Category Archives: Observing

It’s the Messier Marathon

Ever just gone outside with a telescope and took a look at all the different Messier objects viewable? Give it a try, even a decent pair of binoculars can be used in some cases. Pretty fun.

I might get to go out later tonight being I should have clear skies for a change. The weather has not be very co-operative in that regard lately.

NASA – In mid-March, skywatchers in the northern hemisphere can try to observe all 110 objects from the Messier catalog in one night. To celebrate the Messier Marathon, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is releasing 12 new images to add to its extensive collection of Messier objects observed by Hubble.

View Hubble’s full Messier catalog (excellent!).

View the original Messier catalog at SEDS (I love SEDS!)

See Mercury and Venus

You might be able to catch a look at Mercury and Venus together just after sunset tonight.

Mercury and Venus will only be about a degree and a half apart when they appear together this evening. The image shows about where to look, basically note where the sun sets and let that be your guide and be sure the sun HAS SET if you plan on using binoculars (like I will) for the observation, you can severely damage your eyes if you accidentally look at the sun!

Now all I need is clear skies!

The image is not my backyard sadly, it is the standard background for Stellarium.

The Diamond Ring

ESA brings us this wonderful image of a solar diamond ring for Valentine’s Day. This one is from the Solar Eclipse of 21 August 2017 photographed by during an eclipse expedition to the USA as part of ESA’s CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) educational initiative. CESAR engages students in the wonders of science and technology – astronomy in particular.

As it happens there will be a solar eclipse tomorrow. This eclipse will be visible to most of Antarctica and southern regions of Chile and Argentina, I know we have readers from the very south of Argentina so here is a map showing when and approximately what you will see.

The map and more information from Wikipedia here.


The launch of the Russian cargo mission to the International Space Station has been scrubbed for today.

The launch was scheduled for 08:58 UTC / 03:58 EST or 14:58 local time at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan has been scrubbed.

The cause for the delay is not readily available and an alternate launch date/time is “under review”. I don’t imagine it will be very long.

If you are following the SpaceX Tesla Roadster and Starman you might be interested to know that Stellarium can follow them too.

To make sure it is added, open the Stellarium, Open the configuration options (F2), select the Plug-in’s tab, choose Satellites (on the left) and then click the configure button on the bottom.

Then go to the Satellite tab and on the left side you will see a button that says “all” and under that is a box you can type in (you will see a list below the box) type TESLA ROADSTER and you will see it pop up on the list and you should be good to go.

It might seem complicated to do, but it’s really pretty easy. I want to capture the orbital diagram from above, I just need to remember how to do it. Maybe I cannot, I’ll keep trying.

February Skies

The thumbnail reminded me Valentines Day is coming up. If you are inclined to participate in the spirit of the day and have not made plans, you’d better hurry otherwise you will be in the same boat as I am.

Nearing Solar Minimum

I’ve been watching the Sun for the past few days and was not seeing any spots. We are nearing solar minimum so a spotless sun is not unusual every now and then plus I was only using binoculars and sometimes miss spots near the limbs. I looked three days running and saw nothing; I was not able to look yesterday as I was in the midst of a 25 cm snowstorm.

This morning I saw on NASA the Sun was spotless for nearly two weeks and now finally there are a couple of groups coming into view. Does this mean we’ve reached bottom in the solar cycle and we’re starting to climb? No, notice how the sunspots are near the equator of the Sun, typically we would want to see high-latitude formation as a new cycle indicator and there just isn’t anything going on in those locations.

We can also look at a plot of the solar cycle progression over a few cycles. If we do that over the long-term we find the average cycle lasts about 11 years.  So, between solar cycle peaks (or valleys) there is an average of 11 years and the time from the top of a cycle and the bottom of a cycle is about 5.5 years and looking at the chart below from the US Space Weather Prediction Service we see it has been about four-years since the peak.  Remember that 11 years  is an average and the actual can vary.  It’s a good time to keep watching every now and then we could be on a short cycle.  Watching where the sunspots form will tell the story.

The Super Blue Blood Moon

It’s all about the name, what’s with that?

“Super” comes from the proximity of the Moon to Earth. The Moon this time around is about as close as it can be to Earth when it is full. I believe the previous full moon was about 1,000 km closer than this one.

“Blue” comes from the second definition of a Blue moon and any place I look this up the definitions seem to be in the same order. I like to call them Type 1 and Type 2:

1. The third Full Moon in an astronomical season with four Full Moons (versus the usual three).
2. The second Full Moon in a month with two Full Moons.

We will get another “Type 2” blue moon in 2018 occurring in March. The next “Type 1” blue moon happens next year in May.

and finally

“Blood” is for the color sometimes seen in an eclipsed moon.

We have all three of these things happening on Wednesday 31 January, and this is a combination we seldom get to see so have a look if you can.

Oh but can you? Below is a cartoon of when and where the viewing will be. For me, the setting moon is the time. Will I see it? Ha, my forecast is for clear and cold Wednesday morning, low temp will be somewhere around -11 C, so I would assume it will be perfect and near the horizon I might get some good color.

Image: PIRULITON (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons”

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Hey if you can and the skies are good check out the Quadrantid meteor shower.

Look towards the Northeast and you should be able to see some activity. The Moon will probably obscure the shower by a large degree, so try early.