Category Archives: Astronomy

ISS Pass – May 13th

If you’ve seen any of the previous pictures that I’ve posted of ISS passes over the years (go ahead, look now if you want, I’ll wait) you’ll have seen that they’re all different. The one constant is that they’re west to east paths (within certain ranges), but every time there are different paramters. Like where the ISS rises in the west (-ish) and where it sets in the east (-ish). How much of the pass is visible – for an evening pass the ISS often passes into shadow somewhere along the line, while for pre-dawn passes (which I am NOT getting up for about 99.999% of the time!) it will appear out shadow somewhere overhead. Another key is how high it gets. Sometimes it’s down near the northern or southern horizon and you just barely see it above the horizon.

The spectacular passes are when it goes from horizon to horizon while passing through or near the zenith, the spot directly overhead. Those are the brightest passes, and the longest.

Tonight’s pass, courtesy of

Look at that track! Starting at the lower right in the southwest, through the zenith (okay, 88º elevation, where the zenith is at 90º), and back down to the horizon in the northeast. Of course, this almost guaranteed that it would be cloudy, because Murphy’s an asshole.

Much to my surprise, it was clear as a bell.

The good news is that the pass was spectacular. The bad news is that I live in the middle of a big city with a ton of street lights, general light pollution, and every house lit up with porch and security lights. So there’s a lot of glare.

I first saw it with the naked ey about the time it crossed the path of that aircraft in the lower left. The coastal fog and haze will do that. But it got bright quickly and climbed out of that haze. Then, when it got into the wires overhead, it was time to quickly flip the tripod 180º and look toward the northeast.

The ISS was just behind the edge of that well-illuminated tree as it started to descend from the zenith to behind my neighbor’s house. At least the telephone pole, while somewhat unphotogenic, wasn’t in the way.

If you’re in SoCal, there are more passes in the next few days. Tomorrow night (May 14th) at 21:31:17. The 15th at 20:42:00, the 17th at 20:43:04, and the 22nd at 23:10. All of those are lower toward the horizon and dimmer. The passes on the 14th and 15th will be the best of the lot. (There are also some better AM passes but again, *A*freaking*M*, as in 04:50:35 on the 14th. Knock yourself out!)

No matter where you are, again, go to to get predictions for passes of the ISS (and lots of other bright spacecraft) over your location.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Ten Years Of WLTSTF

It snuck up on me. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized that today is the 10th anniversary of my starting this website.

I guess this is sort of a big one.

10 years.

3,653 days.

3,745 posts.

8,921 images. (90%+ are taken by me. The rest are images from the news, from cell phone screen captures, and so on.) To be perfectly honest, some of my favorite images of those 8,921 were posted yesterday. Still just a bit gobsmacked by that.

72 videos.

10 audio clips.

2,978 total comments.

75,498 total views.

49,522 total visitors to the site.

11,438 total likes.

1,827 followers (730 from WordPress, 703 from Twitter, 280 from FaceBook, 10 from Tumblr, 58 from, and 46 from Spoutible)

God alone knows how many words.

The last time I either was too busy or, more likely, simply forgot to post anything was April 10, 2020. Since they I’ve posted 1,115 days in a row.

In total there have only been fourteen days of those 3,653 days when I didn’t post anything at all.

I’m not only here (which is probably the most reliable source since I have the most control over the site’s existance) but also on:

  • Twitter (@momdude56)
  • Facebook (/paul.willett.56)
  • Mastodon (@momdude)
  • Post (@momdude)
  • Spoutible (@momdude)
  • Instagram (@momdude56)
  • Tumblr (pauljwillett)
  • Snapchat (pauljwillett)
  • Hive (@momdude)
  • BlueSky (waiting for an invite, but I’ll give you three guesses what it will be…)
  • Email (

I hope that at least a few of the 1,827 folks who get notified every day that I’ve posted something take a minute to look and/or read and get a moment of zen or pleasure from it. I enjoy creating it.

As always, I hope that in the next year there are many more occasions to share a pretty picture, a goofy story, or something clever.

As always, I hope that in the next year there will be many fewer occasions to descend into a venting rant about something stupid, annoying, or depressing.

As do we all, I’m sure.

As a lovely parting gift, couple of favorite pictures from the last year:

Stick around for the next year. It’ll be a slice!


Filed under Airshows, Astronomy, Birds, Christmas Lights, Critters, Entertainment, KC Chiefs, LA Angels, LA Kings, Los Angeles, Paul, Photography, Sports, Sunsets, Writing

Aurora Hunting

Some of you may have heard that there’s a large electromagetic storm going on above Earth’s poles tonight. This is caused by a very large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that exploded off of the Sun two days ago and hit the Earth straight on tonight. It’s not large enough to cause a catastrophic event (google “Carrington Event,” the results of which would be many orders of magnitude worse if it were to happen in today’s computer-driven, satellite based, electronic world) but it is expected to cause the most extensive display of aurora in more than twenty years.

As we approach midnight on the US west coast, we’re getting pictures online from aurora seen as far south as Kansas, Kentucky, and Virginia. Out here there are sitings as far south as Grass Valley, CA (just north of Sacremento) and just south of Lake Tahoe, NV.

Even with that, it’s still highly unlikely that we would see aurora here in Los Angeles, three hundred or miles south of there. With light pollution to boot. Possible! But highly unlikely.

I went out with the camera using the “light bucket” lens – wide angled, very high speed, sharp focus – to see if I might just get lucky and see something the naked eye can’t pick out.

(Click on the image to see it full sized – it’s nice! I’m giving you the big file, not compressed to save disk space!)

The glow at the bottom right is just the usual light pollution from the San Fernando Valley. Above is the Big Dipper with the two end “pointer” stars aimed at Polaris, the North Star. Some other interesting stuff possibly visible – but no sign of any red or green aurora.

I hope you got more lucky!

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Young Moon Sunset

Saturn and Jupiter are off in the morning sky now, but it’s that time of month and the three-day old Moon is a thin, spectacular crescent in the sunset sky. And Venus is still around, the third brightest object in the sky.

With a telescope or even a good binocular setup (mounted on a tripod for stability mainly), using much better optics than an iPhone has, you would see that Venus also displays a crescent, the same shape and oriented in the same direction as the Moon. It’s geometry.

Mercury’s out there too, lower down in the sunset sky, more difficult to see. Maybe I’ll give it a try in the next couple of days. (Guess what shape and orientation it displays through a telescope right now?)

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Venus & Party Lights

Tonight I was at a very pleasant event for one of our business partners in Pasadena. It was held outdoors and I don’t know if anyone else noticed Venus bright as all getout in the western sunset sky, but I though it looked lovely up above the party lights strung overhead.

The tiny lens flares from all of the party lights in the lower 1/3 of the picture were a surprise!

Do you prefer it with or without all of the tiny lens flares?

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Sunsets

One Cloudy Planet

Hope springs eternal in the (not so) young amateur astronomer’s heart as he searches for five planets in the sky at once. Even if I can’t get a good photo, maybe I can at least see them?

Maybe Jupiter and Mercury can be seen through that hole in the oncoming storm front? Nope, they’re actually over to the far right, just to the right of the top of Castle Peak that you can just see in the bottom right corner. But at this point it was too bright, too close to sunset to see. Plus, you know, CLOUDS!

The clouds did have a little bit of iridescence, and it was clear overhead so I could see the quarter Moon, but the clouds were not only hiding dim Jupiter and Mercury but also obscuring my view of  bright Venus and super dim Uranus up somewhere where that jet was passing by in the upper left.

I hope you had better hunting and clearer skies than I did!

All I saw was one cloudy planet, the one that I’m stuck to.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Sunsets

Not Five Planets

You’ll see things online and in the press about another astronomical thing that’s happening in the next couple of days. If you’re lucky, and you have a flat horizon and very clear conditions, you might see it. Binoculars will help.

At the top you can see the Moon. Real bright directly below it is Venus. Easy peasy.

As it gets a bit darker than this, up overhead, near Taurus and Orion, you can see Mars. Again, easy. It’s red and fairly bright.

Now for the harder parts.

Very near Venus, visible only when it gets fully dark you might spot Uranus. It will be much dimmer than Venus and slightly bluish in color. A small telescope will be a big help, but binoculars will do if you have a good finder map. (See here.) If you have good eyesight and a good dark sky location far away from city lights, you might see it with the naked eye.

Remember how a month or so ago Jupiter was RIGHT next to Venus? And then Jupiter kept moving down toward the Sun and Venus kept moving up away from the Sun? (From our viewpoint, obviously.) Well, now Jupiter is almost there, just a couple of days away from disappearing into the evening twilight. You’ll need to have a flat horizon, without any mountains right in front of you. It’s faint, but visible, near the horizon, directly under Venus, immediately after sunset.

And right next to Jupiter is Mercury. Jupiter is brighter, but if you can find it in the twilight, look for Mercury very close nearby.

From the horizon up, there’s Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars. Plus, of course, that whole Earth thing in the foreground.

Tonight we had a pretty sunset (with clouds and rain expected for the next three days) but we have light pollution (hiding dim Uranus) and Castle Peak hiding Jupiter and Mercury. (See where the peak is and then that dip on the right hand side? That’s where they are while it’s too bright to see them. By the time it gets dark enough, they’re down behind the mountain.) So we have three planets visible, two in this picture. Venus and Earth. Mars is back behind us.

Good hunting the next night or two if you have clear skies and flat horizons!

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Venus & Jupiter Conjunction (Plus Five Days)

A few clouds moving in from the next storm make a great, colorful sunset.

But if you get enough light for the wonderful colors and spectacular gradient from pink to black, then you can only see Venus, not Jupiter. It’s fading. (I know how it feels…)

But if you let it get dark enough to see Jupiter, the clouds have started to roll in and all of the color is shot. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Take what you can get, enjoy the moment, and watch the pretty planets.


Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Sunsets

Venus & Jupiter & Satellites

I thought these pictures were interesting, if far from perfect. They’re from the February 26th batch of pictures, three days before the Jupter & Venus conjunction.

They run from three seconds to eight seconds and they were shot with a 300mm zoom lens and the wind was blowing like a demon, so you can see that they’re a bit jittery and smeared as the camera bounced around.

That’s not why I want to share them with you.

Blow each of them up to full sized (click on the image) and you’ll see a number of very faint but visible criss-crossed lines. Better yet, save them or load all five photos in and the flip through them to animate them a bit.

You’ll see at least five items crossing the field, the faint lines getting longer as the exposures get longer.

These are satelittes, and given their close proximity to each I suspect they might be part of a Starlink swarm.

The only orbiting objects I normally capture is the ISS, which is brighter than Venus or Jupiter here. Yet at random, here I’ve spotted at least five background objects over the course of a thirty-seven second series of pictures.

When you see news articles about the Hubble Space Telescope or ground-based telescopes having trouble with all of the satellites up there ruining their observations, believe them!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Venus & Jupiter Conjunction Plus Two

The official conjunction, the closest approach that these two planets came to, was March 1st. It’s now March 3rd, two days later.

It was a nice day, the first day in several weeks that it got up near 70º.

As promised, the planets continue to separate.

As promised, they’ll do this for a couple of weeks.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Go look at some stars and planets!


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Filed under Astronomy, Photography