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Monday, December 05, 2016

 

Jack is gone (NSFW)

Jack is gone. My beautiful boy will no longer slope off the Melbourne-Adelaide bus, gangly, rumpled, sleepy, and so very, very Melbourne. We will no longer drive home through the dawn, talking music, philosophy or just sitting together silently.

Because you fell in the bathroom and died. WHY DID YOU FUCKING DO THAT! HOW COULD YOU! HOW COULD YOU!

But you were always doing the unexpected weren’t you, you bastard. Peta and I were planning a hippy birth for you, with music and scented oils, but you arrived 6 weeks early and we had machines that went beep and nitrous oxide instead. We couldn’t even hold you at first, all curled up and purple in your humidicrib.  It was days later that you first held my finger through the humidicrib’s porthole.

You were born with talipes, clubfoot, and the splints and plasters on your ill-formed foot made you restless in the heat of the summer night. I would push your pram through the night shrouded streets of Elwood in the early hours, as I tried to sooth you to sleep. Walking with you under those dark skies brought me back to astronomy, abandoned by the pressure of study and postdoctoral research.

Later when I showed you a lunar eclipse, for ages after you called Selene “Daddy’s Moon”. Anyone who has heard my voice on radio, or seen me on TV, should know that it was Jack that started my journey to the media with those nights walking through the dark, trying to bring sleep to him.

Jack didn’t let his club foot stop him through all the splints, casts and surgery. From a young boy taking cricket runs, his cast puffing up dust, through tennis and soccer he persevered. He indulged Peta and my love of bushwalking, although together he and I did a long day walk sharing one of my favourite places, the scenic rim at O'Reilly's. We walked through cool forests of Antarctic Beech and gazed out over panoramas to the coast doing the silent male bonding thing. YOU STILL OWE ME A BUSHWALK ON THE HEYSEN TRAIL YOU BASTARD.

We didn’t know until after he died how much his club foot bothered him, and how he searched for a sport where he and his leg could be accepted. Jack finally found his sport in fencing. Lunging and parrying, with his skinny “bung leg” encased in his bright pink fencing socks he was never happier.

Was that what happened Jack? DID YOUR TRAITOR LEG FAIL YOU THAT NIGHT and bring you crashing down? Or did electrical storms surge through your fencers heart stopping it? Or something else, hidden from the pathologists art? We may never know.

Fencing was Jack’s joy, but writing was Jack’s passion. On the epic family road trip Jack sat in the back of the campervan ignoring 3,000 kilometers of spectacular scenery, writing his novella. From quirky and absurd to dark and serious, Jack launched Tasmania into space, made Satan a warbling magpie, rhapsodised over paralympic fencing and made a persimmon tree a dark harbinger of fate. His last story published before he died was Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome. WHY THAT ONE JACK, WHY BLOODY HELL THAT ONE! I still can’t read it all the way through, I just can’t. Could you anticipate your story of unforetold death would foreshadow your own?

A young man on the threshold of new challenges, he now will be forever 19, future disappointments avoided, future achievements unrealised. But he will live on in the hearts and memories of his friends and family and in the students he mentored. He touched so many lives, not only through his writing for the student magazine Farrago, where so many Australian writers were launched, but through Farrago’s Jack Francis Musgrave award for Creative Absurdity which will honour Jack’s love of the quirky and inspire future writers.

His posthumous story "my Bung Leg and Me" to be published in Voiceworks, his first paid writing work, is a semi-autobiographical history of talipes. If this story helps even one person cope better with disability, it will be a fitting legacy. Jack had also become ambassador for wheelchair fencing, should wheelchair fencing take hold in this will extend Jack’s legacy into the future.

Jack is gone, in his place are pictures, stories and memories. Of all my memories of him this one comes to me most often; Jack and I, driving home together in companionable silence, towards the dawn, a new day, and a bright new future.

You can find more of Jack's writing for Farrago here
http://farragomagazine.com/contributor/jack-musgrave/

For those struggling, reach out to your friends and family, or maybe the Black Dog Institute can help
http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Wheelchair Fencing at Fioretto Fencing Club, Victoria. Jack is no longer the contact of course, but contact Fencing Victoria directly if you are interested.
http://websites.sportstg.com/assoc_page.cgi?client=1-3825-0-0-0&sID=40399&&news_task=DETAIL&articleID=47665080


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

 

A not so Super "Super Moon"

By now everyone has seen the stories that the  Full Moon of Monday November 14 is a "Super Moon".

Not just that, a "Super Moon" the likes of which we have not seen since 1948, and will not see again until 2034.

Well, yeah, sort of. Technically,  the Moon will be at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth. This is the closest perigee since 1948 (and the next closest will be in 2034).

A full Moon at perigee has been called a "Super Moon", this is not an astronomical term (the astronomical term is perigee syzygy, but that doesn't trip off the tongue so nicely), but an astrological one first coined in 1979 (see here).

However,astronomical outreach groups started using the term "Super Moon" for perigee Moons and it stuck.

 Chart comparing the binocular/telescopic appearance of Novembers Full Perigee Moon with the apogee Moon of  April 21. Click to embiggen.

What can you expect to see with the "Super Moon" of November 14?

Not much really, unless you are a regular observer of the Moon, have good visual acuity and a good memory.

The problem is, while the Moon is close this time round, it doesn't actually translate into something you can easily see with your unaided eye. Mondays Full Moon will be around 14% larger and 30% brighter than Aprils apogee Full Moon.

So how's you memory?

If you can remember back that far, and remember seeing the Full Moon in April, you now come up against the limits of human eyesight.

The limit of distances that someone with good vision can distinguish between is 1 minute of arc (about the width of a human hair). So, for the vast majority of people any difference smaller than 1 minute of arc cannot be seen. The difference between the Apogee full Moon of 21 April (29'56") and this Mondays perigee "Super" full Moon (33'55") is around 3 minutes of arc, that is 3 human hair widths, doable for most people, but you do have to remember what the Moon looked like back in April, 8 months ago.

Some of my astronomical friends who are regular Moon viewers can do this. On the other hand I have been trying to image perigee and apogee Moons for a couple of years, and I can never tell the difference.

In contrast, the October 16th Full Moon, which you probably can remember,  was 33'45'' wide (compared to this months "Super Moon" of 33'55")  so the difference is less than one minute of arc, the Full Moon of 17 September was 33'11" wide, again less than one minute of arc, the Full Moon of 14 December will be 33'40" wide so you will not be able to tell the difference between these full Moons and this Monday's "Super Moon".

Recent perigee Full Moons compared to the 2034 and 1948 perigee full Moons, note that there is only a handful of kilometres between them. (source)

Date   Time      Distance    Moon Phase      Year
Nov  25 22:08 356447 km  ++  F-    0h 2034
Jan  26 11:17 356462 km  ++  F+    4h  1948
Nov 14 11:24 356511 km ++ F- 2h 2016
Mar 8 8:36 356529 km ++ F- 1h 1993
Jan 19 22:13 356548 km ++ F+ 0h 1992
Dec 12 21:38 356567 km ++ F+ 4h 2008
Mar 19 19:10 356577 km ++ F+ 0h 2011
Jan 30 9:04 356592 km ++ F+ 2h 2010
Nov 4 0:42 356614 km ++ F- 4h 1998
Dec 22 11:01 356654 km ++ F- 6h 2001
Dec 22 11:01 356654 km ++ F- 6h 1999
Oct 26 11:52 356754 km ++ F+ 6h 2007
Feb 7 22:20 356852 km ++ F- 8h 2002
Sep 28 1:47 356876 km ++ F- 1h 2015
Aug 10 17:44 356896 km ++ F- 0h 2014
Apr 25 17:18 356925 km ++ F- 2h 1994
Jul 30 7:37 356948 km ++ F- 2h 1996
May 6 3:34 356953 km ++ F- 0h 2012
Sep 16 15:25 356965 km + F- 3h 1997
Jun 23 11:11 356989 km ++ F- 0h 2013
Jun 13 1:06 357006 km + F- 2h 1995
Apr 17 4:59 357157 km + F+ 9h 2003
Jul 21 19:46 357159 km  F+ 8h 2005
Sep 8 3:08 357174 km + F+ 8h 2006
Jun 3 13:11 357248 km ++ F+ 8h 2004
Jan 10 10:53 357500 km + F- 16h 2009
Dec 22 9:29 358353 km  F+ 23h 1991
Nov 14 22:59 366050 km  F+3d 1h 2000

Another twist is that the time of perigee is 11:24 UT, which is 22:24 AEDST, so reasonably later at night. The reason why I emphasis this is that many people will see the Moon rising on the horizon, where it will look bigger due to the Moon illusion and say "I've seen the super Moon" , when no, they haven't, the Moon won't be "super sized" until two hours after it rises.

While all but a few dedicated Moon watchers will be able to see the difference between this "Super Moon" and an apogee Moon, photographing it is another thing entirely. Here are some images of the "Super Moon" of August 2014 that I took.   Again, it helps to have images of an apogee Moon to compare with, but you are going to have to wait until 8 June 2017 for your next apogee Moon opportunity.

However, as the Moon is rising it is also increasing in size, so a series of images could capture the size increase towards perigee. However, you WILL need a good zoom lens, binoculars or telescope to capture this, the magnification of an ordinary camera will be insufficient to pick up the size difference.

So, the once in 70 years "Super Moon" will be a little bit disappointing if you are not an obsessive Moon watcher with a good memory, but it will still be a beautiful Full Moon, and if you are handy with a camera and telescope you can capture the Moon as it increases in size, and if you capture next years apogee Moon you can make some nice contrasting images.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

 

Nova Sagittarius 2016 (9 November 2016)

Nova Sgr 2016. Stack of 11 x 15 second 400 ASA exposures, taken with the Canon IXUS on 9 November 2016 at 21:24 ACDST. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker.Click to Embiggen.Chart of the sky in the "teapot" of Sagittarius for comparison stars. the large circle is the field of view of 10x 50 binoculars. Click to embiggen. 

Got a much better look at the bright nova in Sagittarius, PNV J18205200-2822100, which has gone above the unaided eye brightness threshold of magnitude 6.0. This time I got to see it at astronomical twilight, when it was still relatively high above the horizon, and there was less cloud about this time.

still pretty clear, with better comparison stars I estimate it to be magnitude 5.9 (maybe a smidgen brighter). It will be interesting to keep monitoring over the next week to see if it fades or brightens some more.

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Astrophiz Podcast 18 is Out

Astrophiz Podcast 18 is out now.

‘The Acceleration of the Expanding Universe’ is beautifully explained by Dr Brad Tucker. Brad is an Astrophysicist/Cosmologist, and currently a Research Fellow and PhD supervisor at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University.

Dr Nadeshzda Cherbakov Skypes in from Tver in Russia to tell us more about the Cosmic Microwave background Radiation.

In ‘What’s up Doc?’I tell you  what to look for in the night sky this week using the unaided  eye, binoculars or telescopes. Oh yes, and I takes down ’Suuupermoons’

In the news: An update on the SKA, the Square Kilometre Array, our planet’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope

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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday November 10 to Thursday November 17

The Full Moon is Monday November 14. This is a Perigee Full Moon, a so-called "Super Moon". There is a "bright" nova in Sagittarius. Venus is prominent in the evening sky and forms a triangle with Antares and Saturn. On the 12th Venus is close to the Lagoon Nebula. On the 17 Venus is close to Kaus Borealis, the lid of the "Teapot" of Sagittarius. Mars heads towards Capricornius.

The Full Moon is Monday November 14. This is a Perigee Full Moon, when the Moon is closest to the Earth, a so-called "Super Moon". However, unless you have excellent eyesight and a good memory, you will be unable to distinguish this from any other full Moon.

Evening sky on Saturday November 12 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:30 ACDST (around an hour and a half after sunset). Venus is forms a triangle with Antares and Saturn (although they are on the horizon at this time). Venus is next to the Lagoon Nebula at this time, see iset for a binocular view. The location of Nova Sgr is indicated with a yellow star. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Venus continues to rise into darker skies this week. Venus is high in the dusk sky and can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour to a bit after an hour and a half after sunset, staying visible after twilight is over low above the horizon in truly dark skies.

Venus starts the week forming a triangle with the pair of Antares and Saturn. As the week goes on Venus comes closer to the lagoon nebula, being closest on the 12th and 13th. Venus then comes closer to the "teapot" of Sagittarius, and finishes the week close to Kause Borealis, the "lid" of the "teapot".
Venus is a distinct "gibbous Moon" shape in telescopes.

Nova Sagittarius 2016  has brightened to (just) unaided eye visibility, although the waxing Moon may make it hard to see. located in the "teapot" of Sagittarius viewing instructions and charts are here.

Evening sky on Sunday November 13 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:30ACDST.  Mars is in Caprciornius with Venus below brushing the horizon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies in Capricornius. During the week Mars moves further through the star poor regions of  Capricornius.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible all evening long setting after midnight. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's. Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object ony for the next few weeks. Saturn is readily visible next to Antares in Scorpius. Saturn is still high enough for good telescopic observation in the early evening, with only  a narrow window for observation, setting abut 10:00 daylight saving time. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

In the early evening the line-up of Venus, Saturn and Mars under dark skies will look very good.

Morning  sky on Sunday November 13 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:07 ACDST (an hour before sunrise).  Jupiter is low above the horizon but clear in dark skies.

Jupiter rises higher into the morning skies this week. You will need an unobstructed, level eastern horizon to see it around an hour before sunrise, but it should be reasonably easy to see by the time of civil twilight half an hour before sunrise.


Mercury is low in the morning twilight but never rises far above the horizon.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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Bright, Unaided Eye Nova in Sagittarius

Western horizon as seen from Adelaide an hour and a half after sunset, the location of the nova is indicated with a yellow star. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at equivalent local times. Click to embiggen. High power view, simulating a binocular view of the area around the nova. It is close to a star of similar magnitude. A second nova, visible only in telescopes, is down the bottom of the field. Click to embiggen.

While I was out of commission with colds/flu's two nova exploded in Sagittarius, both near the teapot of Sagittarius. One, PNV J18205200-2822100,has been slowly increasing in brightness and has now broken the unaided eye brightness threshold of magnitude 6.0, with the latest report from New Zealand of 5.4 (clouded out here at the moment). PNV J18205200-2822100 (hereafter Nova Sag 2016) is in the "teapot" of Sagittarius between Kaus Borealis (lambda Sagittarii and Kaus Media (delta Sagittarii) and should be fairly easy to pick up.

Unaided eye nova are not common, so it is well worth going out and having a look, although the waxing Moon may interfere a bit.

Printable black and white chart of the location of PNV J18205200-2822100 (Nov Sag 2016), the large circle is the field of view of 10x 50 binoculars. The star next to Nov Sag 2016 is magnitude 6. Also shown is TCP J18102829-2729590 (Nov Sag 2 2016) Currently magnitude 9 and only visible in telescopes. Click to embiggen and print.

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Monday, November 07, 2016

 

Astrophiz Podcast 17 is Out

Astrophiz Podcast 17 is out now.

We talk with John Sarkissian, who is the Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory.

It’s a sensational interview celebrating 55 years of amazing observations from the iconic dish that bought the Apollo moon landings to 600 million viewers in 1969

Dr Nadeshzda Cherbakov tells us about Cosmic Background Radiation.

In 'What's Up Doc?' I tell you what to look for up in the sky this week and how to temper your discovery of new rogue planets.

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Venus, Antares, Saturn and the Moon (2 and 3 November, 2016)

Venus, Saturn, Antares and the crescent Moon filled with Earth-shine below. Stack of 10 x 10 second 400 ASA Canon IXUS images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. Imaged on 2 November around 9:00 pm. Click to embiggen to see the stars clearly.Same setup the following night (3 November). Click to embiggen to see the stars clearly.

Venus has moved up from the spectacular line up of the 28th, and has formed a nice triangle with Saturn and Antares. It was joined by thin crescent Moon on the 2nd and 3rd.

Of course, I was sick as a dog then, I was able to stumble out and take these two shots, before crawling back into bed, and have only now just processed them. They turned out fairly well considering I paid virtually no attention to the process (I had intended to go down the beach and do reflections and artistic stuff before I got sick, but shuffling out to the back yard stretched my capabilities to the limit).

Anyway, do embiggen the images, the extra detail is worth it.

Venus will continue to rise towards the "teapot" of Sagittarius, heading for a meeting with the lagoon nebula this weekend. 

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

 

Southern Skywatch November, 2016 edition is now out!

Evening sky on November 3 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 40 minutes after sunset.  Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

The November edition of Southern Skywatch is  up.

This month starts with three bright planets in the evening sky still doing an entrancing planet dance. Venus climbs higher in the evening sky it starts the month close to Antares and Saturn, on the 3rd it is close to the crescent Moon then has some close encounters with bright stars (Kaus Boralis on the 18th)  and M22 (on the 19th) in the "teapot" of Sagittarius.

Mars is close to the Moon, on the 6th. Mars is much diminished and meets the dim globular cluster M75 on the 8th.

Saturn has a close encounter with the Moon on the 2nd and 3rd, then Mercury on the 22nd.


Mercury, returns to the evening sky late in the month and is close to Saturn on the 22nd..

 Jupiter is low in the dawn sky, but is rising over the month, on the 25th it is not far from the crescent Moon. 

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Astrophiz Podcast 16 is Out

Astrophiz Podcast 16 is out now.

At the Australian Space Science Conference we talk with Ian Whitechurch, CEO of Neumann Space, which has just secured a contract to test their solid state ion space drive on the International Space Station.

Dr Nadeshzda Cherbakov is back from her dacha and talks from Russia to tell us about Synchrotron Radiation.

In 'What's Up Doc?' I tell you what to look for up in the sky this week, the ‘blue’ new moon, earthshine, trans-neptunian object Sedna, Planet 9, how to use Heavens-above and Calsky to get email alerts for overhead satellites, Iridium flares, the ISS, comets and novas as they become visible over your own house.

In the news:
1. Schiaparelli Lander wrap up
2. Eta Carinae imaged in incredible detail
3. Proxima Centauri’s 7 year ’starspot’ cycle discovered

Next Week:
We talk with John Sarkissian, who is the Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory. It’s a sensational interview.

In two weeks:
We talk about the accelerating universe controversy with the Mt Stromlo Research Fellow, Cosmologist and Type Ia Supernovae researcher Dr Brad Tucker.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday November 3 to Thursday November 10

The First Quarter Moon is Tuesday November 8. Venus is prominent in the evening sky and forms a triangle with Antares and Saturn. On November 5 Venus is close to the star theta Ophiuchi. The crescent Moon is close to Mars on November 6th. Mars heads towards Capricornius and is close to a faint globular cluster on the 8th.

The First Quarter Moon is Tuesday November 8.

Evening sky on Saturday November 5 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:45 ACDST. Venus is forms a triangle with Antares and Saturn. Venus is almost on top of theta Ophiuchi at this time. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. Viewing times for the ISS can be found here (click to embiggen).

Venus continues to rise into darker skies this week. Venus is high in the dusk sky and can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour to a bit after an hour and a half after sunset, staying visible after twilight is over low above the horizon in truly dark skies.

Venus starts the week forming a triangle with the pair of Antares and Saturn with the crescent Moon close by.  This will be a lovely sight, especially later in the evening when earth-shine fills the dark part of the crescent Moon.

As the week goes on Venus and the Moon rise higher in the sky. On November 5 Venus is close  to the star theta Ophiuchi. To the unaided eye theta Ophiuchi will be overwhelmed by the brightness of Venus. Venus is a distinct "gibbous Moon" shape in telescopes.

Evening sky on Sunday November 6 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:45 ACDST.  Mars is close to the crescent Moon with Venus below and Saturn brushing the horizon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies on the borders of  Capricornius. During the week Mars moves further towards the star poor regions of  Capricornius.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible all evening long setting after midnight. In even small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

On November 6 the crescent is Moon close to Mars. On November 7-8; Mars is close to to the dim globular cluster M75. This is a telescope only event.

 Saturn was at opposition on the 3rd of June. However, Saturn's change in size and brightness is nowhere near as spectacular as Mars's. Saturn will be a reasonable telescopic object ony for the next few weeks. Saturn is readily visible next to Antares in Scorpius. Saturn is still high enough for good telescopic observation in the early evening, with only  anarrow window for observation, setting abut 10:00 daylight saving time. In even small telescopes its distinctive rings are obvious.

In the early evening the line-up of Venus, Saturn and Mars under dark skies will look very good.


Morning  sky on Friday October 28 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:45 ACDST.  Jupiter is low in the twilight glow .

Jupiter emerges from the twilight into the morning skies this week. You will need an unobstructed, level eastern horizon to see it around half an hour before sunrise.


Mercury is low in the morning twilight but never rises far above the horizon.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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