It’s been ages since I posted a sunset photo. The wind really picked up yesterday just as the sun set on a gorgeous day:
Of course, when I stepped outside into the backyard to take the photos, Apollo just had to join me. He had a hard time standing still for his portrait, but this one turned out well:
It was a very busy three day weekend. We made great progress on our remodeling project. The weather was so nice I was able to walk both dogs without wearing a jacket and we grilled out Sunday afternoon.
The new Moon occurred at 7:02 a.m. Monday October 15, 2012. Since sunset on Monday occurred less than twelve hours after the new moon, I didn’t even bother searching the western horizon for an assuredly invisible sliver of the young moon. Besides, we were still finishing up the hanging of the new garage doors.
Tuesday evening, after a quick repast of leftover grilled chicken and some frozen veggies (reheated of course), I gathered up my camera equipment and my binoculars and went in search of a good observing site. I ended up just past the entrance to Mt. Muncie Cemetery, with a clear view of the horizon, overlooking the local Home Depot and the Hallmark plant.
The clouds became a concern, obscuring my early efforts to locate the slim sliver of the young waxing moon. I appreciate clouds for their sunset value (see photo and album below), but they just get in the way when I’m hunting the young moon or Mercury (which happened to be very close to the moon Tuesday evening). While I continued to take photos of the sunset, I used my binoculars to scan southwest and vertical along the ecliptic, hoping to catch a glimpse of the moon through the clouds. Ten minutes after sunset, I stumbled across the sliver in my binoculars, so beautiful and almost filling my field-of-view (if it had been a full moon). Stunning sliver, so slim and delicate, peeking through some dark purple blue clouds, took my breath away. This has to be the youngest thinnest moon I’ve observed yet.
First sighting of Waxing Crescent Moon: 7:51 p.m. Tuesday 16 Oct 2012
24 hrs + 12 hrs + 49 mins = 36 hrs 49 mins
Ten minutes later:
Meanwhile, just a bit to the right, a nice sunset continued:
I can blame nobody but myself. I gave up the opportunity to sit in an air conditioned smoke-free bar (Woody’s Watering Hole in Leavenworth), where I could have listened to my husband and his band buddies perform classic rock to support A Ride for the Wounded. I could have supported a worthy cause through my presence and donations and had a great time with old friends.
But no, I thought I would have a better time with my co-workers at our firm’s summer event, where the beer, barbecue and baseball were all free. And so was the scorching heat and unrelenting sunshine beating down on us on the unshaded Bud Light Party Deck in right field at the T-Bones stadium.
Since I don’t drink beer, I walked back down along the concourse to purchase a very tall and cold glass of lemonade. The bottle of water I’d gotten on the Party Deck with one of my two free drink tickets had been warm. I hung out with coworkers, many of them people I see everyday, Monday through Friday, in our small corner of the universe called IT. I ended up giving my other drink ticket to my of my female coworkers, but not before attempting to exchange it for something first (like another lemonade?).
I hardly noticed when the game started. The T-Bones played against the Wichita Wingnuts (who used to be known as the Wranglers when I lived there in the 80s and 90s, but that team name has since moved to Arkansas). Staring directly into the sun from right field and unable to clearly see the scoreboard behind my right shoulder, I completely missed the Wingnuts scoring a run in the second inning. I did notice multiple rookie errors on the part of the T-bones. The only scoring for the home team came with two home-runs (with no one on base). I gave myself a headache staring into the sun for nearly an hour, when it finally hid itself behind a thin cloud bank approaching from the northwest.
With no comfortable seating available on the Party Deck (and because I’d opted to take a ‘left over’ ticket for the firm’s summer event), I decided enough was enough and left the park during the bottom of the fifth inning. Five innings, two runs and five errors on the part of the T-bones. The Wingnuts had no errors and two runs. I could see where this game was heading. As I walked to the van, I could tell the sunset was shaping up to be a fiery one (click first photo above for entire album).
After taking a few photos from West Mary Street, I returned home to discover the bass player’s car parked where I usually park the van. I thought that was odd, since it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. I found Terry and Sean in the nearly empty band room, eating a late supper and reporting that the gig went extremely well. This perturbed me to no end. Since my home hosts most band practices for this group, I get exposed to the best and the worst of the amplified rock music. So I had a somewhat jaundiced view of this latest collection of musicians’ ability to pull it together. Who knows, if I had attended, I probably would have jinxed the performance. But it still would have been nice to sit in a cool air conditioned bar and drank something other than beer (or lemonade … unless it was Hard Lemonade) and listen to my husband sing Cumbersome (which he’s not).
Saturday evening I headed south to Louisburg to volunteer for my second scheduled night of the 2012 Powell Observatory public season. My dad decided to tag along, to enjoy the show and help keep me awake for the long drive home. We left Lansing about twenty minutes after five and my car’s external thermometer reported 106 to 107 degrees, which has been our afternoon average for about a week now, give or take two or three degrees either way. We stopped in Bonner Springs to grab a quick, cool sandwich from Subway and returned to the highway just shortly after six o’clock. I needed to be at Powell Observatory by seven o’clock to help prepare the facility for the weekly public program and observing night.
As we approached Louisburg from the north, I noticed a definite increase in the wind, so much so that my car was jostled several times. At the same time, I noticed a significant drop in the external temperature. By the time I exited US-69, the thermometer read 92 degrees, and was still falling. Except for early mornings the past couple of weeks, I had not seen or felt such low temperatures while the sun still shone. I pulled into the west observing field parking area and realized I was again the first person to arrive. Since the temperature had dropped, I turned off the car and opened all the windows. The breeze felt incredibly refreshing.
My team leader arrived within a few minutes and I received my Powell Observatory ‘Staff’ T-shirt, which I changed into as soon as the building was unlocked. I helped setup the class room for the program, ‘Sounds of Space.’ Another ASKC member arrived and setup his ten-inch Dobsonian for solar observing and I caught a glimpse of some great sunspots before our public guests began arriving. The clouds provided some dramatic solar observing situations.
I repeated my role as gatekeeper and accepted donations from the public and queried them for their ZIP codes to record for future grant petitions. The first group of twenty-five guests began the ‘Sounds of Space’ program at 8:30 p.m., but I soon had at least that many waiting for the second showing. At one point as I sat waiting for more guests to arrive, what I thought was a stray dog wandered into the observing field, soon followed by three horses, two with riders and a third colt between them. They trotted across the field to the west, with the dog trailing after, riding off into the sunset … literally.
As the sky continued to darken, despite a few wispy clouds, we opened the dome so those waiting for the next program could observe Saturn and a globular cluster found in the constellation Scorpius. I didn’t get a chance to look at the cluster through the 30-inch scope, but I believe they looked at M4, which is near the bright star Antares.
We ended up having nearly ninety public guests Saturday evening and ran a third showing of our program. After the last two guests had left the dome a bit after eleven o’clock, I quickly snuck a peak at the Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra, one of the Messier Objects I’ve been trying go get a glimpse of for quite some time. Lyra is also home to the very bright star Vega, one of the three stars that form the Summer Triangle.
As the final guests drove away, my team members and I began cleaning the building and storing chairs, tables and other items for the next Saturday. I signed myself out of the Observatory at 11:35 and gathered up my dad for the long drive home. He related information he’d gleaned from another team members about various types of Dobsonian telescopes and helped keep me alert as we sped north towards Leavenworth County.
Next week, we present a program on ‘Our Amazing Moon’ and the following week we’ll pose the question ‘Is There Life Out There?’ We look forward to showing you the astronomical sights (and sounds).
For the third day in a row this week, I planned an evening excursion to photograph astronomical objects converging on the western horizon during twilight. The people living along First Street on the hill above Main Street in Lansing probably think I’m crazy, camping out on the sidewalk with either a telescope or a camera on a tripod for hours on end.
But of course, I got home around five thirty to a distraction, albeit a pleasant one. Rachelle had cooked dinner for Terry and I and invited Grandpa over. Tuesday was her last full day visiting us. She returns to North Texas today. She created a marinara sauce from scratch, prepared tri-colored rotini pasta, sauteed some kale and created a fresh green salad from baby spinach and baby romaine. I created some garlic cheese bread from a fresh loaf I baked on Sunday. We definitely got our quota of veggies yesterday!
After supper, my dad and I retired to the backyard with my camera and my telephoto lens. He had created a solar filter from the same film he used to create the larger filter for the telescope (used during Sunday’s solar eclipse observations). He attached it to the telephoto lens and I took a couple of shots of the sun before it sunk below my neighbor’s roof line.
We returned inside to find Terry napping (aka food coma) and Rachelle watching YouTube videos of her choir performance from last winter. I put the camera back in the bag and told everyone I was leaving to photograph the sunset, the crescent moon and Venus. Dad tagged along, since he had to head north to return home anyway.
I setup the tripod and camera near where I photographed the sunset Monday evening, moving a few feet further down the hill on the sidewalk to the south. I was looking for a less obstructed angle to the western horizon, trying to avoid some intervening trees. I took several shots as the sun set, but was really just killing time until Venus appeared, followed by the crescent moon.
The faintness of the crescent moon surprised me. I thought I would be able to see the moon before I could see Venus, but that was definitely not the case last night. The haze and wispy clouds made it difficult to discern the slim sliver of the moon, while Venus blazed like a pinprick laser, even before the sun set. As noted above, this is the last time the moon and Venus will pass this close to each other this year. And since in less than two weeks, Venus crosses the face of the sun, just as the Moon did two days ago, I declared a game of tag between the two of them. Venus is “It” for at least the next fortnight.
I packed up the photographic equipment and said goodnight to my dad. I returned home and immediately went to bed. I would download the photos from the SD card in the morning.
I only snoozed through one alarm this morning. I woke up Terry’s computer and downloaded the photos. I spent about thirty minutes sifting through the shots, discarding some really horrible overexposed yellow sunset chaff. I hand picked a dozen or so sunset and moon shots. I uploaded the first group and created a sunset album. I attempted to upload the second group of the Moon and Venus photos, but kept having errors. I tried and retried until I almost made myself late picking up my vanpool riders. I grabbed the SD card, stuffed it in my purse and ran out the door. I left the annoying home computer attempting to upload the photos while I commuted to work. I discovered some of the photos actually did upload, but not all of them. Enough of them, though, for me to get this blog post started and published. So, check back later today or tomorrow to see the rest of the photos (just click on the images above to see the rest of the photos in the albums).
I think I’m done with amateur astrophotography for the week. I need to get back to my walking regimen. I even forgot to put my pedometer on this morning, which I haven’t done in months. Apollo will miss Rachelle, so I need to distract him from moping around the house and return to our evening walks around Lansing.
Monday afternoon I returned home from work all psyched up and ready to catch a glimpse of the new moon, the baby one, the one that’s barely twenty-four hours old. I kept one eye on the sky all day, getting a bit perturbed at it’s pristine blueness compared to yesterday’s puffy whiteness competing with the solar eclipse. I muttered to myself on the drive home, but immediately became distracted when I pulled in the driveway to find my husband inserting a new headlamp light blub in the Bonneville. I asked him to replace it because I discovered on my midnight ride home from Powell Observatory Saturday that my left one had burnt out.
As I entered the garage, Terry stopped at the garage door and looked at me expectantly. I raised my left eyebrow in my classic Spock impersonation and gazed around trying to discern what I missed. My eyes fell on the area of the second garage bay where we store the lawnmower. I gasped in surprise as I spied a brand new shiny red pushmower.
Any thoughts of moon catching fled from my brain. The mower begged to be test driven (literally since it’s a self-propelled model). I spent a half hour acquainting myself with the mower in the backyard. Despire popping a couple of wheelies, I liked the way the new mower conquered the grass and the terrain.
My mind got back on track with my moon hunt as eight o’clock approached. I asked Rachelle if she wanted to accompany me to my observing site, ostensibly to get Apollo out of the house on a short walk as well. She agreed readily. I grabbed the camera gear and tripod and placed them in the trunk, while Rachelle let Apollo jump in the back seat of the Bonneville.
I remembered to check the time of sunset for Monday evening (8:30 p.m.) but forgot to confirm the time of moonset. I later learned (upon returning home to my laptop) that moonset occurred shortly after 9:20 p.m. Since I rushed my daughter out of the house, she left her smartphone there. She has a nifty app that functions as an interactive ‘live’ star atlas and would have helped me locate the baby moon playing peekaboo behind the clouds.
I setup the camera and tripod and took over seventy photos of the sunset and twilight in the vain hope that even if I couldn’t find the baby moon with my naked eye, I might capture it ‘on film’ and find it later when I download the photos from the camera. I stayed until nine o’clock, not knowing I still had twenty more minutes to try to find the moon, as the twilight faded away and Venus continued to brighten. My daughter convinced me the haze and few wispy clouds clinging to the western horizon obscured the moon, preventing me from seeing it’s slim sliver of a crescent.
I waited until Tuesday morning to download the photos and review them. Try as I might, I could not find the crescent moon. I even verified the location of the moon in relation to the sun and Venus for the time period I observed Monday evening. I still feel I should have been able to find it, but perhaps it was the haze, thin clouds and lingering twilight that thwarted my efforts.
I snagged a few (more than a few actually, but I won’t inundated you with them) photos of the sunset, which continued to glow bright pink, orange and purple thirty minutes after the sun dipped below the horizon.
Once in a great while, Venus can pass directly between the Sun and Earth. Only the planets Mercury and Venus can do this, since they are the only two planets closer to the Sun than Earth. When they do, they appear as small black dots crossing the face of the Sun over a period of several hours.
When is the transit of Venus?
From the Kansas City area, it will begin at 5:09 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 5th, and continue until sunset, which will be around 8:41 PM. Weather permitting, we will see 53% of the entire transit before sunset.
Why is the transit of Venus such a special event?
Because of the size and slightly different tilt of the orbits of Venus and Earth, a transit does not happen every time Venus passes between the Sun and Earth; it’s almost always “above” or “below” the Sun when it reaches what is called inferior conjunction. In a 243-year cycle, there are only 4 transits. They occur at very uneven intervals – the last one was in June of 2004, but the next one isn’t until December of 2117, 105 ½ years from now!
Historically, timings of transits of Venus were carried out in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to trigonometrically calculate the size of the orbit of Venus, which when applied to Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion, determined the absolute (rather than relative) size of every other orbit in the Solar System. This was actually the best way to measure distances in the Solar System until radar and space probes became available in the latter half of the 20th century.
How can I observe the transit of Venus?
You can make a pinhole projector with a couple of pieces of card stock or a small cardboard box; just poke a small hole in one of the pieces or one end of the box, and position it such that it casts a small image of the Sun on the other piece or the other end of the box.
It will be a lot easier to see, though, through a suitable filter, either with your unaided eye or binoculars or a telescope completely covered by a full-aperture filter. Safe filters are available at HMS Beagle, a science store at English Landing in Parkville.
Where will there be organized viewing of the transit of Venus?
There will be at least 3 organized events in the Kansas City area:
The ASKC will also open Warkoczewski Observatory at UMKC, on the roof of Royall Hall. Park on the 4th level of the parking structure on the southwest corner of 52nd & Rockhill and take the skywalk into Royall, then up 2 flights of stairs to the roof.
Kansas Citizens for Science, with assistance from ASKC members, will host observing from the rooftop of Coach’s Bar & Grill, 9089 W. 135th, Overland Park.
Soon after I returned home from work Tuesday evening, Terry suggested that we take Apollo to the dog park. I briefly thought of just taking Apollo for a walk around the neighborhood, but my legs kept shaking from the first workout I’d done in nearly a week. I capitulated and led Apollo out to the car on the long leather leash. We arrived at the dog park a bit after seven o’clock. We only saw four other dogs in the ‘large dogs’ side of the park. As I took Apollo off his leash, he loped over to two dogs, one of which was leashed, to make some new friends. Those two were on the way home, so that left only two other dogs to meet and greet.
We wondered around the back half of the park, strolling leisurely through the trees and watching the sun slowly sink in the west. As we continued on towards the southwest corner of the park, I remembered an article I read recently that stated I should be able to see Venus during daylight hours this week. I placed my right hand between my eyes and the sun and looked up away and to the left. For the first few minutes, I could not see Venus. But I kept trying and eventually, I found it, shining brightly more than thirty or forty degrees away from the sun, with the sun still about five degrees above the western horizon. You can estimate degrees while observing astronomical objects by using the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length, which equals about 10 degrees.
I tried to take a photo of Venus and the setting sun with my cell phone camera, but upon review, I can’t find Venus in the shot I took. I’m not entirely convinced I succeeded in getting both the planet and our sun in the same field of view. My reading glasses were in my purse in the car, so I took a leap of faith and prayed I succeeded when I clicked the shutter (or whatever virtual equivalent my cell phone camera sports). Here’s the photo, but I can’t find Venus in it:
I tried to direct Terry to spotting Venus, but his prescription sunglasses were too dark and too out-of-date to be of much help. I sent a Tweet from my phone as soon as I found Venus and spent the next few minutes enjoying the view.
We wondered back east along the fence and met up with the other two dogs. A squirrel taunted them from a few feet away on the other side of the fence. One of the dogs, some sort of hunting breed, kept barking at the squirrel, who ignored all the dogs.
The sun began setting and we herded Apollo towards the gate. The dog park is only open from sunrise to sunset so our brief play time rapidly came to an end. We made sure Apollo got a good drink of water before loading him back into the car and returning home.