Mountain Skies

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Text by Dr. Bob Hayward
Astronomer/Educator
Graphics by TheSky
Software Bisque

Mountain Skies

August 22, 2016

JUPITER AND VENUS TO MERGE AS ONE

The planets:  Early evening this week is a very productive time to observe the planets. We actually have two shows going on at the same time.  First, the easy one:  the red planet Mars and the ringed planet Saturn have been forming a pretty triangle with the star Antares, the red heart of the scorpion, for several months.  This triangle has gradually moved across the evening sky and is now almost a straight line just to the west of due south. Jupiter and Venus Merge as One Mars is the brightest of the three and is distinctive due to its red color.  Tonight Mars lies just slightly to the west/right and less than 2° above its namesake Antares.  (The Greek name for Mars was Ares.  Since this star was almost a match in color to Mars and almost as bright, the Greeks named it Antares or “Rival of Mars” to be a warning to mere mortals (muggles?) not to mistake it for Mars/Ares the god of war.  While this meeting of a red planet and an almost identical red star is taking place, the beautiful Saturn lies 4.4° above Mars.  The triangle we have been watching is now squashed almost into a line.  In fact, due primarily to the motion of Mars, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings these three will form a vertical line in our southern sky.

The second show would be even more spectacular were it not so low in the western twilight.  On Saturday evening the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will be approximately 0.1° apart and will appear as one to the naked eye.  They will set about 45 minutes after sunset so should be spotted very low in the west as the sky darkens.  Mercury will lie about 5° below and to the left of the pair and can be located with some difficulty since it is much dimmer than Venus or Jupiter.

For the rest of the month, Mars is moving eastward and, thus, the pretty line of Saturn, Mars and Antares will once again be a triangle in the south.  But, this time Mars will continue to move eastward and our triangle will dissolve.  Low in the west Mercury and Jupiter will disappear into the sunset like cowboy heroes at the end of a Grade B western.  (Oh, how I miss them!)  But, the beautiful Venus will become our “Evening Star” well into the new year.  Wish upon it, Pinocchio!

The stars:  Last month we discussed the appearances of Sagittarius the archer and Scorpius the scorpion low in our southern skies on summer evenings.  Standing above these two rather prominent constellations are two other constellations that, while not as prominent as Sagittarius and Scorpius, nevertheless cover more of the sky.  These are the intertwined constellations of Ophiuchus the doctor and Serpens the serpent.  Recall that the symbol for a doctor is the caduceus, the staff of Hermes or Mercury with serpents intertwined on it.  As pictured on constellation maps Ophiuchus is usually seen holding the serpent in his hands with the head of the serpent, Serpens Caput, to the west and its tail, Serpens Cauda, to the east.  Serpens is unique among the 88 classical Greek constellations.  It is the only constellation in the sky that is divided by another.  The head, Serpens Caput, and the tail, Serpens Cauda, appear on opposite sides of Ophiuchus but are traditionally considered to be a single constellation.

Ophiuchus was the doctor who treated Orion when he was stung by the scorpion; therefore, he is usually pictured with one foot on the back of the scorpion.  Ophiuchus is a zodiac constellation.  That’s right!  You won’t find him in any horoscope because horoscopes are based on fictitious calculations originally derived from the positions of the sun along the zodiac in ancient times.  In the past 3500 years or so the location of the sun’s path through the sky, the ecliptic, has changed due to precession, the wobble of the earth on its axis.  In modern times the sun passes in front of the stars of Scorpius from November 23 only through the 29th; it then crosses the southern part of Ophiuchus from November 30 through December 17.  So…if you were born in early December, your astronomical natal sign should be Ophiuchus and you are an Ophiuchid!

Celestial Calendar: 
August 23-24 – Mars less than 1.8° north of its rival Antares, the red heart of the scorpion. Saturn 4.4° north of Mars
August 24, 11:41 p.m. EDT – Last Quarter Moon
August 27 – Venus 0.1°north of Jupiter, low in sunset. May look like one to the eye.
September 1, 5:03 a.m. EDT – New Moon. Annular solar eclipse visible in central Africa

 

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PARI is a public not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers STEM educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu.

For further information or questions about this Mountain Skies column, contact Dr. Bob Hayward at rhayward@nullpari.edu. Graphics produced with TheSky Astronomical Software, Software Bisque.

Stargazing and Public Programs

Stargazing and Public Programs

Take a look at the Universe . . .

Stargazing

PARI’s SkyTrek observing sessions offer opportunities to gaze skyward using PARI telescopes regularly throughout the year. Check the Events Calendar for the most up-to-date information regarding observing opportunities.

Stargazing is also included with each monthly Evening at PARI event.

Evening at PARI

The second Friday of each month the public is invited to the PARI campus for a presentation by PARI staff or visiting experts. The evening also includes a campus tour and night sky observations using PARI telescopes.

Check the events calendar for the next Evening at PARI event, or get additional details here: Evening at PARI

Space Day

From the very first year of PARI’s existence we have designated the first Saturday in May as Space Day, an all-day open house that attracts hundreds of visitors. In addition to all the regular attractions at PARI, during Space Day our research and educational programs are highlighted at locations throughout the campus, with PARI staff, students and volunteers on hand to demonstrate and explain.

Check the PARI events calendar for complete details. To view photos from past Space Days, click here: Space Day.

Galaxy Walk

The Galaxy Walk is a scale model of our solar system. It begins with a display outside the Cline Administration building near the center of PARI’s campus and radiates outward with displays depicting planets and other objects in the solar system— all placed the appropriate distances from the Sun display.

Visitors and school groups can stroll the PARI campus while receiving an unusual perspective on the positioning of the planets, plus a better understanding of the immense distances separating the planets from the Sun and each other.

For more information and photos, please click here: Galaxy Walk.

Hours & Rates – Education

PARI Hours, Tours & Rates

Guests may visit the PARI campus for dedicated tours on Saturdays from 9:30 am until late for potential night sky observing, and Sundays from 9:30 am – 6:00 pm. Brunch will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am – 2 pm, with dinner available on Saturdays from 5:30 pm – 8 pm.

Volunteer docents provide commentary on PARI’s history as a pivotal part of the pioneering early days of our nation’s space program and guide you to some behind-the-scenes looks at the historic instruments that still populate the campus. The general admission price covers the docent tours, but reservations are suggested for larger groups. To make reservations contact visitor services at 828-862-5554.

Pre-arranged guided tours for groups can be scheduled during normal operating hours by calling visitor services at 828-862-5554. Special rates will apply.

Current rates and fees include:

General Admission

$10 per person (purchase 3 admission tickets and receive one admission free)
$8 for seniors and students (elementary through college)
Free admission for military, first responders, and children 5 and under.

Programs

2 hour AdventureDome/educational program on site

$110 Flat fee for less than 10 people
$11/person for more than 10 people
Contact Christi Whitworth for more information

AdventureDome Programs – Offsite

varies by county (see chart)
Contact Christi Whitworth for more information

Smiley Radio Telescope$100/user (includes 4 hours of time on the instrument)
Contact Christi Whitworth for more information
Special Guided Tours 2 hours Monday – Friday $150 flat fee for less than 10 people
Birthday Party $150 flat fee for 10 or fewer people, $15 per person after minimum
Contact Christi Whitworth for more information

 

AdventureDome Fees by County

North Carolina Counties Number of Programs
County 3 – 4 5 or More
Transylvania $300 $400
Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson $325 $425
Jackson, Macon, Polk $350 $450
Clay, Graham, Swain, Madison $375 $475
Avery, Burke Caldwell, Cherokee, Cleveland, Mitchell $425 $525
Rutherford, McDowell, Yancey $400 $500
South Carolina Counties Number of Programs
County 3 – 4 5 or More
Pickens $325 $425
Rabun, Greenville, Oconee $350 $450
Towns, Habersham, Stephens, Anderson, Spartanburg $375 $475
Laurens, Cherokee $425 $525
York $450 $550

 

Rest Areas and Meals

Overnight Rest Area (Bed, sheets and towels) $60.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information
Breakfast (Continental) $8.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information
Lunch (Sandwich, chips and drink) $12.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information
Dinner (Hot meal) $15.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information
Refreshments (Drinks and snacks) $5.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information
Package Rate $95.00/day
Contact Ann Daves for more information

Services

Administrative Support Contact Ann Daves for more information
Astronomer Consultant Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
Educational Instructor Contact Christi Whitworth for more information
Multimedia Room (includes network connections)** Contact Ann Daves for more information
PARI Nature Center (includes observing w/ telescopes)** Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
Classroom Fee (other than Multimedia Room)* Contact Ann Daves for more information
Technical Services : Electronics, Engineering, Facilities Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
Use of bucket truck with operator (1 hour minimum) Contact Don Curto for more information
Network Connection Contact Lamar Owen for more information
Telephone Contact Ann Daves for more information

 * includes network connection
** can be included in program fee

Telescopes

26-meter radio telescope (on site use) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
Two 26-meter radio telescopes (interferometer) (on site use) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
12m radio telescopeContact Ben Goldsmith for more information
4.6m radio telescope (remote use; $100 minimum) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
South Observatory: 0.3m optical telescope (onsite or remote) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
North Observatory 0.35m optical telescope (on site or remote) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information
West Observatory 0.4m optical telescope (onsite or remote) Contact Ben Goldsmith for more information

Site Use Contact John Holloway for more information

Radio Source Catalog

Radio Source Catalog

 

Source Image Type Season to Observe with
Smiley 4.6-m
Radio Telescope
RA Dec
Orion NebulaMolecular CloudFall/Winter/Spring5h 35m-5° 23’
Crab NebulaSupernova RemnantFall/Winter/Spring5h 35m+22° 01’
W3Molecular CloudFall/Winter/Spring2h 27m+61° 52’
Cassiopeia ASupernova RemnantSpring/Summer/Fall23h 23m+58° 49’
Cygnus ARadio GalaxySpring/Summer/Fall19h 59m+40° 44’
Hercules ARadio GalaxySpring/Summer/Fall16h 51m+5° 00’
Sagittarius ACenter of
Milky Way
Summer17h 45m-28d° 43’
Virgo AGiant Elliptical GalaxySpring/Summer/Fall12h 31m+12° 23’

 

The image is a map of the entire sky at the radio wavelength of 21-cm (or 1420 MHz radio frequency). The data is from the 21-cm maps presented by Dickey and Lockman in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophyscs, 1990, Vol. 28, p215. The brightest radio sources are marked. These are the sources that are easily detected with the SGRA 4.6-m radio telescope.

If you are interested in other objects not shown here, we recommend going to the NASA service called SKYVIEW which accesses catalogs of astronomical sources across the electromagnetic spectrum.

W3

W3: Giant Molecular Cloud

Type of Object:  W3 is a giant molecular cloud and HII (ionized hydrogen gas) region – similar in nature to the Great Orion Nebula. The region is a site of massive star formation.

Distance: 9,900 light years
Size: About 100 lyr in diameter
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

Right Ascension:2h 27m 3.9s
Declination:+61° 52’ 25.0”

Other Names: IC1795

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm):   28 Jy

Some Links:
http://www.ras.ucalgary.ca/CGPS/pilot/
http://users.skynet.be/sky03361/html3/reis3kaart3W3.html
http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2001/zeemanmasers/

Location on the sky: The giant molecular cloud W3 is located in the constellation Cassiopeia. Since Cassiopeia is a northern circumpolar constellation, W3 can be seen all year round in the northern hemisphere.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Visible image from the digitized Palomar Sky Survey E plates. The supernova remnant is obvious in this visible image.

Far-Infrared Image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey. Shows extended nebulosity near W3.

False-color image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey.  Shows bright radio sources offset from the center of  the SNR.

Image taken at the radio emission frequency of 4850 MHz. Image shows the gas component. (Image is from a Green Bank survey from 0° to +75° declination).

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –

Virgo A

Virgo A: Giant Elliptical Galaxy

Type of Object:  Virgo A is a giant elliptical galaxy is the center of the cluster of galaxies in the constellation Virgo.  Virgo A is perhaps best noted for the jet moving relativistically upon being ejected from the galaxy.  The power source of the jet is thought to be a supermassive (several million times the mass of the sun) black hole at the center of the galaxy.  With a visible magnitude of about 8.5, the galaxy can be photographed using even a small telescope.

Distance: 65 million light years
Size: About 120,000 lyr diameter
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

Right Ascension:12h 30m 49.0s
Declination:+12° 23’ 28.0

Other Names: M87, 3C274, Virgo Galaxy

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm):   220 Jy

Some Links:
http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_classroom/multiwavelength_astronomy/multiwavelength_museum/m87.html
http://www.ras.ucalgary.ca/CGPS/pilot/

Location on the sky: The giant elliptical galaxy Virgo A is located in Virgo, but is easier to find if you locate the constellation Leo on the sky.  Leo is prominent by the backwards question mark pattern of stars marked by the bright star Regulus. The tail end of Leo makes a triangle.  Virgo A is located about twice the distance between two stars in the tail of Leo. This is a Spring object.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Visible image from the digitized Palomar Sky Survey E plates. The jet from the galaxy is seen as a short bright line  protruding from the lower right of the galaxy.

Far-Infrared Image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey. Shows bright gas emission near Virgo A.

False-color image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey.  Shows the gas surrounding Virgo A. Note the asymmetry of the gas emission.

Image taken at the radio emission frequency of 4850 MHz. Image shows the gas component. (Image is from a Green Bank survey from 0° to +75° declination).

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –

Sagittarius A

Galactic Center: Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

Type of Object:  The center of the Milky Galaxy probably contains a supermassive (several million times the mass of our sun) black hole.  The galactic center is called SGR-A* or Sagittarius A*.  The area surrounding SGR-A* shows emission of light from across the electromagnetic spectrum.  The center is obscured by dust clouds in the interstellar medium – so most of our observations are made in the near-infrared and radio parts of the spectrum.

Distance: 26,000 light years
Size: About 100 lyr across, depending on what part of the spectrum you are observing in.
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

Right Ascension:17h 45m 12s
Declination:-28° 43’ 00.0”

Other Names: Galactic Center, W24

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm): 2000 Jy

Some Links:
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/~reid/sgra.html
http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2001/sgr_a/

Location on the sky: The galactic center is located in the constellation Sagittarius. If you draw Sagittarius as a tea kettle shape, then the galactic center is pouring out of the spout.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Visible image from the digitized Palomar Sky Survey E plates. The galactic center is obscured in the visible by interstellar clouds.  Some faint emission can be seen.

Far-Infrared Image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey. Shows warm dust along the galactic center.

False-color image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey.  Shows gas component of the galactic center.

False-color image taken at the radio emission frequency of 4850 MHz.  Image shows the gas component.  (Image is from a Green Bank survey from 0° to +75° declination).

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula: Region of Star Formation

Type of Object:  The Orion Nebula is a giant cloud of gas and dust, very active in star formation.  Four central stars to the nebula, called the Trapezium, are responsible for ionizing the gas surrounding them and causing the glowing nebula. Behind the visible nebulosity is a large molecular cloud.

Distance: 1500 light years (= 1.4 x 1016 km = 8.87 x 1015 miles or 8870 tera miles)
Size: 15 light years across (= 1.4 x 1014 km = 8.87 x 1013 miles or about 9 tera miles)
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

                 
Right Ascension:5h 35m 17.4s
Declination:-5o 23’ 27.99”

Other Names: M42, The Great Nebula in Orion, NGC 1976

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm): 410 Jy

Some Links:
http://messier.seds.org/m/m042.html
http://archive.is/vis.sdsc.edu
http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2000/0054/

Location on the sky: The Orion Nebula is a winter object.  Look towards the south in January at about 9 p.m. and you will see three stars in a straight line, as shown in the figure to the right.  These 3 stars make the belt of the Orion constellation. The arrow in the figure shows the location of the Orion Nebula.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Visible image from the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT/SkyMorph) Project.

Image taken at the radio emission wavelength of Carbon Monoxide (CO) at 115 GHz.

Far-Infrared image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey

Image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey.

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –

Hercules A

Hercules A: A Radio Galaxy

Type of Object:  Hercules A is a powerful radio galaxy.  At 1420 MHz it looks like a double source and is thought to be an active galaxy.  Its energy output is equivalent to that of 10 billion Crab Nebulae!  The structure consists of two radio lobes and two jets.  Five spherical shells make up the western lobe.  Also, the nucleus appears to be a double nucleus.  Hercules A could be two galaxies merging or interacting.

Distance: 2000 Million light years
Size: 330,000 lyr diameter components separated by 900,000 lyr
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

                 
Right Ascension:16h 51m 08.0s
Declination:+4° 59’ 33.8”

Other Names: 3C 348

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm): 47 Jy

Some Links:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hercules-a.html
http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2012/herca/

Location on the sky: The active galaxy Hercules A is located to one side of the constellation Hercules as shown in the figure at the right. The radio galaxy extends several arcminutes across this part of the sky.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Visible image from the digitized Palomar Sky Survey E plates. Doesn’t show much visible nebulosity.

Far-Infrared Image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey. Shows the dust component is not obvious near Hercules A.

Image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey. Shows the double gas component of the galaxy. Looks remarkably similar to Cygnus A.

Image taken at the radio emission frequency of 4850 MHz.  Image shows the gas component, but not the double structure seen in the 1420 MHz image. (Image is from a Green Bank survey from 0° to +75° declination).

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –

Cygnus A

Cygnus A: A Radio Galaxy

Type of Object:  Cygnus A is a powerful radio galaxy.  At 1420 MHz it looks like a double source and is thought to be an active galaxy.  Its energy output is equivalent to that of 10 billion Crab Nebulae!

Distance: 700 Million light years
Size: About 500,000 light years across
Coordinates (Epoch J2000):

                 
Right Ascension:19h 59m 28.4s
Declination:+40° 44’ 01.0“

Radio Brightness at 1420 MHz (21 cm): 1260 Jy

Some Links:
http://pages.astronomy.ua.edu/keel/agn/cygnusa.html
http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/00_releases/press_110600cyg.html
http://archive.is/mamacass.ucsd.edu

Location on the sky: The active galaxy Cygnus A is located near the star delta Cygni in the constellation Cygnus. The location of Cygnus A is shown in the figure to the right.

Images shown below, at different wavelengths, cover a 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree area of the sky centered on the nebula.  The images are taken from the SkyView Virtual Observatory maintained under NASA ADP Grant NAS5-32068 with P.I. Thomas A. McGlynn under the auspices of the High Energy Astrophysics Science  Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at the GSFC Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics. SkyView contains catalogs and surveys from x-ray to radio observations. The site is located at http://skyview.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Visible image from the digitized Palomar Sky Survey E plates. Doesn’t show much visible nebulosity.

Far-Infrared Image at 100 microns taken by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) Survey. Shows the dust component of the nebulosity.

Image taken at the radio emission of neutral hydrogen at 1420 MHz by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey. Shows the double gas component of the galaxy.

Image taken at the radio emission frequency of 4850 MHz.  Image shows the gas component, but not the double structure seen in the 1420 MHz image. (Image is from a Green Bank survey from 0° to +75° declination).

– Return to Radio Source Catalog –