Possible Aurora, Cassini’s Grand Finale, and Clark Telescope Ribbon Cutting

The week ahead is and exciting one!  There is a good possibility of sighting Aurora on Monday night, and Friday is both the grand finale for the Cassini Mission to Saturn after 13 years of incredible discoveries, and at Emera Astronomy Center on the same day they are doing the ribbon cutting for the historic Clark Telescope which has been relocated and will be available for public viewings after planetarium shows. Here is your guide to the sky for September 11 to 17, 2017…

Moon – Sun – Aurora?

Last Quarter Moon takes place Wednesday Morning at 2:25 am and this is the same day as Perigee for this month.  Sunrise currently is at 6:13 am and sunset is at 6:47pm pm for this week.  The Sun has been quite active this past week.  There was a large X-9 solar fare on September 7 that provided exceptional aurora views on September 8 & 9 throughout the northeastern United States.  Today (Sunday, September 10) there as an X-8 class storm, so there might be some aurora activity on Monday evening.  Check out SpaceWeather.com for the latest predictions.  While Aurora are challenging to predict, they are a spectacular sight and well worth looking for in our night sky!

This week’s evening sky at 8:00 pm – provided by Heavens-Above.com


Planets for the week, Cassini Grand Finale

Venus rises around 3:40 am in the eastern sky and is brilliant. Mercury reaches greatest elongation on Tuesday, so look for it in the eastern sky before sunrise.  It rises around 4:40 am in the constellation of Leo.  Mars rises about 10 minutes later than Mercury.  Watch for Mercury and Mars on Saturday when they will be less than a tenth of a degree apart in the morning sky.  Jupiter is in the southwest at sunset and will set at 8:11 pm, so catch it early in the evening.  Saturn in the south-southwest at sunset is visible until around 11:00pm

The Cassini spacecraft  in orbit around Saturn since 2004 will finish its mission after 13 years of exploring the ringed planet.  This NASA mission will end with a purposeful plunge into Saturn on Friday in order to protect and preserve the planet’s moons for future exploration – especially the potentially habitable Enceladus.  Its de-orbit into the planet’s atmosphere will give astronomers powerful insights into the planet’s internal structure and the origins of the rings, while obtain the first-ever sampling of Saturn’s atmosphere.  The mission has given us unprecedented images and data about Saturn’s rings system, close up views of Titan, Enceladus, and numerous other moons in the system. Cassini spacecraft will has observed almost half of a Saturn year, which is 29 Earth years long.  It studied the planet’s dynamic magnetic environment, witnessed icy jets on the moon Enceladus, and discovering hydrocarbon lakes and seas o liquid ethane and methane on Titan.  Check out Saturn resources here. https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/

Ribbon Cutting of the historic Clark Telescope

Emera Astronomy Center will have a ribbon cutting for the historic eight inch Clark refractor on Friday, September 15th at 4:00 pm.  The telescope purchased by the University of Maine in 1899 and installed in late 1900 has been used for observing the sky by numerous students and the public.  Alvin Clark and Son’s were the telescope manufactures who built the largest refracting telescope in the world, located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin and are known for their exceptional optics. Views through this telescope will thrill visitors!  While it was out of commission the last two years, it now has been relocated behind the Emera Astronomy Center and beginning this week it will be opened for public stargazing following planetarium programs on Friday evenings. The current month’s program is The To-Night Show which explores a variety of astronomical news and events in a fun an humorous manner.  Check out Emera Astronomy Center’s website for more information.

Clark Telescope Roll-Off Roof Observatory – Images by Shawn Laatsch

Bright Morning Passes of ISS

Tomorrow morning (Monday) look for the International Space Station from 4:12 to 4:14 am moving from north to northeast.  It makes a bright pass on Wednesday morning from 5:39 to 5:45 am moving from northwest to east.  On Friday see it from 5:31 to 5:37 am moving from northwest to east-southeast.  Finally see it on Sunday from 5:23 to 5:30 am moving from west-northwest to southeast.

As our summer months come to a close, try catching a glimpse of the aurora or check out the gathering of Mercury and Mars in the morning sky. Why not take a look through the Clark Telescope after seeing The To-Night Show at Emera Astronomy Center.  Take a look at Saturn and think about the historic discoveries of the last 13 years.  All this and more by making sure to… Keep your eye on the sky!



Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.