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Episode 5 - Positional Astronomy and
Messier Objects

(Pawling Public Radio 103.7 FM)

The following episode of The Astronomical Almanac is dedicated to our 22 year old cat, Mothra, who passed away last Wednesday.
 

Welcome to The Astronomical Almanac.
I am your host - Bob Antol. I am a local astronomer in the Pawling area (Poughquag specifically), with a passion for all things astronomical.

Astronomy is the branch of science that deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole. This show, The Astronomical Almanac, will make you more comfortable with these concepts so you will be able to recognize, grasp and appreciate the universe around us.

This is the The Astronomical Almanac on WPWL - Pawling Public Radio - 103.7 FM - Pawling, New York.
And today's episode is entitled Positional Astronomy and Messier Objects.


Old Business



  >   The first segment of the program is something I call Old Business. This will be devoted to answering any questions from the previous episodes or to correct anything I may have said in error.

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water." from H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds (the first lines).

The Astronomical Almanac will have the following format:

  1. Old Business - this segment here.
  2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary - devoted to defining astronomical terms.
  3. What's Up in the Sky This Week? - from planets to meteor showers to the space station and more!
  4. Astronomical Curiosities - exploring unique aspects of the world of astronomy.
  5. Did You Know? - a fun-filled trivia section.
  6. The Buffer Zone - personal recollections from my life as an amateur astronomer.

  <   This concludes the Old Business portion of the program. Next up ... Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary ...


Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary


Positional Astronomy


  >   Each week, a term (or two) will be defined laying the groundwork for a more general understanding of astronomy. This week, in Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary, I will be discussing ...

Inferior Planet
Has an orbit that is closer than the Earth-Sun distance. (Mercury and Venus)
Superior Planet
Has an orbit that is farther than the Earth-Sun distance. (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune)
Opposition
A planetary position in which the Sun, the Earth and a superior planet are aligned in that order and in a straight line. This is also the best time to observe a planet because:
  • It is at its closest approach to Earth.
  • The planet rises just as the Sun is setting, allowing observation any time during the night.
  • The opposition surge (sometimes known as the opposition effect, opposition spike or Seeliger effect) is the brightening of a rough surface, or an object with many particles, when illuminated from directly behind the observer. e.g., Saturn's rings.
Conjunction
A planetary position in which the Earth, the Sun and the planet are aligned in that order and in a straight line. For an inferior planet, this is called a superior conjunction. When the order is the Earth, the inferior planet and the Sun, it is an inferior conjunction. A conjunction is the worst time to observe a planet because it is lost in the Sun's brilliance.
Greatest Elongation
Point at which an inferior planet has the greatest visual distance from the Sun. (Mercury 28; Venus 47) During Greatest Eastern Elongation, an inferior planet is visible at sunset and is visible before sunrise during Greatest Western Elongation.
Quadrature
A planetary position in which the Sun, the Earth and a superior planet form a right angle with the Earth at the vertex. At sunset during eastern quadrature, a superior planet is overhead and is overhead at sunrise during western quadrature.

  <   This concludes the Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary portion of the program. Next up ... What's Up in the Sky This Week ...


What's Up in the Sky This Week


  >   In this next segment of the program (What's Up in the Sky This Week), I will highlight events in the sky that are of interest to the average person. First up ...

  • Moon Phase (using https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/@5132148)

    Date Name U.S. East UTC Description
    Nov 4 Beaver Moon 12:23 AM 05:23 For both the colonists and the Algonquin tribes, this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. This full Moon was also called the Frost Moon.
    Month Southern Hemisphere Name
    November Corn Moon, Milk Moon, Flower Moon, Hare Moon

  • Evening sky highlights
    2 Nov 2017 Uranus 4 degrees north of Moon
    5 Nov 2017 Aldebaran 0.8 degrees south of Moon

  • Morning sky highlights
    1 Nov 2017 Venus 4 degrees north of Spica

  • Upcoming meteor showers
    3-4 Nov 2017 Taurid meteor shower

    2017 Minor Meteor Showers (Class II)

    Shower Activity Period Maximum Radiant Velocity r Max. Time Moon
    Date S. L. R.A. Dec. km/s ZHR
    Northern Taurids (NTA) Oct 25-Dec 04 Nov 11 229 03:54 +22.4 27.1 2.3 5 0000 22

  <   This concludes the What's Up in the Sky This Week portion of the program. Next up ... Astronomical Curiosities ...


Astronomical Curiosities


Messier Objects


  >   In this segment, called Astronomical Curiosities, I will explore a unique and different aspect of the world of astronomy. Today's curiosity is ...

This is the The Astronomical Almanac on WPWL - Pawling Public Radio - 103.7 FM - Pawling, New York ... streaming live at pawlingpublicradio.org.

The Messier objects are a set of 110 astronomical objects catalogued by the French astronomer Charles Messier (26 June 1730 - 12 April 1817) in his "Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters" (1771). The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters such as himself, distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Reference Material
Hubble's Messier Catalog from NASA (93 observed as of August 2017)
Messier Marathon 2018 (17-18 March 2018) from SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space)

A poet once said, "Give me the stars up above and the sounds of the night and I am at peace." Looking at the Messier objects will give you that peace.

  <   This concludes the Astronomical Curiosities portion of the program. Next up ... Did You Know? ...


Did You Know?


  >   This segment of the program will be devoted to little bits of trivia that can be shared at parties, family get-togethers, reunions. Hey, the next time you are at a bar and there is a lull in the conversation, simply yell out Did You Know ... and share the following!

The Crab Nebula (M1) was produced by a supernova explosion that appeared in our skies in the year 1054 A.D. The Chinese and Arab astronomers at the time noted that the explosion was so bright that it was visible during the day, and it lit up the night sky for months. It was likely also observed by the Anasazi people of the U.S. southwest.

  <   This concludes the Did You Know? portion of the program. Next up ... The Buffer Zone ...


The Buffer Zone


  >   If there is still time left in the program, this segment (The Buffer Zone) will be devoted to 'personal recollections' of the things that initially got me interested in astronomy.

Beggar's Night, Jokes and Halloween (while growing up in Iowa).

The Astronomical Almanac can be found on the web at http://www.stargate4173.com/wpwl/.

You will be able to see:

  • The format of the show
  • Links to the music from the show
  • Links to the notes for each episode
  • My bio

  <   This concludes the The Buffer Zone portion of the program.

This has been The Astronomical Almanac
on WPWL - Pawling Public Radio - 103.7 FM - Pawling, New York.
I have been your host - Bob Antol.
I hope you enjoyed today's show and are a little more comfortable with the topics I discussed so you can now more easily recognize, grasp and appreciate the universe around us.

"By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain." from H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds (the last lines).

On next week's show, the episode will be entitled Transits and Caldwell Objects.

Clear skies ... and don't forget ... to look up!

copyright © 2017 Robert A. Antol