As NASA’s Dawn orbiter approached the Ceres in late February, it released tantalizing images of a pair of bright spots on the floor of a big crater of the dwarf planet. But after the craft began orbiting Ceres on March 6, 2015, the newsfeed went silent. Conspiracy theories started brewing, naturally, about how the government was keeping secret the discovery of (fill in the blank) on Ceres. It turns out the spacecraft was just settling in and was mostly over the dark side of the dwarf planet. Now NASA has released two new images of Ceres, including the still mysterious bright spots, taken from Dawn on April 14 and 15 from 14,000 miles above Ceres’ north pole.
This almost makes me want an iPhone! Captured by Canadian amateur Andrew Symes, this video clip of Jupiter with moons Io, Europa & Ganymede was recorded with iPhone 6 using FilMicPro app through Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope. He’s also done excellent stacked images of Jupiter, as well as images of the Moon and Sun.
No, that’s not a typo. The word syzygy (pronounced “SIZ-i-jee”) is an obscure astronomical term that refers to an alignment in a straight line of three celestial bodies bound by gravity. I thought of this old term last week as I snapped the above image during the lovely conjunction of the crescent Moon, Mars, and Venus after sunset. While this alignment was not a syzygy in the proper sense, it was close.
What’s that bright star in the east? That’s no star… it’s Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system and perhaps the most interesting object to see with a small telescope. The planet reached opposition this month and remains ideally placed for viewing through May. On this page, you can download the PDF notes and audio of a short guide that takes you on a tour of Jupiter and shows you how to see and understand the fascinating features on the face of this big planet.
(Publisher’s Note: This guide to Jupiter is just a tiny part of the year-long astronomy course called The Art of Stargazing. This course is offered once a year at One-Minute Astronomer, and will be open to new students during the last week of February 2015).
A small asteroid flies past Earth tonight and grows bright enough to spot with a small telescope. The little rock, which is about 300 meters across, was discovered about ten years ago and has the designation 2004 BL86. At its closest approach, the asteroid will pass within 1.2 million km, about three times the Earth-Moon distance. It’s the largest such asteroid to come this close to Earth until 2027.