Stargazing Nights

Stargazing Nights

Frosty Drew Observatory
Friday February 17, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.
$1 Suggested Donation per Person

Tonight is Stargazing Night at Frosty Drew Observatory and the forecast is looking a bit variable, though promising. We can expect mostly clear skies with bouts of partly cloudy conditions as the night progresses. This could set us up for a great night if clouds stay at a minimum. The third quarter Moon will not rise until midnight, keeping skies super dark for the first half of the night. Temps will slowly drop into the high 20’s overnight and we’ll have a constant 5 mph wind hammering at us. Though not all that cold tonight, the wind will make it feel frigid. The the prospect of clear dark skies and maybe a view of Comet 45P, certainly make it a night to be out!

We will open the Observatory and Sky Theatre at 6:00 tonight. In the observatory, telescopes will start out with a fabulous view of Venus’ waning crescent phase. Once twilight wanes, we will direct our telescopes to the stunning Orion Nebula, the closest site of massive star formation to the Solar System. Later in the night our focus will be nebula, star clusters, and Jupiter. After 9:00 p.m. we will try for a view of Comet 45p. In the Sky Theatre, temps will be warm and on-screen will be a showcase of celestial objects photographed at Frosty Drew Observatory. We will stay open until near midnight tonight unless clouds chase us out, with the potential to stay much later. Check in on our Twitter (@FrostyDrewOBSY) or Facebook for updates from the observatory, including a “Closing up” post when we decide to start closing up the observatory.

Overall, tonight could be an amazing night to be under the stars. Super dark skies until the midnight moon rise, stunning views of the Orion Nebula, and a comet will set us up for amazing things. There is a potential for periodic cloud attacks, which could ruin our optimism, though the forecasts are quite variable. Variable forecasts almost always pan out best case scenario for us at Frosty Drew. Temps will be cold, so dressing for winter conditions is required. Additionally, site conditions at the observatory will be in full out winter mode with ice and snow. Though don’t let the winter keep you in. We have an awesome time at Frosty Drew on Friday nights and with the departure of the Moon, tonight’s the night to be out. Do it!

Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

Calling all citizen scientists! The hunt for Planet Nine is on. A hypothetical ninth planet in the Solar System, Planet Nine was proposed as a solution to the very eccentric orbits of several Kuiper Belt objects. The Kuiper Belt lies beyond the orbit of Neptune and is where dwarf planet Pluto resides. It’s home to many comet-like objects, and dwarf planets. Some of these object in the Kuiper Belt have an orbit that points to the existence of another planet in the Solar System with a huge orbit around the Sun. The gravity of this hypothetical planet is interacting with these objects, making their orbits quite elliptical. Finding the hypothesized Planet Nine has been a challenge, and we still have no known candidates. That’s where you come in. The Zooniverse has started a project called Backyard Worlds, which will use techniques similar to the process that Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto. Using infrared images collected over a 5 year period by the NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope that repeatedly span the entire sky, it is possible to detect objects that slightly change position relative to other objects in their field of view. These objects of interest can very likely be planetary bodies, or nearby dwarf stars. Visit Backyard Worlds, sign up, and start evaluating. Who knows, perhaps you will be the person who discovers Planet Nine.

Yesterday, February 16th, was yet again another check mark on the long list of failed predictions of our doom involving the celestial hoax, Nibiru. This time with an asteroid named 2016 WF9, that allegedly came from the non-existent “Nibiru system”. It was claimed that the object would impact Earth yesterday, bringing with it all the regular apocalyptic doomsayer nonsense. Well, we’re still here and Nibiru continues, relentlessly, to be a no-show. Though asteroid 2016 WF9 is a real asteroid, it poses no impact threat to Earth. The actual pass of 2016 WF9 will happen on Saturday, February 25th at 31,670,000 miles distant, about 127 times the distance of the Moon from Earth, and is about 0.3 – 0.6 miles in diameter. We are unsure why the Nibiru and Planet X conspiracy theories persist, especially with a 100% failure rate regarding any predictions about the fictional object. With all the amazing scientific discoveries and processes that are happening right now, we don’t need nonsense conspiracy theories to excite or freak us out. Big claims require big evidence, and the big claims involving Nibiru always seem to be missing the evidence part.