Category Archives: Observing

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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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.

Moon Phases in 2018

A very interesting look at what the the moon phases in 2018 will look like in the northern hemisphere.

MORE IMPORTANTLY!!!! I want EVERYONE to be around to see every one of these moon phases. So, enjoy the celebrations to ring in the new year but PLEASE be safe out there!

December Solstice

The day of the December solstice is here.   The point where the Sun appears to have reached its southern extent and about to begin the six-month journey back north occurs (or occurred) today, 21 December 2017 at 16:28 UTC / 11:28 EST.

Just for fun  I think I will still go out at the solstice time with a stick and see where the shadow falls.  I always think of doing this to see what I have for landscaping options for creating my own little celestial observatory.

The Earth is not at perihelion on the December solstice; perihelion being that point in our orbit where we are closest to the Sun.  Perihelion occurs on 03 January 2018 at 05:35 UTC / 01:35 EST.  The day and time varies from year to year and this also is the case in the June Solstice /Aphelion timing.

Thanks to timeanddate.com for the graphic – it getting to be a tradition.

Welcome Home Expedition 53 Crew

I was not going to put up a video today since there have been quite a few this week but this one of the Expedition 53 crew’s  ( Sergey Ryazanskiy, Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli ) return to Earth is just too good not to:

The parachute changing shape is really quite interesting.

Hopefully you got a chance to go out and have a look at the Geminid meteor shower or at least got to peek at the Live cam being broadcast from NASA in Huntsville Alabama. The linked video will be up as long as the feed continues.

I did get a chance to watch for a while. I braved the -15 C cold for about 45 minutes and returned into the warm house, it was then I discovered I could watch through a sliding glass door as long as the lights were out, once my eyes adjusted it was fun. The meteor shower will gradually taper off so I would expect to see a few meteors for at least the next few nights.

One of the things I seemed to notice was there would be something of a pause in the activity and all at once you would get five or six meteors in couple of minutes.

Here Come the Supermoons

This year a  trio of supermoons includes one that is a blue moon – a Super Blue Moon.  The first supermoon is in just a couple of days on 03 December 2017.

Here’s Science@NASA’s video “ScienceCasts: A Supermoon Trilogy”: