Thursday, November 27, 2008

Comet Like Meteor, Conjunctions, The Sasktchewan Meteor And A Special Cameo Appearance Of The Runaway Tool Kit

Okay, I got a new favorite meteor image. You're probably thinking, Bob, it's a small one, you've taken better, well thank you, but this is my new favorite, just look at it, all comet like and cute and small and such, plus the way in how I captured it is very cool.

I was taking an image of the Venus Jupiter gathering when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a bright object moving very fast, fine I thought it was a jet at first, but it wasn't leaving any contrails behind, there were quite a few jets out that night and all were slower and left contrails, plus it was going back and forth, almost in a straight line, then vanishing.

Moved my camera towards the last spotted location, thinking great something cool and unusual, took a test shot, and waited, and waited but it never came back. Thought oh well probably some kind of UFO, or test jet, meteors or I was just seeing things.

The next morning I was going through my images of Venus and Jupiter, totally forgot about my encounter of the whatever kind when I noticed there was something on my test shot, a little comet like meteor. Now the ISO was 3200, exposure .25 seconds, so the chances of me catching a meteor in that time frame were slim to nil, very cool, so now it's my fav.

Here is your last notice from me for what NASA is calling the "Best sky show of the year", and it looks like I'm going to miss it, calling for clouds on that day here. On December 1 just after Sunset look to the South West for an awesome conjunction of the crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus, Venus being just below and to the left of Jupiter and the Moon above the both of them.

The next major conjunction will be December 28th, The Moon, Jupiter and Mercury will be in a straight line grouping just after Sunset, again look to the South West for this gathering.

Just a little update on the Saskatchewan Meteor that occurred here November 20. There are all kinds of people looking for what they estimate to be hundreds of meteorites larger than 50 grams thought to have landed around the Saskatchewan Alberta boarder around Manitou Lake. One meteorite collector has offered $12,000 US for a kilogram sized chunk. If I didn't have work to contend with, that's where I would be, let me tell you.

I'm going to leave you now with a video of the ISS toolbag in space taken by satellite observer Kevin Fetter. To see the toolbag streak across the sky go here and type in your Postal or zip codes, it will give you the flyby times and the location in the sky. You will need binoculars, it will look like a faint moving satellite.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Venus, Jupiter, Moon Conjunction and The Saskatchewan Meteor

One week from tonight the Celestial conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon occurs. The above image shows Jupiter and Venus Getting closer together. The inside grouping of Venus and Jupiter was taken November 22, the outside grouping of Venus and Jupiter was taken November 20. You can see the two planets getting closer together and Venus, the bottom of the two starting to whip under Jupiter, the top planet.

The above image shows the Space station joining the grouping, taken November 23rd. Somewhere just behind the Space Station is the missing tool kit. While Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was working outside the station she lost hold of it. To get the exact times of the flyby in your area go here and enter your postal or zip codes, it's actually quite cute, the site gives you various flyby times of satellites... and the toolkit. You will need binoculars to see it as it isn't all that big.

Now, I happened to be out taking an image of the Jupiter Venus gathering at 6:10 pm November 20. I had decided to call it quits early at that time because the wind was freezing my shutter release cable, thought, this is crazy, too cold, I'm going home, get in my car and head back into town. The next morning I hear almost everybody in the office saw this blinding meteor. I asked what time, the reply was 6:30, crap, if I only would have stayed another 20 minutes I probably would have got a shot of it, again all about being at the right place at the right time, which apparently was in your kitchen or living room looking outside.

The yellow area in the above map is the area in which there had been reported sightings. The size of the meteoroid has been estimated anywhere from the size of a baseball to a small car. To date nothing in the way of a meteorite has been found, but they figure if the meteor did land it would be along the Saskatchewan, Manitoba border.

The YouTube video below is what an Edmonton Police car cam captured, wow, talk about being at the right place at the right time. At the Mall I work at we have quite a few outside security cameras, I went through all the footage from that time frame, and found a bright flash on one of them, the meteor was just to the left of the camera, still cool, due to security reasons I can't show you the flash footage, no biggie anyways, just the flash.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

From Torrid Taurids To Limpy Leonids

Well after taking more then 800 images, going through 2 camera batteries and spending 6 hours in the cold dark early morning hours of November 17, the supposed peak of the Leonid shower, I only came away with a couple of images of small Leonid meteors, now I saw quite a few but they were all but washed out by the glare of the Moonlight.

Another reason for the poor showing besides the bright Moon taking away the contrast of the meteors is the fact that the debris trail left behind by comet Tempel/Tuttle is scattered in pockets, unless we, the Earth, happen to be traveling through one of these populated areas we don't see many meteors.

Now the good news. I was walking to my car behind my office at work around 10:00 that same morning when by chance I noticed in the SW, an area that would have been just over Leo's head , a Leonid fireball, it was in the process of falling as I looked up, and then stopped, then......puff..... a white circle formed, probably the fireball breaking up, I thought great no camera, no one is going to believe this. Then I thought, my cell phone, it has a camera, pulled it out and was lucky enough to get the trail and fireball remnant.

The Next major meteor shower is the Geminids Meteor Shower. Peaks December 13 around 2:00 am, and again we have an almost Full Moon, but this shower is generally one of the more consistent ones, the average is 50 meteors an hour, but with the Moon expect to see only the brighter ones, hey still worth a look. Look to the east for the constellation Gemini around 10:00 pm on the 12th for the show to start.

As I mentioned in my previous post the next major celestial show is the conjunction of the crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus December 1. Should be a show stopper, with the crescent Moon complete with earthshine, Jupiter and Venus forming a triangle. Actually you can go out just after Sunset right now and see Venus below and to the right of Jupiter. As the days pass you will see the two planets drawing closer together till on November 30 the Moon shows up below the planets, then the conjunction December 1. Speaking of conjunctions I thought I would post an image I took back in July, one of my favorites. It was almost surreal to see Saturn, then Mars then Regulus all in a straight line, then you add the crescent Moon for effect and you get cool.

I'll leave you now with an animation of that gathering.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Swarming Taurid Meteor And Buying A Telescope

WOO HOO, got me A Swarming Taurid Meteor, a big one that lit up the sky!!!!! made the front page of NASA's for a couple of days, that makes 3 of my images that have made it to their front page.... hey..... but who's counting?......... oh wait, I am.

You can see it now in their gallery here or at Sky and Telescope's gallery here. I had mentioned about the Taurid meteor shower in an earlier post, it's all but done now but it was the best shower I've seen in awhile.

Happening right now is the Leonids Meteor Shower. Debris left behind from comet Tempel/ Tuttle will be smashing into our protective atmosphere at 45 miles a second creating bright meteors. Look to the NE around midnight as the constellation Leo rises, the radiant of the shower. I'll be out to get some pics, it was suppose to peak around 4 am Monday or Tuesday this week, I was out at 4 am this morning and let me tell you it wasn't the peak, Ill be out Tuesday morning, weather permitting to get some pics and post later this week.

The peak all depends when the Earth passes through the most populated part of the debris field, which is hard to pin down exactly. The bright 75% of Full Moon is out as well, so it will wash out all but the brightest meteors but you should still see a few good ones, oh and dress warm, it's cold out there, at least in Saskatoon.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and with that in mind I thought I would link to my post on what to look for when buying a telescope, just in case anyone out there is wanting to buy one for themselves or a loved one for that special day. It's actually quite a good article if I do say so myself, having gone through more then 10 scopes in the last few years, I kind of consider myself an almost expert, by the way I am in the process of selling one right now, a pretty big one, so if your interested let me know, they go like crazy around Christmas time, just so you know.

Very important, a beautiful Celestial gathering is taking place November 30 and December 1.

Look to the Southwest an hour after Sunset for a beautiful crescent Moon complete with Earthshine below Jupiter and Venus on November 30, and then on December 1 look at the same place, same time for the grouping, this time the Moon will be closer and just over the planets creating a triangle with Venus and Jupiter, Venus will be just below and to the left of Jupiter, will be an excellent photo op or just plain awesome viewing.

I'll leave you now with an animation of my swarming Taurid meteor.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

National Geographic Channel's "Direct From The Moon"and Phoenix Lander Recieves An Award

Get some more popcorn, the National Geographic Channel has another great space show lined up for us. As part of their first annual expedition week, "Direct From The Moon" will be broadcast in the U.S. this coming Monday November 17 at 9:00 pm EST, Canadian dates to follow.

Watch in High Definition, a beautiful Earth Rise and other Lunar images sent back to us from the Moon by JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft as Buzz Aldrin, second Man on the Moon gives his thoughts, very cool. You'll also hear from NASA scientists about the current goings on with respect to returning and setting up a permanent Moon Base as well as the challenges and the innovative technologies that will almost certainly arise as we reach for the Moon once again. Excellent program, one you won't want to miss.

Looks like the Phoenix is done for, with the onslaught of the Martian winter and dust storms the lander is not getting enough Sunlight to charge batteries required to operate Phoenix's scientific equipment.

Having said that the mission has been very successful, the textbook rocket landing, confirming the presence of ice water, returning more than 25,000 images, analysing Martian soil, recording and analysing weather conditions, filming and documenting the first ever snowfall on an alien planet, you done well Phoenix!! Also the Phoenix Lander has just been awarded in the space and aviation category, Popular Science Magazine's the "Best Of What's New Award". Mark Jannot editor and chief of the magazine stated, "For 21 years, Popular Science's Best Of What's New Awards honor the innovations that make a positive impact on life today and change our views of the future."

What's next? Well how bout a honking huge Mars Science Laboratory Rover, almost like the Phoenix Lander on wheels. A third generation Rover about the size of a small SUV. The image above shows the 3 generations of rovers, wow notice the size difference from my favorite rover guy, Sojourner Mars Rover to the white "I'll kick your Butt if you get In my Way Mars Science Laboratory", geez I think I even see laser turrets on it, take that you alien martian aliens!

This large Rover will carry more scientific instruments, travel the furthest and sample the most Martian rock and soil then any previous spacecraft, all in the quest for life past or present on Mars and to help future Mars colonists. Tentative launch date is October 2009, with it's landing on Mars slated for September 2010.

I'll leave you now with a preview clip of National Geographic Channel's "Direct From The Moon"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Find And Photograph The Daytime Crescent Moon Contest

Well today folks this blog is not about me, no- sir- ree Bob, get it? It's all about you, the people that entered my "Find And Photograph The Daytime Crescent Moon Contest" There was some awesome entries so much so that I could not pick a first and second, so I went out to a higher power.... my wife, and some people I know to choose the winners. Unfortunately everyone that entered the contest came in first at one time or another. The winner though with the most first place picks was Jesse! Everyone liked the "Globe in a Globe concept, so Jesse wins, that's right Jesse wins 50 pairs of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D glasses. Right now Jesse is probably beside himself, yet wondering what he is going to do with 50 pairs of 3D glasses, well Christmas is coming, stocking stuffers, plus the tale he'll have telling everyone how he got them, right?

Now the next 3 when I tally up the votes all basically came in second , so they all get a copy of "In The Shadow Of The Moon" DVD. Just send me your address and I'll get a copy out to you.

Well I've learned a lot about Photography contests, mostly that choosing the winner is highly subjective, it is an art not a science, so with all the knowledge I've gathered, my next contest, "Find And Photograph A Night Time Taurid Meteor"............not, no more contests for me, I'll leave Photography contests to the experts. The rest of the entrants in no particular order are.

JJ's entry was very cool, very artistic with the trees , the way she framed it, colors and all, very cool.

Genie caught a cool plane in hers, right place at the right time, awesome.

Roger's entry had excellent detail, very beautiful.

Again I like to thank all the entrants and the work they put into capturing what I think is a highly underrated target, the daytime Moon. Now if anyone happens to take an image of something fitting this blog, anything celestial, I will post it as readers choice photography and give it a mention, if you're so inclined, knock yourself out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mercury, Crescent Moon and Swarming Taurids

Before there was the Moon Venus Sunset gatherings, there was the Moon Mercury Sunrise gathering. Mercury being so close to the Sun we don't get to see it that often, May was the last time I was able to image Mercury, that time it was during a Sunset, image below. Well just last week I was able to capture a beautiful 3% Crescent Moon and Mercury complete with jet contrails, image above.

Lots of celestial stuff going on this month. Right now we have swarming Taurids till November 17th, that's right, apparently the the Earth is going through a swarm of space debris left behind by comet 2P/Encke, we go through the debris field left behind by comet 2P/Encke every year producing the Taurid Meteor shower, but this year is a swarming debris field, producing more then average meteors. Also the Leonid Meteor Shower peaks November 17, for both showers look to the East around Midnight for the shows to start. On November 13th we have a conjunction of the Full Moon and the Pleiades Star Cluster, look to the NE around 7:00pm EST for this conjunction.

So after my whiney crybaby complaining poor me I have no entries in my Find And Photograph The Daytime Moon Contest gonna go to my room and eat my worms post a lot of people sent in their photos, cool, problem is I have to judge them now, geez I never think things through, so unbenounced to my wife, she is going to help me judge them and choose a first and second place winner. I told her the other day I had some entries in my blog contest, she gives me that YIKES look and says "You have a blog?", just kidding, she knows I have a blog, but she still gave me that YIKES look, come to think of it I get that look a lot, especially when I told her 1st place wins 50 pairs of Hanna Montana/ Miley Cyrus 3D glasses. I will announce the winners and post all the entries in my next post, either Monday or Tuesday next week.

I'll leave you now with a Crescent Moon and Jupiter gathering animation I took a couple nights ago, see if you can spot Jupiter.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Venus Moon Gathering And Rovers / Phoenix Updates

I suck at titles what can I say. There has been some great picture opportunities for my "Find And Photograph The Daytime Crescent Moon Contest". Again email your image to me and I will post it on my site. First place wins 50 pairs of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D glasses, second place a DVD of "In The Shadow Of The Moon". Closing date is today November 3rd, or before my next post, this Thursday.

Tonight the Moon and Jupiter come within 3 degrees of each other in the South part of the sky just after Sunset. What's 3 degrees you may ask, well the Moon is a half a degree wide, so they will be within 6 Moon widths, another great photo opportunity.

The image below shows what the Moon, Venus and Jupiter gathering looked like Saturday just after Sunset, tonight the Moon will be right beside Jupiter.

Good luck to all the contestants which at this time is one, and it's a nighttime crescent Moon, getting more lax with the rules to get people to submit their images, first it was , "Daytime Crescent Moon", then "Nighttime Crescent Moon", then "Moon", then "A Link To A Moon Picture I Found While Surfing The Net", to "I Think This Is A Moon Image I Found While Shopping For Furniture Online Contest".

Well the little rover guys are both doing well, surviving another winter. Opportunity is on her way to the huge crater Endeavour, about 7 miles away, doesn't sound that far away but when you only travel 110 yards a day it takes 2 years to get there, but Opportunity will be doing lots of science on the way there. Spirit is up and running and doing science and image taking, of course she has dust on her solar panels from the dust storms that have been happening in her area, poor Spirit again, the troubled child of the two with a broke wheel and all.

Phoenix on the other hand, not so much, with the coming of winter, - 140 degree c temperatures, and fewer and fewer hours of Sunlight reaching her solar panels has created a low power fault putting the Phoenix into safe mode. Anybody that has a computer knows what safe mode is, I call it suck mode, can't do anything. The Phoenix team have shut down all they can on the Phoenix in hopes of the lander building up enough energy to be able to squeeze out all the science they can before the lander freezes over for good.

I'll leave you now with an animated crescent Moon I took on my outing Saturday night.