Archive for Astronomy

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Countdown to the Great American Solar Eclipse

The countdown has been underway here for almost five years since we first made our reservations at the RV campground near the centerline of the eclipse in Wyoming. Now, however, we’re down to the last few weeks before the big event. The Javascript countdown timer above shows the remaining time to the start of the eclipse (first lunar encroachment) in Arizona Time.

The date of the eclipse is August 21, 2017. The beginning of the eclipse is dependent on the location of the observer, but in our case is 16:22:20 UTC, The seven hour difference has been adjusted in the timer. Totality follows a bit over an hour later. The interactive eclipse map has moved to the NASA Eclipse pages:

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html

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Asterism - Moon and Jupiter

Moon and Jupiter

Damsel and I went out to the courtyard last night to observe a fairly close encounter between Jupiter and the Waxing Gibbous Moon. The conjunction was almost directly overhead of us when I took this photo. Jupiter is visible as a small dot in the lower right. Click on the image to enlarge.

We witnessed the Moon and Jupiter the evening before when they were a hand span apart at arms length and Jupiter being to the East. Last night, the pair were separated by only a thumbnail with Jupiter having moved to the west side of the Moon. I took the photo without the aid of a tripod using my Canon EOS REBEL SL1: 1/500 sec, F8, ISO 800, F/L 190mm.

The pair will be up there again tonight with the Moon appearing a bit fuller and further to the east of Jupiter. The weather has been very cooperative for evening visits to the courtyard after dusk with the 106° daytime temperature having diminished to under 90° by 8:30PM.

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