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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)
  • Transit (Episode 6)
  • Earthshine (Da Vinci Glow) (Episode 7)
  • Aphelion, Perihelion, Apogee, Perigee (Episode 8)
  • Libration (Episode 9)
  • Synodic, Sidereal Rotation (Episode 10)
  • Revolution, Rotation (Episode 11)
  • Phase (Episode 12)
  • Retrograde Motion (Episode 13)
  • Ecliptic (Episode 14)
  • Twilight (Astronomical, Civil, Nautical) (Episode 15)
  • Meteoroid (Meteor, Bollide, Meteorite) (Episode 16)
  • Parallax (Episode 17)
  • What Defines a Planet? (Episode 18)

  • Elements (Besselian, Keplerian, mean, orbiting, osculating, rotational)
  • Albedo
  • Asterism
  • Binary Stars, Double Stars
  • Celestial Equator
  • Gibbous
  • Lunation
  • Occultation
  • Shadows (Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra)

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

  • Full Moon information

  • Evening sky highlights
    21 Dec 2017 Shortest day, 9 hours 20 minutes at latitude 40 degrees North
    15 Feb 2018 Partial solar eclipse for southernmost South America
    3 Mar 2018 Mercury is 1.1 degree to the right of Venus, but they are low
    15 Mar 2018 Mercury is 18 degrees east of the Sun
    20 Mar 2018 Spring equinox, 12:15 PM EDT
    28 Mar 2018 Uranus lies just 4 minutes northwest of Venus
    8 May 2018 Jupiter reaches opposition
    21 Jun 2018 Longest day, 15 hours 1 minute at latitude 40 degrees North
    24 Jun 2018 Latest twilight
    26 Jun 2018 Saturn reaches opposition
    27 Jun 2018 Latest sunset
    6 Jul 2018 Earth is 94,507,803 miles from the Sun (aphelion), 1:00 PM EDT
    9 Jul 2018 Regulus lies 0.9 degrees from Venus
    11 Jul 2018 Mercury is 26 degrees east of the Sun
    26 Jul 2018 Mars reaches opposition
    27 Jul 2018 Total lunar eclipse for Europe, Africa, and Asia
    30 Jul 2018 Mars is nearest Earth and shows a disk 24.3 minutes across
    17 Aug 2018 Venus is 46 degrees east of the Sun
    1 Sep 2018 Spica is 1.2 degrees to the right of Venus
    7 Sep 2018 Neptune reaches opposition
    22 Sep 2018 Fall equinox, 9:54 PM EDT
    23 Oct 2018 Uranus reaches opposition
    6 Nov 2018 Mercury lies 23 degrees east of the Sun
    4 Dec 2018 Earliest end of evening twilight
    7 Dec 2018 Earliest sunset
    7 Dec 2018 Neptune is 0.3 degrees to lower right of Mars
    21 Dec 2018 Shortest day, 9 hours 20 minutes at latitude 40 degrees North
    21 Dec 2018 Winter solstice, 5:23 PM EST

  • Morning sky highlights
    21 Dec 2017 Winter solstice, 11:28 AM EST
    1 Jan 2018 Mercury reaches greatest elongation, 23 degrees west of the Sun
    3 Jan 2018 Earth is 91,401,983 miles from the Sun (perihelion), at 1:00 AM EST
    4 Jan 2018 Latest sunrise
    7 Jan 2018 Latest onset of morning twilight
    7 Jan 2018 Mars is 0.3 degrees to lower left of Jupiter
    13 Jan 2018 Mercury is 0.7 degrees below Saturn (use binoculars)
    31 Jan 2018 Total eclipse of the Moon for western North America
    2 Apr 2018 Saturn lies 1.3 degrees upper left of Mars
    29 Apr 2018 Mercury is at greatest elongation, 27 degrees west of the Sun
    14 Jun 2018 Earliest sunrise
    17 Jun 2018 Earliest morning twilight
    21 Jun 2018 Summer solstice, 6:07 AM EDT
    13 Jul 2018 Partial solar eclipse for the southeastern tip of Australia and a tiny bit of Antarctica
    11 Aug 2018 Partial solar eclipse across northern Europe and Russia, and northeast Asia
    26 Aug 2018 Mercury reaches greatest elongation, 18 degrees west of the Sun
    26 Oct 2018 Venus reaches inferior conjunction, 6 degrees south of the Sun
    14 Nov 2018 Spica is 1.2 degrees upper right of Venus
    15 Dec 2018 Mercury is at greatest elongation, 21 degrees west of the Sun
    21 Dec 2018 Mercury is 0.9 degrees to upper left of Jupiter

  • 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)
  • Caldwell Objects (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (Episode 7)
  • The Supermoon (Episode 8)
  • The Lunar Terminator (Episode 9)
  • The Sun (Episode 10)
  • The Planet Mercury (Episode 11)
  • The Planet Venus (Episode 12)
  • The Planet Mars (Episode 13)
  • The Planet Jupiter (Episode 14)
  • The Planet Saturn (Episode 15)
  • The Planet Uranus (Episode 16)
  • The Planet Neptune (Episode 17)
  • The Dwarf Planet Pluto (Episode 18)

  • Atmospheric Phenomenon (Halos, Sun Dogs, Light Pillars, Parhellic Circles)
  • Calendar (Anomalistic, Besselian, Calendar, Eclipse, Julian, Sidereal, Tropical)
  • 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. (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (or Luna) is the Earth's only natural satellite and was formed 4.6 billion years ago around some 30 - 50 million years after the formation of the solar system. The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth meaning the same side is always facing the Earth. (Episode 7)
  • The technical term for a Supermoon is perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. In astronomy, the term syzygy refers to the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies. When the Moon is close to the lunar nodes of its path during syzygy, it causes a total solar eclipse or a total lunar eclipse. (Episode 8)
  • The Apollo crews landed when the Sun was low in the eastern sky, a configuration that gave good shadow definition of the landing site terrain. Solar phase angles (0 degrees at local sunrise, 90 degrees at noon) at landing ranged from 4.7 degrees (Apollo 12) to 14.7 (Apollo 16). (Episode 9)
  • The Sun's core releases 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. The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon but is 400 times further away from Earth making them appear the same size. (Episode 10)

  • Uranus is a real oddball in our solar system. Its spin axis is tilted by a whopping 98 degrees, meaning it essentially spins on its side. No other planet has anywhere near such a tilt. For example, Jupiter is tilted by 3 degrees; Earth by 23 degrees.
  • 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 78°N. 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)).
  • 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.
  • Saturn would float if you would put it in water.
  • If you would place a pinhead sized piece of the Sun on the Earth you would die from standing within 145 km (90 miles) from it.
  • Space is not a complete vacuum, there are about 3 atoms per cubic meter of space.
  • Only 5% of the universe is made up of normal matter, 25% is dark matter and 70% is dark energy.
  • Neutron stars are so dense that a teaspoon of them would be equal to the weight of the entire Earth’s population.
  • The star Lucy in the constellation Centaurus is a huge cosmic diamond of 10 billion trillion trillion carats.
  • Seasons last 21 years on Uranus while each pole has 42 years of sunlight followed by 42 years of darkness.
  • Venus,on the other hand, does not have any seasons at all.
  • 1 year on Mercury consists of less than 2 days on Mercury.
  • There are as many oxygen atoms in a breath as breaths of air in the atmosphere.
  • Helium is the only substance in the universe that cannot be in solid form.It can’t be cold enough.
  • The coldest place in the universe is on Earth. In Wolfgang Ketterles lab in Massachusetts. 0.000000000001 degrees Kelvin.
  • The pistol star is the most luminous star known 10 million times the brightness of the Sun.
  • Saturn's moon Titan has liquid oceans of natural gas.
  • All the planets are the same age: 4.544 billion years.
  • Earth's Moon was most likely formed after an early planet named Theia crashed into Earth.
  • 8000 stars are visible with naked eye from Earth. 4000 in each hemisphere, 2000 at daylight and 2000 at night.
  • 90-99% of all normal matter in the universe is hydrogen.
  • Only 55% of all Americans knows that the Sun is a star.
  • Because of the speed the Sun moves at, solar eclipses can last at most 7 minutes and 58 seconds.
  • Lunar eclipses, however, can last 1 hour and 40 minutes.
  • All the coal, oil, gas, wood and fuel on Earth would only keep the Sun burning for few days.
  • A full Moon is nine times brighter than a half Moon.
  • When the Moon is directly above your head or if you stand at the equator, your weight is slightly less.
  • A single Quasar produce the same amount of energy as 1 trillion suns.
  • Just after the Big Bang, everything in the universe was in liquid form.
  • A planet nicknamed “The Genesis Planet” has been found to be 12.7 billion years old making it the oldest planet found.
  • The shape of the universe looks a lot like a brain cell.
  • Every year, the Moon is moving away from Earth by 3.8 centimeters.
  • The Moon spins around its axis in the same time it goes one lap around the Earth which makes us always see the same side of it.
  • Upsilon Andromeda B also only face one side to its star. One side is hot as lava while the other one is cold below freezing.
  • The average galaxy contains “only” 40 billion stars.
  • While in space astronomers can get taller, but at the same time their hearts can get smaller.
  • Mars surface is cowered with iron oxide (rust).
  • Only half a billionth of the energy released by the Sun reaches Earth.
  • Rogue planets are not bound by any star, brown dwarf or another planet which makes them free-float around the galaxy.
  • Sweeps 10 is the planet with the shortest orbital period found. It orbits its star in only 10 hours.
  • 85% of all stars in our galaxy are part of multiple-star systems.
  • Some brown dwarfs have liquid iron rain falling down on them.
  • The light emitting from the Sun is actually 30.000 years old.
  • Of the over 20 million meteors that are observable every day only one or two reach the surface of Earth.
  • The United States have approximately 3.500 astronomers, but over 15.000 astrologers.
  • The closest black hole to Earth is only 1.600 light-years away.
  • There are at least 10^24 stars in the universe.
  • Certain “star quakes” have been found to tear apart the surface of neutron stars.
  • Any free-moving liquid in outer space will form itself into a sphere due to surface tension.
  • The odds of being killed by falling space debris is 1 in 5 billion.
  • Neutron stars can rotate up to 500 times in 1 second.
  • The largest structure found in the universe is the Sloan Great Wall, a super cluster of galaxies 1.37 billion light-years wide.

6. The Buffer Zone

  • Astronomy is "free". (Episode 2)
  • Beggar's Night, Jokes and Halloween (while growing up in Iowa). (Episode 5)
  • Leonid meteor storm (1999); an annual Leonid shower may deposit 12 or 13 tons of particles across the entire planet. (Episode 6)
  • "Reading a Book" under the light of the full Moon. (Episode 7)
  • Resources and Links at The Astronomical Almanac website. (Episode 8)

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