Stargazing Nights - Closed

Stargazing Nights - Closed

Frosty Drew Observatory
Friday April 5, 2019 - Closed
$5 Suggested Donation per person 5 years and older

Tonight is Stargazing Night at Frosty Drew Observatory, and in what appears to be a recent disastrous pattern, rain and clouds are moving in just in time for our stargazing session. This is the fourth consecutive week of similar conditions. Overall, weather for 2019 has been quite excellent, aside from Fridays. Sadly, tonight’s forecast will keep the Observatory and Sky Theatre closed. We will return to our regular Stargazing Nights event schedule on Friday, April 12, 2019. Hopefully, the fabulous weather we have been experiencing on nearly every other night, will come to Fridays as well.

Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the NASA Curiosity Rover, which has been residing on Mars for the past 6.75 years, captured a fabulous time-lapse image of Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, transiting the Sun. This is a solar eclipse on Mars. Though on Mars, eclipses are not like they are on Earth. On Earth, the Moon has nearly the same apparent size as the Sun in the sky. This allows for stunning views of the solar corona during a total solar eclipse. Though Mars has two moons – Phobos and Deimos, neither moon has a large enough apparent size to fully obscure the Sun. The larger and closer of Mars’ moons is Phobos. Being that Phobos has an irregular shape, it’s mean diameter is about 14 miles, compared to Earth’s Moon at 2,159 miles in diameter. Phobos resides at a mere 3,721 miles distant from Mars, compared to Earth’s Moon at 238,900 miles mean distance. Though what is really weird about Phobos in comparison to the Moon, is how it orbits Mars. Being so close to Mars, Phobos orbits Mars faster than Mars, itself, rotates on its axis. The orbital period of Phobos is about 7 hours and 39 minutes, with one day on Mars lasting about 24 hours and 37 minutes. As a result, Phobos will rise in the western sky and quickly cross the sky against the apparent motion of the stars, setting on the eastern horizon, over a period of just over 4 hours. Additionally, Phobos rises and sets about twice per day. Phobos’s phases are also pretty wacky with a full phase cycle completing three times per day. Being that Phobos orbits about 1.09° inclined to Mars’ equator, transits (eclipses) happen daily on Mars, though not for every geographical region, due to the extremely close orbital distance. The average length of a transit is about 30 seconds long. Alternatively, Phobos also passes into Mars’ shadow quite often, making for frequent lunar eclipses of Phobos. On a side note, Phobos orbits so close to Mars, that Mars’ gravity is pulling Phobos apart, and in about 50 million years, Phobos will be destroyed by Mars’ gravity. Its debris will plummet to the martian surface, though not after a potential period of rings for Mars. Check out the fabulous time-lapse of Phobos transiting the Sun, and a time-lapse of Phobos shadow during a transit, compliments of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover.

This is the last week to catch an evening view of the International Space Station (ISS) passing over the US for about a month and half, with several fabulous passes happening over the next few nights. With the fantastic weather of late (except on Friday nights), we have been setup for beautiful springtime evenings under the ISS. Step outside this week and check out one or all of these amazing passes:

Tonight at 8:16 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 45°, heading towards the E and into Earth’s shadow.
Sat, Apr 6 at 9:02 pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 40°, heading towards the SSW and into Earth’s shadow.
Sun, Apr 7 at 8:12 pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 76°, heading towards the SE. ← Fabulous pass!
Tue, Apr 9 at 8:07 pm, starting in the WNW, rising to 28°, heading towards the SSE.

These times are applicable to Southern New England and acceptable for the Northeast. For times specific to your location, visit NASAs Spot the Station.