Astronomy

Eclipse Excursion Planning

There will be an annular eclipse of the sun on October 14, 2023. We have begun the planning for a trip in order to be where we can see the ring of fire. The path forecast favors places like Monument Valley, UT and Albuquerque, NM, both of which are just a few hours from home. We will be taking the Class A Motorhome to see this eclipse, just as we did the last time on August 21, 2017.

Damsel and I are both familiar with camping in both Goulding’s RV Campground in Monument Valley and American RV Resort in Albuquerque, so we were quickly able to choose the latter, given it’s convenient location to I-40 and the amenities there with which we’re familiar. So American RV it is — on condition we can get reservations there on the dates of the event.

In the image above, we were getting set up in Casper, WY for the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Damsel is by the open side door with Tom and Amber (our friends) in the foreground. Cabela and Beethoven, our Min Pins look on as we go through our antics. Looking at these old pictures gives us the wanderlust to get this next event planned as well as getting our shakedown cruise going.

I refurbished the old countdown timer that we used to count the time left until the August 2017 eclipse to now count the time until the eclipse starts in Albuquerque in 2023. See the sidebar for Eclipse Countdown.

Five Years Ago – Total Solar Eclipse

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 took place on this date five years ago. Damsel and I (and some friends) watched the spectacle from Casper, Wyoming. We were in an RV park, along with several hundreds of other campers and spectators. Casper, a town of less than 60,000 people had grown to an estimated population of over a quarter million, not counting those outside of town limits watching the eclipse from campsites on the Platte River and elsewhere. Our campground definitely had a party atmosphere before, during and after totality.

Image above: Damsel’s capture of mid-totality – click to enlarge.

At our location, totality lasted about 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The crowd noise in the campground dropped to murmurs during totality with a collective “oooooh” sounding as the “diamond ring” appeared at the end of totality. The whole effect was phenomenal – a memory that should last until we’re gone.

There will be another total solar event during the Great American Eclipse of 2024. We sort of have a plan to be in Kerrville Texas vicinity at that time, The Good Lord willing. There will also be an annular eclipse in October next year; we have not made plans for that one yet, but we may do so after our “shakedown” cruise in the motorhome coming up soon. We’re thinking of going to the “Four Corners” area for that eclipse if we go. If we do go, maybe we’ll organize a meetup with family and friends for that event.

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.

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

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.

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 . . .

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.