Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rosetta spacecraft expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

This Wednesday Morning (November 12) at 10:30AM Eastern Standard Time the Rosetta spacecraft is expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. If successful, this will be the first time any spacecraft has landed on a comet.

See these links for more information...




To watch the landing on streaming video, go to either of these sites (note there is a 30 minute delay, if the landing occurs at 10:30AM, we will see the landing at 11:00AM).



Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Meteor Showers

On the night of November 17-18, you can observe the annual Leonid Meteor Shower.

While in previous years, the Leonids have produced outbursts of thousands of meteors per hour, that is highly unlikely this year. We expect a modest meteor shower. However the Leonids do have a tendency to produce more bright meteors (fireballs) than some other showers.

Usually the best advice for observing meteor showers is to look after midnight. If you live in North America, that isn't the best approach for this year's Leonids. Instead it is best to start looking after it gets dark Monday night (on the 17th).

The number of meteors you will see is difficult to predict. It partly depends on the Leonids themselves, but also on the amount of light pollution and the latitude/longitude of your observing location. Also if it is cloudy that will reduce what you see. As an educated guess, an observer located at a dark site in Europe might see about 15 an hour. An observer at a dark site in North America, might see 10 an hour.

Note that the Leonid Meteor Shower overlaps two weak meteor showers, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. While both are weak, they are each active over a period of about 15 days.

Most the activity of the Leonids occurs on a single day (but weaker activity will occur for a period of about 3 weeks). Basically the entire month is covered by one or more of these showers and all three frequently produce fireballs. Unfortunately predicting when the fireballs will occur is impossible.

To observe a meteor shower, you only need your eyes. No binoculars or telescopes are needed. Make sure you have comfortable clothing, a comfortable chair and be patient. As explained above, the best bet is to observe on the evening of November 17-18, but other nights in November can be expected to produce perhaps 5 an hour and if you are lucky the occasional fireball.

For more information see:


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Water in Your Bottle Might Be Older Than the Sun

"Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, University of Michigan astronomers theorize."

The age of the water is counted from the time that oxygen and hydrogen atoms combined to form a water molecule. You might naively think that this combination occurred after formation of our solar system. But Ilse Cleeves (doctoral student in astronomy) and Ted Bergin (professor of astronomy) estimate that between 30 and 50% of the water formed a million years before the solar system formed, when there was only a molecular cloud of gas, but no sun or planets.

This estimate was obtained by looking at the ratio of hydrogen isotopes within water. The hydrogen atoms in water come in three forms, hydrogen-1, hydrogen-2 (known as deuterium) and hydrogen-3 (known as tritium). Tritium is radioactive and decays into helium-3; it is virtually non-existent in the solar system except on the surface of the earth. But hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 are common. Comparing the ratio of hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 within samples of water, hydrogen gas or other compounds tells scientists about how these materials were formed. For example we find the ratio within comets and water in the Earth's ocean is higher than the ratio found in hydrogen atoms in the sun.

For more details see....


New Lowbrow Facebook Page

The University Lowbrow Astronomers have a new Facebook page.....

Follow us on Facebook: Get information about the club, events, photos, and more.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Partial Solar Eclipse

Later today there will be a partial Solar Eclipse. This will be visible from extreme eastern part of Russia and most of North America.

Depending on where you live you might see the whole eclipse or just part of it. For details on timing go to....


As added bonus there is currently a very large sunspot visible on the sun.

Warning: Always use proper protection when looking at the sun (both to protect your eyes and to prevent damage to equipment like cameras, telescopes, binoculars).

Looking at the sun near sunrise and sunset, when the sun is red is safe. It is not safe at other times, especially when using optical devices like telescopes.


To see photos of this Solar Eclipse see:


Addendum 2:

The Sunspot mentioned above was responsible for Solar Flares. See this Article from the Wall Street Journal: "Solar Flares From Sunspot Hamper Pilots, Satellites: AR 12192 Has Launched Six Major Solar Flares Toward Earth, Disrupting Navigation Systems and Radio Communications." See:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lunar Eclipse of October 8, 2014.

There will be a lunar eclipse in a couple days. Observing lunar eclipses are easy, you need to know roughly what time to look and go outside at the right time. If you have a window facing the correct direction you might not need to go outside.

  • If you live in North or South America it will be visible during the morning of October 8.
  • If you live in Asia or Australia it will be visible during the evening of October 8.
  • If you live in Europe or Africa, it will not be visible at all.

The above information is approximate (the location of visibility is somewhat smaller than indicated above), for more detailed information see this web site:



To see photos of this lunar eclipse see


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Future of Peach Mountain

Since the late 1970's, the University Lowbrow Astronomers have operated a 24" Cassegrain telescope located on "Peach Mountain." Peach Mountain in turn is located within "Stinchfield Woods," property owned by the University of Michigan (UM for short).

It is unclear where the name came from. With an elevation of 315 meters (1033 feet), Peach Mountain can't compare with mountains in other parts of the country. You would be forgiven if you called it a big hill. The connection with peaches or someone named Peach is unclear.

From 1960 to 2010, the Astronomy Department at UM operated a 26 meter (85 feet) radio telescope at Peach Mountain. After 2010, the Astronomy Department ceased operations at Peach Mountain (they still have access to telescopes in Arizona and other parts of the world).

The Department of Aerospace Engineering (also at UM) is in the process of upgrading the radio telescope. When the upgrades are complete, it will be used to communicate with artificial satellites.

For information about the upgrade, see this PDF document (a handout given during a tour of the facility on September 18, 2014):


For more information about the history of Peach Mountain see: