Casual Astronomy, Spaceflight News and Lower California Weather

Lunatic Special!

By: LowerCal, 6:56 AM GMT on March 25, 2007

May 02
See all 24 Full Moons of the last two years in a wild two second animation.

A commentary on the phenomena demonstrated in the animation is at SpaceWeather.com for May 02 2007.


***** Previous Dates

***** March 24 Late Night Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes are 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 for tomorrow (Sunday) night. The north central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity tomorrow (Sunday) night. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


***** March 25 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the high latitudes will increase to 40% on Monday night.


March 26
The Moon visits the Gemini twins. The two bright stars near the Moon are the heads of the twins and bear their names, Castor and Pollux. The Moon is closest to Pollux. The feet of the twins are toward the southwest.


March 27
The Moon visits a mysterious and seemingly dangerous bunch. You will need binoculars to see them.

Did you see them? If you didn't get to see the Moon's "bad company" look here. If you're wondering what they were (and why they were "bad company") look here. (Also see my, "Oops!" comment.)


March 28
The Moon visits Saturn, the brightest object near the moon. Depending on your binoculars and how steady they are you might detect Saturn's oval outline. (A binocular tripod adapter is an inexpensive item at many camera stores and online.)


March 29
The Moon visits the heart of the Leo the lion, Regulus the bright star nearest the moon. Regulus is the dot at the bottom of pattern of stars that look like a backward question mark. That pattern is about as wide as your hand at arms length. The pattern is the mane and chest of the lion. The lions haunches are downward toward the eastern horizon.


***** March 30 Afternoon Update

There's a possibility of increased chances for auroral activity on Sunday night. I'll update with more info tomorrow afternoon.


***** March 31 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes are 1 in 3 for Sunday night. The north central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity Sunday night. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


***** April 1 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes have increased to better than 1 in 3 for Sunday night. Chances remain that high for Monday night also.


***** April 3 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid latitudes have dropped to ordinary levels for tonight (Tuesday night) but do remain at better than 1 in 3 for high latitudes.


***** April 3 Late Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes have dropped.


April 8-15
Photo Ops and Binocular and Naked Eye Sights.
Venus will be within the same binocular field (half a handwidth) as the Pleiades star cluster (aka the Seven Sisters). The difference in brightness should not be too much for the casual photographer to get a good image.


April 17
Not So Casual Astronomy - Very Few Ever Spot a Crescent this Thin
It may possible to sight an extremely thin crescent Moon from the western US. A flat horizon free of obstructions, clouds and haze will be necessary. Also binoculars will almost certainly be needed just to spot the moon to begin with. On the West Coast the Moon will be about 15 hours old and 1% illuminated. The Moon will set in roughly the same area as the Sun. On the West Coast the Moon will set about 1/2 hour after the Sun. Sightings will be slightly less difficult farther west, Alaska and Hawaii for instance. Across the dateline this event will occur on the evening of April 18.


***** April 18 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes have increased to about 1 in 3 for Thursday night. The north central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity Thursday night. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


April 19
Photo Op and Binocular and Naked Eye Sight.
A thin crescent Moon will be positioned below Venus and above the Pleiades star cluster. A very interesting article on many subtleties surrounding this event is Moon Meets Venus.


April 20
The crescent Moon will be above Venus this evening.


April 21
Astronomy Day 2007
Somewhere near you a planetarium, museum, club or other organization will probably be holding a "public is invited" event.


April 22 (early morning)
Not So Casual Astronomy - Do You Feel Lucky?
In the hours before dawn (the 22nd & 23rd) you can probably count on seeing 10 meteors per hour under dark country skies from the Lyrid meteor shower. However, in 1982 there was a surge to 90 per hour over the US. The odds of seeing such a surge this year might be better than winning the lottery. ;^)


April 22
The Moon visits the Gemini twins again. The two bright stars near the Moon are the heads of the twins and bear their names, Castor and Pollux. This time it forms a triangle with the two stars and is located where they put their arms on each others shoulders. The feet of the twins are downward toward the western horizon.


April 23 (early morning)
Not So Casual Astronomy
The Lyrid meteor shower resumes in the hours before dawn - see April 22 (early morning).


April 24
The Moon visits Saturn again, the brightest object near the moon. Depending on your binoculars and how steady they are you might detect Saturn's oval outline. Did you get your binocular tripod adapter yet? ;^) (A binocular tripod adapter is an inexpensive item at many camera stores and online.)


April 25
The Moon visits the heart of the Leo the lion again, Regulus the bright star nearest the moon. Regulus is the dot at the bottom of pattern of stars that look like a backward question mark. That pattern is about as wide as your hand at arms length. The pattern is the mane and chest of the lion. The lions haunches are downward toward the eastern horizon.


***** April 27 Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes are approximately 1 in 3 for tonight. The north central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


***** April 27 Later Afternoon Update

Wow! The chances of auroral activity were upped to nearly 1 in 2 for for the mid and high latitudes tonight. It might be worthwhile for people a little farther south to monitor things also. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry. (The aurora cam in Sweden appears to be temporarily down.)

Chances of activity tomorrow night are forecast to drop to 1 in 3.


***** April 28 Late Afternoon Update

Chances of auroral activity for tonight were not changed from 1 in 3. The far northern central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry. (The aurora cam in Sweden is still stuck on a daytime image.)

big dipper by patcaribou Saturday April 28, 2007


***** April 29 Early Morning Update

Doh! I think the "problem" with the aurora cam in Kiruna Sweden might be that they currently only have a couple hours of darkness and it doesn't even get pitch dark at all. We'll have to wait until next autumn to see auroras that far north. :^] I'll be looking for a sky cam in the far Southern Hemisphere. In the meantime here's just one of some recently posted WU photos of the southern lights.

Aurora Australis by stevoss


***** April 29 Late Afternoon Update

It gets even better. I fired off a couple of emails to Kiruna, Sweden before I had my, "Doh!" realization. The reply was very gracious.

Thanks for informing me!

... writes:
> I frequently enjoy watching it but the image for the Kiruna All-Sky camera
> http://www.irf.se/allsky/rtascirf.php seems to be stuck at UTC: 2007-04-27
> 01:55:00 now.

This is correct, it is closed for the season due to bright nights
(aka. midnight sun) that make auroral observations rather difficult.

It will resume operation as nights becomes dark enough in the end of
August.

Best wishes
...


I've found some Antarctic webcams but none devoted to the sky. If I'm able to catch a glimpse of the aurora australis in any of them I'll add them to the aurora cam list.

For tonight ...
the chances of auroral activity for the mid and high latitudes tonight are 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 respectively. Alaska, Canada and northern Scandanavia should be alert to the possibility ... but no place so far north that it doesn't get dark. ;^) Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


April 30
The Moon visits the bright star Spica. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the virgin. The rest of the stars in Virgo do not form a pattern that is easy to pick out so I won't try to describe it. Once you know where Spica is (it will be in the same place at the same time on succeeding nights) take a look at it when the Moon is not so close by and see what color you would say it is.


May 01
Posted By: sp34n119w at 11:50 AM PDT on May 01, 2007.
From the Wikipedia article on Beltane:
Beltane is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun's progress between the vernal equinox and summer solstice. Since the Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is possible that the holiday was celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. The astronomical date for this midpoint is closer to May 5 or May 7, but this can vary from year to year.[6]





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Updated: 4:24 PM GMT on June 08, 2007

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Evening Photo Ops, Very Few People Have Ever Seen One Thinner, Partial Solar Eclipse

By: LowerCal, 2:53 AM GMT on March 17, 2007


Moon and Venus by tomruen


the moon and venus by carcol98

Photo Ops of the Crescent Moon Near Venus

The following two evenings, March 20 and 21, a thin crescent Moon will be just below then just above Venus in the west.



Crescent Moon rising over Pikes Peak by chikadee

Spotting a Very Thin Moon

Few people have spotted the Moon less than 24 hours after New Moon. From North America on the evening of March 19 between sunset and moonset you may be able to spot a very thin crescent Moon close to the western horizon. On the West Coast the Moon will be about 24 hours old and 2% illuminated. In the Antilles and eastern Canada the Moon will be about 20 hours old and harder to spot with only 1% illuminated.

Farther south (the Antilles and Central America) the time between sunset and moonset will be shorter and the Moon will be almost directly below Venus. Farther north the Moon will appear farther toward the lower right of Venus.


Partial Solar Eclipse

Earlier on March 19 and in eastern Asia and parts of Alaska people will be able to see an even younger Moon. The Moon won't be illuminated at all but will be blocking some of the Sun's disk in a partial solar eclipse.
Here's a good animation of where, when and how much eclipse will be visible and a NASA map - Partial Solar Eclipse 2007 March 19.




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Updated: 8:51 AM GMT on March 21, 2007

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Meteor Showers on Your Calendar?

By: LowerCal, 2:31 AM GMT on March 11, 2007

What is "Casual Astronomy"?
Great Astronomy Links


***** March 13 Afternoon Update

I made a brief update to What is "Casual Astronomy"? and added a link for 3D Sun images to Great Astronomy Links.


***** March 12 Evening Update

(Updates in bold)

Chances of auroral activity for the high and mid latitudes have jumped to at least 1 in 3 for tonight. The north central US, Canada, Alaska and far northern Europe should be alert to the possibility of auroral activity tonight. Links for monitoring auroral activity for everyone are near the top of the Great Astronomy Links blog entry.


***** Original Entry


image credit: NASA MSFC

Meteor Showers

I've listed the two best meteor showers for this year. These are the two showers that have the highest maximum rates, each of them over one per minute under dark country skies. Luckily this year the light of the moon won't interfere with either of them.

Following is a viewing schedule for each each shower. Good viewing times are when you can see 1/2 the maximum hourly rate or more.

The viewing times vary according to how far north or south you are. For each shower I've made schedules for three locations at latitudes of about 50N (Seattle), 30N (New Orleans) and 10N (Trinidad).


Night of August 12/13
Perseids - Maximum hourly rate in dark country skies about 100 per hour.
image of the 2004 Perseid meteor shower accumulated over six hours

From Seattle you can see Perseid meteors the entire night of August 12/13.
Best time is the hours before dawn on the 13th.
Some meteors visible before end of dusk.
10:15 pm (End of Dusk) Meteors visible at nearly 1/2 the maximum rate.
03:45 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at near the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.

From New Orleans you can see Perseid meteors the entire night of August 12/13.
Best time is the hours before dawn on the 13th.
09:15 pm (End of Dusk) Occasional meteors visible.
01:15 am Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
05:00 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at greater than 1/2 the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.

From Trinidad you can see Perseid meteors after 10:45 pm on the night of August 12/13.
Best time the hours before dawn on the 13th.
10:45 pm Occasional meteors visible.
02:15 am Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
04:45 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at near the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.


Night of December 13/14
Geminids - Maximum hourly rate in dark country skies 120 per hour.
image of the 2004 Geminid meteor shower accumulated over eleven and a half hours

From Seattle you can see Geminid meteors the entire night of December 13/14.
Best time is the hours just after midnight.
06:00 pm (End of Dusk) Occasional meteors visible.
08:15 pm Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
12:00-03:30 am Meteors visible at near the maximum rate.
05:45 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at greater than 1/2 the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.

From New Orleans you can see Geminid meteors the entire night of December 13/14.
Best time is the hours just after midnight.
06:30 pm (End of Dusk) Occasional meteors visible.
09:00 pm Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
12:00-04:00 am Meteors visible at near the maximum rate.
05:15 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at greater than 1/2 the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.

From Trinidad you can see Geminid meteors after 7:45 pm on the night of December 13/14.
Best time is the hours 01:00-03:00 am of the 14th.
07:00 pm (End of Dusk)
07:45 pm Occasional meteors visible.
10:00 pm Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
01:00-03:00 am Meteors visible at near the maximum rate.
05:00 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at greater than 1/2 the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.


For Better Viewing

Find a Dark Location - A dark country location without "security" lights is best. If that's not convenient try to find a location where you can't see any lights or lighted surfaces. A nearby park or maybe even your backyard would qualify. On a beach facing the water could be a good alternative.

Where to Look - Meteors can appear in any part of the sky. To see the most meteors face the darkest part of your sky and look at least 45 above the horizon.

Be Comfortable - A reclining chair will keep you from getting a stiff neck and tired feet. A sleeping bag will keep you warm. (Even in the summertime you can get chilly at night if you are just lying still.)


More Information

An easy to read introduction to meteors with an interesting summary of these and other showers is Astronomy - Meteors and meteor showers - Francis Reddy.

The primary sources of most of what you'll read about meteor showers are these two sites
The American Meteor Society
The International Meteor Organinzation


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Updated: 11:15 PM GMT on March 13, 2007

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