Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

I love my boy.

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

So as we were watching a time lapse video of the moon, N asks me:
“Have you ever been to the moon?”
“No,” I say, “very few people have been to the moon.”
“Hmm… you should build a rocket and go to the moon… but only if you build a moon buggy too.”
“Why, because it just isn’t any fun to go to the moon if you don’t have a moon buggy?”


Monday, May 21st, 2012

Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for pointing out this mind-blowing shot from the International Space Station.

Someone in a space ship, orbiting our planet, looked down and snapped a picture with his camera. The picture shows the shadow of the moon, passing across the Earth.

Moon's shadow on Earth from ISS
Click through to the original image.

Nate’s View of the Solar System

Friday, April 13th, 2012

The other day, Nate created the following picture for me, entirely by himself, with no prompting by me:

He explained it was the solar system, and he included the names of the planets, with arrows indicating which one was which. For those who can’t interpret his writing, there is Mars (Mors), Jupiter (Jopudr), two big blue Stars (stors) Earth (Erf), Saturn (Satrn), Uranus (Yuorenis), and Pluto (Ploto). What you can’t see is that on the back of the paper he drew a spiral, and it very faintly shows through the paper. He pointed it out to me and said it was the Milky Way.

ISS Timelapse Videos

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

If you liked my previous link to the International Space Station (ISS) video, you’ll like this montage even better. 18 separate passes with shots of city lights, atmospheric glow, aurora, and thunderstorms. Thanks again to the Bad Astronomer for pointing this out.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Make sure to select HD and full screen. There’s a list of where the passes are below the video, but see how many you can identify without the list.

CNY Auroras

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Not the name of a new hockey team… but this:


Tonight’s show had nothing on the blast from eight years ago (although I keep hoping). Still one of the better shows so far this solar cycle. Certainly the best I’ve been able to see here. The peak may actually have been earlier based on these Spaceweather shots posted in western NY.

Still, there were moments of naked-eye color and the slowly fluctuating glow was diagnostic even without the camera. The long exposures certainly emphasize the color. Bummer about the clouds ((they rolled through with only the faintest gaps when the visible red glow above started), but the contrast between the town lit clouds and the background aurora is sort-of interesting.

IMG_4796 IMG_4799 IMG_4825

Life = Science Fiction BUT BETTER.

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I am continuously amazed that we live in a world where videos like this are possible:

Think of all the science fiction that is reality to bring this to your eyes:

  • We’ve put an outpost in space.
  • That outpost has people on board.
  • They have cameras sensitive enough to take movies of auroras.
  • These same cameras are small and portable enough to be on board.
  • The images are captured in real-time to digital media.
  • The movies can be sent to Earth over radio signals.
  • They are then disseminated world wide at no cost to the viewer.
  • Our PC (or phone!) can suck that data off a server hundreds (thousands!) of miles away in seconds.
  • We can watch the movie anywhere.
  • We can all be amazed together.

Solar Storm in Progress

Friday, August 5th, 2011

For those that don’t follow such things, there is a fairly significant solar storm in progress. The sun, which is finally getting around to being active again, fired off several pretty significant solar flares in the last week. The last several have included coronal mass ejections (CME’s) which are when the real fun begins in the ionosphere.

Since we live completely in the future, our three separate space probes monitoring the sun have allowed some really smart people to create a 3D model of the bursts as they travel the void. Click to play the video on this archive of the August 3rd Spaceweather site.

No amazing bright streaks of auroral light here so I can’t be certain, but there was a suspicious green glow to the north. This shot shows it best. It’s pretty hazy here tongight, so the longer exposures resulted in pretty much washing out the whole sky.


I planned to stay out in my deck chair and watch for a while, but I noticed this strange light colored object moving across the grass towards me. It looked like a sort-of short floating white snake. My eyes managed to pierce the darkness enough to make our a dark silhouette against the grass and a large STRIPED TAIL right about the time I heard it sniffing at me from about three feet away. Needless to say I snagged the tripod (with the shutter in mid exposure) and ran like the proverbial wind… before I really caught wind of it.

Supermoon Rising!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

No this is not a review of the latest disaster flick based on completely silly internet hoaxes. In any case, there were no obvious signs of tidal damage as N and I watched the full moon rise. N got very excited as the first glimpses rose above the trees. This is later on when the atmospheric distortion was quite obvious. You can just see the distant trees silhouetted at the bottom of the image.
It’s not the sharpest image, but then it was through a 200mm with a 1.4x extender. Even with the tripod, the wind shake was significant at times. Most of the chromatic aberration is due to the atmosphere since this image was from the center of the frame where I’d expect the lens to be behaving at its best. Green on top and red on the bottom is typical of horizon shots (and leads to the famous green flash).
Supermoon 2011

Links for ISS Viewing

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I’m getting requests again for links to ISS (and shuttle) viewing prediction sites. I primarily use the following sites:

  • Spaceweather.Com’s Simple Satellite Tracker Very easy to use, just enter your zip code and get a list of upcoming satellites you can see. These tend to be highly visible items and/or items of special current interest. They also have smart-phone versions for iPhone and Droid.
  • Heavens-Above.Com This site is a bit more technical, which means you can get more information if you’re willing to provide more information. You can register on the site and it will remember your latitude/longitude and some other preferences. This site provides nice sky charts with the satellite passes drawn on them. I’m pretty familiar with the night sky, so find this more useful than compass coordinates and elevation (particularly on those partly cloudy nights).

There are many others, of course, so if there’s another that you like, feel free to add it to the comments.

So Long Discovery

Monday, March 7th, 2011

N and I went outside just before dinner to watch the ISS and STS Discovery pass overhead. We were out just a bit early, so we also looked at the gorgeous crescent moon (completely illuminated with ample Earth-shine) and bright yellowish Jupiter hanging in the fading light of dusk.
The stars were sharp and clear. Without any adjustment for my eyes the Pleiades popped out almost directly overhead, with orange Aldebaran staring down nearby. I pointed out Orion’s belt and the red star Betelgeuse[1]

I spotted the pair low in the north west sky, barely brighter than the sun’s fading glow (and Syracuse’s contribution). They were only a few outstretched fingers apart (~2 degrees) and climbing slowly. I pointed them out to N who found them without too much difficulty. The pair made a pretty visually striking scene following each other slowly ‘up’ into the sky. The leading dot (the ISS I think) was much brighter at this point. (Edit: Reviewing orbital data shows that ISS was the trailing dot. It was, as I recall, brighter at higher elevation.)

As they ascended, they got brighter and brighter until near zenith the two outshone Jupiter and may have even surpassed Siruis [2] N followed them most of the time, with occasional comments about planes or the moon, but as I started talking about the astronauts that lived up there he became more quiet. I said we could wave to them, and he did so enthusiastically.

As they started descending into the south east, I explained how they would pass into Earth’s shadow and fade away. He asked when they would be coming back to Earth. I said some would be coming back in a few days and others would stay for some time. As they started to fade we both said “Bye-bye astronauts!” and “Have a safe trip home.” Indeed, we wish safe voyages to the astronauts, and one more safe return to you Discovery.

  1. N thinks Beetle-Juice is a hilarious name for a star. []
  2. I estimate they easily reached magnitude -1, but quite probably reached -2 or -3. By this time they were closer to 10 degrees apart and moving quickly. Edit: Looking at the predictions retroactively shows calculations for -1.3 for STS and -3.6 for ISS. []