#40: - Sunspots, Stars, Coronas and Magnetism - Planets Coming and Going - 8 Total Stories
TGT 2/1/23: AAS: Connections Between Sun, Spots, Star Ages +Spots + Magnetism, and Coronal Rains; Sky Calendar--Mars & 2 Red Stars, Inner Planet Show, Giants Going, ZTF Prime!; Moon Cheese; Trek Stars
Cover Photo - 3 Red “Stars”
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — 3 Red “Stars”
Welcome to Issue 40!
AAS: Sunspots, Coronal Rains, and Magnetism
- Sunspots From…Where??
- Spots Measure Age (Like in Some Humans) and Magnetism
- Magnetism Causes Rain in the Corona
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing - A Small but Full Moon
* Observing—Plan-et - Inner Planets In Charge, Giants (Begin to) Head to the Exits, Mars Makes a Good Student Project (Cover Story)
* Border Crossings - None. No Crossings, No Overlap
Astronomy in Everyday Life - The Moon IS Made of Cheese!
The Galactic Times InDepth Newsletter-Inbox Magazine Issue 3 Preview: Red Alert! An Astronomical Look at Star Trek’s Heroes and Villains
Highlights of Issue 44 of The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter-Inbox Magazine
Welcome to The Galactic Times Newsletter-Inbox Magazine #40 !
The shortest month is upon us, a function of Kepler’s Third Law. We’re moving so quickly, being just past Earth’s perihelion, that this quarter of our orbit is faster than at any other time of year. That’s a good thing. Winter’s over with quicker.
This issue also got put together quicker because I had more stuff already on hand <grin>. A set of three stories from the recent American Astronomical Society meeting that all intertwine over the Sun, and other stars, too. The sky is undergoing some changes, too, as the Moon is big (full)…yet small. The rocky planets are taking over the show; in fact, watching Mars as it fades in brightness makes it a good observing project. See how close in color and brightness it is to Aldebaran and Betelgeuse! But the giant worlds are heading for the exits.
This is the time to get out there and look at ‘ZTF’ as it passes closest to us on February 1st. It will be at its brightest, shifting into the evening sky, and be high up. The comet is binocular bright, dimly naked eye, nearly the size of the (ahem) big full moon which may hurt your view some nights, but the tail and touted color is still a camera thing, not for the eye.
Finally, while shopping, found a food item that will make all those who remember being told nursery rhymes about the moon laugh.
Enclosed are also highlights of the latest Classroom Astronomer and InDepth issues, the latter on Star Trek’s home-worlds which you can find in the sky right now.
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Publisher — Dr. Larry Krumenaker Email: email@example.com
AAS: Sunspots, Coronal Rains, and Magnetism
Three stories that all click together—
We are approaching a solar maximum, which means sunspots are easy to watch, especially for amateurs and educational situations. They come and they go, they move across the solar disk, they can even be spotted with the (protected) naked eye when large enough, and there is a practical reason to do so—they are associated with other solar features in turn associated with solar storms that can affect Low Earth Orbit satellites in communications, GPS signals, and astronauts in orbit.
So why are scientists watching them from Mars?
Mars is further away from the Sun, and the solar disk is smaller. We have two rovers there that can look at the solar disk with filters, Perseverance and Curiosity. The images are smaller. But they have one advantage over Earth observatories. They can see sides of the Sun we can not see at any particular time because of Mars’ orbital position. We thus get greater coverage. Spots seen by Mars missions are not necessarily seen terrestrially and so the sunspot counts and sizes are not always correlated.
By monitoring those out-of-view spots, there can be an actual increase in correlation with data in helioseismology, the internal vibrations of the Sun that are detected by other space missions, like GONG. Also, the Mars-orbiting MAVEN is designed to monitor space weather there so the three missions can coordinate observations. Viewing the Sun from Mars also is done to track Martian moons to keep track of their orbital dynamics (see an earlier TCA article on what you can do with an eclipse of the Sun by Phobos).
This is actually helpful to Earthlings. By viewing spots not seen from Earth, we get warnings of solar storms that may come to us as near-future hazards but are currently out of our sight and out of ‘mind’. (Poster by Mark Lemmon et al, Space Science Institute and others.)
Spots Measure Age (Like in Some Humans) and Magnetism
Everybody who studies star clusters knows that all the stars are more or less the same age in them. But they don’t age—evolve—at the same rate. But stars don’t remain in their clusters forever. How do you get the ages of main sequence stars, like the Sun, that have ‘left the nest’?
Marina Kounkel of Vanderbilt University used the fact that most stars seem to have spots on them, like our Sun, and that these spots cause a variability of the star’s light seen remotely, showing some kind of periodicity much different from that of an exoplanet transiting across the star’s disk. Using stars of known ages in star clusters and measuring the variabilities, she got stellar rotation periods that apparently vary with age. Young and low mass stars vary more and thus have spots. Old and higher mass stars have smaller spots. Thus as stars age, they slow down in rotation and angular momentum, which decreases their magnetism as well. This becomes a new way to estimate the ages of isolated stars.
Magnetism Causes Rain in the Corona
Among the most beautiful though elusive solar phenomena are coronal rains and loops. When the sunspot cycle is high, so is activity in the chromosphere and photosphere, the latter being the Sun’s surface where spots also are found. Spots are caused by the magnetic field of the Sun looping on the surface and causing a cooling. Flares are also found on the photosphere, sending charged electrical particles upwards into the chromosphere. When the magnetic field reconnects with itself, a magnetic loop can form in the chromosphere. Plasma as so-called “coronal rains” fall back down onto the Sun along the field lines of the loop.
US Naval Academy scientist Kara Kniezewski reported there was a direct energy connection between flare strength and the duration of the falling rain. M- and X-class flares (the latter, the strongest) cause the majority of the rain-falls, but they are rare for the weakest C-class flares. She proposes rain duration as a proxy for flare energy release, and X- and M-flares as a tracker for the solar cycle.
Sky Planning Calendar
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
February 3 Pollux in Gemini is the star not quite 2-degrees north of the nearly round but rather small Moon….
February 4 ….because the Moon is Apogee today….
February 5 …and a Full Moon tonight, so it is the smallest Full Moon of the year! A Micro-Full (is that an astronomical contradiction of terms?).
February 13 Last Quarter Moon.
February 14 Rounding out the fortnight the way we began, the red giant star Antares, a summer showpiece, is just under 2-degrees south of the Moon. Look around or after midnight.
We are planet-less(!)….from two hours before morning twilight, until Mercury comes over the horizon. Mercury is having its best viewing all year…for those south of the equator…and not too shabby in the morning for those in the North. Brilliant, far from the Sun’s glow, it peaked in brightness and elongation just before February’s start, and it rises into view on February 1st only minutes after twilight itself begins so it will be bright and easy to see low in the sky. Even at midmonth, it is still rising almost 40 minutes before sunrise.
Venus is striding into its well-deserved spotlight in the evening twilight, not setting at first until 30 minutes after sunset, and more than 45 minutes after at midmonth. By late spring, it will be up until near midnight Daylight Saving Time!
Jupiter is high up and obvious once the Sun sets, the brightest star-like thing in the sky once Venus sets. But that gap shrinks by the day. Jupiter drops under the horizon by 9:30-10:00 PM local time and earlier each day. By early March, the order of setting between Venus and Jupiter will switch.
Finally, there’s Mars, bright and red in Taurus. Of all the planets, it commands the sky most of the night. But it and Earth are parting in its orbital directions and that makes its once fiery appearance more muted. By midmonth it drops below magnitude 0.0; still bright, but not like before. Compare it to nearby Betelgeuse in Orion and even closer Aldebaran in Taurus, in both brightness and color and see how they compare, over time….a good student project. (See Cover Photo for a map.)
In the opposite vein, Saturn not only doesn’t command the night, it can’t be seen period. It begins the month setting no more than 40 minutes after the Sun and that gets earlier by about 3 minutes a day, until it reach solar conjunction the day after this issue ends.
The winter comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has become a weak naked eye object (at least 6.0 or better) yet is even doing slightly better than hoped. It is expected to peak at around 5.0 around February 1.
The chart below shows you where to hunt for it….
…and this table is roughly accurate for most northern hemisphereans, as it moves into the winter constellations.
This author’s own observations, in clear but somewhat light-polluted skies, show it easily as big or bigger than half the size of the Moon, obvious in binoculars. Can’t see greenish tints or tail, though, but a cometary cloud it surely is.
And Further Afield….
This is a good time of year to watch the eclipses of Algol, the Demon Star, high in the sky in Perseus. Its eclipses cycle through the hours of the day and night. Most of the time is moderately bright, magnitude 2.1, but every 2 days 20 hours and some change, it dims to 3.3. The entire eclipse takes about 10 hours from start to finish. For the winter and early spring, we’ll list the evening eclipse apparition dates for easier scheduling. The thing to do is, of course, to compare the brightness of Algol to stars of known brightness on a periodic basis and make a graph of progress of the dimming and the light recovery and, in this case, try to find the time of max eclipse!
February 14 (near 10 PM)
Back to no overlap between astronomy and astrology (pity your poor horoscope obsessed friends). The Sun is in Capricornus this entire issue’s timeframe; the newspaper columns say Aquarius. Wrong….
Astronomy in Everyday Life
I KNEW IT! The Moon IS made from cheese!!
But I don’t see any made from Sap Sago, the only fresh (i.e. not moldy) green cheese I know of…..
The Galactic Times InDepth Newsletter-Inbox Magazine
Longer, deeper looks at ONE topic of the Universe, a New York Times Magazine level article in each monthly issue.
Issue 3 - January 2023 — Red Alert! An Astronomical Look At Star Trek’s Heroes and Villains. Available Now to Subscribers Only!
Issue 4 - February 2023 — The Story of the Star That’s’a-Comin’ and a-Goin’
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Preview of Issue 3!
Red Alert! An Astronomical Look at Star Trek’s
Heroes and Villains
Looking up in the January night sky, do you know where to look to see if a Romulan invasion fleet is heading towards Earth? Do you know what direction to send a signal to our allies on Vulcan? Do you have any idea where the United Federation of Planets IS?? In the January issue of The Galactic Times InDepth Newsletter--Inbox Magazine, we take the apart ALL the franchises and find ALL the real stars in the Trek Universe, find where they are located in the real universe and see what we can learn about the Milky Way galaxy, the UFP, and where our allies and the sometimes friends/sometimes enemies of the Federation-Romulans, Klingons--are actually located. Are the Trek stars anywhere close to being like the real ones, or just made up? And where are they in the sky tonight?
In this story, how the 48 stars and objects in that universe that match those in ours were found are told. Then, the rest of the story
plots the stars and indicates the rudiments of the structure of the Milky Way galaxy—the UFP is not in random space;
visits the homeworlds of the Vulcans and the border worlds of the Andorians, in Trekworld and the real universe;
does the same with the Romulan Empire, the Klingons, and the Borg battle site at Wolf 359;
asks how is the UFP arranged in space? Answer: It is constrained on several points!
shows how we shall find them all in the January night sky.
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Dr. Larry Krumenaker, Publisher...
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter-Inbox Magazine #44 Highlights!
Cover Photo - Variability in the Universe
Welcome to Issue 44!
- An Update on Comet 2022 E3 ZTF
- AAS: Citizen Science Options
- Are We Alone in the Universe?
- Exoplanet Watch
Connections to the Sky -
- AAS: Audio Diaries of the Cosmos
- AAS: Sensing the Dynamic Universe (SDU) (Cover Story)
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter-Inbox Magazine #43 [Paid Post] Highlights
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