Sort of a ‘Supermoon’ to bring high tides

A super close new moon will bring higher-than-normal tides for the next few days.  It’s a new moon, so we won’t see a full ‘supermoon’ in our skies.  Visible or not, it will still have effects on tides around the world.

From the National Weather Service:

Astronomical tides are running high due to the approach of a new
moon Thursday night. In addition south to southeast swells
generated by distant Hurricane Chris were adding to tidal

Localized areas along the back bays of southern Queens and
southern Nassau counties may experience minor coastal flooding
with the high tide cycle early this evening as benchmarks are
expected to be reached or just slightly exceeded, and a coastal
flood statement has been issued.

More widespread minor coastal flooding will be possible with the
high tides Thursday evening and Friday evening. There is the
potential for additional coastal flooding with Saturday
evening`s high tide cycle. The locations with the best chance
at this time appear to be across the south shore back bays of
Southern Queens and Southern Nassau, with a lower chance across
Western Long Island Sound.



Five Bright Planets Tonight

Monday, July 9th.  Can I catch all five of the brightest planets tonight? It’s been a nice, clear afternoon and may be a clear, steady night.  Can I catch them all?

At 4pm I started with Venus.  I swept it up in my finder scope and attached the Canon XS and a barlow lens to bring it to focus.


This is Venus 4pm Canon XS attached to 8-inch dobsionian reflector with barlow lens at 1/1000 second exposure, ISO 200.

IMG_9288 crop1

Enlarged by cropping to show Venus’ half-phase – like a tiny version of our moon! This approximated the view through an eyepiece that gives 200x.

Despite Bob King’s reminder, I forgot to look for the bright star Regulus nearby! I’ll check after sunset tonight.

More to come tonight ( I hope). . .

How to find air quality information


Ozone will be forming downwind of many major urban areas today, Monday, July 9th, including Wash-Balt metro, Philadelphia, NYC, Chicago, St. Louis and Denver.

So, where can you find ozone information for your area?

Here is a write-up a I did for people at work sometime ago.  Many of the links are for the NYC metro area, but you can use them to find your way to information from your locality.

[On my computer, holding the ‘ctrl’ key and clicking on the link takes me to the web sites, otherwise, copy and paste into your favorite web browser.]

Where are the air quality advisories?

Keep up with the latest advisories, and view maps with air quality data from previous days, via  And sign up at the AirNow Enviroflash web site for air quality messages for your location (or other places you want to know about).

Link up to state air quality forecasts via, and directly for each state at:




See the list of cities with Ozone Action Days at

Look up definitions used in air quality alerts and the famous air quality alert status color code at

Weather information: The weather story I use is excerpted from the National Weather Service’s NYC Area Forecast Discussion.  The Area Forecast Discussion is a somewhat technical document issued four or more times a day, most often just before the morning, noon, evening and late night news programs.  But it gives explanations of what the National Weather Service is thinking.  Click on this link for New York City’s discussion:  Area Forecast Discussion  For public forecasts and advisories, their site is at: National Weather Service New York NY. If you go to the web page for other NWS offices, you can find links to these and other products.

What does the Air Quality Index (AQI) mean?

The Air Quality Index converts the air quality data or forecasts into a single set of units that explain the health effect of each of the pollutants for that concentration.

When the AQI is in this range: …air quality conditions are: …as symbolized by this color:
0 – 50 Good Green
51 – 100 Moderate Yellow
101 – 150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Orange
51 – 200 Unhealthy Red
201 – 300 Very Unhealthy Purple
301 – 500 Hazardous Maroon

For example, 101 AQI units for ozone and 101 AQI units for particulate matter are 71ppb and 35.5ug/m3, respectively.  Anything from 101 to 150 AQI units is ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ for each pollutant.

EPA does not combine the AQI units from different pollutants, as there is only limited information on the combined effects of pollutants.  Experiencing moderate levels of ozone and moderate levels of particulate matter DO NOT add up to unhealthy for sensitive groups.

In 2015, EPA lowered the ozone standard to 70ppb, so we may see a few more ozone advisory days than in recent years, even though ozone concentrations are generally decreasing from year to year.

To see the trends in air quality data for yourself, go to: The multi-year color tile plots are a really cool and colorful way of showing how air quality has changed over the years.  The AQI colors on the plots can be directly compared for each year, since they are based on the present air quality standards; so the colors in 1980 and 2016 represent all the same air concentration as all the other years.  My co-workers printed a copy for my retirement to provide a graphic example of how the work we did improved air quality.  (They signed it, and framed it, and it hangs in my living room!)

Heads UP! for July 2018

It’s time to rise up! It’s time for opposition!

I mean, in our skies, of course – more about opposition, below, but first, here’s the lineup card for July:

The size listed in the right-hand column is in arc seconds (our moon is 1800 arc seconds wide).

Venus West, upper left of where the sun set. Sets 10pm Magnitude -4.1

(Super bright)

17 arc seconds wide (“), waning gibbous
Jupiter Due south at end of twilight, up all evening. -2.2

(Brighter than any star)

Saturn Rises before sunset, up all night. +0.1

(Brighter than most stars)

18”, not counting rings
Mars Rises just after sunset, low in the southeast -2.5

(Even brighter than Jupiter! Reddish?)

Mercury Low in the west in evening twilight. Lower right of Venus. Use binoculars first to find. +0.5, getting dimmer

(Hard to pick out in the twilight)

8” and looking half-lit. Greatest elongation on the 11th.

Yes, Mercury is the ‘first’ planet of the night, then Venus to its upper left, then make a left turn and there will be Jupiter.

As far as opposition is concerned, it’s when an outer planet is opposite of the sun in our sky. It’s also when we are closest to an outer planet. We make a close pass at Mars at month’s end, which follows the oppositions of Jupiter in early May and Saturn at the end of June. With Venus and Mercury findable in the west after sunset, July is not only a month of opposition but a full house, a planetary straight, or five-of-a-kind, as we can see the five classical planets in one night. Okay, this was also true in June.

Some friends in Elmsford saw four of the five with me on June 25th. I wasn’t up for being up at Mars’ rising at 11pm EDT, so we didn’t complete the royal flush.

These are in order from west to east, right to left in the northern hemisphere, except for Mercury, which we can’t see until the sky gets darker, so we have to come back for Mercury. While you are using the bincoulars on Merucry, can you see the Beehive Cluster next to it on the 4th? A thin moon makes a close pass on the 14th.

One more opposition! We come to opposition with magnitude +15 Pluto on the 12th, just southeast of Sagittarius’ teaspoon. It’s right next to a magnitude +5.5 star, 50 Sagittarii that night. The New Horizons spacecraft, on its way to a Kuiper Belt object they’ve nicknamed “Ultima Thule” is in the teaspoon, beyond our sight.

It’s possible to see all five classical planets at once, in mid-July, but Mars will be just rising and Mercury just setting, as shown below.

The color of Mars, as seen by the unaided eye, may vary from orange to salmon to pale pink as the dust storm intensity changes. Mars’ south polar cap is rapidly shrinking as southern hemisphere summer approaches, but clouds over the polar cap may make it look larger. This is the best time for small scopes as the remaining polar cloud hood has high contrast with the orange-yellow dust storm covering the much of Mars now. The storm may leave behind enough dust to make much of Mars salmon-hued until local winds blow away the accumulated dust and the gray areas appear again.

Mars is closest to the sun in September 2018 and earth’s aphelion is on July 5th, so that makes the two planets closer than usual at this opposition. There will be a similar circumstance at the October 2020 opposition, with Mars’ perihelion in our month of August, but earth being closer to the sun and a bit further from Mars. After that, Mars’ oppositions with earth will be when it is nearer to its aphelion and earth’s perihelion and we won’t get as close. The September perihelion also causes Mars to be closest to earth on July 30th, when opposition is on the 27th.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is back to being two out of three. It’s a spot looking like a red bump on the southern equatorial belt, but still noticeably smaller than in previous centuries and redder (through my telescope) than earlier this century.

Saturn stays bigger and brighter in July, taking the breath away of observers with a 30-power or more scope. The rings continue to tilt well toward earth, giving the planet a hat-like appearance. A plus 10th magnitude star will pass behind Saturn from midnight to 3am on the 4th-5th. Saturn appears so much brighter than the star, it will be hard to see except in telescopes of perhaps 8-inches or more.

Venus gets brighter, even as we start to notice its thinning phase in binoculars or a telescope. By the end of July, Venus will be still a bit more than half-lit but decreasing. It will also be lower in the sky, despite not reaching greatest elongation until August. Its phase is easier to see in daytime or bright twilight. Regulus tries to hide in Venus’ brightness on the 9th and the crescent moon gets close for a great photo-op with Venus on the 15th.

We don’t get to see the partial solar eclipse over the waters between Australia and Antarctica on the 13th. Neither do we see the deep total lunar eclipse most of the rest of the world sees on the 27th.

We do get to experience larger-than-normal tides around and after the new moon on the 12th-13th. Lunar perigee is five hours after new moon. The full moon on the 27th will be a ‘mini-moon’ as it is the furthest away of any full moon of this year.

The International Space Station is visible from our area after midnight through the 22nd. Visible overflights in the evening start around the 18th. From the 18th-19th through the 21st-22nd the ISS makes five visible passes a night. For some of these passes, the ISS is almost as bright as Venus.

Sunspots are a rarity as the sun continues toward solar minimum.

Northeast USA has extended heat, humidity and ozone violations

For Monday, July 2nd, much of the northeastern United States will be in code orange for ozone air quality, unhealthy for sensitive individuals, with the New York City metro area forecasted to be code red – unhealthy for everyone.  Unhealthy for everyone means people should cut back on strenuous activities, but it does not mean go inside and hide from the ozone.  People especially sensitive to ozone should reduce their outside activities, but can still go out – just take it easy – as most people are in the northeast during this extended heat wave.  An air-conditioned house or room will reduce ozone and (of course) give respite from the heat.

Check for updates on



Maximum temperature forecast for Monday July 2, 2018.

Extended Heat Wave for the Eastern United States

Here’s the forecast maximum temperatures for the upcoming five days for the northeastern United States – over 90 degrees everywhere except mountain tops and beaches. Monday is on the right  and Friday is on the left.

Click on the arrows in the movie, below, to see all five days.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hot weather can produce stagnant air and unhealthy concentrations of ozone and particles.  The same strongly stagnant air can give steady views of planets and stars, especially good for details on planets in a telescope.


Map of the southern sky just before midnight Saturday/Sunday. Don’t worry about the late hour, if you don’t care about seeing Mars, the other planets will be up as early as 9pm local daylight time – Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Venus is very bright, not in the picture but off to the left in the sky near where the Sun just set. To find Venus, look to the upper left of where the sun set for a very bright dot that doesn’t move like an airplane does. Mercury is half-way between Venus and the horizon where the sun set, but you will need binoculars to find it, at least initially. This scene will be the same all week, except the moon will be rising even later each night.

Check for updated forecasts and observations for air pollution this week.


Poor Ozone Air Quality for the Weekend

As of Noon, Friday, June 29th, New Jersey has declared an ozone action day for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, as a high pressure system will settle over the eastern United States for the next 4 to 7 days.

NYS has issued its ozone advisories for the weekend:

AQI Forecast has been issued for 06/29/2018, 06/30/2018, 07/01/2018 and 07/02/2018.




states are likely to follow later today, but have not issued forecast beyond Friday at this time.

New Jersey DEP has declared Saturday, Sunday and Monday as

Ozone Action Days.

Today and Tomorrow’s Forecast
Friday, Jun 29: Moderate Particle Pollution (2.5 microns)
Saturday, Jun 30: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Ozone
6/29 – Moderate levels of ozone are forecast on Friday as high pressure tracks eastward with the potential to reach the unhealthy for sensitive groups category in isolated locations. Above normal heat and humidity are expected to last into the middle of next week. As a result, levels of fine particulates are forecast to reach the moderate category in urban locations.6/30 – An Ozone Action Day has been declared! Ozone is forecast to reach the unhealthy for sensitive groups category for locations in New Jersey along the I-95 corridor and south due to calm winds becoming southwesterly, hot temperatures, and abundant sunshine. Sensitive individuals including the very young, the elderly, and persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma, should avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the afternoon and early evening hours. In addition, levels of fine particulates are forecast to reach the moderate category in locations along the I-95 corridor in response to light surface winds and increasing humidity.

7/1 – An Ozone Action Day has been declared! Ozone is forecast to reach the unhealthy for sensitive groups category state-wide due to light and variable winds, hot temperatures, and abundant sunshine. Sensitive individuals including the very young, the elderly, and persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma, should avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the afternoon and early evening hours. In addition, levels of fine particulates are forecast to reach the moderate category state-wide.

7/2 – An Ozone Action Day has been declared! Ozone is forecast to reach the unhealthy for sensitive groups category state-wide due to light southerly winds, hot temperatures, and abundant sunshine. Sensitive individuals including the very young, the elderly, and persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma, should avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the afternoon and early evening hours. In addition, levels of fine particulates are forecast to reach the moderate category state-wide.

7/3 – At this time, moderate levels of ozone are forecast on Tuesday as hot and humid temperatures continue to threaten the northeast. There remains some uncertainty in the timing and location of afternoon thunderstorms. Given the circumstance, there is the potential for widespread locations to reach the USG category for ozone if thunderstorms do not form. Moderate levels of fine particulates are expected to continue into Tuesday as heat and humidity will persist.

For additional air quality information on New Jersey, go to
Do not reply directly to this email. If you want more information on the air quality forecast, or other aspects of the local air quality program, please contact your local air quality agency using the information above. For more information on the U.S. EPA’s AIRNow Program, visit