Saturn Moon Jupiter | 5 Nights

It is rare to have five consecutive nights of clear skies for star gazing. And, even more rare when those nights coincide with a special event I hope to photograph. The gods must have looked favorably on me. It started on 11 July 2019 with this view to the south-southeast at 9:44pm CDT. Far lower left was Saturn emerging from behind the bushes. Jupiter was proud above the trees. The overexposed Moon hovered at the right. I photographed this scene at 9:44pm over the course of the next four nights. The Moon tracked down to the left. Click for a better view.

ISO 800, Exposure 1 sec | Click to embiggen.

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Metop-A Flare & Fireflies

I photographed a satellite flare the evening of 10 June 2019. As the exposure was being recorded, a low flying airplane moved through the frame with lights blinking . It was fun to see. I had another opportunity to photograph a flare on 7 July. This time something else flew through the frame with lights blinking.

First, what I expected to see in shown in this chart from CalSky. The site emails me with alerts about coming events such as ISS passes or satellite flares. The field of view is toward the north and pointing almost straight up. The North Star, Polaris, is not visible but just off the chart at the bottom. The Big Dipper is at the left with the two pointer stars of the dipper pointing to Polaris. Satellite Metop-A was to pass through this field at a specific time. A reflective panel on the weather satellite was to direct a beam of sunlight down to my location for a few seconds. The grey circles show the pattern of bright-to-dark of the beam. It was to last a few seconds.

As the time of the pass neared, I set my iPad so it was pointed north and tilted up above Polaris. I opened the NightCap app and set it for a long exposure. I watched the sky during the 212 sec exposure and never saw the satellite flare. It must have been more dim than predicted. I went inside to see if anything was visible on the image.

The Big Dipper was easily visible. Short star trails were obvious during the 2.5 minute exposure. The flare was barely visible so I enhanced it with software (top center). Also visible were a few trails and spots of light that didn’t fit the pattern of the stars. Those were fireflies. Two of them were fairly close to the iPad and left bright long streaks (small squares). One was far away and blinked several times as it made a looping pattern (lower right). Click the image for a bigger view.

Total Solar Eclipse | GOES-West View

A total solar eclipse took place on 2 July 2019. It was visible in the South Pacific and the southern tip of South America. The eclipse was imaged by the NOAA GOES-West weather satellite stationed over the equator above the Pacific Ocean. The video plays the eclipse 3x.

Dark areas on the globe are nighttime. The shadow of the Moon appears at the sunrise night-to-day boundary in the South Pacific. It moves east toward the southern tip of South America. It disappears at the sunset day-to-night boundary.

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Renewable Energies Status Report

Introduction

The Renewables 2019 Global Status Report (GSR 2019) is in its 15th year. This report by the coalition called REN21 supports the objective to accelerate the development of renewable energy and decrease fossil fuel use globally. REN21 gathers large bodies of renewable energy data to give a clear picture of what the industries are doing, where they are headed, and what policies guide them. The full report linked above is lengthy and comprehensive with numerous supporting charts and data. My shorter summary follows.


Renewable power generation is here to stay. Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind are now major contributors in the power sector. A growing number of countries generate over 20% of their electricity with PV and wind. Bolder energy policies are needed to make these systems sustainable.

The heating, cooling, and transport sectors need stronger policies to supply cleaner air and energy security for users. Globally, these sectors historically rely on fossil fuels which are heavily subsidized in many countries. In addition, policy efforts focused on these sectors has been insufficient compared to the power sector. The report shows the need to create fairer competition, letting renewable energies thrive in their markets. Only on a level playing field can renewables displace carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Many cities have adopted the most ambitious goals for renewables around the world. In many instances they exceed national and state/provincial goals. It is a growing trend.

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Mercury Mars Conjunction | June 2019

I like to watch movements of the planets which bring them into close encounters, or conjunctions. Some conjunctions are at a time and position in the sky so images taken over a few days can show their movements. Such was the case June 2019. A big challenge to getting well-timed images is cloud cover. We have had too much of it.

This image is a composite of three evenings of images looking west-northwest at 9:30pm. The camera was on a tripod at the same spot framing two light poles. I cut and pasted the locations of Mercury and Mars from the images taken on June 7 and June 20 onto this image taken on June 11. The dates for each are labeled. Click here or on the image to embiggen in a separate tab.

Note that Mercury, in yellow highlight, moved toward the upper left between June 7 and 11. It moved farther to the upper left by June 20. Mars, in white, moved down to the right between June 7 and 11. It continued down to the right by June 20. I hoped to image the two planets on June 17 or 18 when they appeared very close together, the width of a full moon. But clouds happened.

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Carbon Dioxide | Record Level Again

Marit Jentoft-Nilsen and Robert Simmon

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has been monitored since 1958 at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii. Values cycle up and down due to the amount of green vegetation available to convert CO2 to O2 by photosynthesis. Plants of the northern hemisphere reach maturity in June-August and reduce the level of CO2 from the previous month. Decomposition and respiration returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in the fall and winter. This is known as the fast carbon cycle. The carbon cycle of earth is discussed fully here.

The mean value of CO2 for May 2019 set the highest level in 61 yrs. This chart shows the monthly values plotted for the recent 5 years.

The full record for the Mauna Loa Observatory clearly shows the seasonal and long-term trends. The long-term rate is increasing evidenced by the greater steepness of the plot. More charts and analysis are available at this link.

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Metop-C Flare & Airplane

If you have followed my blog long enough, you might recall that I like to photograph Iridium flares. Link to examples. The constellation of 66 communications satellites provides a worldwide phone system. I get email notices when a flare, sunlight reflecting off an antenna, is visible at my location.

Recently, I have received notices about flares from three weather satellites of the European Union (EUMETSAT). They are known as Metop A, B, and C. Their polar orbits and altitude allow weather to be monitored continuously. Antennae sometimes reflect bright sunlight down to Earth causing a flare. I was notified of one at 9:54pm local time on 9 Jun 2019.

Using the NightCap app on my iPad, I set it on the sidewalk, angled it toward the correct part of the sky and let it capture a time exposure for a couple of minutes. A small plane flew over at low altitude just after I started the exposure. Right after that, the Metop-C satellite passed over leaving a faint flare trail. Both were going north, lower left. Notice the handle of the Big Dipper drawn in the top left. The two pointer stars of the dipper are not visible. I like when serendipity happens.