Astronomy with a minimum of terminology and technology.
By: LowerCal , 4:39 AM GMT on February 23, 2007
What is "Casual Astronomy"?
This blog entry will always be under construction. ;^) Add or comment on links here, put them in the comments of my current blog entry or send them to me by WU mail.
(NOTE: This small view does not update.
The enlarged view automatically updates.)
NOAA's Space Environment Center monitors auroral activity in real time. When the yellow edge of the oval gets close to your location it's time to check the sky.
The color all sky cam in Kiruna, Sweden
will show anyone in the world actual minute by minute real time auroral displays when it's nighttime in Kiruna. It is shut down from early spring to late summer because it doesn't get dark enough. When it is operating use The Night Sky Live to see where it's nighttime and daytime in the world, where the sun and moon are overhead and the phase of the moon. Don't mistake the moon for the sun on Kiruna's all sky cam. The cam is very sensitive and the moon can appear very bright. Something else you sometimes see on the all sky cam is Kiruna's green LIDAR laser pointed into the sky.
The color Aurora Camera in Chatanika, Alaska (at Poker Flat Research Range) updates at 5 minute intervals and is on the opposite side of the Northern Hemisphere from Kiruna, Sweden.
Eye candy and mind candy.
WU Astronomy Photos
NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day
Lunar Photo of the Day
Lowell Observatory StarTales
Current and Future Events
has the most late breaking news.
has detailed descriptions of what can be expected in the days (and nights) ahead.
Heavens-Above.com, is the best site for satellite visibility predictions. Satellite spotting and watching is fun casual astronomy.
Some passes of the International Space Station (ISS) can be very bright and impressive. The ISS passes are also interesting when a Space Transport Shuttle (STS) or Russian spacecraft is approaching, docked or departing. The ISS passes are also interesting when the ISS crew has to "put out the trash". They fill up a spent rocket booster and kick it loose to burn up in the atmosphere!
For less bright satellites it's fun to see how soon you can spot it and how long you can follow it. Younger eyes have a real advantage and a lot of fun with this!
Iridium flares can briefly become brighter than Venus and bright enough to cast a shadow at a dark location. It's fun to be able to predict the the exact location and time of their appearance.
NOTE: For Iridium flares you will need a timepiece accurate to seconds and you will need to know your latitude, longitude and elevation to high accuracy. A GPS device can meet all those needs. If a GPS device isn't available then an "atomic" watch or a good watch set to some atomic clock time will meet your timing needs and EarthTools can give your location to sufficient accuracy.
The Heavens-Above site has a "What time is it ?" link to atomic clock time.
EarthTools is slow for dialup connections. An alternative is Maporama.com where you can enter an address for anywhere in the world and get latitude and longitude. However then you'll have to estimate your elevation for Heavens-Above.
What goes up sometimes comes down!
Astronomy Related Weather
Clear Sky Clock
forecasts weather in 1 hour increments for the next 48 hours for thousands of locations in North America. I have seen it accurately forecast a 1 hour break in the clouds during an otherwise overcast timespan!
WU Visibility (Transparency) Forecast
How transparent the atmosphere is greatly affects how easy it is to see faint and fuzzy objects in the night sky.
Visualizing the Solar System and Night Sky
from places on Earth and elsewhere.
Sky & Telescope Interactive Sky Chart
Be sure to allow popups for skytonight.com before you run this. Popup windows allow you to enter your location and time zone. Set the the location and time zone for anywhere on Earth and see how the sky will look on that evening. You can then make it change by minutes, hours, days, months, or years at a time. This chart is easy to use and understand.
Wunderground.com Sky : Weather Underground
To use the WU interactive sky chart you first need to type your location in the box at the top left corner of this page (or any Weather Underground page). Press enter then scroll down to the Astronomy section that's left of center. Click on the "» View the Full Star Chart!" link near the bottom of the Astronomy section. This sky chart is a little harder to understand and use. I wouldn't recommend it for beginners but it does have some info that the S&T chart doesn't.
NASA - JPL Solar System Simulator
lets you look at the solar system from places other than the surface of the earth, for example, other planets, moons, the many spacecraft currently scattered throughout the solar system, etc.
NASA Near Earth Object Program's Orbit Simulation
is a 3D orbit visualization tool for objects that pass through the inner solar system. Here's an example using the earth threatening asteroid Apophis. Apophis will have close encounters with Earth in 2013, 2021, 2029 and 2036. Here's another example using the recent Comet McNaught.
Shadow & Substance
"A website to display popular astronomy both visually and entertainingly," has graphics and animations of selected events.
Sungazer Stereo 3D Sun Images
An image of the 2004 Geminid meteor shower
accumulated over eleven and a half hours.
An image of the 2004 Perseid meteor shower
accumulated over six hours.
Moonsighting Committee Worldwide
Create your own visitor map!
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