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JUNO images the Great Red Spot…

One of my favorite bloggers from across the pond. . .

Cumbrian Sky

If you felt a disturbance in the Force on Wednesday night it’s because the first images JUNO took of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot were released at teatime on that day, a couple of days earlier than expected, and both the astronomy media and the world’s “image processors” went into a feeding frenzy. (I couldn’t because I was stuck at work, but I was able to sneak a look at the images on my phone during my break). The original images are very pretty but quite muted and low contrast, so since they have been released the processors have been working hard to bring out detail, boost contrast and enhance the features around and within the Spot, using a variety of image processing techniques. Some of the results are eye-wateringly dramatic, psychedelic explosions of vivid colour. Others less so. None are “right”, none are “wrong”, they’re all just someone’s personal…

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Watch out for Severe Weather for the northeast USA Monday, June 19th.

If memory serves me correctly (and it often doesn’t serve as well these days), it’s rare for NOAA’s severe storms center to include parts of the northeastern United States in an area of ‘enhanced’ risk for severe storms on Monday.  So, it’s a good time to take this seriously and be ready for mid-west USA-style severe weather on Monday.

Click here for the Capitol Weather Gang’s take on this.  The comments also have helpful and interesting information. day2otlk_0600



Looking for Saturn?

This week, Saturn is closest to the Earth at 841 million miles away.  You can find it rising in the east-southeast just after sunset. Give it an hour or two to get up in the southeast above the horizon’s haze, then turn a scope with more than 30x power on it.  The rings often get brightest this week, as the particles in the ring scatter light back toward the Sun, and, now in our direction.  Check back with Saturn next week and see if the rings really looked brighter.

The rings are tilted almost as wide open as they can be, so they are even more splendid than usual.  If you are not too dazzled by the rings, look for one or more tiny dots near by, Saturn’s moons.



Clearer skies for Thursday night, June 1st

There’s a chance of clear skies on Thursday evening for the NYC metro area! (and perhaps your area, too!) Check the Canadian model for updates.

Can you make it an ‘all nighter’ on Thursday night/Friday morning?
Here we go!
How early in evening twilight can you see Jupiter?
How red is the Great Red Spot? Check within a few hours of its crossing the center of Jupiter’s disk at 11:15pm.
Don’t need sleep? Europa and Io cross in front of Jupiter starting at 1:18 and 2:38am, respectively, and their shadows dot the planet starting 3:31 and 3:42. Can you see both shadows at once from 3:42 to 3:46?


Jupiter and Io and Europa at 1am Thursday night/Friday morning.

Saturn rises by 9:30pm with its brightest moons clustered closely around the planet and its wonderful rings. How many can you see?


Saturn Thursday Evening. Another moon, Iapetus is not shown, but is just north of Saturn.

There’s even a comet to be seen in good binoculars:…/comet-johnson-makes-a-spl…/

The ISS passes over us in twilight, low in the north at 9:36pm. China’s latest space station passes Leo at 9:53. (And on Wednesday evening, the Tiangong-2 passes through Gemini, Ursa Major and Hercules starting at 9:15pm, if you get a break in the clouds.) The ISS passes low in the north again at 11:15 and 12:45am.

Did I mention the Moon? See how much detail you can see during twilight and afterwards. It’s a wonderful half-lit moon with lots of detail to be found.

Get a good star chart at or for the ‘fixed’ objects in our skies.

If you have a dark sky and a clear northern horizon, take a time exposure of the northern sky. Aurora have been active lately and you might catch something the eye can’t pick up!

If you make it to the end of night, watch Venus, as bright as it gets from our point of view, rise in the pre-dawn sky.  With Venus, you win some and lose some depending on the amount of twilight – in the dark, about 4am, find faint Uranus a few degrees to Venus’ upper left. After the sky brightens, the decreased contrast will allow you to see Venus at half-phase.

Get out there and enjoy!

Venus low in the west right after sunset.

Venus is setting seven minutes earlier each evening and soon will also be rising before sunrise as it curves between us and the sun on the 25th. Here’s two photos from tonight (Sunday March 19th) just above the trees from the parking deck at the DiCicco’s in Ardsley. Venus got tangled up in the trees by 7:35pm, even though it didn’t set below the horizon until 8:03pm.


Wide view shows how Venus – the bright dot left of center just above the trees – Canon XS 55mm 1/8 second f11.


Zoom lens 250mm 1/8 sec f/11. Zoomed in shows the (blurry) crescent Venus.


A shorter exposure with the zoom lens, 1/100 sec to try to reduce the blurring of the crescent Venus.

IMG_6099 (2)

Enlarged from the previous photo (for some reason I can’t get wordpress to publish the photo full size).




Well, we got a lot of something.

Lunchtime; posting during a workday due to the extraordinary nature of the weather today.  Working at home – the office is closed and for good reason!

Woke up to several inches of snow. Thus began a strange weather day. The snow changed back and forth to ice pellets. The snowflakes varied in size from tiny to 20 minutes of snow flakes the size of tortilla chips (my wife verified this; could hardly believe it herself).  Then, ice pellets like tiny ice cubes. As of 12:40pm, rain is starting mix in .

The barometer is 976mb, down 6 mb in two hours and falling 33mb in 12 hours.

It think the crazy mixes are from the storm developing so rapidly and warm and cold air getting streaked into the mix over us, like a marble swirl cake.  Thunder reported at Newark.  Some high wind gusts, scary at times, but not all the time.

With rain mixing into the ice pellets. May go back to snow for a couple of inches before ending.  Radar has been interesting. Longer range radar reports precipitation ending in central NJ, but the storm may still be developing there and it may be a false back edge.

With the storm moving faster and mostly because it is a bit closer to the coast than predicted, about the same amount of precipitation, but less snow accumulation.  That’s what happens sometimes. Looks like the forecast majorly busted, but with the storm substitutes ice for snow, accumulations are less than expected, but no easier to travel in.




A moment for some things your Representative in Congress is considering

Some in Congress want to review rules that implement laws passed by Congress. They want a veto on actions of federal agencies doing their job to implement the laws passed by Congress.  Including if Congress doesn’t vote on it, then the regulation dies.

Here’s a good summary from Science Friday. . .  When you go to the page, scroll down for a summary if you don’t have 30 minutes for the Science Friday segment.

An except, with the citations to the proposed laws:

The proposed Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (or REINS) Act would require the House and Senate to vote on any new regulation costing more than $100 million. (For perspective, the EPA rule reducing emissions from toxic mercury was $9.6 billion, with an expected annual public health benefit of $37–90 billion.) Any regulation not voted on within 70 days would be dropped. Furthermore, the Secret Science Reform Act would require that the EPA make decisions based only on information that is publicly available online for independent analysis, throwing into question whether any study that includes confidential personal health information could ever be considered by the agency.