Astronomy Survey
Fall 2010

1) What is the current phase of the Moon?
Formally, it is waxing crescent but it just passed New Moon phase and most people would not have seen it yet in the sky. (Most common answer was 1st quarter)

2) Which planets are currently visible in the evening sky? (Limit yourself to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn)
If you use 9 pm as our evening sky viewing time, you would have only seen Jupiter. If you viewed earlier, you might have seen Venus close to the horizon shortly after sunset. Mars was near Venus but probably too faint to view by most people without binoculars or a telescope.

3) Is the Moon currently higher in the night sky than the Sun is in the daytime sky? (Consider both objects when they appear due south.) Is this always true?
The Moon is higher in the sky than the Sun during winter; it is lower in the sky than the Sun during summer. 22 Sept marks the equinox when we transition from summer to winter behavior so on 9 Sept (day of the activity) the Moon appeared lower in the sky than the Sun.

4) Is the constellation of Orion currently visible in the evening sky? How about Corona Borealis?
Orion rises about 12 midnight in September so it is not visible in the "evening" sky. But Corona Borealis is visible through the evening.

5) What is special about the star Polaris?
It is the North Star. It is neither brightest (Sirius is the brightest star and Polaris is about 50th brightest) nor the closest (Alpha Centauri is the closest star system with Alpha Centauri C {Proxima} the closest of the three; Alpha Cen is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Barnard's Star in Ophiuchus is the closest star to Earth in the Northern Hemisphere.)

6) When does Jupiter appear highest in the sky? (Consider the planet appears in the evening sky and the planet appears due south.)
Planets appear highest in the sky in winter, when the Sun appears lowest in the sky.

7) We live in the Milky Way Galaxy. Can you see any other galaxies with your unaided eye? If so, name them.
From the Northern hemisphere, we can see the Andromeda Galaxy (near the constellation of Andromeda); the Andromeda Galaxy is a giant spiral galaxy very similar to our Milky Way Galaxy. In the Southern Hemisphere, you can see the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our MW Galaxy. (Most common answer was that you cannot see any other galaxies with your unaided eye.)

This Fall is a good time to look for the Andromeda Galaxy.

8) Where does the sun set in the summer? in the spring? in the winter?
The Sun sets in the southwest in the summer, due west in spring and fall, and in the northwest in the winter.

9) Name the four major phases of the Moon.
New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter, back to New Moon.
If we add the intermediate phases, it is New Moon, waxing Crescent, First Quarter, waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, waning Crescent, New Moon.

10) When will the next total solar eclipse be visible from the United States?
Total solar eclipses occur, on average, about 300 years apart at one place on Earth. The U.S. will see its next total eclipse in August 2017

11) When will the next total lunar eclipse be visible from the United States?
Total lunar eclipses occur more frequently. Our next good opportunity to watch this game of shadows will be in December 2010.

12) How often does Venus appear in the evening sky?
About every 19 months (584 days). It stays in the evening sky for about 265 days, and then it becomes a morning object, before returning to the evening sky. We have just finished an evening "apparition" (appearance) of Venus; it returns to the evening sky in Feb 2012.

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