Alamogordo Astronomy A News Letter for Astronomy in Southern New Mexico

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1 Alamogordo Astronomy News Letter Alamogordo Astronomy A News Letter for Astronomy in Southern New Mexico January 2012 Volume 1, Issue 1 On The Internet Amateur Astronomers Group Tonight s Sky Hubble Images omy/tonights_sky Visible Planet Guide earthsky.org The Sky This Month - nighskyinfo Sky Watching Events - space.com february-2012-skywatching- US NAVAL Observatory ronomical-applications Produced By P.O. Box 4151 Alamogordo, NM David B. Wright Return of the News Letter In light of recent discussions, and after three years as president considering the need for a periodic publication, I have decided to bring back the Alamogordo Astronomy News Letter (or at least something that some may consider similar to the news letters of the past). I know not what this letter will become, but that it depends on participation by the membership. Please feel welcome to post information on the yahoo group and to send to me providing input for this letter. Astronomy Club Meeting The January club meeting included some interesting discussion of our Dark Sky situation. Astronomy Day, Fall 2012, would be a great day for a public star party at the Space Hall. More discussion about this at the February meeting. Buena Vista Corner Buena Vista Observatory, in the corner of the Buena Vista Elementary School, provides the Buena Vista Star Party with magnificent images through the 12 ½ inch Astrola Newtonian Telescope. This scope was built about 50 years ago and still provides clear crisp images that are well worth a visit to the observatory. February Activities Jim Fox presents in February For our February meeting, we have a special treat as Mr. Jim Fox brings us a personal presentation of Observing Variable Stars. Jim is the Committee Chair of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) Photoelectric Photometry (PEP) Observing Program. A related article on the web is at jim-fox-profile-of-a-variable-starobserver/. Buena Vista Star Party (BVSP) The upcoming star party is on the Moonless Evening of 18 February, starting about sunset (1751). Duration depends on: Weather Conditions, Visibility, and Participation. This event should provide us with views of Venus (Sets at 2113) and Jupiter. We may even get a chance to see Mercury (Sets at 1834) and Mars (Rises at 1911). Times from US NAVAL Observatory. February Club Meeting Topics Messier Marathon Variable Star Observation Dark Sky in the Tularosa Basin

2 January 2012 Selected Sky Watching Information for February From the Universe Today web site Planets Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen at the beginning of the month, but will be visible very low in the south west from the 17 th onwards. At the end of February Mercury will be quite bright at around mag -0.8 and will be quite a challenge. It can be seen for about 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter starts off the month high in the south as darkness falls and is still an incredibly bright star-like object. Through good binoculars or a small telescope you can see its four Galilean moons a fantastic sight. On the 8 th at around 19:50 UT, Europa will transit Jupiter and through a telescope you will see the tiny moons shadow move across its surface. Venus will improve throughout the month in the south west and will pass within half a degree of Uranus on the 9 th of February. You can see this through binoculars or a small telescope. On the 25 th Venus and the slender crescent Moon can be seen together a fabulous sight. At the end of month Venus closes in on Jupiter for a spectacular encounter in March. Jupiter Saturn rises around midnight in the constellation of Virgo and appears to be a bright yellowish star. Through a small telescope you will see the moon Titan and Saturn s rings as well. Venus Mars can easily be spotted with the naked eye as a salmon pink coloured star and starts off the month in the constellation of Virgo and moves into Leo on the 4 th. Mars is at opposition on March 3 rd but is also at its furthest from the Sun on the 15 th February making this opposition a poor one with respect to observing due to its small apparent size. The planet will still be visually stunning throughout the month. Saturn Uranus is now a binocular or telescope object in the constellation Pisces. On the 9 th Uranus and Venus will be within ½ degree of each other. Mars Uranus

3 NEWSLETTER Comets Constellations In February, Orion still dominates the sky but has many interesting constellations surrounding it. Above and to the left of Orion you will find the constellation of Gemini, dominated by the stars Castor and Pollux, representing the heads of the twins with their bodies moving down in parallel lines of stars with each other. Legend has it that Castor and Pollux were twins conceived on the same night by the princess Leda. On the night she married the king of Sparta, wicked Zeus (disguised as a swan) invaded the bridal suite, fathering Pollux who was immortal and twin of Castor who was fathered by the king so was mortal. Castor and Pollux were devoted to each other and Zeus decided to grant Castor immortality and placed Castor with his brother Pollux in the stars. Gemini has a few deep sky objects such as the famous Eskimo nebula and some are a challenge to see. Get yourself a good map, Planisphere or star atlas and see what other objects you can track down. Comet Garradd Credit: astronomy.com Comet Garradd is still on show early in the month if you have binoculars and as the month progresses the viewing should improve. You can find the comet in the constellation of Hercules not far from the globular cluster M92. It is about a half a degree away or around the same width as the full Moon. The comet is around magnitude 7 or a little fainter than the more famous globular cluster M13 also to be found in Hercules, so you will definitely need binoculars to see it. The comet is heading north over the course of the month which should mean that it will become a little easier to see. At the beginning of the month you will have to get up early to see it, the best time being around 5:30 to 6:30 GMT. By the end of the month though, it should be visible all night long. Moon phases Full Moon 7 th February Last Quarter 14 th February New Moon 21 st February Credit: Adrian West Alamogordo Astronomy News Letter

4 January 2012 Southern New Mexico Public Events for February In Our Own Back Yard - Activities of Local Area Astronomers The new book by Phil Simpson is now available. Local astronomers have nothing but good comments about Guidebook to the Constellations: Telescopic Sights, Tales, and Myths. Brantley Lake Star Party At Brantley Lake State Park near Carlsbad, 18 February. For more information, go to Dog Canyon Star Party Oliver Lee State Park ( and the Amateur Astronomers Group ( host a monthly star party near Dog Canyon, 8 miles south of 70 on highway 54 toward El Paso. This month is Venus and the Crescent Moon on 25 February. The club meets on the third Friday of the Month at 7:30 PM (except in December) at the Gerald Champion Medical Center- Conference Rooms 1 and 2 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Featured 17 February will be Jim Fox, Observation of Variable Stars. Buena Vista Star Party The hosts the Buena Vista Star Party, free and open to the public. Join us at the Buena Vista Observatory as we view the amazing night sky of New Mexico. In addition to the 12 1/2 Inch Newtonian Telescope of the observatory, local amateur astronomers often share their telescopes and their vast knowledge with the public. It s FREE and everyone is welcome. Bring your Children and your Friends. Location The Buena Vista Observatory is located at Park Ave and 19th St. at the Northwest Corner of the Buena Vista Elementary School Property. Date/Time Saturday Evening, 18 February 2012, from 6:00 until 8:00. Fees/Admission IT S FREE! Duration depends on participation. As always, this live astronomy event depends on weather and visibility. Flyer is attached. Visit our facebook page Or our web page

5 NEWSLETTER Join us at the Buena Vista Observatory as we view the amazing objects of the night sky with the 12 ½ Inch Newtonian Telescope. Saturday February 18th Buena Vista Observatory, Park Ave and 19th St. at the Northwest corner of the Buena Vista Elementary School in Alamogordo, is scheduled to open from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM. Schedule is subject to change without notice depending on weather, visibility, & participation. Visit us on the web at Alamogordo Astronomy News Letter

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