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Solar Features by John McConnell FRAS PDF Print E-mail
In 1610, shortly after viewing the sun with his ‘new telescope’, Galileo Galilei made the first European observations of sunspots. Daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1749 and with the addition of other observatories continuous observations were obtained starting in 1849.

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free, froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research.

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Learn about the Solar System PDF Print E-mail
The words "solar system" refer to the Sun or a star and all of the objects that travel around it. These objects include planets, natural satellites such as the Moon, the asteroid belt, comets, and meteoroids. Our solar system has an elliptical shape and is part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way. The Sun is the center of the solar system. It contains 99.8% of all of the mass in our solar system. Consequently, it exerts a tremendous gravitational pull on planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids.
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The Lyrid Meteors - 16th to 25th April PDF Print E-mail


The Lyrid meteor shower streams from a point in the constellation Lyra near Vega - a brilliant blue-white star about three times wider than our Sun and 25 light years away. The meteor shower occurs due to the Earth passing through a trail of debris left by comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). The Lyrids are typically visible between 16th and 25th April with a maximum occuring during April 22nd (Solar Longitude=33°32'), from an average radiant of RA=272°, DECL=+33 deg. Although the maximum ZHR is about 10, there have been instances during the last 200 years when rates were near or over 100 per hour so watch out!

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The Geminid Meteor Shower PDF Print E-mail

The Geminids

The Geminid meteor shower officially begins on December 7th, but it doesn't peak until the morning of the 13/14th. Unlike the Leonids, the Geminid's broad maximum lasts nearly a full day, so observers around the globe have a good chance to see the show. At its peak the Geminids could produce as many as one shooting star every 30 seconds.

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Visual Comet Hunting PDF Print E-mail

INTRODUCTION

Visual comet hunting is the systematic search for undiscovered comets by the visual amateur observer using the naked eye, binoculars or telescope. It is a way of exploring the entire sky on a one to one basis, where the searcher checks each moving field of view (FOV) of his or her instrument in the hope of discovering that faint misty patch of light of an unknown comet first beginning to shine. Comet hunting is a discipline, a way of observing like no other as the sky is in charge of what you might find during a session compared to the conventional method of observing. This is what makes it an exciting past time. It will teach you the sky in a way you will never forget. During the search you will be in for at least several treats….

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