Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter School on Astroparticle Physics (WAPP 2009)

Mr. Sudeep Neupane and Mr. Riwaj Pokhrel, two brilient amateur astronomers and executive founder member of NASO left Kathmandu for the Winter School on Astroparticle Physics (WAPP 2009) which is being organized at Mayapuri ,Bose Institute, Darjeeling in association with TIFR, Mumbai during December 14-22, 2009 in Darjeeling.

Mr. Sudeep Neupane and Mr. Riwaj Pokhrel are the students of Physics and doing their M.Sc. final year from Central Department of Physics,Tribhuvan University,Kirtipur,Kathmandu,Nepal. Mr. Neupane is the co-ordinator of Campaign Against Light Pllution (CALP)-Nepal which is innitiated on September,2009 as a special project of NASOand Mr. Pokhrel is co-ordinator of Outreach Dpartment of NASO.

They will arrive Kathmandu on December 25,2009.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


-By Rishi Shah, President of NASO

The night skies of this month thrill sky-gazers with the beauty of planets, stars and the magnificence of various heavenly bodies that spread over the entire sky. As night descends on earth one can follow the zodiacal constellations of Capricornus (sea goat), Aquarius (water bearer), Pisces (fishes), Aries (ram), Taurus (bull), Gemini (twins) and Cancer (crab) stretching superbly across the sky from western to eastern horizon. The great square of Pegasus (winged horse) with constellation Andromeda (chained princess) that extends from its northeastern corner dominates the evening sky. Constellations Perseus (legendary hero), Auriga (charioteer) and faint Lynx (animal) are ascending the northeastern sky. Star Capella (Brahmahridhaya) sparkles in Auriga. It is barely fourty two light-years away. Lengthy watery constellations Cetus (whale) and Eridanus (river) are meandering through southeastern sky. Fascinating Orion (hunter) chased by Canis Major (great dog) and Canis Minor (small dog) are displaying their outstanding presence in eastern sky. Their prominent stars Betelgeuse (Ardra), Rigel, Sirius (Lubdhak) and Procyon (Manda) shine like exquisite gems in the sky. Constellations Cygnus (swan), Lyra (harp) and Aquila (eagle) are gliding towards western horizon with their fulgent stars Deneb, Vega (Avijit) and Altair (Sravana). Sirius belonging to a binary star system is the brightest star in the sky. It is scantly 8.6 light-years away.

Captivating planetary Ring Nebula (M57) decorates Lyra. Its reddish gaseous shroud has been expelled remarkably from dying sun-like star still dwelling at its centre. It is sheer two thousand light-years away. Enticingly strange spiral galaxy NGC918 has been located recently in Aries where arcane illumination has affirmed the existence of supernova SN2009js (massive star’s death explosion). It is sixty million light-years away. Engrossing open star cluster the Pleiades (M45) alias the Seven Sisters (Kritika) embellishes Taurus. It houses over three thousand stars surrounded by stunning blue reflection nebula and is solely four hundred light-years away. Circumpolar constellations Draco (dragon), Cepheus (king), Cassiopeia (queen) and Ursa Major (great bear) are circling around Pole Star Polaris (Dhruba Tara) that stays comfortably in Ursa Minor (little bear). Our galaxy the Milky Way runs mainly through Monoceros (unicorn), Auriga, Cassiopeia, Cygnus, and Aquila.

Elusive planet Mercury appears in western sky after sundown. It is drifting through Sagittarius (archer). Ruddy Mars glows in eastern sky late at night in Leo (lion). The mighty Jupiter coruscates in western sky among the dim stars of Capricornus. Far-flung bluish planet Neptune gleams in its vicinity. Distant planet Uranus could be discerned in barren southwestern sky between the circlet asterism of Pisces and eastern side of Aquarius. Ringed planet Saturn glints in eastern sky before sunup in Virgo (maiden). Giant star Spica (Chitra) is glistening charmingly below Saturn. Planet Venus remains out of sight this month. It is lost in solar glare, as it dashes towards Sagittarius. Diminutive dwarf planet Pluto is resting above Sagittarius. Asteroid Melpomene (18) is racing through Cetus. Comet C/2007Q3 (Sliding Spring) is tumbling through indistinct constellation Coma Berenices (Bernice’s hair) that floats above Virgo. Geminid meteor shower could produce 60/100 multi-colured meteors per hour at their peak on 13 to 14 December. They emanate from their radiant that lies above lurid star Castor (Kasturi) in Gemini and could be best watched in eastern sky after midnight till early morning. Geminids’ progenitor is considered to be asteroid 3200-Phaethon, which is believed to be the remnant of queerly extinct comet. Another Meteor shower Ursids could exhibit its maximum before dawn on 22 December, as the sporadic shooting stars emerge from the area close to star Kochab in Ursa Minor.

A minor partial lunar eclipse could be enjoyed from 23 hours on 31 December 2009 to 03:15 hours on 01 January 2010 (New Year’s Day) from our country and from different places in Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa. During the greatest mid-eclipse at fairly 01:07 hours just the dinky portion of southern limb of moon (merely eight percent of moon) would immerse in the deep shadow. Two full moons that are popularly known as long night moon or Yomari Purnae and the rare blue moon can be marveled on 02 and 31 December (the last day of 2009) respectively, while new moon is on 16 December. The winter solstice is experienced on 21 December with the shortest day and longest night in Northern Hemisphere. Christmas Day is celebrated on 25 December.

Two subsequent full moons are generally separated by circa 29.5 days and roughly 30.5 days are contained in one month. Even though it is oddly unlikely that two full moons would occur in a month, they happen regularly. The unconventional blue moon that would be seen statistically once every two-and-a-half years is prevailingly defined as the uncommon second full moon that falls in one calendar month. Over the next 50 years there will be about twenty blue moons that are randomly distributed over the years spanning from 2010 to 2060.

New Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) that would study and investigate Sun’s atmosphere and its functionality for five years is scheduled for lift-off soon. It would attempt to unveil the secrets of solar magnetic field inside Sun that determines the increase and decrease of solar cycles, sunspots with their eleven year rhythm, solar storms, coronal loops and ejection of solar particles and flares that disturb satellites, endanger astronauts in space and damage electrical grid on earth along with other diverse solar influences. During 1645 and 1715 the interval that became known as Maunder Minimum sunspots were hardly noticed and Europe and North America were both exposed bafflingly to bitter cold winters. It also coincided with the middle and coldest part of so-called Little Ice Age. Sun is presently in lull period and its next intense vigour is expected in 2013. The puzzling nexus between levels of Sun’s vehemence and alternation of earth’s climate would be analyzed and hopefully unraveled by SDO. The accompanying star map approximately describes the night sky over Kathmandu at about twenty hour local time during mid-December 2009.

Source: The Rising Nepal, Englsih National Daily,December 1,2009

December sky :Celebrate the New Year with the eclipsed blue moon

-By Kedar Badu,President, GASPO-Nepal

2009 will end with a bang as an eclipsed blue moon and the Gememid meteor shower grace the December skies. But before that, let's talk about the stars.
Orion, with his ever-ready hunting bow, will appear on the eastern horizon and herald the winter season. Along it, you will see the constellations Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Aquarius and Capricornus. The latter three constellations are faint, and you might need a dark location to view them.

The Great Square (Pegasus) still holds ground overhead during dusk. Perseus, the savior of Andromeda, flies high in the northern skies. Look for the double cluster that marks the handle of his sword, an easy binocular target. Andromeda herself is due south and home to the great galaxy M31, the furthest object visible with the naked eye. Taurus is host to two fine open clusters, the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) and the Hyades that mark the V-shaped head of the Bull. The mighty Orion dominates the southeast.

Planet observing

Jupiter and four of its moons will be visible low in the southwest, within the constellation Capricornus, around 9pm. Jupiter's four major moons will appear as tiny specks of light arrayed along a straight line to either side of the planet.
Mars will rise in the northeast around 10pm, and will be high in the southern sky in the early hours of the morning. Mars is above Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, and well to the left of the bright star Procyon, in Canis Minor. Mars is significantly brighter than either of these two stars and is much more orange in colour.
Mercury is at its greatest distance east of the sun on 18 December. You can catch a glimpse of it on nights when it sets two hours after sunset. Look southwest immediately after sunset within a couple days before and after 22 December.
Venus will rise in the southeast just an hour before sunrise, so for the most part will be obscured by the sun's glare. It may, however, be visible very low in the dawn sky.
Saturn will rise in the east around 1am, and will be high up in the southern sky by dawn. It will be to the upper right of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, and to the lower left of Regulus. It will also be moving very slowly south-eastwards in Virgo.


The Gememid shower appears on 7-16 December regularly each year. It will peak around the night of 13 December, when you should see one meteor every couple of minutes. You can rest assured that visibility will be clear since there won't be any interfering moonlight this year. Watch out for the Quadrantids showers at December's end too.

Eclipsed Blue Moon

There will be a full moon within Taurus on 2 December and a 'Blue Moon' - essentially an irregularly timed full moon - within Gemini on 31 December. The Blue Moon will be partly obscured by a lunar eclipse from 12:36:26am to 1:38:37am, all of which will be visible from Nepal. The eclipse will peak at 1:07:28am at which point 8 per cent of the moon's disc will be hidden.

Wishing you all clear skies and a very Happy New Year 2010!

Source:Nepali Times,FROM ISSUE #478 (27 NOV 2009 - 03 DEC 2009)