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Astro Tours

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  1. Norwegians have been left awestruck by a bright meteor that illuminated the night sky in the country's south-east. Footage shows powerful flashes of light over Norway, followed by what witnesses described as loud bangs on Sunday. Norwegian police say they received a flurry of emergency calls but there were no reports of injuries or damage. A team of experts are hunting for the meteorite, which they believe landed in a forest near the capital, Oslo. A meteor is a space rock that burns brightly after entering Earth's atmosphere at high speed. It becomes known as a meteorite if it survives its passage to the ground. The Norwegian Meteor Network says Sunday's fireball was visible for at least five seconds after it appeared at about 01:00 local time (23:00 GMT). https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57962384
  2. Three New Zealand photographers are in the running to win one of the world’s most prestigious competitions, the Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK, more than 4500 images from 75 countries have been submitted. One of those shortlisted comes from Auckland-based Larryn Rae. His image, entitled Iceland Vortex, is a 250-degree panorama shot of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland. Evan McKay’s Three Sisters captured at Tongapōrutu in Taranaki is another shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Mathew Ludgate’s The Spider’s Web is an image of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), the largest satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/125651176/kiwis-in-the-running-for-one-of-the-worlds-most-prestigious-photo-competitions
  3. ****Limited tickets are now available**** The focus of this special evening is the Lunar Eclipse, we will view the moon in detail, or if conditions and time allows, see fascinating open clusters and nebula. Our local dark sky tour guides are keen stargazers and can talk you through the various delights of the southern night sky. The astronomy tour is aimed at adults (due to the duration and time of night). You are welcome to bring your DSLR camera and tripod and we will endeavour to assist you to get the most from your night of widefield astro photography. An aurora forecast is anticipated to produce an aurora, but conditions cannot be guaranteed. The evening will cover how to maximise your chances of how to see aurora and what camera settings to use for those that are interested. We have a heated room, and toilets available throughout the evening. You are welcome to bring food and a flask containing a hot drink, outside seating, warm rugs or a duvet with you so that you can sit and relax outside, either on grass or asphalt surface. If you bring a torch, please make sure it is RED light only. Please note: Alcohol is not allowed on site. VERY limited tickets available http://chchastrotours.eventbrite.com/ #christchurchnz #exploreCHC #sensationalselwyn #lunareclipse #moon #aurora #auroraaustralis #astrophotography #astrophoto
  4. All the best laid plans come together at the last minute. As you will already know on Wednesday there is a lunar eclipse. We're also forecast lovely clear skies. And to top things off, there is an Aurora forecast allegedly giving us G2 or G1 storm conditions. Sooo, the question is, would you be interested in coming along for a combined session, something like 8 to 11.30pm? Bring tripod, DSLR cameras and we could guide you through how to get the best from your DSLR and you could get some lunar scope time and explain some of the night sky to you We could cater for upto 10-12 people, with warm room, toilets and a kitchen space. If there is enough interest, we could put something together - approx $80-100 price range due to length of time of the session. Let us know by replying below.
  5. We had a fantastic night last night with our group of guests with cold clear skies giving some great viewing conditions. A combination dark sky tour of "faint fuzzies" and a lunar tour as the moon rose helped complete the night. It made for an eventful viewing session. One of our favourite faint fuzzies at this time of year is the Sombrero Galaxy or NGC 4594. If you look at a Nasa image you can see how it gets its name Image Credit: NASA, ESO, NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli, but to us on the ground, with our night vision enabled eyes it becomes a little less spectacular, until you get some perspective. Sombrero is another galaxy, some 31 Million light years from us, and 49,000 light years across. With our closest solar neighbour approx 4 light years away, the 2nd image is a rough approximation of what we could see through the telescope last night as the moon was rising. The light from Sombrero takes 31m years to reach us, it was from a time when Earth was in the Oligocene period and some 4-6 degrees C warmer than it is now. The first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk habitually on two legs. "Humans" were flaking crude stone tools by 2.5 million years ago. Then some of them spread from Africa into Asia and Europe after two million years ago.
  6. The headline is a little vague because these were definitely starlink and whilst the do generate interest from the general public they are a nightmare for astronomers who want to image the night sky. With the coming launches it's likely we'll see starlink satellites during our observations throughout the season. https://i.stuff.co.nz/science/124530354/strings-of-light-crossing-the-sky-high-overhead-likely-to-be-a-starlink-chain
  7. A Nasa rover is making its attempt to land on Mars in the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could tell whether life ever existed on the red planet. Perseverance is entering the riskiest part of its landing on Mars at just after 9.45am (NZT) in which flight controllers can only watch as the spacecraft hurtles toward the red planet, long a deathtrap for incoming spacecraft. It takes a nail-biting delay of 11½ minutes for a signal that would confirm success to reach Earth.
  8. Tonight, just after dark, should be an ideal opportunity to see the conjunction
  9. I managed a glimpse during the latter half of last week, nothing over the weekend, due to the cloud, but tonight is the closest we will see.
  10. Jupiter is moving closer to Saturn and they will be less than a full-moon's width apart between December 17th and 26th. Around the 21st-22nd the gap between then will be about a quarter of a full moon's width, so they will be in a telescope's field of view. These close encounters (called conjunctions) happen every twenty years when Jupiter, orbiting the Sun in 12 years, catches up with Saturn, which takes 30 years to do an orbit. The close pairing is just line-of-sight, because Jupiter is 879 million km away and Saturn 1,610 million km away. The crescent Moon will be above the pair on the 17th. Mars is due north at dusk Please feel free to reply if you have a something to say about the planets during December, or need help finding them. Or start a new topic if you have a question on another aspect of the December night sky.
  11. When Jupiter and Saturn—the two biggest planets in our solar system—meet, it’s termed the “Great Conjunction.” What’s even more special is that it’s happening on night of the winter solstice This is the rarest meeting between any of the five bright planets. It happens just once every two decades, and 2020 brings the closest Jupiter-Saturn conjunction since 1623, during Galileo’s times. Simply speaking, a conjunction occurs when planets or other objects appear to be very close to each other on our sky’s dome. These “meetings” or conjunctions in the sky are fairly frequent, especially when it comes to the Moon passing the different planets in the sky. From our point of view, the two giant worlds will appear only 0.1 degrees apart. That’s just ⅕ of a full Moon diameter. Unlike previous conjunctions, this one’s not obscured by the Sun’s glare, either, so we get to see it. Only if you can hold out until March 15, 2080, will you see a Great Conjunction as good as this one. Actually, that one, low in the eastern sky before dawn, will even be better, since the two giant planets will seemingly merge into a single brilliant star or rare double planet. Which is what some are saying about our current Great Conjunction. if you’ve got trees or neighbours’ houses or hills in the direction of sunset, you’ll want to check out the planets a few evenings beforehand at that same time so you can be sure they’ll be in the clear on the solstitial evening. Unfortunately, this will be a one-night affair. The day before and the day after, the planets will be noticeably farther apart and nowhere near as striking. So if the weather cooperates on the 21st, you’ll want to get all you can out of the spectacle. Binoculars will be a nice adjunct, and will easily reveal Jupiter’s four huge satellites spread in a straight line. Saturn will be off in a different direction, perpendicular to those moons. The two images represent 20th and 21st December from Christchurch at 9pm
  12. The ghostly ORC1 (blue/green fuzz), on a backdrop of the galaxies at optical wavelengths. There’s an orange galaxy at the centre of the ORC, but we don’t know whether it’s part of the ORC, or just a chance coincidence. https://i.stuff.co.nz/science/123581259/wtf-newly-discovered-ghostly-circles-in-the-sky-cant-be-explained-by-current-theories-and-astronomers-are-excited
  13. Yesterday the sun launched it largest solar flare in 3 years with a M4.4 event that initially wasn't thought to be Earth facing. However it's possible that a CME might now sideswipe Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 1-2, according to NOAA analysts. The glancing blow, if it occurs, is expected to cause no more than G1 geomagnetic storms, but hey its better than nothing. Sunspot region 2786 has only just starting to rotate onto the earth-facing disk so it is hard to say if there are more sunspots hiding behind the limb but there is at least one very large sunspot associated with this sunspot region.
  14. Here in New Zealand we can see both Scorpius and Orion in the sky in the same time and this is the time of the year to do it. In the Eastern Sky, this time of the year, the Pleiades* are visible again on the horizon. Harbingers for Halloween in the northern hemisphere where now skies are grey and ravens await for the first snows, for Māori, the Pleiades are now harbingers of summer. *Matariki is the name linked to the observance of the Pleiades in the morning sky around the Winter Solstice, but only in the morning of June-July when it marks the Māori new year. Throughout the year, the Pleiades is the prow of Te Waka o Takitimu, in November, when it is visible again in the evening sky, the Pleiades cluster is not Matariki but the feathers of the waka o Tama Rereti. Together with the Hyades they make the wake and feathers from the Great Canoe (Waka) of Tama Rereti. November is the month when Milky Way surrounds the horizon like an ocean and the Great Waka was used by Māori to mark the arrival of the warm season when it was safe to travel the ocean. Tama Rereti’s Waka placed the stars in the sky and now lies moored in the wake of the Milky Way. Scorpius is Tauihu, the prow, floating low on the western horizon. Due south sits Te Punga, the anchor (the Southern Cross), with its rope, Te Taura, which is represented by the Pointers (Beta and Alpha Centauri). The latter is actually a multiple star system that holds our closest solar neighbour, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, at 4.25 light years from Earth. The sails of Tama Rereti’s canoe are Achernar and the beautiful southern dwarf galaxies the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds (SMC and LMC). Canopus/Atutahi is the paramount chief of the skies at vigil in the waka. A source of X-rays and the most luminous close star at 310 light years from the Sun, Canopus is used for navigation by all spacecraft that employ star tracker devices, which determine the orientation (or attitude) of the spacecraft with respect to that star. Te Taurapa, or the stern of the waka is in the Eastern Sky, formed by Orion.
  15. Bright planets light up the evening sky. Jupiter and Mars are the brightest. Jupiter appears midway down the western sky soon after sunset. Orange-red Mars is in the north and pretty much overhead by 11pm. As the sky darkens Saturn appears just above Jupiter. Jupiter and Saturn appear close enough together to be in the same binocular view, although they will set around midnight. This happens every 20 years when Jupiter, circling the Sun in 12 years, catches up on Saturn which takes 30 years to do an orbit. The pair will be even closer next month but low in the twilight. Their apparent pairing is just a line-of-sight effect, of course. Jupiter is 830 million km from us, mid-month, while Saturn is nearly twice that distance, 1560 million km away. The moon, just 374,000 km away, will appear near Jupiter on the 19th. We passed Mars in mid-October and are now leaving it behind us. As we do it will slowly fade. It will be 80 million km away mid-month. The moon will be near Mars on the 25th and 26th. Venus rises a little south of east an hour before the Sun all month. Mercury might be seen in the dawn mid-month, below and right of Venus, and much fainter, rising 35 minutes before sunrise. Please feel free to reply if you have a something to say about the planets during November, or need help finding them. Or start a new topic if you have a question on another aspect of the November night sky.
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