By Dave Fuller on 11/17/2014 8:59 PM
Eyes on the Sky is in a transition period. Since November of 2011, a weekly video has been made to highlight one or more things visible in the night sky that week. The goal was always to highlight light pollution, and help others make changes to reduce light pollution. But as I've learned more about it, I've realized that more needs to be done.

However, given the time involved in making the weekly videos, I couldn't do both. So at the moment, there are a lot of things happening "behind the scenes" with Eyes on the Sky to get some new things set up. In the future, there will be ~70 or so objects that any observer will be able to find from most anywhere on Earth (except the very worst light polluted areas, like Broadway or downtown Hong Kong). There is a lot of website writing and setting up to do with that. There are also a lot of scripts to write for the videos that will accompany those pages. I'm in the process of doing that. 

And as for light pollution, each of these videos will feature information...
By Dave Fuller on 9/15/2014 7:34 PM
I've often commented on dark sky initiatives when they are highlighted in the media. One thing I've noticed is that some people who comment seem to be under the impression that people who advocate for dark skies are for complete, total, utter darkness.

Please allow me to disabuse you of that notion right here and now. 



When dark SKY advocates are asking people to aim LIGHTS downward, we are not saying, "turn off all lights and make everything pitch black." Now are there times when there is still overlighting? Yes. Are there many area where we could use less light than is being sent out from fixtures and bulbs? Yes also. 

Here's the thing: Dark SKY advocate means just that - don't light up the sky, it doesn't DO anything useful, either for function, form or safety. It's literally wasted light and energy....
By Dave Fuller on 9/10/2014 8:45 PM

A month or so ago, I met a gentleman named Chris who is part of a group that is trying to revitalize the downtown Kankakee area by supporting artistic endeavors. What they do is very wide-ranging, and last month he asked me to introduce one of their film nights, "2001: A Spacey Odyssey" that he indicated I could talk about anything I wanted that had to do with space. After doing that, we talked a bit about what other ways we could collaborate. We decided to do a "Sidewalk Astronomy" event, and it was held last night. We did not do a lot of promoting of the event - a few Facebook posts and shares, but not much else. I also highlighted the event with the Kankakee Area Stargazers club and two of our members offered to join me.


It turned out to be a GREAT night.

By Dave Fuller on 8/29/2014 5:18 PM
Spica during the day? 

Today is the day that the Moon was to be within 2 degrees of Spica in the daytime sky. Cloudy weather and even a bit of rain was the order of most of the day today. But I just went outside a little bit ago, and realized... hey, it's clear! Well, clearish. Not exactly superb transparency by any means. 

Moon points to Spica during the dayBut always being one to try for all things astronomical whenever possible, I hauled out my 6" f/5 scope, as it was the quickest and easiest scope I could get out the door while the Moon was still in between two sets of tall pine trees to my southwest. Found the...
By Dave Fuller on 8/26/2014 7:49 PM
People are surprised that they can see stars during the day that are not the Sun. “What? Really? How is that possible?” It is possible because bright stars are... well, bright! The trick is that you need to know the exact spot to look, because you won't have the crutch of a dark sky to make the star's contrast with the sky as obvious.

So how to find a star in the sky this week? Use the Moon as your guide. On Friday August 29th, the Moon will be a waxing crescent. Now, some people are still surprised that the Moon can be seen during the day, but that's another matter. Even crescent like this shines at magnitude negative nine, more than sufficient to be seen in a clear blue sky.

Moon and Sun in sky Aug 28 2014

The first step is to find the Moon in the sky, and you have a window of a couple hours for the easiest spotting of the star. For the first opportunity, look slightly before 3:00 pm EDT/12:00 pm PDT....
By Dave Fuller on 8/26/2014 5:52 PM
No. 

Again, NO.

Mars will not EVER appear as large as the full Moon, not until humans are within ~475,000 miles of it. And Mars will never be that close to Earth short of some catastrophic solar system event which everyone would certainly know about.



So just stop with the "Mars is as big as the Moon" stuff already.

There's a lot more here on Eyes on the Sky. For example, every week on the homepage there is a new astronomy video about observing objects in the night sky. They're only 5 minutes long - why not check out the latest one right now? For those new to astronomy, don't miss Eyes on the Sky's Ultimate Beginner's Guide!

...
By Dave Fuller on 8/25/2014 2:18 PM
Unlike the previous double star, HD 213067, our next double star is a bit harder to locate, but it's worth seeking out. For one, it's not just a double star at the eyepiece, it's a triple star. HD 215812 / HIP 112559 is a 7.2 magnitude star located northeast of Sigma Aquarii. But it may be easier to find by locating Lambda Aquarii, a star that can be found pretty easily by extending the "Nashira -> Deneb Algiedi" line in Capricornus out ~20 degrees (learn how to measure distance in the sky here).

Find double star STF 2944

At Lambda, an average finderscope of 6x26 or larger can show where to go, because at 3.7 magnitude, Lamdba is easily seen now. Moving northward in the direction of Zeta Pegasi, a 7 degrees field of...
By Dave Fuller on 8/25/2014 9:35 AM
When looking at planetarium software for objects I discuss in weekly Eyes on the Sky videos, I often see interesting objects I wouldn't necessarily find if I were looking for them in the night sky. That is because I am usually looking at the software with a wider field of view than I can usually see through an eyepiece. In addition, this summer has been absolutely terrible for observing where I am located; some forest fires up in Canada coupled with weather systems that keep a near constant cirrus-to-full-stratus-cloud cover has made it hard to get much good observing accomplished.

So while looking for the appropriate star hop waypoints to find Neptune in the sky, I noticed there were some interesting sights nearby to the last landmark - ummm... skymark? - to reach Neptune, Sigma Aquarii. Now that star itself has a bit of an interesting look to it, what with a triangle...
By Dave Fuller on 8/24/2014 3:49 PM
Neptune is just slightly below the dimmest naked eye objects from a dark sky site. Most humans can see down to about magnitude 6.5; at the moment, Neptune glows at magnitude 7.6. That puts it easily within the visibility of most any 7x35, 8x40, 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars from just about anywhere. The key simply knowing where to look. 

Five steps might make this star hop sound more difficult than it really is, but because I'd like everyone to be able to see the furthest planet, I am showing this one small step at a time, so no one misses where to go. The first thing to do is get oriented in the sky. The ecliptic - the imaginary line in the sky that the Sun passes through as Earth revolves around it - is close the area where all the planets appear in the sky. And Neptune is currently visible within the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius. To get an idea of where to look in the sky, check out the Aug 25 thru Aug 31 Eyes on the Sky weekly video:

Later in summer and through fall, Aquarius may appear...
By Dave Fuller on 8/22/2014 7:23 PM

Have you ever driven down the road at night, and had an oncoming driver be completely oblivious to the fact that they have their high bean headlights turned on? You flash at them, they ignore you... and so you squint, perhaps slow down, and look to the side of the road away from the lights, hoping you don't hit the approaching vehicle. 

And yet, in communities across the United States (and many across the world), we routinely put up with similar lighting situations. Lamp posts with lights that go every-which-way, porch lights that blast light everywhere including out into the street, and perhaps worst of all, floodlights that are mis-aimed and can actually blind drivers who are subjected to them.

90 watt unshielded floodlights

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.