Dawn Patrol: Following this Month’s ‘March of the Planets’

Slim Moon
A slender waning crescent Moon as seen from Jimena de la Frontera, Spain. Credit: Dave Dickinson

Are you hanging out at home this week, and looking to observe some naked eye planets? As we mentioned last week, while Venus is shining bright in the dusk sky, all of the other four naked eye planets of Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury are skulking in the early dawn.

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XMM Newton Catches a Tiny Flare Star in Action

Sometimes, even small stars can pack a mighty punch. And in the case of a flare star, the results can be awesome. Very awesome.

Astronomers uncovered just such an anomaly recently, culling through data from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton orbiting X-ray observatory: the first X-ray flare from a distant cool L-dwarf type star.

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Introducing Analog Sky’s 3D-Printed Giant Binoculars

Sky scanner
A set of Analog Sky binoculars, set up for a night's worth of observing. Credit: Analog Sky.

Update: we’re happy to announce that Analog Sky is making a special offer just for Universe Today readers for its new giant binoculars.

A unique, crowd-sourced, 3D-printed telescope is poised to revolutionize how we look at the sky.

Late last year, we announced Oregon-based innovator and amateur astronomer Robert Asumendi’s plans to release the Analog Sky telescope system, featuring a set of giant space binoculars. Now, we’re happy to announce that Robert has officially launched the project as a crowd-funded campaign on Indiegogo.

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Catch Comet T2 PanSTARRS This Spring

T2 PanSTARRS
The green Comet PanSTARRS passing near the Double Cluster in Perseus on January 22, 2020. Credit Alan Dyer.

Ready for the next great comet? First, the bad news. there is not (as of yet), a good naked eye comet in the cards, for 2020. The good news is… there is a fine binocular comet currently well-placed for northern hemisphere viewers: Comet T2 PanSTARRS.

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Our Guide to this Friday’s Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Penumbral Eclipse
A subtle penumbral lunar eclipse from 2016. Image credit and copyright: Dave Walker.

Ready for the very first lunar eclipse of the year? The first eclipse season of 2020 comes to an end Friday, with a penumbral lunar eclipse. This season overlaps with 2019, when it kicked off with the Boxing Day annular solar eclipse of December 26th, 2019.

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Top Astronomical Events for 2020

Mars Opposition
Bright yellow Mars approaching a close opposition in July 2018 shines over the waters of Middle Waterton Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park in southwest Alberta on the Alberta-Montana border. Mars is so bright it produces a glitter path on the water. The Milky Way is at right. This was from Driftwood Beach, windy as always this night. The sky is tinted green with bands of airglow, though there was a dim aurora to the north this night as well, quite unexpected. Waterton Lakes is a World Heritage Site and a Dark Sky Preserve. This is a stack of ten exposures for the ground to smooth noise (and blur the wind-rippled water) at f/3.2, and a single exposure for the sky at f/2.2, all 30 seconds with the Sigma 24mm Art lens and Nikon D750 at ISO 6400. Taken July 11/12, 2018 at the end of a 6-hour session training the Dark Sky Guides staff. It was a superb night, with everything to see in the sky.

Ready for another amazing year of sky watching and astronomy in 2020? Hard to believe, were already a fifth of the way into the 21st century. 2020 rounds out the final year of the second decade, promising an amazing year of skywatching to come.

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Waiting for Betelgeuse: What’s Up with the Tempestuous Star?

Betelgeuse
Orion rising on December 21, 2019 with yellow-red Betelgeuse at upper centre reportedly dimmer than usual as it drops to one of its occasional dim episodes as a long-period variable star. It is a red supergiant that varies between 0.0 and +1.3 magnitude. rrThis is a stack of 6 x 1-minute tracked exposures plus a single exposure through the Kenko Softon A filter to add the star glows. All on the iOptron Sky Guider Pro and with the stock Canon 6D MkII and 35mm lens at f/2.8. Taken from home in Alberta on a partly cloudy and foggy night.

Have you noticed that Orion the Hunter—one of the most iconic and familiar of the wintertime constellations—is looking a little… different as of late? The culprit is its upper shoulder star Alpha Orionis, aka Betelgeuse, which is looking markedly faint, the faintest it has been for the 21st century.

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