January 2019 (Blood Moon) Lunar Eclipse

This Sunday, January 20th, marks one of the major astronomical events for 2019 with a Total (Blood Moon) Lunar Eclipse.

One of the best things about this type of eclipse is that generally speaking 50% of the Earth will have visibility to it, including totality vs. a Total Solar Eclipse which viewers need to cram into a roughly 50 mile wide swath.

For this eclipse, North and South America will get the best show (weather permitting of course). The festivities will start on the 20th of January and traverse midnight into the 21st of January. For those on the East Coast the festivities will start off low-key at around 21:30 local time and really start picking up about an hour later with totality starting a little over an hour after that. For time-zones further West work back about an hour for each zone and you’ll wind up with roughly the right timing.

Lunar Eclipse at Totality – ~00:14 Eastern Local Time (Stellarium)
click for larger image

One of the better online resources you can visit for times is the Time and Date site (link: https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/). This site will allow you to easily view the timing of different phases of the eclipse for your specific location.

Assuming you have clear skies, this is an excellent event because you won’t need any special equipment to get some very real enjoyment out of it. And yes, for anyone who as not witnessed a total lunar eclipse, the moon will change color to a copper or red.

For those looking for more information, or to possibly check out other past and upcoming eclipses the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center publishes information about eclipses. Information about lunar eclipses, including the upcoming one (see chart below as well), can be found here: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/lunar.html

NASA GFSC – https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2019Jan21T.pdf
click for larger image or visit the original link

For those wondering why this might be. The red color is caused because the Earth is covering, and blocking, all of the direct sunlight that would normally shine on the Moon during its full phase. At the same time, light is still passing through the Earths’ atmosphere. The light that goes through the atmosphere is refracted which causes the shorter wavelengths of the spectrum (you know, that ROYGBIV thing you learned in school) to be directed at the surface of the moon. Resulting in the Red/Orange coloring on the moons surface. Just think of what it must look like facing the Earth from the surface of the Moon!

Comet C2014 Q2 Lovejoy Update

Comet Q2 is shaping up to be a nice little gem in the night sky. Unfortunately, my local skies have been cloudy and rainy since my initial post so I have not been able to snap a few local images. However, I managed to get another with the BRT on January 2nd which turned out quite nice. I've included it with this update below. While it's not very clear without over exposure, there is a thin tail coming off the comet that, in this image, protrudes toward the upper right corner of the frame.


For general viewing tips, please see my other article here: Holiday Comet 2014

Below you'll find a sky chart for where you can find the comet over the next several days. Be sure to check it out if you can!


Holiday Comet 2014 – C2014 Q2 Lovejoy

Once again we have the opportunity to catch view of a comet over the next several weeks. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is making its way through the solar system. As you may have noticed, there are several other postings about a comet Lovejoy, this one is different. Typically comets are named for the person (or group) who discovered them and this is another in a series of discoveries by Terry Lovejoy, the 5th to date.

The picture below was taken using the BRT scope on a scheduled job that completed on December 25th. This is a black and white photo at 120 seconds of exposure with a narrow field camera. On over-exposing the image, the tail comes out but without the over-exposure, only the comets nucleus is clearly visible, seen as the bright spot of fuzz in the image below. The tail extends toward the upper right of the image. Another image is included later in the post.


This comet will make its way through the solar system toward the Sun and out without a return for another 8,000 years or so. The best chance to view it will be over the next few weeks as it gets brighter and brighter arriving at its closest distance to Earth on January 7th while it will continue to brighten through its closest encounter with the Sun on January 30th. However, by that time, the comet is expected to begin dimming from our view because of its distance from us (around 120 million miles away by that point).

The image below was also captured using the BRT array by another user who managed to catch a great shot using the camera designed for taking pictures of star clusters. Also taken on December 25th, this picture is also at 120 second exposure and in normal color.


Viewing Information & Tips

To view the comet, over the next several weeks you'll want to look in the general area below the constellation Orion the Hunter. As of this posting, the comet is about 13 degrees beneath the brightest, lower right hand star in Orion known as Rigel; a blue supergiant at 772 light years away. The comet is currently in the constellation Lepus the Rabbit and will be traveling upwards relative to the horizon night over night following a path that will take it beneath the constellation Taurus the Bull and The Pleiades open cluster. I have made a few charts which may help locate the comet, they are included below.

Comet Q2 has brightened faster than many anticipated and while the comet is visible to the naked eye currently at around a magnitude of 5 (naked-eye brightness is generally accepted to be anything below magnitude 6), if you have them, definitely use binoculars to get a good look as the comet isn't very easy to spot without a dark sky and good vantage point.

The best time to view the comet will be between around 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM local time as the comet will cross due South around Midnight reaching an altitude of around the 30 degree mark. For the next few days, Orion and the comet will rise at around the same time so if you have a great view of Orion, you can probably also look for the comet. Please remember that the comet will move quickly across the constellations in the sky so adjust your viewing over the next several days as it moves towards the constellation Taurus.

Click on the image below for a larger view of the comet path over the next 15 days.


Comet ISON C/2012 S1 Thanksgiving Comet

See full article for images and after Thanksgiving sky location for Comet ISON.

Finally, the heavens clear and the Sun appears.  Too bad for me it's a day or two late to capture final pictures of Comet ISON before it passed out of visual range.  Right now the comet is on it's way around the Sun and is too close to be visible until after Thanksgiving.  Fortunately for you, I've found a few pictures of ISON to share which dwarf anything I'm currently capable of providing on my own.

Including current pictures of the comet's approach to the Sun via the SOHO satellite

Comet C/2012 S1 ISON – View from SOHO (http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov)

Animated View


Most Current Image


And the the most spectacular shot I've seen to date.  This has so much stunning detail it looks like a painting.  Taken by Damian Peach (http://www.damianpeach.com) on November 15th 2013.  This picture was captured using the following settings and equipment: 0.11m F5.6 STL-11k camera. LRGB: L: 5x2mins. RGB: 1x2mins.


November 29th, 2013

Viewing the day after Thanksgiving will still be a formidable challenge because (assuming the comet survives the trip around the Sun) ISON will still be very close to the Sun angularly.  You'll want to look very close to the horizon where the Sun set after sunset about 4:45 PM to 5:00 PM local time.  At this time the Sun will only be a few degrees below the horizon and ISON will only be a few degrees above it.  This also means that you'll need an extremely good Western vantage point.

The picture below provides a rough idea of where the comet will be with respect to the Sun.  The blue line represents the horizon line.  Keep in mind this picture does not take into consideration horizon obstructions such as buildings and trees or any atmospheric problems such as the sky being too bright or overcast.


December 1st, 2013

By Sunday, the comet will be a little bit further away from the Sun and should provide an easier sight.  While the comet will continue to be an early evening object (which is great for anyone who's not a night owl) it should be a naked eye sight through the first several weeks in December, depending on brightness, maybe longer.  You will still find it best for observing the comet if you find a clear sight with a vantage point that gives you an unobstructed view of the Western horizon.  Continue to look for it in the very early evening sky right after sunset.

The picture below provides a rough idea of where the comet will be with respect to the Sun.  The blue line represents the horizon line.  Keep in mind this picture does not take into consideration horizon obstructions such as buildings and trees or any atmospheric problems such as the sky being too bright or overcast.


Happy Thanksgiving and happy viewing!  Keep an eye out for updates on this as the comet swings around the Sun.