Grab a scope for tonight's asteroid fly-by!

Want to see a mountain-sized asteroid tonight from your own backyard? If so, your best bet is to fix a small telescope on something in its path and wait for it to fly past. In this case, look for the open cluster M44, known as the Beehive Cluster, in the constellation Cancer; it's about halfway between Jupiter and Pollux. The asteroid will be flying near it between about 12:45 and 1:00 a.m. tonight, January 27. Here are some observing tips.

So quick, run in and grab a scope (we have some handy right now at the Downtown branch) and set yourself up!

If you can find Orion, you can find Comet Lovejoy!

Comet Lovejoy is proving to be a bit more wonderful than expected. Sure, it’s cold out there, but if you know where to find the constellation Orion (in the southeast), you can locate Lovejoy pretty quickly before heading back inside. Comet Lovejoy is charting a course past Orion over the next couple weeks and getting higher in the sky. It's fairly bright and right now a magnetic storm may be in progress in the tail of the comet causing "plasma blobs" and "disconnection events" visible in amateur telescopes.

We have telescopes you can check out, but to see the comet you really only need a decent pair of binoculars, which we also happen to have on hand.

So run in and grab a telescope or a pair of binoculars so you're ready on the next clear night!

Observing a Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower is peaking right now and although the weather in Ann Arbor isn't exactly cooperating tonight, it looks like it may clear up in the next couple days. So prepare yourself for a shower of comet debris by grabbing one of our new binoculars, part of our collection of Science Tools. Even if the moon outshines the shower, at least you'll have the perfect tool for gazing at the mountains and craters of the moon.

Gravity: Visually Stunning, Prize Winning Film

For an entertaining 90-minute break from Earth, check out the movie Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. "Houston" down below is the voice of Ed Harris. Space is depicted as a very dangerous place -- a New York Times reviewer called this film a "Jack London tale in orbit."
Last night the film won seven (7!) Academy Awards, including best director, best cinematography, and best visual effects.
In the film, Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a star scientist and mother who has lost her young daughter. George Clooney is a seasoned astronaut. Following an accident, the two are stranded in space, facing daunting challenges such as trying to avoid a lethal storm of debris.
Alfonso Cuaron wrote the script with his son Jonás. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is beyond fabulous. State-of- the- art special effects, both analog and digital, made me feel like I was, yes, floating in space.
Rating is PG 13. Currently at AADL there are 680 requests on 40 copies of the DVD and 437 requests on 30 copies of the Blu-ray. Place your order now!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a star exploded and you can see it today!

As reported yesterday, astronomers have detected what appears to be a Type 1a supernova - an exploding white dwarf - in nearby galaxy M82, the closest to us in 40 years. Supernova 2014J, as it's been named, is a little hard to see in small scopes right now, but it's predicted to grow significantly brighter over the next two weeks before it fades away - easy enough to spot in the library's 4.5-inch telescope and even binoculars.

M82, also known as the "Cigar Galaxy" because of its shape, is part of a popular galaxy pair (M81-M82) in a relatively dim region of the constellation Ursa Major, about a fist's width above the bowl of the Big Dipper in the northeastern sky. It's visible by 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. in our region and will be visible throughout the night.

Sky & Telescope has some additional information and star maps to help you find Galaxy M82.

Northern Lights Visible Thursday Night Over Michigan

You may have heard on the local news that the northern lights might be visible tonight due to a solar flare that occurred on Tuesday. If typical winter lake effect cloud cover dissipates then the lights will be able to be seen. If you’re typically early to bed then you might miss the show as the best viewing times are between midnight and four a.m.

If you’d like to learn more about how solar wind particles, magnetic fields and gases in the atmosphere interact to cause an aurora you can check out some books the library has on the subject.

Check out a Telescope!

Did you know the library has telescopes for checkout? If this news tickles your astronomer's fancy, take a look at the Quick Start Comic to see how it works. And check out some viewing tips to see what's in the skies in our area. You can put your name on the Hold list for a two week checkout or, if you can't wait for your name to come up, you may find one in Up For Grabs, a first-come first-served collection with a one week checkout, available at all branches.

And if you missed Comet ISON, don't despair! If ISON survives its pass by the sun on November 28, it'll be back around the other side in December. Look for it near the sun just before sunrise.

Mary Stewart Adams on Diane Rehm Tuesday

Mary Stewart Adams, director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Michigan, will be one of four panelists on the 11:00 segment of the Diane Rehm show today. Panelists will be talking about combatting light pollution. We spoke with Stewart last year about her mission to preserve the stories of the stars and the dark skies in Michigan, and she'll be back again at AADL December 14, for an exhibit and another evening of star lore - just in time for the appearance of comet ISON.

Locus Magazine announces the winners of the 2013 LOCUS Awards

Locus Magazine, the monthly magazine for the latest news and reviews in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror literature, has announced its 2013 winners.

John Scalzi received the Locus for Science Fiction Novel for Redshirts. At first, Ensign Andrew Dahl is enjoying serving aboard the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid until he realizes a horrifying pattern. All journeys involve deadly confrontations with aliens and its the lower ranking crew members who are at risk. Listen to Wil Wheaton read the audiobook version.

The Fantasy Novel award went to Charles Stross, for The Apocalypse Codex. The Laundry, Britain's highly secretive intelligence agency charged to protect the Queen and the realm from occult intrusions, employs the beautiful, volatile Persephone Hazard to investigate U.S. televangelist/healer, Ray Schiller. Gideon Emery narrates the audiobook.

The Young Adult award went to China Mieville for Railsea, a hugely imaginative mix of steampunk, cyberpunk, and a fantastical spin on Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Sham is an apprentice to the doctor serving the railsea train Medes. Sham is excited to be on his first hunt for moldywarpes, gigantic moles who live beneath the earth, erupting to the surface in life-and-death battles with all who track them down.

The Non-fiction award was given to William Gibson for his collection of essays in Distrust that Particular Flavor, 30 years of thoughtful pieces about the past, present, and future as influenced by technology.

The Art Book award was bestowed on Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art. According to the publisher, "With exceptional images by extraordinary creators, this elegant full-color collection showcases an international cadre of creators working in every style and medium, both traditional and digital"

For a complete list of the winners, check out this link.

AADL Talks to Terence Dickinson

Terence Dickinson, editor of Canada's SkyNews magazine and author of the internationally bestselling Nighwatch: A Practical Guide to the Universe and The Backyard Astronomer's Guide, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995—that nation's highest civilian achievement award—for his commitment in popularizing the wonders of astronomy. During his visit in November 2012, Terence sat down to talk with me and Clay Kessler of Telescope Support Systems.

Terence discusses his long career communicating the wonders of the night sky to the public and the importance of discovering and pursuing his childhood passion. He also talks about the loss of dark skies; how to pick a telescope; and he recalls the moment he saw his first full-blown Hubble image of a galaxy.

Dickinson's latest book is 2012's Hubble's Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images.

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