Aug 282017

The Moon starts to eat the Sun

August 21, 2017 has come and gone, and WOW what and entrance (and exit) it made! The Great Eclipse of 2017, viewed by people in 14 states, from an airplane, and on boats at sea, this Eclipse Across America was likely the largest viewed, photographed, and media covered single national event that wasn’t man-made. Of course, I had to get in on the action.

We raveled to Hopkinsville, KY where two minutes and forty seconds of totality awaited us at 1:24pm local time on Monday.  I really didn’t plan on taking lots of pictures, or even setting up a time machine.  I mostly planned on viewing things through my 20×80 astronomical binoculars (sort of a dual time machine).  I set up a camera anyway, and every now and then I took some pictures of it while I was still looking through the binoculars.  So the camera pictures may not have come out very well.

Nevertheless, I got this image of the start of the eclipse, and with some image stacking software, you can even see some sunspots that are doomed to be eaten by the monster that’s devouring the Sun.  Note that, coincidentally, the Moon basically followed the sunspots across the surface of the Sun.  I photographed all stages from start to finish, but was more excited to watch than take pictures.

More to follow, but I wanted to get this up there for now.

Aug 102014

Moons for All SizesWhat is a Super Moon?

Coined in 1979 in an astrology magazine, the “Super Moon” is simply the full moon (or new moon) that occurs within 90% or closer of its closest possible approach to the Earth during a given orbit.  It’s also a lot easier to say than its astronomical term, perigee-syzygy Moon.

Today at 2pm Eastren, the full moon will reach perigee just a hair under 220,000 miles from the Earth.  It will appear as much as 14% bigger than usual and correspondingly brighter.  However, astropotamuses in North America won’t see it since it happens in the middle of the day.  In fact, this ‘potamus will be at a baseball game.

Even if it were visible, you probably wouldn’t notice.  That’s because we don’t remember the full moon from one to another with enough clarity to be able to tell.  Photographic evidence would show a difference if you were careful enough to take pictures with the same camera, lens, and settings on a Super Moon night versus a “normal Moon” night.

From 1990 to 2020, the Moon’s closest approach to Earth will occur on November 14, 2016.  It will be 221,524 miles away and be a full moon.  Since astronomers measure astronomical distances from the centers of bodies, that means the surfaces of the Earth and the Moon will be almost 5,000 miles closer than distance between their centers.

The smallest full moon of 2014 was on January 15th with the moon 252,607 miles away.  That means today’s full moon will be over 30,000 miles closer, which is 12.2% closer and therefore 26% brighter.  That’s a mangitude difference of .25 or the difference between Betelgeuse at magnitude 0.58 and Aldebaran at magnitude 0.85.

If you look a these two stars in the same night in North America (and they are visible together) you could generally tell that Betelgeuse is brighter.  But if you looked at Aldebaran in January and then seven months later looked at Betelgeuse in August, would you remember how much brighter the first one was?

I’ll leave you with a picture that I did not take (Anthony Ayoimanitis did) that shows a full moon in 2006 and a full moon in 2005.  The 2006 moon on the left is at apogee (the farthest point away) and the 2005 moon on the right is at perigee (the closest point in its orbit).  Decide for yourself if you would notice a difference if they were hanging in the sky outside your backdoor, a month apart from each other.

Jul 182012

Leave it to a comic to put things in perspective.

Leave it to a comic to put things in perspective.

Jun 222012

Rather than posting them here, I’ve put them on dropbox.  You can see pictures of the transit of Venus occurring at the same time as a solar flare (look at about the 7:00-8:00 point on the solar disc) at:

Happy viewing!

Jun 072012

Today is June 6, 2012.  The day after the last transit of Venus that everyone alive today will ever see.  Well, there may be a few people that were born on June 4 that will live to be 105 1/2, and see the transit that occurs in December of 2117, but we’re discounting those few.  By now, you’ve probably heard that transits of Venus occur in pairs separated by 8 years, but those pairs are separated by 105 or 121 years.  So the last one was in 2004 and the next will be 2117.

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Jun 052012
Transit of Venus, 2012

Transit of Venus, 2012

A picture is worth 112 years worth of words.  Warning – Clicking on this image will open a 4MB high resolution version of this image.  Of course, I highly recommend it.


May 092012
Annual Eclipse

On May 20, 2012, a rare and spectacular annular solar eclipse will take place for the Western half of the United States. Sadly, this Astropotamus is in the Eastern half of the United States and won’t see it. If you are interested in this annular eclipse, lots of information is available on the Internet. If you want to know more about what makes an annular eclipse special (and not an annual eclipse), then read on.

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May 072012
Lightning Strike

In playing with the new camera, I came across a particular fact of life as an Astropotamus:  I do not have night vision.  As a result of not having night vision, I cannot see in the dark without an external light source.  And if I shine a bright light in the dark, my eyes will stop being dark adapted for a while.  It’s then that you should avoid walking on a raised concrete walkway.

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