Another Cloud Covered Night for Starwatching

Those Perseids have eluded me again

Sigh. I’ll have to wait until next year now! One day – ONE DAY – I WILL get to see them, in person, with my very own eyes!

However, coming soon to the skies (around October 7th) are the Draconids, when the constellation of Draco (the Dragon) will be sending a selection of meteors out into our direction. They appear to be coming from the dragon’s head, interestingly, although the shooting stars are actually caused by dust from a comet named 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinnerand. Another good thing about this meteor shower is that it appears just before nightfall, and just after the Sun has set – so there’s no need to stay up late! Although one or two shooting stars will be seen throughout the night.

And, if I miss this one, a few weeks later there’s the Orionids to look out for (October 21st). Although to see these I’d have to be up at the crack of dawn. Or just before, apparently.

One final shower to mention will appear in November (17th) again just before dawn; the Leonids. I missed a spectacular display from the Leonids back in 1966, where thousands of shooting stars were seen every minute for fifteen minutes or so. I didn’t miss them because of cloud cover or was looking the other way or anything, I simply hadn’t been born yet. So maybe this year, fifty years later, history will repeat itself with this meteor shower.

I can’t wait, but I’m not holding my breath… chances are I’ll miss every single one.

The image is a screenshot from a nifty open source planetarium called Stellarium which can take you anywhere in the skies and anywhere in time. Ideal for finding constellations!

The Perseids… again

Once again, it’s time for us to fly through the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The major part of the shower reached its peak earlier today, but there are still some meteors out there that we’ll be passing through again tonight.

It’s funny how we only go through them at night, considering we’re all sharing the same space, you’d think they’d be there in the daytime as well… Ha! I jest! Of course I know that they’re there during the day – they just haven’t been switched on yet.

With Jupiter’s gravity, this year’s shower is meant to be phenomenal, with up to 500 or so shooting stars being visible every hour. Tonight’s spectacle may not be as grand, but there will still be a few hundred passing by.

Last night I was ready for them. I ALWAYS miss them. Always. But last night I was prepared. I stayed up especially. I got to my favourite place at one of the Mansion’s windows. I looked out and couldn’t see a bloomin’ thing due to heavy cloud cover.

I suppose, if I don’t see them again tonight, I can always walk amongst them with the help of my mind’s eye. I never miss them that way!

The Valentine Nebula

Hidden deep within the Quadrans Muralis constellation lies this tiny tiny nebula. Tiny by nebula standards, but still immense where the Universe is concerned. Some of those stars are hundreds of times larger than our Sun, and they are all light years apart from each other , so you can imagine the size.

Made up mostly of turbulent gases and dust, the nebula appears to be tearing apart, or broken, earning it the name of the ‘Breaking Heart Nebula’, or more commonly the ‘Bleeding Heart Nebula’. Others refer to it as the ‘Lonely Heart Nebula’ as they see a longing face in the midst of the swirling gases, seemingly tormented by loneliness.

Discovered on February 14th 2016, and with its location being coincidentally close to the VAL-N10 system, it is also being referred to as the Valentine Nebula. Also coincidentally, the star VAL-N10-987b is thought to be being orbited by a planet the size of Venus, in the ‘Goldilocks zone’.

Venus incidentally is the Roman Goddess who represents things associated with Valentine’s, including love, beauty, sex, fertility and desire.

The nebula is on the far side of the VAL-N10 system, so from our perspective lies in a very remote part of the galaxy, and therefore the name Lonely Heart Nebula is probably the most fitting… although not in a post about Valentine’s.

Sorry about that.

The Planets Align

Look out into the morning sky this January, and cloud cover permitting, you may get a chance to see – through your own eyes – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter dotted along the sky.

Depending upon the angle at which you manage to see this fabulous array of planets, Saturn should appear in or near the constellation Ophiucus.

Now, when you find Ophiucus, you need to focus properly. Another planet, an exo-planet of somewhat great significance, has also joined in the party. Although it isn’t visible to the naked eye, it is causing quite a stir.

Named HIP 80824 and V2306 Ophiuchi, technically, and Wolf 1061 after the German astronomer Max Wolf who catalogued it back in 1919, is a dwarf red star. A Class M one. OK, Class M stars are the most common in our local vicinity, but this one has an extra little zing about it.

Orbiting it are three planets.

They haven’t been given names yet, like Saturn or Pluto, instead they are merely called Wolf B, Wolf C and Wolf D. All are thought to be rocky worlds, but Wolf C is the one that is generating the most excitement. It is in what is referred to as the Goldilocks Zone – a region around a star that is ‘just right’ for life.

And Wolf C is a Super-Earth.

At a mere 14 Light Years away, it is somewhat of a neighbour. Now, a Light Year is only six trillion miles. And multiply that by 14 and you get the distance between Earth and this new Super-Earth: 84 trillion miles.

To further put this into perspective – Andromeda, our neighbouring galaxy is 2,200,000 Light Years away, so it took the light from those stars 2,200,000 years to reach us. Wolf C is a mere snip at 14 years away – light-wise.

This is a new world to be discovered. A new planetary system. Astronomers at the University of New South Wales take the credit for the find, back in December 2015.

But the question that has to be asked is… is there life on this neighbouring world… and if so, did they discover us before we did them?

Happy Sky Watching!

Above is an image from Stellarium showing the alignment of our planets and the location of the Wolf 1061 system.

The man who was almost Batman

He hated the attention.

He hated the pointing, the laughter, the jeers, the “Where’s Alfred?” comments. He hated knowing that the latest movie was due for release, as it would all start again, although it had never really gone away.

He tried to get away, but was always spotted by someone.

He wasn’t a very fortunate man, by any means. Even his job caused him to be ridiculed. He was a clown – and not a very good one. Certainly, he could be funny if he tried, but, as he was unfortunate, he’d been hired to be the serious clown. A serious clown is no laughing matter.

And he hated it.

He had to be glum while all of the other clowns received custard pies or buckets of water.

He had to be the clown whose gadgets didn’t work; wheels would fall off his tricycle; he fell over boxes that the other clowns pushed behind him; he had to step on the tines of a rake, knowing full well the handle would hit him squarely in the face every time. The list goes on and on…

And being named Wayne Bruce just added to his woes.

People knowing his name found his job even more hilarious due to his ‘namesake’s alter ego’s arch enemy being the Joker. The sinister clown.

And he hated it.

He hated everything about his job – his situation.

The company he worked for called a general meeting, and the Head Clown announced that to keep things fresh within the ensemble, every Tuesday would be Alternative Night.

A ‘Dark Night’ in the world of comedy, where the humour would be focussed on superheroes rather than clowns.

As soon as he heard of the idea, Wayne hated it.

The Head Clown advised that each member would draw their particular superhero out of a hat, and then they’d then be whisked away for an ill-fitting costume fitting. They were to look like their particular hero, but from the point of view of a clown. Bright colours, big shoes, and other identifying features, both hero and clown.

Next, it was Wayne’s turn to choose his hero.

Everyone had been sworn to secrecy, and couldn’t reveal which superhero they were to be until all of the others had chosen.

Fortunately for Wayne, he was half-way through the group, so had chance of getting a good one.

Fingers crossed, he pulled out a slip of paper from the fluorescent green bowler hat, stepped away from the group, and, with an unusual bout of anticipation, he opened up the slip of paper.

And sighed.

Robin.

He just knew what was going to come his way next.