Archive for the ‘Eclipses’ Category

September in Space   Leave a comment

September’s usually a loaded month, for all sorts of reasons. Kids head back to school, there’s a big holiday capping off the traditional summer holiday, all the zucchini’s either ripened at once and your neighbors run from you as you clutch your harvest, chasing them, and we turn the season from boiling to pleasant.

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There’s all sorts of things going on above our heads as well. We started off the month with a solar eclipse today, in Africa. That means in two weeks, we’re going to see a lunar eclipse on September 16.  Solar and lunar eclipses always appear in pairs, about two weeks apart. This time, the penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible throughout all of Europe, Asia, Australia, but not North and South America, except for the easternmost part of Brazil.

 

scorpio

If you know your constellations, Scorpio is crawling back down southwest to get away for the winter. It’s taking with it a colorful trio of two planets, a star and one moon…but just for a day or two. Around the second week of September, you’ll see Antares, a big red star located in the upper portion of the constellation, Saturn to the upper right and Mars to the upper left. The moon on the half-shell will add its glow to the grouping.

summer-triangle

September’s a fine month to spot the so-called Summer Triangle, a trio of constellations (The Swan, The Eagle and The Lyre) forming a jewel of a triangle consisting of two first magnitude stars and one zero magnitude: Vega (0.14 mag) in The Lyre, Altair (0.89 mag) in The Eagle and Deneb (1.33 mag). With luck, you can see this grouping almost all year round, but the best time for it is during the summer, when it’s nearly overhead in the Milky Way. Vega is especially close to Polaris, the North Star, and only goes below the horizon at latitudes 40 degrees for a handful of hours. The further north you go, the longer you can see it.

On Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 14:21 UTC, autumn officially begins in the northern hemisphere. That’s when you start thinking about how fast that summer went past, you still didn’t get to the beach, but that’s okay, because you can’t get into your bathing suit anyway. So why don’t you do yourself a favor? Toss on a sweater, take a chair and have a seat, looking up at the greatest gift we all have at our disposal: the heavens.

Almost, But Not Quite   Leave a comment

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How many of you look forward to gazing at the moon and witnessing one of Nature’s Greatest Wonders, such as the lunar eclipse pictured above? They happen twice a year, about two weeks apart from a solar eclipse. It’s the dance the moon and the sun do, shading the earth in a few places, and giving us a fabulous show.

But on August 18, something odd’s going to happen. The Sun, Moon and Earth will be closely aligned that day, but their shadows will not meet. It’s as if they’re all flirting with each other, yet don’t quite know whom to choose. So they hold off a bit.

Then, one month later, the Moon gets its chance with a Penumbral eclipse (also, not quite total, but almost), crossing two dates, on September 16 & 17. But here’s the thing with a Penumbral eclipse: you might not notice anything. In fact, most people see a normal full moon. A keen eye will notice it’s a bit darker, but only just. See, this kind of eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the faint part of the Earth’s outer shadow. The Sun, Moon and Earth are imperfectly aligned, so they can’t do what naturally should come to them – an eclipse – so they go through the motions and orbit away.

Sandwiched between those two almost lunar events is an Annular solar eclipse on September 1. That, too, is an almost-but-not-quite event, with the Moon standing a hair’s breadth too far from the Sun to block its light entirely, but enough to cast a pretty decent shadow and darkening things in its path. It’s kind of like going to the movies and someone with an enormous head sits directly in front of you. You can’t really make out the whole film, but at the screen’s edges you see a tidbit of the action. What a viewer will see is a “ring of fire” around the edges of the moon. The sky does darken and if you glance at the sun (eyes protected with a filter!), it’ll look pretty darn cool.

So look out, folks! Or you might miss something…

Posted August 6, 2016 by seleneymoon in Eclipses, Moon, Nature, The Sun

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All Things Being Equal   Leave a comment

Autumn Picture

 

Autumn, fall, change of the seasons, whatever you call it, occurs in the northern hemisphere on September 23 at 8:20 UTC.  It’s a time when things start winding down in gardens, the kids are probably already back in school and you’re looking at your heating bill with a bit of trepidation, knowing that winter’s beating a steady path to your door.

But let’s stick with autumn for now.

Autumn occurs when the sun hits a point in the sky called the autumnal equinox, or here:

Virgo

Credit:  H.A. Rey, “The Stars”

It’s the little “V” you see underneath Virgo’s head, as if she fell down and tripped on the ecliptic (the path in the sky where the sun, moon and stars “travel” along the zodiac).  The sun hits this spot on or about 21 September each year, but as noted above, this year it falls on the 23 September.  But if you look in the newspaper or even on many weather web sites, you’ll notice that the times of sunrise and sunset are anything but equal.  It’s close, but not exactly 12 hours of day and dark.  A lot of that depends upon your latitude.  The further south you go, that date creeps into October.

Here’s a handy chart to show sunrise and sunset times for New York  You’ll see day and night aren’t equal until September 26.  Why?  You’ll find an explanation here.

This National Geographic video explains not only the autumnal equinox, but also nifty cultural practices that go along with it.

(You might want to watch it before Rupert Murdoch gets ahold of it and turns it into an exploitive clip about the sun ripping off the nighttime sky by getting dark earlier and earlier).

Perhaps it’s a good time to sit and read a sci-fi novel about autumn.  Why not try “Autumn in Carthage”? or “Runes of Autumn? Or learn the meaning behind The Pillar of Autumn in Halo, a video game.

Want to hear the definitive theme song of autumn?  Here’s a short, catchy tune by the band Screeching Weasel called  “First Day of Autumn”:

Most important of all, nighttime sky watches CAN’T MISS the total eclipse of the moon!  It takes place on September 27/28, 2015.  Click here for details to look out for it in your neck of the woods.  In New York, it actually begins at a decent time, starting at 8:11 pm, with the full eclipse occurring at 10:11 and lasting until 10:47.  If you haven’t seen a total lunar eclipse, it’s worth watching.  It’s a slow process, but you’ll have time to truly enjoy it.  Don’t take your eyes off of it between 9:50 and 10:15 – watching the moon turn red is the coolest thing ever.  Break out your binoculars!

Have a great fall and see you next trip!

 

Tips from Nature   Leave a comment

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Credit: NASA

There’s a whole lot going on in nature this week.  Take, for example, the March 20th total eclipse.  It’s the first total for a couple of years.  The others have been annular, or the kind where the moon doesn’t quite hide the sun and it peeks out like a ring.  And in case you didn’t know, eclipses come in pairs, two weeks apart: the sun hides its face, then the moon.  It’s just the way nature works.  Not everyone gets to see this spectacular event; those in the northern extremes of Europe (and polar regions) will see it just fine, but the rest of Europe will have to settle for a partial eclipse.  That’s fine by me, something is better than nothing.

Eclipses are weird.  I experienced a total eclipse when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  It was covered live on TV, when people still held wonderment and what nature could do.  I clearly remember it got dark, a fairly good representation of the stars came out, birds went silent and all became still.  Mom admonished me for looking up at the sky, yet both of us snuck a peek and I remember getting a chill.  It was so, so strange to see this blackness where the sun ought to be.  Lots of our neighbors came outside and pointed and laughed nervously.  We all knew better.  We knew that the sun’d pop back out again and the warmth would return, birds would wake up, a bit confused at the short night, perhaps, but ready to launch into song once more.  And sure enough, it did.  Everyone retreated to the inside of their houses, catching the few last bits of the broadcast describing the marvel we all experienced.

So what if the sun got stuck, though, behind the moon?  Suppose, just for an hour or two, the sun had had enough of working to warm the planet.  The moon, normally a celestial object waiting to dominate the evening sky, chose not to budge, either.  Let’s say they went to war.  A line was drawn in the sky, and neither of them were giving way until the other relented.  Imagine what people might say then?  Oh, they’d be all right with it for about the first five or ten minutes, but after that?  A nip in the air becomes a chill, then cold, then freeze.  Our balance turns wobbly, then a sickly feeling emerges from our insides.  Hair rises off of our heads as breezes end.  Building creak, water flows everywhere and electricity shorts out.  Planes can’t fly.  Our world ceases, but still exists.  The National Guard is called out, but is helpless against the force of nature.

Take that, Nature says, and keep on ruining the planet.  I’ll take care of matters for myself.  When all of you have had your fill of ignorance, I’ll imbue you with light.  Until then, may the best people evolve, while I clean house.

Ah, if only…

In the meantime, we’re still here, facing the Ides of March, Pi Day, and the inevitable East Coast first day of spring snowstorm from the relentless winter we’ve been experiencing.  Can’t wait to shovel that 3″ – 6″ in the driveway.

The Moon at Its Best   Leave a comment

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For those of you who weren’t awake, aware or available, there was a full eclipse of the moon last night.  Now, I’m also one of those who, for various reasons, wasn’t able to cast my eyes skyward and catch the moon at its best.  Sometimes the moon just doesn’t seem to take into consideration that many of us are located on the wrong side of the globe (or clock) to be able to glimpse at the glowing red orb up in the nighttime sky.

Thank goodness for Slooh.

If ever anyone wanted to be an astronomer and didn’t have the time, patience or ability to go to school for astrophysics, yet wanted to partake of the universe in an engaging and useful way, then Slooh is for you.  It’s a membership organization and it isn’t cheap, but anyone will have access to high-powered telescopes in the Canary Island and Chile, plus get in on a myriad of missions.  The universe is literally at your desktop.

As a participant, one also joins a community of like-minded individuals who cast their eyes skyward share what they observe.  Also, one gets in on all kinds of neat stuff that NASA offers, too.  In fact, Slooh engages NASA and a community of citizen astronomers to help with its near Earth asteroid project.  So if you see something, you can say something!

I’ve included the below link for those how want to experience the eclipse and/or get a taste of what Slooh can do for you.  Enjoy!

http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/slooh-covers-the-total-lunar-eclipse-of-october-2014-as-it-slides-across-the-pacific-ocean

Lunar Eclipsed   Leave a comment

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Credit: NASA

Darn.  It’s cloudy at my house.  Worse, it’s going to rain soon.  And here I was, all set and poised to watch all sorts of celestial happenings tonight, starting with the total lunar eclipse.  But no, nature has other plans, so I might as well pull the covers under my chin and succumb to Mr. Sandman’s spell.

But wait!  There’s more!

If anyone can’t see tonight’s total eclipse opportunity in the continental United States, there will be at least a partial lunar eclipse on October 8, visible from most of the continental United States and some totality will be visible on the West Coast.  Hawaii and Alaska will have totality.

Here’s something else you might not know: lunar and solar eclipses come in pairs.  Separated by two weeks, the moon and the sun do a dance wherein a lunar eclipse is followed two weeks later by a solar eclipse.  On April 29, 2014, there is a annular solar eclipse visible in the southernmost regains of the globe:  Antarctica, Australia (most of it will be visible only as partial) and regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  An annular eclipse, by the way, means that the moon travels in front of the sun, but there remains a ring of sun around the edge.  It gets dim, but not totally dark.

Now, generally speaking, the shadows for a lunar eclipse are much larger than a solar eclipse.  However, occasionally one region of the globe might see both a lunar and a solar eclipse in the same two-week period.  That will occur in October of this year.  That October 8 lunar eclipse will be visible, from every continent except Africa.  It won’t be a total eclipse in many regions, but nearly the whole globe will catch some action.  On October 23, nearly all of North America, a portion of the Pacific and far eastern Asia, plus a slip of the Atlantic will catch at least a portion of the solar eclipse.  It will only be a partial solar eclipse in all areas, but again, depending upon where one is located, one may see more or less of the sun covered by the moon’s shadow.

If you are lucky enough to see the eclipse tonight, there’s other spectacles to observe.  Right around the moon, there’s bright red Mars, which you can’t miss, and off to the right is Jupiter, located in Gemini.  Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (and where the moon is located presently) is practically knocking on the moon’s door, only one or two degrees from the moon.

So if you’re blessed with clear (or partly-cloudly) skies and not doing very much at 1:20 am EDT  (or 10:20 PDT on the West Coast), go out and have yourself a look!  You won’t be sorry.

Enjoy!

Posted April 14, 2014 by seleneymoon in Eclipses

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