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Daytime Moon

Tried Bob King’s ‘cheat’ to see the bright star Regulus in the daytime. I failed. And couldn’t find Venus either.  Even with my 8-inch telescope.

So, I took some snaps of the Moon through my telescope. After joining up the pieces, I converted to black and white to get rid of the overwhelming blue tint, here’s the first quarter moon in daytime.  The brightest areas are overprocessed, but it’s not horrible.

moon bw auto adjust

3:30pm EDT first quarter moon. Monday, May 21st, 2018. composite of three photos. Canon XS at ISO 200 1/200 second through 8-inch dobsonian telescope (prime focus with barlow lens).

For more of what you can see this week, now that it’s not raining all the time – check out Scott’s place.


Peeking around the clouds

  • Peeking Around the Clouds due to Unsettled Weather this Week
  • Pleiades Star Cluster Coming to the C3

It’s Monday morning, May 14th.  We’re facing unsettled weather for this week, into the weekend.   The National Weather Service forecast for our neck of the woods is for more than 50 percent cloud cover for the next seven days.   It makes it hard to be an active astronomer.

More on the weather, below, but first – we have two bright planets in our evening skies –  watch for them when you see gaps in our mucky skies this week.  Venus, the brightest planet in our skies, is up in the west for two hours after sunset.   Our moon joins it starting on Thursday.

Jupiter rises in the east, opposite the sun in our sky (hence the term ‘opposition’!).  It’s also bright enough to appear to dash through the clouds as they move past.  Check out that motion – the moon, bright planets and stars sometimes appear to be moving while it’s really the clouds that are moving.  It’s all in our brains, but sometimes it’s cool when I see the planets and stars appearing to move in partly cloudy skies.  With Leo and Ursa Major overhead, maybe you’ll see them ‘flying’ across the sky.

Here, from, is the sky map for Thursday evening.  With the exception of the moon, which moves higher in the sky each evening, this map is good for a week or two.  For a map for all of May, see  Scroll down on that page to find the link to download the map for your part of the world.


Sky map for 8:30 pm EDT for the NYC area, but good for most locations and most times of the evening. As night falls, Venus will be lower in the sky and Jupiter higher.

Our unsettled weather is caused by a warm front that is draped across the northeastern and central USA.  If the front staggers to our north, we get hot temperatures and the chance of severe weather.  If the front wobbles to our south, we get air flowing from the chilly ocean and rain, fog and drizzle. Here’s the weather forecast maps, with the fronts marked, for the rest of the week.  They mostly look the same as the jet stream blows along the front, like how ribbons attached to a fan wiggle to and fro.


Starting later this week, the International Space Station will make up to five overflights visible at night.  The most are on the night of May 21/22; some a bit low in our sky.  We can see the ISS on every overflight on some nights because the ISS is in daylight all the time for several days around the 21st.   Check NASA or for updated times and directions to look.

Missing the winter stars already?  Check out NASA/ESA’s SOHO page.  The Pleiades are coming to the C3 field.  If this movie doesn’t play, go to the website.










See Jupiter Before Midnight Tonight !!!

Remember those TV ads – “Call before midnight tonight for our special offer!!!!!!!!!”  I sure do. The ‘call before midnight’ bit was a trick to get us to call right away before we forget to do it at all.  With all due respect to the many web sites that want to you run out and see Jupiter at its opposition to the Sun tonight, Jupiter will be out in the evening sky into the summer and still big and bright.

So, by all means, go and see Jupiter.  Tonight would be fine. You may have to wait an hour or two after dark to catch Jupiter higher in the sky.  (How early can you see it?  We often play this game at our Westchester Astronomers’ star parties. Sometimes, we’ve found Jupiter before sunset!)

Thanks to, we can check out the prospects for viewing Jupiter.

Here’s tonight’s chart:canvas

Jupiter at 9pm is low in the southeastern sky – that’s opposite of where the sun set an hour or so ago, for those of you how can’t find your scout magnetic compasses.  Look for it and get some optical aid on it to see Jupiter’s cloud belts and four brightest moons.

In July, for example, at the same time, Jupiter will stand higher in the southern sky and be easier to find (see below).  Don’t think you have to wait until July – Jupiter gets higher in the sky every week from now on (when regular people would go out to see it -Prime Time – as I like to call it), and it doesn’t get much smaller too soon.  Jupiter will be only 10% smaller by July.

canvasjuly 8

So, go out tonight, go out the next clear night (a good idea), or any (or all!) clear nights over the next two months and find a view with a view to Jupiter.  Get or borrow a telescope and watch the changing positions of Jupiter’s moons each night.  As you make your own discovery of the Jupiter system, think back to Galileo and what he must have thought as he charted the dance of Jupiter’s four brightest moons in his tiny telescope.

Screenshot-2018-5-8 Jupiter's Moons

Tonight’s moons of Jupiter 10:30pm. Earlier, Io will be behind Jupiter, so only three moons will be visible to earlier viewers.

God must have rejoiced those nights when humans had their first views of this sight seemingly hidden in plain sight that would shake up human thinking forever.


Ocean Air Advances over New Jersey Monday Afternoon

As I was keeping an eye on the local weather radars for any showers that might come our way Monday afternoon, I noticed a thin line the length of New Jersey moving inland from the coast.  This also appeared as a thin line of clouds on NOAA’s geostationary satellite photo.  Based on weather data from that time, winds shifted as this line moved west-northwestward.

The remains of this line are on this shot I grabbed from the regional section of the GOES satellite photo.


These data from about the same time – look (if you can make it out!) at the wind direction lines.  They show winds from off the ocean in NJ and variable but mostly from the north in PA.symmap2.php

I should have used Firefox’s new screen grab to catch the radar view.

It was fun when I realized what I was looking at.  I don’t know if the line on the radar was from clouds.  It usually isn’t -sometimes birds or bugs find themselves congregating where the wind direction changes and they show up on the radar.

Northeastern USA Ozone Episode Day 2

Today is the second day of the first ozone episode for the northeastern United States for 2018.

Here’s the forecast map as of 8am this morning:  Code Orange predicted for parts of many states in the northeast.  Many states revise their forecast mid to late morning and again, as needed, in the afternoon.  See for updates.


Orange means “unhealthy for sensitive individuals”.  Who’s a sensitive individual? Go to link for more information.  Here’s some examples: asthmatics, children and construction workers.  Who would have thought construction workers would be considered a ‘sensitive population’!  Sensitive people include those who are exposed to more ozone because they breathe more air when they do heavy exertion.  So, construction workers, and other people who do heavy lifting, especially for long periods of time, are more likely to be affected by higher ozone concentrations than the general population.

Children with asthma can still go out and play on days like today, especially in the mid-morning when ozone is lower.  They should not try to set a running record – just take it a bit slower today.  Make sure your kids have an asthma plan and your kids and your school are ready to implement it if they have breathing difficulties.  Hydration and sunscreen are important for everyone.

Yesterday’s ozone data:


In Maine, our place of interest in yesterday’s post, the ozone peaked along the coast, instead of inland.  I don’t have all the reasons for this yet; ozone was increasing inland in New Hampshire, but it did not stay at Code Orange concentrations the rest of the afternoon, so the eight-hour average was at or below the 70ppb cutoff for an ozone advisory.  No Code Red, which would be unhealthy for everyone.






Heads UP! for May 2018

Heads UP! for May 2018

Jupiter is the brightest dot in the sky after Venus.  The giant planet is further away, but being so large, is very bright.  Jupiter’s as big as it’s going to get in 2018.  Saturn and Mars are getting larger, but they rise later in the evening. The International Space Station is visible up to five times a night in late May.

Got a telescope?  Get it out and practice focusing on Jupiter!  (Ok, if the moon is out, start with that – it’s a great target to practice focusing!)  Jupiter’s four brightest moons are visible with any optical aid, even (steadily held) binoculars.  Leaning them up against the corner of a building is good.   This great view is thanks to our opposition with Jupiter on May 8th, when Jupiter is directly opposite from the Sun in our sky, and closest to us.  Don’t worry about seeing Jupiter on the exact date – it’s be great for the next two month.

Watch for the Great Red Spot.  It’s smaller than in past centuries.  Make your own estimate of the hue and brightness of the Great Red Spot.

Jupiter’s four brightest moons would be visible to the unaided eye as faint stars, brighter than Uranus or Neptune.  However, they are in the glare of Jupiter and we need optical aid to separate them from the planet.  It helps to have a chart of which moon is where.  Charts are available on many web sites and in astronomy magazines.  Some observers with large telescopes and good skies will be able to show us some details on these distant worlds.

My favorite site to see the latest shots from planetary paparazzi is .  One of the best of these photographers is Christopher Go from the Philippines.  Check out his latest photos at his facebook page.  I’ve shared a few on my public page.

As Jupiter, Saturn and Mars approach opposition, the photos will get better and better.  Since Jupiter rises at sunset this month, it is highest in the sky just after midnight, but the King of the Planets is still worth taking the time to see in evening or morning skies.

Mars is highest in the sky by sunrise, but even then, it sits low in the southern sky. Its apparent size increases by one-third in May.  By the end of the month, the southern polar cap starts tilting a bit toward us and is still substantial as winter is ending in Mars’ southern hemisphere. The white polar cap compared with the reddish Martian dust may give us enough contrast to be seen in smaller telescopes.  Mars is 90 percent sunlit, noticeable in all telescopes.

Saturn tops the teapot portion of Sagittarius, low in the south at dawn.  Saturn’s rings are still opened wide toward us, rewarding the early morning observer.  Its largest moon, Titan, at magnitude +8.4, is visible in telescopes.  Iapetus, at magnitude +11, passes south of the planet on the 23rd.  The two-faced moon is on its way toward showing its more reflective side, peaking in brightness to the west of Saturn in mid-June.

While you are in northern Sagittarius, use binoculars or a telescope to check out minor planet 4Vesta at magnitude plus 6. Look for a finder chart with both Saturn and Vesta at sites like .  Open cluster M18 is just north of Vesta’s location.

The Moon hangs as if lounging in a hammock between Mars and Saturn on the 5th.

Venus dazzles in the western sky for two and a half hours after sunset through June.  Get out there just after dark in early May to see Venus positioned near the Hyades open star cluster and their honorary member, bright Aldebaran.  Best views of Venus, in the telescope, are during early twilight.  (Or, daytime, if you can find Venus when it’s highest in the sky in the early afternoon.  Remember to keep the Sun behind a solid, opaque object!)  Our evil twin planet is just starting to look a bit out of round, almost as gibbous as Mars (and nearly the same apparent size as Venus is larger, but further away).

Mercury peeks out from the Sun in the morning sky early in the month.  It doesn’t stray too far and it even harder to see than usual, rising less than an hour before the Sun.

The Eta Aquariid meteors give a strong show for southern hemisphere observers.  However, if you are up early on the 6th, be on the watch for a few long-path meteors streaking across the eastern sky from right to left. Since the radiant is near the horizon at dawn, the resulting meteors at our latitude skip sideways across the top of our atmosphere. The gibbous moon will be out that morning, making it harder to see these grains from Comet Halley. While you are out, compare the Moon and Mars, just four moon-widths apart.

The International Space Station is visible every for a few minutes of each 93-minute-long orbit after midnight for much of the month. During the last third of the month, our out-of-this-world human outpost is visible in the evening skies, as well.  There are five overflights visible on the night of May 21/22; some a bit low in our sky. That’s because the ISS is in daylight all the time for several days around the 21st.  Check NASA or for updated times and directions to look.

Ozone concentrations climbing this morning. Unhealthy for sensitive individuals forecast for the Northeastern Corridor through Maine.

May 2, 2018 – ozone concentrations are climbing this morning under bright sunshine and winds bringing pollutants up the eastern seaboard.

As of 11am this morning, one-hour average concentrations exceeded 70 parts per billion in Connecticut (state code 44 in the table below), New Jersey (34), Pennsylvania (42), Rhode Island (44), and New Hampshire (42).

ozone 1

One-hour ozone concentrations in parts per billion at state air quality sites. Time is Eastern Standard Time (add an hour for EDT).  Data from Airnowtech.

ozone concentrations are increasing.  If they stay at or above the present concentrations for eight hours or more, conditions would be unhealthy for sensitive individuals. If an average of 85ppb or more was observed over eight hours, it would be unhealthy for everyone.

Get the latest forecast at or your local air pollution agency.

The explanation for Maine’s forecast of a high ozone advisory is interesting:
Forecast Details: Updated Tuesday May 1 at 2:22 PM: Wednesday’s Air Quality Forecast for Ozone is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS for most of the state with only Northern & Downeast Coastal regions remaining in the MODERATE range while Particle pollution is GOOD statewide. [There is a regional ozone event which will include Maine on Wednesday. Ozone levels could reach the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range in the state. Ozone levels were rising in PA, NY & NJ on Tuesday. This regional load is expected to reach Maine on Wednesday.
With transport, warm temperatures, lots of sunshine and no leaves to reduce ozone levels there will be little to prevent ozone buildup. Northern Maine is forecast to have clouds and a chance of showers so what is transported in will likely end up in the Moderate range. For the Downeast coastal region winds are less conducive for ozone to build up very high.] — Webster

Emphasis added.