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Stargazing Nights

Stargazing Nights

Where:
Frosty Drew Observatory
When:
Fri, Nov 15, 2019 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Cost:
$5 Suggested Donation per person 5 years and older

Tonight is Stargazing Night at Frosty Drew Observatory and forecasts are quite variable. Some forecasting sources are calling for partly cloudy skies tonight, others are calling for mostly clear skies, with some calling for completely clear skies. This could and will likely work out to our favor. We expect that we’ll have mostly clear skies with a potential for periods of heavier cloud cover early in the night. Though it could end up completely clear as well. Temps will be cold tonight, not like last Friday, but cold enough to abruptly remind you that winter is on its way. We may also have a bit of wind, with gusts possibly hitting the 20 mph range. These winds are not outside of our tolerance and may restrict us to one side of the sky, worse case scenario. Regardless, we have the 90% waning gibbous Moon out for our entire session tonight, which will significantly brighten up the sky and outshine all nebulae, star clusters, and deep sky objects.

We will open the Observatory, Sky Theatre, and Science Center at 7:00 pm tonight. In the Observatory, telescopes will start off with views of binary star Albireo, followed by a view of Uranus. As the night progresses, we will hunt down binary stars, Neptune, and eventually the bright gibbous Moon, once it rises over the trees. Additionally, on the 40” panel in the Observatory, we will show images captured during Monday’s fabulous Transit of Mercury. In the Sky Theatre temps will be warmer and on screen we will show celestial objects previously photographed at Frosty Drew Observatory. In the Science Center, works of our astronomers will be on gallery. We’ll stay open until 10:00 pm.

Overall, tonight will likely play out okay regarding weather, though the Moon will be very bright and will outshine just about everything else in the sky aside from the brightest stars. We do have the Leonid Meteor Shower peaking overnight tomorrow night (Saturday, November 16-17), though the Leonid shower is nothing to freak out about, it could bring a slight increase in meteor activity tonight, but the Moon will outshine most meteors. Regardless, it’s a clear(er) night, so it’s worth a visit. Dress warm, because there is no heat in the Observatory building. You can read up on how to dress like the Frosty Drew astronomers do. Then head out for a night of binary stars, dim planets, and the Moon before your post-transit of Mercury buzz begins to fade.

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Weekly Happenings
Scott MacNeill

This weekend, the peak of the annual Leonid Meteor Shower will occur. Happening overnight Saturday-Sunday, November 16-17th the Leonids usually bring an increase in regular meteor activity by an additional 15 meteors per hour. Though this year we will have the 80% waning gibbous Moon during the best times to see the shower, which will outshine all but the brightest meteors. The Leonid shower, which is rather slow going, is one of the showers that everybody knows of and generally considers a fabulous shower somewhat erroneously. The Leonids claim to fame is that the shower explodes with thousands of meteors per hour during the peak night on a 30 year interval. The last time this happened was in 2001, and everybody has heard the stories about that night of thousands of meteors. Though outside of that 30 year interval, the shower is rather beat. For example, in previous years at Frosty Drew Observatory we have observed more Taurid meteors during the Leonid peak than actual Leonid meteors. The next Leonid shower to impress will happen in 2031, though it is not predicted to be thousands per hour, like the 2001 Leonids, but it could bring similar displays as the Geminid or the Perseid meteor shower peaks.

Leonid meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, around the center of the lion’s mane, in between the bright stars Algieba and Algenubi, which is considered the radiant point of the shower. Though Leonid meteors originate from comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, a periodic comet with an orbital period of 33 years. The orbital path of comet Tempel-Tuttle intersects Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Every November, Earth passes through a debris field left behind by the comet, mainly consisting of tiny dust-sized – rice grain-sized pieces of ice. These particles are captured by Earth’s gravity and enter Earth’s atmosphere at rates of 44 miles per second. At these speeds, the paticles burn up as they streak across the sky. If setting out to observe the Leonid shower, the morning hours after midnight will be the best times to be out. Lay on your back so you can look to the zenith (top of sky) comfortably. Additionally, set yourself up in a way where you block the Moon with a structure or other object to help minimize how much moonlight you are directly seeing. Happy meteor watching!

This past Monday, November 11, 2019, a fabulous Transit of Mercury took place. This happens when Mercury visibly passes in between the Earth and the Sun. Though Mercury is quite small, so a view through a telescope or binoculars is generally required to actually see it. At Frosty Drew Observatory we hosted an event for the entire transit, which lasted about five and a half hours. We had a threat of clouds, which totally worked out to our advantage as the Sun stayed out of the clouds until about 15 minutes before the end of the event. Hundreds of visitors came out to celebrate the transit with us under the Sun. Additionally, we were able to archive nearly the entire event on 20 second interval, and have been posting images, as we process them, to our Transit of Mercury 2019 gallery on our website. The next transit of Mercury that is visible over New England will happen in May 2049. For now, check out our gallery of the transit, and gear up for 2049.

It’s that time of the year again. The time when we start to think about holiday revelries, warm time with friends, fabulous drinks, and gaining that extra weight to help us through the winter (the optimists interpretation). It is also the time when we start to think about gift giving and where our generosity can make the biggest difference in our lives or the lives of those we love / respect. One such place on my list is the Frosty Drew Observatory. It is a place that brings so much happiness, escape, inspiration, and hope to so many people throughout the year. It is a place that is loved by countless awesome people and has served as a unique and fabulous addition to the larger Rhode Island and Southern New England community. Frosty Drew Observatory is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and is funded by donations from those who love and support it. These donations are critical to our survival and for the execution of our mission to enlighten, discover, inspire- through education and research- knowledge about science, the night sky, and the universe. The entire Frosty Drew Observatory team, the individuals that inspire you with their knowledge and enthusiasm, that make you laugh, gasp with excitement, and even cry at the remarkable beauty of the cosmos; all operate on a volunteer basis and donate their time, endlessly, to make a positive difference in your life. As we kick off this time of giving, please consider making a gift to the Frosty Drew Observatory. Your support means the world to us and we are awesome because of you!

-Scott

Check out our page on Visiting Frosty Drew Observatory to learn more about what to expect at the Observatory and better help you prepare for your visit.

Please note that we do not allow any white lights on our campus from dusk - dawn. This is to ensure an equally awesome view of the night sky for all and to allow for the use of light sensitive astronomical equipment. Learn more about why we have this requirement in The Red Light District

To allow for visitors to freely explore all of the amazing experiences at Frosty Drew Observatory without having to wait in long lines, we have integrated a pass-based group access process that applies to only the large telescope inside the observatory dome. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with this process as part of your planning steps.