Archive for Astronomy

Summer Solstice And Fathers’ Day June 20, 2021

Father’s Day GrillingIn 2021, Father’s Day will be celebrated on Sunday, June 20. This happens to be the same day as the summer solstice (June 20 at 11:32 P.M. Eastern Time), which makes it the perfect time to kick-off the summer season with grilling a couple of steaks. We’re in the middle of a heat-wave but we’re prepared to go outdoors and cook over the grill by virtue of having plenty of water and perhaps an adult beverage or two.

Image: Ready at the Outdoor Grill - Click on the image to enlarge.

The local sunrise for today is at 5:20 AM and the sunset will take place at 7:45 PM. The longest day at our latitude is 14 Hours and 25 Minutes. The forecast temperature at grilling time is 112° F. As I said before, we’re prepared - the summer heat is one of the reasons we moved here.

The menu today is for Beef; tenderloin steaks for today and a tri-tip roast for later in the week. The side dishes are baked beans and potato salad, both of the KETO variety, i.e. low-carb soy beans and cauliflower instead of potatoes in the salad - both taste the same as the high carb dishes they replace.

Finally, today we salute all the Dads out there and wish them a good day. We also salute our Dads again as we did last year.

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May 07, 2020 Super “Flower” Moon

Super “Flower” Moon

I put the new Canon EF 100-400mm lens on my Canon EOS REbel SL1 camera last evening to attempt to photograph the full moon at perigee. So called a “super” moon, it only appears slightly larger to the naked eye, but is around thirty thousand miles closer than when at apogee.

From EarthSky:

This year’s farthest apogee comes on March 24, 2020 (252,707 miles or 406,692 km), and the closest perigee occurs some 2 weeks later, on April 7 (221,772 miles or 356,907 km). That’s a difference of about 30,000 miles (50,000 km). Meanwhile, the moon’s mean distance (semi-major axis) from Earth is 238,855 miles (384,400 km).

There is good Lunar information at the above link with a nice photo comparison of the difference in apparent size from perigee to apogee. There is also a graphical illustration showing the lunar elliptical orbit compared to a circular orbit about the earth.

I took the above image at 8:28 PM AZ time last evening from the courtyard in front of our little house. The camera was set to Tv (shutter priority) with an exposure of i/4000 sec. The focal length was set to 400mm and the ISO was set to 6400. The lens aperture at this setting is F5.6. I also took this photo of the moon last Tuesday while it was in its waxing gibbous phase.

this photo

The moniker “Flower Moon” is based on the fact that there are flowers in bloom at this time of year. We certainly have a lot of them opening almost daily in April/May.

Update: I found out that it was also possible to resolve the planet Venus as a crescent using the new lens.

20200507-crescent-venus.jpg

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Waxing Gibbous Moon

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I had a notion this evening to grab my camera and take a photo of the waxing gibbous moon shining overhead at 85% illumination. Again, as I did taking the photo of the emerging crescent moon last week, I did not use a tripod and remote shutter release, but rather I propped myself and the camera up against one of the porch pillars out in the courtyard. I used the automatic program shutter priority along with some post-processing to get the result seen above.

The Camera Settings were:

  • Camera - Canon Rebel EOS SL1
  • Program - Shutter Priority
  • Shutter Speed Set To 1/4000 sec
  • F Stop - 5.6
  • ISO 6400
  • Lens - Canon EF 75-300 set to 300mm Focal Length

Other than shutter speed, the camera automatically picked the other settings. In the post processing, I used my IRFANVIEW utility to crop the image, to enhance the gamma setting and eliminate the chromatic aberration caused by the cheap Telephoto lens. I would really like to get a better lens, but they are somewhat cost-prohibitive for as often as I have a need for one. I do have a camera adapter for my little Matsutov-Cassegrain telescope, but that, like a bunch of other things only comes out when I am highly motivated. Maybe the motivation will come one of these nights.

After I took the photo, Damsel and I stepped out to the courtyard to enjoy a nearly overhead pass of the International Space Station. The weather is starting to cool off a bit and we wore outer garments for the first time since early spring. This evening, the temperature plummeted to the low 70s which we consider quite cool. I know, I know, it’s snowing up north, and lots of snowbirds are already in town because of it.

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Vernal Equinox

equinox.jpg

Archaeoastronomy’s Earth Clock Graphic shows Earth’s current position relative to the cusps of equinoxes, solstices and cross-quarters. As you can see, Earth is crossing through the Vernal Equinox cusp along its orbit around the sun. As of 14:58 Arizona Time, we are now officially in the spring has sprung mode.

Our early signs of spring have started. Damsel’s Flowering Plum is full of blossoms and her Daffodils are opening, no thanks to the colder late winter weather here. Wickenburg actually had three or four days of snow this winter which is highly unusual. The high temperatures were seldom above 60 degrees F. for much of February to mid March.

The rest of the xeriscape garden is also showing signs of spring, albeit later than normal. We have several beavertail cacti which all are sprouting flower and paddle buds. The Argentine Giant out front is showing flower buds and a new arm sprouting, maybe two. The other prickly pear cacti will be getting flowers later in spring. The giant saguaro out front should also be getting flowers in late spring.

I’m sure that with the cactus flowers opening and other springtime events, Damsel’s (and my) camera will capture some of it for posting here. Stay tuned . . .

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First Day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere

Solstice

Damsel and I were in the office this afternoon when I remarked that I think the winter solstice is today. As I looked up the time of the solstice on the internet I could see that winter had just begun only a little over an hour ago. As of December 20, 2018, 3:23 PM Arizona time, we are officially in the winter season.

We just took the dogs out for their last walk before it gets dark here. The temperature on the patio was still up at 68° F, although it will be falling rapidly after dark. We’re expecting a low of 46° F overnight.

The Northern Hemisphere might be getting a cooler winter this year according to arch-weather guru Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics. I read a recent article with an analysis of El Niño and La Niña and some sort of Pacific Decadal Oscillation that we might be in for some really cooler weather in 2019.

So, Damsel and I will be shopping for some warmer winter clothing in the post-Christmas sales. The good news is that the forecast isn’t so severe as to warrant snow tires or parkas or arctic gear. It’s Arizona, after all. The forecast for this weekend will be highs in the 70’s and lows in the mid 40’s, so the deep freeze isn’t here yet!

Screenshot above from the Archaeoastronomy website. Click for a (slightly) larger image.

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An Upside-Down Rainbow

Rainbow Arc

When putting the BBQ grill away in the garage late this afternoon, we noticed a couple of Sun Dogs on either side of the sun. But, when looking almost straight up, we saw the rainbow which is not actually a rainbow at all but a Circumzenithal Arc. I went back into the house and got my camera to photograph the unusual phenomenon. I stood in the shadow of the big saguaro out front to get the photo above.

The weather was very spring-like today with high thin clouds, a light breeze and a high temperature of 72 degrees. No wonder that the snowbirds are here in force. We also currently have rodeo events which brings out lots of participants and observers.

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Cassini: The Grand Finalé

Cassini Spacecraft

Early yesterday, I awoke to news that the 20-plus year mission of the Cassini Saturn-probe spacecraft has come to an end. The durable spacecraft, launched in 1997, had more than tripled its four-year scientific mission’s original timeline plan. Early on September 15, 2017, the spacecraft executed it last command to dive into the atmosphere of Saturn and disintegrate.

Since Cassini arrived on station thirteen years ago, we watched the marvelous discoveries and monitored the experiments performed with eager anticipation to see what new facts about the Saturnian system of moons, rings and the planet itself might be revealed. We were not disappointed.

So, adios to Cassini. We look forward to seeing the next explorations planned not only by NASA/JPL, but also by other commercial space exploration entities.

There is considerable information about the now completed mission at the Cassini Grand Finalé toolkit page.

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