LESSON PLANS & ACTIVITIES
The HHNLEC is the future home of the Northern Lights Observatory, which will house a 16 inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The NLO will be open to the public and will serve as the starting point for many classes, workshops and tours. Astronomy is the main focus, with all lighting following the recommandations of the IDS (International Dark Sky Society) to keep observatory, planetarium and observing field as dark as possible.
The HHNLEC will also be home to an astronomy camp that will run from mid May through September. The HHNLEC Astronomy Camp will allow students, adults and seniors, locally and from across the nation to participate in one of the nations only astronomy camps. Click here to find out about astronomy camp.
Won't you join us for a day, weekend or week of Discovery, Exploration & FUN!!!!!
The waning gibbous Moon slides under Mars tomorrow morning before dawn. Look for the bright planet 2 1/2 degrees (5 moon diameters) to Luna's upper right. Mars is beginning to show signs of the brilliance we anticipate this summer. An hour before sunup Mars and the Moon are the two brightest objects in the sky. The planet has brightened enough for even the casual sky watcher to detect an orange hue.
Cassiopeia begins its slow ascent up the sky. Look for it low in the east-northeast after dark. The distinctive shape is now oriented to portray a proper upright letter "W." If you live in an urban environment, the city glow may overpower the constellation when it is this low. To see it in this position, you will need to find a darker observing site. Once it climbs higher, Cassiopeia is visible from all but the most light-filled night skies.
Tomorrow morning Venus and Mercury will appear at minimum separation, only 0.4 degrees (just under a moon diameter) apart. Look 40 minutes before sunrise very low in the east-northeast. Mercury (magnitude 0.8) hangs below and slightly to the right of Venus (magnitude 3.9). You will want binoculars to initially pull Mercury out of the twilight. Mercury continues to drop lower each morning, and quickly becomes unobservable in the dawn glare.
The Moon reaches Last Quarter at 10:45 a.m. EDT. Coincidentally, the Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) also occurs today at 3:10 p.m. EDT. At that moment, the sun reaches its farthest point north, relative to the constellations. This event use to happen in the constellation of Cancer, which is the reason we call the latitude where the sun appears overhead today the Tropic of Cancer. Now the sun is actually among the stars of Gemini, the Twins.
After a grand evening appearance, Jupiter's reign will soon be over. Tonight, an hour after sunset, look for the planet only 17 degrees (less than 2 fists) up in the west. The star Regulus perches 13 degrees to Jupiter's upper left. Although Jupiter's orbit carries it upward toward Regulus, the Earth's motion around the sun dominates, causing the sun to appear to overtake Jupiter before it reaches Regulus. By the end of next month the planet will succumb to the sun's glare.
The Big Dipper sits high in the north-northwestern sky in early evening. Some night carefully examine the star at the bend of the Dipper's handle. If you have average eyesight and a transparent sky, you should see two stars at that location, one brighter than the other. The brighter 2nd-magnitude star is known as Mizar; its 4th-magnitude companion is Alcor. The two stars are separated by 1/5 degree, or 12' (minutes of arc). The human eye can theoretically separate two equally bright points of light spaced 1' apart, although the practical limit may be closer to 3'.
Saturn is in conjunction with the sun today, which means it appears lined up with Sol as seen from Earth. The planet's orbit carries it on the far side of the sun, so today Saturn actually sits 839 million miles behind the sun. Although Saturn can pass directly behind the sun, usually its orbit takes it above or below the Day Star. Today the Ringed Planet swings a little less than a degree under the sun.
Canes Venatici (KAY-neez Veh-NAT-ih-sigh), the Hunting Dogs, nip at the heels of the Great Bear, Ursa Major. The constellation is faint its brightest star is only 3rd magnitude but not too difficult to find, thanks to the Big Dipper nearby and no other stars as bright in the vicinity. Cor Caroli, that brightest star, sits 15 degrees under the end of the Big Dipper's handle. That's about the same length as the span of the handle. It lies roughly on a line between the Dipper's Bowl and the bright star Arcturus
Cor Caroli, the major star in Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, has nothing to do with hunting or dogs. The name is Latin for "Heart of Charles," referring to King Charles II of England. Edmund Halley, of comet fame and Astronomer Royal of England, created the designation in 1725. It seems that astronomers, long ago as today, were not immune from the realities of politics.
Early risers have been enjoying the sight of the thinning crescent Moon over the last several mornings. This morning an hour before sunrise the star Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, appears 6 degrees (12 moon diameters) to the lower right of Luna. Although the Bull is usually thought of as a winter constellation, it begins reappearing in the morning sky every year about now. Tomorrow morning the Moon sits 13 degrees to the left of Aldebaran and 2 degrees above and slightly to the left of Venus, but you'll need to look a bit later to catch the full view, about 40 minutes before sunrise.
Tonight the latest sunset of the year occurs for mid northern latitudes. Fortunately, the sunset times do not change dramatically this time of year, so it's usually a while before the average person becomes aware that we have started the down turn toward winter. Furthermore, the temperature change lags the astronomical seasons, so there's no need to panic and begin gathering nuts. Enjoy the lazy, hazy, observing days and nights of summer.
The Moon turns New at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Luna will be much too young tonight only 7 hours old for any chance to catch a glimpse of it. Tomorrow night is a different story. The hairline crescent appears 13 degrees (more than a fist) to the left (south) of northwest and 3 degrees (6 moon diameters) to the lower left of Pollux, brightest of the Gemini stars. Forty-five minutes after sunset Luna perches only 3 degrees above the horizon. Binoculars may help you locate the Moon 15 minutes earlier and 3 degrees higher.
A line drawn southwestward from the end of the Big Dipper's handle, through Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, and extended its own length, ends up at the constellation of Coma Berenices, the Hair of Berenice. The primary feature of this exceedingly dim group is a spattering of faint stars spread over several degrees. They have been described as sugar sprinkled on the sky, a depiction that works best when observing from a dark location. The collection of stars belongs to a star cluster containing a few dozen members at a distance of approximately 290 light years.