can visit Dr. Odenwald’s award-winning websites at:




The lecture will be held in Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California Street (at Presidio Avenue). Tickets are $4 in advance by mail or online at http://www.calacademy.org/lectures/tickets/ or at the door. Please e-mail any questions to deanseries@calacademy.org or call 415-321-8000.

Parking is available across the street in the UCSF Laurel Heights campus parking lot for $1.25 per night. Parking in the JCC garage is $1.50 per half-hour. The #1 California, #3 Jackson, #4 Sutter, and #43 Masonic MUNI lines stop directly in front of the building. The #38 Geary and #24 Divisadero buses stop only a few blocks away.

Benjamin Dean Lecture Series in Astronomy
Morrison Planetarium
California Academy of Sciences
875 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103


University of Washington Observatory

The Theodore Jacobsen ObservatoryAn article in The Daily of the University of Washington
discusses the Theodore Jacobsen Observatory at the University of Washington. The observatory is home to a modest 6-inch but historic telescope built in the late 1890s by Joseph Taylor. The telescope is an f/15 refractor with a 90-inch focal length. A picture of the telescope can be found here.

The observatory and telescopes fell into disuse sometime in the 1970s, but in the late 1990s was restored, and is currently in excellent condition. The telescope uses a weight-driven centrifugally regulated clock drive. The weight is cranked up at the start of observing, and then slowly drops down inside the pier during the session, moving the clockwork right-ascension drive, which keeps the telescope in alignment with the earth’s rotation.

The Observatory also houses a 3-inch Bamberg elbow transit telescope originally purchased by U.W. in the 1920s. According to the article, nobody is really sure how to operate the transit telescope. According to Peter Abrahams a chronograph associated with the transit telescope is apparently not in working condition.

Efforts to restore the observatory and telescopes were begun 11 years ago by undergraduates, who also began an open house program. 2007 Open House Dates are: 5/2, 5/16, 6/6, 6/20, 7/18, 8/1, 8/15, 9/5, 9/19, 10/3, 10/17, 11/7

For more information, see the article above, or the Observatory website.

Amazing Andromeda

Amazing AndromedaThe giant galaxy in Andromeda is a favorite target of amateur astronomers, and it is the most distant object viewable with the naked eye.  Of course, amateur telescopes can’t hope to gather nearly as much information as the telescopes NASA uses.

In this false color composite image of andromeda, NASA has combined information from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and Spitzer Space Telescope to reveal details of the Andromeda galaxy.  This image is a false color composite comprised of data from Galaxy Evolution Explorer’s far-ultraviolet detector (blue), near-ultraviolet detector (green), and Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer at 24 microns (red).

Read the NASA press release.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL – Caltech