‘Amazing & awesome’: Alice’s Plutopalooza @ High Point Library

July 14, 2015 at 10:36 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

(First 5 photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
Pluto time, it was, at the High Point branch of the Seattle Public Library tonight, as West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador (and WSB’s Skies Over West Seattle reporter) Alice Enevoldsen convened an informational celebration of the New Horizons Pluto flyby:

Not only did Alice draw a crowd, regional media even took note – TV on site, radio earlier:

With the spacecraft due to “phone home” about midway through the two-hour event – 21 hours after the flyby itself – she had activities ready to inform and entertain the younger participants:

New Horizons indeed “phoned home,” and Alice declared the event “amazing and awesome.” Here’s how the Mission Operations Center celebration in Maryland looked:

(NASA photo by Bill Ingalls)
What now? From the NASA coverage linked above: “New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.” You’ll find updates on NASA’s website for the mission.

‘Nailbiting moment of suspense’: Alice sets the date for Pluto-flyby ‘Phone Home’ event in West Seattle

July 2, 2015 at 7:09 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

(Recent NASA images: ‘Two faces’ of Pluto)
If you were at Alice Enevoldsen‘s Summer Solstice Sunset Watch last month, you heard Alice mention a plan in the works to host an event the day the New Horizons spacecraft makes its Pluto flyby. The plan’s now in place and she’s sent the details, adding, “As far as I can tell, this is the ONLY day-of Pluto-flyby event in all of Seattle.”

What: Plutopalooza Phone Home!
When: Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 5 – 7 p.m.
Where: High Point Branch Library, 3411 SW Raymond
Who: Everyone welcome, as usual. (Themed craft activity for children approximately ages 3-14, short talk about New Horizons aimed at upper elementary through adult, and NASA TV phone home broadcast for everyone.) Hosted by “West Seattle’s Own” NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen.

At 4:49 am on July 14th, New Horizons spacecraft will make history as it flies past Pluto, after a journey of more than nine years and 3 billion miles. For much of the day the New Horizons spacecraft will be out of communication with mission control as it gathers data on Pluto and its moons.

At 6:02 pm, on that same day, the spacecraft is scheduled to “phone home” confirming that it completed the rendezvous. This is the nailbiting moment of suspense that we will watch together during the event at the High Point Branch.

While we are waiting for the signal, there will be Pluto-themed activities for kids ages 3 and up, Alice will give a short presentation on the New Horizons mission appropriate for ages 9 through adult, and will be available to interpret the broadcast events as well as answer questions.

P.S. If you want to build a model of the New Horizons craft and bring it with you to the event, I would love to see it. You can also post your West Seattle PlutoTime photos to social media, and tag me: @AlicesAstroInfo.

Library events and programs are free and everyone is welcome. Registration is not required.

Alice also writes periodic Skies Over West Seattle updates for WSB, with advance alerts and info about some of what you’ll see in the sky, including eclipses, planetary conjunctions, meteor showers, and more – they’re archived here.

Before summer’s arrival today, Solstice Park sunset watch with Alice Enevoldsen

June 21, 2015 at 3:09 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

Unlike last year, the sun skunked this year’s hello-summer sunset viewing at Solstice Park:

It sneaked behind those clouds around 8:45 pm Saturday, about 15 minutes before it would have been in view slipping behind the Olympic Mountains. But sun visibility challenges don’t daunt Alice Enevoldsen, West Seattle-residing NASA Solar System Ambassador and astronomy writer:

As she’s done 25 times now at solstices and equinoxes, Alice hosted the sunset-viewing event to mark the changing of the seasons and explain the astronomy facts of those particular dates of the year. With her in our photo above is the young assistant she chose from the audience to help those in attendance understand the movements of the earth and sun. When visible – the setting sun lines up, at the sunset closest to the solstice, with a certain point at which the park has a granite marker – but they weren’t back yet (backstory here) – the city did place explanatory signs on sticks.

The signs say the markers will be back next month. So you’ll see them for the fall equinox. Might even see the sun, which, though out of sight tonight, left some color in its wake:

Watch for Alice’s work at alicesastroinfo.com and here on WSB in her periodic Skies Over West Seattle updates – next month, she said, she’s hoping to organize a viewing event for the Pluto flyby of the New Horizons spacecraft (launched nine and a half years ago).

What’s up (there)? Skies Over West Seattle, June-July 2015 edition

June 18, 2015 at 2:34 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | Comments Off

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Venus. Venus, Venus, Venus, Venus, Venus. Oh, and also Jupiter and then Regulus, but mostly Venus. That’s what we’ve been seeing every night gleaming in the West, so bright I keep thinking it must be an airplane.


(Click image to see it full-size: Looking west from West Seattle at 10:30 pm in mid-June 2015)

Venus will continue to brighten until July 12th before slowly beginning to get dimmer. I highly recommend the article about the difference between Venus’s greatest elongation, greatest illuminated extent, and maximum brightness by Guy Ottewell. As with many things in astronomy and observing there are a number of “best” or “most” moments, and his article clearly illustrates the ones applicable to Venus this month. It continues to be a wonderful observing target for the rest of the month and next month.

EVENTS

Click to read the rest of What’s up (there)? Skies Over West Seattle, June-July 2015 edition…

What was that ‘rainbow’? Alice explains the ‘circumhorizon arc’

June 15, 2015 at 4:37 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 13 Comments


By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Today a beautiful blue-green iridescent cloud stretched straight across the sky, contrasting impressively with the white clouds behind it. As we watched, more rainbow-spectrum colors showed up in a second partial arc a little further south. The colors persisted for hours, though will be gone by the time you read this article.

(Added Tuesday: West Seattleite Don Brubeck‘s photo of how it looked @ Mt. Rainier NP)
We see many rainbow phenomena regularly here in West Seattle: Rainbows, secondary bow rainbows, supernumeraries, sun pillars, halos, heiligenschein, crepuscular (and anti-crepuscular) rays, and sundogs. This was a new one to me: The circumhorizon arc.

The circumhorizon arc is only visible when the Sun is higher than 58° in the sky. This can be true in Seattle only around noon from early May through mid-August. Like other halo-related visual effects, the arc is formed by sunlight refracting through ice crystals. As you can see in the photos, this arc is visible where there are streaky, filamental cirrus clouds. Those clouds are high enough in the atmosphere that even on hot days ice crystals can form.

(Circumhorizon arc and halo over West Seattle — with labels: © 2015 Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen)

Although this is not a common event, the circumhorizon arc is not classified as rare for our latitude. Look for it again throughout the summer around noon whenever you see cirrus-type clouds in the sky. This is the same event as a fire rainbow, but “fire rainbow” is not an accepted term, as it is misleading.

Before I go, let me mention noctilucent clouds, because the section of circumhorizon arc we saw today was almost exactly the same color, and now is the time to watch for them. Noctilucent clouds are also visible only in summer, but about 30 minutes to two and a half hours after sunset. They’re high enough in the atmosphere that they are still bathed in sunlight even as the sky darkens through twilight, giving them an ethereal blue glow in the dark sky.

We report a fair number of great new visual cloud and sky events around June. With the Sun reaching its highest altitude (nearly 66° off the horizon here) at solar noon on the summer solstice, the days and weeks around now are when we have the opportunity to see effects that require the Sun to be high.

You can read about many common sun/atmosphere effects we see in West Seattle in this Skies over West Seattle article from two years ago. I would love to discuss this effect and any others at the solstice sunset watch on Saturday.

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few notable organizations, but the suggestions and opinions put forth in this article are her own and no one else’s. You can find more about astronomy at alicesastroinfo.com.

Night owls/skywatchers: Lunar eclipse very early Saturday

April 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:18 PM: In the most recent “Skies Over West Seattle written by Alice Enevoldsen for WSB, she called tomorrow morning’s lunar eclipse the most exciting upcoming event. The excitement’s been dampened a bit by the weather – but we have some blue sky right now, so we have hope for tonight/early tomorrow, and we’re publishing a reminder. It peaks with totality at 5 am; here’s the rest of the timeline. (Photo by David Hutchinson – 2011 lunar eclipse, seen from Alki)

SATURDAY UPDATE, 4:42 AM: We’ve been working all night and caught a few glimpses – around the half-eclipsed and 3/4-eclipsed marks – just looked again, seems the clouds are winning as totality approaches in about 15 minutes.

ADDED: Thanks to Jack Miller for this photo of the “blood moon” phase:

And “Diver Laura” James shared a time lapse:

Update: Semi-soggy spring equinox sunset watch with Alice

March 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

6:26 PM: If you were wondering – yes, the spring equinox sunset watch is on, says Alice – Solstice Park, starting around 6:45 pm.

(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand)
8:32 PM: No sunset, but, as promised, Alice was there for a handful of skywatchers.

Those two were the youngest attendees – Alice’s daughter Vera (left), and Cameron.

If you’re new here, by the way, Alice (Enevoldsen) is a NASA Solar System Ambassador and, among other things promoting astronomy and sky-watching (such as writing Skies Over West Seattle for us, and publishing info at Alice’s Astro Info), has been hosting educational sunset viewings on equinox and solstice dates for going on six years! (Last year, the sun DID make a welcome-to-spring appearance.)

Tonight’s sunset, plus a reminder about equinox evening with Alice

March 16, 2015 at 8:35 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Thanks to James Bratsanos for capturing tonight’s sunset colors. His photo reminded us to mention to you that the spring equinox arrives this Friday (3:45 pm on March 20th), which means it’s season-change sunset-watch time Friday night with Alice Enevoldsen of Skies Over West Seattle, Alice’s Astro Info, and more. As she wrote in this month’s SoWS roundup of reasons to look up at night: “6:55 pm-7:55 pm — Come and watch the Spring Equinox sunset with me at Solstice Park across from Lincoln Park. The sunset itself will be around 7:10 pm. Bring your children and your parents.” (Forecast looks iffy now, but check back as it gets closer.)

Skies Over West Seattle, March 2015: Seeing stars (and planets); lunar eclipse ahead

March 8, 2015 at 4:09 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Well, that was a lovely conjunction of Mars and Venus we had last month, wasn’t it? This month continues to have beautiful planets in the sky, followed by an Equinox Sunset Watch and warming temperatures for pleasant evening stargazing.

HEY, WHAT’S THAT?

There are too many “Hey, What’s That?” options this month! You’re going to have to know which direction you’re facing, and what time of day as well.

Starting with the early pre-dawn sky for early commuters and folks on the night shift, look high in the sky. The two objects are the star Spica and the planet Saturn. Which is which? Stars twinkle, planets don’t.

Evening viewers are probably noticing Venus or Jupiter. You can’t miss them, except due to clouds or trees. Low in the West following the sunset is Venus. Jupiter is behind you when you look at Venus, halfway up the sky in the Northeast.

Did you see something else? We’ve got five or six particularly bright stars in the winter skies. Just like above, if it twinkles it is a star.

NOTABLE IN THE SKY

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, March 2015: Seeing stars (and planets); lunar eclipse ahead…

‘Skies Over West Seattle,’ special edition: Join Alice to look for the conjunction at sunset tonight

February 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

2:07 PM: In the most recent edition of Skies Over West Seattle, sky-watcher extraordinaire Alice Enevoldsen mentioned a spectacular planetary conjunction visible around sunset right now. Last night, clouds obscured it, but tonight – Mars and Venus – might be a different story, so Alice will be at the south end of the Lincoln Park shore, near the swings, 5:30-6:15 pm – more details on her Alice’s Astro Info website.

8:41 PM: Did you see it? By twilight, Venus was visible below the crescent moon, and Mars was in view – albeit faintly, if you weren’t using binoculars/telescope – alongside. Jeff Johnson shares this photo:

You’ll also see photos on Kevin Freitas‘s post about going out to sky-watch.

Skies Over West Seattle, February 2015: What not to miss

February 6, 2015 at 1:07 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | Comments Off

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

The night you need to be outside this month is February 20th, so call up Cliff Mass and ask him to arrange for clear weather that evening. Just after sunset we have a conjunction between the Moon, Mars, and Venus that isn’t to be missed, it’ll be stunning.

The next night, February 21st, Venus and Mars will be even closer in the sky. You’ll be able to easily see the pair in binoculars; use that moment to notice the difference in color between the two.

Hey, What’s That?

Unless it was the aforementioned Venus conjunction or Venus itself, which sets in the west shortly after sunset, then you’re definitely seeing Jupiter every night this month.

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, February 2015: What not to miss…

VIDEO: Missed the Asteroid 2004 BL86 flyby? See it here!

January 27, 2015 at 9:45 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

(Video: Copyright 2015, Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen)
Couldn’t find Asteroid 2004 BL86 last night, even with the info in Alice Enevoldsen‘s special edition of “Skies Over West Seattle? No worries. We have video to share, courtesy of Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen, via backyard scope: “I took one 6s-long image once a minute for 103 minutes to capture it moving across the Beehive Cluster (M44) in the SE portion of the sky. It appears at the bottom middle of the frame and moves up and left.” You might have to watch a time or two to spot it. Note that it is NOT going to look to you like a Hollywood asteroid – it’s a spot on the screen like all the other spots. We found it cool just the same. (If you prefer Vimeo, watch it there.)

Skies Over West Seattle, special edition: Asteroid & comet in range!

January 26, 2015 at 1:26 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Two special sights in the sky have sparked this edition of our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, so get ready to find out what to look for, how, and where.

(Processed photograph of Comet Q2 Lovejoy by Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen taken January 16, 2015 from near The Junction)
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Asteroid 2004 BL86 is going to be flying past the Earth on Monday night, at a distance of only three times the distance to the Moon. It will not hit us, but it will be visible from West Seattle with a telescope or steady binoculars. Clear Sky Chart is still predicting clear enough skies to look for it.

At the same time, Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy is also a beautiful telescope object this week, and will be until the Moon gets too bright.

If you don’t have a telescope, attach a pair of binoculars to a tripod or other steady object. You’ll see some neat things, definitely the comet, and perhaps the asteroid if you have very sensitive eyes.

Finding Asteroid 2004 BL86

Near-Earth asteroids move across our sky more slowly than shooting stars and satellites, but faster than the Moon. They are dim and tiny. This one will be visible in a decent backyard telescope for most of the night of January 26 to the morning of January 27.

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, special edition: Asteroid & comet in range!…

Skies Over West Seattle, December 2014: Meteors, solstice soon

December 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | Comments Off

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Watch for the Geminid meteor shower, Mars, Jupiter, Orion, and Saturn this month. The winter solstice happens this month, though our closest approach to the Sun and our latest sunrise both happen in early January.

I’ve also included things you can look for if you’re out watching the Christmas Ships next weekend or any other clear evening we happen to get, such as after the solstice Sunset Watch on Sunday, December 21st.

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, December 2014: Meteors, solstice soon…

PHOTOS: Partial solar eclipse, seen during West Seattle sunbreaks

October 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

All week long, just in case of sunbreaks or clear skies, Alice Enevoldsen has been hosting events at local libraries, leading up to today’s partial eclipse of the sun. Right now, she’s at High Point Branch Library for a viewing party, and yes, as the photos tweeted by librarian Nathalie Wargo show, some of it’s been seen!

You have to look through a safe viewer – looking directly at the sun will harm your eyes – but they’ll have something for you to use, if you didn’t make or don’t otherwise have your own. As laid out in Alice’s most recent edition of Skies Over West Seattle here on WSB, the eclipse peaks at 3 pm with the moon’s shadow covering slightly more than half the sun. HP Library, by the way, is at 35th/Raymond, and Alice promised that even if viewing was or became impossible, she’ll have an astronomy talk inside.

3 PM UPDATE: Kevin Freitas has been tweeting while the eclipse is in view:

The sun has continued to come and go. From here, the eclipse will wane, still partly visible for another hour or so.

ADDED 3:22 PM: Back to rain/sun mix. More eclipse photos:

(Copyright 2014, Jason Gift Enevoldsen)
ADDED 6:39 PM: We stopped by Alice’s viewing event for a pic of our own (that’s her in red):

And one more photo, from Trileigh Tucker:

That’s Rob Duisberg holding binoculars projecting the eclipse view.

West Seattle eclipse-watching: Stay up late tonight (or, get up early tomorrow)

October 7, 2014 at 10:03 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

Most of what you’ll see today regarding the lunar eclipse will refer to Wednesday. Technically, that’s correct, but conversationally, it’s more like “tonight” – starting after midnight. In case you missed Alice Enevoldsen‘s latest “Skies Over West Seattle” update on WSB, published here on Saturday, it’s full of helpful info if you’re interested in staying up late tonight to eclipse-watch (or maybe, getting up VERY early – the peak is at 3:25 am). The October SOWS has the schedule, and a look ahead to the partial solar eclipse later this month.

P.S. Wondering about the forecast? “Mostly clear” tonight!

Skies Over West Seattle, October 2014 edition: Two eclipses!

October 4, 2014 at 4:06 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

(Friday’s moon, photographed by Danny McMillin, shared via the WSB Flickr group)

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Eclipses! We have eclipses this month! Don’t miss them, if the clouds part: This Wednesday, early morning (October 8th), lunar, and October 23rd, solar.

Hey, what’s that?

Clouds. I’m betting you saw clouds. As the rainy windstorms of fall come in, we lose some of our night skies. We’ll get a few sparkly-clear nights in winter again, but we’re into the time of year where you take what you can get. Enjoy the way the clouds make for some amazing sunsets.

Although Saturn and Mars are both still beautiful in the evening sky and Arcturus is also visible higher in the West, Capella is probably the most striking object in tonight’s sky. It is that this star always seems to sparkle and twinkle just a bit more than most other stars.

Just before the Sun rises, you’ll be unable to miss Jupiter shining low in the East. Orion is rising a bit South of Jupiter, and Sirius will be twinkling like crazy closer to the horizon than that.

Safe Eclipse Viewing

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, October 2014 edition: Two eclipses!…

West Seattle sky-watch updates: ‘Northern Lights’ a local no-show

September 12, 2014 at 8:37 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 63 Comments

(Embed removed for technical difficulties – see map here)

Our “Skies Over West Seattle” correspondent Alice Enevoldsen says tonight brings the best chance in years of aurorae – “Northern Lights” – in our area, so now that it’s dark, we’re starting a sky watch. Above, a map Alice made overnight with suggested West Seattle-area viewing spots, if you can’t just hit the road and drive away from the city.

9:04 PM: From Alice via Twitter:

9:30 PM: Tweeted by Patrick:

10:41 PM: Hope is fading, Alice tweets:

We’ll be watching for a while longer, just in case.

12:58 AM: No miraculous appearance, so far as we can tell, combing Twitter (and elsewhere) for reports, and checking comments. (Alice tweeted about an hour ago that she’d seen some meteors, though. A clear sky always has SOMETHING worth watching.)

5:32 AM: We’ve been up all night but no sign of major Northern Lights (as commenters from all over the region were saying, too). Maybe tonight? We’ll be watching, again.

Update: Aurora or no aurora? We’re checking with Alice – who’s made a ‘where to watch’ map

September 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

You’ve probably heard about the big solar flare, and the possibility it’ll bring the “Northern Lights,” aka aurora. Since we are lucky to be able to work with expert skywatcher, Solar System Ambassador, and Skies Over West Seattle correspondent Alice Enevoldsen, we’re keeping in touch with her (and you can also find her on Twitter) – so far, the prospects aren’t clear, though the sky is. Her recommended info-source currently isn’t showing it getting this far south, but things can change, so keep checking (we will, too).

1:39 AM: If you’re interested, hope you were following along in comments – Alice will be checking again for tomorrow. And in the meantime, she’s come up with recommendations of best potential viewing spots in West Seattle, and mapped them

(embed removed for technical difficulties – follow that link to see the map)

(If you are a longtime WSB’er, you might remember Alice’s mapmaking back during the December 2008 “snowpocalypse,” years before the city finally started mapping plowed/not-plowed routes itself!)

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Looking promising for tonight, according to some numbers Alice forwarded. We’ll take a separate, more extensive look when it gets closer to nightfall.

Skies Over West Seattle, September 2014 edition: MAVEN near Mars; equinox ahead; ‘what’s that, up there?’ and more

September 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

(WSB photo: Last year’s fall-equinox sunset at Solstice Park)
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Although we still have some summer weather yet to go, I’ve started to notice the leaves begin to change, so get your cameras ready.

This month we have the fall equinox and associated Sunset Watch at Solstice Park (Monday, September 22), and we have just seen the Supermoon bringing in higher-than-usual and slightly-low tides these past two days.

Hey, what’s that?

Just before the Sun rises, you’ll be unable to miss Jupiter shining low in the East.

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, September 2014 edition: MAVEN near Mars; equinox ahead; ‘what’s that, up there?’ and more…

Skies Over West Seattle, August 2014: ‘Supermoon’ tonight, meteors this week…

August 10, 2014 at 6:38 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 8 Comments

(Saturday moonrise by Christopher Frankovich)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

It is time for the Perseid Meteor Shower… and another Supermoon! Let’s get started.

Hey, what’s that?

Mars, Spica, and Saturn — Last time I said you’d notice a pair of stars just after sunset, one of which was Mars (a planet, not a star) and the other, Spica. Tonight as you look up, Mars will have moved off to the South a bit and is now about halfway between Saturn and Spica. Toward the end of the month Mars will be even closer to Saturn, making a striking pairing of planets.

Morning people? Venus is a brilliant morning “star” this month, rising shortly before the Sun in the East. Wow. I saw it this morning for the first time this season (I am NOT a morning person. Just ask my Mom) and I thought it was an airplane it was so bright.

You may also have seen a few awe-inspiring shooting stars in the early evening or early morning. These are the earlybirds of the Perseid meteor shower, called earth grazers because of how they glance through our atmosphere making a long, bright trail.

Perseids!!!

The Perseid Meteor Shower is one of the brightest and most fun meteor showers to view, because it is on a comfortable summer night and is traditionally a fairly dense shower with lots of shooting stars (meteors).

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, August 2014: ‘Supermoon’ tonight, meteors this week……

West Seattle skygazing: ‘Supermoon’ tonight; meteors soon

August 10, 2014 at 4:19 am | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

Thanks to “Diver Laura” James for that photo of the nearly full moon, on its way to what’s likely to be another beautiful morning moonset. It’ll be another “supermoon” when it rises again tonight (Sunday) at 8:13 pm, not long before sunset (the official sun/moon rising/setting times can always be found on the WSB West Seattle Weather page). And then Monday-Tuesday, as noted in the most recent “Skies Over West Seattle” report by WSB contributor Alice Enevoldsen, watch for the Perseid meteor shower – if clouds don’t get in the way.

Skies Over West Seattle, midsummer edition: Meteors on the way

July 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Happy summer, everyone! I, like many, did not enjoy our recent heat wave. I’m Seattleite to my bones, and temperatures outside 50-80°F send me searching desperately for relief. Lucky us, hot days make for comfortable stargazing nights. You’ll often hear me advocate for the winter skies, because they’re so pristine (whenever we can see the stars through the clouds), and the long nights give you lots of things to see. The benefit to summer skies is that you don’t have to bundle up, and you’re probably thrilled to spend an hour or two with an excuse to just relax in the cool night air, and we do (believe it or not) have more clear nights in summer.

Hey, what’s that?

Mars and Spica — This pair, a star and a planet, have been giving us quite a show every night in the West as soon as it begins to get dark, around 10 pm. If you’ve seen something in the sky and wondered what it was, I’m betting it is these two. Spica is a brilliant white, and Mars has a blush of a tan or salmon color to it.

You may be inexperienced at noticing the different colors of the stars, so this is a perfect chance to push yourself a little further. Go out tonight – if we get a break in the clouds – and look at this pairing. First, just try to decide if they appear to be the same color or different colors. Then, keep observing and start thinking about what you would name those two different colors. Try looking away at some other stars and then bringing your eyes back.

Another major difference to watch for in the pair is that Spica will twinkle, and Mars will not. Planets don’t twinkle (an easy way to remember this is that the song doesn’t go “Twinkle, twinkle little planet …”).

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle, midsummer edition: Meteors on the way…

Watching summer’s first sunset at Solstice Park with Ambassador Alice

June 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

(Photo by Jeff Johnson)
If you missed watching the first sunset of summer at West Seattle’s Solstice Park on Saturday night with NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen – you can try for a similar view tonight (the earth and sun haven’t moved that much), though it’ll be minus Alice:

(This photo and next by Eric Bell)
A crowd that peaked around 100 came to the little park upslope from the tennis courts across from north Lincoln Park for what turned out to be a glorious sunset (understatement!):

The big attraction at Solstice Park, enhancing its Sound-and-mountains view, is fourfold – four pathways, each lining up with what should be the perfect sunset view on either winter or summer solstice or spring or fall equinox.

(This and all following photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
Alice asked everyone to take turns viewing via the summer-solstice-aligned path.

Then, once the sun had made its way behind the Olympic Mountains, it was time for her solstice explanation. As usual, she enlisted volunteers to help demonstrate what actually happens with the sun and earth at the solstice moment.

A second Solar System Ambassador, Dave from Lake City, offered some astronomy info too:

Here’s another gratuitous sunset shot:

And Alice shared some big news – including how thrilled she is to have an article coming up in Sky and Telescope Magazine, about stargazing with small children:

You’ll find it in the August edition, out next month. Alice also promises another of her periodic “Skies Over West Seattle” reports for WSB in July. Her own astronomy-info-filled website is at alicesastroinfo.com.

P.S. Pam at Nerd’s Eye View has published her take on Solstice Sunset View ’14 – see it here.

Skies Over West Seattle: Eclipse on the way, as stargazing-friendly weather returns

April 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” This should help. It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famed for her solstice/equinox sunset watches, among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

We’re getting into stargazing weather again, and the Sun’s been active this week, leading to tantalizing chances for aurorae – though I haven’t actually seen one. That’s not what’s most exciting about this month, though: This month we will have a total lunar eclipse, and (depending on the weather) the entire thing will be visible from West Seattle.

Lunar eclipse quick facts:


(Diagram by Fred Espenak via MrEclipse.com, licensed via Creative Commons)
Date: The night of Monday April 14, 2014 to early morning on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time: 10:58 pm-2:33 am

The Cool Part: 12:07 am-1:25 am

What is a lunar eclipse?

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle: Eclipse on the way, as stargazing-friendly weather returns…

Skies Over West Seattle: Sneak peek at what you’ll see this year

February 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” – especially on these recent clear nights? Here you go! It’s our periodic feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things.

(December 2011 lunar eclipse, photographed by David Hutchinson – more on the way!)
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

It finally cleared up a bit recently for the first time since December and got me thinking about what’s coming up for the year. So here I present for you an overview of what to watch for in 2014.

Right Now: Nova in M82

There’s another nova in our sky right now, though it is extremely difficult to see from the city, even with an amateur telescope. “Nova” classically means ‘new star,’ though nowadays we know that these so-called ‘new’ stars are just brightening of stars that were there before. This one, SN2014J, has apparently peaked in brightness, and is a telescope-only object. It’s in the galaxy M82, conveniently located off the tip of the bowl of the Big Dipper. If you plan on looking for it, leave the city.

All Year: Sun & Aurora, Saturn & the Moon

Don’t be worried, I’m not asking you to read that NASA graph in detail.

We have just passed the maximum of this 11-year solar cycle, so we can expect less and less activity on the Sun as time passes. Funny thing though, some of the biggest solar flares happen in the few months after solar max. Those amazing flares can, in turn, lead to aurorae on Earth as far south as Seattle, as well as significantly farther: even Colorado & New Mexico.

Click to read the rest of Skies Over West Seattle: Sneak peek at what you’ll see this year…

Winter’s first night begins! Alice Enevoldsen’s West Seattle solstice sunset watch

December 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm | In Skies Over West Seattle, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

The first night of winter is here – and as has happened for almost every change of seasons since fall 2009, West Seattle’s NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen (above left) was at Solstice Park for the new season’s first sunset. The sun didn’t show up this time (it did last year!), but no one minded much. Alice led a participatory demonstration, showing how the earth’s axis tilts away from the sun this time of year.

Alice writes “Skies Over West Seattle” for WSB (here’s the most recent edition) and has long kept her own informative site, Alice’s Astro Info. On the first sunset after solstice or equinox, she presides over an educational, entertaining gathering at the park, so if you haven’t gone to one yet, consider marking your calendar for the spring equinox – March 20, 2014.

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