Archive for Astronomy

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.

Comments (2)

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.

Comments off

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.

Comments off

Great American Solar Eclipse - Totality

Totality Sequence

The eclipse last month as seen from our vantage point in Casper, WY: early, mid and late totality. The moon was moving from the upper right to the lower left in this perspective. You will note the vignette of longer wavelength light along the lower left of the first image and along the upper right of the third image. The mid eclipse image did not have much direct sunlight refracting around the limb of the moon.

When you click on the image to enlarge it, you will need to scroll both horizontally and vertically since I left Damsel’s originals at full resolution, each being a bit over 1300 pixels square. You can view the early, mid and late totality by clicking the three previous links.

The images were taken at approximately 11:54, 11:55 and 11:56 AM, on August 21, 2017, Wyoming time. Totality lasted 2 minutes and 26 seconds from our vantage point in Casper.

The next American total eclipse which will take place on April 08, 2024 will have a totality lasting over four minutes from where we currently are planning to watch near Kerrville, Texas. The duration is longer, I guess, because the Earth will be closer to aphelion and the Moon will be closer to perigee than was the case two weeks ago.

Comments off

Camping Day Five - Casper, WY

Casper, WY

We had a pretty good drive today heading from Colorado up to Wyoming. There was traffic, as one might expect when multitudes are flocking to see a rare event, but we were mostly able to drive the posted speed limits. Driving fatigue was minimal.

We pulled into camp at about 2:45 PM MDT. The place was already quite full, with only a couple of spaces that (obviously) would be filled later. Our spot is located at the end of a row closest to the road in front of the park. The next two spots do not have RVs in them but are occupied by a large group of people with canopies and tents. We drew the party animal neighbors - oh well.

We have the cameras and aux equipment to try and capture tomorrow’s event. Our friends are going to try and join us here in the campground and they have some more sophisticated cameras and equipment, so we will ask them to share.

We’ve been counting down to this for over five years. Here’s hoping and praying that it will be clear and beautiful for the totality in Casper.

Comments (2)

Summer Solstice

Solstice

Today marks the official first day of summer, although the summer weather starts sooner than that in Sonoran Arizona. We have been under the same heat wave as most of the west, except a tad warmer than a lot of places. Our temperature was 117° yesterday with cooler (only 114°) predicted for today. As a bonus, you can bank on the Greenbat Cultists calling that we are all gonna die and mankind is to blame. As DrJim points out, “we learned about this in school - it was called ’seasons.’”

Speaking of solstice, there is an interesting image on today’s APOD: a Solstice Sun Dial that spells out SOLSTICE only on this day.

The graphic above courtesy of Archaeoastronomy.com.

Comments off

Eclipse Animation

This nice animation of the August 21st Eclipse across America showed up on Astronomy Picture of the Day today. It is less than a minute in length and is a good graphic illustration of the path of totality.

The embedded video can be set to full screen for enlargement.

After the video finishes, there is another interesting video follow-up that animates the shadow of the moon as it crosses the country. You can see in detail where totality occurs with the shadow video.

Comments off

« Previous entries

-->