Category Archives: Observing

What’s Up for September

Along with the Aurora here’s what is going on in the September sky. I was only able to see a little of the aurora due to clouds, but it was there.

I think I jinxed myself as I had my camera and tripod ready to go. Oh well better luck next time.

As for the Hurricane, Dorian. All I can say is keep the Bahamas in your thoughts. The powerhouse of a storm has spent many hours now over the islands. The movement of the storm is only about a half a METER per second and winds are still 145 knots.

I’m going to jump on that ham radio and see if the bands have opened up enough to hear what is going on..

The Perseids

The Perseids are here, one of the best showers of the year. The above photo is courtesy of NASA.

I decided to get my own pictures of the shower. So I get my camera ready, tripod ready and I’m all set. My plan was (and still is) to go out early in the morning; my skies are generally very nice in the morning. Not a small consideration is I live at an intersection and while I don’t have a high traffic volume, in the evening it is enough probably to interfere with long exposures. The mornings are a different story, plenty of time.

Yesterday morning was a wash-out with the last of some rain that lasted until just after daylight. So this morning I get going and look out the window, perfect sky, absolutely beautiful. had to stop and feed Scout and Holly (the cat and dog) and let Holly out to, well you can guess.

Anyway I go charging out, set my tripod down and look up – clouds had moved in. This situation has happened to me here before. There is always tonight / tomorrow morning and this should be the peak of the shower. Weather forecast says rain showers later today, hopefully clearing by morning.

So if you have the opportunity get outside and basically look up. The radiant or the point where the showers originate from is the constellation Perseus. Pretty easy to find, the finders map below centered at 03:45 local time shows Perseus can be found opposite of Ursa Major; if you think of this as the Big Dipper just follow the handle as you can see in this screen shot from The SkyX (click for a larger version):

There are many places you can find information, here are a couple I like:

Time and Date – You can enter your location and get a variety of helpful information tailored to your locale.

and of course: NASA’s InDepth Perseids page.

Don’t worry too much about finding the origin though, this is typically a very good show and the origin will be evident — GOOD LUCK!

Omega Centauri

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere and even in parts of the Northern Hemisphere you may have seen this or at least have an opportunity to view it. Note, I am at around 44 degrees north latitude and cannot quite see it,

ESA: When observed with the unaided eye, Omega Centauri, the object in this image, appears as a fuzzy, faint star. But the blue orb we see here is, in fact, a collection of stars – 10 million of them. You cannot count them all, but in this sharp, beautiful image you can see a few of the numerous pinpoints of bright light that make up this unique cluster.

The image was taken by Wouter van Reeven, a software engineer at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid, Spain, during his recent visit to Chile to observe the July total solar eclipse. From his home base in Spain the cluster only grazes the horizon, making it near-impossible to image, but from the La Silla Observatory in Chile it was high in the sky, presenting the ideal opportunity to photograph it. 

Omega Centauri is a picture-perfect example of a globular cluster: tightly bound by gravity, it has a very high density of stars at its centre and a nearly perfect spherical shape (the name ‘globular cluster’ comes from the latin word for small sphere, globulus). It lives in the halo of the Milky Way, at a distance of about 15 800 light years from Earth.

As other globular clusters, Omega Centauri is made up of very old stars and it is almost devoid of gas and dust, indicating star formation in the cluster has long ceased. Its stars have a low proportion of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, signaling they were formed earlier in the history of the Universe than stars like our Sun. Unlike in many other globular clusters, however, the stars in Omega Centauri don’t all have the same age and chemical abundances, making astronomers puzzle over the formation and evolution of this cluster. Some scientists have even suggested that Omega Centauri may not be a true cluster at all, but rather the leftovers of a dwarf galaxy that collided with the Milky Way. 

Omega Centauri is also special in many other ways, not least because of the sheer number of stars it contains. It is the largest globular cluster in our galaxy, at about 150 light years in diameter, and is also the brightest and most massive of its type, its stars having a combined mass of about four million solar masses.

Omega Centauri can be seen with the naked eye under dark skies and imaging it doesn’t require long exposure times. To create the composition we see here, Wouter combined eight images taken with an exposure time of 10 seconds, seven images of 30 seconds each and another seven images of 60 seconds each. He used a SkyWatcher Esprit 80 ED telescope and a Canon EOS 200D camera.

Image: ESA/CESAR/Wouter van Reeven, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

June is Going to be Fun

Going to plan on seeing Mercury. If I have decent skies that is and that’s a big “if”. It has been terrible for any kind of observing and has been terrible for a good long time.

I have had just one good opportunity to see the StarLink satellites and I don’t know what happened because they did not show up. Of course that was very early on.

We were supposed to have mostly clear skies yesterday but it seemed hazy. Turned out it was hazy because of smoke from wild fires 3,700 km (2300 miles) away.

Hopefully the weather turns around and dries out. We’ll just have to wait and see.

See the Starlink Satellites

Dr. Marco Langbroek (sattrackcam.blogspot.com) captured the SpaceX Starlink satellites streaking over the Netherlands shortly after launch in this video (posted by VideoFromSpace).

I saw this particular video was released yesterday (Saturday) morning and went immediately to Heavens-Above and N2YO to get tracking information. Neither source had any, but luckily N2YO does list it today.

Starlink tracking from N2YO

I’ll include the Heavens-Above link because they are sure to have predictions up soon.

I have not been able to see them yet, plenty of opportunity in terms of passes overhead, but sadly I have lots of clouds. Perhaps tonight?

See The ISS Fly-Over

Want to see the International Space Station fly overhead? I know many readers look every now and then, however if you have never tried, give it a try. Just check when it will be visible and go out and have a look, providing you have clear skies that is.

NASA’s “Spot The Station“.

I usually look at Heavens-Above and have done so for years with great success.

Sunspots

The Sun is showing some activity in terms of sunspots.

Here is a magnetogram of Sunspot 2741, this along with 2740 have been firing off solar flares and the occasional coronal mass ejection (CME). We are being impacted with kind of a glancing blow from a CME at this time so be mindful of the possibility of an auroral display if you have clear skies as we are in a minor geomagnetic storm.

At the moment I have clouds but perhaps they will clear tonight and if I’m lucky I might get to see the northern lights — it’s been a while. I would like to try and gets some photos too now that I have a better camera. We’ll see.

The image above comes from SolarHam.com.