Casual Astronomy, Spaceflight News and Lower California Weather

α-Aurigid Meteor Shower Peak Early Morning September 1 ••••• Jupiter ESE after Sunset, Sets WSW before Dawn ••••• Venus, Mars & Other Characters East at Dawn (see comment 120)

By: LowerCal, 7:04 PM GMT on August 02, 2009

Scroll down for current & future dates, farther down for past dates.

Today - SpaceWeather.com
also Earth & Sky | Tonight & 365 Days of Astronomy
This Week - SkyandTelescope.com - This Week's Sky at a Glance
also Jack Horkheimer - Star Gazer, Current Scripts
This Month - SkyandTelescope.com - Sky Tour Podcasts
also HubbleSite - Tonight's Sky: Your guide to constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and events
& International Year of Astronomy Monthly Discovery Guides
Anytime - Stellarium
also Sky & Telescope Interactive Sky Chart

Visible Satellites:
Simplest - Satellite Flybys by SpaceweatherPhone.com
More satellites and more info - Heavens-Above.com

Launches - Spaceflight Now - Worldwide Launch Schedule
Reentries - Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies - Upcoming & Recent Reentries

All events described below can be viewed with your naked eye. Occasionally simple binoculars will improve the view and that will be noted.

α (alpha) Aurigid Meteor Shower Peak

WU Photo: Searching for Shooting Stars by johnlanoue Monday October 8, 2007
Early Morning August 31 / September 1
The α (alpha) Aurigid meteor shower has produced unexpected short outbursts with rates of up to 130 meteors per hour visible from ideal locations. Best visibility this year will be after moonset and before dawn - about about 4:30-5:00am local daylight saving time.

Best areas for watching are the Northern Hemisphere. The rate will probably peak around 0100 GMT September 1. This means the optimum viewing areas will probably be Russia, western Asia and the Middle East.

Source and more information at
α-Aurigids, IMO Meteor Shower Calendar 2009 | International Meteor Organization

For Better Viewing
Find a Dark Location
A dark country location without "security" lights is best. If that's not convenient try to find a location where you can't see any lights or lighted surfaces. A nearby park or maybe even your backyard would qualify. On a beach facing the water could be a good alternative.

Where to Look
Meteors can appear in any part of the sky. To see the most meteors face the darkest part of your sky and look at least 45° above the horizon.

Be Comfortable
A reclining chair will keep you from getting a stiff neck and tired feet. A sleeping bag will keep you warm. (Even in the summertime you can get chilly at night if you are just lying still.) Insect repellent will keep you from being distracted by those little pests.

General Meteor Shower Information
An easy to read introduction to meteors with an interesting summary of annual showers is
Astronomy - Meteors and meteor showers - Francis Reddy.

The two primary sources of most of what you'll read about meteor showers are
The American Meteor Society and
The International Meteor Organinzation.


Moon Near Jupiter
September 1-2
The very bright cream colored light near the moon is the planet Jupiter.


○ Full Moon

WunderPhoto: Vegas Lights by AKAirman Wednesday August 5, 2009
Exact at
September 4
1603 GMT
12:03pm EDT
9:03am PDT.


Rises near sunset and sets near sunrise. At those times the Moon may seem huge (the Moon illusion) and unusually colored. The yellow/orange/red appearance of the moon at the horizon is at least partly for the same reason the sky appears blue!


Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are aligned resulting in stronger tides - higher highs, lower lows and faster flows (see SPRING-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Also see The Moon And Tides.


Shuttle Discovery Launch, Mission & Landing

Photo credit: NASA TV
Mission: STS-128
Spacecraft & Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery
Launch from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
targeted for
August 24
0558 GMT ±5min
1:58am EDT ±5min (local time)
August 23
10:58pm PDT ±5min.
August 25
0536 GMT ±5min
1:36am EDT ±5min (local time)
August 24
10:36pm PDT ±5min.
August 26
0510 GMT ±5min+3min
1:10am EDT ±5min+3min (local time)
August 25
10:10pm PDT ±5min+3min.

August 29
0359 GMT ±5min
August 28
11:59pm EDT ±5min (local time)
8:59pm PDT ±5min.

Docking with ISS (International Space Station)
to be announced.
August 27
0228 GMT
August 26
10:28pm EDT
7:28pm PDT.

August 31
0103 GMT
September 1
August 30
9:03pm EDT
6:03pm PDT.

Undocking from ISS
to be announced.
September 4
2048 GMT
4:48pm EDT
1:48pm PDT.

September 8
1927 GMT
3:27pm EDT
12:27pm PDT.

Landing at Kennedy Space Center
to be announced.
September 7
0040 GMT
September 6
8:40pm EDT (local time)
5:40pm PDT.

September 10
2308 GMT
7:08pm EDT (local time)
4:08pm PDT.

Find (when published) landing options at NASA - Launch and Landing
and the landing paths (when published) at NASA - STS-128 Landing Ground Tracks.

Launch status updates at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.

You can follow the progress of the Space Shuttle mission online at
Spaceflight Now | STS-128 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center
and NASA - Space Shuttle.

You can dig for more info at
Spaceflight Now - Index of /shuttle/sts128 and
CBS News Space Place - Space Shuttle Status Report.

Live online coverage of the mission will be on NASA TV - see the NASA TV Schedule.


Cape Canaveral Atlas V Launch

Photo credit: NASA
Mission: PAN (classified)
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V 401
Launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
September 8
2135-2345 GMT
5:35-7:45pm EDT (local time)
2:35-4:45pm PDT.

Launch status updates are at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.
More details on the launch blog might appear at
Spaceflight Now | Atlas Launch Report | Mission Status Center
as the launch approaches.

There is currently no information on the launch at the usual source for ULA launches
United Launch Alliance
and there might be no live webcast.


Summaries of Sky Events for the Year
2009
SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Highlights - Eclipses in 2009
SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Highlights - Meteor Showers in 2009


***** Past Dates *****

Lunar Apogee (Greek apo, away from + Greek Gaia, Earth)

Exact at
August 4
0043 GMT
August 3
8:43pm EDT
5:43pm PDT.

The Moon is at its farthest distance in its non circular orbit around Earth. The Moon is about 12% farther than at its closest distance (perigee - Greek peri, near + Greek Gaia, Earth) and the Moon's gravitational influence on Earth and its oceans is about 20% less (due to the inverse square law).


Penumbral Lunar Eclipse and Full Moon

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Maximum at
August 6
0039 GMT
August 5
8:39pm EDT
5:39pm PDT.

The Sun, Earth and Moon are so closely aligned this date that part of the Moon will pass through partial Earth shadow. The shading of the southern edge of the moon will be very subtle and not easily detectable. The best chance of seeing a change is when the Moon is high in the sky at maximum eclipse. This will occur over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

USNO Eclipse Map

NASA Eclipse Map

○ Full Moon

WunderPhoto: Full Moon Over Yonkers by Ralfo Tuesday July 7, 2009
Exact at
August 6
0055 GMT
August 5
8:55pm EDT
5:55pm PDT.


Rises near sunset and sets near sunrise. At those times the Moon may seem huge (the Moon illusion) and unusually colored. The yellow/orange/red appearance of the moon at the horizon is at least partly for the same reason the sky appears blue!


Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are aligned resulting in stronger tides - higher highs, lower lows and faster flows (see SPRING-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Due to the very recent lunar apogee (August 4 0043 GMT, August 3 8:43pm EDT, 5:43pm PDT) these spring tides will be some of the tamest ones of this year.

Also see The Moon And Tides.


Moon Near Jupiter
August 5-6
The very bright cream colored light near the moon is the planet Jupiter.


Perseid Meteor Shower Peak

WU Photo: Searching for Shooting Stars by johnlanoue Monday October 8, 2007
Early Morning August 12
At the peak of the Perseid meteor shower about 100 meteors per hour are visible from ideal locations. This year no location will be ideal as the bright mostly full moon will be nearby.

Best areas for watching are the Northern Hemisphere the farther north the better. The highest numbers will be visible in the hours before dawn.

More information at:

NASA - The 2009 Perseid Meteor Shower

Viewing Activity from the 2009 Perseid Meteor Shower | American Meteor Society

IMO Meteor Shower Calendar 2009 | International Meteor Organization

For Better Viewing
Find a Dark Location
A dark country location without "security" lights is best. If that's not convenient try to find a location where you can't see any lights or lighted surfaces. A nearby park or maybe even your backyard would qualify. On a beach facing the water could be a good alternative.

Where to Look
Meteors can appear in any part of the sky. To see the most meteors face the darkest part of your sky and look at least 45° above the horizon.

Be Comfortable
A reclining chair will keep you from getting a stiff neck and tired feet. A sleeping bag will keep you warm. (Even in the summertime you can get chilly at night if you are just lying still.) Insect repellent will keep you from being distracted by those little pests.

General Meteor Shower Information
An easy to read introduction to meteors with an interesting summary of annual showers is
Astronomy - Meteors and meteor showers - Francis Reddy.

The two primary sources of most of what you'll read about meteor showers are
The American Meteor Society and
The International Meteor Organinzation.


◑ Last (or Third) Quarter Moon

Exact at
August 13
1855 GMT
2:55pm EDT
11:55am PDT.


Rises near midnight and sets near noon. Morning crescent moons for a week after. Each one thinner and closer to the horizon.


Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are at right angles resulting in weaker tides - lower highs, higher lows and slower flows (see NEAP-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Also see The Moon And Tides.


Moon Covers the Seven Sisters

Image created with Stellarium.
Early Morning August 14
For most of the Earth the moon will pass near the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters. For virtually all of North America and some of South America the Moon will cover and uncover one or more of the sisters.

The Pleiades star cluster is in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Below the Pleiades is the star Aldeberan, the red eye of the Bull. Lower and left is the reddish planet Mars.


Here is a list of links to maps and time tables for the disappearance & reappearance at numerous cities of the six brightest stars of the Pleiades.
Electra,
Taygeta,
Maia,
Merope,
Alcyone and
Atlas.

OK, I know you're thinking, "Atlas doesn't sound like a sister!" You're right. The father of the Pleiades is Atlas and right next to him stands Pleione their mother. With good sky conditions sometimes Pleione is visible to the naked eye. Two of the sisters, Caleano and Sterope, are not generally visible to the naked eye.


Moon, Mars & Two Red Stars

Image created with Stellarium.
Dawn August 16
The reddish planet Mars stands a little to the upper left of of the Moon. Farther to the upper left is the second brightest red star in the sky Aldebaran. A similar distance to the lower left of the Moon is the brightest red star in the sky Betelgeuse. Below is the brilliant white planet Venus. Venus and the Moon will be easily visible right up until sunrise. Binoculars will be needed to see Mars, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse as dawn brightens the eastern sky.


Crescent Moon & Venus in Gemini

Image created with Stellarium.
Dawn August 17
The crescent moon appears with the brilliant white planet Venus. While Venus and the Moon will be easily visible right up until sunrise the pattern of the constellation Gemini the Twins will will start to fade at the first light of dawn.


Cape Canaveral Delta II Launch

Photo credit: Patrick Air Force Base
Mission: GPS 50 aka Global Positioning System IIR-21 M8
Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7925
Launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
August 17
1035-1049 GMT
6:35-6:49am EDT
3:35-3:49am PDT.

This will be the final Delta II launch by the United States Air Force. The final payload currently scheduled for Delta II is a NASA moon mission in 2011.

Launch status updates are at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule
with more details on the launch blog at
Spaceflight Now | Delta Launch Report | Mission Status Center
as the launch approaches.

You can find more information on the launch
and a live webcast at United Launch Alliance.


Mercury Passes Saturn

Image created with Stellarium and GIMP.
After Sunset August 15-17
Those with a clear western horizon can see the planet Mercury passing the planet Saturn in twilight. Mercury will be the brighter of the two. Binoculars will likely be needed to see Saturn and maybe even to spot Mercury.


Lunar Perigee (Greek peri, near + Greek Gaia, Earth)

Exact at
August 19
0454 GMT
12:54am EDT
August 18
9:54pm PDT.

The Moon is at its closest distance in its non circular orbit around Earth. The Moon is about 10.5% closer than at its farthest distance (apogee - Greek apo, away from + Greek Gaia, Earth) and the Moon's gravitational influence on Earth and its oceans is about 25% greater (due to the inverse square law).


Dark Moon (a.k.a. astronomical new moon)

Exact at
August 20
1002 GMT
6:02am EDT
3:02am PDT.


Lower and thinner morning crescent moons the week before. Higher and thicker evening crescent moons the week after.


Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are aligned resulting in stronger tides - higher highs, lower lows and faster flows (see SPRING-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Also see The Moon And Tides.


) Thinnest Evening Crescent Moon (the original meaning of "new moon")

WunderPhoto: One day old Moon by LaddObservatory Friday June 15, 2007
August 20, 21 or 22
Low in the western sky soon after sunset.

August 20 it may be possible to spot the the very thin new moon from the South Pacific east of the International Dateline.

August 21 it should be possible to find the very thin new crescent from Oceania, southernmost Asia, Africa, South and Central America and southern North America.

By August 22 the thin crescent should be fairly easy to find from almost everywhere on Earth.


Thin Crescent Moon, Mercury & Saturn

Image created with Stellarium.
After Sunset August 21
Those with a clear western horizon can see the the very thin crescent moon below the planet Mercury and the planet Saturn in twilight. Binoculars will help in spotting and seeing all three.


Thin Crescent Moon, Mercury & Saturn

Image created with Stellarium.
After Sunset August 22
The thin crescent moon, planets planet Mercury and planet Saturn form a line above the western horizon in twilight. Binoculars will help in spotting and seeing Mercury and Saturn.


Vandenberg Minuteman III Launch

Image credit: USAF
Mission: Unarmed ballistic missile test
Target: Near the Kwajalein Atoll
Launch Vehicle: Minuteman III
Launch from Vandenberg AFB, California
Morning August 23?
time to be announced.
3:01-9:01am PDT (local time).


Crescent Moon Near Spica

Image created with Stellarium.
Early Evening August 23 & 24
These evenings the Moon is near the bright star Spica. Spica is one of the bluest stars in the sky. If it doesn't seem blue to your naked eye try looking through binoculars and unfocusing them to make Spica appear as a disk instead of a point of light.

When the Moon is not near it Spica and the bright honey colored star Arcturus are still easy to find using the handle of the Big Dipper. Start with the arc of the handle then "Arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica."


◐ First Quarter Moon

Exact at
August 27
1142 GMT
7:42am EDT
4:42am PDT.


Rises near noon and sets near midnight. Evening crescent moons for a week before. Each one thicker and higher above the horizon.


Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy
The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are at right angles resulting in weaker tides - lower highs, higher lows and slower flows (see NEAP-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Also see The Moon And Tides.


Moon near the Scorpion's Heart

Image created with Stellarium.
August 27
This evening the Moon is near the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, reddish star Antares.

To the east is the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Sagittarius is a centaur, half human and half horse, who holds a bow and arrow aimed at the Scorpion. If you don't have dark skies the only stars of the Archer you may see form his bow, arrow and arm. This collection of stars can also be imagined as the Teapot.



Lunar Apogee (Greek apo, away from + Greek Gaia, Earth)

Exact at
August 31
1105 GMT
7:05am EDT
4:05am PDT.

The Moon is at its farthest distance in its non circular orbit around Earth. The Moon is about 12% farther than at its closest distance (perigee - Greek peri, near + Greek Gaia, Earth) and the Moon's gravitational influence on Earth and its oceans is about 20% less (due to the inverse square law).




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Updated: 10:00 PM GMT on August 31, 2009

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