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2012: Transit of Venus June 6

Because up the weather forecast for Tuesday, June 6th, we are forced to cancel the event we had planned for the Transit of Venus. With the forecast of rain, there will be no sun to see, so we will not be able to see Venus passing in front of it. If you would still like to view the event, there are live webcasts of the event, one at Transit of Venus.org, also NASA Sun Earth Day

What Is a Transit of Venus?
A Venus transit is a phenomenon in which the disk of the planet Venus passes like a small shadow across the face of the Sun. The transit can be seen (with proper protection!) by the unaided eye and looks something like a moving sunspot. (Sunspots take about two weeks to cross the face of the Sun, however, while Venus takes a little over six hours). Among the rarest of astronomical events, Venus transits occur eight years apart—and then don’t happen again for more than a century. The last transit before 2004 took place in 1882.

Why Do We See the Transit from Earth?

Venus is the second planet from the Sun and Earth is the third, and the planets circle the Sun at different speeds. It happens from time to time that Venus comes between Earth and the Sun, an event called an inferior conjunction.

Why Do We See It So Rarely?

A Venus transit is similar to a solar eclipse, in which the face of the Sun is blocked by the Moon. But we don’t see a solar eclipse every time the Moon is between Earth and the Sun—which is every time there’s a new Moon. Similarly, we don’t see a transit of Venus every time Venus is between Earth and the Sun—which happens about every 584 days or 1.6 years. That’s because both Venus and the Moon, from our earthly point of view, can be above or below the Sun, and sunlight reaches us undisturbed.

The orbit of Venus around the Sun is tipped in relation to the orbit of Earth. As viewed from the Sun, the orbits cross at two points (called the nodes), and it is only at these points that the planets and the Sun line up directly.

InOMN 2012: Under the Same Moon. 22 September 2012

What is the International Observe the Moon Night? The International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is a world-wide celebration of our nearest neighbor, the Moon! Each year in the fall millions of people from hundreds of locations in countries across the globe come together to view the Moon and learn about its diverse roles in culture, history, science, and exploration. The date and theme for InOMN (pronounced “eye-nom”) are determined by InOMN participants – like you. Visit the InOMN website to share your opinion about upcoming InOMN celebrations. On the website you can also share your InOMN events and stories, learn about events in your area, and find more resources. http://observethemoonnight.org Join the celebration of the Moon!

2012 Parks Day Weekend.

July 20, and 21
Mira River Provincial Park
Friday 6 PM - 10 PM, Saturday 11 AM - 10 PM
Join us to celebrate Canada's Parks Day! This fun-filled day will include presentations by the staff of the Fortress of Louisbourg (in period costume), the Cape Breton Militia, and the Cape Breton Antique and Custom Car Club, just to name a few. There will be an ice cream social, nature walks, games and prizes, bonfires, fireworks, a nature scavenger hunt, along with local entertainment and an appearance by the famous Mira Park Ghost. Canteen facilities will be available with all proceeds on Saturday going to the Children's Wish Foundation. The observatory will be open. Bring your telescopes and binoculars and enjoy the night skies at the park with the capable assistance of our on-site amateur Astronomers. Everyone is welcome - both campers and day-use visitors. Regular camping fees apply. We will meet at the Recreation Centre at the park. Be sure to wear outdoor clothing appropriate for the weather. Sponsored by the Friends of Mira Park Society and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. Contact the park at (902) 563-3373 or (902) 563-3371, or email williabj@gov.ns.ca.

The 2011 Messier MarathonUpdate! As much as I wanted to do the marathon this year, I had to cancel it because of the weather this past weekend. The unfortunate part of this is that we will have to wait until next year to try it again. I am trying to turn this into an annual event, but the weather just does not want this to happen.

The marathon will take place on April 2nd. All the snow is gone in the park, so we will have access to the observatory and the rec hall for warmth. I will be there on the evening of the 1st to start to set things up. If you have any questions about your scope, bring it out on that night and I will try to help you out.
Well it's getting close to that time of year for amatures all around the world to go out on one particular weekend and try to hunt down some of the most magnificant sights in the night sky. This year, on April 2nd, the Messier Marathon will take hold of the minds of many amature astronomers to go out, and in my case, freeze my butt off, and try to find all 110 of the objects in Messiers list.

The Messier Catalog has been a favorite of deep sky observers for over 225 years. Ironically, the famous list that contains some of the most beautiful objects in the sky was originally intended to be a list of objects to avoid. French comet hunter and nebulae cataloger Charles Messier decided to create a list of fuzzy blobs that looked liked comets through his telescope. The catalog was first published in 1771 and contained 45 objects. Most of these objects were not actually discovered by Messier, but some of them were. With the help of the mathematician Pierre Méchain, the list grew to 68 objects in 1780.

A year later, Messier's and Méchain's list grew to 103 objects. Seven more objects (M104 through M110) were added later. Some of the objects that Messier added to his catalog, such as the Great Nebula in Orion (M42), were well known and did not belong on a list of objects that could be mistaken for a comet - Messier knew it and the astronomers of his day knew it, the list just took on a life of its own! I've always wondered if Messier knew his list would become the showpiece objects of the night sky. What Messier did not know, however, was that it is possible to observe all 110 objects in a single night!

Yes, that's right! In an amazing coincidence, most of the objects (if not all) that Messier and Méchain took 24 years to observe and catalog can be observed in one night around the time of the vernal equinox in March. The Messier Marathon was invented (or discovered) independently by several amateur astronomers and clubs in the 1970's. The first marathoner to hunt down all 110 Messier objects in a single night was perhaps Gerry Rattley of Dugas, Arizona on the night of March 23/24, 1985. To attempt this feat of observational proficiency, you must have excellent sky conditions, an ideal observing site, a trusty telescope, and (most importantly) strong observing skills.

Check below for links with more information on the marathon.

The 2010 Perseid meteor shower – August’s famous ’shooting stars’ – will peak in this coming week, on the mornings of August 12 and 13. The shower has been gradually rising to a peak since early August. Any night this week, you might see Perseid meteors.

August 12 and 13, 2010 Perseids

And when we say August 12 or 13, we mean the morning hours after midnight … not that night. These typically fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. But you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower. The meteors appear in all parts of the sky. The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower, and often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour. 2010 is a great year for the Perseids. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for this year’s Perseid show. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. On the mornings of August 12 and 13, watch the Perseid meteors streak across this short summer night from midnight until dawn. Lie back and watch meteors until dawn’s light washes the stars and planets from the sky. The morning of August 11 should be good, too – in fact, this shower tends to rise gradually to a peak for about a week. Then it’s known to drop off rapidly after the peak mornings.

The Cape Breton Astronomical Society will be holding a Messier Marathon at the observatory on the weekend of March 12th, 13th and 14th.

Well what a weekend. The clouds moved in on Friday night, making it impossible to see anything, but Saturday, WOW! Saturday night was by far the best night I have ever seen for observing. We were seeing things that we didn't think we would be able to see. A few of the highlites for me are the Triplets in Leo, The Trapezium in Orion and the Orion Nebula.

Lets start at the beginning. I opened the roof early in the day to let everything cool down with no problem. Around 6:30, I started up the scope to do the alignment and thats when things started going downhill. After I did the alignment and tried to find objects, they were way off or it said "Object Below Horizon". So, not wanting to lose the first few objects, I decided to Star Hop to try to find the first few objects. Not easy when you are using a goto scope and the sky is still fairly bright. After about an hour of trying this, I decided to try to realign the scope, again with little success. Thank god Tim was there to help me find things with the help of my laser pointer. Tim being a dobsonian guy, he knows the sky very well. After knocking off the first bunch, I realigned the scope again, after going through all the settings in it, I found that it was changing the location from 46 degrees to 88 degrees, thus thinking almost everything was below the horizon. So I reset that, went through the whole process again and the same thing happened. Back to star hopping.

On to the next batch of objects. After another bad alignment, I realized that the scope was off the the east, so all I had to do was slew the scope to the object and it was there, finally, something was going right. Not so fast, I was still getting the Object Below Horizon warning. Now I am starting to get ticked off. So I decided to do something I rarely do, I looked at the manual. After about an hour of reading the manual and trying different things, I found the problem, the Time Zone. for some strange reason, Meade decided that they would make all the time zones a positive number rather than a negative. I always thought that we were -4 hours behind GMT, but according to Meade, we are +4 hours ahead of GMT. Made the changes to the settings, realigned the scope, tried a goto and BANG, it was right on. Ok, off I go. started knocking off objects like crazy, I'm loving this now. Now that I am in a better mood, I go out and have a look through Allan's 10" dob, and what a site. He had it on Vesta, just a point of light, but you could still see it.

About this time I really started to notice the frost settling on everything. Allan's scope looked like it just came out of a freezer. Mine on the other hand was only a little frosty. I guess having that electric heater blowing on it kind of helped, and it didn't disturb the air at all. Meanwhile, Tim is in the rec center having a nice nap in front of the fire. Now the push to the finish. The sky is starting to lighten up and things are disappearing really quick. One thing I realized at the end is that the list that I was going by was not intended for this far north. Some of the objects were in the wrong order for this area, so for next year, I will be working on a list for this area.

Yes, we will be doing this again next year, hopefully we will have another night like Saturday, without the technical problems. I want the thank Allan and Tim for coming out and the Friends of Mira for letting us use their rec center to warm up between viewing sessions.

Messier Marathon is a term describing the attempt to find as many Messier objects as possible in one night. Depending on the location of the observer, and season, there is a different number of them visible, as they are not evenly distributed in the celestial sphere. There are heavily crowded regions in the sky, especially the Virgo Cluster and the region around the Galactic Center, while other regions are virtually empty of them. This chance effect leads, at considerably low northern latitudes on Earth (best around 25 degrees North), to the chance to observe all 110 Messier objects in one night! This opportunity occurs once every year, around mid- to end-March; the best time to try is of course when the Moon is near its new phase. For the upcoming years until 2050, we give the best Messier Marathon dates here.

Messier Marathon was invented independently by several North American and perhaps one Spanish amateur astronomers and groups, in the 1970s. It was probably first in the night of March 23/24, 1985 that Gerry Rattley from Dugas, Arizona, completed the list and hunted down all 110 Messier Objects in one night; while he was the first to achieve this goal, it was only about one hour later that Rick Hull duplicated this success from Anza, California. This is however possible only under exceptionally good observing conditions, and at a preferred location. Anyway, some Messier Marathon tips may help to be [even] more successful with this endeavor, i.e., see one or a few objects more.

The more complete Messier Marathon history can be found in Don Machholz's booklet, The Messier Marathon Observer's Guide (Machholz 1994), or its newer edition or successor, The Observing Guide to the Messier Marathon (Machholz 2002), which moreover gives a most useful proposition for the search sequence. It also points out that less complete Messier Marathons may be run at every time in the year, the percentage depending on location and time.

Send mail to Mira Provincial Park Observatory with questions or comments.
Copyright © 1986 The Cape Breton Astronomical Society
Last modified: January 19, 2011