June 29, 2017

Astronomy Video Of the Week: An Eclipse Time Lapse

Totality. Image credit: NASA/Griffith Observatory

Miss this past weekend’s total lunar eclipse? Yeah, us too, as we found ourselves in Maine, the only state that missed out on even partial phases of the April 4th total lunar eclipse. But skies were clear Saturday morning across western North America, affording observers fine views of the eclipse. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Watch the April 4th Total Lunar Eclipse Live!

Totality as witnessed during the 2003 total lunar eclipse.

(Photo by author)

Ready for the next big eclipse? The big ticket celestial event for April is coming right up, with the first of two total lunar eclipses for 2015 occurring on the morning of Saturday, April 4th. This eclipse features the shortest lunar totality for the 21st century at just four minutes and 43 seconds in duration, and the eclipse will be visible from around the Pacific region, including most of North America. [Read more...]

Week 21: Eclipse Chasing Across the Nevada Desert

Hanging with Astro-Lab at Cathedral Gorge!

(All photos by author)

You just never know where the next saros cycle will find you.

We managed to wrap up the Nevada leg of our current journey over the past week and have since stopped briefly in Utah for a minor rest cycle. Of course, when travelling, this merely means that we’re taking the opportunity to stop long enough to catch up on chores and errands such as laundry, bills, oil changes, etc. Life doesn’t stop, even on the road. But we did manage to cram in some exciting visits in the past week: [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Adventures in Eclipse Webcasting

Totality! The April 15th 2014 Total Lunar Eclipse.

(Photo by Author).

Backyard astro-tech has certainly gotten much more sophisticated since we hand-sketched our first lunar eclipse as a kid back in the 1980’s. During this week’s total lunar eclipse, we thought we’d try our hand at live streaming the event. We’ve been a voracious consumer and promoter of eclipse webcasts over the past few years, and we thought this week it was high time to give back. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A Fine Total Lunar Eclipse.

Our photo of last December’s total eclipse.

Mark your calendars; this Saturday, December 10th a total lunar eclipse graces our fair planet, and a good swath of humanity will get to see it. This particular eclipse occurs at sunset/moonrise for observers in central Europe, the UK, and north-eastern Africa westward, and just before sunrise/moonset for all of North America except the U.S. eastern seaboard and the Maritimes. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Loooong Central Eclipse!

Last December’s colorful lunar eclipse… (Photo by Author).

One of nature’s finest spectacles is on tap this week for observers stationed from Europe to the Far East. A total lunar eclipse of a particularly long duration is in the offing spanning the night of June 15th-16th. The duration of totality is 100 minutes, nearly the maximum 107 minutes possible. A question we frequently receive as of late is “how often does such a long eclipse occur?” Well, keep in mind that the umbra or the dark inner core of the Earth’s shadow is about 3 times the apparent diameter of the Moon as seen from Earth. For an eclipse to occur, the Moon has to be very near the ascending or descending node of the ecliptic; its orbit is canted about 5 degrees to our own and thus usually passes to either side of our 1.5 degree wide shadow. For an ideal eclipse to occur, the Moon would have to occupy that node while its smack dab in the center of the Earth’s shadow… this current eclipse will be the longest in duration until July 27th, 2018 with a duration of 103 minutes. In fact, a quick perusal of NASA’s eclipse website reveals that although this week’s eclipse is the longest this century thus far, & eclipses on 2029, 2047, and 2094 also beat it out for duration, making it the fifth longest of the century.  This could as prove to be an especially dark eclipse, as the Moon passes through the central part of the Earth’s shadow… be sure to note the Danjon number of the eclipse, as well as use our tried and true method of magnitude estimation via the reverse binocular method. Particulars of the eclipse are as follows;

Penumbral 1st contact: 17:25 UT

Umbral 1st contact: 18:23 UT

Totality Begins: 19:23 UT

Totality Ends: 21:03 UT

Umbral last contact: 22:02 UT

Penumbral last contact: 23:01 UT

The penumbral phases will only appear as a diffuse shading, while entry into the umbra will be more distinct. Also, there has been plenty of volcanic activity worldwide in hot spots such as Chile and Iceland, so the eclipse may prove to be quite colorful. And yes, this eclipse occurs in the constellation Ophiuchus, the bad boy “13th constellation” of the zodiac! (Shhh… don’t tell astrologers!) This is also the 68th eclipse of saros 118.

Photographing the eclipse with even a moderate (i.e. 200mm or larger) zoom is relatively easy; just remember that the Moon will be much darker during totality than partial phases and thus you’ll need longer exposure settings… I’ve even lost telescopic acquisition of the Moon during particularly dark eclipses!  Finally, some interesting occultations of background stars will occur during totality, the brightest of which is the +4.8 magnitude star 51 Ophiuchi as seen from the Far East… speaking of which, folks around the periphery of the eclipse (i.e. Japan, U.K. and Australia) should be vigilant for the possibility of a Selenelion, or the chance to catch totality while the Sun is still above the horizon!

Well, it looks like us folks in North America will just have to sit this one out, or at least watch it through broadcast via the Net… will tweet links (@Astroguyz) if live… We’ll just have to console ourselves with a rising pre-eclipse Honey (or do you say Strawberry or Rose) Full Moon as we eagerly await the next Total Lunar Eclipse of December 21st that occurs for North American observers at moonset/sunrise!

The Astro-word for this week is Lunation. This is simply the period of time that it takes the Moon to return to the same phase (i.e., New to New, Full to Full, etc). This is the same as our friend, the synodic month, and is on average 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds long. This period can however, vary by up to 15 hours due to the elliptical nature of the Moon’s orbit about the Earth the period for which is getting ever so slightly longer as the Moon recedes from us by about 38mm per year. This means that eventually, total solar eclipses will no longer occur as the Moon of millions of years in the future will be visually tinier than the Sun, even at perigee. We will, however continue to enjoy total lunar eclipses during that far off epoch!

AstroEvent: An Arctic Partial Solar Eclipse.

(Credit: Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC).

Are you a frustrated astronomer “North of the 60°”? Are you tired of hearing about the dark sky exploits by friends in the lower 48 while you are immersed in the astro-hell of never-ending daylight? Trust me, we’ve been there; we spent 4 years living in North Pole, Alaska just outside Fairbanks, [Read more...]

The Solstice Eclipse: An Update

AWESOME!!! (All images and video by Author).

This is just a brief update: the solstice lunar eclipse was one for the record books, a bright Danjon “L4″ and easily visible thoughout totality. A coppery red, this was one of the brightest on record for this seasoned observer… expect a more through after action report in this space later today… more pics can also be seen here at our shinny new Flickr account. Now… sleep!

…a brief nap and the astronomer’s friend, coffee, has brought with it some more processed results, including the stop motion/live footage above and the processed stills below. For those interested, I shot with a JVC Digicam afocally through the 8″SCT, while shooting stills with a piggybacked 800-1600 DSLR. The rig worked out pretty good, all in all; having WWV radio call out time signals in the background was a huge help, as I just let the video run while shooting stills at the top of each minute.

Also, our Twitter “danjon count” was a huge success, with a clean sweep for a Danjon number of L4, the brightest eclipse possible… the power of crowd sourcing in action!

AstroEvent: A Solstice Eclipse!

  

Luna entering the Earth’s shadow during the Total Eclipse of May 15th, 2003 (Photo by Author).

   One of the final astronomical events of the year for 2010 is also one of the biggest. On the night of December 20th-21st, the Moon will undergo a total lunar eclipse. This eclipse will be visible in its entirety for North American observers and at sunrise for European South American observers and sunset for observers in Australia and the Far East. First Umbral contact will begin at 06:32 UTC, and totality will last 73 minutes from 7:40 to 8:53 UTC with greatest eclipse at 8:18 UTC. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: Would the REAL Blue Moon Please Rise?

 

 

A Heavily Photoshoped Blue Moon...(Photo by Author).

   This week, we here at Astroguyz seek to re-ignite the controversy (or do you say non-troversy?) That swirls in some of the more obsessive astronomical circles; just what is a Blue Moon? Modern vernacular states this as simply the “second Full Moon of a calendar month,” but as researchers first point pointed out in a Sky & Telescope article in the March 1999 edition, the history behind the term is much more convoluted. [Read more...]