X-1 Flare

The flare of 29 March from SDO. Click for larger. Image: SDO/NASA via SpaceRef

A pretty nice flare was emitted on 29 March 2014. The flare is an X-1 flare, think of the X class as the largest sized/intensity group of flares, other groups are named: M, C, B and A in decreasing size. The number adds a scale within the group. The X-1 is a smaller of the X group where an X-9 would be a monster flare. It would go something like this (in increasing size/intensity): M-7, M-8, M-9, X-1, X-2 and so on. Think of how earthquakes are scaled, it’s quite similar.

So this is a bigger flare, and by 02 April there should be a nice display of the Aurora at high latitudes (both poles) and possibly a sighting at mid-latitudes (where I am). Keep an eye to the sky if they are clear.

It is possible to have radio blackouts but not any the average person will notice. Ham radio operators might note a little degradation at HF frequencies.

The flare also caused some coronal dimming. The SDO captured a (really fast) video of the effect and Dean Pesnell posted it and a description at the SDO blog. Very cool!

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Mars at Opposition

If you’ve noticed Mars being especially bright (for Mars), you would be correct. If you’ve NOT noticed Mars being especially bright it would be a good time to have a look if you are out and about.

On 8 April 2014 Mars will be at opposition and six days later it will be at it’s closest to us. Don’t expect it to be bigger than the full moon this time around.


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163 Erigone

If you happen to be up at 0605 UTC (20 March 2014) and many will, you can watch the 72 km (45 mile) wide asteroid 163 Erigone eclipse the star Regulus.

The visibility will occur for people in a narrow swath in the north eastern portion of the US and into Ontario Canada. See below:

Ground track of 163 Erigone via the Creative Commons

Ground track of 163 Erigone via the Creative Commons

Tthe vast majority of us will not be able to stand outside and see it, HOWEVER we will be able to WATCH IT LIVE AT Slooh.

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Time for the Geminids

The Geminids meteor shower is upon us; perhaps you’ve seen a few already. The peak of the shower is the 13th and 14th and I would like to suggest you look before dawn on Saturday.

The radiant of the shower, that area where the meteors seem to emanate from, is not surprisingly the constellation of Gemini. The above image is a finders map for the northern hemisphere and if you click it you will get one for the southern hemisphere, both come from Gary Kronk’s excellent site: Meteor Showers Online.

The meteor rate can be anywhere between 50 and 100 meteors an hour and normally would provide a nice show. This year we have a moon that will be nearly full (~91%) and the brightness could limit visibility. Still it’s worth a look, I’m for sure going to be out there. I think I should have a pretty good sky to look at despite an approaching storm system. I would guess anyways, temps are supposed to be in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees C so skies should be clear.

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ISON moving through Virgo. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery

ISON moving through Virgo. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery

I’ve been having a lot of bad luck with ISON observations. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen anything other than clouds in the sky. Oh sure there were two or three mornings with semi-clear sky conditions but even then ISON happened to be covered. Right now it is a magnitude 5.24, probably a decent binocular object.

I will keep watching and you should too because ISON should be starting to brighten quickly and could be a naked eye object in just days to a week. Don’t miss out!

Here is a screenshot from Stellarium for 18 November 2013 at 05:30 and at 45 deg north latitude, you might find it useful for a guide.  Note: Higher latitudes will see objects lower in the sky and vice versa.

Here are the specific coordinates: RA/Dec 13h43m19 sec/ 12o53’26”

If you use the screenshot ISON will appear higher in the sky with respect to the stars on days preceding 18 November and lower in the sky and subsequent days.

As a bonus Mercury is approaching its Western Elongation and will reach it on 18 November, so if you have a good look at the eastern horizon you will get a chance to see it. If you can I say: lucky you! I have a mountain range in the way. When was the last time you saw Mercury? Seeing Mercury in the east is worth getting up for all by itself!

Here is the caption released with the ISON image above:

Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8 at 5:40 a.m. EST. The image has a field of view of roughly 1.5 degrees by 1 degree and was captured using a color CCD camera attached to a 14″ telescope located at Marshall. At the time of this picture, Comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, heading toward a close encounter with the sun on Nov. 28. Located in the constellation of Virgo, it is now visible in a good pair of binoculars.

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Comet Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy from Andrew's telescope.  Click for larger.  Credit: Andrew Dumont

Comet Lovejoy from Andrew’s telescope. Click for larger. Credit: Andrew Dumont

The discussion with Andrew a couple of weeks ago must have struck a chord. On one of the first decent skies either of us have seen he went and took this image of the “real” Lovejoy.

The area around Comet Lovejoy from Stellarium.

The area around Comet Lovejoy from Stellarium.

If you want to go looking this should get you close:

RA: 8h31m34sec Dec: 16o04’28”  or  Az/Alt: 143o / 57o

Magnitude: 9.45

Nice job Andrew!

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Hybrid Solar Eclipse

There will be a solar eclipse tomorrow 03 November 2013. I started out trying to explain who would see what but decided it would just be best to include a map. I’ve also included what should be a live feed you can watch on Sunday (hopefully).

This is a rather rare type of solar eclipse called a Hybrid Solar eclipse. This type of eclipse shifts between a total eclipse (when the moon completely covers the sun) and an annular eclipse (when the moon appears to be smaller and you can see a ring of solar disk around the edges of the moon).

A map of the extent of path of the Hybrid eclipse.  Click.  Credit: NASA

A map of the extent of path of the Hybrid eclipse. Credit: NASA

The eclipse starts very early (about day break) for the eastern parts of North America and northern parts of South America. Central Africa will see the best eclipse but a wide swath north and south of there will get a decent look too.

Here’s that graphic above from NASA expanded with times

Since I’m in the “look quick and early” zone and with cloudy skies (and possibly snow) I will watch the best of it on the second video below.


Here’s a kind of a video version of the map:

Video source

Hopefully this video will work and if it does you should be able to watch the eclipse tomorrow live from the folks at Slooh:

Many thanks to Slooh for that excellent coverage!

Video source

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Lunar Eclipse Tonight


The path of eclipse visibility. Eastern Canada will see the entire event while the rest of Canada and the USA will see moonrise with the eclipse already in progress. Observers in Europe and Africa will also see the entire event, while eastern Asia misses the end because of moonset. Credit: NASA

You may be able to see the eclipse tonight. It’s not a total eclipse and you could easily miss it. This is a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse.

The Penumbral region is the region of the shadow outside of the darkest area, think of it as shaded as opposed to shadowed, if that makes sense. NASA (back open too BTW) has the times to be looking and a nice cartoon (shown above) of where and what portion of the eclipse is visible.

What you will notice is some coloring of the moon.  The coloration change could be rater subtle so this isn’t one of those “ooohhh ahhhh” kinds of things but quite cool none-the-less.

When and Where from NASA:

The last lunar eclipse of the year is a relatively deep penumbral eclipse with a magnitude of 0.7649. It should be easily visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading in the southern half of the Moon. The times of the major phases are listed below.


Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 21:50:38 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 23:50:17 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 01:49:49 UT


Note that the beginning and end of a penumbral eclipse are not visible to the eye. In fact, no shading can be detected until about 2/3 of the Moon’s disk is immersed in the penumbra. This would put the period of nominal eclipse visibility from about 23:30 to 00:10 UT. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate. Atmospheric conditions and the observer’s visual acuity are important factors to consider. An interesting exercise is to note when penumbral shading is first and last seen.


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