Weekly Happenings, May 17, 2013
This week we move into the last month stretch leading up to the Summer Solstice. The summer solstice marks the first day of the summer season and is the longest day of the year. As we approach the summer solstice, observatory opening times become quite late as the sun does not set until almost 8:30. This pushes telescope opening times to 9:00 p.m. which can be quite late for the wee folk among us. This year Frosty Drew Observatory will attempt to address this natural delay by integrating solar projection starting at 6:00 p.m. and continuing until the sun sets into the western tree line. Tonight we will be doing our first equipment test and are hopeful to have our first public offering within a couple weeks time. Thanks to all who voted and commented on the Frosty Drew Observatory Facebook page for the solar projection program.
This past Sunday and Monday (May 12-13, 2013) three X-class solar flares took place on the Sun. X-class flares are the strongest flares produced by the Sun. The first flare was an X1.7 flare, second an X2.8, and third an X3.2 - the strongest solar flare of the year to date. Increased numbers and intensity of solar flares are common right now as the sun's normal 11-year cycle is approaching solar maximum later this year. The largest flare yet of the current cycle happened on August 9, 2011 and was classified as an X6.9. The three flares earlier this week were not directed towards Earth but the active region producing these massive flares is turning towards us. If another large flare occurs blasting a coronal mass ejection towards Earth, we can be in for a fantastic display of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Keep looking up!
The week Venus has started to become clearly visible at sunset just above the western horizon. As we complete spring and move through summer, Venus will continue to become more visible in the west during dusk. If you have a good westerly view, be sure to note the super bright object to the west after sunset as Venus is the brightest celestial object in the sky aside from the sun and moon. Quite soon we will be observing the fascinating phases of Venus at Frosty Drew Observatory just after sunset, woot!
May through July is the best time to observe the sky at Frosty Drew Observatory. Keep looking up as awesome things are happening this year!