Friday, March 5, 2010

Opposition of Saturn sky's highlight for March

While the rare Saturn ring plane crossings took place already last year, there is an almost-crossing coming up in June when the rings will be less than an arc second wide (as can be checked with this calculator). Currently they are twice as wide and very obvious in any telescope, which they better be as this month Saturn is in opposition to the Sun on March 22nd - the sky highlight of this month (see also here, here, hier, hier, hier und hier). Also the visibility of Venus at dusk improves a bit throughout the month (with the Moon nearby on the 16th - hard! - and 17th), and in late March the best evening visibility of Mercury for the year should begin - during the interval March 27 ... April 4 the elusive planet may be easiest to spot. Meanwhile it's not to early to dream of comet 103P/Hartley (2), well visible in the fall. And already in summer 10P/Tempel could be nice.

In solar news there has been much talk (like here, here, here, here, here, here and here) about the "Solar Storm Watch" where everyone is invited to track coronal mass ejections via the HI instruments on the STEREO spacecraft - let's see how this crowdsourcing for space weather alerts works out. Meanwhile you can turn to the Community Coordinated Modeling Center of the Space Weather Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. • Some solar action on Feb. 7 and in Feb. and earlier, Feb. 15 aurorae and more on the non-effect of the Sun on climate matters. • A new type of variable stars has been discovered, a new Nova Sco, we have a precovery of KT Eri, insights into Eps Aur here, here and here and Swift observations of U Sco.

In the solar system we had a 3rd outburst of comet 29P, nice pics of 81P on Feb. 24, Feb. 22, Feb. 18 and Feb. 17 (more), 2007 Q3 on Feb. 18 and Feb. 16 plus a January WISE picture - and yet another model for Holmes' weird outburst in 2007. • A fireball in Hungary, craters in Antarctica and the Arctic, dark NEOs and a lightcurve of NEO 2009 UN3. • Asteroid Vesta in opposition (advertised here, here an here) was well observed: a movie on Feb. 18 and a passage between two stars on Feb. 16 (more, mehr, mehr, earlier, still earlier). • Of Mars in the month after opposition nice pictures of March 4, March 1 (more, more and more), Feb. 24 (also in blue), Feb. 23, Feb. 20/21 (Feb. 21, Feb. 20), Feb. 17 (more), Feb. 16 and Feb. 1. • With Venus just back at dusk, a conjunction w/Jupiter has been observed on Feb. 16 in the U.S. and Germany; the lunar crescent was way above the tough planet pair.

In other news a video of a grazing occultation of a Pleiades star by the Moon in Greece (the appulse from Germany), the Moon imaged from the ISS, also in hi-res (more) and just rising - too bad the photographer is coming back in June. Also polar clouds from Space in January (more), bright sundogs seen on March 4 from Germany and elsewhere: a coincidence or particular atmospheric conditions, widespread? One could ask the AKM which even runs meetings on halo phenomena! • A stolen telescope in Texas is back (more), an interview w/Ashcroft, a review of robotic astronomy, and amateur astronomy Decadal Survey, one guy's story, pop astro at ASU, various citizen science projects ... and a crazy WWT/Earth mapping blend.

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