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In Tonight's Sky

Dr. Bratton has been an avid amateur astronomer since the second grade.  He wrote "In Tonight's Sky" for the Jamestown Sun for more than a decade until he became too busy to continue it.  Dr. Bratton received a National Science Foundation grant to attend a workshop on the teaching of introductory astronomy classes at the Green Bank National Radio Observatory in West Virginia, and has taught classes on introductory astronomy and comets at Jamestown College.  He owns an 8-inch Dobsonian reflector, and like to play around with astronomical software. 

Keep your eyes up and your ears open for what will happen "In tonights sky"

Erin Delo

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January 30 to February 6, 2012

01/29/12 13:18 PM

              January 30 (Monday): Because the true lunar revolutionary period is 27.32 days, there can be two apogees or perigees within the same month if the first event occurs very early in the month.  Such is the case for this January; the first lunar apogee (its farthest distance from the Earth) happened at 2:20 p.m. CST on January 2nd, when the Moon was 251,393 miles from our world.  The second apogee takes place this morning at 11:43 a.m., when Luna will be 251,235 miles away.  First Quarter Moon (magnitude -9.7) occurs at 10:10 p.m., when it will be 34.9 degrees above the WSW-W skyline, 29.8 arc-minutes in apparent diameter, and 248,895.8 miles distant.  The bright cream-colored object 7.9 degrees almost directly beneath...

January 23-30, 2012

01/23/12 00:59 AM

  January 23 (Monday): At 9 p.m. CST bright beige Jupiter (magnitude -2.4) will be 41.3 degrees over Jamestown's SW-WSW skyline, 40.2 arc-seconds in apparent diameter, 99% illumined, 456,215,015 miles from the Earth, and 462,606,470 miles from the Sun.  Tonight all four of the bright large Jovian satellites discovered by Galileo in 1609-10 will be strung out to the gas giant's east; how many of them can you detect in field glasses, binoculars, or a telescope?  Callisto (mag. 5.8) lies farthest from the planet, followed by Ganymede (mag. 4.8).  Closer to Jupiter and piled nearly on top of each other are Europa (mag. 5.5) and Io (mag. 5.2); Io will be to Europa's south and 1.3 times brighter than its neighbor.  Watch them over time (weather...

January 16-23, 2012

01/16/12 13:56 PM

  January 16 (Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day): The Moon (magnitude -9.6) will reach perigee (its nearest distance to the Earth this month) at 3:25 p.m. CST, when it will be 31.9 arc-minutes in apparent diameter, 44.4% sunlit, 232,571¾ miles away, and 40.7 degrees beneath our city's WNW horizon.  Earth's natural satellite also attained last quarter earlier this morning at 3:08 a.m.           Monday Moonset: 11:04 a.m. CST           Monday Sunset: 5:13 p.m.           Tuesday Moonrise: 2:34 a.m.           Tuesday Sunrise: 8:16 a.m.   ...

January 9-16, 2012

01/10/12 13:25 PM

  January 9 (Monday): At 9 p.m. CST brilliant beige Jupiter (magnitude -2.5) will be 47.46 degrees above Jamestown’s SW horizon, 42.1 arc-seconds in apparent diameter, 99.1% illuminated, 435,397,565 miles from the Earth, and 462,381,240 miles from the Sun.  At this hour the four major Jovian satellites discovered by Galileo in 1509-10 will be strung out to the gas giant’s east (upper left); how many can you spot in field glasses or binoculars?  Even a small telescope should show the quartet of moons easily.  In order of apparent (and in this case, actual) distance from Jupiter, the moons will be Io (mag. 5.1), Europa (mag.5.4), Ganymede (mag. 4.7), and Callisto (mag. 5.7).  All these satellites are big and bright enough that they would be visible...

December 26, 2011 to January 2, 2012

12/24/11 12:09 PM

December 26 (St. Stephen’s Day, Monday): When astronomical twilight ends at 6:42 p.m. CST, the slender crescent Moon (magnitude -4.0) will be just 6.2 degrees above the SW-WSW skyline, 6.2% sunlit, 31½ arc-minutes across, and 230,540 miles away.  The brilliant white “star” 6 5/6 degrees to its left is really the planet Venus (mag. -4.0 also, although its light is concentrated in a smaller apparent area).  As it pulls away from the Sun toward the Earth, its phase is decreasing, but its slowly enlarging disk more than compensates; the cloud-covered world will continue to increase in luminosity.  At this time Venus will be 12.6 arc-seconds in apparent diameter, 83.9% lit, 67,565,950 miles from the Sun, and 122,651,470 miles from our home planet. ...