Category Archives: Observing

April Skies

The month as opened with very nice skies, a bit cold in the mornings at -15 C. Despite the cold start April will feature at least a few (much) warmer conditions. I’m going to order a couple new of those reclining lawn chairs, and will enjoy the spring skies at a new location.


Penumbral Lunar Eclipse


There is a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse tomorrow (23 March 2016).  Will you be able to see it?  Check out map.  Europe and Africa are pretty much out of luck for this one.

Most of North America can see this at moon set (look west) and Asia look at moon rise.

This is not a total eclipse but you should see some nice color to the moon.

Here is more from NASA.

The UK Fireball

Fireballs are spectacular and this is a good time of year to see them. This particular fireball was reported to the American Meteor Society 45 times mostly from the UK with reports from France and the Netherlands as well.

The AMS website is a great place to look around and if you see a fireball you can leave a report.


Hubble Sets a New Distance Record

Distant Galaxy GN-z11 in GOODS North Survey

Hubble sets a new distance record in finding GN-z11, this galaxy has a redshift of 11.1, that’s amazing!

From Hubblesite:
ough space, astronomers actually look back through time. Now, by pushing Hubble to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by viewing the farthest galaxy ever seen. Named GN-z11, this surprisingly bright, infant galaxy is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past. The astronomers saw it as it existed just 400 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three percent of its current age. At a spectroscopically confirmed redshift of 11.1, the galaxy is even farther away than originally thought. It existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the time when scientists believe the very first stars started to form. At a billion solar masses, it is producing stars surprisingly quickly for such an early time. This new record will most likely stand until the launch of Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will look even deeper into the universe for early galaxies.

Check out the more detailed version at Hubblesite.

Here’s a video version:

Looking at that area of the sky, it would appear that not much is there, but look at it through even a small telescope reveal a completely different picture.

Sentinel-3 and the Aurora

This video got me wondering if there were going to be any visible passes we might see and the answer is no, at least not at the moment.

There are a number of other satellites we CAN see including the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope among others. Nothing too special is required other than where and when to look.

I had started a photo collection of Iridium flares once upon a time.  I have since moved of course, it might be a good project.  The flares are easy to see (usually) and occur conveniently around the hours of sunrise and sunset.  One or two flares a can typically be seen on any given day depending on location.  The flares are sometimes visible during the day at various hours although I must confess having not seen one – due to lack of trying mostly.  I should start again at this new location.

Below are a few sites I use for satellite tracking/spotting. There are other good sites out there too, you might check out a few to find the one you like.

Heaven’s Above (I like for Iridium flares)

Aurora From Space


This was the NASA Image of the Day. The aurora as seen from the ISS over the Pacific Northwest. I was outside about the right time and saw no sign of an aurora, but I DID see the planetary line-up and it was excellent, will be looking this morning too.

NASA’s image caption:

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and ESA astronaut Tim Peake shared a series of aurora photographs taken from the International Space Station on Jan. 20, 2016. Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) wrote, “#goodmorning #aurora and the Pacific Northwest! #YearInSpace” and Peake (@astro_timpeake) followed up with, “Getting a photo masterclass from @StationCDRKelly – magical #aurora”

The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA

All Lined Up


Try to get outside before sunrise and have a look at a fabulous planetary line-up!  The line-up will last for a number of days so hopefully you will get a chance.

About an hour before your local sunrise you will be able to see the following planets all lined up: Venus, Saturn, Mars, Spica (dwarf planet), and Jupiter.

The image above will show which planets are which to make it easier for you.  Click the image for a large version.  Ignore the time stamp on the image that is for my time zone, just look before daylight.  You might even get to see a few satellites, the ISS and the HST if you are lucky.


Earth at Perihelion!


Yes today is Earth’s perihelion.  That means we are as close to the Sun in our orbit as we are going to get this year.

How far is that?  Glad you asked: 147,100,176 km / 91,403,812 miles.

Perihelion occurs (or occurred) at 22:49 UTC / 17:49 EST.