Gear Galaxy Science & Astronomy Blog – A Place for Space
Welcome to Gear Galaxy – a blog where we discuss the latest events in the science and astronomy world (i.e. the universe). Stop by for science news, telescope and optical equipment reviews, and other interesting jabberwocky. Gear Galaxy is brought to you by OpticsPlanet – the best source for sport optics, cool gadgets, telescopes and astronomy equipment on this planet or any other that we know of so far.
This year astronomers all over the world will have something different to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. The well-known comet ISON will come the closest it will ever get to the sun. ISON has never been to the inner-edge of our solar system before. It has been traveling for approximately 5.5 million years to reach us from the far edges of our galaxy, and on Thursday Nov. 28th, Thanksgiving Day, it will finally reach its closest point to the sun.
For those of you who don’t know a comet is typically made of dust, rock and ice. When a comet moves closer to the sun, the ice particles are vaporized and take the dust with it causing the effect of a “tail” behind the now only rock mass. The comet ISON was discovered over a year ago in Sept 2012 by a pair of Russian astronomers. Since then, ISON has been shedding some mass on its journey toward the sun. Currently, it's estimated that the comet is around 1.2 miles wide. Back in July of this year it was estimated that ISON was about triple that size.
It is projected that on Thanksgiving Day when ISON makes its trip around the sun that three possible outcomes could occur. First, is that the comet’s mass will be strong enough and hold up and will produce a fairly bright tail that could be visible to the naked eye to early morning sky viewers. Second, the sun could break up ISON into several smaller chunks which still would be awesome to witness. And third, the comet could be so weak that the sun could just completely disintegrate it into nothing.
Should ISON survive its pass around the sun, be on the lookout for a spectacular show in the first or second week of December. If you wish to try and see the comet during this time all you would need is a pair of binoculars, and maybe not even those. If you have a telescope that would be even better and would give you a much clearer picture. Best locations to view ISON would be any place where it is dark and away from artificial light.
Why is it important? When it comes to the solar system there are a lot of unknowns. As “Star Trek” stats, it is the final frontier. ISON gives us a glimpse of what our solar system was like 4.5 billion years ago. One step closer to unlocking some secrets of our great big solar system. If you are interested in taking up astronomy check out OpticsPlanet for some great beginner telescopes and other gear.
Images Courtesy of Wiki Commons
If you are new to astronomy and telescopes, today’s product in focus is perfect for you. This product has the perfect combination of value, features, quality, and power. The Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Newtonian Telescope was designed for first-time buyers. If you are interested in getting started with your very own telescope and don’t want to spend thousands for a one, then I would highly recommend this Celestron.
The Celestron PowerSeeker Newtonian comes with coated glass optical components for increased image clarity and brightness. This along with the Newtonian reflectors enables you to resolve the faint details of thousands of celestial and deep-sky objects. The design of this telescope made it very easy to use with its equatorial mount and Newtonian optics.
Also, included with the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Newtonian Telescope is an aluminum tripod, an accessory tray, a 5×24 Finderscope, and three different eyepieces. You will literally have everything you need to start star-gazing for yourself. This is a high quality product that is easy to use that you can get a lot from that won’t break the bank. It is available now at OpticsPlanet.com so make sure to pick one up for yourself so you can become an expert astronomer.
Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of people outside at night with telescopes looking up at the night sky. For three years now, on the same night of October 12th people have been going out at night and observing the closest neighbor to Earth. On September 18, 2010 the International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) was formed for professional and amateur astronomers to study the moon and share their knowledge with one another.
Ever since 2010 this annual event has grown in dramatic fashion. Today nearly 300 events will be orchestrated in over 40 countries in such places as observatories, high schools, colleges, NASA organizations and of course whoever wants to throw their own little backyard soiree. The InOMN is sponsored by multiple astronomical and NASA organizations and is considered to be an educational outreach program. Some people might ask why have this event in October on this particular date and why not have it in the summertime when it is warming and people are more willing to stay outside later at night. Well, the reason would be at this time of year is during the waxing gibbous phase which is supposed to enhance the visibility of the lunar craters on the moon.
For someone like me still being new to astronomy, this is an excellent opportunity for me to branch out and learn as much as I can about the moon. With events going on all across the country and in many other countries it would be easy for me to seek out and learn from someone who is knowledgeable in this subject. And the great thing is, if I didn’t want to go outside I can find an event streaming live on the internet and still learn a few things. So, remember tomorrow night, October 12th make sure you don’t miss out on International Observe the Moon Night and find an event near you. You would be surprised at some of the neat things you could learn.
Image courtesy of WikiCommons
September 23 marked the first day where we officially left the Summer season behind and began the Autumn season, more commonly known as Fall. But, what some people probably don’t know is why. This year on September 22, at 20:44 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), or 4:44PM EST, the Autumn Equinox occurred, which means in nearly every part of the world daytime and nighttime were approximately the same length.
The Latin term for “Equinox” means “equal night”. Every year there are two equinoxes, one happens in March called the Spring Equinox, and the other that happens in September. Each time for that day only there is approximately 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of nighttime. The reason these two equinoxes happen is because on those two days alone, the Earth’s axis tilts neither away from nor towards the sun. Every other day of the year the axis has a slight tilt one way or the other making day or night longer than the other. The exact moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator is when these equinoxes occur. (timeanddate.com)
So what does all that technical jargon mean? Start expecting the sun to rise later and later every morning and set earlier and earlier every evening. For the northern hemisphere we changed seasons from summer to fall, and for the southern hemisphere it is changing from spring to summer.
Personally for me Fall is my favorite time of the year. So many different things are happening, football started, hunting season is right around the corner, the weather is comfortable, and the leaves will start changing soon. The time for camping or grilling out with family and friends is now, with late night bon fires and maybe even a smore or two.
Image Courtesy of WikiCommons
Stretching out as far as the orbit of Jupiter, the once known asteroid named Don Quixote appears to be more than what it was originally thought to be. This large near-earth asteroid has been wondering around for 30 years keeping to itself, now appears to be a comet instead. Astronomers from Northern Arizona University have discovered a faint coma around Don Quixote and what appears to be a tail behind it.
For those of you who don’t know, there are two main differences between an asteroid and a comet, chemical composition and orbit. Asteroids are made up of a chemical composition that does not produce an atmosphere, while comets have a nucleus composed of volatile material that loosens nearer to the sun which gives it a coma appearance along with a thin transient atmosphere. As far as the orbit goes, an asteroid has an elliptical orbit in which its distance from the sun does not vary too much. A comet has an eccentric orbit causing its distance from the sun to vary greatly.
Upon further research using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope astronomers have discovered carbon dioxide emissions and presumably water ice about 11 miles long on Don Quixote using Spitzer’s infrared wavelengths. This gives Don Quixote the chemical composition needed to be a comet. The tail discovered behind it gives the impression that its orbit is not elliptical but rather eccentric. The exciting news about this discovery is it implies that water ice and carbon dioxide may exist on other near-Earth asteroids as well, which can open up a lot of doors and possibilities when exploring the unknown of space.
The Spitzer Telescope celebrated a momentous occasion a few days ago. On August 25 at 5:35 AM of this year, the infrared telescope celebrated its tenth birthday in space. For a whole decade Spitzer has been orbiting our planet keeping a watchful eye out in the furthest parts of the galaxy and bringing us back phenomenal images and information that have helped us understand the universe just a little bit better. With its infrared vision, Spitzer can see things other telescopes can’t in the far, cold, and dusty side of the universe.
The Spitzer telescope was originally called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility. After it launched in 2003 it was renamed to Spitzer in honor of astronomer Lyman Spitzer who was considered to be the “father of space telescopes”. Many astronomers might remember Spitzer surprising the world by discovering the largest of Saturn’s rings. This giant ring is made up of a wispy band of ice and dust particles that Spitzer was only able to pick up due to the glow of heat that it gives off. Another discovery that Spitzer made that some say was its most astonishing find came from outside of our solar system. It was able to detect light coming from a planet, the first telescope to do this. Many astronomers were thrilled with this discovery because it was originally not in Spitzer’s design to do this.
The Spitzer Telescope has counted stars, investigated planets and galaxies, studied asteroids and comets, and discovered volleyball shaped spheres of carbon in space (known as buckyballs). Even the United States hopes to utilize Spitzer to achieve his goal of visiting an asteroid by the year of 2025. I think it is safe to say that over the past decade we have made drastic steps in exploring the furthest parts of the universe, and a big reason for that is the Spitzer Telescope. It makes me excited and anxious about the discoveries the next ten years will bring.
All images courtesy Wiki Commons
All you astronomers out there, did you get a chance to get your telescopes out and see the famous Perseids Meteor Shower that happened last weekend? I missed it this time but you can be sure I won’t miss the next one. It was recorded that the meteor shower peaked on the mornings of August 11-13. In past years it has been known for this meteor shower to produce anywhere from 50 to 100 meteors per hour, and that the amount of meteors increase as it gets later into the night and early morning. I recently found out, and will be interesting to those who are constellation enthusiasts, that the Perseid Meteor Shower radiates from a star in the constellation Perseus the Hero, hence the name “Perseids Meteor Shower”.
I recently started an interest in astronomy within the past year. So I am, what some consider, to be an amateur. The whole unknown part is what really drew me to it. To think that we have only explored a small fraction of the universe,with the endless possibilities that could be out there. When I was little, telescopes used to be very expensive so it wasn’t until recently my interest in astronomy started. Telescopes are actually quite affordable now. Even some of the best brands like Celestron and Meade have telescopes under $100.
So, if you missed the Perseid Meteor Shower last weekend don’t worry, they happen at the same time every year around August 12th. If you’re like me and you don’t want to wait that long, just keep your eyes up in the sky in the beginning of October. The Draconid Meteor Shower is scheduled to peak around the nights of October 7-8. This meteor shower is not as big as the Perseids but some years have recorded up to 100 meteors in a single hour.
The news is abuzz recently with excitement over a brand-new picture of the infant universe, the Voyager II leaving the solar system, and a slew of new and exciting space exploration. Could this be the rebirth of an age of scientific wonder and excitement? I sure hope so. Since I was a kid, the universe has fascinated me, and I counted that interest amongst my hobbies. But technology is screaming along at a faster pace than any of us can keep up. I’m sure you’ve seen the post about beginner’s astronomy. It’s a fantastic guide and a great place to start.
Truly, just never stop following the news about the stars. Plus, telescopes are cheaper than ever before, so there’s really no reason not to have at least a beginner’s telescope pointed to the heavens. Try taking a peek at Jupiter, for instance. I’ve read some articles recently that have suggested that Jupiter’s moons may be the best option for human exploration and colonization in the solar system. That’s all speculation of course, and probably outside of the reach of our lifetimes, but why not look at the planet in all of its giant red spot glory?
Maybe you know of someone who is just starting out. We all remember that time, when the sheer size of the universe was enough to leave us in awe and wonder. Maybe you still feel that way (I sure hope you do). Just keep looking up, and check back here for more great stuff to help you along the way.
Whether you’re just a beginner, just starting to look at the stars, or a more advanced stargazer – this Celestron Telescope Accessory Kit may be just the thing you’re looking for. Now, no matter what I’m doing – whether it’s astronomy or any other hobby – I like to ensure that I’ve got everything I need, close at hand, and available to move at any time. That’s exactly what this basic astronomy kit from Celestron is offering – a slew of eyepieces and filters for your Celestron telescope.
Featuring 5 Plossel eyepieces of varying size, a Barlow lens, six color eyepiece filters, and a moon filter, you’ll have a great time exploring the possibilities! They’re all easily attachable to your Celestron telescope, plus the all package nicely in a carrying case. Best of all – the kit will do anything but break the bank.
I’d recommend this kit to anyone, as it’s great for beginners and advanced astronomers. In fact, I might pick one up soon!
I remember first getting interested in Astronomy years ago. I’d look up at the sky and just say “wow!” Had no idea what I was looking at as a kid. Didn’t know what shapes were what, couldn’t even tell what was a star and what was a planet. Then, around 15 years old, I finally got the drive to actually want to know something. Thankfully, I have an Uncle who’s been a pretty serious hobbyist most of his life, so he got me started. I would bug him whenever I got the opportunity and just ask question after question about how things worked. Why I can see this, but not that. When does this happen, etc.. He also hooked me up with some Sky Maps and other stuff to get me started. So I figured I’d pass along some of the good pieces to start with. Even before you get a telescope, you can have fun learning the skies, so here’s a little kit to start you off.
Now, I always pack a Green Laser Pointer with me. You can’t use red because the beam isn’t strong enough to let you see what you are pointing at. With green, or rather, any color other than red, you actually see the beam shine all the way to the object you’re trying to point out. This is great for helping me show my son or a group of friends to Orion, Polaris, or whatever else I’m trying to show.
When you stay out in the dark long enough, you let your eyes acclimate to the darkness. This lets you see so much more. Far enough away from the big city, and from the street and house lights is when it really gets interesting. The last thing you want to do when it’s getting good is turn on some bright flashlight to blind you. It’s always good to bring along a red light to help you find your way. Red is easier on the eyes and won’t affect the dilation of the pupil so you won’t require more time to readjust.
With the astronomy tips above, anyone can get started on the night skies. If you can get interested with just that, then you know investing in a good telescope will open the door to even more starlight adventures. I’ll share more about telescopes in my next post. Keep watching!!