West Seattle Blog... » Skies Over West Seattle http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:58:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 West Seattle sky-watch updates: ‘Northern Lights’ a local no-show http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/west-seattle-sky-watch-northern-lights-tonight/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/west-seattle-sky-watch-northern-lights-tonight/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 03:37:43 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285493 (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.

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Update: Aurora or no aurora? We’re checking with Alice – who’s made a ‘where to watch’ map http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/aurora-or-no-aurora-were-checking-with-alice/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/aurora-or-no-aurora-were-checking-with-alice/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 04:40:12 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285342 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle, September 2014 edition: MAVEN near Mars; equinox ahead; ‘what’s that, up there?’ and more http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/skies-over-west-seattle-september-2014-edition-maven-near-mars-equinox-ahead-whats-that-up-there-and-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/skies-over-west-seattle-september-2014-edition-maven-near-mars-equinox-ahead-whats-that-up-there-and-more/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 06:19:45 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285033 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.

Toward the beginning of the month, Venus has also been visible in the same area, but as we progress through September it will move closer to the Sun and be lost in the Sun’s glare by the end of the month. Orion is rising a bit South of Jupiter, and Sirius will be twinkling like crazy closer to the horizon than that.

Saturn and Mars are both still beautiful in the evening sky, but they’re drifting apart. Arcturus is also visible higher in the West. I also need to mention Capella near the Northern horizon. This star always seems to sparkle and twinkle just a bit more than most other stars; I’ve gotten at least three calls over the years thinking Capella was a UFO.

Other Notable Events

On September 21st, the MAVEN spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars. I’m especially excited for this one, because it was the first spacecraft launch I’ve ever seen in person, back last November. If you were following West Seattle Blog or heard my interviews on KOMO Newsradio, you might vaguely remember that launch. MAVEN is an orbiter with no cameras onboard, and it’s working to solve the mystery of Mars’s thin atmosphere.

The very next day brings the Autumnal equinox, on Monday, September 22nd.

Auroral activity has been picking up over the past few weeks, though every time I’ve looked at the maps there’s been significantly more excitement going on around the Antarctic Circle than the Arctic, and when that excitement hits it is cloudy here. So, keep your eyes peeled for more aurora warnings, but I’m not hopeful that the activity and the clear skies will align.

Supermoon

The Supermoon this past Monday was the last of five this year, but don’t worry, there will be more next year. Just like eclipses, we have between four and six Supermoons each year.

The word “Supermoon” has only been around about 30 years, and it’s been in the public eye even less than that. The concept is straightforward: We know the Moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, so that means sometimes it is closer to us, and sometimes farther away. When it is at its closest and ALSO a full moon or a new moon, it is now referred to as a Supermoon.

The size difference this causes is barely noticeable because the Moon’s orbit is almost a circle. In fact, if you plot out the orbit of the Moon, to your eye it will look like a perfect circle. Even when the Moon is a tiny bit closer, its gravity does affect the Earth: we tend to have slightly larger tides on a Supermoon than we would on an average full Moon. These tides still aren’t as much larger as the highest and lowest tides in May and June.

Events

Sunday, September 21st — MAVEN arrives at Mars.

Monday, September 22nd, 6:30 pm — Fall Equinox Sunset Watch with me at Solstice Park with special preschool activities! Bring your kids!

Did I miss something? Please add it in the comments!

The Moon

September 15 — Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky (rising in the middle of the night, setting in the early afternoon).

September 23 — New Moon: the day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but a day or so before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon as the Sun rises or sets, and a few more days out you can see the crescent Moon all day long.

October 1 — First Quarter: the first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation. (rising in the early afternoon, setting in the middle of the night)

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle, August 2014: ‘Supermoon’ tonight, meteors this week… http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/skies-over-west-seattle-august-2014-supermoon-tonight-meteors-this-week/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/skies-over-west-seattle-august-2014-supermoon-tonight-meteors-this-week/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 01:38:44 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=282179

(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).

Meteors will be visible in all parts of the sky, though the radiant is in the constellation Perseus, so they’ll seem to be coming from (radiating out of) Perseus in the low Northeastern sky. So, find yourself a nice open sky where you can see the whole sky, but especially that is clear toward the North, lie down on the ground an settle in to watch for shooting stars after midnight: you want to see as much sky as possible at once. The earthgrazers may additionally be more visible in the late evening and early morning.

I recommend Alki Beach and Hamilton Viewpoint (at the north end of California) for the best open-sky Northern view in West Seattle (though be polite if you’re asked to leave by the police officers or parks staff: Green Lake Park and most boat ramps are the only 24-hour parks within Seattle City Limits). If you can travel, get east of the city: there is a day-use boat ramp on Little Kachess Lake I like to recommend, next to Kachess Lake Campground. Little Kachess Lake is just past Snoqualmie Pass.

Supermoon

Unfortunately, the peak (night of August 12th) of the Perseids overlaps with a full moon this year (August 10th). The extra light in the sky from the Moon (a Supermoon as well) will wash out the dimmer meteors, so many astronomers are recommending trying to view the Perseid pre-and post- meteors, the “earth grazers” instead of the peak itself this year.

To see those you’ll be watching the evening and morning skies, in the days (up to weeks) before and after the peak night.

If the Moon seems particularly orange or red as it rises over the Cascades, that’s due to the smoke from the fires in Eastern Washington.

Events

Sunday night, August 10th — Supermoon, closest of five super moons in 2014

Monday night, August 11th — Perseid Meteor Shower pre-peak

Tuesday night, August 12th — Perseid Meteor Shower’s true peak. You’ll be watching the Northeast between midnight and 3 am.

August 17th — Autumn Equinox in Mars’s Northern Hemisphere! (Seasons are approximately twice as long on Mars)

August 30th, 11 am — Preschool/Toddler Astronomy Storytime at Westwood Barnes & Noble by yours truly

September 8th — ANOTHER Supermoon. This will be the 5th and final Supermoon of 2014. (if you see “September 9th” reported elsewhere, that’s because it happens at 1:30 am UTC. I translate from UTC to Pacific Time for you here.)

Monday, September 22nd, 6:30 pm — Fall Equinox (on Earth!) Sunset Watch with me at Solstice Park with special Preschool activities! Bring your kids!

Did I miss something? Please add it in the comments!

The Moon

August 10, Full Moon: The full moon rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise.

August 17, Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.August 25, New Moon: the day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but a few days before or after you’ll see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon as the Sun rises or sets.

September 2, First Quarter: The first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and volunteers for a few different 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.

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West Seattle skygazing: ‘Supermoon’ tonight; meteors soon http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/west-seattle-skygazing-supermoon-tonight-meteors-soon/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/west-seattle-skygazing-supermoon-tonight-meteors-soon/#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 11:19:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=282142

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.

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Skies Over West Seattle, midsummer edition: Meteors on the way http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/skies-over-west-seattle-midsummer-edition-meteors-on-the-way/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/skies-over-west-seattle-midsummer-edition-meteors-on-the-way/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:33:50 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=280429 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 …”).

Twinkling is caused by the movement of air in the atmosphere — just like looking across a hot grill or warm pavement. Stars are so far away, they are just a pinpoint of light, and the moving air makes them seem to blink and change colors. Planets are closer, so although they look like just a pinpoint to your eye, they are in fact close enough to be a dot or a disc on the sky. Since we’re getting light from all sides of that disc, the moving air has much less effect.

I wish I had a photo of this conjunction here; maybe if you do, you can submit yours to WSB? You won’t need a very long exposure to catch the pairing, they’re bright and just after sunset so is the sky.

If I’m wrong, and you’re looking at something that isn’t a scintillating pair of objects, your “hey, what’s that?” may be the star Arcturus, a bit higher in the sky but still in the West, or the planet Saturn just about due Southwest. Over the course of the next month, Mars will travel across the sky away from Spica to make a beautiful pairing with Saturn in August.

Morning people? Venus is a brilliant morning “star” this month, rising shortly before the Sun in the East.

Looking for More

After you’ve noticed Mars, Spica, and Saturn, cast your gaze farther up, up, up for the Summer Triangle directly overhead. I know, I can hear you saying, “Alice, pick any three stars and you have a triangle, which one am I looking for?” Right, I know. These are three of the brightest stars in tonight’s sky, but they aren’t ones I’ve already mentioned: Vega, Deneb, and Altair.

Of the three, Altair is between South and East, about halfway up the sky. You’ll know you’ve found it because it is the middle star of a line of three, and it is the brightest of that line.

Vega is even higher in the sky in the same direction, and the brightest star in a tiny triangle.

Deneb will be the main challenge because although it is bright, it is the dimmest of the three and it’s right in the middle of the Milky Way. If you’re out camping, you can use Deneb and its constellation, Cygnus, as markers for the Milky Way itself. If you’re in West Seattle proper, it would probably take a widespread power-outage to be able to identify the Milky Way. These little power blips caused by birds short-circuiting the power lines aren’t large enough to dim the city glow enough to see a deep, dark sky.

Events

August 11th — Perseid Meteor Shower pre-peak

August 12th — Perseid Meteor Shower true peak. You’ll be watching the Northeast between midnight and 3am.

August 17th — Autumn Equinox in Mars’s Northern Hemisphere! (Seasons are approximately twice as long on Mars)

Did I miss something? Please add it in the comments!

The Moon

July 26, August 25, New Moon: the day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but in a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky.

August 3, First Quarter: the first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

August 10, Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, and sets at sunrise.

August 17, Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Watching summer’s first sunset at Solstice Park with Ambassador Alice http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/watching-summers-first-sunset-at-solstice-park-with-ambassador-alice/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/watching-summers-first-sunset-at-solstice-park-with-ambassador-alice/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 19:49:54 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=277208

(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.

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Skies Over West Seattle: Eclipse on the way, as stargazing-friendly weather returns http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/skies-over-west-seattle-eclipse-on-the-way-as-stargazing-friendly-weather-returns/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/skies-over-west-seattle-eclipse-on-the-way-as-stargazing-friendly-weather-returns/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 22:46:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=269836 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?

A lunar eclipse is when the full Moon passes directly through the Earth’s shadow. Although the full Moon happens every month, lunar eclipses usually only occur twice a year. They can occur more or less often, and are not always visible from the same part of the world.

First you’ll see the edge of the Earth’s rounded shadow, crossing across the face of the Moon. When the Moon passes fully into the Earth’s shadow, some of the Sun’s light is refracted around the Earth by the atmosphere, causing the Moon to look reddish. In fact, it’s the same effect as what makes sunsets look pink, red, and orange. The Moon will be basking in a ring of sunset light for a little more than an hour.

How and where should you watch?

I recommend you check in on this eclipse periodically for two reasons. First, it’s a long time to sit and do one thing, and second, it’s quite late at night. I’ll be on Twitter as @AlicesAstroInfo to hear your observations, and celebrate the excitement and beauty with you. Do make sure you’re checking in during totality, and I recommend watching for 10-15 minutes at each of those listed contact points (when the Moon contacts the edges of the Earth’s shadow) as well.

You’ll want somewhere with a nice view of the southern sky, but the Moon will get high enough in the sky to see over many obstacles, so I recommend your backyard, or the sidewalk of a side street that runs North-South.

Hey, what’s that?

Jupiter.

Well, that’s my first guess, because it is the most brilliant this month. It will be high in the West after sunset, and will set over the course of the evening. Sirius is also there, but lower in the sky.

Low in the East after sunset are Mars and Arcturus – Mars is a bit farther South.

Rising Southeast around 10 pm-ish: Saturn – a great target for viewing through binoculars if you happen to be out. Be sure to mount your binoculars on a tripod or brace them on the porch railing. You should just be able to make out Saturn’s rings.

Just before sunrise in the East: Venus

Events:

Tuesday, April 8th – Mars is at opposition, which means that on the “race track” of the solar system, we’re lapping Mars.

Saturday, April 12th – Yuri’s Night, a global celebration of spaceflight. I’ll be hosting activities in Olympia the night before at the Hands On Children’s Museum, but there are two other parties in Seattle, including one at the Museum of Flight (that almost counts as West Seattle, right?) and you have the option to start your own!

Monday, April 14th, 11 pm-2:30 am – Total eclipse of the Moon.

Sunday, May 4th – Space Day

May 5th-11th – Astronomy Week – Museum of Flight and Pacific Science Center usually have some special events during this time

May 10th – Astronomy Day – At Pacific Science Center, our NASA-grant-funded youth development program will be hosting numerous activities for all ages. Last year it was mostly youth-planned and -led, and was fun all over the museum. This year, the youth (some native to West Seattle) are taking on even more of the work, planning new activities, and generally getting set to host an awesome time.

Did I miss something? Please add it in the comments!

The Moon:

Did you seen the Moon last week? So much Earthshine on the dark part. I love crescent moons.

April 7, May 6, First Quarter: The first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

April 14 (eclipse), May 14, Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, and sets at sunrise.

April 21, May 21, Last Quarter: The week around the last-quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.

April 28, May 28, New Moon: The day of the new moon, you won’t see the Moon at all, but in a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle: Sneak peek at what you’ll see this year http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/skies-over-west-seattle-sneak-peek-at-what-youll-see-this-year/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/skies-over-west-seattle-sneak-peek-at-what-youll-see-this-year/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 01:53:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=262937 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.

The irony is that when the storms get that big, the satellites that allow us to predict the location and magnitude of possible auroral storms are often disrupted by the solar radiation. Wait and watch for flares and aurorae for the rest of this year.

Most months this year the Moon will almost occult Saturn. Seeing an occultation of a bright object like Saturn can be exciting because the object seems to suddenly wink out. The close approaches will be cool too; the best ones are on March 21st and August 4th.

January & February: Venus

Venus was pretty amazing right at the beginning of January; it was an extremely bright crescent, with some folks in West Seattle reporting that they could almost make out the crescent shape without binoculars or a telescope. You’ll have another chance at this amazing view of Venus during the week of Valentine’s Day: February 11-15. Venus will still be a crescent and will reach its greatest brightness. Watch for it in the morning skies.

March: Mars

Somewhat appropriately, Mars becomes an evening object in March, with the potential of good viewing. March is also the month to get ready for the spring equinox sunset watch.

April: Total Lunar Eclipse

We have a total lunar eclipse to watch for in April. The eclipse begins at 9:53 pm our time on April 14th, reaches totality at 12:45 am on April 15, and completes a couple hours later at 3:37 am. As this is a total lunar eclipse, you can expect to see the Moon looking rusty red. The effect is from being in the Earth’s shadow.

April 12 is Yuri’s Night if you’re interested in hosting a 21-and-over celebration of space exploration. If you prefer all-ages events, wait until May for Astronomy Day.

May, June, & July: Good Ol’ Basic Stargazing

May 10 is Astronomy Day. Traditionally both Museum of Flight and Pacific Science Center have extra astronomy programming on this day.

Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus will all continue to be visible and very bright, and we’ll be watching the sunset for the summer solstice in June.

August: Meteors

August is your best meteor shower month with the annual appearance of the Perseids on the night of August 12 and early morning of August 13. Find a clear northern sky and start watching about midnight.

September: Spacecraft

The MAVEN spacecraft will be arriving at Mars on September 21st, and the fall equinox sunset watch will be the day after on the 22nd.

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft will have its first test flight to space at some point in September. I am hoping they make their timeline, but this is the kind of experimental flight that might suffer delays. Orion will be NASA’s next generation of spacecraft for carrying humans to space. Unlike the Space Shuttle, which was limited to Low Earth Orbit, the Orion program will have the technical capability to reach beyond the International Space Station to the Moon or nearby asteroids (yes, just like in Armageddon, but also NOT AT ALL like that because their physics was just plain wrong).

October: Eclipses and Close Approaches

October has our second chance at a lunar eclipse, starting at 1:15 am on October 8 and peaking at 3:55 am. The whole event will be over by 6:33 am.

Not only that, but on October 23 we also have a partial solar eclipse, visible from here in Seattle! You’ll need to prepare yourself to watch this safely around 2:44 pm. If you don’t own a pair of safe solar-viewing glasses, you have time to order some for a couple bucks from Rainbow Symphony. (Their website is a little rough around the edges, but I haven’t found a better selection of eclipse glasses and diffraction grating anywhere else.)

Between the two eclipses, on October 19, Comet 2013A will be passing very close to Mars. Now, normally when I say that it means you can see them near each other in the sky, but in reality they are nowhere near each other, because space has that pesky third dimension. In this case the two objects are going to be close to each other in actual space. In fact, it was only a few months ago that scientists from JPL determined that the comet would not hit Mars, just pass quite close. It won’t be a show in our night skies, but hopefully we’ll get some amazing photos back from the rovers and satellites around Mars.

November: Meteors

The Leonid meteor shower peaks just before midnight on November 17. This has potential to be a great shower some years. I haven’t heard how this one is shaping up.

December

One last sunset watch for the year, and on to 2015. Be sure to take advantage of any winter clear skies to see the crystal-clear winter stars.

Got events to add? Please comment below.

Resources:

Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar

JPL’s Space Calendar

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Winter’s first night begins! Alice Enevoldsen’s West Seattle solstice sunset watch http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/winters-first-night-begins-alice-enevoldsens-west-seattle-solstice-sunset-watch/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/winters-first-night-begins-alice-enevoldsens-west-seattle-solstice-sunset-watch/#comments Sun, 22 Dec 2013 02:55:20 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=259893

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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Skies Over West Seattle, almost-winter edition: Look, up there! http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/skies-over-west-seattle-almost-winter-edition-look-up-there/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/skies-over-west-seattle-almost-winter-edition-look-up-there/#comments Sat, 07 Dec 2013 00:51:17 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=258341 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.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Well, it has been quite a cloudy fall, so not so much to see, but as we move into winter, we get some blazingly clear skies inbetween the clouds. The colder it is, the more dazzling our skies.

Hey! What’s That?

In the Southwest just before and after sunset: Venus

High in the East a while after sunset, and climbing higher through the night: Jupiter

Rising Southeast later at night: Sirius, brightest star in the night sky. It will twinkle so much you’ll think it is an airplane flashing its lights at you.

Jupiter and Venus are ‘blindingly’ bright in the night sky this month. Venus is bright enough that you can easily see it before the Sun even sets. Its date of greatest brilliancy is tonight (December 6th). It will still be spectacular tomorrow, first night the Christmas Ships visit West Seattle. That’ll be a perfect time to stargaze, if you can handle the cold.

Comets

Ah yes, Comet ISON. As we now know, Comet ISON is not the comet of the century, even if it was highly anticipated. Not to worry, there is another comet available: Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy is just off the handle of the Big Dipper, so your best chance for seeing it will be with a clear Northern horizon. I recommend Alki. You’ll probably need binoculars, but any old pair will do.

The Pleiades and the Hyades

We’ve been noticing the Pleiades and the Hyades in the East as the skies get darker. I mentioned these open star clusters in my first Skies Over West Seattle article. They’re still some of my favorites. You can easily pick them out with your eyes: a teeny group of stars. You’ll count between five and ten stars in each group. When you look with binoculars you’ll see dozens of stars, and with a home telescope or a telescope picture from the internet you’ll see hundreds of stars in that same place.

Events

Tonight – Venus’s greatest brilliancy. Watch before and after sunset in the West on this date and near this date.

Saturday, December 21, 3:30-4:30 pm – Winter Solstice Sunset Watch at Solstice Park in West Seattle.

Got events to add? Please comment below.

The Moon

Did you see the Moon earlier this week? What a beautiful crescent. My toddler calls it a “banana Moon.”

January 1, New Moon: the day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but in a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky.

December 9, January 7, First Quarter: the first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

December 17, January 15, Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, and sets at sunrise.

December 25, January 23, Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle, September 2013 edition: ‘Fall is packed’ with Comet ISON and more http://westseattleblog.com/2013/09/skies-over-west-seattle-september-2013-edition-fall-is-packed-with-comet-ison-and-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/09/skies-over-west-seattle-september-2013-edition-fall-is-packed-with-comet-ison-and-more/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 04:39:37 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=194733 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?” Here you go! It’s our monthly feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things.

(Moon and Venus at dusk tonight; photo shared by Greg, over Weather Watch Park)

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Welcome to fall! Fall is packed: Rocket launches to the Moon and Mars (both unmanned spacecraft); Comet ISON, which is being bid as the Comet of the Century—maybe, lots of very bright stars, and a sunset watch. Whew. Read on.

Hey! What’s That?

In the W just after sunset: Venus or Saturn

High in the W a while after sunset: Arcturus in Böotes

Low in the NE after midnight: Capella

Low in the NE, rising around 2am: Jupiter

Rising in the E around 2am: Betelgeuse and Rigel in Orion

Rising SE around 4 am: Sirius, brightest star in the night sky.

During the month of September, Venus and Saturn effectively trade places. At the beginning of the month, Venus is closer to due West, with Saturn a little bit South of that. By the end of the month, Saturn is closer to due West, and Venus is just a little further South.

If you think you’ve seen a UFO, well, I’m a skeptic. Several of the “Hey What’s That” objects are objects about which I get regular UFO sighting calls. The latest call turned out to be for Rigel – a bright and beautiful first-magnitude star. It was low on the horizon, which always makes the brightest stars twinkle so much that they seem to be blinking different colors. It’s the same exact atmospheric effect that makes you see the hot air rising and wavering over a hot grill or sidewalk.

Other common “UFOs” are the sky lanterns we’ve been seeing more of in West Seattle, and the International Space Station (ISS) which is very bright. ISS is in fact so bright that it is now the third brightest object in the sky. Number one is the Sun, and two is the Moon. If you think you’ve seen ISS, it glides slowly and silently across the sky in a straight line, taking maybe one or two minutes to pass out of view. With your eyes it is a single bright spot with no more details visible than a star.

Comet ISON

The Comet of the Century might be coming. Maybe. Or maybe it will be a dud. You never can tell ahead of time with comets. The peak will be in mid-November, however bright it gets.

For a detailed chart of when to watch for ISON, Jason made one for Seattle and I color-coded it. For where to look, I’d use Sky and Telescope’s updates on Comet ISON page and their maps.

Throughout September, Comet ISON continues to be an early-morning object, and dim enough to be suitable only for people with telescopes.

September 23-25 – ISON will be within 2 degrees of Mars and 1 degree from the asteroid Eros. This will be a nice picture if done with a good camera and a stable telescope.

Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy is the absolute farthest thing from the Earth that you can see without a telescope or binoculars. If you need glasses, you’ll have to wear those to see it, but otherwise it is visible with the unaided eye, even from Seattle. It will be up all night throughout September. Use a starmap, Stellarium, or a smartphone application to help you locate the constellation of Andromeda. The galaxy is just off the edge of the constellation, and might be designated as “M31” depending on what kind of map you’re using.

It takes a little trying to see it, and it will look like a slight smudge on the sky, or maybe you’ll think there’s a bit of cloud in the way. It is so dim, and I’m always amazed by how far the light from the stars in that galaxy had to travel to reach me. The light has been travelling towards your eye for 2,500,000 years. Several actual photons from a star two-and-a-half million light years away hit your eye when you look at the Andromeda Galaxy. That is … So. Far. Away.

Events

September 22, 6:30-7:30 pm – Fall Equinox Sunset Watch at Solstice Park in West Seattle. Special activities for toddlers and preschoolers as well as a Q&A about observing Comet ISON this fall.

Got events to add? Please comment below.

The Moon

September 12, October 11, First Quarter: the first quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

September 19, October 18, Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, and sets at sunrise.

September 26, Last Quarter: the week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.

October 5, New Moon: the day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but in a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle, special edition: New star to look for http://westseattleblog.com/2013/08/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-new-star-to-look-for/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/08/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-new-star-to-look-for/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 17:02:10 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=161404 (EDITOR’S NOTE: Something new has turned up since Alice’s August edition of “Skies Over West Seattle!)


(Image © 2013 Alice & Jason Enevoldsen)

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

There is a new star this week in the tiny constellation Delphinus. It should be visible from West Seattle again tonight, but it has already begun to dim down, so by Monday you’ll likely need a pair of binoculars or a telescope to see it.

Before I explain more details, I’d like to set up your expectations. This may be the dimmest star you have ever tried to find. It won’t be the dimmest star you’ve ever seen, but I can’t think of another time that those of you who aren’t amateur astronomers will have looked for something this dim.

Above is an image I took the day it was found, that works decently well as a map of where you ought to look. You can see more images on my blog.

Finding the Nova

If you’re ready to run outside and look as soon as it gets dark tonight, first check out Universe Today or the AAVSO and read their finding charts. Then grab some binoculars if you have them. You might not need them, but they would help especially if you have any trouble at all with your eyesight.

The main barrier to seeing this object yourself is going to be knowing exactly which star is the nova, and learning to read increasingly-zoomed-in star-finder charts.

The nova is between the constellations of Delphinus and Saggita, which are two of the dimmest and smallest constellations in the sky. Luckily, they’re overlapping with the Summer Triangle – a pattern of three of the brightest stars you can see. You’ll find the Summer Triangle in the middle of the night tonight by looking straight up.

Oddly, despite how dim it is, Delphinus is an easy-to-identify constellation. It’s a cute little fish-shape in a dark part of the sky, there isn’t much near it, which helps make it identifiable.

The clouds are splotchy tonight, which means we’ll have passing chances to find the nova. Also, the Moon is pretty bright and getting brighter, so get yourself the darkest possible place to stand, and move until a tree or building blocks the Moon.

When you’re out stargazing in the dark, be sure to remain aware of your surroundings and choose safe places from which to watch. I was down in Florida this week when I went out to look for the nova at first, and I had no idea what I needed to do to be aware of the local wildlife or even what wildlife I should be careful of! I’m glad to be home where I can listen for cats, raccoons, coyotes, and the occasional opossum. They’re all smaller than me and not venomous!

What is it?

It’s been confirmed as a nova. There are several types of novae and supernovae, but a common one being discussed in relation to this event is when you have two stars orbiting each other, and a clump of gas from the larger star falls onto the smaller star. This causes a brief explosion and brightening of the smaller star, and then things settle back down.

Good luck, and have fun seeing the constellations and the Moon even if you don’t manage to spot the nova!

Alice Enevoldsen’s “Skies Over West Seattle” WSB contributions are all archived here, newest to oldest.

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Skies Over West Seattle, August 2013: Meteor shower on the way http://westseattleblog.com/2013/08/skies-over-west-seattle-august-2013-meteor-shower-on-the-way/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/08/skies-over-west-seattle-august-2013-meteor-shower-on-the-way/#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 04:47:03 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=160019 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?” Here you go! It’s our monthly feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

August might be your peak month for stargazing, depending on the time you have available. Whatever your reason for finding time to view the beautiful August skies, take advantage of it, and don’t miss the Perseid meteor shower next weekend. The only thing working against you is the late sunsets and early sunrises. First:

Hey! What’s That?

Venus – in the W just after sunset
Saturn – medium-low in the SW after sunset
Arcuturus – high in the W
Jupiter – low in the E before sunrise
Capella – low in the NE after midnight

Let’s talk about Aurorae (“Northern Lights”)

I’ve been tweeting very wishy-washy Aurora alerts over the last couple months. I wish I could be more specific for you, but the Aurora is one of those sky phenomena that is less predictable – just like comets.

The Aurora is so unpredictable is because it is caused by an interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind.

The Sun is extra-active this year because of the solar maximum that will occur this fall. When the Sun is more active, it makes the Earth’s magnetic field fluctuate more.

(“Dramatization” of the effect of the solar wind on the Earth’s magnetic field. Not to scale)
The activity in the Earth’s magnetic field is measured using the Kp number. The Kp number actually hides a fairly complicated analysis of how much the magnetic field is changing at a given time. A higher Kp number means more activity as well as activity that is farther from the poles and closer to the equator (closer to us). This implies that Aurorae are more likely, but even with very high Kp numbers the visibility of the Aurorae will vary. For Seattle we usually only have a chance at seeing Aurorae if the Kp number is 5 or above.

The Auroral oval is an image of where the Auroral activity is centered. This is simpler to understand: if there is color over Seattle then we have a chance at seeing Aurorae. If there isn’t color over Seattle we probably won’t. Still, this image is more of measure of activity in the magnetic field, and not a measure of actual Aurorae sightings.

(This is the Auroral oval from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for August 4th at 8:30 pm our time. Red is higher activity, blue is lower activity. Please go to NOAA for the most recent oval and for detailed explanation of the graphic)
When I send out an Aurora alert to you, it is because one of my sources indicates that the Kp number is predicted to be 4 or above, because the Auroral oval is somewhat vaguely overlapping with Washington State, or because I get a Geomagnetic storm alert from Space Weather.

My sources are Soft Serve News, so by extension the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, and Space Weather.

The Perseids

There’s a meteor shower coming up next weekend! You’ll want to have a clear view to the Northeast, and watch after midnight. The peak of the shower will be next Monday morning (August 12th) before 3 am. This means that you’ll go out next Sunday night (August 11th) and watch for a while.

Where should you go? Well, this time Solstice Park and Lincoln Park are not good locations because the view to the Northeast is occluded. If you’re going to stay in West Seattle, find a darker area on Alki proper (though remember that the park closes before midnight), or try Hamilton Viewpoint looking out over toward the city. West Seattle is very poorly placed for viewing the Perseids: even when you can see the Northeast, that’s where the city is. Better locations include Green Lake or driving partway across the pass to Lake Kachess.

Meteors (shooting stars) are tiny grains of sand that are burning up in our atmosphere. The biggest meteors you might see during the Perseids would probably be the size of a grapefruit, but there will be few of those.

For those of you who want more information, I’ll leave you with this: meteors are heating up due to compression heating of the atmosphere in front of them, not due to friction with the air. This is the same principle as why canned air that you might use to clean your computer gets cold as you use it.

Early Morning Sky Grouping

For those of you who rise before the Sun in the summer, and those of you who stay up until sunrise watching for the Perseids, there is a large beautiful group of bright objects in the eastern sky.

Jupiter and Mars are both in Gemini (and later Mercury if you can catch it in the glow of sunrise. Also in that area are many first magnitude stars: Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion, Capella in Auriga, as well as Castor and Pollux in Gemini itself. Lastly, the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters are just above Orion.

We usually associate these constellations with winter, because they’re behind the Sun during the summer. As we approach winter (yes, believe it: we’re on the winter-heading side of the summer solstice), these constellations will become visible for more and more of the night.

Events

August 12, 12 am-3 am (NIGHT of August 11, morning of August 12) – The Perseid meteor shower peak is in mid-August. You’ll see some shooting stars from Seattle, but the farther you can get from city lights, the more you’ll see. Face Northeast.

Got events to add? Please comment below.

The Moon

August 20, Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, and sets at sunrise.

August 28, Last Quarter: The week around the last quarter moon, it is visible in the early morning sky.

August 6, September 5, New Moon: The day of the new moon you won’t see the Moon at all, but in a few days before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon in the mid-day sky.

August 14, First Quarter: The first-quarter moon is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

Resources:

Stellarium: Free planetarium software for your home computer. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world – any time and date in history, or the future.

Clear Sky Chart: The astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloud cover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.

USNO: Dates and times of astronomical happenings.

International Dark Sky Association

Who is Alice?

Alice is many things and works and volunteers for a few different 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.

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Skies Over West Seattle update: ‘Northern Lights’ alert right now http://westseattleblog.com/2013/06/skies-over-west-seattle-update-northern-lights-alert-right-now/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/06/skies-over-west-seattle-update-northern-lights-alert-right-now/#comments Sat, 29 Jun 2013 06:30:48 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=156403

(Photo by Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen – click image for larger view)
11:30 PM: Just got word from Alice Enevoldsen, our Skies Over West Seattle correspondent, that aurora – aka “Northern Lights” – activity is happening out there right now. Alice’s advice: Look north. Let us know if you see it! Her recommended info source: softservenews.com.

12:35 AM: It faded fast, says Alice. We couldn’t see anything by the time we got to Alki to look. (But note that Alice says it’s possible again Saturday night.)

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