Horologium and Hydra constellation posts coming soon!

Moons page — updated on February 16th, 2017

— Amazing AstroNews (8/22/2017) ⏬
Colloquially known as the Great American Eclipse, a total or partial eclipse was visible for much of the United States and partly in other Northern Hemisphere countries. The path of totality stretched through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina. — Some photos of the eclipse (↗) — The nearest Sun-like star to our planet, Tau (τ) Ceti, is believed to have four planets sized similarly to Earth! — The Cassini spacecraft's last look at Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is expected to occur on September 11th. According to EarthSky, "There are now fewer than five orbits left in the Grand Finale until Cassini’s awe-inspiring mission at Saturn comes to an end."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hubble Space Telescope on 60 Minutes

Infrared imagery of the Eagle Nebula stardust clouds (the so-called 'Pillars of Creation')

Vast: After 27 years in space, the Hubble Space Telescope is sending back some of its most beautiful and revealing images from across the vast universe. Bill Whitaker reports.

CBS 60 Minutes Video Segment (↗)
(Video may be unavailable depending on your browser version and settings.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Meteor Shower Guide


Regarding a comprehensive listing of meteor showers for the rest of 2017, I recommend the EarthSky Meteor Shower Guide (↗) page. This webpage contains plenty of details on meteor-shower dates and times, the number of shooting stars per hour, and where to look in the night sky.

Click here for the meteor shower guide on EarthSky

Amazing Astronomy News  ★  August 22nd, 2017

★ ★ ★ Colloquially known as the Great American Eclipse, a total or partial eclipse was visible for much of the United States and partly in other Northern Hemisphere countries. The path of totality stretched through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

★ ★ ★ Solar eclipses in recent years occurred mostly across the oceans, central Africa, and southern South America — a total eclipse in March 2015 came close to Iceland. The total eclipse of August 21st, however, crossed over millions of people in the United States — many folks came from other areas in the USA and beyond in hopes of witnessing a spectacular corona. Therefore, a myriad of photographs were captured ... and of course were posted on social media! Here are some photos of the eclipse (↗) from EarthSky.

★ ★ ★ The nearest Sun-like star to our planet, Tau (τ) Ceti, is believed to have four planets sized similarly to Earth! More details available in this EarthSky article (↗).

★ ★ ★ The Cassini spacecraft's last look at Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is expected to occur on September 11th. According to EarthSky (↗), "There are now fewer than five orbits left in the Grand Finale until Cassini’s awe-inspiring mission at Saturn comes to an end."

Friday, July 28, 2017

What is the Apparent Magnitude of Vulpecula's Brightest Star?

Apparent magnitude refers to the amount of a star's brightness as seen from a stargazer's eyes, without the aid of binoculars or a telescope. Lower numbers (including negatives) indicate brighter stars.

VULPECULA the Fox is one of the dimmest constellations, being difficult for amateur and more-experienced stargazers to spot. Vulpecula's brightest star is no exception! Alpha (α) Vulpeculae is one of the dimmest Alpha stars in all constellations. According to the WolframAlpha scientific search engine, the apparent magnitude of α Vulpeculae is 4.44 but may reach up to 4.40.

What is the Apparent Magnitude of Antares?

Apparent magnitude refers to the amount of a star's brightness as seen from a stargazer's eyes, without the aid of binoculars or a telescope. Lower numbers (including negatives) indicate brighter stars.

For Northern Hemisphere stargazers, this summer season is the opportune time to view SCORPIUS (Scorpion) in the southern direction. One of the brightest stars in the sky, Antares (α Scorpii), lies at the heart of massive, easily-visible constellation. According to the WolframAlpha scientific search engine, the apparent magnitude of Antares is typically 1.06 but can vary between 0.88 (brightest) and 1.16 (dimmest).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cassini Flies Between Saturn and its Rings

Saturn's Atlas moon in the distance and Saturnian rings in the foreground   

On April 26th, the Cassini spacecraft (NASA) of the bicontinental Cassini-Huygens program successfully entered the space between Saturn and its mesmerizing rings. Today's "dive" into this area is the first of a series of 22 "Grand Finale" orbits to collect photographs and data pertaining to Saturn, its rings, and its minuscule inner moons. Speaking of moons, the top-left photo above shows the Atlas moon in the distance and a sheet of rings in the foreground. Cassini's ultimate goal is to plunge into Saturn's gaseous realm on September 15th of this year. As of today at 1:00 P.M. Eastern Time, Cassini is about 267,000 miles away from Saturn's gaseous atmosphere. This is the Cassini Grand Finale's official website (↗), which includes a photo gallery of raw (unprocessed) imagery. By the way, Google celebrated the monumental occasion with a Google Doodle:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Peggy Whitson Set to Break American Record

Currently onboard the International Space Station, ISS Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson of the United States is on track to break the American record of total cumulative days spent in space. Monday, April 24th is when she is expected to surpass Jeff William's 534-day record. This is not Peggy's only record-shattering achievement. She is the first woman to command the International Space Station twice, and in March of this year she surpassed Sunita Williams by completing the most spacewalks (eight) as a female.

Next Monday (24th) at 10:00 A.M. EDT, a congratulatory phone call by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, President Donald J. Trump, and 1st Daughter Ivanka Trump will be given to Peggy. This call will be broadcasted live on NASA's Facebook page and website (NASA.gov/live) ↗. In light of this historic happening, the Dept. of Education, NASA, and the White House are teaming up to publicize this event in hopes that children in classrooms can watch and be inspired by astronautics, STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math), and courageous astronauts such as Peggy Whitson.
     — Original press release from NASA (↗)

By the way: on the first day of March in 2016, Scott Kelly earned the distinction of being the record-holding American in space for the longest continuous time — 340 consecutive days. In 1994 and 1995, Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov stayed in space for almost 437 days.

45th Anniversary of Apollo 16 Moon Landing

On April 21st, 1972 during the 10 o'clock hour (Eastern Standard Time, USA), the Apollo 16 mission's lunar module landed on the moon's surface. Charles M. Duke Jr. and John W. Young — Americans and NASA astronauts — completed moonwalks and gathered moon-geologic samples with the help of a lunar roving vehicle, while Thomas K. Mattingly II orbited the moon in and conducted observations from a command-service module. This mission was the penultimate one for the Apollo program, with Apollo 17 being the last. The NASA photo (↗) below shows Mr. Young saluting the American flag next to the Apollo 16 mission's lunar module and moon-roving vehicle.

Apollo 16 mission commander John W. Young salutes the USA flag next to the lunar module and moon-roving vehicle.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hercules Constellation

Symbol of Hercules, derived from the illustrative work of Denis Moskowitz and Alec Finlay at Suberic.netMicrosoft Clip Art of the Hercules constellation
Constellation map image coming soon

In proximity to the dense Milky Way band that is visible from Earth, HERCULES the Hero — the Roman name for the same Heracles character in Greek mythology — is a predominantly Northern Hemisphere constellation named after Jupiter's (Greek mythology: Zeus') heroic son. Hercules is the night sky's fifth-largest constellation and is one of 48 constellations to be listed by Ptolemy in his Almagest astronomical treatise. This vast constellation is surrounded by the following constellations: Aquila, Boötes, Corona Borealis, Draco, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Sagitta, Serpens Caput, Ursa Major, and Vulpecula.

Exoplanets seem to be discovered every day, and Hercules is home to at least twelve (12) confirmed stars with planets encircling them as of 2017. Two globular star clusters dominate over most other deep-sky objects within Hercules. Visible to the naked eye at apparent magnitude 5.8, Messier 13 (M13 and NGC 6205) boasts the designation of being the Northern Hemisphere's brightest globular cluster. This NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (↗) reveals M13's brilliant blue, green, white, and yellow stars. Another daily photo (↗) depicts Comet Garradd traversing in February 2012 past Messier 92 (M92 and NGC 6341), Hercules' other prominent globular cluster. Other notable deep-sky wonders include the spiral-galaxy-filled Hercules Galaxy Cluster (Abell 2151), Abell 2199 galaxy cluster, Arp 272 interacting galaxies, the circular Abell 39 planetary nebula, and NGC 6210 planetary nebula. More details about Hercules and its features can be found on the Constellation Guide website (↗).

Click on the images below to enlarge them to full size.

M13 globular star cluster, central area in the Hercules constellation       Hercules Cluster (Abell 2151) featuring mostly spiral galaxies

Hercules A radio source and its associated galaxy       NGC 6210 planetary nebula, located about 6,500 light years away in the southern section of Hercules

Image Credits (top-left, clockwise)
M13: NASA APOD (↗) — Marco Burali, Tiziano Capecchi, and Marco Mancini (Osservatorio MTM)
Hercules Cluster: NASA APOD (↗) — Ken Crawford
NGC 6210: Hubble Space Telescope (↗) — NASA and ESA
Hercules A: Hubble Space Telescope (↗) — NASA and ESA

Brightest Star: Kornephoros, Beta Herculis (β); 2.78 apparent magnitude

2nd-Brightest Star: Ras Algethi (Rasalgethi), Alpha Herculis (α); 2.78-3.35 apparent magnitude

Galaxies: Abell 2199 galaxy cluster (~300 galaxies), Hercules Cluster/Abell 2151 (~200 galaxies), Arp 272 interacting galaxies (IC 1179 and NGC 6050), and "supermassive" elliptical NGC 6166

Globular Star Clusters: Messier 13 (NGC 6205) and Messier 92 (NGC 6341)

Nebula: planetary Abell 39 and planetary NGC 6210

Radio Source: Hercules A in the 3C 348 galaxy

Ptolemy's 48 Constellations

Amazing Astronomy — 2nd-century writer, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy compiled a treatise spelling out over 1,000 major stars and 48 prominent constellations in the night sky. Over 1,000 years later, his Almagest (Almagestum) material was first published in the year 1515 in Venice (Italy), in the Latin language, and by Petrus Lichtenstein. Including the original Greek constellation names, the following is an alphabetical list of Ptolemy's forty-eight constellations:

          ANDROMEDA — Ἀνδρομέδα
          AQUARIUS — Ὑδροχόος (Hydrochoös)
          AQUILA — Ἀετός (Aetos)
          ARA — Θυμιατήριον (Thymiaterion)
          ARGO (present-day CARINA, PUPPIS, and VELA) — Ἀργώ
          ARIES — Κριός (Krios)
          AURIGA — Ἡνίοχος (Heniochos)
          BOÖTES — Βοώτης
          CANCER — Καρκίνος (Karkinos)
          CANIS MAJOR — Κύων (Kyon)
          CANIS MINOR — Προκύων (Prokyon)
          CAPRICORNUS — Αἰγόκερως (Aigokeros)
          CASSIOPEIA — Κασσιέπεια
          CENTAURUS — Κένταυρος
          CEPHEUS — Κηφεύς
          CETUS — Κῆτος
          CORONA AUSTRALIS — Στέφανος νότιος (Stephanos Notios)
          CORONA BOREALIS — Στέφανος (Stephanos)
          CORVUS — Κόραξ (Korax)
          CRATER — Κρατήρ
          CYGNUS — Ὄρνις (Ornis)
          DELPHINUS — Δελφίν (Delphin)
          DRACO — Δράκων (Drakon)
          EQUULEUS — Ἵππου προτομή (Hippou Protome)
          ERIDANUS — Ποταμός (Potamos)
          GEMINI — Δίδυμοι (Didymoi)
          HERCULES — Ἐνγόνασι (Engonasi)
          HYDRA — Ὕδρος (Hydros)
          LEO — Λέων
          LEPUS — Λαγωός (Lagoös)
          LIBRA — Χηλαί (Chelae)
          LUPUS — Θηρίον (Therion)
          LYRA — Λύρα
          OPHIUCHUS — Ὀφιοῦχος
          ORION — Ὠρίων
          PEGASUS — Ἵππος (Hippos)
          PERSEUS — Περσεύς
          PISCES — Ἰχθύες (Ichthyes)
          PISCIS AUSTRINUS — Ἰχθύς νότιος (Ichthys Notios)
          SAGITTA — Ὀιστός (Oistos)
          SAGITTARIUS — Τοξότης (Toxotes)
          SCORPIUS — Σκορπίος
          SERPENS — Ὄφις (Ophis)
          TAURUS — Ταῦρος
          TRIANGULUM — Τρίγωνον (Trigonon)
          URSA MAJOR — Ἄρκτος μεγάλη
          URSA MINOR — Ἄρκτος μικρά
          VIRGO — Παρθένος (Parthenos)

The original 1515-era publication — PDF files may take awhile to load — can be viewed on this Universität Wien (University of Vienna) webpage (↗).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lost in Space Easter Egg

Click this blog post title to see a little "Easter Egg" — if you're a fan of Google, you know what I'm talking about — on Amazing Astronomy!
(This feature applies whenever someone accesses a URL that doesn't link to an existing webpage, blog page, or post)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse in August 2017 — Publicize Your Event on an Interactive Map

Did you know that there will be a total solar eclipse, estimated to happen on August 21st, 2017? Unfortunately, people in most regions of Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania, Europe, and southern South America will not be able to witness this spectacle. Otherwise, many of these areas are prime locations for solar-eclipse events in years past, but not this time. A total or partial solar eclipse — depending on the geographic location — will likely be visible in North America, extreme western Africa (Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, etc.), extreme western Europe (Andorra, Belgium, western France, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, southern Norway, Portugal, Spain, UK, etc.), extreme northeastern Russia, and northern South American territories such as northern and central Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, northern Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

In the United States, the total eclipse is expected to cross parts of the following states, from east to west: South Carolina, North Carolina (panhandle) Georgia (northeast corner), Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois (southern), Missouri, extreme northeastern Kansas (north of Kansas City), Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Are you planning to host an event celebrating the solar eclipse — eclipse-watching party (please protect your eyes), astronomy club meeting, festival, movie night, observatory open house, collegiate lecture, workshop, planetarium show, podcast or webcast, radio or TV show, etc.? If so, there's a map for that! The American Astronomical Society (AAS) website features an interactive events map (↗). This eclipse will be quite historic in many places. According to the Adler Planetarium (↗) in Chicago, for example, seeing a near-total solar eclipse in the Windy City is a rare sight indeed: "The last time Chicago was this close to the path of totality for a total solar eclipse was in 1806—210 years ago!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Participate in Renaming this Blog

Hey everyone! I am pondering on whether or not I should change the name of the Little Astronomy Blog. I believe I originally chose this name because of humility, knowing that this blog is "little" compared to some other astronomy-related websites out there. However, I want to reinvigorate this astronomy news source with a brand-new name, but I want to hear your thoughts first! Should the Little Astronomy Blog be renamed or left alone? Feel free to 1) participate in the blog poll right below the logo, or 2) let me know with a comment below (you can provide a name or even be anonymous if you wanted to). Thanks for your participation! 🌟 🌠 💫

  • Keep the name
  • Rename to Amazing Astronomy
  • Rename to Astronomical Marvels
  • I have an idea: ________________

  • Saturday, February 11, 2017

    Comet, Meteor Fireball, and Moon Eclipse...Oh My!

    Earthlings around the world have been recently buzzing about several interesting astronomic phenomena. First of all, hundreds if not thousands of people in multiple U.S. states — Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — and Ontario, Canada witnessed an illuminated green fireball (↗). This turned out to be a meteor landing in Lake Michigan. Visible on the American Meteor Society's interactive fireball-spotting map (↗) after clicking the Show Trajectory button (top-left corner), the meteor's approximate path was believed to traverse near Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and other communities in eastern Wisconsin before ending near the western part of Lake Michigan. According to the AMS, this was the 14th-largest meteor ever spotted since recordkeeping began in 2005. Observers' details about the fireball are provided on the map webpage, and all observations can be downloaded in KML (Google Earth) format.

    In Other News...
    A faint penumbral eclipse of the moon was visible in the Western Hemisphere — especially North America and parts of western South America — on Friday, February 10th in the evening hours. People in Africa, Asia, and Europe might catch a glimpse in the early morning hours (Feb. 11th) and in the evening of Feb. 12th. Meanwhile, this eclipse will not be visible in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, and various Pacific island nations. During a penumbral eclipse, observant night-sky spectators can notice a subtle shadow engulf the full moon. Finally, this EarthSky webpage (↗) gives information about Comet 45P (Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková) — which will reach its closest distance on Earth on Feb. 11th (today). It is especially visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere. Stargazers should look to see if they can find a faint, green orb or patch through a telescope or powerful binoculars — seeing it without an astronomic instrument may be difficult. The comet is currently hovering in the constellation HERCULES. The following are other constellations through which Comet 45P will travel during the month of February: BÖOTES, CANES VENATICI, CORONA BOREALIS, LEO, and URSA MAJOR. Keep looking up!

    Monday, February 6, 2017

    Clash of the Calabash Nebula


    Located in the constellation PUPPIS the Stern Deck (Poop Deck), the Calabash Nebula — more colloquially known as the Rotten Egg Nebula due to its sulfuric stench — recently made headlines for its relatively rapid transition into a full-fledged planetary nebula. In about 1,000 years (virtually seconds in astronomical time), this nebula will complete its transition into a possibly spherical or ring-like planetary nebula. Celestial dust and gas is currently being propelled outward from a dying star, which is a low-mass one like the Sun and was once a red giant. This newest image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a brighter area of expelled material compared to images captured in previous years.

    Fireworks Galaxy Dazzles Us


    Spiraling over 22 million lights-years away from Earth, the aptly named Fireworks Galaxy (NGC 6946) and its star-studded realm can be spotted by stargazers with medium-power and advanced telescope equipment. NGC 6946 is located between the constellations CEPHEUS the King and CYGNUS the Swan.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016

    Quadrantid Meteor Shower Starting Off 2017

    Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere (especially in mid-latitudes) can be treated to a meteor shower to kick off the New Year. If you are able to see the northern part of BOÖTES the Herdsman constellation — located lower in the sky than Ursa Major (Big Dipper) — then you are able to see where the meteors (shooting stars) originate from before spreading across the sky. Quadrantid meteors showers are typically known to produce anywhere from a maximum of 25 to 100 and even 120 meteors per hour, but the peak time is rather narrow, specific, and yet not set-in-stone. The ideal time to watch is in the early hours of January 3rd (Tuesday) and/or 4th (Wednesday). According to the International Meteor Organization, the "sharp maximum" time is specifically set at or before 14:00 UTC (2 P.M.) universal time. Therefore, western areas of the Americas are most likely to see the peak activity in a dark sky. US states and other areas in the Northern Hemisphere located further east will have to witness this event at another time, especially before the IMO-suggested 14:00 UTC time.

    D i d   Y o u   K n o w ?
    According to EarthSky, the Quadrantid meteor shower received its name from a constellation that no longer exists. Named by astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795, Quadrans Muralis (Mural Quadrant) was located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon. Quadrans Muralis became obsolete because the International Astronomy Union did not list it (in 1922) as one of the 88 modern, agree-upon constellations.

    Blog Background

    The background has three Hubble Space Telescope images, which are accessible at this Hubble webpage: Hubblesite.org/categories/images.

    — LH 95 is a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, Dorado constellation.

    — Ant Nebula (also called Menzel 3) is an aptly-named planetary nebula located in the constellation Norma.
    — Egg Nebula (also called CL 2688) is a protoplanetary nebula in the constellation Cygnus.

    HubbleSite Image Links: LH 95, Ant Nebula, and Egg Nebula