West Seattle, Washington
It was almost time for Alice Enevoldsen‘s 2020 spring-equinox sunset watch when the pandemic started shutting down schools and businesses and dropped the curtain on in-person events. So the educator and NASA Solar System Ambassador took her quarterly change-of-seasons events online, after 10+ years of gatherings at West Seattle’s Solstice Park. Tonight, for the 2021 summer solstice, she quietly returned.
She streamed the event from what she announced only as an “undisclosed West Seattle location” that turned out to be Solstice Park. About two dozen people were there enjoying the view, and got a bonus explanation of the park’s special stones and paths lining up with the solstice and equinox sunsets:
“Welcome to summer!” she exuberantly greeted her in-person and internet audiences, proceeding to explain the solstice (it’s when the North Pole is at maximum tilt toward the sun). She says that if the pandemic continues to wind down, she’ll be back to host an all-out fall-equinox sunset watch – which will be her 50th since starting the sunset watches in 2009.
P.S. It was a great sunset – here’s our photo from the park:
And here’s the view from a bit further south, photographed by James Bratsanos as the post-sunset colors deepened:
The solstice doesn’t bring the latest sunset, though – tonight’s official sunset time (though the sun disappears behind the mountains sooner, as Alice noted) was 9:10 pm – on Tuesday that goes to 9:11 pm and stays there through next Monday, before it starts getting earlier.
Tomorrow, summer arrives at 8:31 pm. Fourteen minutes later, West Seattle skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen hosts her 49th solstice/equinox sunset watch, always a fun and informative way to mark the change of seasons. This is likely the last one Alice will host online because of the pandemic -join her 8:45-9:15 pm via Zoom, register here; more info here. (If technical difficulties arise during the sunset watch, Alice’s backup is Twitter – @alicesastroinfo.)
NOTE: As of 9:31 pm, the registration link isn’t working – we’ll check with Alice and update if there’s a new link.
ADDED SUNDAY: Here’s the new registration link.
11:35 AM: We received a few questions this morning about unusual jet noise over West Seattle around 4 am. After some phone calls, we got this information from the FAA’s Elizabeth Isham Cory:
The crew of a Boeing 767-300 cargo jet reported a blue laser illuminated their aircraft at 4:10 a.m. Wednesday while they were on approach to Boeing Field – King County International Airport. The aircraft, which had departed from Rockford, Ill., landed without incident. The FAA alerted the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department about the laser strike.
The Federal Aviation Administration remains vigilant in raising awareness about misuse of lasers when they are pointed towards aircraft. Intentionally aiming lasers at an aircraft poses a safety threat to pilots and violates federal law.
The FAA works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against people who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft. The agency takes enforcement action against people who violate Federal Aviation Regulations by shining lasers at aircraft and can impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. You can learn more here.
Tracker archives show the flight was UPS flight 988. Here’s their track on the way in, from FlightRadar24:
The statement left us with a few questions, so we are continuing to follow up, but wanted to let you know what we had found so far.
ADDED 10:30 PM: We never did hear back on our followup questions for the FAA. So we asked King County spokesperson Cameron Satterfield if Boeing Field itself had had to handle the arrival in a different way. Satterfield’s reply: “Neither our Airport Ops or ARFF folks got any kind of alert or notice of a problem for this flight.” But Satterfield checked three recent arrivals of the same flight on the same runway via a tracker and noted that today’s flight “spent a slightly longer time at lower altitude than the same flight did when it landed on Runway 14R on May 28, June 4, and June 8. Also, instead of crossing over Shoreline, Magnolia, and downtown, it came in over Burien, White Center and West Seattle before turning over Puget Sound on final approach.” Also a reminder: “As we always like to remind folks, if they have a concern or question about aircraft noise for flights arriving or departing Boeing Field, they can make a report on our website at kingcounty.gov/services/airport/noise.aspx or by calling 206-316-2515.”
9:55 PM: So far we have two reports of that sight in the sky around 9:15 pm. The person who sent the photo described it as “A very long bar moving west to east.” A meteor shower is expected tonight, but not until the early-morning hours. Via Twitter, we’re hearing it might be the Starlink satellites launched earlier today. Checking on that!
10:02 PM: This story from April explains why these satellites would lead to this kind of sighting.
10:35 PM: Thanks to Ben Evans for the video:
He says they might be visible again at 10:54 pm (we’re still looking for the source on that).
11:15 PM: Thanks to the commenters sharing links for satellite tracking!
— Chris (@bensoncSEA) March 26, 2021
9:19 PM: Did you see that too? Chris tweeted the video, and we’ve had multiple messages from people who saw those lights in the sky looking southward around 9 pm. We’re looking into it …
(Added – video from Matt Bridge)
9:26 PM: Thanks to a caller who mentioned this – here’s the explanation, via astronomer Jonathan McDowell on Twitter: “The Falcon 9 second stage from the Mar 4 Starlink launch failed to make a deorbit burn and is now reentering after 22 days in orbit. Its reentry was observed from the Seattle area at about 0400 UTC Mar 26.” Here’s more on the Falcon 9. (added) And here’s more on Starlink.
10:03 PM: Added more of the visuals we’ve received from readers (thanks!).
(Video from Rudy Willingham)
Here’s coverage of the March 4th launch from which this originated.
(Video from Jessica Tulloch)
ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: In case you wondered too:
It looks like the burn up would have started at around 140km (~85± miles) above us. (Data from https://t.co/SBWuRQA2Xl and https://t.co/8bWHxBSSQz.)
For reference, cruising altitude for airliners is ~5 miles. The International Space Station is ~250 miles up. @WestSeaWx
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) March 26, 2021
5:51 PM: Skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen says the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is visible from West Seattle right now, to the south/southwest, until 6:30 or so, though they’re not as close together as they were a few days ago, when clouds rendered it impossible to see.
ADDED: Bill Schrier tweeted this photo:
And Dan Ciske sent this one:
Two notes for winter’s official arrival Monday:
WEATHER ALERT: The National Weather Service says we’re in for heavy rain – up to two inches – tonight through tomorrow night, so it’s out with a Special Weather Statement alert, warning of increased landslide risk.
SOLSTICE SUNSET WATCH WITH ALICE: This is the fourth change of seasons since the pandemic began, and West Seattle skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen has continued to lead solstice/equinox sunset watches online, whatever the weather. Join her via Zoom 3:45 pm-4:15 pm Monday; go here now to preregister to get the link. Sunset is officially 4:20 pm but Alice notes that its actual disappearance behind our mountains/islands is earlier, likely around 4:05 pm tomorrow. The solstice moment is 2:02 am. P.S. Alice plans to talk about the big planetary conjunction, too.
Thanks to James Bratsanos for the photo of tonight’s peekaboo sunset. This gives us a reason to mention tonight’s milestone: This is the last night this year for the earliest sunset – 4:17 pm. Starting tomorrow, the sunset gets later, 4:18 pm, and on from there. So that’s some solace, though the days don’t stop shortening until the solstice on December 21st, and the sunrise doesn’t hit its latest moment until 7:57 am on December 26th (where it stays until January 6th).
Meantime, if we get any breaks in the cloud cover overnight, you may see what Susan Romanenghi saw at 7 am Saturday:
That’s Venus with the moon. P.S. Tonight’s the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, too!
After a gorgeous day, the full “Blue Moon” has risen. The photo above is from Carolyn Newman; (added) below, from James Tilley:
Not long before that, a swirls-of-pink sunset, photographed by Marc Milrod:
And this morning’s moonset, photographed by Dan Ciske:
Before the next moonset, sunset, and moonrise, we’ll be “falling back” an hour as Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 am Sunday – the next sunset will be at (sigh) 4:50 pm.
ORIGINAL NOTE, 3:42 PM MONDAY: Autumn arrives at 6:30 our time tomorrow morning. It’ll be the third change of seasons since the pandemic began, so once again, West Seattle skywatcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen plans an online presentation for her quarterly sunset watch. The event will be at 6:30 tomorrow night – always the sunset on the equinox/solstice date – and we’ll add the Zoom link here, and in tomorrow’s daily list, once we get it.
ADDED TUESDAY: Note a new time – 6:45 pm. Find the link to register by going here.
One more event for today: West Seattle skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen is planning an online viewing event for the SpaceX/Crew Dragon splashdown. It’s scheduled around 11:48 am our time, with Alice starting about half an hour before that. You need to register to get the link – info is on her site, here.
That’s Jeff Kaufer‘s view of Comet NEOWISE from just east of Alki Point earlier this week …
… and that’s the view Scott Nelson got from Alki last night, between 11 pm and midnight. So far it looks like the weather will be conducive for comet-watching tonight too. In addition to her general advice on watching from West Seattle, sky-watcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen made images with Stellarium to help you figure out where to look – this one is for 10:15 pm tonight:
And this one would be for a few hours later, 2 am Monday:
The mission during which the comet was discovered four months ago is explained here.
Seen Comet NEOWISE yet? Tonight should be another chance, with clear weather expected to continue. It’s Once it’s gone from view, that’s it for another 6,000+ years, so you might as well take advantage of it. Thanks to sky-watcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen for more images, made with Stellarium, on where to look in the sky – these two were for midnight last night/4 am this morning so the position should be close:
And just in case you don’t get out to see it – here’s another view from earlier this week:
You can read Alice’s overall comet-watching guidance here.
Looks like another clear night tonight, so that means another chance to see Comet NEOWISE. Following up on her earlier post, West Seattle sky-watching expert and educator Alice Enevoldsen has put together maps (with the help of Stellarium) – here’s one for tonight:
Alice says that map shows what should be visible around 10:15 pm on “the North-northwestern horizon. Comet NEOWISE is a speck almost directly below the Big Dipper, and to the upper left of the bright star Capella.” If you’d rather do your comet-watching early in the morning, here’s 2 am Thursday:
That one is “showing the North-northwestern horizon. (The comet) is a speck to the lower right of the Big Dipper, and nearly due North.” Or click here for the 4 am Thursday image. Weather permitting, the comet might be visible through late July.
It’s the first clear night since Comet NEOWISE came into view in the evening sky (as explained by Alice Enevoldsen) and many were out looking for it tonight. The photo above is from John Hinkey, who says it was visible to the west starting around 10:30 pm. The one below is by Jan Pendergrass, taken from Luna/Anchor Park:
And from Jamie Kinney, comet-watching from Alki:
(Added 2:31 am) Two from Jason Enevoldsen:
(added 10:22 am) From Larry Gilpin:
NEOWISE was discovered just four months ago. It should be visible again Tuesday night, with a clear sky forecast, but don’t procrastinate if you’re interested in seeing it … its next swing out this way isn’t expected for another 6,000+ years.
Back on Friday night/Saturday morning, clear skies meant Comet NEOWISE was visible to those who were up VERY late/early. (These photos were among the results.) Now the clear weather’s back and the comet is expected to be visible at a more reasonable (for most) hour – your West Seattle neighbor Kevin Freitas tweeted the invitation:
Join me tonight for some socially distant comet-gazing! (BYO binoculars — highly recommend — and masks) I'll setup 9:30pm on Alki Beach seawall just across from Cactus.#C2020F3 #c2020f3neowise #wawx pic.twitter.com/C92fzF70OX
— Kevin Freitas (@kevinfreitas) July 13, 2020
12:27 PM: Thanks to everybody who sent photos of Comet NEOWISE, which – as noted here Friday – is viewable in the early-early-early morning sky right now (and soon, after sunset). Above, that’s from James Tilley; below, from Greg Snyder:
From Nick Newhall:
And from John Hinkey:
John notes his was; “Taken from Hamilton Viewpoint this morning between 3:30 and 4am. There were something like a dozen people there with maybe half taking images.”
ADDED 2:15 PM: Via Twitter:
— Kevin Freitas (@kevinfreitas) July 11, 2020
(Comet seen from ISS, from NASA Photo of the Day)
With a clear sky forecast from tonight, you might be interested in trying to get a look at Comet NEOWISE. West Seattle sky-watcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen has published a post on exactly how to do that from here. You’ll have to be up REALLY early, though, and you might need to try a non-West Seattle vantage point. Or, wait a couple days and it’ll be visible earlier – after sunset. (Monday’s weather looks promising.)
Even if the clouds don’t lift, you’re invited to celebrate the change of seasons with West Seattle educator/sky-watcher Alice Enevoldsen (who’s also a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador). Six hours after the summer-solstice moment at 2:43 pm today, join Alice via Zoom, 8:45 pm-9:15 pm, for her quarterly sunset watch – all ages welcome. You need to register in advance – go here to do that now.
(WSB photo from June 2019 summer-solstice gathering. Maybe in-person again next year!)
For the second time this pandemic year, West Seattle educator/sky-watcher Alice Enevoldsen will be holding her change-of-seasons sunset-watch event online. The summer-solstice moment is 2:43 pm Saturday, so Alice invites you to join her via Zoom tomorrow night, 8:45 pm-9:15 pm, to celebrate and to learn – all ages welcome. You need to register in advance – go here to do that now.
Even if you aren’t in the Alki vicinity – as photographer Theresa Arbow-O’Connor was a few nights ago – you might be able to catch the full “supermoon” rising tonight just after 7:30 pm. The local moment of moonrise is also just a few minutes short of when the moon is completely “full.” You can also watch online; Space.com notes this will be the year’s closest full moon.
6:34 PM: At 8:49 pm, spring officially arrives – that’s the equinox moment. Right now, a West Seattle change-of-seasons tradition is happening as it has, four times a year for the past decade – West Seattle astronomy educator Alice Enevoldsen is leading her change-of-seasons sunset-watch event. But because of social distancing, it’s online this time – 6:30-7:30 pm, webcast via Zoom – click here to join. (Read more about her sunset watches here.)
7:20 PM: The webcast just wrapped up. We monitored the second half; about 20 others tuned in, and the sunset was spectacular. No recording but we added a screengrab above – her daughters assisting as always. If this had been a “normal” season-change sunset watch, Alice would have been at Solstice Park, explaining the equinox/solstice.
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) March 20, 2020
ADDED: Photos, courtesy of Jason Enevoldsen: