Category Archives: Observing

What’s Up May 2015

I always appreciate being able to see Mercury and when it is visible all you have to do is look up, surprising how many people have never seen Mercury or at least recognized that’s what they are looking at.

You only need a pair of binoculars to see the four large moons of Jupiter and this time of year it’s comfortable enough to go out on successive nights and see the changes in orbital position.


Lunar Evolution

The skies here cleared out overnight and when I got up everything was lit up the the brilliant full moon. Well, almost full moon, full moon occurs on 04 May at 03:43 UTC / 03 May at 23:43 EDT. It has been a while since I had good skies and the sight was beautiful and I thought of this video, glad to see it was still there.


Lyrids Meteor Shower

Hopefully tonight you have clear skies because it’s time for the Lyrid meteor shower.

Actually the shower goes from about 16 April to 26 April and tonight should be near the peak. The meteor rate is usually about 10 per hour with occasional outburst years of over 100 per hour.

This meteor shower has observations that go back 2600 years or more. Have a look at Meteor Showers Online for a concise history on the Lyrids and finders charts for both northern and southern hemispheres.

ScienceAtNASA just published this video, it’s pretty good with some great tips. You might have to convert the times they give in the video (UTC = EDT + 4). Basically if it is dark and you can see stars, get comfortable and look up, the moon won’t be a problem. Follow the trails back and you will find the constellation Lyra the namesake of the shower.

Good luck and have fun!

Video link

Yuri’s Night

Yuri’s Night is a World Space Party and it is tonight! Many observatories, science centers and astronomy clubs are hosting Yuri’s Night events.

Everywhere! The entire world is involved, there’s even a South Pole Yuri Night so if you happen to be in Antarctica near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, check it out 😉

If you don’t happen to be near an event, you can still participate. Go outside, pick out a constellation or two, find a planet. A telescope isn’t required and if you have a pair of binoculars they will work just fine.

Go outside and see what you can see.  Have fun!

Yuri’s Night


A Five Minute Eclipse

This image shows the Dec. 20, 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/Alphonse Sterling


Europe was recently treated to a beautiful solar eclipse. Now there is a Total Lunar Eclipse coming to North America, South America, Middle Asia, including India, western China and mid-Asian Russia on 04 April.

Viewers in areas able to see the eclipse will have to look quick, the total eclipse will last only FIVE minutes! No fooling, this will be the shortest lunar eclipse this century. :mrgreen:

Fortunately people in eastern North America and western South America will get to see the early stages (partial umbral phase) of the eclipse in the western sky and people in Middle Asia, including India, western China and mid-Asian Russia will see the late stages low in the eastern sky just after sunset on 04 April.

Sorry Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Africa and the Middle East the eclipse will not be visible for you.

This is the third of a series of four eclipses in a row also known as a “tetrad”  The last two occurred in April and September 2014 and the last of the series will occur on 28 September 2015.

See a visibility map here.

The image at the top of the post shows the 20 December 2012 total lunar eclipse, as seen from Sagamihara, Japan.

Solar Eclipse LIVE

The solar eclipse live feed from Cloud Tube. Most of North America will NOT see the eclipse. Have a look here to check if it is visible where you are. I am in North America so I will not be able to see it for myself, so I hope the live link works!

The eclipse starts at 07:41 UTC and ends at 11:50 UTC. It’s “almost” a spring eclipse too but not quite.

Speaking of spring:

Happy Spring!

The March Equinox occurs at 22:45 UTC / 18:45 EDT today.

I still have 22 cm of snow on the ground so spring can’t get here too soon :)

Total Eclipse This Week

There will be a Total Eclipse on 20 March. Will you be able to see it? If you are in most of Europe or northern Russia, you will get to be in the penumbra (a partial eclipse). The only populated places where the totality can be seen, reachable by public travel, are the Faroe Islands and Svalbard.

Either way be sure to check it out as this will be the last total eclipse visible in Europe until 12 August 2016.

The little graphic below from NASA will give you an idea what time the eclipse will occur and where.


I will not get to see it. I’m sure there will be sites that will be streaming the eclipse and I’ll like a few of them later this week.



Storm Watch

The sun emitted a solar flare on 11 March 2015 and was captured in this excellent video by NASA and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare was a powerful X2.2 class flare.

The “X” classification denotes the most intense flares. The number gives us a to gauge its relative strength compared to an X1 flare. A flare of X2 is twice the strong as an X1 and a 3 would be three times as strong. So the X2.2 classification pegs this flare as 2.2 times as strong as an X1.

The flare and not one but three coronal mass ejections (CME’s) prompted the US, Space Prediction Center (NOAA) to issue a Minor Geomagnetic Storm watch (Level G1).

The peak of the storm is expected to occur around 0100 to 0700 UTC on 13 March. Thats 2100 EDT 12 March to 0300 EDT 13 March in the US. If you want to see an aurora keep an eye on the sky around these times and please know these times are good estimates but there could be some deviation.

I should be near a computer today and will post updates as needed/available as edits to this post.

The NOAA Space Prediction Center will have current information and conditions.