Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 5:34 -9:53 pm, Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Friday , February  10, 2017, start 5:34 pm, maximum 7:43 pm, end 9:53 pm, a Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon (Lunar Eclipse) will be visible in the Pittsburgh Area, weather permitting. Some individuals will recognize the diffuse shadow moving across the Moon. To others, it may look like an ordinary Full Moon.  With a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse there is no distinct missing “bite” visible as there is at the beginnings of Partial and Total Lunar Eclipses. AAAP will offer 7PM binocular viewing and telescope viewing weather-permitting to attendees prior to that evening’s 7:30 PM February Meeting of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh. 7 PM the Moon will be at 32 degrees elevation and this time observant people will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face.  Wherever you may happen to be in the Pittsburgh Area on Friday February 10, 2017 with your unaided eyes you should be able to observe this event. Binoculars should heighten the view. Click image below for more Penumbral Lunar Eclipse information.

February 10, 2017 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, Pittsburgh,PA at Maximum, 7:43 PM

AAAP January 13, 2017 Astronomy Lecture “Well, Now What? What to Do Once You’ve Found Another Earth” Thomas Beatty, PhD

“Well, Now What? What to Do Once You’ve Found Another Earth”
Thomas Beatty, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow, Pennsylvania State University Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds

7:30 PM, Friday, January 13, 2017 Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh Meeting at the Science Stage,  Carnegie Science Center, One Allegheny Ave.Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

Recent discoveries by the Kepler mission have shown us that Earth-sized planets are fairly common in the Galaxy. We expect to find several “habitable” planets that are the size and mass of Earth over the next decade, but then what? How do we distinguish between a nice temperate Earth, and an acidic metal-melting Venus? What can we learn about the climates, and even the weather, of exoplanets? Could we identify life, or even intelligence?

Thomas Beatty, PhD Post-doctoral Fellow, Pennsylvania State University Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds

This lecture will start the January Meeting of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, beginning at 7:30 PM on Friday January 13, 2017, at the Science Stage of the Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, PA. Plans are underway to LiveStream the lecture on the AAAP Facebook Page. The meeting is free and open to the public. More information on the meeting to follow here at www.3ap.org, AAAP Facebook and in the January Guide Star AAAP Newsletter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What was the Star of Bethlehem, a.k.a. the Christmas Star?

8PM Tonight, Friday December 23, 2015  Recording Available Here
What Was the Star of Bethlehem?

“What cosmic light could have guided the Three Wise Men to the newborn baby Jesus 2,000 years ago? Learn about all the theories in a free webcast today (Dec. 23) by the online Slooh Community Observatory.

During the show, experts in both religion and astronomy will discuss what the famous Star of Bethlehem might have been: Was it an actual star, a comet, a planet or something else? You can watch the webcast at Slooh.com, beginning at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT).”  from Space.com Read more

2016 Geminid Meteors vs. December Full Cold Moon

A Geminid Meteor. Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake

A Geminid Meteor. Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake

This year the Geminid Meteor Shower, traditiononally arguably (Perseid Meteor Shower) the best meteor shower of the year, is expected to peak on the night of December 13 into the morning hours of December 14, accompanied by the December Full Moon. In Pittsburgh the Moon is Full, December 13 at 7:05 PM EST with Moonrise at 5:06 PM EST that evening. This year’s mating of the Full Moon with the peak of the meteor shower is disadvantageous for optimal meteor viewing with the bright moonlight expected to wash out all but the brightest meteors.

Early Evening Meteor Viewing Windows on Wednesday and Thursday Evenings, Before 6 PM and 7 PM , Respectively, Punctuated by Spectacular Moonrises

However in the nights immediately following Geminid peak the Moon rises approximately an hour later each night allowing an early evening window with a moonless sky as shown in the Stellarium. org screen capture diagrams below. The bonus at the end of the Moonless window is the opportunity to see the spectacle of Moonrise in the crisp December air. Native Americans named the December Moon the Cold Moon or the Long Night’s Moon. When the Moon is near the horizon an optical illusion makes it appear even larger. This year, this month’s moon is at perigee or a part of its elliptical orbit when it is closer to the Earth giving it an added boost in size. In recent years these perigee moons have been popularly named Super Moons. The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh is not planning a public Geminid Meteor Viewing at the time. Geminid viewing opportunities will improve in 2017 when there will be less competition from Moonlight. Read more

Leonid Meteor Shower Tonight, Thursday 11/16

Leonid Radiat Credit: StarDate.org

Pittsburgh weather is favorable for viewing tonight’s Leonid Meteor Shower, but the Moon is bright in the night sky diminishing the show.  Leonids have been known to product dramatic “meteor storms” with hundreds of meteors per hour some years.  This year expect 10 -15 meteors per hour in ideal viewing between Midnight and dawn. Elevated rates will drop and then taper off in coming days.  Above is a depiction of the Leonid Meteor Shower Radiant in the constellation Leo ( from another year) showing where Leonid meteors appear to originate in the sky. If you cannot go outside, the Slooh Telescope Community will offer online viewing after 8 PM this evening.  To view tonight’s Leonid Meteor shower through the Slooh click here. The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh offers Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing at its Wagman and Mingo Observatories at the Perseid peak in August.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Supermoon Tonight, Monday, November 14, 2016

Please share your Moon photographs on our Facebook Page. Happy Moon Gazing!

The Supermoon occurs on Monday, November 14, peaking around 9 PM our time (8:52 EST). It will appear on our horizon just before 5 PM on Monday. Do not expect it to look dramatically different than any other full Moon. It will look big and bright like any full Moon near to the horizon. Monday’s Supermoon will be 14% larger and may appear 30% brighter. Yet you may not know it had you not been told to look for the “Supermoon.” Astronomers traditionally call this kind of moon a Perigee Moon. Term “Supermoon” comes to us from “astrology.” Since it was coined in astrology it has made its way into popular culture. Supermoon seems to be catchier than Perigee Moon. It occurs because the path of the Moon around the Earth is not a perfect circle but instead somewhat egg-shaped (elliptical). We say the Moon is 240,000 miles away but it varies. The actual distance varies over the course of the orbit of the Moon, from 356,500 km (221,500 mi) at the perigee to 406,700 km (252,700 mi) at apogee, resulting in a differential range of 50,200 km (31,200 mi). Interestingly the Moon is spiraling away from the earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches per year as detected by the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment which utilizes LASERS and mirrors left on the Moon by the Apollo missions. The Moon is said to be at perigee when it is at its nearest and at apogee when it is at its farthest. This particular “perigee” occurring on Monday is the closest perigee since Read more