West Seattle, Washington
Welcome to the first full day of winter! Three hours before the season started with the solstice moment at 7:27 pm Thursday, more than 50 people joined educator/expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen for her 59th change-of-seasons sunset watch. This time, those gathered at Solstice Park saw the sun slip behind the tall trees of Lincoln Park across the way:
Key attributes at upper Solstice Park are the paths and stones that align with the sunset on the solstices and equinoxes, so checking out those views was popular just before sunset:
Then it was time for a centerpiece of the sunset watches – Alice’s interactive explanation of the earth’s tilt at solstices and equinoxes, with young volunteer Meredith at the center of the circle, portraying the sun:
Alice also explained how your views of constellations change during the year, responding to an attendee’s question, and talked a bit about the solar eclipse coming up on April 8th – only 20 percent coverage or so in our area, “but a nice partial eclipse,” she said. But before then, her 60th quarterly sunset watch will mark the arrival of spring – be at Solstice Park at 6:30 pm March 19,
Thanks to everyone who sent photos! The clouds made for some dramatic views of this morning’s partial solar eclipse. Above is what Coleman Smith saw from 35th and Holden. Below, Brian‘s view from Highland Park:
For a closeup view of the mostly-covered sun, here’s what Jamie Kinney saw:
And another look through the clouds, via William Wright‘s photo:
(added) From Scott Nelson:
And from Kevin Freitas:
The eclipse peaked in our area with 80 percent coverage at 9:20 am. Next spring, April 8th, 2024, will bring another partial solar eclipse – 20 percent coverage in that area – watch Alice’s website for viewing info (and advice).
Tonight’s sunset ended the last weekend of summer. Autumn arrives at the equinox moment of 11:49 pm Friday (September 22nd). A few hours before that, educator and expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen will lead her next change-of-season sunset watch, starting at 6:30 pm at Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW, upslope). Not only will Alice explain the equinox, she’ll be talking about how to get ready to view the October 14th solar eclipse (partial in our area). Free eclipse-viewing glasses, too!
The photo is from Nick, one of several people who emailed/texted late Friday night about that sight in the sky. It was another Starlink sighting. SpaceX launched another 22 internet-service satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida, just after 8:30 pm our time Friday, and that was the fourth Starlink launch this month. However, that’s not what we were seeing here, according to FindStarlink.com – this “satellite train” was from Starlink 104, launched a week ago.
Just received from Emily Burleson:
Tonight the NOAA space weather forecast showed a potential for Aurora borealis over Seattle tonight. Went down to Alki Beach to try to catch a glimpse and saw … Something! To the naked eye it was mostly colorless, but the long exposure phone photos showed a lot more … taken around 11 pm.
Here’s a dramatic view from about an hour and a half north.
The image was sent by Kevin Freitas, who’s offering you the chance to capture something similar, safely. Here’s his announcement:
Join local amateur photographer, sky watcher, and meteor hunter Kevin Freitas to learn how to capture a solar transit of the International Space Station. We’ll talk through how to set up your photo or video gear and apps to use to find transits and measure precise time. Then, just before 3:30, we’ll try to capture a transit!
The most important item you need is a solar filter to put atop your camera lens to filter out most of the Sun’s burning light. Don’t have a filter? Make your own with these filter sheets and some black tape. CAUTION: Never stare at or photograph the Sun without a proper solar filter!
When: Monday, July 31, 2:30-3:30 pm
Where: (update) New location – Magnolia Boulevard Viewpoint (map) – see comment discussion
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org or text 253-229-5093
No matter where you watched summer’s first sunset from, it was beautiful. We were at Solstice Park with Alice Enevoldsen and about 100 people who came to the park for her change-of-seasons sunset watch.
Alice explained “why we have seasons” after inviting everyone to watch the sunset line up with the park paths that point to precisely placed markers:
As usual, she enlisted a volunteer helper from the crowd – this time, a young sunset-watcher named June – to help her demonstrate how the tilting of the Earth factors into the seasons.
Alice noted some datapoints, such as the fact that the sun never reaches the highest possible point in our sky – it peaks at 66 degrees, and then in winter, only gets to 14 degrees above the horizon. Speaking of which, 8:58 was the exact moment the last visible bit of the Sun slipped behind the Olympics:
Alice – an educator who leads these gatherings as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador – explains that the actual sunset moment is about 10 minutes earlier than the “official” sunset time (which tonight was 9:11 pm). Her next sunset watch will be in on the fall-equinox date, September 22nd, when sunset will be just before 7 pm.
P.S. A sky show followed the sunset watch – crescent moon with Venus right below it in the western sky.
Thanks to Kevin Freitas for sharing the video from last night – a meteor fireball streaking across the sky, seen on his sky-watching setup near The Mount. The American Meteor Society‘s page for this “event” shows dozens of reports around the region. (If you ever see one, here’s how to report it.) Kevin describes his setup as a “modified Wyze v3 cam” atop the roof of his home.
11:37 PM: On Twitter, some are reporting an aurora (Northern Lights) view – looking north from Alki, for example – so we thought we’d share the alert.
That was tweeted by @Ben_Wooley from the beach near Alki Bathhouse a short time ago. (added) And from @MoogleChemist in Seaview:
(added) Another photo from Alki, by Jon McAllister:
Here are Alice Enevoldsen‘s tips on aurora-viewing from Seattle.
2:20 PM: Another to add, sent by Ryan Bruels, from Alki:
Thanks to everyone who sent photos! And to Lara G, who provided the first heads-up via Twitter.
The sun made a partial appearance for Alice Enevoldsen‘s equinox-sunset watch tonight, just under five hours after the official arrival of spring. The West Seattle educator/expert skywatcher, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, has led gatherings like this at Fauntleroy’s Solstice Park four times a year since 2009, missing just a few, even hosting some remotely during the peak of the pandemic.
Attendees leave with a better understanding of what exactly happens at the equinox – in short, the day and night are of equal length, though there’s more to it. Bonus attraction for visiting Solstice Park on these days – there are paths and markers that line up with th setting sun on the equinoxes and solstices, and you can see for yourself.
Missed it? Just three months until the summer-solstice gathering – Wednesday, June 21st. (The solstice moment will be 7:57 am; sunset will be around 9 pm.
Snow was on the ground when educator/expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen led her change-of-seasons sunset watch for winter three months ago at West Seattle’s Solstice Park. Now the days are warmer and longer and it’s time to welcome spring. The equinox moment is at 2:24 pm tomorrow (Monday, March 20th) and a few hours later, Alice welcomes you to the park (uphill from the tennis courts at 7400 Fauntleroy Way SW) to learn about what “equinox” really means, and to see how the sunset lines up with the precisely placed rocks at the park. She’ll be there 6:30 pm-7:30 pm; whether it’s in view or not, the sun will set behind the Olympics around 7 pm (usually 10 minutes or so before the “official” sunset time). All ages welcome; serious rain cancels.
2:07 PM: Late last night, the sky cleared and Comet ZTF (its abbreviated name) was visible from West Seattle. Expert skywatcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen tweeted about it, including photos:
A view of the comet from tonight. There was still some haze at times (which is why the inconsistent sky background comes from). This was an integration of about 50 separate 1-second long images, 180mm f/2.8 lens. Image by Jason Enevoldsen.@westseattleblog #CometZTF pic.twitter.com/1L0KsFipWf
— Alice's AstroInfo (vaxxed & masked) (@AlicesAstroInfo) January 29, 2023
Today, Alice says things are looking good for tonight – but you’ll need binoculars and something to steady yourself against, like a railing or tripod. In this tweet, she explains that “it will still be neatly between Polaris and the cup of the Big Dipper, so scan from the North Star (Polaris) slowly towards the Big Dipper.” Here’s a link she suggests for more info on how to find it; here’s what Space.com says about it, including some backstory.
9:08 PM: Alice is working on a pop-up comet-viewing opportunity for later tonight. We’ll add the info here as soon as she decides (or you can follow her on Twitter, where she’ll announce it).
9:52 PM: Alice is at Alki Playfield near Alki Elementary.
This year, winter arrived in West Seattle amid truly wintry weather – and two hours after the 1:47 pm solstice moment, dozens of people commemorated the change of seasons with a tradition. Educator and skywatching expert Alice Enevoldsen drew more than two dozen people to Solstice Park for her quarterly sunset watch. It’s a chance to learn what actually happens in the solar system at the solstice moment – or, in the spring and fall, the equinox moment.
This time, the sun even made an appearance!
You can set your calendar to join Alice at the park for the spring equinox on March 20, 2023.
The Bolt Creek Fire to the east is still sending smoke this way, and that has worsened air quality, as shown on both the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and PurpleAir maps. But it’s also intensified the sunset color, as shown in James Bratsanos‘ photo from tonight (above). Meantime. Eddie caught the moon with a bit of a tinge last night:
The fire is currently about a third contained, according to this update.
Thanks for the tips and pics. Once again, a SpaceX rocket launch deploying Starlink satellites has led to a startling sighting in the West Seattle sky. This time, they launched 52 satellites for more internet connectivity in certain regions of the world. Another launch last month led to a similar sighting. Today’s launch was at 4:32 pm our time; the next one, according to EarthSky, could be as soon as Friday (September 30th).
These were all among the sights at Alice Enevoldsen‘s change-of-seasons sunset watch, along with Alice’s interactive explanation of what happens at the equinox moment (which this time happened less than an hour before sunset):
As a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador and professional educator, Alice has been leading these events quarterly for more than a decade. You never know who will show up. Kristina, an artist, was capturing the moment this time:
And with the sun fully visible, that meant a chance to view how it lined up with the designated equinox-aligned park path:
If you want to plan ahead for winter-solstice sunset watch, that’s already on Alice’s website – 3:45 pm December 21st, which will be about two hours after the solstice moment.
1:59 AM: If you’re seeing this in real time – expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen says the aurora’s out there, if you look north, and particularly if you have a long-exposure camera.
P.S. Alice’s webpage with resources for aurora info, viewing advice, etc., is here.
ADDED SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Alice tweeted these images:
Here are my 1-second exposures: annotated, original, and color-stretched versions as promised. View from Alki in Seattle tonight around 1:40am, looking North towards Discovery Park.@westseattleblog @WestSeaWx pic.twitter.com/lKjQGrCiqk
— Alice's AstroInfo (vaxxed & masked) (@AlicesAstroInfo) September 4, 2022
In the past few minutes we’ve had multiple inquiries about a plane circling the Pigeon Point area. It’s since moved on, but a little research revealed it’s a plane we’ve seen/heard in similar circumstances before.
That’s a Flightradar24 screengrab showing the loops and circles the plane, identified as a Cessna belonging to the Washington State Patrol, has flown tonight. Both times we wrote about similar flights last year – including this one – there were specific investigative reasons, but we won’t likely be able to follow up until after the holiday weekend,
Just as we started getting questions about a bright line in the sky, Ethan provided the answer via Twitter – that was a string of more than 50 Starlink internet-service satellites, launched earlier today. Ethan’s photo is above; MJ‘s photo via email is below:
Everyone has a role to play at West Seattle skywatcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen‘s change-of-season sunset watches – if you choose to participate. Tonight at Solstice Park, the members of the ~70-person crowd who chose to form a circle at her invitation all got to be Earth for a while. But that was after the sunset.
Along with watching the first sunset of summer, at the park where markers and paths are in place to line up with the setting sun on solstice and equinox days, the highlight was Alice’s explanation of how the Earth and Sun interact on these days, (A young attendee named June volunteered to portray the Sun.)
She also shared the pro tip that you can experience the sunset alignment at Solstice Park for a few days before and after the solstices/equinoxes, since the setting sun’s position doesn’t quickly change that radically.
Alice also answered questions, starting with one about the upcoming planetary alignment – where and when to watch.
Alice – who leads these events as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador – said the show will be best between 3 and 4:30 am, and with a view of the east/northeast sky; she recommended Westcrest and Myrtle Reservoir Parks in West Seattle
Summer officially begins at 2:13 am our time Tuesday. Hours later, two events offer you the chance to celebrate the change of seasons:
DELRIDGE SOLSTICE CELEBRATION: This one’s new!
4:30-7:30 pm at Delridge P-Patch (5078 25th SW), you are invited to enjoy music, games, crafts, and kids’ activities including face-painting and storytime. Free but you can also bring money for dinner – Chef Gino of TheHomeSkillit.com will be cooking and selling food.
SOLSTICE PARK SUNSET WATCH: If the season’s changing, West Seattle skywatcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen will be at Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW, uphill from the tennis courts) to lead an educational and fun sunset watch.
(WSB photo, summer-solstice sunset watch 2019)
The forecast suggests a chance of actually seeing the sunset, but Alice will be there no matter what (unless it’s pouring rain, which is NOT forecast), starting at 8:30 pm.
Being an astronomer in Seattle means to be ever-hopeful of a break in the clouds, as Alice Enevoldsen observed during her quarterly change-of-seasons sunset watch.
She and a handful of hardy skywatchers gathered at Solstice Park, where, if the setting sun had been in view, it would have lined up with this granite marker:
Despite its absence, Alice proceeded with her traditional interactive demonstration of where the Earth and Sun are at during the equinoxes and solstices.
She’s been doing this quarterly for a dozen years, as part of her volunteer role as a NASA Solar System Ambassador, and in the spirit of her career as an educator. It’s always on the first sunset after the equinox/solstice moment, so tonight’s schedule was determined by spring’s arrival at 8:33 this morning. Along with showing participants the solar-system basics, she’s there for Q&A, and in the pre-pandemic days led other out-of-this-world events from eclipse viewing to impromptu aurora-seeking. She’s online at alicesastroinfo.com and @alicesastroinfo on Twitter.