Category Archives: Astronomy


(…see, yesterday it was “Punt,” today it’s “Return…”)

The new moon has returned, with Venus still hanging about. Month after month after month.

I had lost track. Then I saw it from the back yard and it was gorgeous. (Venus is just above the wires, to the left of the pole.)

Welcome back!

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TOTALITY!! One Year Later

Yeah, it’s been a year. Damn.

We were right…THERE!

(Map courtesy of Xavier M. Jubier at

(Map courtesy of Xavier M. Jubier at

We had clouds and didn’t get a perfect view, but did we ever get a spectacular one, with storms all around us.

(Click for full-sized image – it’s worth it!!)

The two minutes and 38.4 seconds of totality were one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Even through the clouds.

The next total solar eclipse in the United States is on April 8, 2024. (Really, check out Xavier Jubier’s website and maps, they’re spectacular!!) I’m looking at southern Texas for the best chance of clear skies and the maximum totality in the US (over 4:20), eastern Indiana or western Ohio to be with the most fannish friends (3:57 north of Dayton) – but there’s a good chunk of northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine that’s in the path of totality where I’ll tons of family and friends from high school (but only 3:33 of totality north of Burlington).

Decisions, decisions!

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Filed under Astronomy, Panorama, Photography, Travel

Like Pearls On A String

Today was Day Two of the Wings Over Camarillo airshow – I was really busy and it’s been a really long weekend.

I’m not going to post pictures of the airplanes today. (I shot mostly video today when I was able to get out at all.)

But when I was leaving there was the most wonderful spectacle across the southern sky. I wish I could have gotten some really excellent pictures of it – but I couldn’t, I had only my cell phone and it doesn’t do particularly well in low light.

But I’ll give you what I got.

Almost due south, the first quarter moon was high. To the east, Mars was bright and red, with Saturn shining between the two.

To the right of that, Jupiter was high bright with Venus setting toward the horizon.

Like pearls on a string, follow the line from Venus to Jupiter to the moon to Saturn to Mars. There’s your ecliptic, the plane in which the planets all revolve around the sun.


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Forty-One Hour Old Moon

I don’t know that I’ve kept strict records, but this has got to be about the earliest I’ve ever seen the new moon. One day, sixteen hours, fifty-nine minutes as of the middle of this series of photos – forty-one hours, give or take.

I saw it first through binoculars – it was so faint in the still illuminated sunset sky that it was another ten minutes before I could see it with the naked eye.

As light as the sky was and as dim as the moon was, there was very little contrast between them.

In a minute though, Venus popped out, still fairly high in the sky. (Remember Venus?) I ran to get the other camera, since they were still fairly far apart.

Venus in the upper left, the moon just above the tree tops at the lower right. (Click to enlarge.)

Contrast got a touch better as it got darker, but the moon was still very close to the sun, which meant it was setting soon after the sun, before it could get very dark.

Tomorrow night it will be higher, closer to Venus, still up when it’s darker. And we start the cycle over again.

Go check it out!

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Mars At Closest Approach

Yep, there it is!

(Click to embiggenate!)

Looking very bright, very red. Beautiful, along with Venus (which set about an our after sunset), Jupiter (still up fairly high and bright), Saturn (about halfway between Mars and Jupiter), and the moon (rising an hour or so after Mars tonight).

This was the biggie tonight, the closest Mars will be to Earth in decades! If you missed it, if it was cloudy, if you just had to work, well…

…it will all (except for the moon) look about 99.99% EXACTLY THE SAME tomorrow night. And the night after that, and the night after that, and the night after that…

So if you missed it, if it was cloudy, if you just had to work, then go look tomorrow, or next week, or whenever it’s clear and you’re free. The moon’s position in the sky moves significantly from night to night (28 days to go all the way from full to new back to full, so 360°/28 = 12.8° a day, or roughly 1/14th of the distance from horizon to horizon per day) but while the planets move, it’s really rare for them to move very quickly.

Enjoy. Take the time to find someone like me with a telescope and ask nice if they can take a look. Get even a decent pair of binoculars to see Mars’ disk and the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

Don’t do clickbait. Ignore the websites that say “TODAY!” is the day like Mars suddenly appears out of a dark sky for 24 hours and then vanishes.

T’ain’t so. Be smarter than clickbait. Spread the word!


Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Post-Eclipse Full Moon Rising

Earlier today there was a spectacular lunar eclipse, the longest one of the century. In North America, we saw none of it because it happened in the middle of the afternoon from our viewpoint, which means we were on the sunny side of the the planet, not the moony side.

We’ve seen our share of lunar eclipses over the years – I’ve got pictures here and here. But not today.

Yet when the full moon came up an hour or so ago, it was still a deep shade of orange and red. WHAT DARK SORCERY IS THIS??!!

Similar look and effect, different cause. The eclipse makes the moon look red and orange and dark because it’s passing into the shadow of the Earth. Los Angeles and Southern California saw the moon look red and orange and dark because we’re seeing it through clouds of smoke from some large brush fires off to the east.

I found my tripod, so the pictures are better. Some of the “blobs” on these images aren’t lunar, but leaves and branches as the moon rises and we’re looking through the trees from our back yard.

It most certainly is a pretty sight. This evening during dinner one of the big hawks came and perched out in the open on one of these branches. I decided to sit and eat dinner instead of jumping up and grabbing the camera. This may or may not indicate “progress.”

As the moon got up a bit the extent of the smoke and haze became apparent. We haven’t seen the mountains in a couple of days, but given what the folks in the fire zones are dealing with all over the state, we’re good.

I hope you got to see the eclipse if you’re on the other side of the planet and the skies were clear!


Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Photography, Space

Front Yard Star Party

Front Yard Star Parties – They’re Not Just For The Weekend Any More!

Even though it was Tuesday, I had the scope out tonight. The Long-Suffering Wife had been talking about our previous views of the moon and Jupiter last week and had invited over a few friends to take a gander – and to show off the new house as well. (It was a two-fer!)

It’s a little later in the month so the moon is still low in the east at sundown, so setting up the scope by the house or in the back yard wasn’t going to work. But down by the end of the driveway we could peek over the house and see the moon between the trees.

Even before sundown, even with the sky not yet dark at all, the moon was gorgeous.

Even with just a quickie photo using my iPhone held up to the eyepiece.

Our friends that showed up enjoyed the viewing quite a bit – hard to say if it was the adults or the kids who liked it more. Once it got dark the moon was fantastic to look at, Jupiter clearly was showing a few prominent cloud bands and all four Galilean moons were strung out in a line and clearly visible. But the show stealer was that “little star” right next to the moon – turns out that was Saturn, rings visible clearly.

The the neighbor family with the three dogs wandered by – EVERYBODY had a good time and got an eyeful!

There’s nothing like hearing the oohs and aahs of people looking through a telescope and seeing Jupiter or Saturn or sunrise on the rim of Grimaldi for the first time!

We’re gonna call this one a big success, despite a few high clouds, that tree that tried to keep getting in the way, the 90° and humidity even an hour after sunset, and all of the bugs.


Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Photography, Space