October 2012 full moon

October 28. 2012 Full moon

The Hunter’s moon rises nearly or completely full over three successive nights at nearly the same time each night. On Eastern Daylight Time this year, the nights of the 27th, 28th, and 29th, at 5:21, 5:57, and 6:35, respectively. Full moon is today at 3:50 p.m. EDT, but this shot was taken last night right around 10 p.m.

It was relatively far away (402 000 km), and the libration was a little over 4 degrees both east (eastern limb tilted toward Earth) and south (southern limb tilted toward Earth). With the eastern tilt, you can just barely make […]

The 2012 transit of Venus: astronomical journey


Last Tuesday the second planet from the sun passed in front of the sun’s disk for the second and last time this young century. Back in 2004, I saw the first event briefly while parked outside a gas station trying to get out from under the clouds that had blocked us at our chosen observing site in Florida.

This time, I was pretty sure I could do a better job: a planned trip to relatively cloudless California coincided nicely with the timing of the event, and I had even planned enough time to land, enjoy the customary In-N-Out lunch at […]

Next Mars mission set to depart

NASA’s next Mars mission is set for takeoff. The Mars Science Laboratory (nicknamed, for some insane reason, “Curiosity,” as in what killed the cat) has a launch window that opens tomorrow, November 25, and closes a few weeks from now, on December 18.

This rover is quite a bit bigger than the last set of rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, with a correspondingly more ambitious science mission. But what’s really interesting is the planned landing method: according to the mission website,

The spacecraft will descend on a parachute and then, during the final seconds prior to landing, lower the upright rover […]

Hunter’s Moon 2011

October 11, 2011 Full moon

October’s full moon this year, the Hunter’s moon, occurred at 10:06 p.m. EDT, about 9 hours before it reached apogee (Oct 12 7:44 a.m. EDT, distance 406 434 km). Local conditions here in south Florida were a bit of a challenge; I had to set up under clouds and hope for a break in the clouds near the time of full moon, which is when I wanted to take the picture. After all, it isn’t often that the moon is exactly full at a convenient time for picture-taking.

Some things fell in my favor: I had completed my field battery […]

Full Moon August 2011

August 12, 2011 Full moon

The full moon for August 2011 (Sturgeon Moon, Dog Days’ Moon, etc.) occurred during the afternoon hours of August 13 (2:57 p.m. to be precise) for East Coast observers, so I did my usual day-before-just-in-case-the-day-after-doesn’t-work photo, and I’m glad I did. The “night” of the full moon, the 13th, was much stormier and less conducive to photos than the night of the 12th, despite the very brief window I had on Friday (only about 5 minutes in the clear).

Here, then, is a snapshot in haste of August 2011’s 18-hours-before-full moon:

You can see how the western edge […]

Lunar eclipse on the solstice


A rare celestial event occurred early this morning, so I thought I’d try my hand at capturing some images. I spent about an hour making sure my telescope mount was as close to polar aligned as I could make it. I balanced the heavy scope on the tube and aligned the spotting scope, the one through which I would be taking the images, with the main scope, so the computerized alignment would proceed smoothly. I took a few practice shots of the full moon about 5 hours before the event would occur:

For some reason I wasn’t able […]

Busy day on the solstice this year [updated with APOD link]

The December solstice, shortest day of the year is tomorrow, December 21. At approximately 7:38 p.m. EST (2338 UTC), the Sun’s apparent motion in the sky will come to a standstill (Latin, solstitium).* That’s because it has finished its southward migration for the year, and from here until June old Sol will travel north. And as it does so, days in the northern hemisphere will get longer. The image below, from an excellent NASA website, shows the paths of the sun on the longest and shortest days of the year:

The apparent path of the Sun across the […]

Hunter’s Moon

October 22, 2010 Full moon

Here is a snapshot of the Hunter’s Moon, taken on a breezy night on an old/new tripod. I’m not sure why focus was so hard to achieve; in the camera everything looked fine. I’m thinking there’s some unidentified shake in the tripod or head. Will have to troubleshoot. Anyhoo, here ’tis:

And here’s the gallery:

[Show as slideshow]

Jupiter and Uranus tonight

Well, tonight I’m definitely dragging out the big telescope. Jupiter, which I only chanced upon the other day while shooting the moon, is only about 2 degrees from Uranus! I overlooked it, as had dozens of observers prior to Herschel’s discovery of the planet in the 17th century. But now that I’m alerted to its close proximity to its more prominent celestial “neighbor,” I’ll try to take a look tonight. Hope you enjoy your evening! Don’t expect pictures, although I’ll certainly try; I had enough trouble getting Uranus to come out right… [UPDATE: As I suspected, Uranus was an underwhelming […]

Full moon and equinox

Two images of last night’s full moon appear below. One was taken a few minutes before the equinox; the other was taken a few seconds after it. Can you tell which is which? (Hint: the moment at which the equinox occurs has no bearing on the appearance of the moon.)

At the time these pictures were taken, the sun was on the opposite side of the earth. The moon was about 6 hours shy of full (which occurred officially at 5:18 a.m. EDT this morning), but close enough that it would take a trained eye to […]