Image of Mars in the night sky in May 2016. source:http://mars.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/mars-close-approach/

Image of Mars in the night sky in May 2016. source:http://mars.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/mars-close-approach/

From May 18 to June 3, 2016 Mars will be at its brightest.  Just go outside and look up (SE) for a bright “orange star” that does not flicker. That will be the “red” planet Mars.

It takes the planet Mars about two Earth years minus 50 days to make its trip about the Sun. Mars appears brightest * in our Earth sky when Earth is in the line between Mars and the Sun.  This happens about every other Earth year. Those other years Mars appears dimmer in our sky because at those times Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun. Some opposition years find Mars and Earth not only on the same side of the Sun, but also in closer proximity. 2016 is one of those years. Enjoy the view!

This year to the unaided eye Mars looks brigher and through a telescope Mars looks larger. Enjoy close-up views of the planet Mars and other wonders of the night sky at the June 10 and 11 Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh Star Parties scheduled at the Wagman Observatory and at the Mingo Observatory.

 

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Respectfully submitted, Kathy DeSantis.

*Brightness in the case of a planet depends upon to a number of factors: size, distance, ability of the planet’s surface and/or atmosphere to reflect sunlight, geometric location relative to the sun and earth, lunar transits. In this apparition Mars appears brighter because it is both at opposition and it is also closer. Opposition refers to the geometric relationship with the Sun and Earth.  The decrease in the distance between Mars and Earth at different oppositions occurs as a result of our planetary orbits not being concentric perfect circles and Mars and Earth having different orbital velocities.There are many factors involved and we invite you to visit our Mingo and Wagman Star Parties and ask our helpful staff questions about Mars and other celestial objects and astronomical phenomena.

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Near Deer Lakes Park, Russellton. Observatory of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh

There is now 100% that tonight’s SP is canceled. See yinz in June. The next good weather that we will see will probably be next weekend during Full Moon. Typical for our area. Except for that week or so in Mid-April, it’s been a lousy Spring. The Sky gods are probably balancing out the good observing weather in Jan, Feb and March.
 
Tom Reiland
Stellarium Screen Capture: Pittsburgh, North East Horizon, 9:30 PM, May 14, 2016.

Stellarium Screen Capture: Pittsburgh, North East Horizon, 9:30 PM, May 14, 2016.

View the planet Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon. Watch Mars and Saturn rising later in the evening. It is all part of the show during the May Star Parties at Wagman Observatory sponsored by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.

Observe the Spring Constellations and Jupiter with its four Galilean satellites. This event is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14 starting at 8:30 PM EDT.

The Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory is located in Deer Lakes Regional Park, Frazer Township, Pa., near the village of Russellton in northeastern Allegheny County and some 18 miles from Pittsburgh.

This is an opportunity for amateur astronomers, students and the general public to observe the wonders of the Spring sky such as the galaxies in the Coma-Virgo Cluster, planetary nebulae and star clusters.

Did you get a telescope recently and don’t know how to use it? Bring it along and members of the AAAP will help!

Looking to buy a telescope, accessories, star charts and books? Wagman Observatory is the place to start. We’ll have free handouts, guides and booklets to point visitors in the right direction.

The Star Parties will be held WEATHER PERMITTING. The public should call 724-224-2510 for more information.

For those members who usually go to the AAAP Meetings, please do not skip the May 13 meeting for the Friday Star Party. Those who do not attend meetings are welcome to assist with this star party, weather permitting. We only need a handful of members. John Wenskovitch and I will be there. We’ll need one or two members at the desk and a couple to set up scopes on the hilltop. Maybe one or two to assist John and I on the scopes. Sorry about this mistake, but none of us caught it until it was too late to cancel. It is posted in a couple of 2016 calendars, along with several sources that request the dates the Summer before the next SP season.

Tom Reiland, Director

Wagman Observatory 2016 Schedule Brochure and Map

Wagman Observatory Phone: 724-224-2510

Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh opens Wagman Observatory to the public Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14, 2016. No reservations. No charge. No limit to group size. Just show up. Please refer to the Wagman 2016 Star Party Schedule for details.  The Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory is located in Deer Lakes Regional Park, Frazer Township, Pa., near the village of Russellton in northeastern Allegheny County and some 18 miles from Pittsburgh. Observatory Phone 724-224-2510.

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Public Viewing of the Transit of Mercury at Mingo Observatory:

AAAP has announced safe public viewing through the Lunt solar telescope of the Mingo Observatory in the Washington Observer-Reporter beginning at approximately at 8 AM.  Astronomy club members arriving earlier who set up their telescopes on the hill will not have the orientation of the observatory building blocking the low eastern horizon and will get to view the transit from the start.

May 11, 1016 Update:Many AAAP members and members of the public enjoyed live views of the Transit of Mercury from our two observatories, Wagman and Mingo. Enjoy the Mercury Transit video from NASA’s SDO. It is the May 11, 2016 NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

Diagram approximates Sun's position at 8AM, Alt. 20 degrees Direction 84 degrees East and Mercury's location on the face of the Sun from Time and Date, http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/pittsburgh

Diagram approximates Sun’s position at 8AM, Alt. 20 degrees Direction 84 degrees East and Mercury’s location on the face of the Sun from Time and Date, http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/pittsburgh

Transit of Mercury
May 9, 2016, Eastern Horizon
7:19 AM – 2:34 PM (Times Approximate for Pittsburgh, PA Area)

The transit of Mercury is not visible without a telescope. Never aim a telescope at the Sun as is needed to observe a transit, without proper solar filtration. Because of Mercury’s small angular diameter a telescope of at least 30 x – 100x must be used.

Warning: Observing a transit like observing the Sun requires the same safety concerns. Proper solar filtration must be used to prevent permanent eye damage. Never look directly at the Sun especially with a telescope unless proper solar filtration is employed.

A planetary transit can be thought of as a special kind of eclipse when planet appears as a tiny dot of the face of the Sun. Only the inner planets Mercury and Venus can have transits. Many AAAPers are planning to observe this Transit of Mercury event from many private viewing venues including visits to schools. It will not be visible to the unaided eye and requires 30X-100X power binoculars or telescope. Do not attempt this without safe solar filtration. Permanent eye damage can occur from looking at the sun, especially with magnification.

The next one is in 2019, November 11 and after that, not until 2032, November 13!
Here are some useful links:
http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/pittsburgh
http://www.space.com/32476-mercury-transit-may-2016-rare-ev…
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/tr…/catalog/MercuryCatalog.html

 Transits of Mercury:  1901-2050  (from http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/transit.html )

                           Date       Universal    Separation*     
                                        Time    (Sun and Mercury)

                        1907 Nov 14     12:06         759"     
                        1914 Nov 07     12:02         631"     
                        1924 May 08     01:41          85"     
                        1927 Nov 10     05:44         129"     
                        1937 May 11     09:00         955"     
                        1940 Nov 11     23:20         368"     
                        1953 Nov 14     16:54         862"
                        1957 May 06     01:14         907"      
                        1960 Nov 07     16:53         528"      
                        1970 May 09     08:16         114"     
                        1973 Nov 10     10:32          26"     
                        1986 Nov 13     04:07         471"     
                        1993 Nov 06     03:57         927"     
                        1999 Nov 15     21:41         963"     (graze)
                        2003 May 07     07:52         708"     
                        2006 Nov 08     21:41         423"     
                        2016 May 09     14:57         319"     
                        2019 Nov 11     15:20          76"     
                        2032 Nov 13     08:54         572"     
                        2039 Nov 07     08:46         822"     
                        2049 May 07     14:24         512"     

          * distance (arc-seconds) between the centers of the Sun and Mercury

 

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Respectfully submitted, Kathy DeSantis.

MingoSch2016%30

Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh opens Mingo Observatory to the public Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, 2016. No reservations. No charge. No limit to group size. Just show up. Please refer to the Mingo 2016 Star Party Schedule.  The Observatory is located in Mingo Creek County Park, Nottingham Township, and is 10 miles east of Washington PA. The park is located off Route 88 or Route 136 in the northeast section of Washington County. Inside the park, the observatory is at the end of Mansion Hill Ext. Road (across from the Henry Covered Bridge) on the top of the hill past Shelter 10. Observatory  Site: Lat: 40° 12’ 42” N Long: 80° 1’ 14” W Elevation: 1180 ft. (360 m). Observatory Phone 724-348-6150.