West Seattle, Washington
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.
Spring arrives at the equinox moment of 8:33 am Sunday, but if you want to welcome the new season in West Seattle tradition style, be at Solstice Park (uphill from the tennis courts at 7400 Fauntleroy Way SW) 10 hours later for the quarterly sunset watch with Alice Enevoldsen. If you’re new to the area, Alice is an educator and volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador who’s led sunset-watch events for more than a decade to explain what the equinox/solstice really means. Solstice Park, with stone slabs aligning with the sunset at each of the four season changes, is the perfect place to gather. She’ll be at the park ~6:30-7:30 pm Sunday; though the official sunset time is (corrected) 7:22 pm, as Alice points out, the sun’s actual moment of vanishing behind the Olympics is about 15 minutes earlier. Even if the sun’s not visible, her events are still on (barring only heavy rain). All ages welcome; full details here.
7:14 PM: A semi-rare treat – a wintertime full moon NOT hidden by clouds. Tonight, it’s the Full Snow Moon. Above, Jan Pendergrass caught the moonrise from Harbor Avenue; below, a different view from Jerry Simmons:
Moonset will be just after 8 am Friday.
9:30 PM: A later view, from Robert Spears:
Tomorrow at 7:59 am, winter arrives, and the sun starts its climb in the sky anew. This year, from morning to night, you have multiple ways to celebrate the winter solstice in West Seattle, including:
Full details on all of the above are atop the WSB West Seattle Holiday Guide.
8:25 PM: As mentioned in today’s preview, and elsewhere, we might see the “northern lights” tonight – well, more like early tomorrow. Here’s what West Seattle skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen says: “Based on this latest prediction, I’m revising my advice for Seattle to *center* around 2-5 am tonight. Still looks like clear skies.” For other forecasts, and viewing advice, here’s the aurora-info page on Alice’s website.
1:44 AM: Not looking too promising yet, as far as we can tell. But if you’re up late/early, check in on Alice’s Twitter account too.
ADDED SUNDAY MORNING: Alice says today’s outlook from forecasters is that “the peak of the solar wind impact” is forecast for 3 pm to 5 pm. So we may be out of luck for this solar event.
ADDED SUNDAY EVENING: Alice says the space-weather forecasters have downgraded everything, so nothing’s expected tonight either.
9:08 PM: From West Seattle skywatching expert/educator Alice Enevoldsen, word that you might be able to see the aurora tonight, looking north. All her standard aurora-viewing advice is here if you decide to go out looking. She’s heading to Westcrest Park (9000 8th SW) to look:
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) October 12, 2021
Let us know if you see it!
10:14 PM: Some sightings:
a bit from seattle/sunset with phone camera pic.twitter.com/8EkGHKYguE
— liz murdock (@mizmurder) October 12, 2021
I took this from just north of the Edmonds ferry dock pic.twitter.com/XR2CL6V2fI
— Kelly Kalac (@kellykalac) October 12, 2021
Yes, tonight’s edition of season-change sunset watch with Alice Enevoldsen at West Seattle’s Solstice Park did indeed feature the sunset, appearing after a mostly gray afternoon. It also drew ~20 attendees:
Alice’s safety precautions included distancing markers – even this red beanbag on the park stone that shows the equinox alignment of the sunset:
As usual, Alice explained what actually happens at the equinox movement, and discussed recent space developments too, including the recent groundbreaking SpaceX flight:
Next sunset watch will be on winter-solstice day, December 21st, 3:45 pm.
As noted earlier, this is the final full day of summer 2021 – fall arrives at 12:21 pm tomorrow, and that means tomorrow night brings another of skywatcher/educator Alice Enevoldsen‘s quarterly change-of-seasons sunset watch in West Seattle. If you are interested in a fun, educational way to mark the arrival of autumn, this is it – masked and distanced. Be at Solstice Park – uphill from the tennis courts at 7400 Fauntleroy Way SW – at 6:30 pm.
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.