Friday, June 27, 2008

Occultations, Conjunctions and Phoenix Lander

Took some images of the gathering of Saturn, Regulus and Mars, Mars will continue drawing closer to Saturn till July 10 when it will start to pull away. If you are interested there will be another very cool conjunction this coming June 30, mind you it will be at 3:00 am EDT, when the Moon rises in the east, it and the Pleiades will once again be in conjunction, in fact if you live out in Eastern Canada you will see the Crescent Moon complete with earthshine occulting, or covering some of the Pleiades stars, what a photo op. They are calling for clear skies here so even though in Western Canada the Moon rises after the occultation I will be getting pics of the conjunction for my next post.

For my Fathers Day present my youngest daughter took me to the latest Indiana Jones movie, a great movie and a great time, me and my youngest have very similar tastes, both like the same type of movies, video games, believe that aliens had something to do with the building of the pyramids, and like to make up words, my oldest daughter and Wife have basically disowned us.

Wife " The Smiths are coming over tonight, you can talk about your space stuff but keep anything to do with aliens out, understood?"

Me " nyup"

Wife "what"

Me "hmm"

Wife "Bob"

Anyways I said all that to bring up something cool, at the very beginning of the show, I forget if it is part of a logo for the production company or the first scene, a huge image of a Moon/ Pleiades conjunction appears, how awesome was that, so if you go see the movie you can point that out to who ever you are with, or if by yourself, the person sitting next to you, they will appreciate it.

More good news on the Phoenix Lander front, after analyzing a sample of the Martian soil in one of the lander's wet labs, (a wet lab is an area where they mix water brought from Earth with the Martian soil so as to be able to do chemistry and test the soil for salts, acidity and other goodies) have found it to be similar to the dry valleys in Antarctica and has all the necessary ingredients to support life, although they have yet to find any water in the samples they are still hopeful that in later digs they will be able to get some of that ice water into their labs.

I'll leave you now with an animated 85% of Full Moon taken June 13th through some clouds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celestial Gatherings and Climate Change

Moon and Antares, June 16, 2008

First off I'm pretty pumped about the fact that redOrbit selected Black holes as a Red Hot Blog of the Day , very cool when a large reputable science site's editors choose your site as something worthwhile and recommend it to it's readers.

Got a couple images of some celestial gatherings that have happened in the past week. The above image taken June 16 of the Moon and Antares, Antares is a Red Super giant star in the constellation Scorpius, because of it's red color it is sometimes mistaken for Mars, it's diameter is 700 times that of our Sun and 600 light years distant. The image below is a conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter taken June 19 at 11:00 pm.

Moon and Jupiter June 19, 2008

If you are concerned at all with climate change you'll want to head over to Global Climate Change a brand new website just started by NASA's Jet Proplusion Laboratory. This site deals with educating the public on Earth's everchanging climate. They do an excellent job of explaining various things such as the condition of Earth's ice sheets, Global Averge Temperature, sea level change and concentrations of key greenhouse gases.

There's lots of interactive stuff like a Climate Time Machine, it takes you back to 1979 through to 2007 and shows how various things like ice melt, sea levels, CO2 emissions and the Average Global Temperature have changed through the years, wow, very scary, and I don't scare easy, well maybe I do , but that's beside the point, and the music is very scary cool, I was humming it all day at work today, very catchy in a scary sort of way, awesome site, NASA does such super work on their sites.

I'll leave you now with another Moon Rise , it consists of 42 images over 3.5 minutes real time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Phoenix Finds Ice Water

Well scientists are convinced they have found water on Mars, I remain cautiously optimistic, now if they were to come back with a picture of a green alien I'd be saying "I knew it, in your face all you mockers of me", why am I cautiously optimistic? I don't know, I kind of would like to get some of that white substance into one of the lander's ovens to confirm it more scientifically before I jump for joy, I mean that's what the ovens are for, right?

If you remember my last post I had mentioned that the Phoenix People over at NASA were keeping an eye on the white substance in one of their previous digs. If the substance either developed frost or evaporated through sublimation, which is just a fancy term for changing from a solid to a vapour without going through the water stage, it would be ice water. Well as you can see from the above animation, some of it has, the only other thing the white could have been was salt, and salt doesn't work like that.

If this is indeed ice water it has profound implications, besides a water source for future colonists, you now have the ability to manufacture oxygen and fuel. When you are talking space travel, weight is key, the lighter the payload the less the cost, if you have the ability to manufacture the return trip fuel on Mars, the weight along with the cost of the mission goes down and the doability factor up. On a deeper level, with the finding of water on Mars, the possibilities of finding life increases dramatically, think about it, to find even a microbial alien life form on Mars, in our own backyard so to speak, opens up the imagination and possibilities to other life forms in the billions and billions of galaxies in our known universe, to say the least , exciting times and a step towards answering the age old question, "are we alone?"

Strawberry Moon June 18, 2008

In case you missed the June Full Moon I took some images. Called the Strawberry Moon by the Algonquin tribe because they harvested Strawberries during the month of June. I love horizon Full Moons, they always look squashed. The squashness is caused by the Earth's atmosphere acting like a lens and refracting the bottom of the Moon upwards.

As the Moon rose higher in the sky I took some images of it through my telescope, notice on both these images you can see light mist and clouds , the top image notice the dark shadow on the top right of the Moon, the bottom Moon most of the right side is covered with a light shadow, also notice the gold color of the image below, it was lower on the horizon and it's moonlight had to travel through more of our atmosphere which scatters the blues and allows the reds through to be seen by us.

I'll leave you with a clip I put together of the Moon Rise consisting of 54 images over a 7 minute time frame.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Solstice Moon Illusion

May Full Moon

As the Full Moon rises tomorrow you will see what is called a Solstice Moon Illusion. A huge Moon will be rising in the east. Normally a low Moon on the horizon means an unusually big looking one, but for some reason during the summer solstice it seems to look bigger. No one really knows for sure why this illusion takes place, technically the Moon is the same size no matter where the Moon is but our brain sees it larger on the horizon, whatever the reason, just look to the east at Moon rise tomorrow to get a spectacular view, weather permitting I'll be taking lots of images to post for the weekend if you miss it.

To find out when the Moon rises in your location just visit Sky View Cafe, click on the find tab, type in your city and it will come back with all kinds of goodies like the whereabouts of the various celestial bodies at times for your area, if you need any help with the Moon rise time for your location just leave a comment and I'll get it for you.

Sun filtered through clouds, June 15, 2008

I was out last Sunday to get a horizon Moon shot for this post but it never showed itself from behind the clouds, so I thought I'd post this one instead. As I was turning to leave I happened to notice a pastel like cloudscape around the Sun and was very lucky to be able to capture the above image just as a bank of clouds was dropping which filtered out the blinding light of the Sun to show it's shape.

Snow White Dig site

Still nothing in the water finding department at the Phoenix Mars Lander site. They started a new dig called "Snow White" just today. It is about .8 inches in depth. The previous dig where they found the mysterious white stuff was around 2 inches deep, which by the way they are still keeping an eye on, if the white substance is ice it will either develop frost or sublimate, which means turn from a solid to a gaseous state.

I'll leave you now with an animated Solar cloudscape image.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moon, Spica and Plutoids

While on my holidays to Winfield/Kelowna I got a cool shot of the Moon as a jet contrail was falling into it, I like to call it "Saturn Moon with Spica off the top right" as it looks kind of like Saturn and Spica is off the top right of the Saturn Moon, and yes it is framed, I'm am having way too much fun with this new framing software. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo and 16th. brightest star in the night sky. Spica is a blue giant, you can see it's blueness in the image above and is around 2,300 times more luminous then our own Sun.

The International Astronomical Union has just decided what to call Pluto and Pluto like celestial bodies; a "Plutoid", the definition of a Plutoid is; "Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the Sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces to that they assume a near spherical shape, and that have not cleared the neighbourhood around their orbit." Well La De Da isn't that special. As far as I'm concerned Pluto is and should be given the title planet back, if they think that by naming a new classification of celestial bodies after it and then hoping us "Pluto for Planet People" or the PPP as I liked to be called, are going to roll over and die, they're wrong and the vast majority of people are like mind. Don't get me wrong I'm all for calling the next dwarf planet or rock or whatever they end up calling them a Plutoid but lets grandfather little Pluto, sometimes you have to put science on the back burner to keep a little bit of our history and humanity alive.

JJ , in her comment asked if there were any petitions around to try and save the planet status of Pluto, there are a couple and you can find them at, Pluto Petition and Please Save Pluto, very easy and quick to use. Right now it's 21,456 for Pluto to remain a planet, and 4,682 for Pluto not to keep it's planet status.

The Mars Phoenix Lander has samples of the Martian soil in it's microscope station as well as in one of the lander's ovens, and all the people say "Burn Baby Burn". Phoenix lead investigator Peter Smith said "There could be real discoveries to come as we analyze this soil with our various instruments. We have just the right instruments to do the job." I for one am looking forward to the upcoming days and weeks to see what new and exciting things we may learn about Mars from this marvel of human technology.

I'd like to leave you now with an animated earthshine image I took a week ago.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moon, Saturn and Regulus Conjunction

Conjunctions are our friends. Got some cool shots of the Moon, Saturn and Regulus conjunction Sunday June 8th. about an hour after Sunset. The image above shows Saturn to the top left of the Moon and Regulus off the top right of the Moon. The image below is a shot of the gathering as well as a Lunar Corona, Lunar Coronas are caused by the bright Moonlight reflecting and refracting of ice crystals in high thin clouds.

The image below is a picture of the conjunction with Mars off to the far right

I also took a wide angle shot below to show you what you would have seen if you had been walking west down your street to give you an idea how it would look to the naked eye.

This coming June 30th. Mars will be joining Saturn and Regulus, Mars will retrograde to settle just off the top right of Regulus for the too cool trio conjunction of Saturn, Regulus and Mars just in time for July 1st and 4th fireworks celebrations, so when you are out enjoying the fireworks and your significant other says " Wow aren't these fireworks great" you having the knowledge gained by reading this blog can reply " Yes they are, but I am also enjoying the celestial conjunction of Saturn, Mars and Regulus over here in the western quadrant of the celestial sphere" to which your significant other will reply ".......Kiss me you fool!" see, I got your back. Also this coming 5 and 6th. of July the Moon will join the gathering. July 5th. the Moon will be just below Regulus and Mars will have moved to almost the center of Saturn and Regulus, July 6th. the Moon will be just off the left of Saturn.

Saw the above animated gif at the Mars Phoenix Lander's web site and just had to have it on my blog. It shows the new sprinkling method they have developed to deliver the Martian soil samples to the various labs for analysis. The previous method of scoop and drop wasn't working, for some reason the soil is clumping and not going through the lab's protective screen, they've found by shaking the scoop a little they can sprinkle smaller samples onto the screen and through to the lab. The animated gif above shows the scoop delivering a sample to the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer or MECA for short. Seems to be working better. As of today Scientists do not know the reason why the soil is clumping, could be ice or static electricity holding it together, once they get a good sample into the labs we should get some answers, very exciting stuff, by the way the above gif is comprised of 4 images over a 20 minute time frame.

I'll leave you now with an animated gif of a cool 4 percent crescent Moon in clouds.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mars And Beehive Star Cluster Conjunction

Took a couple images of the Mars, Beehive open star cluster conjunction which occurred May 22nd. The Beehive Cluster is located in the constellation Cancer, is anywhere from about 400-750 million years old, 577 light years away and is 16 light years in diameter.

Ancient Greeks called the stars in the sky that seemed to wander, Planetoi. wanderers, hence the word planet, my second image below I took the night after my first shot illustrates the wandering part quite nicely thank you very much.

A cool utility that I used to frame the top image is Pikifx, if you want to email someone a picture you took and make it look a little more finished you can just put a frame around it. The software is totally free and it's one of those things like my fisheye lens and animated images at the bottom of my posts that I will probably overuse, I have a habit of grabbing onto something I really, really like and using it over and over and over and over and over again until I get sick of it and stop, and then remembering about it again and then the cycle repeats itself, over and over again.

Some more cool upcoming conjunctions are happening, one June 7th. the Moon with earthshine and Mars are getting together, look low in the west sky around an hour after Sunset. June 8th. look to the west an hour after Sunset again for a Moon Saturn and Regulus gathering. June 30th. look in the west sky for Saturn, Mars and Regulus grouping and then July 5th. and 6th. west sky again for a Saturn, Mars, Regulus and Moon conjunction, all these conjunctions about an hour after Sunset.

The The Phoenix Mars Lander has gathered its first official scoop and is ready to deposit it into Its' lab's partially open doors, yeah that's right the doors haven't fully opened up, it will take up to a week to study the sample and come back with the results. I'm hoping it will be "We've found water!" instead of the usual "We've found evidence of water."

Totally off space topics and keeping with my overuse problem, I have posted a framed image of a yellow bird that I took while on vacation in BC, I have looked everywhere for the name and type of bird with no luck, can anybody help me out? I would really like to know the type of bird this is.

I'll like to leave you now with my Milky Way image with the exploding meteor as an animated gif, which I call "Shooting Star"

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bobaids Meteor Shower

I hadn't planned on getting up at 1:00 am Saturday May 31st, I had been out the night before and got some images of the stars and our galaxy and thought I'd take it easy and actually sleep a whole night, but I awoke at 1:00 am and wasn't tired, so I thought why not, maybe an aurora or something cool, so off I went with my camera to explore the cosmos once again.

So I'm pulling up to my site and a huge meteor appeared while I was getting out of the car, shoot me now, missed it, set up the camera and the meteors started, just kept coming, better then any major shower I'd ever seen, man I lucked out.

Not only was there lots of meteors but because the Moon didn't rise for a couple hours the Milky Way wasn't washed out, and , Jupiter and an aurora were out as well making for a great photo op.

Notice in the image above the very large meteor in the bottom right of the frame, I was looking away as my camera was taking it's 60 second exposure and I still noticed a flash out of the corner of my eye. Since there is no major shower at that time I have named it the Bobaids Meteor Shower, after moi. Like I said I was out the night before and notta, I went out the next night and notta, and the shower only lasted a couple hours that night, so go figure, must have gone through some kind of debris field, you better believe I'll be out next year to check it out again, may have stumbled on to something.

The picture above I like to call 4 toes, it is an imge of the track left behind by the Phoenix's arm scooper. Scientists are practicing using the scooper especially since they temporairily lost one dump which they found through images taken by the onboard camera, the last thing they want to do is drop the scoop of soil on the lander or it's solar panels, that would surely suck. Consider what they are up against, because they are milions of miles away they are issuing the instructions or commands in the morning and getting back the results to see how it went in the evening, also some of the Martian soil for whatever reason got stuck in the scooper, again if they think the scoop is empty, may lead to an accidental dropping of the stuck soil where they don't want it. So for today, they think they have spotted something white in one of the samples, could be ice could be salt, won't know for sure until they get it tested.

I'll leave you now with an animated May Full Moonrise.