West Seattle, Washington
At the end of a gray day that was part of 49 consecutive hours of rain, suddenly and quickly, a splash of pink spread across the southwest sky. And that’s how Alice Enevoldsen‘s Winter Solstice sunset watch concluded, with the ~20 in attendance admiring the surprise show.
Until then, it was a gathering much like the dozens of others over which Alice (above with her 8- and 3-year-old daughters) has presided over her decade as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador. As always, she explained what the solstice and equinox are – specific points in the Earth’s annual orbit around the sun. Here’s how part of it went:
But no two sunset watches are exactly alike, depending on who shows up and what they ask about; this one morphed into a discussion of systems of timekeeping.
This gathering, like Alice’s others, was at Solstice Park, just northeast of Lincoln Park, highlighted by stone markers and paths lining up with where the sun sets on the solstices and equinoxes, when you can see it:
The actual winter-solstice moment is at 8:19 pm our time this evening. From here, the days start getting longer -a whole second more tomorrow between sunrise and sunset! P.S. The sunset was so beautiful (see our Instagram video recorded as the color deepened), here’s a bonus photo courtesy of Kanit Cottrell in Gatewood:
11:57 AM: If the sky stays clear – a “legendary meteor shower,” explained here, might be visible tonight. Here’s what West Seattle’s longtime skywatching expert Alice Enevoldsen says:
Ok, West Seattle. 8pm-9:30pm LOOK EAST. There might be a meteor outburst (100s of shooting stars) for 15 minutes in that window. Highest probability is 8:50pm.@westseattleblog
I'm still sorting out my stargazing plans for tonight. https://t.co/gSFQ2ZtWde
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) November 21, 2019
And some bonus advice added by @WestSeaWx: “Might I add, get as high in elevation as possible w/an unobstructed view.” The absolute highest elevation in West Seattle – the entire city, in fact – is in Myrtle Reservoir Park (35th/Myrtle), though its eastward view is NOT unobstructed. Forecast, meantime, looks clear and cold.
ADDED 4:02 PM: Alice will be out watching and you’re invited to join her:
I'll be at the "Observe here" red star.
(Ignore the yellow star)@westseattleblog @SouthSeattleCC
8:15pm-9:30pm tonight 11/21/2019#UnicornMeteorShower (potential meteor outburst) pic.twitter.com/f2AMd8xzaV
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) November 21, 2019
The sunset was a no-show. But several hardy people showed up to join Alice Enevoldsen‘s change-of-seasons sunset watch tonight at Solstice Park anyway. When turnout’s a bit bigger, Alice gathers everyone into a circle for a grand demonstration of what exactly happens in the solar system at the time of equinox or solstice. Tonight, things were a little more casual. Mark your calendar for the next sunset watch; this year’s winter solstice is on Saturday, December 21st.
This year’s autumn-equinox moment is just under seven hours away – 12:50 am our time Monday. You can celebrate the change of seasons tomorrow night at Alice Enevoldsen‘s Solstice Park sunset watch – a West Seattle tradition! Get to the park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW, upslope from the tennis courts) around 6:30 pm; don’t let clouds daunt you – sometimes the sun will break through, and even if it doesn’t, Alice’s explanation of the equinox is always memorable. All ages welcome, as always. See you there!
Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Clear skies and an impressive Friday night sunset treated visitors at West Seattle’s Solstice Park for a summer solstice watch hosted by local volunteer and NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen (pictured above at center-left, holding her trusty globe-on-a-stick and explaining with youth volunteers how the Sun and Earth are positioned at various times of the year).
Enevoldsen, who said she has been organizing these quarterly change-of-seasons gatherings for “10 years — plus one sunset!” talked with attendees about the solstice.
The unique park, uphill from the tennis courts by north Lincoln Park, has paths and markers that were built to align precisely with the sunsets on solstice/equinox days. Prior to sunset just after 9 pm, Enevoldsen showed visitors where to stand to best experience the event.
Several younger attendees were equally happy to run around the markers and burn off some welcome-to-summer energy.
In Seattle, the exact moment of the summer solstice occurred at 8:54 a.m. on Friday, and during the day the sun’s position in the sky was at its highest point of the year (66 degrees).
If the forecast holds, the sun might grace West Seattle’s most famous change-of-seasons tradition on Wednesday: Alice Enevoldsen‘s sunset watch. The spring-equinox moment is 2:58 pm our time Wednesday afternoon; four hours later, shortly after 7 pm, you can join Alice in watching the first sunset of spring at West Seattle’s Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW). This is Alice’s 40th change-of-seasons sunset watch, part of her community service as a volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador. We’ve covered most of her events and no two have been the same – but you can always expect to at least learn a bit and laugh a bit. She’ll be there around 6:30 pm; the sunset is shortly after 7 pm. (Full moon, too, as noted in the astronomical info that accompanies Alice’s announcement.)
Just can’t get enough of the moon! From the WSB inbox tonight – above, the skyline moonrise, photographed by Susanna Moore (from WSB sponsor Niederberger Contracting); below, one more multiphase look at last night’s incredible eclipse, from Dan Ciske:
Dan says, “All taken over a 3+ hour time frame from our West Seattle deck, then merged into a collage.” (If you missed last night’s as-it-happened eclipse coverage, with other contributed photos, it’s here.)
FIRST REPORT, 7:38 PM: Go outside right now and look high in the eastern sky. You should be able to see the start of the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” eclipse. If you can’t see it – or if you’d like to watch with an expert skywatcher – Alice Enevoldsen is at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) until 9:30 pm, in the field on the south side of campus as shown by the red star on this map she tweeted earlier:
The college is at 6000 16th SW on Puget Ridge. Alice also shared this info-sheet about the eclipse. Short version: Total eclipse starts at 8:41 pm. Updates to come!
8:20 PM: Haven’t looked yet? It’s very cool right now. About 2/3 covered.
— Alice's AstroInfo (@AlicesAstroInfo) January 21, 2019
9:04 PM: The moon is still covered, but duskily visible, if you haven’t looked yet!
9:29 PM: Note that the total eclipse, according to the timeline Alice shared, ends at 9:43.
Meantime, overheard during totality – (1) People howling. (2) Per scanner, somebody (not sure if this was a SW or South Precinct dispatch; they share a channel) called in a possible burglar; officer reported back, “Homeowner is just trying to watch the moon. No burglary here.”
10:25 PM: Two-thirds-plus back out again. What a sight! Adding a few photos (thank you). Not just the moon – the one below from Trileigh Tucker shows part of the Orion Nebula, “where you can see the nebula clouds around the bright white area in the center. Star nursery!”
10:58 PM: Though the eclipse may look over, it’s not fully over – the penumbral phase doesn’t end unti 11:48 pm.
Right about the time of today’s winter-solstice moment – just before 2:30 pm – the sun emerged to greet the newly arrived season. And it hung around long enough for squinting and sunglasses to be in order at NASA volunteer Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen‘s sunset-watch event at West Seattle’s Solstice Park.
The park has paths and markers that align with solstice/equinox sunsets, and the dozens in attendance were able to fully appreciate them today.
Sunset watch also means a lesson about the Earth, the Sun, and how the solar system works.
Now that the days are going to start getting longer – just a tiny bit at first, Alice noted when asked, so don’t get too excited yet – you can start looking forward to the spring equinox, just before 3 pm on Wednesday, March 20th, so plan on sunset watch with Alice a few hours later.
(WSB file photo)
The weather should be a lot calmer on Friday afternoon, when winter officially arrives – the solstice “moment” is at 2:23 pm. An hour and a half later, you are invited to the change-of-seasons sunset watch with Alice Enevoldsen at West Seattle’s Solstice Park (7400 Fauntleroy Way SW, upslope from the tennis courts). Be there at 3:45 pm to mark the change of seasons (and to learn about it too).
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.