Archive for Astronomy

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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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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