The Brightest Stars

Space enthusiasts are aware of the excellent site Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) supported by NASA since 1995. This image was selected by APOD for 25 June 2019. It is the work of Tragoolchitr Jittasaiyapan in Thailand. Follow the link on his name to see many more examples of his work. This composite arranges the 25 brightest stars in true color as seen by human eyes.


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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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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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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M-87 Black Hole Details Revealed

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Wednesday 10 April 2019 was a big day for the astronomy community. Information was presented from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project revealing new details about the super-massive black hole in galaxy M-87. The intent of this post is to offer some perspective helpful to those who are not experts in this field.

Prior to the news release, I read a very comprehensive and helpful blog post by physicist Matt Strassler. His post addressed questions that were likely to be asked by the non-expert about the significance and details of the announcement. Some points he made were useful in the writing of this post.

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Sirius in the Daytime

The brightest star in the night sky is Sirius in the constellation Canis Major to the lower left of Orion. It is bright in the southeast evening sky at this time of year. Follow the three bright stars of Orion’s belt to the lower left and find Sirius.

I wondered if I could see Sirius in the daytime. On two occasions this week, I looked for Sirius with my 15x binoculars. They binoculars are heavy but steadied with my custom support. Both times I was able to see it shining brightly in bright daylight. This is a first for me.

If you are interested in trying this yourself, here are some details. Sunset is just after 7:15 pm locally. The time of viewing Sirius was about 6:15 pm CDT with very clear sky. It was at 150˚ azimuth (east is 90˚ south is 180˚) and was about 26˚ altitude. I have a small app on my Android phone called Protractor that helped determine the altitude. Give it a try.


Viewing Heavenly Bodies | 2019

🔭  Updates an earlier post to include recent changes and new information.  🔭  

Desktop planetarium software helps plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. Many products are available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A Google search yields links to many sources. Open source and free Stellarium is on my desktop computer. It can be customized to your location and has a nice look and feel. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like SkySafari. It isn’t free but is inexpensive.

Online planetarium sites are popular and offer many features. Below are highlights of a few I like. With multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail, they can help satisfy your curiosity about astronomical events. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.



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