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Vanishing Point ObservatoryI don’t know how a fly sees the world, but it might be like this…

While waiting for the moon to set, I decided to take a 360×180° panoramic photo from the top of a tripod stuck just outside the roof of my observatory.  When turned “inside-out”, the panoramic photo is popularly called a “tiny planet” photo.

Most of the central part of the photo is the inside of my (cluttered) observatory.  The outside of the photo shows the horizon and sky.

Go to: to see a larger view and the original panoramic photo in an interactive panoramic viewer.

Clouds and CameleopardalidsWell, sadly I have to report that the much anticipated (and over-hyped, apparently) meteor “storm” of 2014 was a giant fizzle, or more accurately a little drizzle! After driving first to my observatory, and then out to Joshua Tree National Park in an effort to dodge clouds (mostly successful), we saw just a handful of meteors. A few seen were decently bright, but nothing that was blinding or casting shadows, unfortunately. Here are the results, posted on my web page:

If you have some time Friday night before this (U.S.) holiday weekend, go out to a dark site, away from city lights. The dust trail from periodic comet 209P/Linear may give us a nice show of meteors flashing across the sky.

Unlike well-known annual meteor showers such as the Leonid or Perseid showers, this meteor shower doesn’t happen regularly because this time the earth will be passing through “puffs” of dust emitted by comet 209P/Linear in previous orbits over a century ago and recently steered toward Earth’s orbit by Jupiter’s gravity. The coincidence of Earth’s position and the position of these streams of dust in their own orbit make for a potentially good show. Predictions range from 100-400 meteors per hour, which makes for a good to intense shower.

If you’re serious about making an effort to see this meteor shower, get away from city lights and don’t look at any bright lights for at least 15 minutes to allow your eyes can become sensitive to the smaller, dimmer meteors. The meteors will appear to originate in the north (the radiant point), but should be visible all over the sky. The peak time is predicted to be at 07:00-08:00 UTC — starting around midnight on Friday evening (May 23-24) for the Pacific coast of the U.S. On this evening, the waning crescent moon rises around 2:20 AM, so those of us on the West Coast of the U.S. should have a dark sky for the peak of the show.

Comet 209P/Linear meteor shower radiant location

Click on image for larger view.

Settle into a reclining lawn chair with a blanket and hot drink and enjoy the show. As with terrestrial weather predictions, the shower could be a weak drizzle or turn into a storm. There are no guarantees except one — if you don’t try to look, you’ll be guaranteed to see nothing!

P.S. In the tradition of naming meteor showers after the constellation containing the radiant, the name of this one would be the Camelopardalids — a mouthful which I hope does NOT stick!


On May 10th, I saw something that I’ve never seen before in Los Angeles — a sun pillar…

Sun pillar

This shot was taken after sunset. The vertical column of light in the center of the photo is apparently caused by high altitude ice crystals. It may be nearly summer on the ground, but high up in the atmosphere, it’s always cold enough for ice if the water vapor is present.

Others tell me they have seen it occasionally from southern California, but the only other place I’ve personally seen it is in Mongolia!  It may be that I need to get out more often at sunset or sunrise.

April 2014 Lunar Eclipse To follow up on my previous post… for Monday night’s eclipse, I was out at my observatory where I had some thin clouds going by, but overall, it was a nice eclipse with   the moon going dark enough to see a lot of stars come out.  During the maximum of the eclipse, the moon had gone so dark that I was having a hard time seeing the marker at the center of my camera which I was using to insure the moon was centered for the shots. At the very end of totality, I was thnking about how quiet the night was.  The usual barking dogs, howling coyotes, and crowing roosters (yes, even at 2:30AM) were all silent, but just as the moon brightened up, an owl’s screech cut through the silence.  Oh, well…

More photos and time-lapse videos at:

2004 Lunar Eclipse

2004 Lunar eclipse

Just a reminder that a lunar eclipse will be happening starting around 11PM PDT (8PM for Hawaii). The entire eclipse is visible for most of the U.S. and takes around 3-1/2 hrs for the most interesting part (entry to exit of the deepest part of the earth’s shadow). Mid-eclipse, when the moon should be darkest, is at about 12:45AM PDT (9:45PM HST).

Although the eclipse will be visible from virtually anywhere, it might be worthwhile to take a look from a dark place (away from all artificial lights)  because the moon will probably darken enough for the stars to come out if your eyes are given enough time to adapt  to the dark (15-30 minutes).   Nearby will be a bright orange-red Mars, which is near to its closest approach to Earth for this go-around.

Detailed timing information and charts:

If you want to try photographing it, here’s some good info:

Into the Night - Sunset from 39,000 feet
On a recent flight, I was fortunate to see a nice sunset with the bonus view of the Earth’s shadow climbing high into the sky…

Supernovae in M82 and M99

Currently, there is an unusual situation in that TWO supernovae are visible at the same time, both in Messier list objects (M82 and M99).  The supernova in M82 is peaking at about magnitude 10, so it is visible in a moderate-sized telescope (8″), but the M99 supernova requires a large scope.

Comet Lovejoy - 5 Jan. 2014

Comet Lovejoy – 5 Jan.2014
(Click for a larger view and details).

Comet Lovejoy is fading, but continues to put on a good show. The shot at right was taken on Sunday morning (5 Jan. 2014).

In case you missed the news, Comet ISON did not survive its close encounter with the sun. The SOHO probe shows the comet leaving the vicinity of the sun, but no one has detected any trace of it since then.

Comet ISONFrom the same morning (11 Nov.) – Comet Lovejoy. At that time this comet was brighter than Comet ISON, though that should change shortly. Click on the image to see a larger version and see the exposure details.


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