Survey Responses:- -TANZANIA
Astronomy as a Tourist Attraction
· String of planets lined on the ecliptic
· Venus-Jupiter closest together 30 June
· Moon close to Venus-Jupiter 19, 20, 21 June
· Mercury 22deg, close to Aldebaran 24 June dawn
· Moon close to Saturn 28 and 29 June
· Ramadhan First Crescent 17 or 18 June
· Northernmost position of Sun 21 June
· Southern Cross pointing south
· Big Dipper points north
· ISS - International Space Station visible 29, 30 June
The weather is very unpredictable with the sky sometimes clouded and even rain in May!! However, there are sufficiently frequent clear, cool, steady night skies that will allow you to enjoy the planet show unraveling this month.
Venus and Jupiter are extremely bright and easy to pick out near the west horizon at an elevation of about 30 to 40 degrees, from sunset until 8 or 9 pm, with the more brilliant Venus slowly shifting away from the Pollux-Castor pair of Gemini (the Twins) constellation. At the same time Venus is inching close to Jupiter and meet on 30 June.
Venus is now at its maximum elevation of 43 degrees and, when viewed through a telescope, it changes its shape from half to crescent while growing larger day by day as its orbit brings it closer to Earth. After lighting our evening sky since the beginning of the year, it will rapidly descend over the next two months and disappear from the evening sky by the end of July only to reappear as a morning star by the end of August.
Jupiter will also descend over the next two months and disappear below the west horizon by the mid-August and will reappear again after six months in the night skies rising in the east from February next year.
Venus remains close to the Sun and appears as evening and morning star because its orbit is inside that of Earth, which is also the reason why its shape changes from full to half to crescent when we observe it from Earth. Jupiter is very distant planet orbiting outside the Earth’s orbit hence it can shift in the sky from east to west passing zenith while Venus cannot do that.
Beautifully ringed Saturn is seen in the east close to the stars that make the tentacles of Scorpio. It is currently shifting westwards away from the tentacle stars in retrograde (opposite) motion until beginning August after which it will resume its normal eastward motion and will come again close to Scorpio’s tentacle stars by the end of October, by which time it will be close to the west horizon setting with the Sun. It will then disappear from the evening skies and reappear in the east after six months, similar to Jupiter because its orbit is outside that of Earth’s.
The observation of the First Crescent will attract many observers to look up at the sky just after sunset towards the west. The first objects to strike the eyes will be the close Venus-Jupiter planet pair seen as extremely bright stars. New Moon is on 16 June when the Moon will be adjacent to the Sun and sets with the Sun, so it cannot be seen.
By the following day, 17 June, the Moon will have climbed 12 degrees so it can be far enough away from the Sun to seek out the First Crescent. However since the crescent will be quite slim and low near the horizon, so it will be quite a challenge to detect it in brightness of scattered light from the Sun. You will need a clear view of the horizon with clear skies without any clouds. Look in the area just above the west horizon directly below the two bright stars, the planets Venus and Jupiter, and just right of the position where the Sun will have set around 6:15 pm.
By 18 June the Moon will have climbed another 12 degrees so will be high enough and big enough to be seen. Again, look in the area of the sky as described above.
The more interesting aspect to observe is that all the planets and the Moon are ALWAYS found to lie close to an imaginary line running from east to west. This line is called the ECLIPTIC and is the path of the Sun in the sky. All planets are seen along the ecliptic because our solar system is a flat system with the all the planets orbiting the Sun in a flat plane. When we look at the ecliptic line in the sky we are looking along the plane of our solar system. This is similar to the thin path of the Milky Way that crosses the sky because the dense collection of stars in our Milky Way galaxy are all in a thick flat system like a plate.
Mercury is normally very difficult to detect with naked eyes since it is always close to the Sun, however now it is currently high enough to be seen just before sunrise close to the red giant star Aldebaran in Taurus. The pair remain close while Mercury climbs to its highest elevation of 22 degrees on 24th June. It will remain high enough to be detectable until the first week of July.
Before the close approach in the sky (conjunction) of Venus and Jupiter on 30 June, there will be a remarkable sight in the sky two days after New Moon, from 19 to 21 June when the thin crescent Moon will also be close to Venus-Jupiter pair and will form very attractive shapes in the evening sky easily seen by many people. On 20th the crescent Moon will form a symmetric triangle while on 19th and 21st the crescent will be below and above the Venus Jupiter plane and along the ecliptic.
The Moon is New on June 16 and First Quarter on June 24, when it will be overhead at sunset and it will be in half shape. This is the best time to see the Moon through a telescope or binoculars because the shadows cast near the light-dark edge are long and sharp. This brings out the craters clearly into view. Full Moon will be on July 2 and Last Quarter on July 8.
This month’s sky map shows us that we can see nearly 18 constellations and asterisms. To see all of them you will need to be well away from city or town lights, in rural areas, where there is no light pollution. Marked alphabetically from A to R these are, from south to north, then east to west: A – Sagittarius the archer, B – Scorpius, C – Ara the alter, D – Triangulum Australe, the southern triangle, and E – the famous Southern Cross continuously pointing south. F – is the False Cross, G – is Vela, the sail, H – is the zodiacal constellation of Libra the scales of justice and I – is the long Hydra the snake. J is Virgo the virgin while K – is Leo the Lion. L - is Cancer the crab while M – is Hercules, N – is Bootes the herdsman and T – is the famous Big Dipper pointing north. P – is Ursa Major, the big bear while Q – is Draco the dragon. R – is the Little Dipper in Ursa Minor whose end star is the North Star but which we never see as it is below the horizon.
Among the bright stars marked ‘m’ to ‘s’ on the map are: ‘m’ – Alpha Centauri the closest star at a distance of 4.3 light years and ‘n’ – is Beta Centauri. ‘t’ - is red star Antares in the neck of Scorpius, ‘p’ – is Spica in Virgo while ‘q’ is the third brightest star Arcturus (the first and second brightest stars are respectively Sirius and Canopus will have set in the south west by 8 pm). ‘r’ – is Regulus in Leo while ‘s’ – is Procyon.
The full glory of the dense concentration of stars and dust can be seen in the Milky Way which stretches across the southern skies from southwest to southeast containing the constellations or asterisms C, D, E, F and G. It runs parallel to the zodiacal constellations A, B, H, J, K, L. June 21 is the Solstice, when the Sun starts its journey back towards the Equator from its northernmost position of 23.5 degrees at the Tropic of Cancer. This day marks the beginning of northern summers and southern winters with longest and shortest days in the respective hemispheres.
The International Space Station provides an eventful sight on 29th June when it will disappear in mid-flight when it is overhead. It will rise above the northwestern horizon at 7:42pm (19:42) and disappear after 5 minutes when it is almost overhead at 7:47pm. It disappears from sight suddenly because the sunlight can no longer fall on the satellite - that is, it enters the Earth’s shadow. For exact times at your location, go to www.heavens-above.com and log in with your coordinates to get the exact details of the times. At this website you can also enjoy a very realistic 3D visualization of the space station at: http://heavens-above.com/ISS_3D.aspx. Note that you will need a computer with a recent browser and fast graphics. Visit www.astronomyintanzania.or.tz for more astronomy information and details.
The following is a summary of interesting astronomical events during this year 2015 that can be observed by the public without the need of a telescope.
The events are described for positions in the sky and the times for viewers in Tanzania, or East Africa. You may read about some of these events in international media but some of these are not seen from Tanzania and the timings can be different.
The events are chronologically arranged by dates that they occur.
Ø Solar eclipses occur when our view of the Sun is blocked by the Moon during the daytime causing a small shadow of Moon to fall on Earth. The Moon is in between the Earth and the Sun.
Ø Lunar eclipses occur when the large shadow of Earth falls on the Moon. The Earth is in between the Sun and the Moon.
Ø Total eclipses occur when the shadow is dark, called umbra.
Ø Partial eclipses occur when the shadow is not completely dark (called penumbra) since some light falls in the shadow area.
Ø Exciting Note: Next year 2016, an annular solar eclipse passes through a 100 kilometer path across southern Tanzania on Sept 1, 2016. The whole of Tanzania will experience nearly 90 percent of the Sun being covered.
· Total Solar Eclipse, 20 Mar, North Pole, None visible in Tanzania
· Total Lunar Eclipse, 04 Apr, Pacific Ocean, None visible in Tanzania
· Partial Solar Eclipse, 13 Sep, South Pole, None visible in Tanzania
· Total Lunar Eclipse, 28 Sep, Atlantic Ocean, Partial eclipse visible in Tanzania
Ø Meteors are light streaks in the night sky that look like a shooting star. The light is emitted by burning in the atmosphere of tiny dust grains from coming from space. Sometimes larger particles can strike the atmosphere and the light glows much more brightly or even explodes known as bolides.
Ø Meteor showers are formed when high concentrations of dust from past comets trails and asteroids strike Earth at the same time causing many meteors in a short period.
· Quadrantid, Weak, North, Jan 3-4, Big Dipper, Moon too bright
· Lyrids, Weak, North, Apr 22-23, Cygnus, Vega(Alpha Lyrae) Moon too bright
· Eta Aquarids, Strong-60 met/hr, Equator, May 5-6, Aquarius, no Moon so meteors can be detected
· Delta Aquarids, Weak, near Equator, Jul 28-29, Fomalhaut-pegasus square, Moon too bright
· Perseids, Strong- 60 met/hr, North, Aug 12-13, Perseus, No Moon so meteors can be detected
· Draconids, Weak North Oct 8-9, Little Dipper, Moon too bright
· Orinids, Weak, Equator, Oct 21-22, Orion, Moon sets early so meteors can be detected, (additional - Venus-Jupiter-Mars in morning sky)
· Taurids, Weak, Equator, Nov 5-6, Taurus, Quarter Moon too bright in morning sky
· Leonids, Ok, Equator, Nov 17-18, Leo, Quarter Moon sets early so meteors can be detected
· Geminids, VeryStrong-120 met/hr, Equator, Dec 13-14, Gemini, Crescent Moon sets early so meteors can be detected
· Ursida, Weak, North, Dec 22-23, Little Dipper, Moon too bright
Ø Planet opposition occurs when the full face of the planet is lit by sunlight with the planet on one side (east side) of Earth while the Sun is on the opposite side (west). So a brightly shining planet rises from the east at sunset.
Ø Close approach of planets in the night sky occurs when their lines of sight as viewed from Earth are separated by very small angles. Hence though they appear to be close to each other in the night sky, it does not mean that they are actually close to each other in space. All planets are separated by millions of kilometers of space in their orbits around the Sun.
· VENUS and MERCURY close, Jan 10, they will be seen close together 20 degrees above the west horizon just after sunset. Start watching from now up to mid-January as Mercury approaches Venus from below and comes closest on Jan 10 within one degree and then moves down again away from Venus. Mercury is a faint point and can be a challenge to detect, while Venus will be bright. Venus will continue to rise in the sky in the following months rising to 40 degrees in June and then quickly coming down to the horizon by August.
· JUPITER at opposition, Feb 7, brilliantly bright Jupiter will be seen rising in the east just as the sun sets in the west. It will remain in the evening night sky for the next six months moving gradually westwards.
· VENUS and MARS close, Feb 21, they will be seen close together 20 degrees above the west horizon just after sunset. Start watching from mid-February up to the end of February as first Venus approaches Mars from below and comes closest on Feb 21 within half a degree and then moves up away from Mars. Mars is a tiny red point while Venus will be very bright yellow.
· Uranus and VENUS close, Mar 4, though Uranus cannot be seen easily since it is very faint, it can be seen with naked eyes only in darkest skies since it is just at the limit of naked eye visibility. However this is an excellent opportunity for telescope observation of the planet (even through small telescopes) since it can be located within a tenth of a degree from Venus on Mar 4 so it can be easy to catch even in a small telescope. The pair will be 30 degrees above the horizon at sunset with Uranus approaching Venus from above coming closest to Venus within a tenth of a degree on Mar 4 and passing below on following days.
· Uranus and MARS close, Mar 11, presents another opportunity to locate the faint Uranus through even a small telescope when it comes closest to Mars to within half a degree. Mars is a faint red star and can be identified among the other stars.
· SATURN at opposition, May 24, sharply shining Saturn will be seen rising in the east just as the sun sets in the west. It will remain in the evening night sky for the next six months moving gradually westwards.
· JUPITER and VENUS close, Jun 30, two brilliant planets will shine as bright stars in the evening sky close together 40 degrees above the in the west soon after sunset. Start watching from mid-June to mid-July as Jupiter approaches Venus from above and comes closest on June 30 within half a degree and then moves down away from Venus. This will be an extremely noticeable event since many people will see two extremely bright objects close in the sky for more than a month.
· JUPITER and MERCURY close, Aug 7, seen 15 degrees above the western horizon at sunset, with Venus 10 degrees to the left below the Jupiter-Mercury pair.
· JUPITER and MARS close, Oct 18 they will be seen close together 30 degrees above the east horizon just before sunrise. Start watching from beginning of October to mid-October Jupiter first approaches Mars from below and comes closest on Oct 18 within quarter of a degree and then moves up away from Mars. Mars is a tiny red point while Jupiter will be very bright white.
· JUPITER and VENUS close, Oct 26, two extremely brilliant stars, Venus and Jupiter will be seen close together 40 degrees above the east horizon just before sunrise. Before sunrise they will be seen closer to the east horizon. Start watching from mid-October up to the end of October as first Jupiter approaches Venus from below and comes closest on Oct 26 within half a degree and then moves up away from Venus. This will be an extremely noticeable event especially for early rises since they will be seeing two extremely bright objects in the sky for almost the whole of October.
· VENUS and MARS close, Nov 3, they will be seen close together 45 degrees above the east horizon just before sunrise. They will come closest to within half a degree as Mars approaches Venus from below and then moves up away from Venus.
· VENUS and SATURN close, Jan 9 2016. They will be seen 35 degrees above the western horizon at sunset and will come closest to each other within a tenth of a degree.
Ø Full Moon occurs when Moon is on one side (east) of Earth while Sun is on the opposite (west) side. Hence sunlight is striking the Moon full face and the full bright circle of Moon is seen in the east from sunset onwards.
Ø New Moon occurs when Moon is viewed with Sun directly behind it hence dark (night) side of Moon is facing us and dark face is in the west horizon at sunset.
Ø Crescent Moon occurs immediately after New Moon once some sunlight is able to strike the Moon but we see only a thin part of the lower side of the Moon. Crescent Moon are seen low in the west horizon at sunset or low in the east horizon at sunrise.
Ø Half Moon occurs when we see the Moon as a half circle and is . It is actually called First Quarter or Last Quarter since it occurs during first or last quarter of the Moon’s cycle around Earth.
Ø Gibbous Moon is shaped like an oval and occurs between half Moon and Full Moon.
· Full Moon, Jan 5
· New Moon, Jan 20
· Crescent Moon close to MERCURY Jan 21, will be seen 12 degrees above the western horizon at sunset with Moon 2 degrees below Mercury.
· Crescent Moon close to VENUS and MARS Jan 22, will be seen 25 degrees above the western horizon at sunset with Moon in between Mars above and Venus below 10 degrees apart.
· Crescent Moon close to MARS Jan 23, will be seen 40 degrees above the western horizon at sunset with Moon 2 degrees above Mars.
· Full Moon, Feb 4
· Full Moon close to JUPITER Feb 4, will be seen rising in the east horizon soon after sunset and will be visible throughout the night, slowly shifting westwards through the night
· New Moon, Feb 19
· Crescent Moon close to VENUS-MARS pair, Feb 20, will be seen 20 degrees above the western horizon at sunset with the planet pair 5 degrees above crescent Venus. The trio will slowly drop lower through the night and set after about an hour.
· Almost full Moon close to JUPITER, Mar 3, will be seen rising above the east horizon at sunset and the pair will be seen slowly shifting westwards through the night.
· Full Moon, Mar 5
· New Moon, Mar 20
· Crescent Moon between Venus and Mars, Mar 22, seen at 25 degrees above the western horizon at sunset, with Venus 5 degrees above and Mars 10 degrees below the crescent Moon. The trio will slowly drop lower through the night and set after a couple of hours.
· Half Moon close to JUPITER, Mar 30, will be seen near the zenith from sunset, shifting westwards through the night.
· Full Moon, Apr 4
· New Moon, Apr 18
· Crescent Moon close to VENUS, Apr 21, will be seen 35 degrees above the western horizon at sunset with Venus 10 degrees to the right of crescent Moon. The pair will slowly drop lower through the night and set after a few hours.
· Half Moon close to JUPITER, Apr 26, will be seen near zenith 5 degrees apart with the pair shifting westwards through the night and set below the western horizon soon after midnight.
· Full Moon, May 4
· New Moon, May 18
· Crescent Moon close to VENUS, May 21, seen 40 degrees above the western horizon at sunset. The pair will slowly drop lower through the night and set after a few hours.
· Half Moon close to JUPITER, May 23, 24 seen close to zenith overhead about 10 degrees apart. They will shift slowly westwards and set before midnight.
· Full Moon close to SATURN, Jun 1, with the pair rising above the eastern horizon at sunset. They are 2 degrees apart and shift westwards throughout the night.
· Full Moon, Jun 2
· New Moon, Jun 16
· Crescent Moon between JUPITER-VENUS pair, Jun 20, seen 45 degrees above western horizon at sunset, with Moon 5 degrees apart from the planet pair. The trio will slowly drop lower through the night and set after a few hours.
· Almost full Moon and SATURN close, Jun 28, seen half way up the eastern sky at sunset with the pair 5 degrees apart and shifting slowly westwards through the night.
· Crescent Moon close to VENUS-JUPITER pair, Jul 18, seen 30 degrees above the western horizon at sunset forming a triangle 5 degrees apart. The trio drops slowly, and sets below the horizon after a couple of hours.
· Gibbous (oval) Moon close to SATURN, July 26, near zenith 65 degrees above eastern horizon at sunset. The pair shifts slowly westwards and sets after midnight.
· Full Moon, Jul 31
· New Moon, Aug 14
· Half Moon and SATURN close, Aug 22, seen close to zenith overhead two degrees apart. The pair shifts slowly westwards through the night setting close to midnight.
· Full Moon, Aug 29
· New Moon, Sep 13
· Half Moon and SATURN close, Sep 19, seen close to zenith overhead two degrees apart. The pair shifts slowly westwards through the night setting close to midnight.
· Full Moon, Sep 28
· New Moon, Oct 13
· Crescent Moon and SATURN close, Oct 16, seen 40 degrees above western horizon at sunset 2 degrees apart. The pair sets slowly below the western horizon after a few hours.
· Full Moon, Oct 27
· New Moon, Nov 11
· Crescent Moon and SATURN close, Nov 13, seen 20 degrees above western horizon at sunset with crescent 5 degrees above Saturn. The pair sets after an hour.
· Full Moon, Nov 26
· New Moon, Dec 11
· Full Moon, Dec 25
· New Moon, Jan 10 2016
CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE
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BY MR BENIEL SEKA
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Dr Noorali Jiwaji SPoC for Tanzania for IYA2009