Skies Over West Seattle 83 results

Skies Over West Seattle: First summer edition of 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: What a difference a night makes – between Friday night’s sunset and Thursday night’s official Summer Solstice Sunset Watch with jackets and umbrellas:

If you haven’t met her, that’s Alice Enevoldsen at center, photographed by WSB’s Katie Meyer. A handful of people joined her in braving the Thursday night rain. Now, as for what else is happening over us in the weeks ahead – here’s her latest in a series of WSB features:

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Welcome to summer! School’s out, the nights are warm, the skies are less cloudy. It’s wonderful. It also doesn’t get decently dark until after 10 pm, unless it is cloudy.

Hey! What’s That?

Well, before I get into solar effects and sundogs, let’s look at what you might have seen recently in the night sky. If you were seeing a stationary object in the night sky, it could have been a number of bright stars, but the prime suspects are Arcturus, Vega, or maybe Antares. Otherwise it was likely Saturn.

Arcturus: directly overhead

Vega: high in the East

Antares: very low in the Southeast

Saturn: medium-high in the Southwest (Watch carefully, there are two objects there. Saturn is the one that doesn’t twinkle and is slightly yellower)

Sun Effects

We saw a beautiful halo around the Sun last week.

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Skies Over West Seattle: Mid-May 2013 edition

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ever wish for advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wonder “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” Here you go! Fourth edition of our monthly feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things.

(April crescent moon, photographed by Trileigh Tucker)

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

We’re coming into some reliably clear skies as summer approaches, and better than that, it’ll be warm enough some nights to go stargazing without layering jackets, hats, and long underwear.

Unfortunately, with this warmer weather comes more unstable air, so the seeing isn’t as good as it was in winter. Seeing is all about how easy it is to see the objects in the night sky: how much twinkle is in the stars, or how much the atmosphere blurs what you can see.

Hey! What’s That?

There are fewer bright objects in the sky than the last few months, but what you noticed most recently was probably one of these three: the stars Capella, Arcturus, or the planet Saturn.

If you saw it in the Northwest: it was Capella.

If you saw it in the Southeast: it was either Arcturus or Saturn. Arcturus is higher in the sky, Saturn is nearer the horizon.

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Skies Over West Seattle update: Northern Lights tonight

If there’s a break in the clouds – or if you decide to drive to somewhere you can find one – our Skies Over West Seattle contributor Alice Enevoldsen says the Northern Lights should be out there somewhere:

A big solar wind “gust” just passed over the Earth, so tonight is prime aurora viewing. Check spaceweather and softservenews but it could even be worth driving somewhere out from under these big clouds.

Skies Over West Seattle, April 2013 edition: Astronomy Month; some planets…

EDITOR’S NOTE: For everyone who’s wished they had advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wondered “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” – this is for you – the third edition of our new monthly feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches and for the recent bout of Comet PanSTARRS watching. Speaking of which …

(Comet PanSTARRS’ ‘last hurrah,’ from WSB reader John Hinkey)
By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

We had some amazing nights last month, despite it being March. Now that it is officially spring, it’s started raining again. This month we have two planets in the night sky, and solar activity continues to ramp up towards Solar Maximum in November. It’s Global Astronomy Month, according to Astronomers without Borders, as well as Astronomy Day and Astronomy Week towards the end of the month as declared by the Astronomical League.

Hey! What’s That?

Did you see something in the sky recently, and wonder what it was? There are several options, but I’m betting you probably saw Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It twinkles and flashes like anything in the mid-low sky between southeast and southwest. You probably will even think it is an airplane at first, until you realize it isn’t moving.

The other prime options are Jupiter and Saturn, depending on when and where you’re looking. Both of them will appear extremely bright, but Jupiter is in among a number of similarly bright stars, and Saturn will be rising later in the evening.

Planets (and the rest of the Solar System)

What a nice segue into the planets visible now, if the skies clear.

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Comet-watching alert: Another south Lincoln Park session tonight

7:53 PM: Just got last-minute word from expert skywatcher Alice Enevoldsen that the prospects look good for Comet PanSTARRS viewing again tonight, so she’ll be at south Lincoln Park beach around 8 pm. If any comet photos result, we’ll add them here later. Here’s WSB coverage from last night, with infolinks that might help even if you’re watching from elsewhere.

11:12 PM: Thanks to John Hinkey for the photos (above and below) of Comet PanSTARRS from tonight.

He says they watched from a northwest West Seattle home, but “Could not have found it without Alice Enevoldsen’s directions!” Meantime, as for the Lincoln Park watch, we got to Lincoln Park minutes too late for the comet – Alice says it vanished behind the cloud shelf over the Olympics around 9:10 pm. We arrived around 9:15; thanks to Alice and husband Jason for sticking around for a little guided stargazing with one of their telescopes – Jupiter and star cluster Pleiades, If there’s a chance of visibility again tomorrow, they’ll be back, but that might be the last time for a while, so if you’re interested, make (tentative) plans to be there!

West Seattle skygazing scenes: Comet PanSTARRS seen again

(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
Another beautiful night for comet-watching at Lincoln Park. This time, WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams was watching the comet-watchers – like Donovan Huhner, above. He and others came to south Lincoln Park in hopes of spotting Comet PanSTARRS:

The park’s south beach is where Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info and WSB’s monthly Skies Over West Seattle has been holding court on clear(-ish) nights, along with her husband Jason Gift Enevoldsen:

If you can’t make it to Lincoln Park, Alice has an online guide for where/how to look for Comet PanSTARRS, which she calls a “cute little comet.” As she wrote on WSB earlier this month, this is considered to be the “Year of the Comet,” so there’s a lot more viewing to come.

Keep an eye on Alice’s Twitter feed (and ours) for updates on viewing opportunities while PanSTARRS is still in sight. (Here’s how it looked last weekend.)

First sunset of spring, seen while shivering at Solstice Park

A small but hardy group of skywatchers gathered at Solstice Park this evening for Alice Enevoldsen‘s quarterly equinox/sunset viewing, part of her public event schedule as a NASA Solar System Ambassador. A biting wind swept over the slope – that’s Alice, bundled up in blue – but the sun remained in view:

In addition to the globe she totes to explain the meaning of equinox or solstice, whichever applies, this time Alice brought a book she’s written:

This is the one and only copy of the book she’s written for young children, including her own daughter – but she’s looking for a publisher (any suggestions? you can reach her through her website alicesastroinfo.com).

After sunset, she was off to Lincoln Park to comet-watch, and reported via Twitter that PanSTARRS was visible again!

West Seattle comet-watching: Tonight’s views, plus Jupiter

The sky cleared enough for Comet PanSTARRS viewing again tonight – and we have photos to share in case you missed it. Above, from Trileigh Tucker – click the image for a larger view. The remaining images are from WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams:

To help answer the question of “where to look?” check out his wide view:

That’s Blake Island, with the comet off in the center right – click that image for a larger view. And to get a step-by-step tutorial on where to look for it any time the sky clears in the nights ahead, here’s what local astro-expert Alice Enevoldsen has written about that – she was out with comet-watchers on the south shore of Lincoln Park, and they also viewed Jupiter – Nick sent in this photo as a result:

P.S. Along with comet-viewing any upcoming night it’s clear enough, you’ll find Alice at Solstice Park this coming Wednesday night for her traditional equinox/solstice sunset viewing – 7:13 pm, full details here.

P.P.S. From the archives in case you missed their original appearances – nice comet photos from Saturday night; also, the Northern Lights, seen from Alki!

Another sky show: Northern Lights from West Seattle

(Click image for larger view; photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
Hours after Comet PanSTARRS made another appearance in the western sky (photo here and more to come), the Northern Lights were visible from West Seattle. WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams says this image is from Alki Beach at 3:12 am. Depending on cloud conditions, the aurora might be visible again tonight – it’s from a coronal mass ejection on Friday. Skies Over West Seattle correspondent Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info recommends spaceweather.com for updates.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: If there’s a significant break in the clouds, Alice plans to be out at the south end of Lincoln Park beach around 7:45 tonight for aurora and comet watching. You can also watch her Twitter account for updates.

Photos: More West Seattle comet-watching tonight

(Photo by Paul, added 9:45 pm)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 7:38 PM: Last night, Comet PanSTARRS was briefly visible in a gap between the clouds – and that might be the case again tonight, reports Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info fame and author of “Skies Over West Seattle” updates on WSB – so she’s planning to be on the south end of Lincoln Park at 8 pm. We’ll update if there’s a sighting! (And if you can’t join Alice at the park, the graphic in her March SOWS report shows you where to look.)

9:48 PM UPDATE: Sightings reported! First photo in is courtesy of Paul – added atop this story.

ADDED SUNDAY MORNING: Two photos from Alice’s husband Jason Gift Enevoldsen:

Jason reports that Alice couldn’t get to the beach so he led the comet-viewing there instead:

I took a couple scopes and some binoculars and set up at the south end of the beach again. There was soon a small crowd and we all enjoyed the significantly-improved views tonight – fewer clouds and steadier air (despite the wind). … Many of us were even able to make out the comet without optical aid. The effect was very similar to the second photo below near the top-center, sort of like a tiny speck of dust stuck to your glasses – difficult to see at first and fuzzy, but once you’ve spotted it, it was hard to ignore. I think we probably had about 15-20 people total who stopped by, all ages, and took a chance to view it. We had fun while it lasted; the clouds came in quickly around 8:45 pm, only about 10 minutes before the comet would have set behind the mountains anyway.

What about Sunday night? We’ll see how things look when sunset approaches!

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: If there’s a significant break in the clouds, Alice plans to be out at the south end of Lincoln Park beach around 7:45 tonight for comet- and Northern Lights-watching. You can also watch her Twitter account for updates.

Comet-watching: PanSTARRS briefly visible from West Seattle

(Click picture for a larger image showing Comet PanSTARRS; photo by Jason Ayres Gift Enevoldsen)
10:29 PM: As also seen on her site Alice’s Astro Info, that photo shared by Alice Enevoldsen shows Comet PanSTARRS as it could be seen for a few minutes from West Seattle earlier this evening. Alice’s monthly “Skies Over West Seattle” report here on WSB shows its projected trajectory across the western sky this month – but of course the catch is that there has to be at least a patch of clear evening sky in the right place so it can be seen, and tonight, that happened.

4:05 PM: Alice and Jason processed an even-clearer image – see it here.

Skies Over West Seattle update: Where to comet-watch tonight

3:50 PM: Hoping to comet-watch tonight, with Pan-STARRS in the western sky? Above, that’s a new graphic from local skywatching expert Alice Enevoldsen, updating the one originally featured when we published her second “Skies Over West Seattle here last Sunday. We see some clouds gathering to the west right now, so hard to tell how things will look post-sunset, but now you know where to look if there’s a clearing.

5:12 PM UPDATE: Alice says via Twitter that if there aren’t too many clouds, she’ll be at the south end of Lincoln Park around 6:20 to be on the lookout for the comet. Even if it doesn’t show, she says, Jupiter and Sirius will be worth watching.

6:18 PM UPDATE: Update from Alice (in case you haven’t looked outside lately) – we won’t see the comet tonight; the clouds are thickening.

Skies Over West Seattle, March ‘Year of the Comet’ edition

EDITOR’S NOTE: For everyone who’s wished they had advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wondered “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” – this is for you – the second edition of our new monthly feature by West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things.

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Last month I encouraged you to remember to look up on clear nights (we do have them!) and enjoy our “regular” night sky. This month we have a couple of exciting events that are potentially visible from here in West Seattle. Again, be ready to take advantage of what clear skies we do have, because many March nights are too cloudy for stargazing, and you’ll have to turn to airplane-spotting or cloud identification for your nocturnal hobby.

Comet PanSTARRS!

We are incredibly lucky here in West Seattle. We have a flat Western horizon, which is where you’ll be looking for Comet PanSTARRS just after sunset. I’ve attempted to mock up a little local finding guide image for you here (editor’s note, updated image substituted 3/9/13).

(Placement of Comet PanSTARRS from West Seattle, March 2013. Background image of the Olympics © 2011 Jason Enevoldsen, used with permission)

This is just a guide: I overlaid some planetarium program imagery on a scaled photo of the Olympics. I did my best, but to really find the comet you’ll need an accurate finder chart which includes stars (Astronomy.com has one). At first, in early March, you’ll need binoculars to pick the comet out of the bright post-sunset sky. Toward mid-March it should be brighter, and possibly as bright as the middle stars of the Big Dipper. This would make it easily visible without binoculars. Comets are notably unpredictable though, almost as unpredictable as Seattle’s weather in March.

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Skies Over West Seattle: New WSB feature for skygazers

EDITOR’S NOTE: For everyone who’s wished they had advance alert of an upcoming meteor shower/eclipse/etc. – and/or wondered “What’s that bright ‘star’ up there?” – this is for you; West Seattle’s own Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, famous for her solstice/equinox sunset watches among other things, has offered to write periodic “Skies Over West Seattle” previews. Here’s the first!

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Even with our cloudy skies and immense light pollution, there is hope for skygazing in West Seattle. As with everything, what you need is to be ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. I’m here to offer some suggestions for what to do with those opportunities.

The easy part is to not forget to look up. It is easy for us to bend our heads towards the ground all the time: reading our phones, the news, and watching to make sure we don’t step in puddles. When you get out of the car or off the bus, take a second to turn your face up to the sky. Just before you go to bed, as you’re locking up, glance out the window, or step out for a moment, and see what’s up there.

Beyond that, the winter skies can be truly beautiful. There are many extremely bright stars, and recognizable constellations like Orion are high in the sky and up most of the night. The cold air of winter is also more still than the warm, roiling air of summer. This makes the stars appear more crisp. In astronomical parlance this is called “good seeing.” When it is clear out these situations together make the night sky breathtaking, even from the city.

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