The eastern sky before sunrise is getting busy! Venus is accompanied by several bright stars, and the easily recognizable constellation of Orion is higher each morning; winter stars are on their way!
There will be a conjunction of Saturn and the Moon in the southern sky on the nights of the 29th and 30th; the first quarter moon will be very close to Saturn, and likely wash it out a bit when observing through a telescope.
The Constellation Cygnus is overhead after sunset, and the star Albireo, makes for a very interesting object through a small telescope. To the naked eye, Albireo appears to be a single star; in a telescope, it resolves into a beautiful gold and blue double star. Tip: If you slightly unfocus your telescope when observing Albireo, the colors will spread out, and you can see them a bit better.
It is unknown if Albireo is a true binary star, or an “optical double” – a pair of stars that appear close to each other in the sky as seen from Earth, but are different distances away. The image above is a representation of what the orbits of the Albireo binary pair would look like IF it is a true binary star; the orbital period is on the order of 100,000 years.
New sunspot group AR2673 is rotating into view on the limb of the Sun, and AR2671 has rotated out of view. SpaceWeather.com reports: “Sunspot AR2672 has a stable magnetic field that poses little threat for strong solar flares.”
The Sun currently has several Coronal Holes – these areas expel the solar wind at speeds about twice the average; SpaceWeather.com reports that the velocity of the solar wind at the time of this writing was 327.9 km/sec.
Apps used for this post:
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux.
Universe Sandbox ²: a physics-based 3D space simulator.
NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission app – free for the PC /MAC.
Space Engine: a realistic virtual Universe you can explore on your computer – free for the PC.