June 4, 2020

04.03.10- The Edgar Wilson Award: A Look at Last Year’s Winners.

In this age of astronomical automation and ever increasingly deeper sky surveys, many believe the era of the amateur comet discoveries to be over. A look at last year’s Edgar Wilson Award winners, however, tells a different tale. Established in 1998, this award has historically split a $20,000 purse among 2 to 6 individuals who have discovered a comet in an amateur capacity.

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16.10.09:A Moscow UFO?

What is it? Earlier this week, the above image and obligatory YouTube video flew around ye ‘ole Internet, purportedly showing an “Independence Day”-like spacecraft seemingly descending through the clouds over Moscow. The video was shaky, and the perspective of the light poles moving in the foreground all lent themselves to an eerie look and feel…a classic UFO, right?

Semi-unfortunately, this phenomena has a slightly more prosaic explanation, although its still pretty cool. Many naysayers are simply claiming that the video was “Photo-shopped” although we here at Astroguyz HQ don’t necessarily believe so. The patterns look to be consistent with low altitude, mammatus-type clouds. Of course, the hoaxer might have been a meteorologist…what your looking at is known as a parahelic arc, a breed of sun-dog shining through low-altitude clouds seen under somewhat unusual conditions. Many folks on the ‘Net have stated that the glowing ring is the cloud, but if you look closely, the entire sky is overcast. Meteorologists confirm that a converging front was over Moscow at the time, and that the sun was indeed at a low angle, i.e. prime sun-dog conditions. To explore near-sky phenomena complete with explanations, I refer you to Les Cowley’s excellent site on Atmospheric Optics. Stare at the sky long enough, and you’ll see all sorts of bizarre things. Incidentally, pilots are much more familiar with this sort of reflection phenomenon, as they frequently fly above low cloud banks. I would suspect that there is also an inversion source, like say, a heat belching factory right below the halo. Alas, no ET…but isn’t UFO debunking fun?


24.9.9; “Anti”Crepuscular Rays!

Sometimes near-sky astronomy happens during the strangest of moments. Over the past week, we’ve been treated along the Florida Gulf Coast to some fine displays of crepuscular rays during sunrise and sunset. Generally these shining rays can be seen streaking through the crags and valleys of mountain ranges and ridges when the Sun is at a low angle. In the “flatland” of Florida, however, these occur for a different reason; scattering of sunlight through the edges of large, fluffy cumulus clouds. Humidity, dust and sun angle can all make for a swiftly evolving scene. This mornings’ display from Astrogyuz HQ in Hudson, Florida was one of the best I’ve seen, and even included what’s loosely termed “anti”- crepuscular rays, or rays streaming opposite to the direction of sunrise and seeming to converge towards an imaginary vantage point in the west. This is a fine example of an optical illusion; our minds tend to project the sky as a big, upside down bowl above us, and hence especially long or bright striped rays can actually appear to converge opposite to the Sun!

Event of the Week: 13.07.09: Volcanic Sunsets?



Have you noticed that summer sunsets and sunrises have been a tad… scarlet as of late? This is not just your imagination… there are literally tons of volcanic dust currently aloft.  The source is mainly Sarychev Peak volcano, located in the Russian Kuril islands. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Sarychev has been in the throes of eruption as of late, producing some fairly mind blowing pictures as the International Space Station orbits high overhead. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Sarychev last erupted en-mass in 1989. [Read more...]

2009: The Year of Astronomy.

This is a shout out to the world; 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Check with your local astronomy club, observatory or planetarium to find out what events are near you; if they aren’t planning anything, ask them why not!

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My Personal Connection with the Universe

Even since I was young, I’ve looked towards the stars. One of my earliest memories was looking up at the cresent moon, in conjunction with some bright planet (probably Venus) as my Aunt Lorraine carried me up to our apartment in Mapleton, Maine. Not that I knew what any of these objects were. I just thought that they were bright and shiny, and due my rapt attention. All these years later, a rising moon still draws me outdoors. [Read more...]