ITS (August, 2009)

Posted July 27, 2009 by User 1

So what's happening in the sky? If you've read the summer release of T5P, you'd know where the planets are is and what will be suitable for viewing but you wouldn't know what's interesting. ITS is made to fill that gap along with information on deep space objects.

Space weather

The sun is still in transition from Solar Cycle 23 to Cycle 24 as it has been for a while. That puts us in solar-minimum, the quietest period of the sun featuring a lack of sunspots and a weaker than usual solar wind. Therefore, despite the recent outbreak, auroras will likely be confined to high latitudes.

However, solar minimum does give us a chance at viewing noctilucent clouds ( which are at their prime during years of solar minimum in mid-summer. Most activity is likely to occur early in the month and dwindle down as September approaches. These clouds may be seen an hour or so before sunrise or after sunset in the direction of the sun and will have a glowing appearance.

Jupiter's Impact Spot

Almost everyone in the scientific community will have heard about the strange dark spot on Jupiter by now discovered by an amateur astronomer from Australia and confirmed to be the result of an impact by NASA. The spot is not expected to be long-lived and will likely dwindle down in the coming weeks after having been spread out by the planet's powerful winds which have so far made it more visible for small telescopes.

Deep Space

M31 and its companions M32 and M110 are beginning to be visible in the evening skies rising earlier and earlier every night. Best viewing is still past midnight.

The galaxies of Ursa Major have become less visible than before although for most in the northern hemisphere, M101, M81/M82 along with M51 in nearby Canes Venatici should be easily visible on clear days despite the low elevation.

The grand core of the Milky Way in Sagittarius is still high with M7, M8, M20 and M22 all favorably high in the sky. The brilliant star Antares and the Rho Ophiuchi complex should remain good targets for southerly astrophotographers.

Meteor Showers

August is the month for the Perseids which are arguably the most famous of all showers. They usually peak around August 13 each year but meteors can be seen for a much wider expanse of time. Meteors will appear to have an origin in the constellation of Perseus with a ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) max of over 100.


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