What did you see in the sky tonight?

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owlice
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What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:09 am

When I went out on the front porch to feed the feral fluffies, I saw the sky was still beautifully clear, as it had been all day. The sun had already set and Venus and Sirius were shining brightly. It was not yet dark enough to see Orion. The moon smiled high in the sky (it always seems to me there should be a Cheshire cat almost visible behind the smiling moon!}, and directly overhead was a shining something that was unmistakably red and just had to be Mars. As I went out back to bring in a pot of flowers, I saw the Big Dipper hanging over the large white oak tree in my backyard.

This is generally the extent of my stargazing: looking up when I am out just to see what is up there. It isn't much -- I've never lived anywhere with dark skies (yet...) -- but I am glad I can see at least these things.

What did you see in the sky tonight?
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rstevenson
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby rstevenson » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:39 am

I too live in a poor viewing area, downwind of both a harbour, with its inherent humidity, and the city of Halifax, with its own humidity and a little pollution thrown in for good measure. So I'm hard pressed, except on the very driest of high-pressure nights, to even pick out the Milky Way. On the other hand, a few asterisms stand out which are cluttered with "excess" stars in better areas, so I keep an eye on those. My favourite is a very clear triangle -- nicely sized for binoculars -- that stands high overhead all summer long, with Vega on one base corner, a pair of stars (one of which is 4Eps1Lyr) at the other, and another star (6Zet1Lyr) at the tip of an almost perfect Isosceles triangle. It's part of the Lyra constellation, but it stands out to my eyes more clearly than the rest of Lyra.

A friend lives about an hour and a half drive west of here, close to water but not to any urban area. The sky is startlingly crowded with stars there on any clear night, and I can sometimes feel the weight of the Milky Way pressing down overhead. You can't comfortably view the full moon there in binoculars because of its intensity. Too bad I'm a city kid at heart. :cry:

By the way, I don't carry those star designations around in my head. I use Equinox, a very handy bit of software which has given me much more pleasure than its small cost would suggest was possible.

As for tonight? Overcast, with snow flurries. !!

Rob

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Chris Peterson
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:19 am

rstevenson wrote:A friend lives about an hour and a half drive west of here, close to water but not to any urban area. The sky is startlingly crowded with stars there on any clear night, and I can sometimes feel the weight of the Milky Way pressing down overhead. You can't comfortably view the full moon there in binoculars because of its intensity.

Actually, the Moon isn't significantly brighter in the country. It's just that it seems so when you're dark adapted- something that never really happens in light polluted areas.
Chris

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:42 am

rstevenson wrote:The sky is startlingly crowded with stars there on any clear night, and I can sometimes feel the weight of the Milky Way pressing down overhead.

I've seen that only once. Once! in all my life! I was in West Virginia, in a place so dark, with so little ambient light, I literally could not see my hand in front of my face when I was indoors without the lights on. (Nor could I find the bathroom in the middle of the night, but that's another story.) It was the first week of December, bitterly cold with snow on the ground and snow coming in the next day, but before it moved in, the sky was sparklingly clear; I walked out onto the porch of the lodge in which we were staying, looked up, and gasped! I had never seen so many stars, and that was when I learned what it really was to see the Milky Way! The lodge is in the woods near a river, so I did not have horizons, but I did not need them that night, and I don't know that I could have taken it if I'd had them. What was above me, in the open patch of sky above the lodge, above the woods, kept me out gazing open-mouthed up into that cascade of glittering diamond light until I was nearly frozen and hauled into the lodge by someone lest the "nearly" stop applying.

rstevenson wrote:As for tonight? Overcast, with snow flurries. !!

ACK!!!! I like snow, but have had quite enough of it this past season; having snow in April here would just be cruel after the past winter!
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:48 am

owlice wrote:It was the first week of December, bitterly cold with snow on the ground and snow coming in the next day, but before it moved in, the sky was sparklingly clear; I walked out onto the porch of the lodge in which we were staying, looked up, and gasped! I had never seen so many stars, and that was when I learned what it really was to see the Milky Way!

That's why I chose to live high in the Rocky Mountains. I bought my ranch here primarily for the dark skies. And what you describe above is pretty much my every night experience (with no Moon, of course). This is a place where the zodiacal light is common, Venus casts a shadow, and you can read star charts by the light of the Milky Way. I'm glad I don't like cities, because I never want to go back.
Chris

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Tue Apr 20, 2010 4:24 am

Chris Peterson wrote:This is a place where the zodiacal light is common, Venus casts a shadow, and you can read star charts by the light of the Milky Way.

Watch it, Chris; with that description, those of us without dark skies may be tempted to plan an Asteriskian field trip! :lol:

Chris Peterson wrote:Venus casts a shadow

!!!!!

One night while I was on the phone with an acquaintance who lives in the mountains of Alaska, I mentioned that I had never seen an aurora. He walked outside and described what he saw in his night sky, the twisting shimmering green ribbons of light above his head. Such a common sight for him; I was envious!
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby wonderboy » Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:18 am

well 2 nights ago (18/04/2010) I was lying in my bed, and I woke up and looked out the window from my bed. I saw quite a big flash in the sky. The sky was clear, no clouds in sight, so I can only assume that this was some sort of Meteorite, or fireball meteor type thing. Whats your opinions on that?
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Amir » Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:17 am

evening twilight + really pretty scattered & silhouetted Clouds + moon + Venus & Mercury are making these nights remarkable for me.
wonderboy wrote:Whats your opinions on that?

oooooh! how lucky! you just wake up and see Flashes right after?
how big do you mean? Iridium Flares can shine from up to 8th (or maybe 9th) magnitude too.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby rstevenson » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:30 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
rstevenson wrote:... You can't comfortably view the full moon there in binoculars because of its intensity.

Actually, the Moon isn't significantly brighter in the country. It's just that it seems so when you're dark adapted- something that never really happens in light polluted areas.

You should see (not!) my viewing conditions! Atmospheric haze with just a touch of sulphur to muddy it can, I've always assumed, dim even the moon. Did I mention there's a large mall a couple of blocks away that leaves the parking lot lights on all night? I called them once about that and they laughed at me before hanging up.

Rob

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby wonderboy » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:44 pm

Amir wrote:evening twilight + really pretty scattered & silhouetted Clouds + moon + Venus & Mercury are making these nights remarkable for me.
wonderboy wrote:Whats your opinions on that?

oooooh! how lucky! you just wake up and see Flashes right after?
how big do you mean? Iridium Flares can shine from up to 8th (or maybe 9th) magnitude too.




It wasnt so much that I had just woken up, I was kinda restless in bed and looked out the window and i seen a flash, well some of a flash, some of it occured outwith my viewpoint, i.e. behind the wall. however, I did see most of it and it was pretty bright, and over with quite quickly. If i was to guess the brightness I would say it wasnt as bright as the moon but was pretty close. the size of the flash, i would estimate, and this is silly, that it would have been about the same size as a dinner plate if you held it up to the night sky. So it was pretty big.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:23 pm

wonderboy wrote:well 2 nights ago (18/04/2010) I was lying in my bed, and I woke up and looked out the window from my bed. I saw quite a big flash in the sky. The sky was clear, no clouds in sight, so I can only assume that this was some sort of Meteorite, or fireball meteor type thing. Whats your opinions on that?

It could have been a meteor, although one as bright as you suggest should have had multiple witnesses, and I would have probably heard about it. But occasionally even very bright meteors seem to go largely unseen.
Chris

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby wonderboy » Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:30 pm

I was facing south west and it must have been around 11pm, I think. Coz i remember lookin at my watch. It was quite a flash. I seen one during the leonid shower as well. The flash that is, and that was a big one because it lit the sky up a cracker!
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby BMAONE23 » Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:21 pm

Precipitating clouds

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Wed Apr 21, 2010 1:31 am

rstevenson wrote:You should see (not!) my viewing conditions! Atmospheric haze with just a touch of sulphur to muddy it can, I've always assumed, dim even the moon. Did I mention there's a large mall a couple of blocks away that leaves the parking lot lights on all night? I called them once about that and they laughed at me before hanging up.

Rob


So Rob, you up for an Asterisk field trip? I'll have the bus swing by to pick you up. :D

BMAONE23 wrote:Precipitating clouds


Ooo, too bad! What kind of precip?

~~

Tonight's sunset was very pretty, a pastels or watercolor sunset, with clouds and many shades of soft colors.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 1:41 am

rstevenson wrote:You should see (not!) my viewing conditions! Atmospheric haze with just a touch of sulphur to muddy it can, I've always assumed, dim even the moon.

Sure, haze will dim things a little. But not as much as you might expect. The main effect of haze is to scatter light from the ground, which dramatically reduces contrast. I recall when living in Southern California, a couple of times we had power failures that were wide enough spread to really allow a region to become dark. Despite the smog, dust, and high level moisture, you could see the Milky Way. But with the lights back on, nothing brighter than mag 2 or so.

Did I mention there's a large mall a couple of blocks away that leaves the parking lot lights on all night?

The worst light pollution is local. Even if you live in the middle of a huge metropolitan area, the lights that are causing you the worst problems are generally not more than a mile away. You'd be amazed how much darker the sky will become if you just have a power failure affecting a few blocks.

(BTW, the Moon is no brighter through binoculars than it is to the naked eye; it just covers more of your retina, and is therefore more dazzling. In terms of absolute brightness, a magnified moon is putting the same energy on the back of your eye as a freshly asphalted surface in the middle of the day.)
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby rstevenson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:04 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:... In terms of absolute brightness, a magnified moon is putting the same energy on the back of your eye as a freshly asphalted surface in the middle of the day.)

Let me see if I can wrap my mind around that one. Does that mean the average reflectivity (in all wavelengths) of the moon is about the same as fresh asphalt? And I guess most of the energy that is hitting my eyes from the asphalt is infrared, whereas from the Moon it's mostly visible light?

Rob

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:08 pm

rstevenson wrote:Let me see if I can wrap my mind around that one. Does that mean the average reflectivity (in all wavelengths) of the moon is about the same as fresh asphalt? And I guess most of the energy that is hitting my eyes from the asphalt is infrared, whereas from the Moon it's mostly visible light?

Let's ignore the IR, since your eye isn't sensitive to it. In visible light, the albedo (reflectivity) of the Moon is about 15%- the same as fresh, black asphalt. So on your retina, the surface brightness of the Moon is about the same as asphalt. If you allowed yourself to become dark adapted and then stepped outside onto fresh pavement, looking down you'd experience the same dazzle as looking at the Moon at high magnification. You aren't usually dazzled during the day, because you are not dark adapted. And when you view the Moon through a telescope, it is quite comfortable and undazzling after a short time.

BTW, the Moon isn't magically less bright during the day. Look at the Moon through binoculars then, and your eye is actually getting more light than at night- the Moon itself and some scattered sky light as well. It certainly isn't uncomfortable viewing the Moon in the day.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby BMAONE23 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 4:38 pm

owlice wrote:
rstevenson wrote:You should see (not!) my viewing conditions! Atmospheric haze with just a touch of sulphur to muddy it can, I've always assumed, dim even the moon. Did I mention there's a large mall a couple of blocks away that leaves the parking lot lights on all night? I called them once about that and they laughed at me before hanging up.

Rob


So Rob, you up for an Asterisk field trip? I'll have the bus swing by to pick you up. :D

BMAONE23 wrote:Precipitating clouds


Ooo, too bad! What kind of precip?

~~


Tonight's sunset was very pretty, a pastels or watercolor sunset, with clouds and many shades of soft colors.


Mostly rain showers with isolated Hail Storms and a light dusting of snow on the ridges over 1500' (although that could have been hail accumulation)
Looks like more of the same today in Santa Rosa Ca.

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby rstevenson » Wed Apr 21, 2010 6:55 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:... So on your retina, the surface brightness of the Moon is about the same as asphalt. If you allowed yourself to become dark adapted and then stepped outside onto fresh pavement, looking down you'd experience the same dazzle as looking at the Moon at high magnification. You aren't usually dazzled during the day, because you are not dark adapted.

Thanks Chris. As usual, you've explained the amazing in simple terms. And now that you've explained it, I can recall rare instances where I have been dazzled during the day, after, for example, falling asleep at the beach and upon wakening opening my eyes and having them tear up from the glare.

Rob

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:33 am

BMAONE23 wrote:Mostly rain showers with isolated Hail Storms and a light dusting of snow on the ridges over 1500' (although that could have been hail accumulation)
Looks like more of the same today in Santa Rosa Ca.

Nice mix! :shock:

Tonight, I also saw precipitating clouds; they are moving out, though. We apparently needed the rain, though I'm not sure how that's possible, considering my backyard is still mushy from February's back-to-back snowstorms.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby BMAONE23 » Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:36 am

Just took a walk outside... Moon, Orion setting, Mars, Sirius, and the cup of the Dipper through a partially cloudy very cold night sky.

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby owlice » Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:49 pm

That sounds lovely, BMAONE23!

Last night, the sky was partially cloudy, but a hole had opened up so I could see the moon. The sky was clearing from west to east, so I could see Venus and Sirius, too, but nothing else, as there was still light in the western sky.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:52 pm

Four inches of fresh snow. And still coming down this morning.
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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby BMAONE23 » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:29 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:Four inches of fresh snow. And still coming down this morning.

Dang that global warming :wink:

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Re: What did you see in the sky tonight?

Postby Chris Peterson » Fri Apr 23, 2010 4:46 pm

BMAONE23 wrote:
Chris Peterson wrote:Four inches of fresh snow. And still coming down this morning.

Dang that global warming :wink:

It's a very warm snowstorm. Warmer than yesterday, when the Sun was out. Well above freezing.
Chris

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