On Night Sky Preservation

“Echo I,” a thin metalized 100 foot diameter balloon, was the first experimental communications satellite  launched on August 12, 1960. It acted as a passive reflector of  microwave signals bounced off from one point on Earth to another. A few years after its launch on March 14, 1963, I would inadvertently “capture” its bright presence in the form of a “trail” on a 25 minute (guided) exposure of the constellation Scorpius including part of the Milky Way. The satellite’s slightly deflated state is indicated by the varied brightness as it passed overhead. It also was one of the first aspects of the eventual encroachment of thousands of man made satellites in our night sky.

Today, the chances of having long exposure images of small areas of sky are potentially, and in fact… BEING “spoiled” by the explosive presence of “trails” from these satellites, such as Elon Musk’s “Space X’s “Starlink mission.” This poses a real threat to the preservation of this most natural resource. Efforts to mitigate the degree of their influence on observational astronomy have yet to prove effective.

Thanks for viewing, and comments are always welcome. M 🙂

In Search of Pluto

A tale from over fifty years ago!

Using this 10″ (255mm) reflector telescope, and a simplistic chart published in Sky and Telescope magazine, I would try to confirm seeing Pluto, …a difficult star-like pinpoint at the edge of visibility. Observing from my suburban town only twenty miles (32 km) N.W. from the brightness of New York City, proved challenging.

A second observation from a considerably darker location was planned as Pluto would have slightly changed position amongst the same stars. But it didn’t happen as unfavorable weather conditions persisted for several weeks.

ABOVE: As seen in the eyepiece, …a rough drawing of visible stars in the area of where I believed Pluto was located. The arrows, particularly “G,” indicated possible candidates. I estimated magnitude 14, (the published approximate magnitude, or brightness of Pluto,) was about the faintest I could see at the time.
ABOVE: Compare the sketch to this same very small area in the constellation Leo, as shown from “Google Sky,” a searchable photographic atlas available free on-line, and certainly not available back then!

Did I see Pluto? Maybe, or maybe not. I recently concluded there was not sufficient evidence for me to comfortably confirm a sighting.  But re-visiting this event from an “armchair viewpoint” so many years later, was …an interesting way to pass the time during this pandemic year.

Special thanks to “Cosmic Focus,” an advanced amateur astronomer/imager from Australia, for providing the incentive to re-visit this quest, …and guiding me to to the current charting resources available today. His wonderful captures of Pluto and a keyway to a remarkable WordPress site can be found here or https://cosmicfocus.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/pluto-the-previous-planet.

Thanks also for viewing. Comments are always welcome, and you can zoom in for a closer look. M 🙂

Perspectives – From Earth to the Moon and Beyond

About 6 weeks ago, , the near full moon was hiding behind clouds as Jupiter and Saturn were at about their closest positions to earth this year (opposition) …as seen below. (Saturn was the fainter of the two, centered just above a cloud to the left of Jupiter.)

Apologies ahead of time for difficulty in seeing this in a bright setting. 🙁


Thanks for viewing. Comments are always welcome, and zoom in for a closer look. M 🙂

In Quest of Punxsutawney Phil

         February 2nd is Groundhog Day here in the United States (and Canada.) Although the tradition begs for a relatively large imagination, lore has it that this particular rodent, Phil, who lives just outside town, can forecast the weather. As it was my wife’s birthday, we added this somewhat iconic town, Punxsutawney,  to our weekend road trip through parts of Pennsylvania. So, despite some issues with snow, we did join the throngs of Phil worshippers, and made it back home by nightfall.  Oh, and he did NOT see his shadow, indicating an early spring!

Thanks for viewing. Zoom in for a closer look. Comments are always welcome. M :-)

 

 

Transit of Mercury – 11/11/2019

Perspectives: Whenever Mercury passes slowly between the Earth and the sun, (a reletively rare event,) the small planet can be seen as a tiny dot, not visible without a light reducing filter and magnification.

                                Above: This is pretty much how the sun looks without a proper filter.                                               


Above –> The sun is about 93 million miles (150 mil. km) away from Earth, and Mercury 67 million miles (108 mil. km) away at this time. It is the tiny dot at the lower left just starting its apparent crossing, called a Transit!  What is unique in this image is the smokey jet plane contrail (exhaust) seen in front of the upper part of the sun …about seven miles away. 

 

Above –> 6 1/2 hours later, the transit is ending as the planet, at the 3:00 o’clock position to the right, moves past the sun’s disk. (ZOOM IN TO SEE THIS.)

Thanks for viewing. Comments are always welcome and zoom in for a closer look. M:-)

Sudden Chill – Here and There

The lunar eclipse here along the New Jersey shore last night was stunning – but so was the windy and frigid weather following a dramatic arctic cold front, …making my camera and my fingers frozen.

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Above: Just prior to the eclipse, a maximum full moon.

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Above: Earth’s shadow covering half the moon

After I admitted defeat with the cameras, I went back outside with just my heavy gloves and binoculars, where the fully eclipsed moon, high above, was awesome, beautifully colorful and surrounded by the winter stars.

As the earth’s shadow is cast upon the lunar surface, its temperature drops hundreds of degrees. Here at our house, it seemed the temperature dropped just as much, from 50 degrees (F) at about noon yesterday to 7 (F) degrees this morning, with a wind chill of at least -11 degrees as shown below at 7:21 AM.

 

Thanks for viewing, and Comments are always welcome. M 🙂