Category Archives: Astronomy


I’ll be up late tonight, but not late enough to catch a little portion of the start of tonight’s “Supermoon Blue Moon Blood Moon” eclipse. For those of you on the North American west coast who are going to get up early – have fun….

I was out at the hanger on a late-night run earlier and did see this Pre-Clipse view as the moon was headed toward the Earth’s shadow (which would have been to the lower left of the moon I think, not that you could see it).

Those clouds might also be a good reason to not exactly hustle out of bed at 04:00. I’m thinking that not getting into bed until after 01:00 might be another excellent reason!

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Tiny Sliver Of A Moon At Sunset

It’s up there, about four days old. Just the tiniest sliver of a silver arc as the blues darken to black.

Which means that in about ten days, on January 31st, it will be full. And this full moon, not only will be a “blue moon” (i.e., the second full moon in a calendar month) but it will be a fully eclipsed moon! If you’re in western North America you’ll see it in the wee hours before dawn – in most of Asia and Australia you’ll see it after sunset. (Details here.)

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Full Moon & Christmas Lights

Okay, so the moon was only about 97% full. Close enough for government work!

It’s tough to find a balance…

..between the moon & the Christmas lights. The dynamic range is too large!

Up close and personal…

…it’s even worse. Overexpose the moon just enough so you can still see features, and you can barely tell there are Christmas lights to be seen here. But…

…pull in the Christmas lights and the moon is completely overexposed.

This is why composite photos are needed. Or you can get artsy-phartsy…

…and just go for something more abstract.

Time to post this before the electricity goes out. It is REALLY howling out there tonight, and it’s just a matter of time before the wind brings down a tree branch and we go dark!

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Spooky Explained?

A few days ago I posted pictures of “Spooky Finger Clouds“:

Some speculated that it might be contrails or something, but the explanation turns out to be more exotic.

See a day or so later:

Hey, you can see our house from here!

While they’re referred to as “gravity wave clouds,” they’re not in fact (much to my disappointment!) caused by gravity waves like those produced by colliding black holes. They’re caused by oscillations in the atmosphere where a disturbance of some sort causes moist air to rise and fall (due to gravity) much like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped into a pond.

The end result is that you get these rows of linear clouds. They can be extremely spectacular – they’ve even been seen on Mars!

Science! For The Win!

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Clouds vs Luna, Part Deux

Some nights, especially after a week when you just want to beat your head against a brick wall until the fear stops, it’s good to stop and say, “Hey! That’s pretty freakin’ neat looking! Maybe that wall can wait until tomorrow!”

Thanks, Moon! Thanks clouds!

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Halloween 2017

When possible we celebrate Halloween by bringing out the telescopes and binoculars and throwing a star party on the front sidewalk while handing out candy. It has on occasion been spectacular.

After a year or two in which there wasn’t a lot of easy stuff to see from the bright, light polluted city, tonight was going to be great! The quarter moon was high and a trivially easy target. Saturn was up in the west and by the time it set Jupiter would be up in the east. Easy peasy.

Not tonight. The weather gods hate us.

Did anyone see the World Series Game Six from Dodger Stadium, which is about twenty miles from here as the crow flies? Drizzle, clouds, occasional light rain? Most of the actual rain missed us, but the clouds had us totally socked in.

The neighborhood knows us and we got asked all night about the telescopes. Sorry, I don’t have a radio telescope. If we have to stick to the optical wavelengths, tonight it was nothing but listening to the Dodgers game and handing out candy.

Also, in an hour NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts. As much as I enjoyed participating in past years (just search this site for “NaNoWriMo”), just as I was forced to admit last year, there’s no way this year that I have the time to even think about participating.

Not surprisingly to me, having participated in both activities, NaNoWriMo reminds me a LOT of running a marathon. Just as I am melencholy watching the LA Marathon every year when I’m not running (which is most of them these days – I ran in 2011 and 2012, trained but didn’t fun in 2013 and 2014) I will no doubt be wishing that I was writing every day in November. The reality of my schedule and multiple other commitments is little consolation.

As noted previously, being a responsilbe adult can suck.


Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Weather, Writing

For Cassini

Tough night. As they say, let’s not be sad because she’s leaving us, let’s be joyful because of all she showed us and taught us.

And when you’ve sworn that you’re going to put on your big boy pants and make it through the vigil, you get this thread:

Then of course you have to watch the Cassini “Grand Finale” video:

Tomorrow, maybe it would be a good thing to start working a little harder to try to figure out how to get the powers that be in Washington to fund the next mission to Saturn. Maybe a Titan explorer, a boat to sail those methane seas or a balloon to soar over those petrocarbon pinnacles. Or an Enceladus orbiter to taste the plumes coming out of the polar tiger stripes.

Or both.

But for tonight, hail and farewell Cassini. You will always be Queen of the ringed planet in our hearts.


Filed under Astronomy, Music, Space