The Great Conjunction

The 2020 great conjunction of #Jupiter and #Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! 2020’s extra-close Jupiter-Saturn conjunction won’t be matched again until the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of March 15, 2080

Express.uk  What is the Great Conjunction?
Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, in fact, that they are visible even from city lights

Dr Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, has revealed why this conjunction has attracted so much attention.

He told Express.co.uk: “It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this ‘great conjunction’.

“The conjunction can be seen by mostly everyone on Earth. Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, in fact, that they are visible even from city lights. “Folks just need to have a clear view of the southwestern horizon about an hour after sunset.”

Dr Throop explained why NASA refers to this event as a Great Conjunction of planets.

He said: “For thousands of years, people have had a strong connection to events in the sky.

“Modern historians and astronomers have identified many cosmic events that can be tied to culture or religion.

“There was a conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter in the year seven BC.

Read more at Express.uk re: Next Great Conjunction etc

A Wonderful Calendar of 2013 Celestial Events

  •  January 3, 4 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on January 3 & 4, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. The near last quarter moon will hide many of the fainter meteors with its glare. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.

Jupiter Occultation of July 15 2012 from Macedonia

Jupiter Occultation of July 15 2012 from Macedonia

  • January 11 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:44 UTC.
  • January 27 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:38 UTC.
  • February 10 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 07:20 UTC.
  • View of asteroid 2012 DA14's close pass by Earth on Feb. 15, 2013.

    In this oblique view, the path of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 is seen passing close to Earth on Feb. 15, 2013.
    CREDIT: NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office

  • Discovery image of the newfound comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), taken by Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope.

    Discovery image of the newfound comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), taken by Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope.
    CREDIT: Institute for Astronomy/University of Hawaii/Pan-STARRS

  • February 25 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 20:26 UTC.
  • March 11 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:51 UTC.
  • March 20 – March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 11:02 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.
  • March 27 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 09:27 UTC.
  • a lunar halo

Lunar Halo – Lunar and solar halos are caused when light passes through ice crystals formed in clouds through the sky. Credit: Shingo Takei

  • April 10 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 09:35 UTC.
  • April 20 – Astronomy Day Part 1. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for theAstronomical League.
This SDO image shows the Sun at 171 Angstroms just before the flare erupted from the active region. Credit: NASA/SDO
This SDO image shows the Sun at 171 Angstroms just before the flare erupted from an active region. Credit: NASA/SDO  (Via Sen)
  • April 21, 22 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. The gibbous moon could be a problem this year, hiding many of the fainter meteors in its glare. It will set before sunrise, providing a short window of dark skies. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.
  • April 25 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:57 UTC.
  • April 25 – Partial Lunar Eclipse. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
    (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • April 28 – Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.
  • May 5, 6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7. The crescent moon will hang around for the show, but should not cause too many problems. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight, far from city lights.
  • May 10 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 00:28 UTC.
  • May 10 – Annular Solar Eclipse. The path of annularity will begin in western Australia and move east across the central Pacific Ocean. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • May 25 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:25 UTC.
  • May 28 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The two bright planets will be within 1 degree of each other in the evening sky. The planet Mercury will also will also be visible nearby. Look to the west near sunset.
  • May 25 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, western Europe, and western Africa. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • June 8 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 15:56 UTC.
  • June 21 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 05:04 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the southern hemisphere.
  • June 8 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 15:56 UTC.
  • June 23 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:32 UTC.

full moon france

The first of two full moons in August rises over Paris, France in this night sky photo. Astrophotographer VegaStar Carpentier took this photo Aug. 1, 2012 from Paris, France using a Canon EOS 1000D.

  • July 8 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 07:14 UTC.
  • July 22 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:15 UTC.
  • July 28, 29 – Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Delta Aquarids can produce about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on July 28 & 29, but some meteors can also be seen from July 18 – August 18. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. The last quarter moon will be around for the show and may hide some of the fainter meteors. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.
  • August 6 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:51 UTC.
  • August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 13 & 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. The near first quarter moon will set before midnight, leaving optimal conditions and dark skies for what should be an awesome show. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.
  • August 21 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 01:45 UTC.
  • August 27 – Neptune at Opposition. The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Neptune. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • September 5 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:36 UTC.
  • September 19 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:13 UTC.
  • September 22 – September Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 20:44 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.
  • October 3 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • October 12 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for theAstronomical League.
  • October 5 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 00:34 UTC.
  • October 18 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 23:38 UTC.
  • October 18 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of the world except for Australia and extreme eastern Siberia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

  • October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. This shower usually peaks on the 21st, but it is highly irregular. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. The gibbous moon will be a problem this year, hiding all but the brightest meteors with its glare. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight. Be sure to find a dark location far from city lights.
  • November 3 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:50 UTC.
  • November 3 – Hybrid Solar Eclipse. The eclipse path will begin in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of the United States and move east across the Atlantic and across central Africa. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • November 17 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 15:16 UTC.
  • November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. The full moon will prevent this from being a great show this year, but with up to 40 meteors per hour possible, this could still be a good show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight.
  • December 3 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 00:22 UTC.
  • December 13, 15 – Geminids Meteor Shower. Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. The gibbous moon could be a problem this year, hiding man of the fainter meteors. But with up to 60 meteors per hour predicted, this should still be a good show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.
  • December 17 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 09:28 UTC.
  • Legend for astronomy calendar icons
  • December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 17:11 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.
  • President Obama's 2013 budget proposal slashes space science and planetary missions.

    Via Space dot Com

  • President Barack Obama unveiled his proposed federal budget for 2013 today (Feb. 13), which includes $17.7 billion for NASA and requires painful cuts to the agency’s Mars exploration plans that are already drawing criticism from astronomers. NASA’s portion of the proposed 2013 budget features a cut on planetary science missions, but includes some funding boosts for space technology and human exploration. See how planetary science fares in 2013 for NASA in the above SPACE.com infographic.

Mercury

Colour mosaic of Mercury, from NASA

Colour mosaic of Mercury, from NASA

Full Story from Space dot Com & 2nd story >> Sci Tech Today

together with all relevant links.. (I Will be Updating this Page) >>

Space.Com story

By Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom

The discovery of huge amounts of water ice and possible organic compounds on the heat-blasted planet Mercury suggests that the raw materials necessary for life as we know it may be common throughout the solar system, researchers say.

Mercury likely harbors between 100 billion and 1 trillion metric tons of water ice in permanently shadowed areas near its poles, scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Messenger spacecraft announced Thursday (Nov. 29).

Life on sun-scorched Mercury remains an extreme long~shot, the researchers stressed, but the new results should still put a spring in the step of astrobiologists around the world.

“The more we examine the solar system, the more we realize it’s a soggy place,” Jim Green, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said during a press conference today.

“And that’s really quite exciting, because that means the amount of water that we have here on Earth — that was not only inherent when it was originally formed but probably brought here — that water and other volatiles were brought to many other places in the solar system,” Green added. “So it really bodes well for us to continue on the exploration, following the water and its signs throughout the solar system.” {here are 2, more at the link>>} [Latest Mercury Photos from Messenger]

Topographic View of Northern Mercury
Topographic View of Northern Mercury
A Mercury Mosaic
A Mercury Mosaic

Organics, too?

The observations by Messenger, which has been orbiting Mercury since March 2011, provide compelling evidence that reflective patches first spotted near the planet’s poles by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico two decades ago are indeed water ice, researchers said.

In the coldest parts of Mercury — permanently shadowed regions where temperatures drop to perhaps minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 223 degress Celsius) — this ice can lie bare and exposed. But Messenger’s data also show that much more frozen water is found in slightly warmer areas, buried beneath a strange dark material that acts as an insulator.

This dark stuff is likely a mixture of complex organic compounds, the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it, researchers said during Thursday’s news conference.

“This organic material may be the same type of organic material that ultimately gave rise to life on Earth,” said Messenger participating scientist David Paige of UCLA.

Helping scientists read the book of life

Mercury probably acquired much of its water and organic material the same way Earth did, researchers said — via comet impacts and asteroid strikes. Ice and organics are common on the frigid bodies in the solar system’s outer reaches.

“There’s a lot of water out there, as there is a lot of water around other stars, but at substantial distance,” said Messenger principal investigator Sean Solomon, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

With its ultra-thin atmosphere and proximity to the sun, Mercury is probably not a good bet to host life as we know it. But finding ice and organics there should still inform the hunt for organisms beyond Earth and aid scientists’ quest to learn more about how life took root on our planet.

“The history of life begins with the delivery to some home object of water and of the building blocks, the organic building blocks, that must undergo some kind of chemistry, which we still don’t understand on our own planet,” Solomon said.

“And so Mercury is becoming an object of astrobiological interest, where it wasn’t much of one before,” Solomon added. “That’s not say to say that we expect to find any lifeforms — I don’t think anybody on this table does — but in terms of the book of life, there are some early chapters, and Mercury may indeed inform us about what’s in those chapters.”

Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We’re also on Facebook and Google+

Size comparison of terrestrial planets (left t...
Size comparison of terrestrial planets (left to right): Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
NASA: Mercury
Image from Sci Tech News

Story from Sci Tech Today:  NASA: Closest Planet to Sun, Mercury, Harbors Ice 

By Marcia Dunn
November 30, 2012 12:17PM

It may be a scorching hot chunk of ice close to the sun, but NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, says frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows. The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried under a dark material.

 Just in time for Christmas, scientists have confirmed a vast amount of ice at the north pole — on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.The findings are from NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, and the subject of three scientific papers released Thursday by the journal Science.The frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows, essentially impact craters. It’s believed the south pole harbors ice as well, though there are no hard data Relevant Products/Services to support it. Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

“If you add it all up, you have on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of ice,” said David Lawrence of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The uncertainty on that number is just how deep it goes.”

The ice is thought to be at least 1 1/2 feet (0.3 meters) deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet (20 meters) deep.

There’s enough polar ice at Mercury, in fact, to bury an area the size of Washington, D.C., by two to 2 1/2 miles (3.2 kilometers) deep, said Lawrence, the lead author of one of the papers.

“These are very exciting results,” he added at a news conference.

For two decades, radar measurements taken from Earth have suggested the presence of ice at Mercury’s poles. Now scientists know for sure, thanks to Messenger, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried under a dark material.

Messenger was launched in 2004 and went into orbit 1 1/2 years ago around Mercury, where temperatures reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 Celsius). NASA hopes to continue observations well into next year.

Columbia University’s Sean Solomon, principal scientist for Messenger, stressed that no one is suggesting that Mercury might hold evidence of life, given the presence of water. But the latest findings may help explain how water and other building blocks of life arrived elsewhere in the solar system, he said.

Mercury is becoming the subject of new interest “where it wasn’t much of one before,” Solomon said.

© 2012 Associated Press under contract with YellowBrix. All rights reserved.

More links at Sci Tech Today

Source: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_missio...
Source: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/  Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington Image produced by: Johns Hopkins University

First high-resolution image of Mercury transmi...

First high-resolution image of Mercury transmitted by the MESSENGER spacecraft (in false color, 11 narrow-band color filters) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Mercury meets Jupiter

Mercury meets Jupiter (Photo credit: herbraab)

Full-color image of from first MESSENGER flyby

Full-color image of from first MESSENGER flyby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)