West Seattle, Washington
It’s a West Seattle tradition for the changing of seasons – an equinox or solstice sunset watch at Solstice Park with Alice Enevoldsen. Even if she’s going to be out of town on the actual equinox or solstice date, which is why she was there tonight to educate a small but hardy group. And yes, there was some sunset color!
Even though equinoxes/solstice moments seldom coincide with the sunset time (though Saturday’s 6:54 pm arrival of autumn will be close), the sunset is the star of Alice’s events because Solstice Park is set up with markers and paths aligning with the sunset on those distinctive dates. Tonight, by the way, she had two assistants – her daughters:
Explaining the relationship between earth and sun at the seasonal change is one of the things you learn at Alice’s events. So if you couldn’t be there tonight, stand by for the winter-solstice edition, just three months away!
Though fall doesn’t officially arrive until Saturday, Alice Enevoldsen‘s season-change Autumn Equinox Sunset Watch is happening a few days early – join her tomorrow (Wednesday, September 19) at Solstice Park. As always, it’ll be a fun, free, educational way to celebrate the arrival of the new season. Details are here; directions and map to Solstice Park are here. She’ll be there starting around 6:30 pm regardless of the weather (unless there’s a steady downpour, which is not in the current forecast); the sun is expected to set shortly before 7 pm. (P.S. Here’s why this is happening a few days pre-equinox.)
As Alice explained on Saturday night, the sunset time only varies a few seconds from day to day this time of year, so the special path at the top of the park still lined up with the setting sun. Scott Scowcroft condensed that part of the viewing into this short video:
As shown here last night, though, the most dramatic feature of last night’s sunset was the cloud configuration just afterward:
Summer officially arrives at 3:07 am Thursday (June 21st). Alice had to bump up her quarterly viewing because of a scheduling conflict this time, but watch for word of her next sunset event greeting the arrival of fall!
If you’re looking forward to marking the change of seasons with Alice Enevoldsen‘s quarterly sunset watch at West Seattle’s Solstice Park – you need to know it’s happening a few days early this time around! Because of a schedule conflict, Alice will be at the park 8:30-9:30 pm this Saturday, June 16th – should be a great way to end a warm, clear day. (This year’s actual solstice moment will be 3:07 am Thursday, June 21st.) All ages welcome and encouraged; if you’ve never been to one of Alice’s sunset watches, it’s informative, fun, low-key, drop-in/drop-out when you want. Solstice Park is upslope of the tennis courts across from the north end of Lincoln Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW).
10:20 PM: We were just looking out at the almost-full moon and wondering about the “star” visible west of it; the WSB inbox has yielded an answer, and then some. Trileigh Tucker e-mailed to say that’s Jupiter and “it’s clear enough that you can see several of Jupiter’s moons!” You can try looking with a telescope or binoculars. Trileigh explains, “Jupiter’s very bright, to the slightly upper right of the moon. Jupiter’s moons are the tiny white specks lined up on a tilted angle to Jupiter, pointing upper right.” Scientists believe Jupiter has more than 60 of them!
ADDED 11:27 PM: Thanks to Greg Snyder for the Jupiter photo!
Photos by Leda Costa for WSB
For the first time since 2014, the sun was out for Alice Enevoldsen‘s spring-equinox sunset watch at Solstice Park. That meant everyone could gather along the park’s designated path to view the seasonal sunset alignment:
A special feature for tonight’s viewing: Alice’s daughter and friends set up a stick so that its shadow would align with the sunset:
A regular feature of Alice’s gatherings: Learning about the relationship between the sun and earth as the seasons change:
Another way to learn: Alice brought books so early-ish arrivals could read while awaiting the sunset:
Not to rush through spring, but … if you feel like setting your calendar for Alice’s next sunset-watch event, it’ll mark the first sunset after the summer solstice, on Thursday, June 21st, 8:45 pm-9:45 pm. Alice has been leading sunset watches for nine years now!
(March 2014 WSB photo)
That was the spectacular sunset on March 20, 2014, as seen from West Seattle’s Solstice Park, during NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen‘s spring-equinox event. Our archived coverage shows that was the most-recent time the sun cooperated with Alice’s spring sunset watches – but the forecast for the next one, 6:30-7:30 pm Tuesday (March 20th), looks promising! You’re invited to join Alice for the free and fun informational all-ages gathering Tuesday night – here’s how to get to Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW, uphill from the tennis courts) if you haven’t been there before.
P.S. Spring officially arrives at 9:15 am our time Tuesday. While the official sunset time will be around 7:20 pm, Alice has noted over the years that the moment of disappearance behind the Olympic Mountains is usually about 10 minutes earlier.
At Solstice Park late today, the mountains showed up, the holiday cheer showed up, more than 40 people showed up … but the sun was a no-show for Alice Enevoldsen‘s winter-solstice sunset watch. Nonetheless, she led attendees through what she jokingly called “solstice yoga,” as part of her explanation of the solar-system phenomenon that brings the change of seasons:
(Added: For a longer version, see Scott Scowcroft‘s video here.)
There was also a bit of cloud observation due to the formations in the south sky:
Thanks to @WestSeaWx for informing us via Twitter that those were Undulatus Asperatus. Alice has led more than 30 solstice/equinox sunset watches as part of her commitment as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador:
She always schedules them for the same date the equinox or solstice arrives in our time zone, so it’s easy to remember – that means you can plan to join her at Solstice Park for the arrival of spring on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018. Watch her website alicesastroinfo.com for more info on that and other things you might see in the sky.
One year ago, the sun decided to show up for Alice Enevoldsen‘s Winter Solstice sunset watch at West Seattle’s Solstice Park. Will we see it happen this year? The forecast so far is inconclusive. But Alice, who’s been a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador since 2010, will be at the park for Thursday’s sunset, 4-5 pm, presenting her quarterly info-and-demonstration event marking the changing of the seasons. All welcome! If you haven’t been there, here’s how to find the park. (The actual solstice moment is on Thursday morning – just before 8:30 am our time – but Alice’s events are always at sunset, taking advantage of the park’s unique markers showing where the sunset lines up at solstices and equinoxes.)
2:56 PM: Two sky notes: First, that cloud formation – Byron asked us on Twitter about a “vortex” and we had no idea what he was referring to until we saw that photo e-mailed by Jeff Kaufer. Official name for this formation, anyone? (Update: See comments.)
Also: Possible meteor-watching tonight, Alice Enevoldsen reminds us via Twitter:
Geminids will be occurring all night Dec 13th (Thu) and 14th (Fri), starting low in the East with a few spectacular ones between sunset and 10pm. Then 10pm-2am you'll have the chance to see a lot more directly overhead… 1/2 @westseattleblog https://t.co/koBhHNUyy8
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) December 13, 2017
ADDED 3:10 PM: Another view, from Tori:
… it might have been. Our hotline received two voicemails from people who saw what looked like a meteor or fireball around 7:35 pm. Looking around online, we saw a Reddit mention of a sighting from Ballard. We asked around on Twitter, and got replies including:
I saw it. At 7:37 I was heading WB on the bridge and super bright glowing green thing fell from sky to the NW then flamed out.
— Lori Kothe (@Kocreate) October 25, 2017
I was rowing on Lake Washington and saw it above UW stadium. It was green and burnt out in about 4 seconds. It was amazing.
— Adam Day (@AdamDayLA) October 25, 2017
We are in the throes of the Orionid meteor shower. It peaked this past weekend but it lasts a couple more weeks.
— Newman, Ted 🎃 (@deuce4922) October 25, 2017
Here’s more on the Orionids.
Many times over her seven-plus years of explaining equinoxes and solstices at West Seattle’s Solstice Park, Alice Enevoldsen has had young volunteers from the crowd assist. Last night, her daughter Vera wielded Alice’s legendary globe-on-a-stick last night during the sunset gathering hours after autumn arrived (1:02 pm Friday, if you’re keeping track). Alice is a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador, and these events are part of what she does to fulfill that role. Solstice Park – uphill from the tennis courts by north Lincoln Park – is a perfect one-of-a-kind place for this because of its markers and paths that line up with where the sunset should be on those four season-change dates each year. Most of the more than 70 attendees gathered with Alice at the back of the appropriate path at the sunset moment:
Clouds prevented a clear view, but it was a pretty sunset just the same.
Alice also folds in the most-recent skywatching highlights – so this time, that meant some talk about last month’s eclipse, and the recent end of contact with Cassini.
Next seasonal-change sunset watch, meantime, will mark the start of winter – keep watch on Alice’s website in the meantime. And on the sky, which showed some color before event’s end:
Will we see the sun this Friday evening, lining up with that marker at Solstice Park, hours after the Fall Equinox? Join NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen at the park to find out! Here’s her announcement:
It’s time for the 34th seasonal sunset watch!
We’ll also share eclipse stories and favorite moments or pictures from Cassini (RIP, now part of Saturn). If you drew a picture of the eclipse, either before or after, I would absolutely love to see it.
When: Friday, September 22 at 6:55 pm (so come at 6:35 pm)
Actual sunset is supposed to be at 7:06 pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says, because of the horizon altitude.
The equinox moment is Friday, September 22 at 1:02 pm.
Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts
Who: Everyone welcome, as usual. (Please do leash your dogs as we usually have a good number of people, kids, and other dogs around.)
I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or a thunderstorm I’m staying home with some tea!
Moonset on Friday, by the way, is 8:40 pm, and Alice notes that it’ll be a waxing crescent with seven percent of its disk illuminated.
P.S. If you don’t know where to find Solstice Park – Alice explains on her website.
If you haven’t finalized where you’re watching tomorrow morning’s solar eclipse, here’s a list of nearby gatherings – some of which you might already have found in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar.
First – as expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen has warned (among many others) – DON’T LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT SPECIAL EQUIPMENT! If you didn’t already get viewing glasses (the comment section on our original report from last weekend morphed into a marketplace of sorts), some viewing parties will have glasses – sharing might be required.
Second – from Alice’s “eclipse basics” report here on WSB, the West Seattle timeline for tomorrow:
Start of partial eclipse: 9:08 am
Maximum eclipse: 10:20 am — Coverage of the Sun: 92%
End of partial eclipse: 11:56 am
HIGH POINT LIBRARY: 8:30-11:30 am – here rae the details. (35th SW/SW Raymond)
SOUTH PARK COMMUNITY CENTER: 8:30-11:30 am – here are the details. (8319 8th Ave. S.)
NEW – WEST SEATTLE JUNCTION VIEWING PARTY: 9-11:30 am – the invitation from the WS Junction Association:
Solar Eclipse viewing party at Junction Plaza Park.
On the event that could be the largest scientific viewing in human history, the total solar eclipse will occur at 10:20 am. During a total solar eclipse, the Sun is entirely blocked by the Moon, and in totality, night appears in the middle of the day. While Seattle is not on the path of totality we will experience a partial eclipse with over 92% of the Sun blocked, still an event to behold.
BYOSG (bring your own solar glasses). We’ll have refreshments and snacks.
(42nd SW/SW Alaska)
MUSEUM OF FLIGHT: Watch outside the Museum of Flight‘s entrance for free 9:30-10:30 am; NASA broadcast inside as it moves across the country, included with museum admission. And then see the NASA plane that will be up over Oregon during totality, as it arrives back at Boeing Field. Full details here. (9404 E. Marginal Way S.)
WATCHING ON THE WATER: Thinking about watching on a state ferry, since you won’t have to worry about buildings blocking your view if you’re out in the middle of Puget Sound? Here’s the official bulletin sent by Washington State Ferries today:
ALL ROUTES: Between approximately 9:05 and 11:40 a.m. on Monday, August 21, the moon will block a portion of the sun — with a peak of 92-percent coverage at 10:20 a.m. Some of the best views of this solar eclipse will be aboard a Washington State Ferry. However, all passengers are advised to take precautions before viewing the eclipse, as looking directly at the sun is extremely harmful to your eyes. Seattle’s Pacific Science Center advises everyone to view the eclipse with an approved special solar filter, such as glasses or a pinhole projector. Please protect yourself, and we hope you enjoy this rare event.
Nearest route to our area is Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth – the schedule is here. If you walk on, keep in mind that you do have to disembark at Southworth, even if you are walking right back on to finish the round trip.
Anything in the area that we’ve missed? Please comment, or e-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can add!
P.S. From Alice’s previous eclipse previews, a resource list, including how to watch online:
NASA Eclipse 2017
Interactive Google Map #1
Interactive Google Map #2 (works better on phones than #1)
American Astronomical Society Eclipse 2017
Clear Sky Chart: the astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloudcover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.
EDITOR’S NOTE: With one week until the solar eclipse, West Seattle’s best-known sky-watcher is continuing to offer helpful info – in this report, the basics about the eclipse and safely watching it. Still to come, a list of where to eclipse-watch in West Seattle!
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog
Are you ready for the big solar eclipse that’s now one week away, on August 21?
Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Start of partial eclipse: 9:08 am
Maximum eclipse: 10:20 am — Coverage of the Sun: 92%
End of partial eclipse: 11:56 am
Visible from West Seattle? Yes … but read on for caveats
VIEWING FROM WEST SEATTLE
EDITOR’S NOTE: With nine days until the solar eclipse, we’re getting questions about where to get viewing glasses, and West Seattle’s best-known sky-watcher has put together a list. Watch for more pre-eclipse coverage here tomorrow and beyond, too.
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog
I will tell you where you can get safe eclipse glasses after two short paragraphs of safety information; my conscience won’t let me skip the safety warnings.
You absolutely need special equipment to see this event safely.
Eclipse glasses are also called solar-observing glasses and they are not related to sunglasses. There are only a handful of companies that make glasses that meet the current international standard of safety.
To use glasses safely:
*Check that they are marked compliant with the safety standard ISO 12312-2:2015
*Check that the lenses are flat and free from scratches, punctures, or damage. Discard them if there are problems.
*Stand still, looking away from the Sun.
*Put on the glasses.
*Look toward the Sun.
*If the Sun looks bright, or your eyes get tired from the glare, then the filter is letting too much light though. Look away and use a different filter.
“West” Seattle Sources for Eclipse Glasses
I’ve included some farther than West Seattle because everywhere has limited supplies. Most of these locations have the glasses behind the main counter.
Seattle Public Library Branches — FREE!
All the branches of the Seattle Public Library are participating in the Space Science Institute’s STAR_Net Initiative with support from NASA, Google, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. You can pick up one pair per family while supplies last.
(UPDATE: Since we published this – we’ve been told Seattle Public Library branches are OUT. So scroll down to the other suggestions. Ken @ High Point Library says that branch’s eclipse-viewing gathering 8:30-11:30 am on the 21st will have glasses to share. ALSO – see comments below this story for additional locations reported by readers.)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:08 PM SATURDAY: Getting multiple messages about a sight in the sky over West Seattle in the past 15 minutes or so – Jill described it as “an awesome meteor traveling northward, looking east from Admiral/Belvidere.” Anyone else?
10:15 PM: Checking Twitter – still the best place to check real-time reports – we see reports from all over the Northwest – Astoria, OR, to Victoria, B.C., among others.
10:48 PM: Our local sky specialist Alice Enevoldsen points us to the American Meteor Society website, where you can report sightings, and that site in turn reminds us we’re just 2 weeks from the Perseid shower’s peak.
11:05 AM SUNDAY: We don’t know yet if the time frame matches, but the government announced this morning that it conducted a missile-defense test in Alaska overnight – here’s one of the reports, and here’s the government news release. Worth noting that one of the Missile Defense Agency‘s radar vessels, SS Pacific Tracker, was in West Seattle recently; the day it left (July 21st), MarineTraffic.com last showed it headed north, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The test was preceded by an alert, according to this report that includes video of a test earlier this month.
11:20 AM SUNDAY: Again, we don’t know if this was or wasn’t what was seen here – but the Missile Defense Agency website now has video of the test:
Still haven’t seen any word on exactly when the test happened.
David Hutchinson saw it from Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza …
Jen Popp was looking toward downtown …
And Alice Enevoldsen was at Solstice Park, as summer arrived after 9 o’clock tonight:
During her 33rd quarterly seasonal sunset watch, Alice was mostly looking ahead to the rare sight that’s now exactly two months away – the August 21st solar eclipse that will be visible in totality as close as parts of Oregon.
Those who joined her at the park of course also got the chance to learn about and commemorate the changing of the seasons – this year, the solstice moment was less than half an hour after sunset, which was mostly obscured by clouds, aside from the show of pink in the photos atop our story.
So, back to the eclipse: While it won’t be total up here, you’ll still see it at about 90 percent, Alice pointed out. The most important thing is HOW you view it, so you don’t damage your eyes. You can create pinhole viewers or else get a special type of eyewear – cardboard glasses like the ones she showed are on sale at the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) library – they look cheap, she acknowledged, but they get the job done.
The most important thing in eclipse eyewear, she said, is to adhere to ISO 12312-2 – explained on this NASA webpage that’s all about safe eclipse viewing. For general eclipse info, she recommends MrEclipse.com.
P.S. Alice won’t be in West Seattle to lead an eclipse-viewing party but she’ll be talking with local skywatchers and will let us know if anyone else plans to.
Summer officially starts at 9:24 pm next Tuesday (June 20th) – and that’s less than half an hour after sunset, so Alice Enevoldsen‘s 33rd seasonal sunset watch will be close to the actual solstice moment. You’re invited to watch it with her at Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW) as usual, and there’s an informational bonus this time:
This is also my last currently scheduled event before the solar eclipse in August! Come and I’ll give tips and resources on safely observing the eclipse from Seattle, as well as at sites in Oregon. I’ve got more resources than anyone (practically) on safe observing for kids aged 18-months to 6 years, so bring the kiddos.
Alice’s events are free, fun, and informative, and part of what she does as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador.
11:15 PM: Expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen just tweeted the news of an aurora visible right here, right now:
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) May 28, 2017
She had been talking earlier about the possibility, and we were about to fold it in with some beautiful sunset photos we’d received, when she called to say it’s happening now. Here are her viewing tips (main one, “always look north”). More to come!
11:23 PM: If you’re interested in expert guidance while trying to get a look at the aurora, Alice is considering heading to Don Armeni Boat Ramp (1222 Harbor SW).
12:35 AM: Alice reports an International Space Station sighting too.
12:50 AM: She’s moving on to Myrtle Reservoir Park.
ADDED 7:11 AM SUNDAY MORNING: More photos – first, from Jason Enevoldsen:
And from Jamie Kinney:
Considering the sun didn’t bother showing up for Alice Enevoldsen‘s Summer Solstice Sunset Watch this year, its appearance tonight for the first sunset of winter seemed almost miraculous. By Alice’s count, it’s the 31st time she’s led a solstice or equinox watch at Solstice Park:
More than 30 people joined her this time, gathering to see if the sunset would align with the parkway path:
The Lincoln Park forest is getting too tall for Solstice Park visitors to see the sun meet the horizon:
But that’s not the best part of the sunset-watch events – it’s the sun-and-earth show-and-tell with Alice and an assistant – this time, Jules helped out:
Thanks to JayDee for sharing the photo of summer’s last sunset. Fall arrives at 7:21 am our time tomorrow (Thursday); as previewed here last weekend, you can celebrate by joining Alice Enevoldsen for her 30th quarterly sunset watch at Solstice Park – sunset’s expected just before 7 pm, and Alice suggests you arrive around 6:35 pm. (The forecast sounds promising.)
(WSB photo from fall equinox sunset watch in 2014)
Doesn’t quite feel like it today but – it’s the last weekend of summer. Fall arrives at 7:21 am our time on Thursday and about 10 hours later, you’re invited to celebrate it with West Seattle’s own NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen – her 30th seasonal (both solstices and both equinoxes, every year) sunset watch! She suggests you arrive at Solstice Park around 6:35 pm – the sun will be dropping behind the Olympic Mountains around 6:55, whether it’s visible or not, and as Alice says, “I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or a thunderstorm I’m staying home with some tea!” All ages welcome – Alice and husband Jason Gift Enevoldsen have two young children, including a one-month-old baby, and her interactive solar-system lessons tend to hold the attention of all. (Here’s the full listing in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar; as for the forecast, doesn’t look like rain.)