Post by: David Dickinson
Where have all the planets gone? The end of February 2018 sees the three naked eye outer planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn– hiding in the dawn. It takes an extra effort to brave the chill of a February morning, for sure. The good news is, the two inner planets – Mercury and Venus – begin favorable dusk apparitions this week, putting on a fine sunset showing in March.
Happy New Year 2018.
One of the toughest choices we made last year was to not write a full astronomical guide for 2018. We’ve done this in one iteration or another now for about a decade, but an ongoing project (also astronomical in nature) has consumed most of our writing hours… but we recently realized that we can still take stock in what’s in the sky for the year ahead… and give you a sneak peek at part of our project for the end of 2018.
Yeah, we’re still all waiting for that next great “Comet of the Century” to make its presence known. In the meantime, we’ve had a steady stream of good binocular comets over the past year both expected and new, including Comet C/2017 O1 ASASSN1 (name and link), 45/P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková and Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák (links). Now, another newcomer Comet Heinze is set to bring 2017 in over the finish line.
Up early Sunday morning? Or perhaps, as we often do, you’re “pulling an all-nighter,” out observing until the break of dawn. Well, the clockwork celestial mechanics of the Universe has a treat in store on the morning of October 15th, as the waning crescent Moon occults (passes in front of) the bright star Regulus (Alpha Leonis the “Little King” or “Heart of the Lion”) for the contiguous United States, Mexico and southern Canada.
Ready to hunt for low-flying space rocks? We’ve got an interesting pass of a Near Earth Asteroid this upcoming U.S. Labor Day weekend one that just slides over the +10th magnitude line into binocular range.
We’re talking about asteroid 3122 Florence which passes 4.4 million miles from our fair planet (that’s 7 million kilometers, about 18 times the distance from Earth to the Moon) this Friday on September 1st at 12:06 Universal Time (UT)/ 8:06 AM Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT).
They came, they saw, they battled clouds, traffic and strange charger adapters in a strange land. Yesterday, millions stood in awe as the shadow of the Moon rolled over the contiguous United States for the first time in a century. If you’re like us, your social media feed is now brimming with amazing images of yesterday’s total solar eclipse.
It’s hard to believe: we’re now just one short weekend away from the big ticket astronomical event for 2017, as a total solar eclipse is set to cross over the contiguous United States on Monday, August 21st.
Celestial mechanics is a sure thing in this Universe, a certainty along with death and taxes that you can bet on. There are a few key question marks come eclipse day, however, something that we can only speak with a few intelligent assumptions out 72 hours out.