Iridium Flare Pass | 2017 Dec 1

The Iridium 21 satellite passed over my part of Iowa this morning before sunrise. I set the iPad Air 2 on a firm base pointed at an angle toward the NNW sky. At 6:02 am, I started the 102 sec exposure using the NightCap Camera app, same as for the ISS pass three days earlier. The satellite was going north as it entered the frame at the top. After about 30 sec, a highly reflective mirror-like antenna cast a beam of sunlight down toward me. It brightened to several times more than the planets Venus or Jupiter ever get. Then it dimmed and continued north.

Taken with NightCap Camera | ISS mode | 102 sec | click to embiggen

Another satellite passed at the same time going toward the upper left from north-to-south. It is very faintly visible to the left of the flare. According to the Heavens Above database for my area, it was either a Russian satellite, or an Ariane rocket body.


Space Station Pass | Plus Three

An email notified me of a pass over my region by the International Space Station. The large bright object is always fun to see as it crosses the sky. First visibility was at 6:15 pm in the southwest low in the tree branches at the lower right of the image. It rose higher in the southern sky toward the upper left and passed the Moon in the southeastern sky. There is disappeared as it went into the darkness of the Earth’s shadow.

I used an application on my iPad called NightCap Camera to record a time exposure of nearly 5 minutes. It has a setting designed to capture ISS passes. With the iPad pointed almost due south, it recorded more than the ISS. A passenger plane with its blinking lights moved right-to-left across the field of view starting under the edge of the roofline. A few moments later another plane moved, this time left-to-right, parallel to the first. I kept recording the image. When I examined the image later, I noticed another object had entered the frame from the top before I closed the shutter. It was probably a polar orbiting satellite. I hadn’t noticed it as it was quite dim in the sky.

Sometimes you get surprised with more than expected. I like when serendipity happens.

Click to embiggen

Venus-Mars | At Their Closest

Two days earlier I posted some photos of Venus and Mars in the pre-dawn light. The positions of Venus and Mars were getting closer each morning. October 5th was to be the day they would be closest at 1/4˚ apart. For comparison, the Moon’s diameter is only 1/2˚ wide.

Our weather forecast said it would be raining on the morning of the 5th. I assumed that previous post was going to be all I would get to share about their conjunction. Today I looked outside before 6 am and was thrilled to see a clear sky. I got the camera and tripod to capture the unexpected scene.

First is a screen capture from my planetarium software showing the planets on the 3rd and the 5th of October.

Next is my photograph of Venus and Mars at 6 am on the 3rd of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image.

Finally, my photograph of the two at 6 am on the 5th of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image. They were about half the width of a full moon apart. Mars was hard to see without the aid of binoculars. By 6:30 am, the sky was too bright to see Mars. Venus remained bright and easily seen. In fact, in clear skies, Venus is not hard to see in the daytime if you know where to look.

Solar Eclipse | Totality

Eclipse day finally arrived. Before dawn broke, we awoke to much lightning and thunder here in eastern Iowa. It seemed a bad omen. I checked the radar and forecast for central Missouri where we planned to drive. No rain there in the morning and still pretty good odds for a visible eclipse.

The phone rang about 7:30 when our daughter called. They were to meet us as we drove south so she and our two grandkids could share the experience with us. She said her daughter woke with a fever and aches and pains. It seemed another bad omen. She gave her some meds and still hoped to go. We would meet them in 2 hours and make the final decision. We met and decided to go anyway. She slept most of the 2.5 hr drive from there to Auxvasse, Missouri. Would the two bad omens spoil the day?

The weather improved as we drove farther south. The Sun came out and blue skies were peeking through the clouds. We reached the park in the tiny town of Auxvasse. It was a party! Maybe 100 people were in the park. Music was playing. Kids were on the playground equipment. We opened our picnic food. It noticeably darkened as it neared 1 pm.

Totality Approached

We watched through our eclipse glasses to keep track of the progress of the Moon across the Sun. A minute before totality I began to record this video. Next to me was Melanie and our 6 yr old grandson. I love his commentary. Notice how dark it got.

Show me more…

Solar Eclipse | Totality Minus 3 Days

The Moon is slowly making its way to the east for its date with the Sun. Today is 3 days before eclipse. At 5:58 am, well before sunrise, the waning crescent was high in the eastern sky not far from Venus. Our plan is to drive south into central Missouri with our daughter and two grandchildren. It will be fun to share this unique experience with them. News reports show traffic is already a problem in some areas as people position themselves for their best views. It should not be an issue for us.