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Join the Cayman Islands Astronomy Society: look up and see what you have missed

gse_multipart8858From the Cayman Islands Astronomy Society News Letter

Pedro St James, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Monday 2 June 2014

By Cayman Stargazer

It was the night/evening of 2 June 2014, not a sound was heard, the moon was waxing….

Well, the moon was waxing; it was not “that” quiet at Pedro St James where the ‘scopes were set up, ready to transport is us to a different world of Planets, a waxing moon, the Southern Cross, the Jewel Box and even a good view of Saturn! The same (waxing) moon helped us and the Savannah Primary School students to identify the dazzling planet Jupiter, stunning planet Saturn, mysterious planet Mars; Jupiter is the brightest object in the vicinity of the moon (at the moment). Mercury was lower in the sky, not much above the horizon, hiding every now and then behind some pesky clouds. Amazingly so, the moon’s lighted crescent points (like an arrow) pointed towards Mercury…

Another amazing observation through the telescopes was the “Omega cluster” – well in excess of a million stars in one “fuzzy blob”. Some Mercury trivia Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, orbits the sun in only 88 Earth-days. Even though Mercury has the shortest year of any solar system planet, it also sports the longest day. One day on Mercury is equal to 176 Earth-days. On Mercury, one day is twice as long as its year of 88 Earth-days. If you lived on Mercury, you’d see the sunrise in the east, then the sunset in the west some 88 Earth-days later. However, when Mercury reaches perihelion – its closest point to the sun for the year – you’d see the sun stop, then go eastward for a while before resuming its normal westward motion. If you were on the right place on Mercury, you could actually watch the sun rise, go back under the eastern horizon, and then rise again.

By the way, Mercury will be at perihelion on July 29, 2014. Just as on Earth, the westward movement of the sun during a day on Mercury is due to the planet’s rotation.

However, Mercury’s orbital motion is so fast at perihelion that it causes the sun to go eastward in the daytime sky for a few (Earth) days. International Space Station (ISS) A memorable sight was seen at 8pm…with the “naked eye”…the International Space Station [ISS] flying over Grand Cayman. It was a great view; some minutes! Because the atmosphere over Grand Cayman is so unpolluted and there isn’t too much “light pollution” you can easily see it passing over the island, provided there’s no cloud cover in that part of the sky.

The time predictions so far have proven to be very accurate so be sure your watch is set correctly to local Cayman time, one hour behind “Eastern Standard Time”.

Here’s what to look for: It looks like the brightest star in the sky but it’s steadily moving along. It doesn’t blink (that would be an airplane!), once it becomes visible it’s a steadily glowing point of light moving in a smooth steady arc. Depending on atmospheric conditions and sun angle it may have a bit of a yellowish or reddish cast to it. You can fairly easily spot it with your naked eye (or with glasses if you wear them for distance vision) because it’s bright and visibly moving whereas the stars and planets appear to be stationary.

It’s best to be away from heavy “light pollution” : but if at the “fly-by time” you can see other stars or planets in the general directions where the ISS will be visible, then you’re dark enough where you are. Big and Little Dipper At this time of year, assuming you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you can easily find the legendary Big Dipper, called The Plough by our friends in the UK, now high in the north during the evening hours. Chris had his flashy green pointer on hand and to the delight of the students, and the rest of us, pointed out the Plough, wow! It’s one of the most familiar star patterns in the sky because its shape really resembles a dipper.

Less familiar – and tougher to find – is the Little Dipper. Here’s how you can find it.

First, locate the Big Dipper in the northern sky during the evening hours. Notice that the Big Dipper has two parts: a bowl and a handle. See the two outer stars in the bowl? They’re known as The Pointers because they point to the North Star, which is also known as Polaris. Once you’ve found Polaris, you can find the Little Dipper. Polaris marks the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. You need a dark night to see the Little Dipper in full, because it’s so much fainter than its larger and brighter counterpart.

Look for the Big Dipper high in the north at nightfall!

Another successful evening Pedro St James, an open (to everyone) platform , once a month to see our amazing sky.

To become a member of the Cayman Islands Astronomy Society, it will set you back CI$25.00 for a years membership. Worth it…

Sources: Earth Sky News, Chris, Richard, Karen, Myriam, CaymanTA, Tripadvisor

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