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"The Nightlight" by Eyes on the Sky is all about how to see things in the night sky, things you can build to improve your amateur astronomy experience, and general thoughts on astronomy and light pollution.
By Dave Fuller on 6/27/2012 10:01 AM

Tonight (and into tomorrow morning) there will be three trios in the sky: Mercury is near Castor and Pollux in the evening, Jupiter and Venus are close to Aldebaran in the morning, and tonight, the Moon visits Spica and Saturn.  Look in the southwest about and hour or two after sunset, and don't miss Mars towards the west southwest too.

By Dave Fuller on 6/25/2012 5:01 PM

Mercury is near the "twin" stars of Castor and Pollux of Gemini about an hour after sunset.  Visible for longer, but moving towards the west-northwest, is the Moon and Mars, with Regulus of Leo sitting between the duo and trio.  For more information, see the June 25 thru July 1 "Eyes on the Sky" video.

By Dave Fuller on 6/24/2012 3:42 PM
I had made a video about how to find Pluto, and why this time was a good opportunity to try and spot the little pla... uhhh - dwarf planet.  Two weeks ago some of my friends who are part of the informal Chicago Astronomer group indicated this last weekend might be a good time to try it.  I put it on my calendar, and was not disappointed!

We met at Conway Observatory in Lowell Indiana.  The skies are between 5.5 and 6.0 magnitude, NELM - well, overhead and to the south that is.  To the north, the glow of the city and urban sprawl still block stars down to 3.5 or 4.0 about 40 degrees and below.  But we weren't looking north.  I had researched how high Pluto would be above the horizon: It was to be 20 degrees by 10:45, 25 degrees by 11:45, and culminate on the meridian at 29 degrees around 12:45 or so. Being a glutton for punishment, I started trying around 10:30 or 11:00.  But, I had something going for me: VERY transparent...
By Dave Fuller on 6/6/2012 6:08 PM

The 2012 Venus Transit could not have gone better for me.  A once (or twice!) in a lifetime event that turned out perfectly - or as perfect as one can hope, anyway.  I had occasionally mentioned the Venus Transit in past weekly videos.  The full week before was my pièce de rèsistance for my "Eyes on the Sky" videos, as I made quite a few characters, most notably Guillaume Le Gentil.  But of course the real thing - the actual transit - was the reason for all of this hoopla.

The weekend had indicated clear weather for Tuesday evening, but I know better than to get too excited about clear weather conditions too far in advance.  But Tuesday arrived, the sky was blue, and the temperature was a comfortable 75F - though it was a bit windy.  I had first raised the idea for this event with a local park district back in November of 2011, which has a prime west-facing location outside of town - and they had been looking to get more people out to this spot anyway.  It turned out to be ideal (more on that later).  

Arriving at 4:00 or so with a ice-filled cooler stocked with Sunkist orange soda (could there be a better drink name for a Venus Transit?), I had plenty of time to ....

By Dave Fuller on 5/21/2012 7:07 AM
My friend Dave Sommerfield was with me while we were hoping to see ANY of the eclipse, as I blogged about yesterday.  Both armed with nothing but our smartphones, we were probably pretty fortunate to get pictures as good as the ones we got.  But Dave had a bit of serendipity with one of his shots - check out the lens flare in the lower part of this picture.  You can't see the Moon "bite" out of the Sun where the Sun actually is in the sky, but in the lens flare... well - check it out:

And in Japan, one of my friends lives just outside Tokyo.  If I understand it correctly, that part of the world hasn't seen an eclipse since the 1800's, but I may be wrong on that count.  In any case, I spotted some of the eclipse as it occurred there yesterday via live internet feeds.  But my friend Shinji captured this excellent shot through the...
By Dave Fuller on 5/20/2012 8:37 PM

All week long, the weather was supposed to be potential thunderstorms for today.  Early in the week it said 20%.  Not bad, that means 80% chance of clear, right?  By Friday, that was up to 30%.  Meh.  On Saturday, it was 50%.  Uh-oh.  And Saturday?  60%  Gah!  But Sunday rolled around, and it was sunny most of the day.  That is... up until 6:00, when it got cloudy.


But wait!  Something incredible happened.  Or should I say... my telescope cleared the clouds, just enough... again.

How?  Well, I don't know HOW, exactly.  But it has cleared the clouds for two outreach events, AND there were no clouds for three nights after I got it.  Trust me when I say that latter thing NEVER happens for amateur astronomers.  "New to you" equipment is a guarantee of cloudy weather for a week.

So I got to the field where I have a low western horizon around 7:00 p.m....

By Dave Fuller on 5/20/2012 7:07 AM

A friend had a birthday party last night, and she asked me to bring one of my telescopes.  I showed partygoers Saturn and a a few other objects.  Although I wasn't part of this conversation, a couple people were discussing "How do you KNOW that?" - for example, if the Earth if round, or some other metric of astronomy.  Those are interesting things to ponder of course, and the basis for rational and critical thinking.  It forces us to consider what is true and what is not, and to me anyway, it serves as the basis for me accepting the things that astronomers tell me, as opposed to... 

By Dave Fuller on 5/17/2012 2:38 PM
The May 20th solar eclipse will be occurring this coming Sunday, and much of the western United States and a lot of the Pacific Rim region will get a shot at seeing this "ring of fire" annular solar eclipse.  That, and the Venus Transit that is coming up in early June made me realize that I ought to put something together about solar safety, that is a bit more comprehensive than what I did for this week's video
By Dave Fuller on 5/11/2012 7:07 AM

I'm really starting to appreciate having my backyard from which to observe.  Certainly, the tall trees to the south and west, house to the east, and another good sized evergreen to the north mostly restricts views to overhead, somewhat east-ish, a tiny slice to the northeast, and... well that's about it.  But where is the best place to view objects anyway?  Overhead!  So what's the problem... oh yeah, there isn't one!

Alright not exactly.  I can't see much lower than 30 or 40 degrees north declination from there, and below 60 degrees up from the horizon east or west.  So I lose a lot of potential targets.  But now that my neighbor parks his trailer in his driveway, blocking their "always on" post lamp, I gain something far better....

By Dave Fuller on 5/10/2012 5:54 PM

The Sun may seem angry lately, but it's not really - it's just going through it's usual cycle of sunspots.  But given how incredibly quiet it was up until just recently - the sunspots over the past few months have seemed downright incredible.  I have been working harder to not only get some better equipment to view the Sun - a couple larger solar filters for my existing scopes - but also learning how to take better pictures of it.  Well... I'm doing what I would term "okay" - mostly because all I am doing is holding my cell phone over the eyepiece and snapping a WHOLE LOT of pictures, then comb through them on the computer to see which one or two captured the most detail or have the best contrast.  (This is similar to what I have been doing with my Saturn pictures.)

So in the last week or so, this new sunspot group...

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.