Friday, July 10, 2015

Venus is Bright - By Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga

Aphrodite - Venus, Goddess of Love

How bright is Venus?

Venus is so bright...
...If you are observing from a dark sky site,Venus will cast shadows.

...Venus is the third brightest regular object in the sky.  The Sun and The Moon are the only two regular objects that can outshine Venus.

...Venus can be seen in broad daylight.

It is easy to see the planet Venus during the daylight hours because Venus is now brighter than the blue sky.
Four panels illustrate how simple it is to find Venus while the Sun is in the sky.

Go outside at 8:15 or so and face the West.  The two bright star looking objects are the planets Venus and Jupiter,  Venus is the one on the left, brighter and slightly higher than Jupiter.  Walk around so you can place Venus next to some landmark on your Western horizon.  Mark the spot  you are standing with a brick, stone chalk mark or whatever.

Next night stand on the same marker, look to the West but do this at 8:00 or fifteen minutes earlier than the first viewing.  You will find Venus will be above where you saw it a day earlier.

Walk around so Venus is once again lined up with a marker on your local horizon... a tree branch,  telephone pole,  neighbors house, or something. Mark where you are standing.

The third night repeat the same steps but now at 7:45.

The forth evening the sun should be above the horizon at 7:30.  If at first you can't see Venus keep looking.  Within 15 minutes it should appear where you saw it on the third evening attempt.

If you keep repeating these observations you may be able to continue until Venus will be visible to you at 5 or 4:00 late afternoon.  

The times given are for Tempe Arizona.  We do not have daylight saving time. We have too much sunlight for such childish things.  

Note:  Your first observing evening should correspond to a time when Venus is visible with a few background stars in your sky.

Editor's Note:  And lastly...Just for's what Frankie Avalon had to say about Venus back in 1959!                                                                                                                                  


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Venus and Jupiter, PART 4, by Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga

Venus and Jupiter - June 30, 2015

The evening of June 30 is our fourth and last conjunction of the planets in the evening sky. 

January 10th the planet Venus was associated with Mars and Mercury, January 20 our observations centered on Mars, the Moon and Mercury and February 20 with the Moon and Mars. 

Tuesday evening, June 30th, Venus is in conjunction with the planet Jupiter. Look for two brilliant star-like objects in the western sky at about 8:00p.m. Venus will be the brighter of the two.

The pairing of these two planets in the evening sky will be so close, with only 1/3 of a degree separating them. As we discussed previously, the full moon appears about half a degree in diameter to our unaided eyes, so these two planets will be closer than the distance of the full moon. Without difficulty, you should be able to stretch out your arm and cover both planets with your thumb!

This paring, as with all of our observations on this topic, is an optical illusion.  Venus and Jupiter appear close to one another from our backyards due to line of sight perspective. Venus is 49 million miles away this evening while Jupiter is 563 million miles away.  Another way of illustrating the distances is to use the speed of light instead of miles. Light can travel around the earth eight times in one second. The light that strikes your eye from the planet Venus this evening takes 4.4 minutes to travel to your eye and the light from Jupiter takes 50 minutes to reach your eye.

There is one difference with the June 30 apparition from the three others reported on. With the exception of the moon, when Venus was paired with another planet, Venus would pass the planet then move higher in the sky each evening.  This evening is different.  Watch what happens evenings after Tuesday evening.  Venus and Jupiter simply separate from each other in an east-west direction, not above and below.  This is due to the fact Venus attained it's greatest apparent distance from the Sun June 6th.  Now the planet does not appear to move further from the sun, but closer.  

The result is the two planets will ride the skies together for a few nights.  August 14-15 Venus will move just south of the Sun and will be lost in the solar glare.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Welcome Guest Author Samie Sands and "Forgotten" - Contest Alert!

So happy to welcome Author Samie Sands this morning!  Please read on to learn all about Forgotten, Samie's second book in the AM13 series of three - the third of which she is currently working on.  

I'm sure you'll want to catch up on the first book of the series as well, Lockdown.  

Book Blurb:
The Lockdown has failed. The AM13 virus is spreading out of control and there doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping it. The Government announces its new plan—a sanctuary in an area completely untouched by the infected—as long as you can get there unscathed of course...

Author Bio
Author, Samie Sands
'Lockdown' - the first book in the AM13 series - is Samie Sand's first novel. That and the sequel 'Forgotten' have been published by Triplicity Publishing. She is currently working on the 3rd and final installment. 
Aside from her novels, she has had a number of articles published in e-zines including one of the most popular pieces in Zombie Guide Magazine. Samie has also had a number of short stories published in a wide range of very successful anthologies. To find out more about her, check out

Click on this link to read a sample of Forgotten

Samie is also currently running a competition!  Enter to win a signed copy of Forgotten:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the following "Buy" and "Follow" links to keep up with Samie:


Thank you for joining us today, Samie and the very best of luck to you.  Please keep in touch and let us know when the third book is available!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Venus, Mars and the Moon - February 20, 2015 - PART 3 - by Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga



If you were watching the western early evening skies this past week you would have seen the decreasing separation between the planets Venus and Mars (Figure 1). Minimum separation occurs Friday evening with the addition of the thin crescent moon.


The view of the western early evening sky of February 20 is illustrated in Figure 2.  Venus outshines both the moon and Mars.  Although the moon is represented in Figure 2, it does not register at the resolution of the figure, though the moon will be easily visible to the casual observer facing west.


A pair of binoculars might enhance the naked eye view.  Figure 3 is the view through a pair of 7X35 binoculars.  This is a popular size of binocular.  The first number "7" designates the magnification of the binocular. The size of the large lenses furthest from your eye while using the binocular provides the diameter of the lenses in millimeters, in this case "35" millimeters or roughly 1.5 inches.

 Note the image of the moon.  It consists of a bright crescent.  That bright crescent is the part of the moon illuminated directly by the sun, light from the sun reflected off the moon to earth.  The rest of the moon has an ashen look.  The ashen light is the result of light from the sun striking the earth, reflecting off the earth to the moon, then reflecting off the moon to the earth and into your eyes.  Not bad for the moon which reflects on average only 12% of sunlight, and is therefore a very dark object. This view of the moon has been described as: "The old moon wi' the new moon in her arms."

The scene before your eyes the evening of the 20th is somewhat of an illusion. Venus, Mars and the Moon are not that close in space.  We can illustrate this using the speed of light. A beam of light can travel 8 times around the earth in one second, yet that same beam of light takes about 8.3 minutes to travel from the sun to the earth. We say then the sun is 8.3 light minutes away from the earth. On the 20th of February the sunlight reflected off the moon takes but 1.2 seconds to reach the earth, Venus nearly 12 minutes and the reflected sunlight from Mars takes 18 minutes.

This is the third of four submissions concerning the planet Venus in the western evening sky. As you observe the Moon, Venus and Mars this evening, you might take a second to look directly east.  The brilliant star like object hovering directly above east is the planet Jupiter.  

The very close appearance of Venus and Jupiter above the western horizon the evening of June 30th will be the 4th of 4 postings.  

The separation between Jupiter and Venus is decreasing already. Look tonight to the west at Venus, then to the east at Jupiter... the June 30th event has begun! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Close Approach " of Venus and Mercury PART 2, by Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga

                                    January 20-22, 2015

Let's examine Figure 01, depicting the southwest backyard sky at about 6:15 p.m. on January 20, 2015. This is a time when a half-dozen stars are visible in your evening sky. Features include the positions of the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars.

A line drawn from the "S" which stands for South and to the "W" which stands for West would be the horizon if you were standing on a boat in the middle of the ocean. 

The Moon in our setting is just above the South-West horizon.  It is an eleven hour moon.  At 7 a.m. this morning the moon and sun were on the same north south line. The moon travels around the earth such it moves its own diameter each hour, or as viewed in the sky, half-degree each hour. At the time of our diagram, the moon has separated from the sun by 5.5 degrees.

Technically above the horizon, practically it would be very difficult to observe the 11-hour moon this close to the horizon, even though you were trying to observe it atop a large sand dune in the middle of the Sahara.  Only 0.4 percent of the moon is illuminated.  Figure 02 illustrates how little this is.

The illuminated crescent part of the moon does not present a continued light line, but is broken up in places due to the moon's crater walls seen edge on.

The brightest image in our sky is the planet Venus. It is the anchor in this our second posting of four; since our last posting of January 10th, when Venus and Mercury were very close in the sky.  Now, just ten days later, Mercury has peeled off to the west and below Venus. 

Mars is above Venus.  It will be interesting to watch from one evening to the next as their separation decreases.

                                    January 21, 2015

Just 24 hours later, we note from comparisons of last evening sky to this, the increasing separation between Venus and Mercury. (Fig. 03)
Last evening the Moon was 11 hours old. This evening it is 11 hours old plus 24, or 35 hours old.  It has increased from 0.4 percent illumination last evening to 1.3 percent this evening. (Fig.04)
This evening marks the first evening when the crescent moon is an easy target for the backyard observer.  Finding the moon's position is aided by its close proximity to the planet Venus. Two nights and three days ago the moon was an equally visible object in the morning sky immediately before sunrise.  Two nights and three days equal 72 hours. It took the moon 72 hours to pass from the morning sky to the evening sky. Half of 72 is 36.  We have a 35 hour moon this evening in good agreement of a standard two nights and three days traditional description of the dark of the moon, when the moon is not visible to the unaided eye.  

The Greek goddess of the Moon was Artemis. As the goddess of transitions she was a goddess of birth and death.  The crescent moon mythically died two nights and three days ago but now reborn as a crescent in this evening sky. A Greek word to describe a thin crescent moon is the word "Cynthia," abbreviated as "Cindy." Parents in search of a name for their newborn find Cynthia listed as another name for the Moon goddess Artemis.  This is a translation I would expect from a high school guidance counselor or worse yet, from a gym coach. An appropriate sense of the name Cynthia is: "She who hunts among the clouds."

The separation of Venus and Mars continues to decline.

                               January 22, 2015

This is the evening sky at about 6:20. (Fig. 05)
Note the position of Mercury. It is getting very low and by month's end will rise and set at the same time as the sun.

In just 24 hours the moon has changed its position from the west of Venus to the west of Mars. If we could pace the apparent distance the moon traveled from last evening to this evening, multiply it by 29.5 times, we would have marked a great circle around the sky. We would find the moon back to the same phase as tonight. This number is near the 30 day cycle of the month.  The month does indeed get its length from this, the Synodic cycle of the moon.

The moon is 9 percent sunlit. (Fig. 06)
I refer to this phase of the moon as the Romantic Moon, because it will take the moon 2.5 hours to set; more than enough time to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Close Approach " of Venus and Mercury by Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga

The illustration shows the "close approach" of  the Planets Venus and Mercury at 6p.m. January 10th and 11th.  The apparent close planetary images is an illusion.  The planet Venus, on the far side of the Solar System is emerging from behind the Sun while Mercury is on the same side of the solar system as the Earth and will pass between the Sun and Earth on the 29th of January.

 It is the pairing of the fainter Mercury with the brighter Venus that makes the planet Mercury an easier target for backyard observing. This is the first of Venus paring with four celestial objects worth noting.  It was these apparent motions of the Sun, Moon and five visible planets that had a profound effect on human culture. 

Watch this space!