The Galactic Times Newsletter #12 - November 1 - 15, 2021
Planets Coming, Planets Going; At Last, Viewing a Supernova Before, During and After!; How to Announce ET Life; Lunar Eclipse Advance Warning. 25% off Sale.
Cover Photo and Story - Star Death in the Butterflies
In This Issue:
Hide and Seek! The Moon gets selective. It hides two planets, but becomes a sign post for one and allows some dim meteors to show through. Both Mercury and Venus get eclipsed (occulted) by the Moon—if you are in the right place— here’s a heads up on the upcoming Nearly Total Lunar Eclipse (eeek, sounds almost Harry Potter-ish!). Saturn and Jupiter are starting to head towards the exit stage right, as is Venus, but the latter is doing so with a flourish.
Meanwhile, no life has been found sending radio signals from Proxima Centauri b, and NASA scientists have proposed a protocol for announcing the findings of extraterrestrial life. If there was any around a star in the heart of the Butterfly Galaxies, we know how it died. All this in Issue 12 of The Galactic Times.
Cover Photo — Star Death in the Butterflies
This Just In —The Rosetta Stone of Supernovae;
A Proposed Scale to Evaluate the Communication of Finding ETs;
An Example of the Above, Today
Sky Planning Calendar — Moon-Gazing - Mercury and the Moon, and Mars; Observing—Plan-et —; Border Crossings; For the Future - Upcoming Eclipse,
Astronomy in Everyday Life — GoFundMe. Please?
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter Issue 12 Highlights
The Black Friday/End of Year/Holidays with Increased Discount Sale
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This Just In—
* Cover Story: The Rosetta Stone of Supernovae
Astrophysicists have the butterflies inside them. From time immemorial, what astrophysicists have wanted was to catch a supernovae not only in the act but from before the act. To be watching a star from normal life to the moment of the star’s explosion and those immediate moments in the throes of its demise. It has finally happened, and it took the combined efforts of two space telescopes to do it. Hubble, meet TESS. Scopes, meet SN 2020fqv and the Butterflies.
Land-based Zwicky Transient Facility at Mount Palomar Observatory in California was observing the interacting Butterfly Galaxies, 60 million light years away in Virgo along with spaced-based TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite which is often used for other projects as well as exoplanets, when this supernova was spotted. The Hubble Space Telescope and a whole bunch of ground observatories were called in for reinforcements, as supernovae cause to happen. What Hubble was able to see was “circumstellar material,” gas and debris so close to the star that it had not yet been disturbed by the explosion, material from its pre-explosion life. In fact, Hubble had observations going back into the 1990s, and TESS had been observing the star and its surroundings serendipitously every 30 minutes starting several days before the explosion, and then afterwards.
The California astronomers determined the 14-15 solar mass star had blown off a significant amount of mass in its last year of life. The astronomers suggest that this is one signal that such stars are ready to blow. They pointed out that last year the red giant Betelgeuse may have blown off some material, though they don’t think it was enough to signal imminent demise. But for the first time, astronomers have a complete timeline, before, during and after, of the death of a massive star.
* A Proposed Scale to Evaluate the Communication of Finding ETs
“Our generation could realistically be the one to discover evidence of life beyond Earth. With this privileged potential comes responsibility.” With these opening words, a team of NASA scientists opened an October Nature article on a progressively designed scale to communicate any future findings pertaining to finding evidence of life beyond Earth. Their CoLD scale (Communication of Life Determination) has seven levels and is designed to portray to the public that this is not a binary yes-or-no determination, but a pathway on the certainty of extraterrestrial life. They use several examples, such as the furor that arose in 1996 evidence was claimed to be found in a Martian meteorite ALH84001 that life had existed on Mars. Or what will happen if/when samples from Perseverance are returned to Earth. Many of us remember the disappointment that came about in the public mind when Viking lander evidence was contradictory and ambiguous. Finally, Hollywood made millions on the pro/anti conflicts with extraterrestrials in the movie Contact.
The article can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03804-9 and in print in the October 28th issue. The authors are James Green, Tori Hoehler, Marc Neveu, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Daniella Scalice & Mary Voytek. A schoolroom use of this idea is in the current Issue 12 of The Classroom Astronomer newsletter.
* An Example of the Above, Today
In a Nature Astronomy Online article October 25, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-021-01479-w (A Radio Technosignature Search towards Proxima Centauri Resulting in a Signal of Interest), Shane Smith and a team of 17 discuss a “technosignature” detected with a radio telescope aimed at Proxima Centauri b, a planet orbiting the nearest star beyond the Solar System. Many scientists are searching for biosignatures, the more general term for signs that life forms exist on exoplanets. These have either produced a deliberate signal such as lights, radar, radio noise, or an inadvertent signal of their existence, such as producing atmospheric compounds that do not occur normally, like oxygen atmospheres. Smith et al were seeking radio signals, and detected one from this planet, a presumably habitable world around an M-dwarf that has a tidally locked rotation—one face always facing the star—as it orbits the cool but very active tiny star. The star has massive, life-harming solar flares, making the planet quite dangerous for earthly lifeforms.
Yet when the whole range of radio frequencies was monitored, one signal passed through all the filters, at about 982 MHz. No known terrestrial source broadcasts at that frequency, and it was visible almost all the time from PCb, but not elsewhere. Rather than announcing that there was life on this planet, the scientists tried an exhausting research protocol and finally determined it was an unusual mix of terrestrially generated, multiple interferences of signals.
Sky Planning Calendar
Note that in much of the USA, clocks revert to Standard Time on the 7th. It has already changed in much of Europe on the 31st of October. Other countries, such as in Asia, do not observe Daylight Savings Time. Neither do residents on other planets or the Sun.
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.
November 3 The Moon occults (passes in front of) Mercury for observers in Northeastern US and most of Canada. The event occurs around 19 hours Universal Time —about 2 PM Central Daylight Time—and the Moon, Sun and Mercury will all be high in the sky. Dawn watchers, see the thin crescent dropping down on Mercury from above.
The Moon will be a very thin one-day from New Moon crescent, about 15 degrees west of the Sun so BE CAREFUL NOT TO LOOK AT THE SUN while aiming any telescope or binoculars!! Damage to retinal cells is permanent. This is a rare case where an electronic, Go-To type telescope is a real safety advantage. If you don’t have one, at least hide the Sun behind a building edge that leaves the sky west of the Sun visible for optical devices. Or for safety, don’t even try….
And all week (that is, November 1-3), Mercury is to the left of blue-white first magnitude star Spica in the twilight dawn sky (see below).
November 4 New Moon.
November 5 The Moon is at perigee. We have a Super (Thin) Crescent Moon!
November 7 A waxing Moon lies 1.1 degrees north of Venus, viewed from North America. About this for everyone else on the 8th. For observers in the Aleutian Islands, Japan, and that part of Asia roughly where China and Russia meet, the Moon will occult Venus. In the post-twilight, pre-Venus-setting darkness, Venus is above the spout of Sagittarius’ Teapot asterism, getting scalded in the ‘steam’ rising out of it, the Milky Way, if your skies are dark enough to see it.
This is also a GREAT opportunity to get a telescope out in daytime, find the Moon (always to the left of the Sun so BE CAREFUL) and search for Venus in your telescope. Compare their crescent shapes. Whose is thinner?
November 10 Saturn hangs 4 degrees north of the Moon.
November 11. It is the night of the First Quarter Moon, and Luna is hanging out 4 degrees south of Jupiter. When this happens, you know you aren’t going to see Jupiter in the morning skies no more….in fact, it is picking up steam moving eastward among the stars, and setting earlier and earlier….
Part 2 of Venus’ greatest three evening prime time viewing months begins. The brilliant planet edges slightly closer to the Sun, but being so far south of the celestial equator, it is a better show for viewers in Australia, southern Africa and South America, and not much change for Northern hemisphere viewers. Yet. But soon Venus will more rapidly move northward and for the rest of November and much of December, we northerners will have our lovely Evening Star. It sets more than an hour after twilight ends. and don’t forget to look for the Moon near (or on top of!) the brilliant planet on the 7-8th.
For students, Saturn and Jupiter are now perfect to look at during evening homework hours. Send them out for observing diaries now that the nights are longer and cooler. By New Year’s end-of-semester exams, you’ll just about lose them both.
Mercury is peak in the morning sky! It shines at magnitude -1, almost as bright as Sirius, the brightest of the real stars! At first rising near the start of morning twilight, it is the first of the planets to greet Mars from its several months siesta, passing by it on the 10th, though you’ll need a pair of binoculars to more easily find the other red planet. And if you don’t, you’ll lose Mercury within a day or three as it dives back into the solar glare. As noted above, during the first three days of the month, Mercury is to the left of Spica, normally a stand-out bright star but which pales in comparison to brilliant Mercury. Spica appears to be rising and moving away from Mercury! But it is a combination of motions casing the illusion.
A weird twist to Earth’s meteor calendar. We’ve HAD Taurid meteors already, but as noted in earlier issues of TGT, the weak Taurids are split into northern and southern streams and which one peaks strongest depends also on whether moonlight interferes. The two streams are only putting out about 5 meteors an hour—nothing to get too wowed about—but the Southern Taurids are at the peak of their loooooong arc of activity the day after New Moon. So if you are starved from celestial vapor trails, wrap up warmly and sit out in lawn chairs in the hours just before dawn around the 5th, give or take a day, and look for meteors coming FROM Taurus, which will be overhead, so look in any direction BUT overhead. A peak for the Northern Taurids, some say, is the day after First Quarter—and there is no First Quarter moon ever seen during dawn—so you can try again a week later, around the 11th…..and know better streams are coming.
(Sky Calendar Art modified from SkyViewCafe.com graphics)
For the Future…
November 19th, just after this TGT issue expires, is the date of a Partial Lunar Eclipse, or more precisely a Very Nearly Total Lunar Eclipse. Kick that Moon a bit and it would be fully in Earth’s shadow…..as it is, it will 97% of the way into the umbra…..
Let’s get some details:
(Diagram from www.timeanddate.com)
Technically, it is the 18-19th, but for the majority of TGT readers in the USA, it starts late on the 18th or after midnight on the 19th and the maximum immersion into the deep shadow will be in the darkest hours before dawn, 1 AM Pacific Standard Time, 3 AM Central Standard Time, etc. It will take approximately an hour and three-quarters to get from first umbral bite to that 97%, and that long to leave the umbral shadow, a total of 3.5 hours in the umbra. A good chance there will be some umbral red tones even at maximum, though not a real ‘blood’ moon because of that little sliver of nearly, uh, full sunlight still on it. Actually that bit will be in the penumbra, the dusky outer shadow, which usually isn’t opaque enough until about 20 minutes before umbral contact, but with this glancing blow to the umbra, a good science experiment would be to see if you can stretch that longer before and after umbral first and last contacts!
We’ll show you some things to do in the next TGT and TCA issues.
- - -
There are a bunch of 9th magnitude comets currently floating in the autumn skies, but one of them, Comet Leonard, is on track to make a rapid pass by Earth in December, and thus rising to possible naked eye brightness (NOT brilliance, but bright enough to be seen, it is hoped) in the western sky in mid-December. We’ll keep you posted.
None. Traditional Zodiac sky—Sun in Scorpius. Real sky—Sun in Libra.
Next Two Issues—my favorite time for Border crossings! You’ll see why…. heh heh heh….
Astronomy in Everyday Life
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter Issue 12 Highlights
This premium newsletter is a subscribers-only publication, though a free Lite version is available.
Cover Photo and Connection to the Sky - The Lunar South Pole Video
Critical Information - Discount Pricing for Certain Groups of Astronomy
Astronomical Teachniques - IAU-Shaw: Low Tech Astro—Astronomy During
the Day, So Explore The Sun; Planet Earth;
Low Cost Astrophotography with a Smartphone
Not the Clicker, Use the Laser! Huh?
(Astronomy Remotely - 2. Remote Observing — Postponed because of
The RAP Sheet – Research Abstracts for Practitioners - Call for a Framework
for Reporting Evidence for Life Beyond Earth
The Black Friday/End of Year/Holidays with
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Use Code EOY2, good until November 15th, 2021.
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