Skywatch for the week of November 25 , 2019
Tue Nov 26, 2019 ROYAL SOCIETY, TREASURE COAST ASTRONOMICAL SOC. On November 28th, 1660, the Royal Society was founded in London. It was made up of scientists and physicians, including Isaac Newton, who wrote the laws of motion and gravity; Edmond Halley, who successfully predicted the return of the comet that bears his name; Christopher Wren, who rebuilt London after the great fire of 1666, and Robert Hooke, who did pioneering work in microscopy. The Royal Society is active and strong today, with thousands of members from around the world. Now if you’re not part of this society, that’s okay, because there’s a local science club, the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society. It hasn’t been around as long as the Royal Society, but its members are carrying on the great tradition of science and discovery, and they meet tonight at Indian River State College’s Science Center on the Fort Pierce campus. The meeting is open to the public, and it begins this evening at 7:30 pm.
Wed Nov 27, 2019 HERCULES’ AUTUMN ZODIAC Hercules was one of ancient Greece’s most revered heroes. Even the] heavens were a veritable picture-book that chronicled his adventures. The zodiac reveals many of his twelve great labors. Soon to set after the sun are the stars of Sagittarius the archer. This centaur is a depiction of Hercules’ teacher, Chiron. Well-placed in the south are a scattering of stars which mark Aquarius, the Water Carrier. This is symbolic of Hercules’ releasing the flood of river waters that cleaned the Augean stables. High in the east is Aries the Ram, a representation of the golden fleece, which Hercules pursued with his good friend Jason while he was between labors. Nearer toward the eastern horizon is Taurus; this was a wild bull which Hercules subdued in a kind of a “capture and release” program. There are more constellations connected with Hercules, but they won’t show up in our evening sky until next month.
Thu Nov 28, 2019 MOON AND VENUS, JUPITER AND SATURN This Thanksgiving Day, the moon will appear as a thin sliver in its new crescent phase, low in the southwestern sky at sunset. Nearby the moon are the planets Venus and Jupiter, appearing as bright, star-like objects. Venus is by far the brighter of the two. If you draw a line from Jupiter to the moon and extend that line toward the east, you’ll find another star, another planet. This time it’s Saturn, and it has a distinct yellow tint. With a small telescope you should be able to see the moon’s rough features, including its craters. Aim that same telescope at Jupiter and you’ll discover it’s a small, banded disc, with its four largest moons appearing as tiny stars on either side of it. And if your telescope can provide 50 power or better, you’ll be able to see Saturn’s rings! Tonight the moon is nearby Venus and Jupiter, but tomorrow night it will appear next to Saturn as it moves along in its orbit.
Fri Nov 29, 2019 CHRISTIAN HUYGENS AND HIS DISCOVERIES On November 29, 1659, the Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens made the first map of Mars. Early telescopes were primitive. A lot of patience and sometimes a lot of imagination were needed to see details through the eyepiece. When, for example, Galileo first saw Saturn through a twenty-power telescope in 1610, he thought it had "handles" on either side of it. Forty-five years later Huygens observed Saturn though a much better telescope, and announced that Saturn possessed "a thin, flat ring..." Most astronomers didn’t believe him, until they too were able to see for themselves. Four years later, Huygens made his sketches of Mars, and by watching its dark features drift across the Martian surface, figured out that Mars rotated about once every 24 hours, same as Earth. Huygens also found Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, discovered that Jupiter bulges in the middle, and built the first pendulum clock.