West Seattle Blog... » Skies Over West Seattle http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Tue, 28 Apr 2015 02:25:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Night owls/skywatchers: Lunar eclipse very early Saturday http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/night-owlsskywatchers-lunar-eclipse-very-early-saturday/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/night-owlsskywatchers-lunar-eclipse-very-early-saturday/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 23:18:03 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=306063 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:

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/04/night-owlsskywatchers-lunar-eclipse-very-early-saturday/feed/ 15
Update: Semi-soggy spring equinox sunset watch with Alice http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/spring-equinox-sunset-watch-still-on-despite-rain/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/spring-equinox-sunset-watch-still-on-despite-rain/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 01:26:32 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=304535 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.)

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/spring-equinox-sunset-watch-still-on-despite-rain/feed/ 4
Tonight’s sunset, plus a reminder about equinox evening with Alice http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/tonights-sunset-plus-a-reminder-about-equinox-evening-with-alice/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/tonights-sunset-plus-a-reminder-about-equinox-evening-with-alice/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 03:35:18 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=304124

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.)

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/tonights-sunset-plus-a-reminder-about-equinox-evening-with-alice/feed/ 0
Skies Over West Seattle, March 2015: Seeing stars (and planets); lunar eclipse ahead http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/skies-over-west-seattle-march-2015-seeing-stars-and-planets-lunar-eclipse-ahead/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/skies-over-west-seattle-march-2015-seeing-stars-and-planets-lunar-eclipse-ahead/#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 23:09:49 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=303251 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

Of things you should write on your calendar, the most exciting is next month’s lunar eclipse on April 4th. It’s a morning eclipse, on a Saturday. It’ll make for some pretty photos setting, red, over the Olympics if the weather cooperates, but it does involve getting up early. I recommend enjoying it, then a nice breakfast and back to bed for a leisurely weekend morning nap.

UFOs

I love looking at the sky with you, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning its patterns and identifying objects. That’s why I have the “Hey what’s that?” section above — hearing your short descriptions and figuring out what you saw is fun.

If you call me with a UFO sighting, I’m the person who is going to try to figure out which object it is in the sky. I’m not the person who is going to tell you that you found aliens. I’ll break down the way I help you identify the object into a flow chart.

Is it moving?

a. No (or maybe, but so slowly that you can only tell it moved if you check back in on it 30 minutes later)

i. Is it twinkling, blinking, or flashing different colors?

1. Yes: it’s a star

2. No: it’s a planet or possibly a comet if there’s a good comet visible that day. It might also be a deep sky object, but those are usually noticed by amateur astronomers.

b. Yes

i. Did it go by fast and now it is gone?

1. That was a meteor, a shooting star — yes, even if it was green or exploded.

i. Occasionally these are satellites or space junk reentering our atmosphere, but those often last a little bit longer and or move more slowly across the sky than meteors.

ii. Did it travel quickly across the sky? Did it disappear only as it went behind a cloud or over the horizon?

1. Airplane.

iii. Did it move sedately across the sky, steadily and not exactly “slow” but not really “fast” either?

1. A satellite in orbit around the Earth. The space station and rockets are both satellites in this sense.

iv. Was it moving oddly? Like you really have no idea or can’t describe it? These are the things that do that:

1. Sky Lantern or other balloon-type object

2. Helicopter

3. Goodyear blimp

Of course I don’t know all the answers*, and of course I didn’t see what you saw, but the list of objects above have been the answer to 100% of the “Hey, what’s that?” questions I’ve gotten over the years, so it’s a pretty solid checklist.

EVENTS

Sunday, March 8th — Daylight Saving Time began. (Did you set your clock forward?) The astronomer’s view of daylight savings is simple: “Argh.” We should all just use standard Universal Time, no more time zones, no more daylight savings. Makes the math much easier, but I don’t think we astronomers are going to win this one.

Friday, March 20th, 3:45 pm — Spring Equinox moment

Friday, March 20th, 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.

Friday, March 20th — Supermoon: This is a New Moon Supermoon, so there’s nothing to see.

Saturday, April 4th, 2:01 am-6:51 am — Morning Lunar Eclipse begins at 2:01 am and ends after the Moon sets. Moonset is at 6:51 am.

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

THE MOON

March 13 — 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).

March 20 — 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.

March 27 — 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).

April 4 — Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, sets at sunrise, and is visible all 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

* P.S. Yes, I certainly do hope there are Vulcans out there somewhere, and I expect there is alien life elsewhere in the Universe. Unfortunately, my understanding of physics says that we’ll never meet alien beings because the distances are much too large. Live Long and Prosper, everyone.

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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/03/skies-over-west-seattle-march-2015-seeing-stars-and-planets-lunar-eclipse-ahead/feed/ 5
‘Skies Over West Seattle,’ special edition: Join Alice to look for the conjunction at sunset tonight http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-join-alice-to-look-for-the-conjunction-at-sunset-tonight/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-join-alice-to-look-for-the-conjunction-at-sunset-tonight/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 22:07:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=301695 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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-join-alice-to-look-for-the-conjunction-at-sunset-tonight/feed/ 9
Skies Over West Seattle, February 2015: What not to miss http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-february-2015-what-not-to-miss/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-february-2015-what-not-to-miss/#comments Fri, 06 Feb 2015 09:07:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=300281 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.

Jupiter is up all night and high in the sky, strikingly bright. I’ve already caught myself wondering if it’s a planet or an airplane, because of its brightness.

This time of year, there are still a number of us who need to get up before sunrise, and if you’re one of them you have a chance to see Saturn as well, visible in the wee hours of the morning.

Notable in the Sky

We still have Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy (yup, we do need that whole mouthful of a designation because Mr. Lovejoy has discovered five comets) between the constellations of Andromeda and Perseus. It is moving away from both the Earth and the Sun now, so it’ll begin dimming down. Look for it again as we get into darker skies near the new moon. Comets are notably unpredictable, but so far Lovejoy has been brightening and dimming just as expected.

On the subject of comets to remember, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is still in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and will do a very close flyby (less than four miles above the surface) on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. I suspect you’ll hear a bit about it in the news that day or the following week, because this is the mission that made headlines in November when the Philae spacecraft landed on the surface of the comet, and again last month when they released a collection of stunning high-resolution images of the comet’s surface.

What Does Conjunction Mean Anyway?

Conjunctions come up often when talking about exciting events in the sky. After hearing about them often enough, you’ll probably start to wonder exactly what it means to have a conjunction, especially on a month like this one where we have two conjunctions back-to-back: one of Mars-Venus-Moon, and the other just Mars-Venus.

Conjunctions are when things are close together in the sky, and exciting to look at. It is important to note that a conjunction is due entirely to our viewpoint from Earth, the objects are not physically near each other: they simply appear that way to us, standing here on our planet.

A conjunction is usually mentioned only on the date that the two or more objects appear closest to each other in the sky, but depending on how fast each object is moving, they can continue to appear near each other for a day or two around that date as well. When a conjunction involves fast-moving celestial bodies (the Moon, Mercury, and to some extent Venus) those usually only occur on one day. Conjunctions involving farther out (and therefore slower) celestial bodies, like Saturn and Jupiter, last longer.

Events

Saturday, February 14th — Rosetta close approach to Comet 67P
Friday, February 20th, early evening — Moon, Mars, Venus conjunction
Saturday, February 21st, early evening — Mars, Venus conjunction

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

The Moon

February 11 — 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).
February 18 — 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.
February 25 — 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).
March 5 — Full Moon: The full moon rises at sunset, sets at sunrise and is visible all

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 www.alicesastroinfo.com.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/02/skies-over-west-seattle-february-2015-what-not-to-miss/feed/ 0
VIDEO: Missed the Asteroid 2004 BL86 flyby? See it here! http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-missed-the-asteroid-2004-bl86-flyby-see-it-here/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-missed-the-asteroid-2004-bl86-flyby-see-it-here/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:45:09 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=299375

(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.)

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-missed-the-asteroid-2004-bl86-flyby-see-it-here/feed/ 3
Skies Over West Seattle, special edition: Asteroid & comet in range! http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-asteroid-comet-in-range/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-asteroid-comet-in-range/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 09:26:34 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=299267 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.

I recommend watching for it around 8:30 pm because that’s when it will cross close to M44, the Beehive Cluster in the constellation Cancer.

To find it, you’ll start by looking about halfway up the sky while facing due East. The asteroid will be incredibly dim, one of the dimmest objects you see in your telescope field of view, but once you have the Beehive Cluster visible, keep checking back and see if one of the dimmest “stars” nearby seems to move. Sketching by hand with a pencil and paper can help you pay close enough attention to the angles between stars to notice minute changes like this.

Another trick is to take a series of long-exposure photographs of the right area of the sky. If you fail to catch the asteroid, you’ll still have a beautiful picture including the Beehive Cluster. Compare the photos later to see if you can find the moving object. It’s easiest to do this by switching back and forth between aligned photos. Originally this would have been done with a tool called a blink comparator, but your home computer does it just fine.

Finding Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy

(Processed photograph of Comet Q2 Lovejoy by Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen taken January 16, 2015 from near The Junction)

This is not your only chance to see Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy. It’s been in the sky for weeks, and nicely visible for the past week or two. However, since you’re out looking for the asteroid, take a moment to find the comet as well. It will probably be a more satisfying experience than finding the asteroid.

Comets also move, but Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy is quite a bit farther away than Asteroid 2004 BL86, so it’s moving a lot more slowly across our sky. You can find it in the constellation Triangulum this week, just below Perseus.

Using a telescope you should expect to see a grey smudge, possibly with something that might be a tail pointed off one direction. Long exposures and stacking images are how amateurs all over the world are creating those incredibly green and blue images with obvious comas and tails with intriguing detail. You’ll probably also see some detail in the smudge, part of it brighter than the other. This is the difference between the nucleus (the actual “core” of the comet) and the coma (the gasses surrounding the body of the comet).

The comet is currently magnitude 4.4, which means that it is technically naked-eye visible. I don’t know anyone who has seen it naked-eye from Seattle yet.

Hey, what’s that?

While you’re out setting up for these, you will not be able to miss Jupiter, high in the sky in the East, or the Pleiades almost directly overhead. While you’re searching for the comet with your binoculars you’ll start wondering what those two clusters of stars near each other are. They’re h and χ Persei (pronounced “h and kai”), also known as “The Double Cluster.”

Resources:

Asteroid 2004 BL86: Sky and Telescope, NASA Near Earth Object Program

Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy: Sky and Telescope, Seiichi Yoshida

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 has worked and volunteered 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 follow her on Twitter at @AlicesAstroInfo and Facebook at facebook.com/followalicesastroinfo.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/skies-over-west-seattle-special-edition-asteroid-comet-in-range/feed/ 4
Skies Over West Seattle, December 2014: Meteors, solstice soon http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/skies-over-west-seattle-december-2014-meteors-solstice-soon/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/skies-over-west-seattle-december-2014-meteors-solstice-soon/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 22:42:20 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294590 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.

Hey, what’s that?

Was it a shooting star or a fireball? Then it was probably one of the Geminids, a meteor from the Geminid meteor shower. These meteors seem to radiate from Gemini, a little North of Orion (three stars in a row, closely spaced).

Just after sunset, you’ll be seeing the bright stars Altair and Vega in the West.

Later than that, Orion rises in the East, bringing along with it all the bright stars of the Winter Circle: Capella, Aldebaran, Sirius, Procyon, Castor, Pollux and Betelgeuse. I wouldn’t say Betelgeuse is always considered part of the winter circle, but it’s in the same region.

After Orion rises, Jupiter will be rising in the east around 10pm or so—quite eye-catching. If you’re up before the Sun, as many of us are this time of year, Jupiter will be notable high in the Southwest.

Rising just before sunrise, you’ll also see Saturn in the Southeast.

Out Late? Watching the Christmas Ships?

I’m always willing to take advantage of pre-planned outdoor gatherings to point out spectacular things in the night sky. The night the Christmas Ships are stopping by West Seattle this year, December 13th, which also happens to be the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower. As we noticed in 2009, sometimes the ships’ light displays are enhanced by shooting stars.

(Geminid meteor as seen from Lowman Beach in 2009, by Jason Gift Enevoldsen ©2009, reproduced with permission)

Other things you’ll notice in the sky, if it is clear, after the Christmas Ships on December 13th from Lowman Beach, are Vega and Altair, and if you know where to look, Mars. Vega will be mid-way up the sky, almost due West. Altair will be the same height, but a little further South. Mars is lower, and even further South, just about South-southwest. It will be notable by its salmon color. (Seasoned astronomers call this color “bright red” but if you color-matched it at the hardware store, you’d end up somewhere in the orangey-pink-toned whites.

If you’re watching later, when the ships perform at Alki Beach, you’ll again see Vega midway up the sky, straight in front of you or off to the left a little. The Big Dipper will be just above the horizon in the North, a bit off to your right.

This will all still be true other nights this month from those same locations, except the meteor shower, if you aren’t going out to see the ships or if it isn’t clear that night.

Other Meteor Showers

The Geminids Meteor Shower peaks on December 13th and these should be pretty cool, as they’re often one of the best of the year—though we miss them due to clouds most of the time. The Ursids Meteor Shower peaks on December 22nd, and the Quadrantids Meteor Shower peaks on January 3rd. As usual, there’s a good handful of even more minor meteor showers happening as well.

Events

Saturday, December 13th, Christmas Ships: Lowman Beach (4:20 pm) and Alki Beach (5:10 pm)

Sunday, December 21st, 3:45-4:45 pm — Winter Solstice Sunset Watch: sunset ~4:20 pm, solstice moment 3:03 pm (Solstice Park)

Monday, December 22nd — Ursids Meteor Shower Peak

Saturday, January 3rd — Quadrantids Meteor Shower Peak

Saturday/Sunday, January 3rd/4th, 7:58 am — Latest sunrise of the year

Sunday, January 4th — Earth at Perihelion, our annual closest approach to the Sun

Monday, January 5th — 10th anniversary of the discovery of what is now known as dwarf planet Eris by Mike Brown and his team. I usually don’t mention anniversaries here, but this one is worth noting, because you probably remember that the discovery of Eris was the spark that set off the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) debates about the definition of “planet” and Pluto’s status. At the time of discovery it was temporarily designated “2003 UB313.” For about a year we all unofficially called the dwarf planet “Xena” as we waited for the IAU’s decision on whether it was a planet or not.

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

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/skies-over-west-seattle-december-2014-meteors-solstice-soon/feed/ 0
PHOTOS: Partial solar eclipse, seen during West Seattle sunbreaks http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/happening-now-partial-solar-eclipse-seen-during-west-seattle-sunbreaks/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/happening-now-partial-solar-eclipse-seen-during-west-seattle-sunbreaks/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 21:15:42 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=289666

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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/happening-now-partial-solar-eclipse-seen-during-west-seattle-sunbreaks/feed/ 5
West Seattle eclipse-watching: Stay up late tonight (or, get up early tomorrow) http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-eclipse-watching-stay-up-late-tonight-or-get-up-early-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-eclipse-watching-stay-up-late-tonight-or-get-up-early-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 17:03:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288036 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!

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-eclipse-watching-stay-up-late-tonight-or-get-up-early-tomorrow/feed/ 16
Skies Over West Seattle, October 2014 edition: Two eclipses! http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/skies-over-west-seattle-october-2014-edition-two-eclipses/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/skies-over-west-seattle-october-2014-edition-two-eclipses/#comments Sat, 04 Oct 2014 23:06:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=287832 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

Lunar eclipses are easy to view safely, since you’re looking at the full Moon. You can use your eyes, telescopes, binoculars, cameras … whatever you like, really. You don’t need any special filters. That’s what we have on Wednesday: a lunar eclipse:

Early Wednesday, 1:15 am: You’ll start to notice the brightness of the Moon change

2:15 am: The more visible part starts

3:25 am: The Moon will appear completely rusty red

4:24 am: This is the end of the total part of the eclipse, the red color will fade

5:34 am: The darker shadow (umbra) will have passed, but there will still be the lighter shadow (penumbra).

6:33 am: Done!

Solar eclipses and solar events are much trickier. Luckily you have some time to prepare. NEVER look directly at the Sun without an approved filter. Sunglasses are not that. If you do not have or purchase a safe solar-viewing filter, turn away from the Sun and look at the shadows underneath a tree that still has its leaves, or make a loose fist and let the Sun shine through it. Look at the sunlight on the ground in the shadow of your fist or under the tree. You’ll see a handful of images of the eclipse in the bright spots.

(“Crescent-shaped” images of the Sun on the ground during the annular solar eclipse of 2012 as seen from northern California. © Jason Gift Enevoldsen 2012, used with permission)

My most trusted viewer is the paper-and-plastic Eclipse Shades from Rainbow Symphony or one of their resellers. They run a little less than a dollar each, but you have to buy them in packages of 25. These glasses seem cheap and flimsy, but their manufacturing process is good enough quality that they’ve surpassed the upcoming international standards for safe solar filters.

The solar eclipse on the 23rd will go like this:

1:35 pm: Eclipse begins

3:00 pm: Maximum eclipse – the Sun will be 54% covered by the Moon

4:20 pm: Eclipse ends

Other Sky Goings-on

We have some very small meteor showers this month that do result in bolides and fireballs now and then. If you see a very bright meteor, it is likely part of either the Southern or Northern Taurids.

Events

Wednesday (early morning!), October 8th—Eclipse #1: Total Lunar Eclipse

Sunday, October 19th—Close Approach #1: Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring gives Mars a nice, close shave.

Monday, October 20th, 6:30-7:30 pm—Make a Pinhole Viewer, High Point Branch Library. (I’ll be teaching kids ages 5 and up to build a safe viewer for the solar eclipse. Sign up ahead of time, space is limited)

Tuesday, October 21st, 6:00-7:00 pm—Solar Eclipse Lecture, West Seattle Branch Library. (I’ll be giving an adult-oriented lecture about a variety of safe techniques for viewing solar eclipses)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 4:00-5:30 pm—Make a Pinhole Viewer, Delridge Branch Library. (I’ll be teaching kids ages 5 and up to build a safe viewer for the solar eclipse. Sign up ahead of time, space is limited)

Thursday, October 23rd—Eclipse #2: Partial Solar Eclipse

Thursday, October 23rd, 1:15-3:00 pm—Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, High Point Branch Library. (Everyone come, we’ll have a lecture if the weather doesn’t cooperate. We’ll have some safe viewers on hand, and I’m likely to stick around until the end of the eclipse at 4:20 pm.)

Thursday, October 23rd—Close Approach #2: Asteroid 2014 SC324 passes the Earth, slightly farther away than the Moon’s orbit.

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

The Moon

October 8—Full Moon (and eclipse!): The full moon rises at sunset, sets at sunrise and is visible all

October 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)

October 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 30—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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/skies-over-west-seattle-october-2014-edition-two-eclipses/feed/ 9
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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/west-seattle-sky-watch-northern-lights-tonight/feed/ 63
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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/aurora-or-no-aurora-were-checking-with-alice/feed/ 17
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.

]]>
http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/skies-over-west-seattle-september-2014-edition-maven-near-mars-equinox-ahead-whats-that-up-there-and-more/feed/ 4