Astronomers joke about a 'new equipment' curse - it is frequently cloudy after
an astronomer gets new equipment. Looking at the cloud forecast for this
evening and the next week there must be new astronomy equipment in the
The weather for sidewalk astronomy at the corner of Myrtle and Lime in
Monrovia this evening is not looking very promising. There is the possibility
that the clouds will clear but it is slim. If you happen to be in the area
and the skies have cleared feel free to drop by as some of us are planning to
be there if it clears sufficiently in advance but please, do not make a special
trip just for Sidewalk Astronomy this evening.
We have been thinking about holding a set up clinic/workshop for people that
may have received telescopes over Christmas. This would be held at a date in
the near future, clouds permitting. It would start in the afternoon as
daylight is easier to point out equipment features and then move into the
early evening for some observing practice. If you are interested please let us
know by sending an email to sidewalk(a)otastro.org and include the make and
model of telescope.
Wishing you a Happy New Year
Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers http://www.otastro.org
My last What's Up podcast of 2009's International Year of Astronomy
features The Orion Nebula. It takes the listener/viewer from Galileo's
sketch of the Trapezium stars 400 years ago, on to Christian Huygens'
first detailed sketch of the nebula itself and on to studies by the
You can find it here on the Solar System Exploration archive page, along
with all the rest of the podcasts.
On the JPLnews Youtube channel:
On the NASA podcast page:
Each month in 2009 the podcast series explores the first observation of
a celestial object honoring the IYA 9International Year of Astronomy)
400 years of telescopic observations theme. Here is a brief recap [from
each written transcript] of the podcast series. The animations in each
podcast show and explain these first observations, telling a great story
spanning from the present back to prehistoric times! If you'd like any
of the components (artwork, old sketches, current images, etc.) just let
me know! It's been a really fun and educational project. As I did the
research each month, I learned something new about these objects that I
never knew before!
January 2009 - Four hundred years ago, Galileo first observed the phases
of Venus through a telescope. The prevailing belief was that the sun and
planets revolved around the Earth. The phases looked similar to what he
saw on Earth's Moon each month.
February 2009 - Galileo's famous observations of the moon from 1609 were
the first to be published and publicized in 1610. [good lunar phase
March 2009 - When Galileo aimed his telescopes at Saturn in 1610 he
wasn't sure what he was seeing. He thought the rings were "handles" or
large moons on either side of the planet. A few years later in 1612, he
was astounded that the "handles" he previously observed had disappeared!
And in 1616, the handles were back, but they looked different. This time
he saw two half-circles on either side of the round globe of Saturn.
April 2009 - In 1845, Ireland's Third Earl of Ross, William Parsons,
used his huge telescope at Birr Castle in the center of Ireland to
observe and sketch the spiral structure of the Whirlpool Galaxy.
May 2009 - Galileo and Englishman Thomas Harriott both observed the sun
and sunspots in 1610, but they weren't the first. Chinese and Korean
astronomers wrote about sunspots almost three thousand years ago. John
of Worcester, who was an English monk, made the earliest existing
drawing of sunspots in 1128.
June 2009 - It's [the Hercules Cluster] called M-13 because this object
is the 13th of Charles Messier's 1764 catalog of celestial objects. But
he wasn't the discoverer of this cluster! M-13 was discovered half a
century earlier by Edmund Halley.
July 2009 - The Milky Way - Ptolemy had identified the six brightest
stars in the Pleiades, but Galileo saw 36 stars through his telescope.
Through the next two centuries, astronomers used bigger and bigger
telescopes to study and map the Milky Way galaxy.
August 2009 - Have you ever wondered what makes these cosmic fireworks?
Meteor showers are just the debris of a passing comet or sometimes the
debris from a fragmented asteroid. [good meteor viewing animation]
September - Jupiter also has four large satellites, three of which are
larger than our own moon. These four moons were discovered by Galileo
400 years ago. You can see them yourself with a small telescope or even
binoculars, and watch them move around the planet just as Galileo did!
October 2009 - Astronomers have observed the Andromeda galaxy for over a
thousand years. Persian astronomer Al-Sufi was the first to record and
sketch his observations of what he called "the little cloud". In 964 he
published this observation and many others in his "Book of Fixed Stars".
Simon Marius first viewed the galaxy through a telescope in 1612.
November 2009 - In 1758, Charles Messier was scanning the skies for
comet Halley. He noticed a whitish light, shaped like the flame of a
candle in the constellation Taurus. M1, the Crab nebula became the first
entry in his catalogue of 110 comet-like objects. 700 years earlier, a
"guest star" was visible in the summer sky of 1054. Ancient astronomers
in both the old and new worlds documented a new bright star in the
daytime sky. It was a supernova in the constellation Taurus and was
visible with the unaided eye for nearly two years.
December 2009 - This is the final month of International Year of
Astronomy. But that shouldn't stop you from looking up next year.
This month's target is in one of the most-recognizable constellations:
January 2010 will be all about Mars opposition, first observations and
the spacecraft studying this fascinating world! Here's to looking at
What’s Up in 2010! Jane
Jane Houston Jones
Old Town Astronomers: http://www.otastro.org
My NASA JPL What's Up podcast: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/whatsup.cfm