Crash’s Celestial Guide to 2014 Astronomy

Me and the moon

Keep this guide handy as you’ll need it to stay up to date of what to see in the heavens for the new year!

The year 2014 is filled with notable celestial events you won’t want to miss. Mark them on your calendars and plan your star parties and observing nights around them.

My guide begins with the most important dates to circle, followed by planetary and deep sky observing seasons, and finally, a detailed breakdown of sky events and Moon phases for each month.

Total Lunar Eclipse, April 25, 2013, Rennes, France as seen with a Celestron NexStar 6 SE 150mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope. Photo courtesy of Crash MacDuff University.

Total Lunar Eclipse, April 25, 2013, Rennes, France as seen with a Celestron NexStar 6 SE 150mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope. Photo courtesy of Crash MacDuff University.

Most Important Dates to Circle in 2014:

March 20: Asteroid Occults Regulus – In the early morning hours, asteroid 163 Erigone has been predicted to obscure the bright star Regulus in Leo. Regulus will remain invisible for up to 12 seconds for those situated along the center of a 45-mile-wide path that extends from New York City to Oswego in New York and on up to Ontario, Canada. No telescopes or binoculars necessary to see the star flicker out.

April 14/15: Total Lunar Eclipse – Starting around 11p.m. on the night of April 14, watch the Earth’s shadow cover the Moon in a total lunar eclipse. This is the first total lunar eclipse visible from North and South America in nearly 3.5 years. The Moon will be immersed in the Earth’s shadow for 78 minutes, with a very good chance of turning a beautiful yet erie coppery red. On April 14, Mars will come within 57.4 million miles of Earth, the closest it’s been since 2008. So while you’re out watching the eclipse, make sure to train your telescopes on the fiery red planet, which will be as bright as Sirius! May 10: Astronomy Day – A human event, not an astronomical one, this is one of two days set aside to honor and celebrate the thrill of astronomy.

May 24: Meteor storm from Camelopardalis – Astronomers are forecasting that there may be a huge “storm” of meteors the night of May 24. If their predictions are correct, meteors may rip through the sky at a rate as high as 1000/hour! To best see this potentially historic event, plan to stay up most of the night and get away from city lights! Best views will be after the Moon has set. Stay tuned for updates on this potential spectacle, and plan on watching the skies for a day or two before and after, as these predictions may be a day or so off.

June 7: Moon & Mars Conjunction – The Moon and Mars will creep to within about two degrees (about 4 lunar diameters apart) on the night of June 7. Visible together from moonrise to moonset around 2 a.m. August 10: Supermoon – The Full Moon will come its closest to Earth all year on this date – 221,765 miles, making it the so-called “Supermoon” of 2014. Photographers, be sure to submit your images of the rising Supermoon to Orion’s Facebook page. Those who live on the coast, expect a wide range in ocean tides, from extremely low to extremely high. August 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower – The Perseids almost always delight, but unfortunately the Moon will interfere with the shower this year.

August 18: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction – The two planets will come within only ¼ degree from each other in the morning sky. M44 is only a degree away as well. This will be a spectacular conjunction to observe a few mornings in a row as the planets move closer to each other.

October 4: Astronomy Day – A human event, not an astronomical one, this is the second day of the year set aside to honor and embrace the love of astronomy. A wonderful night for public outreach!

October 8: Another Total Lunar Eclipse – Visible to the western half of North America, Hawaii, the Pacific ocean and as far east as the eastern half of Australia, the Moon will pass to the north of the center of Earth’s shadow, with one hour of totality. Binoculars or a telescope will reveal a 6 magnitude greenish point of light near the Moon: the planet Uranus. For those viewing in northern Alaska and northern Canada, the moon will occult Uranus.

October 19th – Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) has a 1 in 8,000 chance of smashing into the surface of Mars, around 11:45 AM PDT. More than likely, it will come within 73,000 miles from the red planet, with a chance of its coma enveloping mars, and a spectacular shower of meteors as seen from the Martian surface.

Planetary Observing Seasons:

JUPITER. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

JUPITER. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Jupiter – On Sunday, January 5, Jupiter is at opposition; directly opposite the sun in the sky. It will rise at sunset and be high enough above the eastern horizon 2-3 hours after sunset to do some serious observing and imaging. This is the “start” of the prime observing season for many amateurs that will run till April or early May. Jupiter is one of the best targets in the sky for monitoring detail and changes on a daily basis – so get out your high power eyepieces and eyepiece filters if you want to look and if you have a telescope with a motor drive (will track the stars or a planet) this is a fun first planetary target for beginning imagers.

MARS. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

MARS. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Mars – Mars will be in opposition to the sun on April 8, showing a disk with an apparent diameter of 15 arc seconds (about half the size of Jupiter). Planetary cameras can capture usable information when the target is about 5 arc seconds in size or larger, so Mars is a definite target this year. The date of opposition (or close to it) is usually when a planet is its largest apparent diameter. So grab your equipment and grab a look at the Red Planet! Mars will be in a good position before this date if you what to stay up later in the evening; and in a good position to observe until about July.

SATURN. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

SATURN. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Saturn – Saturn reaches opposition on May 10th. It will be in a good position to observe during the evening until about early September – basically most warm summer evenings! While Saturn is likely one of the most memorable sights in the sky, the planet’s disk is not as detailed as Jupiter’s (but the spectacular ring system makes up for that!). Like the other planets above, the bigger the telescope you have, the more likely you will have memorable views of the planets when the air is stable – but most telescopes will show Saturn’s rings.

Deep Sky Observing Seasons:

Galaxy Season – During spring evenings, the Earth faces away from the obscuring dust storms lurking in the Milky Way, and, luckily, it just so happens to face a few relatively nearby clusters of galaxies. So springtime, beginning in March, promises a load of interesting galaxies to explore, especially in the rich “Virgo Cluster of Galaxies.”

From a dark sky site even a high end pair of binoculars can find dozens of springtime galaxies, but you’ll probably want a 6-inch telescope or larger to really see the differences among the many galaxies you can capture in the springtime sky. And while low powers are great for sweeping up galaxies while star-hopping, don’t be afraid to try medium or even high powers to see faint companion galaxies and to tease out some of the less obvious detail.

While there are wonderful galaxies to explore in nearly every constellation, they are concentrated in the triangle of the sky bound by Leo, in the west, Ursa Major in the North and Virgo to the southeast, the happy-hunting ground for galaxy enthusiasts. Galaxy season stretches for evening observers (as opposed to observers who get up after Midnight) from March through June.

Markarian's Chain of Galaxies in Virgo. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Markarian’s Chain of Galaxies in Virgo. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Milky Way Season – Few sights in the nighttime sky can rival the spectacle of the Summer Milky Way from a dark sky location! When the Moon is absent and you are away from artificial light sources, the Milky Way will spread from the southern horizon arching overhead toward the north from July to October. Not only is our galactic arm a feast for the naked eye, its a treasure-filled delight to scan with binoculars or a wide-field (“Rich-field”) telescope! The haze of the Milky Way is caused by the clumping of millions of individual stars, star clusters and gas and dust clouds.

The Milky Way Galaxy during the months of June - August. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff Univeristy

The Milky Way Galaxy during the months of June – August. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff Univeristy

The Jewels of Fall – Autumn brings crisp, clear nights and some of the brightest galaxies and star clusters in the sky, most notably: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the Pinwheel galaxy (M33), The Pleiades (M45) and the Double Cluster in Perseus. That’s not all! Binocular and telescope users will find a veritable feast of telescopic targets that will delight the stargazer in everyone. The sparkling show jewels of in the fall sky is prominent during mid-evenings from October through January. The Season of the Hunter – Few sights are as dramatic as the path across the sky of one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky – Orion. But if you don’t use optical aid you are missing the best part. Orion is chock full of amazing visual telescopic treats ranging from the Great Nebula in Orion to the planetary nebula NGC 2022. And to the east of Orion lurks the winter Milky Way: while far fainter than its summer version, it is rich in star clusters and emission nebulae.

Andromeda, M31. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Andromeda, M31. Courtesy of Crash MacDuff University

Month-By-Month Sky Events of 2014:

January – Take advantage of the New Moon on January 1st and start the New Year with great views of galaxies, star clusters, and the winter Milky Way. Gigantic Jupiter will be a great planetary target for telescopes all month long, but the very best views of Jupiter will be during the evening of January 5th when the gas giant will be at opposition. Bundle up and keep your eyes peeled on the evening of January 2nd and into the early morning hours of January 3rd to catch the Quadrantids meteor shower! Look for meteors appearing to radiate from the constellation Boötes. New Moons: 1/1 & 1/30. Full Moon: 1/16.

February – The second month of 2014 continues to offer great views of the winter Milky Way and will also feature a handful of interesting conjunctions to enjoy. On February 11th, the Moon and Jupiter will appear about 5° away from one another, and on February 19th Mars will appear about 3.1° away from the Moon. Late February features two especially close conjunctions: look for Saturn and the Moon to appear very close to one another on February 21st, and on the 26th, look for a close conjunction between the Moon and bright planet Venus. There is no New Moon in February. Full Moon: 2/14. That’s amore!

March – Some of the best galaxies to see are spread across the night sky from Ursa Major to Virgo in March. Take advantage of the New Moon on March 1 and set sail for these island universes with a big telescope! Mars and the Moon will share the skies on March 18th during a conjunction. A couple days later you can enjoy a very close conjunction between the Moon and ringed Saturn on the evening of March 20th, which is also the March Equinox – the Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. New Moons: 3/1 & 3/30. Full Moon: 3/16.

April – Get outside during the evening of April 14th/15th to enjoy a total lunar eclipse! The Earth’s shadow will darken the nearly Full Moon from approximately 11pm on the night of April 14 until about 12:30 a.m. PST April 15 during this exciting event. Be sure to check out Mars for the best views of the year when it reaches opposition on April 8th. Don’t miss the Lyrids meteor shower which peaks during April 22nd and 23rd. Scan the skies near the constellation Lyra after midnight on the 22nd for your best chance to see meteors. Full Moon: 4/15. New Moon: 4/29.

May – Grab a comfortable blanket or lounge chair and catch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower which peaks on the evening of May 5th. Meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius. The best night of the year to observe Saturn and its spectacular rings is the evening of May 10th, when the planet reaches its closest point to Earth in its orbit. Four days later on May 14th, the Moon and Saturn treat us to a very close conjunction as they appear to pass within about a half degree of each other. Full Moon: 5/14. New Moon: 5/28.

June – Summer stargazing season kicks off in June with great opportunities to see a host of globular and open star clusters, emission nebulas, and more. Grab a pair of big binoculars or a wide-field telescope and scan the summer Milky Way for great views. The night of June 7th will see a conjunction between the Moon and Mars, and a few days later Saturn and the Moon will appear very close to one another for a pleasing sight in binoculars or unaided eyes. Full Moon: 6/13. New Moon: 6/27.

July – With constellation Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius to the south, there’s plenty to explore in July skies as summer continues. On July 6th, grab a telescope or pair of big binoculars to see the Moon positioned close to Mars in the sky. Just a couple days later on July 8th, you can enjoy a close pairing in the sky between the Moon and Saturn. July winds down with the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. For the best chance to see meteors, get outside the night of July 28th and look towards the constellation Aquarius. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. Full Moon: 7/12. New Moon: 7/26.

August – Use 50mm or larger binoculars and/or a telescope with a low-power eyepiece to explore the summer Milky Way in August for nice views of various star clusters, galaxies, and cloudy nebulas. Get outside after dark on August 13th to see meteors from the Perseids shower radiating from the constellation Perseus, but keep in mind that the bright Moon will make spotting meteors a bit of a challenge this year. On August 18th, Venus, Jupiter, and the Beehive Cluster form a conjunction in the sky for a spectacular sight. Neptune is at opposition on August 29. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to our planet, and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune! Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes. Closer to home, Saturn and the Moon treat us to another close conjunction on the night of August 28th. Full Moon: 8/10. (Closest Full Moon of 2014.) New Moon: 8/25.

September – The fall stargazing season begins with wonderfully placed spiral galaxies M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M33 (Triangulum Galaxy), and M74 in Pisces. While binoculars and small telescopes can find these objects in a dark sky, use a big telescope to really “see” these glittering island universes. The September equinox occurs at 2:29 UTC on the 23rd. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere, and spring in the southern hemisphere. Full Moon: 9/9. New Moon: 9/29.

October – Stargazers are in for a spooky treat during the early morning hours of October 8th when a total lunar eclipse darkens the Moon’s surface; this eclipse will best be seen in the western U.S. and near sunrise on the East Coast. If you stay up late, you can enjoy nightly views of Jupiter in October and see its four brightest moons (Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto) change position each night. See the Orionids meteor shower on the night of October 21st as meteors appear to radiate from our namesake constellation Orion. Many locations will enjoy a partial solar eclipse on October 23rd. Full Moon: 10/8. New Moon: 10/23.

November – Bundle up for bright winter skies! See our namesake constellation Orion arch its way across the sky along with lots of bright star clusters. Get outside on the evening of November 18th to see the Leonids meteor shower as meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Leo. Full Moon: 11/6. New Moon: 11/22.

December – Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower which peaks on December 13th. Look for meteors to emanate from the constellation Gemini and the surrounding area. On December 19th, bundle up to check out a nice conjunction between Saturn and the Moon. The solstice occurs on the 21st at 23:03 UTC. The South Pole of the Earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, and first day of summer in the southern hemisphere. Full Moon: 12/6. New Moon: 12/22.

Happy Gazing in 2014!


New Year’s Traditions


Why we kiss at midnight and eat black-eyed peas – New Year’s traditions explained…

As 2013 comes to a close, USA TODAY Network takes a look at the origins of some of the world’s most cherished New Year’s traditions — from the familiar to some customs you may never have realized could provide good fortune in the year ahead.

Times Square

Before the ball, there were fireworks. The first New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in New York City was held in 1904, culminating in a fireworks show. When the city banned fireworks two years later, event organizers arranged to have a 700-pound iron and wood ball lowered down a pole, according to the Times Square website. In the years since, it’s become a tradition for Americans to watch the ball start dropping at 11:59 p.m. and to count down the final seconds before the new year begins.

Auld Lang Syne

The song literally means “old long ago.” The work by 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns has endured the ages and spread beyond Scotland and throughout the English-speaking world. The song is about “the love and kindness of days gone by, but … it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take into the future,” according to, a website of the Scottish government.

Sucking Faces – I mean Kissing at midnight

Maria Perremuto, left, and her boyfriend, Mike Socolick, both of the Staten Island borough of New York, share a kiss shortly after midnight while ringing in 2010.(Photo: File photo by Tina Fineberg, AP)

Maria Perremuto, left, and her boyfriend, Mike Socolick, both of the Staten Island borough of New York, share a kiss shortly after midnight while ringing in 2010.(Photo: File photo by Tina Fineberg, AP)

Perhaps you’ll have a New Year’s Eve kiss that was the defining moment in a sweeping love story — like the one Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan shared in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally. Or maybe you’ll pucker up with the person who happens to be standing next to you because, well, that’s just what people do. But why? Not doing so will ensure a year of loneliness, according to tradition. The custom may date to ancient European times as a way to ward off evil spirits, the Montreal Gazette reports.

Black-eyed peas

It’s a tradition to eat Hoppin’ John, a stew made of black-eyed peas, in the American South. “Many Southerners believed that the black-eyed peas symbolized coins and eating them insured economic prosperity for the coming year,” wrote Frederick Douglass Opie, a food historian, in his blog Food As A Lens.

Colorful undies

In some Latin American countries, including Mexico and Brazil, it’s believed the color of your undergarments will influence what kind of year you’ll have. Tradition holds that yellow underwear will bring prosperity and success, red will bring love and romance, white will lead to peace and harmony and green will ensure health and well-being, according to Michael Kleinmann, editor of The Underwear Expert website.

A pair of women's lace underwear.(Photo: Handout photo)

A pair of women’s lace underwear.(Photo: Handout photo)

12 grapes

Vinalopo grapes in Novelda, eastern Spain, on Dec. 24, 2013

Vinalopo grapes in Novelda, eastern Spain, on Dec. 24, 2013

In Spain and some other Spanish-speaking countries, one New Year’s custom is to eat 12 grapes for 12 months of good luck. But here’s the catch: to bring about a year’s worth of good fortune, you must start eating the grapes when the clock strikes midnight, then eat one for each toll of the clock. The best strategy? “Just take a solid bite and then swallow, pips and all,” writes cookbook author Jeff Koehler on NPR’s blog.

Molten lead

Instead of reading tea leaves to tell the future, some in Germany and Austria read the molten lead. Here’s how: Heat up some lead in a spoon. When it’s melted, pour the molten lead into cold water. The shape of the lead will tell you what’s ahead of you in the coming year (although the shapes are open to interpretation). If you don’t want to actually melt metal, there’s an app to do it for you.


It’s not surprising that China, the country that invented fireworks, also makes setting them off a central part of New Year’s celebrations. It’s believed the noise scares off evil spirits and misfortune. The Chinese observe the lunar new year, which this time falls on Jan. 31, 2014.

Polka dots

Many in the Philippines wear polka dots because the circle represents prosperity. Coins are kept in pockets and “are jangled to attract wealth,” according to Tagalog Lang, a website about Filipino language and culture.

Happy 2014!





West Virginia’s Blue Sulphur Springs Pavillion

blue sulphur springs pav 1In the middle of a field sits this decaying pavilion, the only remains of a lavish resort community. Inside the structure lies the secret to its rise and fall…

blue sulphur springs pav 2

Late 19th Century Visitors to the Spring

The Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion is a historic Greek Revival structure in Blue Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States. The Pavilion is the only surviving structure from the Blue Sulphur Springs Resort, a 19th century mineral spa, and was built to shelter the sulphur spring at the resort. The Pavilion consists of twelve columns holding up a square roof, and is primarily built with brick. It was built in 1834 along with the resort and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 29, 1992.

The Pavilion was constructed in 1834, the year the Blue Sulphur Springs Resort opened. George Washington Buster constructed the resort; it was named Blue Sulphur Springs for the iridescent color of the springs. The original resort included, along with the Pavilion, a three-story hotel with 200 rooms and a bathhouse. The resort was visited by several noteworthy guests in the 1840s, including Robert E. Lee, Henry Clay, and Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

The resort was a prime spot for the promotion of relaxation and health, as the sulphur spring at the resort was considered to be a remedy for numerous diseases. Blue Sulphur Springs Resort began to decline in the 1850s due to competition from other resorts such as The Greenbrier and an economic downturn. The resort closed in 1859 and became Allegheny College, a school for Baptist ministers; the college closed in 1861. The resort buildings were used by both sides in the Civil War as a camp and hospital. In 1864, the Union Army burned the resort to prevent the Confederate Army from utilizing them; only the Pavilion survived the fire.
blue sulphur springs pav 3The Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion is located in a valley at the junction of the Kitchen Creek and Sawmill Hollow valleys. It is located in the region of thermal mineral springs in the Appalachian Mountains, and is one of several mineral springs in the area. The Pavilion is located in a rural landscape, and offers views of the surrounding valley. William Burke described the landscape surrounding the Blue Sulphur Springs Resort as “a beautiful valley”, though he complained that the designer of the resort had blocked the view with buildings.

In February, the site was named to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s Endangered Properties List for 2013.


Sacred Sunday Retrospect: PTL and Pass the Ammo

USN Chaplain Captain McGuire on the 02 Nov 1942 cover of Life magazine.

USN Chaplain Captain McGuire on the 02 Nov 1942 cover of Life magazine.

On December 7, 1941 — the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt would call “a date which will live in infamy” on the following afternoon — hundreds of Japanese warplanes made a deadly surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

When the crew of the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans rushed on deck they saw devastation around them.

Not far away, a huge cloud of smoke was rising from the USS Arizona and the big battleship was sinking.

Beyond the Arizona, the USS Oklahoma was rolling over. Sailors were jumping from its sides.

Another nearby battleship, the USS West Virginia, was badly damaged and sagging amidships.

The New Orleans was docked for repairs when the attack occurred. As usual during repairs, the ship’s electricity was temporarily coming through a power cable from the shore.

Soon after they came on deck, the crew began firing the cruiser’s guns at Japanese planes. But when they needed more ammunition they discovered that the power cable to shore had been cut, making the electric ammunition hoist inoperable.

Undeterred, the men formed lines and began carrying the heavy shells to the guns by hand. As they did, ship chaplain Lieutenant Howell M. Forgy walked along the deck encouraging them, shouting “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

Lieutenant Howell M. Forgy, USN (ChC) Photograph taken circa 1942-43.

Lieutenant Howell M. Forgy, USN (ChC) Photograph taken circa 1942-43.

The Japanese pilots eventually flew away after sinking nine U.S. ships and damaging 21 others. Their attack killed 2,350 Americans, including 1,177 sailors on the USS Arizona.

The next day, America officially entered World War II.

In the months that followed, word spread about the memorable line shouted by a chaplain during the Pearl Harbor attack.

In some stories about the quote, the chaplain was unnamed.

In others, including a widely-read article in the November 2, 1942 issue of LIFE magazine, he was identified as Captain W.A. Maguire — a senior Navy chaplain who outranked Forgy and was on a dock in Pearl Harbor that day.

According to the Life article, Maguire said he didn’t actually remember if he had shouted “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” But he didn’t deny it.

Stories about the incident inspired American songwriter Frank Loesser to write a patriotic song that used “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” as the title and chorus. (You can listen to the song and read the lyrics by clicking this link.)

Loesser’s song was published in 1942, recorded by several artists and quickly became popular. The version by Kay Kyser and his band reached #1 on the pop singles chart in January 1943.

The LIFE article and the popularity of the song led the crew of the USS New Orleans to urge Chaplain Forgy to come forward and set the record straight about the fact that it was he — not Maguire — who said the now famous words.

At first, Forgy demurred, but eventually his shipmates persuaded him.

The officers of the USS New Orleans arranged a meeting with the press and the real story of this famous World War II quotation was finally revealed.

Chaplain Forgy made it through the war, returned to a civilian ministry and died in Glendora, California, in January 1972.

His famous quote lives on.

Never Forget. Always Remember Pearl Harbor.


Sacred Sunday

December 8th’s Sacred Sunday was completely on Twitter and illustrated early Christian churches and murals in various cities in Turkey.

On December 29th, Sacred Sunday returns to Crash Course with 11th Century Italian murals. Here’s a quick peek ahead:

05formis (1)

Christ in Majesty
c. 1080
Sant’Angelo, Formis
Byzantine art served as a source of inspiration for a long time for many artists in the most diverse manner, in terms of both formal style and subject manner. The main subject of Romanesque painting, the depiction of Christ in Majesty has Byzantine origin. The fresco in Formis, probably painted by a master from Constantinople, follows Byzantine traditions.

Geminids Meteor Shower: December 13, 14


The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The waxing gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.


The December Sky: What’s On Tap for Celestial Viewing this Month

December brings cold winter nights and some of the clearest skies of the year for many locations. Bundle up to keep warm and get outside for some holiday stargazing fun!

Plan a Star Party – The weekend of December 28th and 29th will have nice dark skies thanks to the waning Moon, so it’s a great time to plan a star-party with friends and family to break-in any new telescopes and binoculars Santa brings down the chimney!

Watch for Comet ISON – What is left of the comet ISON will be closest to Earth on December 26th, when it will be about 40 million miles away from our home planet – believe it or not, that’s pretty close in space. Keep your eyes peeled and keep binoculars and telescopes handy for what we hope to be a spectacular show in December skies.

Geminids Meteors – During the nights of December 12th and 13th, the Geminids meteor shower will be in full force. Since the Full Moon occurs on December 9th, the best time to see meteors will be in the early pre-dawn hours of the 12th and 13th. All you need to enjoy the show is a lounge chair, a warm blanket, and your eyes!

Big Jupiter – The largest planet in our solar system will be nicely positioned in the eastern sky throughout December. If the air is stable and seeing conditions are good, which is common on colder, windless winter nights, Jupiter can bear a lot of magnification, so don’t be afraid to try catching views around 200x of the gas giant when it is high in the sky. Check in on Jupiter nightly to see its four brightest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) change position night-to-night as they orbit the planet.

Best Binocular Targets – While 50mm binoculars are good for December stargazing, bigger 70mm, 80mm, or larger binos will reveal brighter and better views of celestial gems, of which there are plenty to enjoy in December skies. The glorious open star cluster Pleiades (M45) will be nearly overhead in the constellation Taurus. A little more north and overhead you’ll find the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) which really shines in big binoculars. Slightly to the northwest of M31 you’ll see the beautiful Double Cluster of Perseus. Finally, M42 The Orion Nebula will be rising in the eastern sky during December nights and makes for a beautiful sight in binoculars.

Best Telescope Targets – All of the binocular targets listed above also make great telescope quarry, but December skies also offer great opportunities to see objects that require a telescope. First, slew your scope just a few degrees southwest of M31 to find M33, a distant face-on spiral galaxy that’s about 2.5 million light years (MLY) away from Earth. In the constellation Sculptor far to the south, try to find NGC 253, the impressive “silver dollar” galaxy. There’s a swarm of other galaxies to see in the general area of NGC 253 – all part of the “Sculptor Group” of galaxies. Use a star chart or computerized object locator to hunt them down. In Pisces, look for M74, another face-on spiral galaxy like M33, but one that is almost 30 MLY farther away from us. Finally, check out NGC 1300, a classic barred spiral galaxy that is approximately 61 MLY away from Earth with a monster black-hole in its nucleus.

December Challenge – With a 10″ or larger telescope from a dark sky site, try to track down the picturesque Horsehead Nebula near the eastern star of Orion’s belt, which is named Alnitak. An Orion Hydrogen-Beta Nebula Filter will help reveal this famous nebula’s intricate details.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the right equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.


Old Brook Farm, Harrisville, Rhode Island


The terrifying true story of this haunted farmhouse is even scarier than the movie made about it

In 1971, the Perron family moved into a dilapidated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters.  Only a few days afterwards the family began experiencing strange, unexplainable bumps and knocks, followed by the sound of a disembodied voice laughing.  The family also began to smell rotting flesh, and Carolyn Perron began waking up every morning at 5:15am.  Eventually the haunting became so violent the family invited paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to rid the home of any negative entities.
They were not able to do so, and eventually the family was forced to leave to flee the demonic entity that was believed to have been haunting their home.  The real Perron family lived in the farmhouse for approximately ten years. Located in the small country town of Harrisville, Rhode Island, Roger Perron and his wife Carolyn purchased the home in the winter of 1970.
The most haunting spirit in the movie is that of suspected witch Bathsheba Sherman. Born Bathsheba Thayer in Rhode Island in 1812, she married fellow Rhode Islander Judson Sherman (one year her senior) in Thompson, Connecticut on March 10, 1844. There is no hard evidence to support that Bathsheba Sherman was really a witch, only legend and local folklore. Having lived on a neighboring farm in the 1800s, suspicion grew when an infant mysteriously died in her care. When the baby was examined, it was determined that the mortal wound was caused by a large sewing needle that had been impaled at the base of the child’s skull.
OB4Bathsheba Sherman died as an old woman on May 25, 1885, roughly four years after her husband Judson Sherman’s death in 1881. Bathsheba lived to see her son Herbert, a farmer like his father, marry his fiancée Anna in 1881. The grave site of Bathsheba Sherman is located in the historic cemetery across the street from the fire station and rotary in downtown Harrisville, Rhode Island (near the start of Sherman Farm Road).

The family’s connection to the spirit of Bathsheba Sherman came at the suggestion of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The mother, Carolyn Perron, told Ed and Lorraine about an incident that had happened a few years earlier. She said that she had been lying on the sofa and all of the sudden felt a piercing type of pain in her calf and then the muscle began to spasm. Upon examination, she noticed a puddle of blood at the point of impact. She checked for bees or anything else that could have caused the puncture in her leg but found nothing. In her daughter’s book, Andrea Perron describes the wound as a “perfectly concentric circle” … “as if a large sewing needle had impaled her skin.”
OB5“Eight generations of one extended family lived and died in that house prior to our arrival,” says Andrea Perron, adding, “Some of them never left.” The Black Book of Burrillville, the town’s former public records book, reveals that over the course of its existence the property had been host to two suicides by hanging, one suicide by poison, the rape and murder of eleven-year-old Prudence Arnold by a farmhand, two drownings, and the passing of four men who froze to death, in addition to other tragic losses of life.

Old Brook Farm
1677 Round Top Road
Harrisville, RI 02830 US