Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Evening planets greet the International Year of Astronomy 2009

As I type this, the IYA 2009 has already begun in the Western Pacific while others still have to wait another 24 hours. A parallel blog (in German, but with the majority of links going to websites in English) has covered IYA preparations throughout the year in 70(!) postings; for starters check the latest IAU Press Release - and watch (on TV, maybe) the new year fireworks in Rio which will have an astronomy theme. While there are a few sky highlights in 2009, including some eclipses, there won't probably be that big event uniting humanity looking up. At least the old year ends - and new one begins - with a three-planet (and Moon) line-up in the evening skies.
  • Dec. 31: This evening there is even a double conjunction with Venus & the Moon and Jupiter & Mercury pairing up; the latter pair is pretty close to the Sun, though. See below for the view on the past few evenings.

  • Dec. 31/Jan. 1: A leap second (some background and more, more, more, more, more, more and more stories) will delay the launch of the IYA ...

  • Jan. 1 ... which commences with the "Dawn of the IYA" worldwide solar observing event - everywhere at noon local time. Unfortunately the (white-light) Sun refuses to cooperate, so those having H-Alpha telescopes may be the only ones able to impress ...

  • Jan. 3: The Quadrantid meteors should peak around 12:50 UTC; the Moon is in first quarter.

  • Jan. 7: At 3:45 UTC the U.S. Opening Ceremony of the IYA begins - and will be webcast (something that's not guaranteed for the international kick-off on Jan. 15/16 or other national kick-offs).

  • Jan. 7: Jet another Pleijades occultation by the Moon for Europe, early in the evening.

  • Jan. 14: Venus reaches greatest Eastern elongation, 47° (and the Stardust s/c flies by the Earth; EPOXI visited us on Dec. 29).

  • Jan. 26: Annular eclipse of the Sun for SE Asia.

  • Jan. 30: And again Venus visits the Moon.
One possible 'star' of the IYA could be comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin) which has just emerged from the glare of the Sun: Pictures of Dec. 29 and Dec. 28 and visual observations of Dec. 30 (dito) and Dec. 28 put it at 7th to 8th magnitude right now, with hopes of 3 to 4 mag. in late February, well placed for Northern observers in Moon-free skies. • Comets 19P on Dec. 20, 29P on Dec. 28/29 and Dec. 27, 116P on Dec. 20, 144P on Dec. 29, Dec. 28, Dec. 26 and more pictures and C/2006 OF2 on Dec. 29 (with tail), Dec. 20 and more pictures. • There were few reports of 210P/Christensen = C/2008 X4 close to the Sun: The forward-scatter brightening was perhaps not so dramatic after all. • And a strange visitor to an automatic meteor camera ...

Pictures of the planets in the evening skies from several evenings, from Dec. 30 in Bavaria and Bonn, Dec. 29 in the U.S. (more), Austria, Würzburg, Hamburg and Japan (more and more pictures) and Dec. 28 from Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas and Europe. • Venus & Neptune on Dec. 28 and Venus close-up in the UV on Dec. 28 and Dec. 23 (more). • A "final numerical report" on Jupiter in 2007. • Meanwhile Saturn - with its rings nearly edge-on - has been imaged a lot: a fantastic collection and selected images of Dec. 28, Dec. 26 (more), Dec. 25, Dec. 24 (more), Dec. 22 and Dec. 20. • Finally some news about a Dark Sky Park in Scotland, a book on the 2008 TSE, nice pics of a green segment of the setting Sun, and pics & poems from the Romanian AstroTournament (and about comet McNaught 2 years ago) - plus splendid Hubble pics in large size. Happy new year!

1 comment:

RevAaron said...

Thanks for the links! Great article, and we appreciate all you do on Twitter.

Happy New Year!