Totally, a Lunar Eclipse

October 8, 2014 1 comment

Some photos from this morning’s lunar eclipse – click to enlarge and use the back button to come back to the page. I’ll add more narration later, but let’s see what the camera got! (Canon XS on Manfroto tripod mostly with a 250mm zoom lens.) Overlooking downtown Ardsley…
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Heads UP! Early October

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

The Moon moves from right to left across the constellations in early October.

From right to left: Moon (with Earthshine), Saturn, Mars (Antares 'anti-Mars' is just outside the photo, to the left).

From right to left: Moon, Saturn, Mars (Antares ‘anti-Mars’ is just outside the photo, to the left).

Saturn is heading into the solar glare later this month. Mars is still moving to the left across the constellations, as well, but not as fast as the Moon.
Jupiter is moving higher in the morning sky. Venus is almost gone from the morning sky, moving behind the Sun. Venus spent a long time slowly moving lower in the morning sky; it will take a very long time to move out into the evening sky in December.
Venus is the bright object in the SOHO satellite C3 camera.

Venus is the bright object in the SOHO satellite C3 camera.


Venus will be in the C3 camera for all of October. Mercury will join Venus at mid-month.
Here’s the link to the C3 camera… http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime/c3/512/

While we’re at it, here’s the Moon through the telescope last Saturday night (Sept. 27th)

Young crescent moon.  Just imagine yourself flying over the crescent!

Young crescent moon. Just imagine yourself flying over the crescent! Click to make it superlarge! Note the rough ‘terrain’ along the lit edge. In this case they are caused by turbulence from the warm parking lot.

Back in the evening sky all the bright planet action is low in the southwest. How low can you go and still see Saturn’s rings in your telescope? Saturn sets during the middle of evening twilight by the end of the month. Mars craftily avoids the solar glare, sneaking past the Scorpion and hiding in the Teapot of Sagittarius.

The Great Square of Pegasus rises high in the evening Prime Time sky, dragging M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, with it. The Milky Way stretches from the northeast to southwest, passing north of overhead after evening twilight ends. Someday, a couple of billion years from now, Andromeda will be close enough to look like a second Milky Way in our skies.

Look to the upper left for the faint smudge - the Andromeda Galaxy .  Find your way to it from the left star in the Square of Pegasus.

Look to the upper left for the faint smudge – the Andromeda Galaxy . Find your way to it from the left star in the Square of Pegasus.

The Pleiades lead the Hyades into the midnight and morning sky, followed by Orion which rises well before dawn, warning us of the coming of winter. The Orionid meteor shower peaks on the 21st. It doesn’t have much Moonshine to contend with, but it’s a small shower, adding a few meteors to the morning sky on the 21st.

Pleiades rising late Saturday night.

Pleiades rising late Saturday night.

The International Space Station gives us an alternative bright object to see in the evening twilight sky from the 4th through the 29th.

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Stellar weather, but watch for a disturbance in the force on Thursday

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Update: The NWS is buying into the Thursday rain from a system forming off the southeast coast:
A WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL BE IMPACTING THE REGION THURSDAY INTO
EARLY FRIDAY AS THE LOW TRACKS UP ALONG THE COAST THROUGH THE
PERIOD. UNCERTAINTY STILL EXISTS WITH THE POSITION AND STRENGTH OF
] THE LOW WITH THE NAM [see chart below ]CLOSEST TO THE COAST AND THE GFS THE MOST EAST AND SOUTHEAST OF THE REGION. HOWEVER ALL TRENDS HAVE BEEN FOR A WET
FORECAST FROM THURSDAY INTO AT LEAST THURSDAY NIGHT AND HAVE
INCREASED POPS TO LIKELY.
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But Saturday looks good for the Westchester Astronomers’ Starway to Heaven!

A crazy large high pressure system is settling over our area tonight thanks to the jet stream steering well to the north of our area. This will give us California-quality weather, without the wildfires, I hope.

The National Weather Service (Buffalo office) noted this kind of high pressure system with the jet stream so far north at this time of year only happens (on average) once in 30 years or more.

In fact, the medium-range weather forecast models keep rain out of our area until a system passes to our north a week from Tuesday and a strong cold front sweeps down from Canada around the first week in October. That’s a long stretch of sunny days and lack of rain.

Watch for a disturbance coming up along the coast from off the southeastern coast on Thursday. It should stay off shore, but could put some rain into our area, especially from NYC and to its south and east. It’s not going to be a tropical storm, but could pump some tropical moisture our way.

Computer forecast from US Global Forecast Model for Thursday morning.  Note the area of rain (color circles) just off the NYC area shorelines.  And note that really large high pressure system centered off the northeast US, but also extending through the midwest into the Mississippi Valley and Great Plains.  Downloaded from http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/  Click to make large enough to read.

Computer forecast from US Global Forecast Model for Thursday morning. Note the area of rain (color circles) just off the NYC area shorelines. And note that really large high pressure system centered off the northeast US, but also extending through the midwest into the Mississippi Valley and Great Plains. Downloaded from http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/ Click to make large enough to read.

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International Moon Night!

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Clouds and thunderstorms here in the NYC area are limiting our view of the Moon, making it hard to celebrate , so here’s some photos via my camera and telescope of our Moon…..

See the big overview in the photos I took with my Canon XS Rebel through my 8-inch dobsonian reflector telescope Thursday and Friday night. Click to see the photos full size – then using the back arrow on your browser should bring you back to this page. Tonight’s moon will be a bit fuller (Full Moon is Monday evening). If you super-enlarge the photo, you’ll notice how fuzzy the details are at very high magnifications. With the enlarging lenses I’ve used (2 and 5 times the natural ability of the camera to make the Moon look larger) it makes the magnification more than the telescope’s diameter can give us. Some can do better by taking thousands of photos and taking the absolute best and combining them to make a very sharp detailed photo similar to what the eye can see if the air is very steady in the atmosphere between the telescope and the Moon.
But these photos give a good idea of what the Moon looks to people viewing it in my 2-inch wide 40 power lens.
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Here’s a section of one of the photos of the northeastern corner of the Moon where the sun is high in the lunar sky and the rays of material thrown out of the crater are very bright. The fan-shaped rays happened because the meteor hit the moon at a low angle. Very little of the material thrown out of the crater went in the direction the meteor came from.
On the photos of the whole moon, you can even find a double crater to the right of the fan-rayed crater, with rays extending out in one direction. This may be an impact by one meteor that bounced and hit a second time or a binary object with both pieces hitting the moon at the same time.
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You can see many of the features in these photos even in a small telescope, just the objects will look smaller.

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Heads UP! for early September 2014

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

This month, for those going back to school, you might say the brighter planets are working in the margins of our paper, except for Jupiter, which gets higher in the eastern sky each morning, making it easy to see as late as 45 minutes before sunrise each clear morning. This makes Jupiter available for pointing out to fellow commuters on the way to work. If you’re up early with your telescope, a few minutes spent observing Jupiter, its dancing moons and neat cloud belts will brighten your day.

As for the other bright planets, Venus will be continue to be brilliant, but low in the east as sunrise moves rapidly earlier as we approach the equinox.

You should also go out in the evening and look low in the southwest, to the left of where the sun just set. Mars and Saturn will make lovely changing patterns, along with the bright star Antares. Mercury, near Spica, will be hard to see, even as it gets further from the sun through the 21st.

When Mars moves near Antares in the sky early in September, does Antares live up to its name ‘rival of Mars’? Does one look brighter than the other? Officially, they are about the same magnitude this month. Mars looks very tiny, even in a telescope, appearing only twice as wide as Uranus, so details are hard to see even in a telescope.

Saturn will be sliding into the twilight, but its rings continue to reward persistent followers. Saturn will have an additional neighbor in early September, a +7.8 magnitude star looking like an additional moon. One of Saturn’s moons, Rhea (perhaps out of jealousy?), will block out the 7th magnitude star on the evening of the 12th, as seen from parts of the northeast US and eastern Canada. At the time of the occultation, about 8:38pm ET, the Sun will be about 14 degrees below the horizon and Saturn will be only 11 degrees above the southwestern horizon at that time. Rhea will be hard to find in a telescope at magnitude +10, so train your optics on the 7th magnitude star, east of Saturn, since it will be noticeably brighter than Saturn’s moons. It would be rewarding to see the star appear to dim if Rhea passes in front of it for your location.

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Jupiter and Venus looking like cat’s eyes in the morning sky + bonus moon photos

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

On the morning of the 18th, I got to see Venus and Jupiter in close conjunction. I had to look low in the east and between two houses. Scroll down to see…..and click for full size, use back arrow to return to the blog page!

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IMG_5174 Moon with Canon XS through telescope with added mini-amplifier lens

IMG_5167 south crop sharp levels Portion of previous photo to show craters extending to the south pole of the moon, cropped, light levels adjusted and sharpened.

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Heads UP! for August 2014

July 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Sesame Street had an entertaining and educational segment called ‘Near and Far’ with a Muppet running away from and toward our television screen, getting progressively more out of breath with each trip. Our ‘near and far’ in the month of August is more exhilarating than exhausting, with bright celestial objects passing near each other in our skies where one of the pair is near and the other is…well…farther.

On the 18th, low in the eastern morning sky, the two brightest planets in our skies align. Jupiter makes a close pass by Venus on its way to morning sky domination. Venus is “near” us at 150,600,000 miles and Jupiter “far” at 576,300,000 miles. Find a good vantage point open to the eastern sky. Venus and Jupiter will be within a degree or two of each other from the 16th through the 19th.

On the 31st, shortly after 1pm EDT, our Moon jumps in front of Saturn, from our point of view. Because Saturn is about a billion miles beyond the Moon, it is looks about the size of a lunar crater. The midday Sun and the low elevation of the Moon and the low surface brightness of Saturn will make either of the pair hard to see, but Saturn will be near the Moon the night before and after, making a pretty pair.

Mars and Saturn will waltz closer to each other this month, after Mars, Saturn and the first magnitude star Spica do a line dance across the southwestern sky after sunset, each about a fist-width apart in the sky for the first week of the month, with Mars 10.6 light minutes away, Saturn 1.3 light hours away and Spica 250 light years away.

Venus has been hanging out in the morning sky for a long time, since January, and Mars is going to have a long goodbye as well, staying low in the southwestern evening sky well into next year. In contrast, Saturn will be lapped by the Sun in a few months. They are so tiny, even in a telescope.

However, Saturn will be great fun to watch in a telescope! This month, the planet’s shadow will make a small notch in the rings, making Saturn look especially three-dimensional. Even with Saturn low in the sky, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is visible.

This month, our Moon is closest to Earth the same day it is full, making our largest full moon of the year. This has little astronomical effect, but produces large effects on tides and internet bloggers as well as providing an opportunity for great photos with foreground scenes at moonset and moonrise on the 10th. Be alert for any coastal storm or hurricane, since the higher lunar tides will enhance any tidal surges around this time.

The Moon passes some lovely planets this month: Jupiter and Venus on the 23rd and Mars, Saturn and Spica for few nights around the beginning and end of the month. Uranus is visible near the Moon on the morning of the 18th, which will make Uranus easier to find. It was easier to find in my telescope, even with some twilight interfering.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 12th/13th. This is a reliable shower, but the nearly full moon will wash out the fainter meteors. To see some bright meteors, block out the Moon and look in the darkest part of the sky. It’s worth looking even a few days before and after the 13th.

This is a great month for the Milky Way overhead, on moonless nights, especially nice from places with dark skies. If you have an electronic camera with manual exposure settings, lock it down on a tripod or other study object and see how long an exposure you can take before the stars start to make trails. See how many stars you catch.

You’ll need clear skies and an open southern horizon to see the star clouds rising like ‘steam’ out of the ‘spout’ of the teapot at Sagittarius. Find a friend with south-facing beach-front property! Years ago, I had a great view of at star clusters in Sagittarius and Scorpius with my 60mm refractor at my wife’s uncle’s house near Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts. Binoculars can help find where to aim the telescope. It’s also better without the Moon; the first few days of the month and the last half of the month.

If you are packing the car for an August vacation at oh-so-early-in-the-morning, look east to see our friend Orion lying on the horizon. He’s probably resting before beginning the long ascent high into our winter skies.

The International Space Station sails through our skies every 95 minutes, but it is best seen in twilight; in the morning until through the 4th, and in the evening from August 2nd through the 24th.

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