Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First Quarter Moon Specialties: January 31, 2012

The moon is rather beautiful during the day, as it is rising about after 1 pm EST. Below is a galleria of pictures (from the greater Washington DC area) of the moon, which celebrate it being at first quarter today (January 31, 2012). Tonight, the moon will be encased in the night sky, with the planets, and you too can view them! The moon will be full on February 7, 2012, with planetary conjunctions swiftly approaching.

According to numbers placed below pictures, captions are as follows: 1) First Quarter Moon, taken on 1/31/12 at 1:37 pm EST. 2) The moon with an old cherry tree, taken 1/31/12 at 1:38 pm EST. 3) Moon with forest behind it, taken 1/31/12 at 1:38 pm EST. 4) The moon incarcerated between cherry-tree branches, taken 1/31/12 at 1:39 pm EST. 5) The moon is really at the zenith around 4:30 pm EST (same date as others). It is situated at the top of the picture, and the open sky and trees truly show its height! 6) Moon with cedar tree, taken 1/31/12 at 4:33 pm EST.

Astronomical Events Calendar

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Divine Winter Astronomical Jewelbox

Not only has Venus and Jupiter become important and beautiful figures in the winter sky (for us in Northern Hemisphere latitudes!), but the moon has added to the excitement in viewing these jewels, in their jewel box: the night sky. Although the moon presently is obscuring many stars and dimmer planets, Jupiter and Venus shine on strong, with Mars, Mercury, and Saturn pulling along nicely as well. You too can view these planets, and not only with just a telescope or binoculars, Jupiter and Venus are visible just with the naked eye.

If you look to the southwest over the next few nights (late January to early February), Venus and Jupiter rise after sunset, and are in full stature by the sun has pulled itself under the horizon. On January 31, the moon and the Pleiades cluster will gracefully (and by all means aesthetically!) crown Jupiter, and Venus to the south of it. This might create a beautiful winter astronomical scene, minding the weather and potential cloud cover. The moon is currently the brightest object in the sky, the second, Venus, and the third, Jupiter tonight, as it will remain until the moon becomes new again.

Below are personal photos of the Jupiter-Moon conjunction on January 30, 2012. The time was approximately 6:00 pm EST, and as you can see, the moon was high and brightly shining! Jupiter was south of the moon, and left, in the picture below. The following picture is that of Venus, with clouds and trees in the background.

Although this might seem like nothing now, "consider this a preview of even better things to come," Spaceweather.com encourages! The two planets are going to become closer to one another, with the moon "swinging" in late February. That is when another conjunction of the planets will take place (remember the Four-Planet Dance of 2011?). March 12 the major conjunction when Venus and Jupiter converge within a 3 degree angle. "The winter planet show is just getting started, so stay tuned!"

February 3, 2012 places the moon in "the Winter Circle," as EarthSky.com illustrates below. By this point, the moon will be almost full, and bulging with scintillation! The moon is situated in Orion, as you can see Rigel and Betelgeuse being part of the star group. Capella crowns the circle, with Castor and Pollux to its left. Aldebaran is on its right.

As we fully divulge into winter, remember the planets and how beautiful they are: they are jewels in this wonderful jewel-box!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Obscure Astronomical-Related Terms

Many words have been dedicated to the English language, and some to astronomy itself! We all know this as a fact, but some astronomy-related terms are lesser known than others, and this article is dedicated to them. In the first list, all words below are courtesy the Grandiloquent Dictionary. Definitions provided by them; copyright Grandiloquent Dictionary.

achluophobia -( ) A fear of darkness or of the night 

astrophobia -( ) The fear of stars 

barophobia - ( ) Fear of gravity

heliolater - ( ) A sun worshipper  

heliophobia - ( ) The fear of the Sun  

heliotropism - ( ) The tendency of plants to turn towards the sun  

hemeralopia - ( ) Only being able to see at night  

hemeraphonia - ( ) Able to speak only at night 

lygophobia - ( )A fear of darkness or of the night

myctophobia - ( )  A fear of darkness or of the night

nychthemeron - ( )  A period of 24-hours

phengophobia - ( ) The fear of the Sun or of sunlight 

raith - ( )  A quarter of a year 

scintillation - ( )  The twinkling of stars or small bursts of light 

selenocentric - ( )  One whose life revolves around the moon 

selenography - ( )  The science of geography of the moon 

selenomancy - ( ) Divination using the moon 

selenophobia - ( )  A fear of the moon

Below, more astronomical-related obscure terms are listed, although not necessarily from the Grandiloquent Dictionary.These are words from Dictionary.com and SeaSky Astronomical Dictionary.

Syzygy An alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet 

Azimuth the arc of the horizon measured clockwise from the south point, in astronomy, or from the north point, in navigation, to the point where a vertical circle through a given heavenly body intersects the horizon.

Ephemeris a table showing the positions of a heavenly body on a number of dates in a regular sequence.

Protoplanet the collection of matter, in the process of condensation, from which a planet is formed.

Zenith the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer. 

Node either of the two points at which the orbit of a heavenly body intersects a given plane, especially the plane of the ecliptic or of the celestial equator. 

Facula an irregular, unusually bright patch on the sun's surface.

achrondite A stone meteorite that contains no chondrules.

Apastron the point at which the stars of a binary system are farthest apart (periastron).

Catena A series or chain of craters.

Ejecta Material from beneath the surface of a body such as a moon or planet that is ejected by an impact such as a meteor and distributed around the surface. Ejecta usually appear as a lighter color than the surrounding surface.

Granulation one of the small, short-lived features of the sun's surface that in the aggregate give it a mottled appearance when viewed with a telescope.

Hypergalaxy A system consisting of a spiral galaxy surrounded by several dwarf white galaxies, often ellipticals. Our galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy are examples of hypergalaxies.

Libration An effect caused by the apparent wobble of the Moon as it orbits the Earth. The Moon always keeps the same side toward the Earth, but due to libration, 59% of the Moon's surface can be seen over a period of time.

Nadir the point on the celestial sphere directly beneath a given position or observer and diametrically opposite the zenith.

Obliquity The angle between a body's equatorial plane and orbital plane.

Planemo A large planet or planetary body that does not orbit a star. Planemos instead wander cold and alone through the cosmos. It is believed that most planemos once orbited their mother star but were ejected from the star system by gravitational interaction with another massive object.