Crescent of Venus

Evening views of Venus have been beautiful. The planet is passing us in orbit and by the end of May will be hidden in the glare of the Sun. It will emerge again in June but as a morning object.

Last evening was clear and cold, providing a perfect view of Venus. With the camera mounted on a tripod and fully zoomed, the crescent was obvious. A small telescope or steadied binoculars will work, too. Give it a try. Your evening opportunities are waning.

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS | 1/500s | ISO=400 | 9:21pm

Annular Eclipse | Sri Lanka | 26Dec2019

A solar eclipse took place on 26 Dec 2019 visible from Saudi Arabia to Guam, crossing India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. It took place during the night of Christmas for those of us in the U.S. I stayed up to watch it online a little before 10 pm.

Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC

The Astronomical Institute in Sri Lanka webcast the eclipse the entire duration. Their video is here. Annularity begins just before the 2 hour 5 minute mark. I selected the portion of their video showing the beginning to the end of annularity and sped it up by 4x.

Sunrises | Late August to Winter Solstice

I like long exposure photographs called solargraphs. Photo-sensitive paper is put inside a light-tight container. A pinhole in the container allows an image to be formed on the paper after a very long time. My first attempts were described here. If the Sun shines into the pinhole, it traces a bright line across the paper as in this day-long exposure.

Everyday the Earth moves some distance around the Sun in its orbit, shifting the position of the Sun in the sky. The Sun traces in a solargraph also shift a little each day. Our front window faces east toward sunrise. I exposed a solargraph to those sunrises with hopes of seeing the Sun’s movement toward the south over a long period of time.

Show me more…

Annular Solar Eclipse | 26 Dec 2019

A solar eclipse will occur on 26 Dec 2019 visible from Saudi Arabia to Guam. Because of the Moon’s distance from Earth, it will not quite completely cover the Sun. The result shows a ring of sunlight, or annulus, for those viewing in the centerline. The map below shows the narrow centerline in red. Those people in a wide region farther from the centerline will see a partial covering of the Sun. Follow this link to Eclipse Portal for more specific information on the track through different regions and cities.

For those of us in the Americas, the event takes place at night and won’t be visible. It occurs on Wednesday, December 25th, starting at 7 PM PST | 10 PM EST | 03:00UTC (26th).

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/

I have no doubt there will be opportunities to view online. Sites will have solar-filtered telescopes with tracking capability. Here is one such example recorded in 2012.

Mercury Transit Views | 11 Nov 2019

My hopes were high to be able to see Mercury during transit with my own optical equipment. But, the weather didn’t cooperate. Our morning was cloudy as 2″ of snowfall was ending. A few moments of sunshine came as the transit ended. But, efforts to get a photo failed. Instead, I visited the space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory to watch the event. They put on a great show at their dedicated transit site. The images and videos are archived there and can be visited any time.

Here is a sample. Watch the planet Mercury cross from left to right during the 5.5hr event. It is very small. This video and all images in this post are “Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.”

Perhaps you wondered why the Sun looked an odd color and appearance. That is because of the wavelength of light used. SDO simultaneously images the Sun in 10 wavelengths. It takes images in 10 wavelengths every 10 seconds. Those are stitched together to show the dynamic activity of the Sun. For example…

The transit was tracked as it started (ingress) in the multiple wavelengths below. Each wavelength is associated with different temperatures and energies at the Sun’s surface. They are colorized to make them easily distinguished from the others. SDO also tracked Mercury in a magnified view as it made its way across and also at the end of transit (egress).

“Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.”

As the transit unfolded, I captured short videos in the different wavelengths as Mercury was tracked. These videos were stitched together into a smooth transition from one color to the next.

The next transit of Mercury will be in 2032. The orbit of the planet is tilted with respect to our orbit and prevents a transit alignment for quite a while. Don’t hold out hopes for the next Venus transit. It will not occur until 2117.