Crescent Moon with Earthshine; with Jupiter

This morning, the Moon had moved on past Jupiter. It was cloudy yesterday morning with some light snow inconveniently timed for during the morning commute.   But this Friday morning, the Moon was still hanging out with Jupiter to its upper right, a pretty sight, with just a few cirrostratus streaks for texture.

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Moon with Earthshine with Jupiter to upper right. Canon XS on tripod, converted from RAW to jpeg and slightly cropped. 50mm lens at f/2, 1/8 second exposure at ISO 400.


Moon and Jupiter

The Moon and Jupiter together in the sky just blew me away this morning – or was it the 30mph wind gusts and a wind chill temperature of 0 to 10 degrees F ? Tomorrow morning, Jupiter will be just below the thin crescent Moon – an even better sight for anyone with clear skies anytime after 4:30am until the sky gets too bright around 6:40am or so.

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Where’s Jupiter? To the lower left of the moon, just above one of the tree branches sticking up into the sky. Canon XS on tripod 18mm zoom lens at f7.1 1/13 second exposure at ISO 800.  Overall contrast and mid-range contrast increased to give a better impression of the sky color as seen by eye.

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Cropped version of the photo above.

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Jupiter in the circle above the tree branches. Easier to see than to photograph – will be easier to see earlier in a darker sky. With the moon nearer tomorrow, Jupiter will be easier to find.



Meteors this week – and their mama

The Geminid meteor show peaks this week on the 13th/14th, but the weather is going to try to hide them.

If you want to know how to watch for these meteors – find a place where you can block out lights from shining directly in your eyes, dress in as many layers as possible then add a sleeping bag, use something – chase lounge, picnic table or even the hood and windshield of a car to watch toward the widest open area of sky that you can.  No optical aid needed, nor are they even helpful here.  Read more about how to see more Geminids at Scott’s Place !

As I was preparing the Almanac for December,  I noticed a number of asteroids were within range of modest telescopes.  One that surprised me so much I didn’t include it on the list was the parent body, the momma of the meteors for this shower, asteroid 3200 Phaethon.  I usually think of meteor showers as being made of comet crumbs, so a chunk of rock (3 miles wide!) leaving a train of meteors seemed out of the ordinary.

Phaethon isn’t coming by Earth when the shower peaks (or we’d be worried about IT impacting us!), but will be only 6,400,000 miles away at closest approach on the American evening of the 16th.  See Bob King’s article at Sky and Telescope or on his blog for how to track Phaethon in the sky.  It sounds like it will be moving at a good clip in our skies near and before closest approach.

One point on watching the Geminids – if you are going to stay out of the 30+ mph winds expected in the northeast this Wednesday/Thursday and view from inside:   It’s hard to see meteors through a window, but it is not so bad through a skylight.  You’ll see fewer meteors, but in a major shower, it’s possible to see a few to a dozen bright meteors an hour through an ordinary skylight. Get as close to the glass as possible, although sleeping bags on the floor or a bed are cozy!


Attempts at snow storms come sliding down the chimney.

Waves of energy come cascading down from western Canada (see the areas in color in the loop from the National Meteorological Center’s NAM forecast model (thanks DePage University for the animation!).

The animation is running a bit fast, so scroll down a single frame, below the movie.


The two waves just don’t quite come together as they cross the eastern United States (see Tuesday evening’s forecast upper air map, below). The narrow strip of red and yellow showing increased vorticity, or increasing spin, will have given us an inch or less of snow in the metro areas Tuesday morning.  (See NWS snow forecast for NYC) The extended area of vorticity streaming down from the Great Lakes region will bring a pulse of colder air for Wednesday.

Extended -range models are tending toward lots of strong waves in the atmosphere every couple of days,  perhaps through Christmas.  The more detailed models show a lack of organization when these waves hit the east coast, producing small storms, not all of them snow storms.  But that can change as we get closer to each wave’s arrival.

California’s fire problems may not be getting better soon, even with a weak low pressure sneaking out of the jet stream over them. The low forces winds from over the mountains, keeping the area very dry and, often, windy.


Snow trap to be sprung

The snow forecasts for the weekend have converged on a 2 to 4, 3 to 5 inch mini-storm for Saturday during the day and evening.

Usually, my rule is a storm with more snow will take more time to be wrapped up in the jet stream and be delayed.  Not working this time!  This weak waves of weather were forecast to get to the northeastern corridor of the US by Saturday night, but yesterday the forecast models were starting to predict more snow inland, but also bringing the snow earlier than in previous computer model runs.  This appears to be because an extra packet of energy is going to arrive from the west just in time to give the storm a lift and some extra spin.

So, here we are – looking at a couple to four or five inches of snow starting mid-morning on Saturday and tapering off early Saturday night. See your local forecast for details on timing (link to my location provided as an example).

From the National Weather Service Forecast Discussion for NYC:

Initially the low develops from southern
stream energy across the southeast, but another piece of energy
in the northern stream will help amplify the middle/upper trough
and thus intensity the low as it passes near or just to the
east of the 40N/70W benchmark. The low quickly lifts off the New
England coast Saturday night as the upper trough slides

Models have come into much better agreement with the expanse of the
precipitation shield as well as the overall timing.

How could the final result be different?  Watch the forecast briefings from the NWS (found here for NYC), described in the forecast discussion:

While confidence is high on the above scenario, slight shifts in the
track of the storm could lower or increase snowfall
accumulations. A shift west with the low track could introduce
some mixing with rain across eastern Long Island and southeast
Connecticut. The latest experimental High End Amount shows a 1
in 10 chance for warning level snowfall from the Hudson River
corridor on east. Snow to liquid ratios may range from 8:1 to
10:1 with this event and could be a bit lower across the
southeast coast of Long Island.

Look at the national weather warning map from the National Weather Service, and see the long string of winter weather watches and warnings from the Gulf Coast to New England.


9:20am EST Friday Dec 8 map of weather watches and warnings for the United States. Click on the link above for an updated version.

There’s another storm, this time from Canada, on Tuesday/Tuesday night, now forecast to pass a bit too far north of us to be a significant storm for the NYC metro  area and southward.

Another shot of energy, also from Canada, will whisk through the east coast next weekend, bringing colder air.

Snow for NYC on Saturday? Beware of lurking cold fronts

Beware of cold fronts lurking just off the east coast of the US!  They lay a trap for waves of energy diving out of Canada into the bottom of the jet stream’s roller coaster.  The bottom of the coaster is forecast to sit just to our west, steering potential storms up along the coast.

Let’s cut to the chase!   From the latest National Weather Service Office for NYC Forecast Discussion:

For now looking at accumulations of generally 1-3 inches across the
Lower Hudson Valley/NE NJ/NYC (with less than an inch possible over
western Orange County, and 3-6 inches over S CT/Long Island, with
highest amounts over SE CT and parts of eastern Long Island.

There still remains though some uncertainty in terms of the
track/strength/timing of the low. If the westward trend with the
system continues, there will be the potential for more mixing near
the coast, limiting amounts over SE areas, and also increasing
snowfall amounts farther to the west. A track farther offshore, will
increase likelihood of mainly snow, but decrease amounts. For now,
will highlight the threat for the possibility of reaching winter
storm warning accumulations (6" or more) over S CT/Long Island.

The timing for the snow is late Saturday afternoon through midnight.  If that schedule is fulfilled, Sunday morning travel should be fine for the NYC area and north and west.  But, stay tuned.


Scroll down to the weather forecast maps for early Saturday evening from the short-term model (NAM, above) and the medium-range model (GFS, below).  The weak lows drop some snow into the eastern coast and NYC.  The green is the amount of precipitation over the previous six hours. If you’re in the areas with blue-dashed lines, it’s likely to be snow.

The afternoon run of the GFS has gone back to keeping the storms weak and further off the coast, but they tend to do that and come back later in the game with a stronger storm, closer to us.



Early morning sights

Jupiter and its fellow travelers low in the morning sky with the nice, clear skies this morning. And I love to see the moon in such a blue twilight sky.


Jupiter to the lower left, Mars and Spica to the upper right. Canon XS ISO 800 f/7 15 seconds 50mm lens.


Jupiter a fist and thumb above the cluttered horizon with street lights at the bottom of the photo. 15 seconds, ISO 800 f7.1 50mm lens.


55mm f7.1 1/640 second exposure.

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250mm telephoto, cropped to just show the moon. The telephoto lens is not intended to be a telescope, but with the clean, clear skies, it does a reasonable impression of what the moon looks like in a small telescope. Check out the craters and scarps along the limb of the moon where the sun is setting! 1/1600 f7.1 250mm telephoto lens on Canon XS.