Whats Up, Ron? is a monthly almanac for Northern American astronomersastras


by Ronald A. Leeseberg, the Star Geezer

October 2011 - Vol. 15 No. 10

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Features: Calendar | Lunar Almanac | Monthly Topic

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

Angular Measurement Review: It is interesting to note that the relationship between the angle subtended by combinations of fingers on your fully outstretched arm are the same for all viewers. This is due to the fact that the hand's size is proportional to the arm's length. A shorter arm is attached to a smaller hand while a longer arm is attached to a larger hand, thus the angle measured remains the same. If you hold your arm fully outstretched, your little finger, when sighted down your arm, is one degree wide. Your three middle fingers is five degrees, your fist, 10 degrees, and the distance between your little finger and your pointer finger is 15 degrees no matter what your age or size.

great square of Pegasus constellation chart

High in the S., find the "Great Square of Pegasus". (Note that the leftmost star, Alpheratz, is actually in Constellation Andromeda.) Far below, nearly on the horizon, glows lonely Formalhaut [FOE-ma-lot] of Piscis Austrinus. These are sure signs of autumn. The famous "W" asterism of Cassiopeia is well placed between Pegasus and Polaris, (Ursa Minor) the star nearest the celestial N. pole. The stars of Orion and Gemini are rising above the E. horizon and the stars of the "Big Dipper" sit low in the N. Although the "Summer Triangle" is still prominent with Deneb (Cygnus) high in the W., it will soon disappear over the horizon.

MERCURY reaches it peak altitude in the early morning sky early this month. By the 8th , it will appear some 10 degrees above the E horizon about a half hour before sunrise. It disappears from view during the third week of the month. VENUS makes a very short appearance about a half hour after sunset at month’s end. Since it shines so brightly, sharp eyes might see it against the glare of the setting Sun. MARS rises in the ENE at around 2 AM. It is still too far away to see surface details. Bright JUPITER rises around 10 PM at the beginning of the month. By month’s end, it will be visible during the end of twilight. Its best telescopic view occurs at around 11 PM through midnight. SATURN glows low on the W after twilight at the beginning of the month. It sinks ever lower in the night sky until in disappears from view at midmonth. The SUN arrives at the equinox on the 23rd of this month. This marks the beginning of fall in this hemisphere and of spring in the Southern hemisphere.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time.; Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

The zodiacal light (false dawn) is still visible in the E from about two hours before, and until, sunrise.

Look SE before sunrise and watch Mars pass through the Beehive Star Cluster (M44) in Constellation Cancer. This will require a telescope or binoculars.
Look for a conjunction (6 degrees) of the Moon and star-like Neptune at 10 PM. Use your binoculars.
The Draconid Meteor Shower peaks this evening. Although usually considered a minor shower, there may be an increase in its activity since its parent, Comet 21P/Glacobini-Zinner, reaches parihelion(its closest approach to the Sun) next February. Major "outbursts" have occurred before under similar conditions. Unfortunately this year the peak occurs only three days before the full Moon so best viewing will occur with Moon at your back.
Look E to see Jupiter near the full Moon in the night sky from dusk on the 12th and W at dawn on the 14th.

At 9 PM, Binoculars show (M44) the Pleiades (Taurus), to the left of the Moon.
Now at 9 PM, Binoculars show (M44) the Pleiades, above the Moon.
The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks early this morning. The debris from its parent, Comet 1P/Halley, causes this shower and, under favorable conditions it has produced 20+ events/hour. Begin watching at around 2 AM before the Moon rises.

Look for a conjunction (6 degrees) of the Moon and Mars at 8 PM.
Look for a very thin crescent Moon low in the ESE about a half hour before sunrise. Use binoculars to see Saturn about 10 degrees below and to the left.
Look for a very close conjunction (around 0.2 degrees) of the Moon and Mercury at 10 PM.
Binoculars will show Mercury 2 degrees below Venus very low in the SW at about a half hour after sunset.

Look for a close conjunction (less than 2 degrees) of the Moon and Venus at 1 AM on the 28th. Also note nearby Mercury (below)and the Moon about 10 degrees above. The bright, reddish star, Antares Scorpius) is visible to the left.
Look for a pseudo-conjunction (5 degrees) of Saturn and the bright star Spica (Virgo) at 1 AM.
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Lunar Almanac for October 2011

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s)

Best viewed before local midnight


Deep Space Objects

1st. Qtr

Planets & Moon



Qtr 19

Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Astronomical Imaging

Interesting astronomical images can be easily captures by point-and-shoot digital cameras.

moon and coaster image

This image was made while I was walking along the lakefront path at Cedar Point near Sandusky, Ohio. Note the crescent Moon centered between the roller coaster’s support pillars.

Another very popular street astronomer’s technique is to produce an afocal image in the observer’s camera: moon image

The observer aligns his or her point-and-shoot digital camera with your telescope’s eyepiece. When a satisfactory image appears in the camera’s viewfinder, turn the flash off, if possible, and take the picture. Take care that the camera’s lens does not scratch your telescope’s lens...this can be very expensive! (Generally the eyepiece’s rubber eye guard prevents contact.)

One may have to try several times before an acceptable image appears. This technique is best when you are "working" an area where folks are likely to have their cameras. Naturally it is limited to bright objects!

Finally, I have been experimenting with an eyepiece camera. This replaces the eyepiece in your telescope and delivers its image to a USB-connected Laptop or netbook computer, a neat method to use when working with handicapped folks who, for one reason or another, cannot use your telescope.

It must be understood that these cameras can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, require accurate telescope guiding systems and extensive image processing.

This is not for us "Impecunious Enthusiasts"!


photographic equipment for telescope use and CD

If you already have a laptop or netbook computer, the system pictured above cost around $60.00! Unfortunately it is limited to only the bright, solar objects. Fortunately for me, these are usually all that are visible where I usually "work"!

The system comes with DVD software for your computer and the eyepiece camera with an attached USB cord. I also purchased the nested focal reducers (used to change the size of the image, much lake a Barlow lens) and a USB extension cord (not pictured).

If you get very far into astro-imaging, you will discover the need for imaging processing. My favorite (free) processor is the Registax system (http://www.astronomie.be/registax/). There are also several simplified tutorials available online. Browse "registrax tutorials".

Equipment setup with halpha telescope and computer in sun

This image shows the eyepiece camera connected between my PST HAlpha telescope (viewing the sun’s chromosphere) and my netbook. The background is the entryway into our homemade solar home in east central Ohio.

photographic equipment for telescope use and CD

Note the image of the sun’s chromosphere on the netbook’s screen.

--See you next month!
Ron, the star geezer

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2011 Ronald A. Leeseberg, encoded by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. Images used in this installment of "Whats Up?, Ron"are ©2011 and ©2010 by Ronald A. Leeseberg.

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. Stellarium offers much more to amatuer astronomers and is being used in planetariums and to guide telescopes in the field. Simple charts like the one above can be used on the internet for non-profit, illustration purposes. Proper credit is due of course! Thank you to the makers of this fine program from Astra's Star Gate.

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