Sunday, December 28, 2008

Geminids, Ursids and Quadrantids Meteor Showers

I've heard of them, read about them but up and until now I've never seen one let alone imaged one. No I'm not talking about UFOs, I'm talking about colorful horizon hugging meteors, image above.

I was trying to image an Ursid meteor when I saw a green flash to my right, in the vicinity of Gemini and thanks to my wide angle fisheye I was able to capture it, my new fav meteor image

Went back out the next morning and got my Ursid meteor. Three thousand images taken and almost one hundred hours later, I have imaged meteors from all the major showers.

Quadrantids, January 4 2008.

Lyrids, April 22 2008.

Aquarids, May 5 2008.

Bobaids, May 31 2008.

That's right, the best shower of the year, most meteors per hour, mind you only lasted a few hours, was the one I discovered and named after moi. NASA is looking into discovering more meteor showers as well, and they are finding them, so mock me if you will but I'll be out next year looking for my shower to return.

Perseids, August 10 2008.

Orionids, October 22 2008.

Taurids, November 8 2008.

Leonids, November 17 2008.

What can I say, I LOVE meteor showers. There hasn't been a meteor go by where I don't yell out, even by myself, wow, or that was cool, love em. Next stop, the return of the Quadrantids, peaking between 2-6 am Saturday January 3rd. They are predicting great things this year for this shower. Between 60-120 meteors per hour. The radiant of the shower used to be the constellation Quadrans which no longer exists, became part of Bootes, just look to the NE under the handle of the Dig Dipper around 11:00 pm January 2.

Also a couple of conjunctions going on, December 29, look to the SW just after Sunset for the grouping of the thin crescent Moon, Jupiter and Mercury. Then on December 31, the last day of the year, look again in the SW for the Moon and Venus grouping over top the grouping of Jupiter and Mercury.

One final thing, Lucy sent me a cool atmospheric image of the Perigee Moon, the biggest of the year, thanks for the image Lucy, a pair of 3D glasses are on their way to you.

I'll leave you now with an animation of my new favorite meteor. All the best to you and yours in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice Sunrise and Sunsets

Being the winter Solstice and all yesterday I thought I would take some pics of the winter solstice Sunrise, plus the fact that it was -39c and woo hoo no wind, I thought to myself maybe I could capture some crazy shaped refracted Sun shots. The Sun didn't disappoint. Sunlight is refracted due to the different densities and pressures in our lower atmosphere causing the light path to be trapped, blocking some of the sunlight from getting to our eyeballs, seems with the really cold temps this is even more so making for some interesting shapes of the Sun.

I knew from the rising Sun that I was in for some strange looking Suns, notice what looks like a solar flare popping off the top of the above image. Now when it is -39c with no wind it can be kind of deceiving, doesn't really feel cold without the wind burning into your face, in fact you don't really know how dangerous the cold is up and until just before you fall asleep and die.

After 20 minutes out in this stupid cold temperatures my camera started making some funny noises and the shutter sounded like it was going to blow up and start on fire, so I go to turn the camera off when I noticed my fingertips had no feeling, grab the camera and start running back to the warmth of the car when I noticed my toes were numb, great I'm going to fall asleep and die next. Finally made it back to the car alive and well, next time I'm going to stay in the car regardless of how it feels cold wise.

Eight hours later I was out at it again, this time Sunsets. I call the above image my Christmas ornament Sunset due to the fact it looks like a Christmas tree ornament, Merry Christmas from me to you, print it off and hang it on your Christmas tree. It had warmed up to -26c and I was able to stay in the car while taking the pics but my finger tips were still burning from the morning before.

Got some funky looking Sunsets plus I got an image of the rare Greenflash! Only lasted for a few seconds, hence the term flash.

Greenflashes appear just before Sunrises and just after Sunsets. The high frequency waves of the greens/blues curve more then the lower frequency reds allowing them, the green light to remain around to be viewed by us, the reds are obstructed by the curvature of the Earth.

The Ursid meteor shower is on right now, actually peaks tonight, and you won't have the Full Moon to contend with, but there is only 15 an hour or so but I'll still be out trying to get some meteor images. If you are crazy like me look in between the Little and Big Dippers, in the north part of the sky around 10:00 pm. If your not crazy but you still want to get into the action visit this site!! It is the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas, got the link from Listen to meteors fly over the radar, very cool and unearthly sounding, it is a live feed so you may have to wait for a while to hear your first warrble sounding meteor, very cool.

I'll leave you now with an animation of one of my Solar Pillars. I probably won't post till after Christmas so I just like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Double Solar Halo And Circumzenithal, Upper Tangent Arcs

The right place at the right time with the right equipment is the only reason I was lucky enough to capture the image above. I was in my car yesterday with my trusty camera by my side when I noticed a Solar halo forming, pulled over to the side of the road,  got out and was starting to take the picture of the halo.  As I was imaging the Solar Halo, image below, with an Upper Tangent Arc, a Second halo with a Circumzenithal Arc started to form before my very eyes, zoomed out to get the whole picture in the same frame, what a sight!!! I had decided to start carrying my camera equipped with a fisheye lens around with me 24/7 just in case something like the above were to happen, and it did.

Circumzenithal Arc, aka "A Smile in the Sky" the most beautiful of all the ice halos, sits on top the 46 degree halo/arcs. Formed by the Sunlight refracting off horizontally orientated ice crystals in the high wispy Cirrus clouds. They go unnoticed a lot of the time simply because they hang high around the Zenith, plus again, they come and go real fast, the one I imaged above lasted 10 minutes tops.

Saskatoon in the winter, this -25c weather is good for something. As I was heading for work in the morning, I noticed the lights from the city reflecting off some low clouds and a Lunar Halo, made for a pretty picture, so having my 24/7 camera with me I took the pic. I liken the Solar/Lunar Halos in the winter to the Milky Way in the Summer, both the best all encompassing celestial sky shows going.

I'll leave you now with an animation of my Double Halo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lunar Halos, Perigee Moon and Geminid Meteor shower

'Tis the season, season for Solar/Lunar Halos, Sundogs and Solar Pillars. I took the above image from my front yard. Halos are caused by the Moonlight/Sunlight being refracted off the hexagonal ice crystals in the high wispy cirrus clouds which refract the Moon 22 to 50 degrees producing the halo, 22 degrees around the Moon, from the Moon to the inner edge of the halo covers 22 degrees of the sky. I made sure I got the houses in the same frame as the halo, gives you some kind of perspective on how big these things are. The cool thing about the above image is as people were walking by they were asking me if something was going on in the sky, I then pointed to the halo and got a lot of wow's , that's beautiful never noticed it. They are so fleeting that unless you are looking for them they go unnoticed, we in our busy day rush from point A to point B never noticing the beauty of the Earth and sky around us, never really stop to look at the halos, smell the roses.

I had mentioned about Lunar Halos in my previous post so Genie decides to look for them , finds one, and gets her first image of one, great job Genie!!

I had also mentioned about the biggest Full Moon of the year occurring last Friday , I had clouds so I couldn't get a pic for you, but once again Genie comes through with a cool picture of it, again way to go Genie!!!

Well we are on the topic of readers pics, Majase Cyc sent me a Solar Pillar image. Solar Pillars happen when plate like ice crystals reflect the Sunlight creating the Pillar, what I like about this image besides the pillar is the crazy cool depth of field, everything seems to be in focus no matter the distance, very striking, do yourself a favor and check out Majse Cyc's sites very very unique and interesting.

Another reader image above, Moonshadow just got her Canon 40D, same camera as me, hey it rhymes, back from the shop and was lucky to capture the Perigee Full Moon, great atmospheric shot with the trees and clouds.

-34c, but feels like -45c, that's the temp at 3:30am Saturday December 13, the peak of the Geminid meteor Shower, and yes I was out taking pics of meteors, call me crazy, crazy like a fox! I have a system , I set up my camera just outside the drivers side window of my car and take images using my shutter release cable, thing is, even then I was too cold, if I keep the window closed I can't really actually see the shower, so I had to leave it open a bit, and at "it feels like -45c" it gets cold, not biting cold in the car, but still cold and talk about tricky getting from the passenger side to the drivers side to operate the camera and make adjustments if needed on the camera, I have to lift my leg over the stick shift not once but twice since I have 2 of them, this time I pulled a muscle, Crap I am such a klutz, honestly it's amazing I've made it this far in life without poking my eye out with a stick, seriously.

So I finally get all set up and take pics of some meteors, NOOOOOOOO, after just 20 minutes the battery is toast, put my other one in thinking, wooo, glad I got another battery, and the same thing happens, 20 minutes and it's done, the wind chill factor taking it's toll. So I go home charge them both up and back out again. I do this a couple times and then it's time to upload to the computer.

I know I got some good shots, the shower itself was okay, but as you can see from the above image, the nearly Full Moon was right in the middle of the radiant constellation Gemini, you can see Castor and Pollux just off the top left of the Moon, add in all the ice crystals and you get a whole lot of white, wiping out a lot of the meteors.

So I get home and start to upload the images, and my computer freezes!! I ended up with the first 10 and a half images, none of course had any meteors on them, never did recover them, sucks.

The image above was taken Sunday night, went back out before the Moon rose to see if I would have any better luck, at least I got a picture of a meteor, doesn't even look like a Geminid, too far from the Radiant, hey it's a meteor.

Leave you now with an animation of my Lunar Halo, put it through a Photshop filter called Plastic Wrap, why do that? because it looks cool, scary cool, like a big eye in the sky watching over us.

I'd like to take a moment here to thank the designer of my website Lady Omega for fixing the code for my Christmas tree countdown, there was a problem with part of the code showing over top the tree and no matter what I did I couldn't get rid of it, Lady Omega came to the rescue and made it all better.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another Moon, Jupiter ,Venus Conjunction Image And The Moon, Pleiades Meet

It's like when your Uncle Fred from out of town comes in to town a week after Christmas with your Christmas present, for just a little while it's Christmas again. That's how I felt when Daniel sent me the above Lunar, Venus, Jupiter conjunction image, very cool, keep the feeling alive.

Great image Daniel!! A pair of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D glasses are on their way out to you.

While we are on the topic of conjunctions, like when aren't we, there was a Lunar, Pleiades one last night. Totally cloudy here so I didn't think I would be able to see it. The cat was barking for a bedtime snack around 9:30pm like she always does, so I headed to her food dish, and happened to look out the basement window and low and behold I noticed a break in the clouds, got me all excited, got my stuff together and went outside to watch and get the above and below images. Both images were blended in Photoshop, the Pleiades at 2 sec exposure, the Moon at 1/800 sec exposure. The clearing only lasted a few minutes so I didn't get the Moon in occultation with the Pleiades, that is when it covers some of the Pleiade's stars, which happened quite a few hours later behind the stupid clouds, but I was still able to view and image them together, still pretty.

If you are looking for another pretty view, check out the Full Moon rise this Friday evening, this Full Moon is special. The Moon does an elliptical orbit around us and it will be in it's perigee stage, closest to us, the year's biggest Moon, 14% bigger then when it is apogee, furthest from us. But here is the kicker, it will be 30% brighter, which sucks if you're going to be watching for meteors during the Geminid shower this weekend.

Thought I would post a cool animation of a Coronal Mass Ejection, (CME), that occurred December 8, a few days ago, it was huge, look at it, looks to be around 100 Earth diameters. Apparently it blasted out towards Saturn, looks like our Sun is starting to get a little more active.

Halo watch, with the arrival of colder temperatures be on the look out for Solar and Lunar halos. When ever you get a combination of cold temps and the high, thin, wispy cirrus clouds you may be lucky to catch halos and dogs. I'll leave you now with an animation of a Solar halo I took a couple days ago, they come and go very fast, this one broke up due to lack of cirrus clouds after only 15 minutes.

Solar Halo

Monday, December 8, 2008

Smiley Face and Tool Bag Conjunction

I know what you're thinking, Bob the conjunction is over........let it go." Never Give Up, Never Surrender" I always say, well ever since I heard it on Galaxy Quest.

Priyank on his awesome travels was coming down from a mountain at a height of 3900m in Paro in the Kingdom Of Bhutan when he noticed a celestial gathering and thought cool, he better take a picture, good thing. He saw it before us in the west when the Moon was below the planets making a cute smiley face. well done Priyank!! A pair of 3D glasses are on their way to you.

I was in such a funk the last couple days, what I call "Post Conjunction Syndrome". From everybody talking about the conjunction........well mostly me talking to everybody about the conjunction to nothing, plus, always being cloudy. Well my wife was going out yesterday to meet with some of her friends, I thought score!! Turn up the old Peavey Bandit, grab a guitar, add a little distortion for flavor and play some of those Twelve-bar blues, nothing like playing the blues to pull you out of em.

So I'm playing away and notice the Sun breaking through the clouds, wow, screw the blues I'm back baby!! Check out some sky charts to see if I can pull something in the way of conjunction out of my hat....hmmm......this looks good, Venus is coming within 10 degrees of 9 beta cap in Capricornus, what can I say, I was desperate, then I had a brain storm, looked at Heavens-Above and Satellite Tracking to see if there were any Iridium flares or per chance, the infamous Tool bag flying around the Venus Jupiter gathering, and score, the tool bag was making a flyby just overhead of Venus at 6:09 local time, got my gear together, only had a half hour before transit time.

Made it out to the site just in time, snapped a bunch of pics with a high ISO and short exposure to have the best chance of imaging a faint object. Turns out I actually saw it live and in person, just for an instant, probably between tumbles, Sunlight reflecting off it making it brighter, hence the above pic, the comet looking item in the middle of the picture. Next stop the Geminids meteor shower this weekend, peaking around 2:00 am Saturday December 13th. Look to the east, around 10:00 pm on the 12th. So far so good for mostly clear skies here. Update, Nite Sky Girl on her site had mentioned about the Moon and Pleiades getting together December 10, don't know how I missed that one, check out her awesome site. Look to the east after Sunset and through the rest of the night as they travel together, will be snowing here but I will post any images you may get, and hey, free 3D glasses.

I'll leave you now with an animation of the Moon taken Sunday November 30.

Crescent Moon

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Journey To The Edge Of The Universe and more Conjunction Images

Geysers on Triton;

and Black holes in action;

bright colored matter;

and Solar attractions;

Nebulae, galaxies, stars in between, these are a few of my favorite things, bet you'll never guess which movie I was watching the other day. Anyways back on topic, you get to see all my favs above and more on the 2 hour premiere of "Journey to the Edge of the Universe" on the National Geographic Channel.

Very cool how through cinema quality CGI and the worlds best telescopes they take you from a couple people enjoying the night sky up through the atmosphere, to the Moon, Sun, planets then galaxies and beyond to the edge of the universe, all in one camera move.

Be prepared to board "spacecraft imagination", launch date this Sunday December 7, 7 pm EST.

Again the Canadian times are yet to be announced, will let you know as soon as I hear.

Well, the last couple of weeks have been space crazy around here, first with our famous Saskatchewan meteor, which by the way they have found quite a few pieces of , to the beautiful Venus, Jupiter Lunar conjunction, imaged and viewed by millions of people all over the world, everybody was getting involved, even my wife, as I was coming home after imaging the gathering she said "I saw your cute little conjunction!"........boy........, if I had a nickel every time I heard that.

The beautiful image above of the conjunction was taken by Genie, great job Genie! When there are special celestial occasions I will post any and all images from you the readers on my blog, and issue a free pair of Hanna Montana/ Miley Cyrus 3D glasses, while supplies last. My goal has always been to get people involved in and to enjoy the cosmos, and my new goal to one day have everybody outfitted with said 3D glasses. The upcoming Jupiter, Mercury and Lunar conjunction December 28/29, not as spectacular as the one that just occurred but it will more beautiful in it's subtlety, has Mercury in it, I love Mercury, always a challenge to view and even more difficult to image, the Moon will be a very small crescent making it all the more reason to try and catch it. For the conjunction look low in the SW just after Sunset on the 28/29. Also the Geminid meteor shower peaks next weekend, look to the east around 10:00 pm for the show to start, will be a Full Moon so won't see the maximum of 60 meteors per hour but again still worth a look.

The above image was taken by Anita with a Finepix S700 camera, great shot Anita! A pair of 3D glasses are on their merry way to you and yours.

Raymond, took the above image, super job!! hope you Genie and Anita enjoy your new 3D glasses, to break em in, try this cool NASA 3D image site.

I'll leave you now with a preview clip of Journey to the Edge of the Universe.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Venus, Jupiter and Luna Conjunction

Woo Hoo I got to see the conjunction, almost didn't. Hope some of you had the same luck I did, it was cloudy right up until the last moment but the clouds broke just in time and then only for awhile, hey, I was prepared to go down to Moose Jaw where it was supposed to be clear. When I told people at work my plans to travel 2 hours to see the gathering I got a lot of shaking of the heads and them saying BOB!, get that a lot. So maybe I am a little obsessed, and why not, lets take a look at this logically.

The stars, planets, Moon, are always on time, never late, never early, in other words very dependable. They keep on giving me their best and don't ask for anything in return, just that I show up, even then they could careless if I don't watch, my loss if I don't come to the latest show. No hidden agendas, they are what they are, a star doesn't try to be a planet and visa-versa, don't try to trick you in to believing there is a conjunction and then when you get there no ones around, what's not to like? Plus the gathering was just plain awesome. The images below are from the conjunction Sunday night.

The image below is the gathering from Saturday night, the tiny crescent Moon is hiding in the atmosphere in the lower right of the image. If anybody out there got an image of the conjunction, let me know and I will post it on my site and ship you a free pair of Hanna Montana/ Miley Cyrus 3D glasses, yeah, I still have a gazillion of them.

I'll leave you now with an animation of the 5% of Full Moon, taken Saturday night while the Moon was low in the atmosphere.