Archive for the ‘Astronomy News’ Category

05/30/2019 – Ephemeris – Is the Beta Taurid meteor swarm hiding bigger space rocks?

May 30, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 9:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:01. The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 4:46 tomorrow morning.

A rather interesting piece of news popped up in astronomical circles last Friday. A paper accepted for publication by David Clark, Paul Wiegert and Peter Brown all of the University of Western Ontario, Canada talked about the prospects of observing the meteoroid swarm out in space that may have contained the famous Tunguska object that hit Siberia in 1908. The swarm has been shed by Encke’s Comet over time. The Earth is due to pass close to the center of the swarm this year in June, something that last happened in 1975. They cause the daytime outbound Beta Taurid shower in June and July and the inbound North and South Taurid showers in autumn.
The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Screen shot from video by David Clark of the Beta Taurid meteor swarm. Click on image to see video.


Bad Astronomy’s take on all this:

The original paper:

The article at

04/10/2019 – Ephemeris Extra – Event Horizon Telescope reveals the black hole in galaxy M87

April 10, 2019 Comments off

At 10 a.m. I found the live feed from the National Science Foundation presenting the results of the Event Horizon Telescope.  It was one of four simultaneous presentations around the world at that hour.  The buzz beforehand was that they would present the image of the black hole in our galaxy Sagittarius A*.  It was not.  The image presented was of the black hole in the galaxy M87, some 55 million light years away.  It turns out that The black hole in M87 is easier to image.  Our black hole appears to be too variable in brightness for this first attempt.  The M87 black hole has a mass of 6.5 billion times that of our sun.  Our black hole has a mass of about 3 million suns.  The size of a black hole’s event horizon is proportional to its mass.  So the M87 black hole is about 2,000 times larger than our black hole, but about 2,000 times farther away.  So they would appear to be the same size on the sky.

Black hole in M87

The first image of the black hole in M87. Credit Event Horizon Telescope/Katie Bouman*.

The round spot in the center is not a shadow, but the event horizon itself.  It is black because no light can escape it.  The ring around it is the accretion disc of material spiraling in to the black hole.  I believe the disc is close to perpendicular to our line of sight, but not close.  The brightest part near the bottom is material that is approaching us, while the dimmer part above is material flowing away.

There are many articles and a video of the news conference by pointing you favorite search engine to M87 black hole.

About M87:  More formally Messier 87, is a galaxy near the center of a vast cluster of galaxies about 55 million light years from us.  Charles Messier found it in 1781 while searching for comets.  He recorded it as object number 87 on his list of fuzzy objects that didn’t move and thus were not a comet.   We amateur astronomers use his Messier Catalog to view these, what we call, deep sky objects.  M87 is a giant elliptical galaxy that was also a radio source called Virgo A.

The Wikipedia article Messier 87 has already been updated to include the results presented of earlier today.

* Update:  Dr. Katherine Bouman AKA Katie Bouman lead the team that created the algorithm that processed the data from the eight radio telescopes of the Event Horizon Telescope.  Her ideas on how to perform this feat of mathematical and computer wizardry were presented in a TED Talk in 2016.

04/09/2019 – Ephemeris – Tomorrow we may be able to see the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy

April 9, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 8:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:07. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 1:00 tomorrow morning.

There’s a great bit of excitement in astronomical circles for tomorrow’s release of an image of the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, 27 thousand light years away. The black hole is designated Sagittarius A*. Pronounced Sagittarius A Star.  Sagittarius is the constellation it’s located in, capital A for the first radio source found in that constellation and an asterisk, pronounced Star. Eight highly accurate radio telescopes located from Greenland to the south pole, from Hawaii to Europe simultaneously record signals and record them to computer disks. The data are processed together to produce an image with the resolving power of a telescope the diameter of the Earth. The event horizon is smaller than our solar system.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Event Horizon Telescope

Event Horizon Telescope component radio telescopes. Credits: © APEX, IRAM, G. Narayanan, J. McMahon, JCMT/JAC, S. Hostler, D. Harvey, ESO/C. Malin

For more information see this news article from the AAAS Science Magazine:

For a non-technical explanation of black holes and the event horizon check this out: