I love an advertisement that pokes fun of the company it’s advertising. Actually, I love funny ads in general!
One in particular. The copy read, “Here’s a glorious, full-sized color photo of the Goodrich blimp!” It was a photo of a (blank) blue sky. Goodrich was a rubber tire company, but not the one (Goodyear) that had the blimps. 🙂
So, you know where this is going. I kinda missed the ISS’s (ISS’?) overflight last night. It’s hard to focus the camera without bright stars, there were too many streetlights, yada, yada, yada.
As I was focusing on the Big Dipper, I noticed the very bright dot of the ISS at the bottom of my frame. Here is the photo:
The ISS, in the sunlight 432km right above me, was brilliant!
I re-aimed the camera and tried twice more, each with the two-second delay to decrease camera shake, and the same five-second exposure time. If I take a shorter exposure, the stars don’t show up, but the ISS makes a dot like it looks in the sky, not the streak we see in timed exposures.
Hope you had better luck! Share your story in the comments.
The ISS will fly over the eastern United States during twilight tonight, crossing New Orleans, Washington (DC), New York and Boston. You’ll be able to see the ISS crossing directly overhead between 8:38pmCDT for New Orleans and other places in the Central Time Zone, 9:42pm EDT for the folks from Washington, DC and the Eastern Time Zone.
Map for the overflight, centered on Washington, DC, so you can see the path over the eastern United States.
For many locations, the track of the ISS through our skies will take it in front of the handle of the Big Dipper! The stars of the tail of the Great Bear may be hard to pick out of the bright twilight. I’ve found them easier to see after the ISS goes by, as the eye has something distant to focus on.
This fly-over is not a planned event specifically for the Eastern United States – it’s a consequence of orbital mechanics of the many loops the ISS takes around our planet.
Is Comet Swan going to re-brighten?. It’s low in the northeast just before sunrise. Also later in the month low in the northwest right after sunset.
This week, try for as many ISS overflights as you can see in a night – every 90 minutes or so for a few nights, then just in the evening sky. Check heavens-above.com or the NASA site for times.
Venus stands bright, but getting lower, in the west-northwest. Watch for Mercury’s pop-up appearance, arcing above Venus later next week. The very thin Moon joins them in twilight on the 24th/25th.
Jupiter and Saturn are still outstanding low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Check out their moons! Mars socially distances to the left.
Comet SWAN: Another one falls to dust (I think there is a song there!). It may be showing signs of re-brightening. Best resource for SWAN is Astro Bob (no relation) at https://astrobob.areavoices.com/ .
ISS overflights! The night of the 15th /16th has as many as six (!) overflights, some better than others. Here’s a list from heavens-above.com for White Plains, NY. This is also a great night of ISS viewing for the northeast and middle-atlantic states of the USA. See heavens-above for times for your location. The ISS has a “high beta angle” near the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere. This year beta season is very early and here’s a link to why. Thanks to space station guys for the reference!
Times you can see the International Space Station from the NYC metro area. Thanks to heavens-above.com !
The best overflight over NYC is on the 16th, overhead, across the Big Dipper, about 9:43pm. After the 19th, the overflights are after sunset through mid-night.
At Four-so-early-in-the-morning (Daylight Time), see the outer planets. (Pluto’s location marked for completeness. Not visible.)
Cute break for today: When I wear my Planetary Society shirt, My two-year old grandchild points to the tiny dots at the bottom of the shirt, out beyond Neptune, and says “planets”. I guess she’s in favor of Kuiper-Belt objects as planets!
Visibility at San Juan Airport varying between 8 and 9 miles this morning in haze in all directions.
US Naval Research Laboratory’s NAAPS model predicts dust will move on (toward Florida) by Saturday.
For more updates, follow the links at the bottom of the post!
Visibility is dipping to less than 10 miles in Puerto Rico this week and may last through the weekend. The tropical skies in Puerto Rico are often crystal clear, at least when it’s not raining. You can see more than 10 miles most of the time in Puerto Rico, despite the high humidity commonly occurring in this tropical locale. But when the aviation weather observation occasional says “HZ ALQDS” (haze in all quadrants), dust from the Sahara Desert is likely the cause.
Below is a list of today’s observations since midnight local time at the San Juan International Airport on May 6th : Visibility was as low as 8 miles. Despite some nearby power plants, due to a relative lack of combustion emissions, and good dispersion in trade winds, there is not much sulfate that causes the white summer haze seen here in the eastern United States.
TJSJ 062256Z 12007KT 9SM FEW034 FEW150 29/22 A2999 RMK AO2 SLP153 HZ ALQDS T02940217 TJSJ airport 06 May, 22:56Z is 6:56pm May 6th 9 miles visibility, few clouds at 3,400 feet, few clouds at 15,000 feet, temperature 29C, dew point 22C, altimeter setting 29.92 inches Remark about automated sensing, sea level pressure 1015.3mb, haze in all directions, temperature more precisely at 29.4, dew point at 21.7.
The US Navy uses computer models to predict the transport of dust and other particles that can reduce visibility. It would seem to me the US Navy’s interest in haze and dust is the Navy doesn’t like the idea of not being able to see in all directions, in case they need to protect themselves from potential attackers. It’s good to know when low visibility might allow foes or even landmarks or other ships to be hidden. Thus, one of the many projects at the Naval Research Laboratory is the sensing and measurement of particles in the atmosphere, where they are and they the come from.
Here’s the NRL’s forecast for sulfates, dust, and smoke for 1200 UTC on May 7th.
This map predicts dust concentrations of over 80 micrograms per cubic meter over Puerto Rico, denoted by the light blue color on the ‘dust’ map in the lower left quadrant. The health standard for particulate matter less than 10 microns is 150 micrograms per cubic meter. Particles of Saharan Dust are left after traveling across the Atlantic Ocean are typically between 2 and 5 microns in size.
The dust is lofted into the air in sandstorms in the Sahara Desert. Most of the strong winds come from the downdrafts of large thunderstorms or when large pressure gradients produce high wind speeds. This dust gets lofted into the middle of the troposphere and gets pushed out over the Atlantic Ocean by tropical trade winds. Because of the stable layer caused by the hot, dry air from the desert, over moist, cooler air at the ocean’s surface, this dust can travel thousands of miles, only slowly falling out of the sky. Over land, more mixing occurs and the dust is brought near the ground, creating the low visibility conditions.
Here’s some quick links to weather information, so you can track this Sahara Dust episode:
Just took a Canon XS snapshot of the not-quite-Full-Moon. Great view in binoculars. The relief from the Sun rising over the craters on the southeastern limb of the Moon (from Earth’s point of view) was fantastic as the Moon’s South Pole was tipped toward us. So, I popped the camera on the tripod and used the 250mm lens and got a good focus using the 10x live view.
Moon Data: 97% full just two hours before it was at perigee at 223,532 miles from Earth – the sixth closest monthly lunar perigee of the year. Luna will be further away from us at Full Moon, 32 hours from tonight’s perigee. I think that will be the third closest Full Moon of the year. I was lucky to have been able to see it tonight, instead of the farther away “SUPERMOON” (say that in Movie Announcer Voice) on the night of May 6/7. The South Pole of the Moon was tilted 6 degrees toward us. It makes the northern features look a bit shifted toward the northern horizon.
The Moon was even better in my 8×25 image stabilzed binoculars than this photo and saved the task of hefting the 43-pound scope outside.
Last night, I spent most of an hour after sunset with a local Girl Scout Troop. Via video conference for the Westchester Amateur Astronomers.
I thought I’d write it down in case it helps others who are trying to do remote astronomy.
They enjoyed it and were thankful for some directions as to where to look in the sky. We had a 3/4 full Moon which gave us a great, very bright, starting point. A quarter turn to the right and we were looking at Venus. As twilight faded, Venus stood out more and more, amazing our guests. They spotted stars as they ‘came out’. Castor and Pollux in Gemini were noted early, since they were between the Moon and Venus. Some with a good western horizon saw a red star, likely Aldebaran. (Taurus and Orion were blocked by trees at my house.) I pointed out Leo would become visible, jumping over the Moon, by the time they finished their campfire after our star party.
Advanced planning helped. The Troop Leader acquired copies of the National Geographic guide to the stars. They got a hold of small binoculars. I sent the latest skymap.com map for May. I had my eight-inch Orion Dobsonian telescope out. I took some photos of the Moon and of Venus before we started. I took them on my Android Tablet at the eyepiece and they came out pretty well. I wasn’t able to show the view through the scope live on the video call, so I pointed my iPhone at the photos on the tablet and the Scouts were able to see them. (They are included, below.) The brightness was too great to see details when I held the iPhone to the eyepiece during the call. I’ve taken photos at the eyepiece with my iPhone before, so I know the phone can do it, but when the video call was using the camera on the iPhone, the Moon overwhelmed the details and Venus was lost in the twilit sky.
I talked about how to get started with bright objects, like the Moon and Venus. Then, the light and dark areas on the Moon and how and when they came to be. Why Venus was a crescent. Where Polaris, the North Star, would be. How the Milky Way wouldn’t be seen, even in darkness, because it was on the horizon tonight. Our Galaxy was spread around us like two paper plates taped together and we are on the outer part of that disk looking sideways across the Galaxy. And tonight, looking upward, we are looking out of the top of the Galaxy into intergalactic space.
Here’s the photos of Venus and the Moon. Android Tablet held up to eyepiece. 2-inch eyepiece at 40x in the 200mm dobsonian reflector. I’ve cropped the Venus view to show the crescent better.