The Geektastics » The Space Nerd Files A safe space to geek out! Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:33:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Space Nerd Files: Jupiter and the Quadrantids /2014/01/02/the-space-nerd-files-jupiter-quadrantids/ /2014/01/02/the-space-nerd-files-jupiter-quadrantids/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 07:01:51 +0000 /?p=5105 TSNF Logo

Jupiter and the Quadrantids may sound like the newest hipster band, but it’s really the description of the awesome astronomical events happening in early January.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower:

Tonight is the peak of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower, and luckily for my fellow space nerds, it’s happening during a new moon!  The Quadrantids are comparable to the two biggies – the Perseids (August) and the Geminids (December) – but they are noted for their super intense and condensed peak times, sometimes lasting only a couple of hours.  This means, unlike the other showers, you’ll only get one shot at seeing a large number of meteors, so get out there late tonight or very early tomorrow morning for the best show.  The radiant point for the Quadrantids is inside the Boötes constellation, which can be found between the handle of the Big Dipper and the head of Draco.

Sky & Telescope Illustration (click through for source)

Sky & Telescope Illustration (click through for source)

Quadrantids Viewing Tips:

  • Avoid light pollution by choosing a viewing site in a remote area.  Because this year’s shower occurs during a new moon, dark skies should be optimal as long as the weather holds out!
  • Being comfortable makes for enjoyable viewing, so bring a reclining chair or your preferred combination of blankets and pillows.  We’ve discovered through trial and error that pillows and a thick flannel blanket on top of a tarp work best for staying comfortable and dry.  However, because of the freezing temperatures, you may want to upgrade to a small camping mattress or insulated pad and a cold weather tested sleeping bag.
  • Layer!  This is important for all meteor showers, but particularly the Quadrantids.  In addition to the regular hat-gloves-scarf combination, thermals are a very good idea for keeping warm.  You can also bring your hot beverage of choice in an insulated thermos (I recommend Hydro Flask, as these amazing bottles keep hot liquids warm for 12 hours.)
  • Leave the tech at home.  Meteor showers are best observed with the naked eye, so don’t worry about lugging your telescope or even your binoculars.


2014 Jupiter Opposition

Just a few days after the peak of the Quadrantids, Jupiter will be at opposition on January 5th.  The gas giant will be at its closest approach to Earth and will be fully illuminated by the sun, giving astronomers the best chance to view and photograph it.  At optimal viewing, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four largest moons with binoculars and a mid-sized telescope will show some of the planet’s cloud bands.  Find out more here!

NASA/Damian Peach, Amateur Astonomer (Image courtesy of JPL)

NASA/Damian Peach, Amateur Astonomer (Image courtesy of JPL)

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The Space Nerd Files: Super Supermoon! /2013/06/19/the-space-nerd-files-super-supermoon/ /2013/06/19/the-space-nerd-files-super-supermoon/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 06:01:51 +0000 /?p=4242 TSNF Logo

Just in time for the theatrical release of Man of Steel, 2013′s most super supermoon will make its appearance on June 22nd and 23rd.  What is a supermoon, you ask?

The term “supermoon” originally came from astrology, with astrologer Richard Nolle taking credit for coining the word in 1979.  It occurs when the moon is closest to the earth, which happens 3-4 times a year.  Scientists also know it as a “perigee moon”, “perigee” referring to the closest point relative to Earth on the moon’s orbit.

So, why is this one so special?  The June supermoon (the “Strawberry Moon“) will be the closest of 2013.  In addition to a spectacular celestial display, coastal residents can expect higher than average tides because of the increased gravity from the moon’s proximity.

NASA’s ScienceCast explained the supermoon in anticipation of last year’s super supermoon in May 2012:



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The Space Nerd Files: 2013 Dance of the Planets /2013/05/25/the-space-nerd-files-2013-dance-of-the-planets/ /2013/05/25/the-space-nerd-files-2013-dance-of-the-planets/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 21:44:00 +0000 /?p=4033 TSNF Logo

It’s a special time, astronomy-wise.  As they do every so often, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter are visible in the night sky in close proximity.  Scientifically known as “planetary conjunction”, this grouping puts the three planets within a circle whose diameter is less than 5 degrees.  The conjunction began on May 24th and will continue until May 30th.  Venus and Jupiter will come within 1 degree of one another on May 28th and 29th and all three planets will form a straight line on May 31st.

The best time to see the planetary conjunction is approximately 45 – 75 minutes after sunset.  Viewers should look at the western sky (towards the mountains for all you Colorado space nerds).  According to Earth Sky, this will be the closest grouping of planets until 2021, so don’t miss it!

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