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Now Playing At The Sky Cinema… The Moon, Mars and Aldebaran

Illustration Courtesy of McDonald Observatory

Be on morning alert from July 26 through July 28 as the Moon, Mars and Aldebaran put on a delightful sky show that doesn’t require any special equipment – just cooperative weather! While this motion picture doesn’t have any sound, what it will have is color to delight the eye.

When it comes to viewing the night sky, most people don’t perceive much color. Things mostly appear black and white – with a little gray on the Moon thrown in for good measure. With experience, most skywatchers easily pick out blue stars and faded green in nebula, but what really gets our hearts ticking is red. And very few stars show that ruddy hue to unaided vision as well as the eye of Taurus the Bull – Aldebaran.

On the morning of July 26th, about an hour before dawn, the waning crescent Moon will be very close to Alpha Tauri and the contrast will make for a spectacular showing. The following morning, it will hover just above Mars and slide into position just below on July 27th. Take the time to really look at what you’re seeing. Of the three principle players, the only one that generates its own light is Aldebaran… the rest are products of reflection. While the star’s russet tone comes from being a cool giant, Mars’ color comes from iron oxide. Not only is the Moon reflecting back sunlight, but you’ll also see the DaVinci effect where the “dark side” is gently illuminated as well.

Don’t be surprised if folks you know ask you what’s going on. Close conjunctions such as this excites the eye! Why? When it comes to our eyes, almost every photoreceptor has one ganglion cell receiving data in the fovea. That means there’s almost no data loss and the absence of blood vessels in the area means almost no loss of light either. There is direct passage to our receptors – an amazing 50% of the visual cortex in the brain! Since the fovea doesn’t have rods, it isn’t sensitive to dim lights. That’s another reason why the conjunctions are more attractive than the surrounding starfields. Astronomers know a lot about the fovea for a good reason: it’s why we learn to use averted vision.

But don’t avert your vision when it comes to enjoying this morning show!

Original News Source: McDonald Observatory StarDate News.

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 24, 2011, 4:15 AM

    Er… Tammy, at the penultimate paragraph, there’s a superfluous “is” after the “it’s” in the last sentence.

    • Tammy Plotner July 24, 2011, 2:57 PM

      fixed! buy me a cup of coffee? ;)

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 24, 2011, 7:11 PM

        Cappuccino, espresso, or Americano?

    • Tammy Plotner July 24, 2011, 2:57 PM

      fixed! buy me a cup of coffee? ;)

    • Deejay Nunti July 24, 2011, 4:11 PM

      we`re dealing here with a russian named Ivan who is totaly offtopic in all topics. But he`s not ass insubordinate bastard ass he is a grammar nazi…

      • WaxyMary July 24, 2011, 6:03 PM

        @DJ Nut,

        Ivan3man serves a useful function for the writers here as well as the readers, clarity of expression can only help understanding, don’t you think?

        If he is off topic I do think the mods would take care of it, don’t you?

        He is rather an expert at Wiki, search for ivan3man_ in everything to see for your self, if the link below works, I have saved you a step.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&search=ivan3man_&fulltext=Search&ns0=1&ns1=1&ns2=1&ns3=1&ns4=1&ns5=1&ns6=1&ns7=1&ns8=1&ns9=1&ns10=1&ns11=1&ns12=1&ns13=1&ns14=1&ns15=1&ns100=1&ns101=1&ns108=1&ns109=1&redirs=0

        Mary

        • Torbjörn Larsson July 24, 2011, 7:40 PM

          Or how about this:

          After the comment preview, his behavior is tolerable. Before that there was a lot of noise in the physics signal. [Disclaimer: I blew up once, so is not neutral here.]

          Obsessive scrutiny is not helpful for either individuals or a community, it risks the former and muddle the topics for the latter.

          It is also often done based in a theory that language is prescriptive, which is a clearly invalid theory: it is a known fact that language evolves.

          Helpful comments are based on “I really don’t understand what you are trying to communicate here”, not “this sentence that and that sentence this.”

          The “how to write” stuff should be taken to a thread somewhere, where interested people can knock themselves out. It would certainly be more useful for those who need it.

          That has been done for the rest of the management of site stuff, when updates have been done. Which font to use, where to place things, what functions would be good. “How to write better” places in such context of “how to make the site better”.

          My 2 USDs.

          • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 24, 2011, 8:00 PM

            Torbjörn, read this.

          • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 3:20 AM

            I actually find Ivan3man’s corrections helpful. Besides, his kitty picture is both cute and devious. That’s one kitty you need to keep an eye on – hide your cookie jars!

          • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 25, 2011, 3:01 PM

            Thanks, Uncle_Fred!

          • William Sparrow July 26, 2011, 12:53 AM

            Wordsmiths are people too! Keep up your good work Ivan! I’ll even fetch your coat for you if you feel the need to make a hasty exit.

          • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 26, 2011, 3:07 AM

            Thanks, William!

          • Anonymous July 24, 2011, 11:20 PM

            I actually find Ivan3man’s corrections helpful. Besides, his kitty picture is both cute and devious. That’s one kitty you need to keep an eye on.

        • Torbjörn Larsson July 24, 2011, 7:47 PM

          I didn’t notice at first, what’s with the demeaning handle change?

          Do you think it reflects well on you or your argument?

          WaxyMary, it appears that your vision was clouded at the first paragraph: there’s a demeaning name change in the first sentence.

          • WaxyMary July 25, 2011, 1:58 AM

            TL,

            You are correct, I just glanced at the name and should have actually cut and pasted it, my error, thank you for the correction

            Editing that now to reflect the correct name.

            Mary

          • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 25, 2011, 2:33 AM

            I think that you were right the first time!

        • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 24, 2011, 7:58 PM

          Thanks, Mary!

          • squidgeny July 25, 2011, 12:41 PM

            I can see why some people find it annoying. “Grammar Nazism” tends to grate on people (it does on me). But it has been shown on more than one occasion that the writers here appreciate it, so I see no harm in its continuation.

            Still, it would be better if there was an easier way to communicate corrections to the writers, lest comment sections get sidetracked like this one has…

          • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 25, 2011, 1:46 PM

            Actually, on most occasions, I send an e-mail to Nancy, who is the Senior Editor on Universe Today, to point out any grammatical/typographical errors in any article on UT; however, she’s not always at her post to respond, so it’s easier to just mention it in the comments in order to give the writer some feedback.

  • Dilip G. Banhatti July 24, 2011, 10:52 AM

    Thanx for the poetry, Tammy! Poets ARE allowed a certain license!!

  • Anonymous July 24, 2011, 5:07 PM

    Uaah. Aldebaran is already up and running again? That means that Orion is also coming up? That means we’re approaching winter?

    Hm… I take a look out of my window… oh, yeah: It’s raining in western Germany, and we only have 12°C in the midst of July. Winter IS approaching!

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 24, 2011, 8:19 PM

      Better there than here.

      • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 9:29 AM

        Well, yeah. Germany also faced a long period of heat a few weeks ago, which was close to become a drought. Weather is quite extreme right now. We should mix the American and European weather patterns and everyone would be glad…. (why is there still no (effective) way to control the weather?)

        • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 25, 2011, 2:52 PM

          [W]hy is there still no (effective) way to control the weather?

          [Conspiracy Theory Mode]
          THERE IS WEATHER CONTROL!!!1!!1! BUT *THEY* DO NOT WANT *YOU* TO KNOW ABOUT HAARP!!!11!1!
          [/Conspiracy Theory Mode]

  • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 4:03 AM

    methinx scientists love to split hair as well as atoms!

    but the discriminating surfer is intel inuf to scroll ahead when the thread is lost and then read on when someone comes back to the thread.

  • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 4:07 AM

    methinx scientist just love to split hair as well as atoms. the discerning surfer of course can scroll on when the thread is lost and stop and read on rediscovering the desired thread.

    i’m not a scientist!

  • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 4:11 AM

    methinx scientists just love to split hair as well as atoms. the discerning surfer however scrolls on on losing the desired thread and stops and reads on on regaining the desired thread.

    i’m a lemon! (lay man)

  • Anonymous July 25, 2011, 4:14 AM

    sorry for the triple posting, my comment just kept disappearing after link verification and didn’t know it was already posted below!

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