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The Astronomical Almanac      Up one level      Episode 1

Possible Future Topics

(Pawling Public Radio 103.7 FM)

Show Format (Sections)

1. Show Outline

  1. Old Business - devoted to answering any questions from the previous episodes or to correct anything I may have said in error.
  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.

2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary

  • Magnitude, Absolute Magnitude, Apparent Magnitude (Episode 1)
  • Celestial Coordinates (Right Ascension, Declination) (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Unit (AU), Parsec (Episode 3)
  • Bayer Designations (Episode 4)
  • Positional Astronomy [Conjunction (Inferior, Superior), Opposition] (Episode 5)

  • Aphelion, Perihelion, Apogee, Perigee
  • Binary Stars, Double Stars
  • Celestial Equator
  • Earthshine
  • Ecliptic
  • Gibbous
  • Libration
  • Meteor, Meteorite, Meteoroid, Bollide
  • Occultation
  • Retrograde Motion
  • Revolution, Rotation
  • Terminator
  • Transit

3. What's Up in the Sky This Week?

  • Evening sky highlights
    23 Nov 2017 Mercury stands 22 degrees east of the Sun
    4 Dec 2017 Earliest end of evening twilight
    7 Dec 2017 Earliest sunset
    21 Dec 2017 Shortest day, 9 hours 20 minutes at latitude 40 degrees North

  • Morning sky highlights
    13 Nov 2017 Jupiter is 0.3 degrees to the right of Venus
    30 Nov 2017 Spica is 3.1 degrees lower right of Mars
    21 Dec 2017 Winter begins at the solstice, 11:28 AM EST

  • Upcoming meteor showers
    4 Jan      Quadrantid meteor shower
    22 Apr Lyrid meteor shower
    5 May Eta-Aquarid meteor shower
    29 Jul S Delta-Aquarid meteor shower
    12 Aug Perseid meteor shower
    9 Oct Draconid meteor shower
    22 Oct Orionid meteor shower
    4 Nov S Taurid meteor shower
    13 Nov N Taurid meteor shower
    17 Nov Leonid meteor shower
    14 Dec Geminid meteor shower
    23 Dec Ursid meteor shower

4. Astronomical Curiosities

  • The Painted Globe (Episode 1)
  • Different Types of Telescopes (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Apps (Episode 3 & Episode 4)
  • Messier Objects (Episode 5)

  • Double Sunrise / Sunset on Mercury
  • Observatories

5. Did You Know?

  • Light from distant stars and galaxies takes so long to reach us that we are actually seeing these objects as they appeared in the past. As we look up at the sky, we are really looking back in time. For example, the Sun's light takes almost 8.5 minutes to travel to Earth, so we see the Sun as it looked 8.5 minutes ago. The nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away, so it appears as it was 4.2 years ago. The nearest galaxy is 2.5 million light-years away, and it looks as it did when our australopithecus hominid ancestors walked the planet. The farther away something is, the further back in time it appears. (Episode 1)
  • Galileo Galilei is often incorrectly credited with the invention of the telescope. Historians now think the Dutch eyeglass maker Johannes Lippershey was its creator. Galileo was probably the first to use the device to study the heavens to make his discoveries. (Episode 2)
  • Uranian Axis of Rotation: The Uranian system has a unique configuration among those of the planets because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its solar orbit. (Episode 3)
  • Earth's Shadow at Sunset / Sunrise: At sunset the Earth's shadow is visible opposite the sunset in the eastern sky, just above the horizon. The shadow shows as a dark blue band that stretches over 180 of the horizon. At sunrise, the Earth's shadow can be seen to set as the sun itself rises, and at sunset, the Earth's shadow rises as the sun sets. (Episode 4)
  • The Crab Nebula 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. (Episode 5)

  • Belt of Venus: Also known as Venus's Girdle, twilight wedge, or antitwilight arch is an atmospheric phenomenon visible shortly before sunrise or after sunset, during civil twilight, when a pinkish glow extending roughly 10 - 20 degrees above the horizon surrounds the observer.
  • Hexagonal Storm at Saturn's North Pole: Saturn's hexagon is a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the north pole of Saturn, located at about 78N. The sides of the hexagon are about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is more than the diameter of Earth (about 12,700 km (7,900 mi)).
  • The Sun's core releases the the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second. All that energy works its way out through the various layers of the Sun, taking thousands of years to make the trip. The Sun's energy is emitted as heat and light and it powers the solar system.
  • Shooting stars really aren't stars. They are usually just tiny dust particles falling through our atmosphere and they vaporize due to the heat of friction with the atmospheric gases. Earth sometimes passes through cometary orbits. As comets travel around the Sun, they leave behind dust trails. When Earth encounters that dust, we see an increase in meteors as the particles travel through our atmosphere and are burned up.
  • Even though Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, temperatures there can reach -280 degrees F on its surface. How can this happen? Since Mercury has almost no atmosphere, there is nothing to trap heat near the surface. So, the dark side of Mercury (the side facing away from the Sun) gets very cold.
  • Venus is considerably hotter than Mercury, even though it is farther away from the Sun. The thickness of Venus's atmosphere traps heat near the surface of the planet. Venus also spins very slowly on its axis.
  • A day on Venus is 243 Earth-days long, while Venus's year is only 224.7 days. Even weirder, Venus spins backwards on its axis compared to the other planets in the solar system.
  • An astrobleme is a scar on the Earth's surface produced by the impact of a meteorite or asteroid. Lake Manicouagan in northern Quebec, Canada, lies in one of the largest impact craters still preserved on Earth's surface. The lake itself surrounds a central uplift of the impact structure, which is about 70 kilometers in diameter and composed of broken fragments of minerals and rock. Overtime glaciation and other erosional processes have reduced the size of the crater. The impact that formed Manicouagan is thought to have occurred about 212 million years ago, and some scientists believe it may have been responsible for a mass extinction that wiped out more than half of all living species. Today, Lake Manicouagan serves as a reservoir and is one of Quebec's most important regions for Atlantic salmon fishing.
  • Haumea of the Outer Solar System. One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. The object, named Haumea, is the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's oblong shape makes it quite unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Haumea is a cratered ellipsoid surrounded by a uniform ring. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was renamed in 2008 by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Besides the ring discovered this year (2017), Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, named Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess.

6. The Buffer Zone

  • Astronomy is "free". (Episode 2)

  • "Sleeping out" under the stars.
  • Comet Bennett at 4:00 in the morning.
  • Before "smart" telescopes.
copyright © 2017 Robert A. Antol