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Heavenly Objects

10:04 am in Events, Science by Will Campbell

Are the stars out tonight? They should be — and in a pretty big way — if the muzzafuzzin’ summer-stealing marine layer parked off the coast for far too long this season doesn’t roll in after sundown and eclipse the view.

Chances are you’ve heard we’re in the midst of the annual Perseid meteor shower, which stargeeks are gleefully reporting is going to super freakin’ awesome this year with visibility aided by a lack of lunar glare. What you may not know is that an opening act has been scheduled prior to that main event tonight, an astromonical equivalent along the lines of the Fab Four reuniting. Namely Venus, Saturn, Mars and the crescent Moon will be found gathered in a tight 10-degree circle to hang out and beam together at us in the western sky between sunset and about 10 p.m.

Then the Perseid party starts and goes on until dawn — unless the celestial bouncers can’t keep the marine layer literally at bay. Assuming things stay clear, experts are saying observers can expect to see dozens of debris trails per hour. One report says as many as 60 an hour might be visible, while still another that number at 100. Golly! Do I hear 200?

NASA Astronomer Dr. Tony Phillips writes: “The Perseid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Every 133 years the huge comet swings through the inner solar system and leaves behind a trail of dust and gravel. When Earth passes through the debris, specks of comet-stuff hit the atmosphere at 140,000 mph and disintegrate in flashes of light. These meteors arecalled Perseids because they fly out of the constellation Perseus.” And if you’ve read your Graves’ “The Greek Myths” (or fine: seen either version of the “Clash of the Titans”) we all know who Perseus was… son o’ Zeus, Medusa killa, rescuer of Andromeda. But I digress.

The constellation Perseus will take its place above the horizon in the northeastern skies after 10 p.m. and between then and dawn closes in on the sky’s zenith. Happy shooting-star gazing.

About the photo: No, that image has nothing to do with a meteor shower. That’s a timed-exposure (about 30 minutes) I made of stars tracking over the Last Chance mountains, taken last November in the pitch dark from a position beside Death Valley’s Eureka Dunes. It looks like night in broad daylight because the landscape and mountains were illuminated by the moon’s light coming from behind the camera (click to biggify). I briefly toyed with the idea of grabbing a flashlight creating a goofy light trail by running out a 10o yards and back but I decided it might disturb the sandworms. And we all know that’s never a good idea.

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It Caught My Eye: Hive Mentality

3:11 pm in ICME, Science, Seasonal by Will Campbell

A few weeks ago I alerted our next-door neighbor that what had started off as a few bees had blossomed in short notice into a small colony that had been busy under a roof eave making his house their home. I told him I don’t have a problem with them but that if he did an option would be to call Backwards Beekeepers to remove and rescue them rather than have them exterminated by some heartless giant-mallet-wielding pest control company.

In the weeks since the neighbor has opted to let the bees be bees, which is totally awesome — especially since my little backyard patch of Great Sunflower Project sunflowers will be blooming any day now. And extraspecially that the hive — now huge compared to its humble beginnings — has basically come outside for reasons unknown to me (the heat, maybe?) to literally hang out in a giant writhing mass of honeybee orgyfication, a wall-to-wall portion of which you see above (click here to view emBEEgified version) who didn’t mind at all that I got my camera all up in their beeswax.

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Sidewalk Astronomers at the Venice Library

10:00 pm in Science, West Side by tarabrown

Wikipedia ImageThis Thursday, March 24th from 6:00-7:30pm, head over to the Venice Library to have a good look at the night sky. This is the last visit of the year for the Sidewalk Astronomers who will be setting up several telescopes and helping the public figure out what all those twinkly lights in the sky are.

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Hello New Year, Goodbye Blue Moon

7:42 am in Science, Seasonal by Will Campbell

Having spent the vast majority of my nine lives bridging December 31 and January 1 with far too much alcohol-fueled revelries, I’m now settled in as one of them New Year’s Eve stickinthemudgeons — a quiet cat who doesn’t see much use in greeting the first day of the new year hungover to all hell. Thus, I was up at an otherwise indecent hour this morning to greet the new year and say farewell to the blue moon that graced our skies from the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2010.

Though some rogue cloud cover and an approaching dawn threatened to come between us, finally at 6:13 a.m. the veils parted:

bluemoon

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Is the Government Moonlighting?

4:16 pm in ICME, Science by Matt Mason

Next generation space shuttle?

Next generation space shuttle trailer?

With our country’s huge budget deficits, I’m surprised that few people have suggested that the federal government sell some product or service to raise cash.  It could be some no-brainer business that’s guaranteed to make money, such as running an Apple store or a food truck on Abbott Kinney or … a trash hauling company?

Perhaps the feds are doing just that, as the photo at left indicates.  Outside my home, not far from Abbott Kinney, sits the latest model dumpster from NASA.

shuttle to a close-up, after the jump

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The Solstice with the Mostest

3:46 am in Online, Science by RobNoxious

Thanks to Beverly and Pack on Flickr - Creative Commons licence

Winter Silence

Tomorrow night is the Longest Night of the Year to snuggle up to someone warm.

The Solstice is exact for us here in Los Angeles at exactly 9:47 AM this Morning. It’ll be the shortest day, and the longest night of the year. And that’s pretty much the story for the whole hemisphere.

But in L.A. it’s at exactly 9:47 AM.

See, my Pagan sensibilities come with a certain amount of anal-retentiveness. My Astrological curiosity comes with a little exactitude, ya dig?

I mean, y’ever wonder exactly when sunrise and sunset happen on a particular day? Maybe exactly when a New or Full Moon is? Ever find yourself trying to do the math from Greenwich Mean Time, and wondering whether you needed to subtract an hour or not?

Okay, probably not. But for all you amateur astrologers out there who aren’t ready to invest in their own telescope, or all you fledgling vampires out there who want to avoid bursting into flames or looking conspicuously sparkly, a few links for current Los Angeles data:

Seasons, Equinoxes and Solstices
Sunrise and Sunset
Moonrises and moonsets (That’s Right.)
Moon Phases
Interestingly enough, (at least, if you read this far, I assume it is) the Griffith Park Observatory has a list of Moon Phases, as well. They differ slightly, by about a minute, on a few of the times. To be fair, the “Time and Date” website claims an accuracy of “within one minute,” so there yeh go. You can make you’re own decision about who has the final word. Personally, the Griffith folks are local, I been there, I’ma go by what the local kids say, but you do as you like.

So, there it is. All the Loony info you need. Now if I’d just tell you something useful, like when it’s okay to park in a green zone. (Never, that’s my space on Sunday!) But that kind of thing only happens once in a Blue Moon.

Which, incidently, occurs this year on New Year’s Eve. (At exactly 11:13 AM)

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by tammara

Joshua Tree Star Party

10:16 am in Science by tammara

joshuatreedawnI am constantly in a state of delight living in Los Angeles.  We have glorious weather, groovy people to hang with, an open minded populace and pretty much the completely fun urban experience.

Still, it’s nice to get off the grid sometimes.  In fact, I’ve decided that about once a week, I need a sojourn into the wild to keep my sanity intact. So this past weekend, Dan the man and I packed up some supplies and hit the road to Joshua Tree National Park for a little stargazing.

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend.  New Moon situation, so the starlight was blasting in full force.  Warm, balmy weather, so even at that high altitude it only got nippy at 4am or so.  But, oh!  The STARS!!!!! We discovered a whole new universe.. or many of them, exploding up there.  Seriously, there were more meteor showers than I could ever count. Either that or we have some crazy UFO’s doing light shows up there.

You couldn’t look up for more than a minute before catching a cascade of swirling light.  And the cool part…. on new moon weekends, they have actual star parties in Joshua Tree.  Astronomy societies come up there with big ass telescopes, and other ardent star gazers contribute their scopes.  So everyone parties and looks at the amazing sky.  But even without the telescopes it’s awesome!  I highly recommend checking it out.  It’s completely free (okay, there’s a $15 admittance fee to the park, but well worth it) and it’s ridiculously beautiful.  And romantic.  And calming.  And the dawn is absolutely stunning too!  Just sayin’.  We are lucky to live in LA next to such a treasure.

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Earth vs. Moon: NASA to crashland orbiters on lunar surface Friday morning

11:34 am in Science by David Markland

Really early rendering of attack on the moon.

Really early rendering of attack on the moon.

Have a decent sized telescope? Turn it toward the moon Friday morning at about 4:30am, when NASA will crash a pair of orbiters into the south pole, and you may be able to see the resulting plumes of dust.

The NASA exercise is intended to determine is water is contained in the moon’s soil.

Of course, Griffith Park Observatory will be closed at that hour. Because, y’know, its so darn early.

No Public Viewing of Moon Impact from Observatory
NASA’s LCROSS mission, searching for water ice, will culminate with two lunar impacts near the Moon’s south pole at approximately 4:30 a.m. PDT on Friday, October 9. The impacts may be visible with a telescope. However, due to the very early hour, neither Griffith Park nor the Observatory will be open for public viewing.

The attack on the moon will also be televised.

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Mount Wilson in Flames

11:23 pm in Fires, Science by Sean Bonner

MWO logoAs of right this moment the Mount Wilson Observatory is still standing though flames are very close and people are extremely worried. This webcam shows the Observatory and surrounding areas (though the cam is going down frequently due to overloaded servers) which as you can see are fairly flame covered. As you probably know the MWO is over 100 years old and extremely important in the history of Astronomy including much of the observations and discussion that formulated the Big Bang theory. On Twitter, Xeni Jardin has been posting constant updates on this specific structure and the fires nearby. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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by tammara

Catch the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight!

7:33 pm in Science by tammara

I love stars!  One of the best nights I’ve ever had was in Joshua Tree last year when my love Dan and I hiked out into the desert, laid down and watched all the stars and planets flying around.  It was a real Star Party…

Tonight, we’ve got a treat because from around midnight til 5am, there’s a blast of meteors, some theorize there will be one every minute or so.  Of course, we live in a dense, overlit city, so it may be hard to catch a lot of them… and there’s a pretty bright moon tonight.

Nevertheless, I for one, will be laying out under the stars to catch some summer starlight showers.  I may even cruise over to Malibu… or out into the wilds of Tujunga to try and get away from the city light.  And if you are reading this and know of someplace to get to that’s not to far that might be shielded from our bright LA light… lay it on us!

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Green Comet: 2nd Chance Tomorrow

10:00 am in Science by Julia Frey

jack-newton1_strip-300x2881Tomorrow morning (3 – 4am!) is the closest approach that Comet Lulin will be making to earth. It may be tough to see in our very bright city, but perhaps with a telescope or binoculars you could get lucky. (Oh and if it’s not pouring rain…) 

Blast past the jump for the map of the night sky and Lulin’s position in it. Also click here for Nasa’s Green Comet page.

If you lays eyes on it, please come back and comment!

 

Read the rest of this entry →

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Green Comet Approaches Earth (Not a Superhero Reference)

11:30 am in Science by Julia Frey

 

Photo by amateur astronomer Jack Newton from his backyard in Arizona

Photo by amateur astronomer Jack Newton from his backyard in Arizona

On Monday February 16 and again on Tuesday February 24, if you are very lucky, there are no clouds and you are up before dawn (I’m looking at you Will Campbell), you may be able to see the Green Comet in the southwest sky. A telescope and/or binoculars might be a big help.

Comet Lulin (or Comet C/2007 N3 for you sticklers), discovered in 2007 by 19 year old student Quanzhi Ye in Taiwan, is green and might not be quite visible to the naked eye and there is a chance the bright LA basin will make it even harder to detect, but to see a green comet? Might be worth a go.

Read more about on Nasa’s Green Comet page.

Jump past the comet’s tail to see sky maps for both those pre-dawns.

 

Read the rest of this entry →

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It Caught My Eye: Moonpie

6:49 am in ICME, Science, Weather by Will Campbell

Yep, I’m one of that certain percentage of us Los Angies who get antsy after more than a day or two of stuff in the air that occludes our ready visual access to other stuff up there — like the sun and blue sky and planets and stars and natural orbiting satellites…

… like the moon, for example.

Thus it was with shock and relief that I looked out my window this pre-dawn and grabbed my cam to debunk the rumors in my head that the moon had gone missing since Thursday and prove that in fact it is still up there in its usual place and shining like it was making up for lost time.

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Jet Propulsion Lab Tweetup January 21

5:45 pm in Announcements, Science by Julia Frey

 

Twitter Bird on Phoenix Lander

Twitter Bird on Phoenix Lander

The gang at the Jet Propulsion Lab who tweet for the MarsPhoenix (and other awesome space objects) are arranging a Tweetup at JPL in Pasadena on Wednesday January 21 from 5:00 to 7:30pm.  You must register starting at 10am tomorrow morning (January 9) be able to go. To register you need to click on this page. (OMG I am so excited about this that I can barely type this post!)

There will only be room for 150 people so have your link open and ready to sign up! From the main information page:

This Tweetup is an opportunity to meet and speak with the JPL staff, scientists, and engineers behind the tweets of 

@CassiniSaturn@MarsPhoenix@MarsRovers@MarsScienceLab@EarthVitalSigns,@PlanetQuest and more. Plus, you’ll meet and mingle with other space-exploration-minded tweeps. 

The evening will include a one-hour “meet and greet” from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by a tour of JPL. On the tour, you’ll visit the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (where @MarsScienceLab is under construction) and the mission control area of NASA’s Deep Space Network. You’ll also see full-scale models of @MarsPhoenix and @MarsRovers and the 11-foot-tall half-scale model of @CassiniSaturn 

What an amazing opportunity for any and all science and space geeks like me. See you there!

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Biggest. Moon. Ever.

3:39 pm in Science by faboomama

MoonOkay, in at least 15 years.  Tonight is the night that the moon will appear it’s biggest and fullest to those of us lucky enough to witness it without cloud cover.

According to NASA’s website:

It’s no illusion. Some full Moons are genuinely larger than others and this Friday’s is a whopper. Why? The Moon’s orbit is an ellipse with one side 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other: diagram. In the language of astronomy, the two extremes are called “apogee” (far away) and “perigee” (nearby). On Dec. 12th, the Moon becomes full a scant 4 hours after reaching perigee, making it 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser full Moons we’ve seen earlier in 2008.

I’ll translate that:  Oooh. Pretty. WOW.

Also of note, the Geminids will be at their brightest this weekend, but the overly full moon just may overpower all by the brightest of these.

A great weekend for skywatchers, it seems. I have the perfect perch to watch the moon from my backyard or my front porch.  Where are your favorite places in LA to watch the skies?

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