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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday April 24 to Thursday May 1

The New Moon is Tuesday April 29. There is a partial solar eclipse visible on the afternoon of the 29th. Jupiter is the brightest object in the early evening sky, visible in the early evening. Mars is prominent in the evening sky. Saturn rises higher in the evening sky. Venus is prominent in the morning sky, the Moon is close to Venus on the 26th.  Mercury is lost in the twilight. The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are visible in binoculars.


Partial Eclipse as seen from Hobart near maximum eclipse, 4:55 pm AEST. Simulated in Celestia. Click to embiggen

The New Moon is Tuesday April 29.  There is a partial solar eclipse visible on the afternoon of the 29th.

This will be visible from all of Australia, although the best views will be from Southern Australia. The eclipse occurs in the late afternoon, with the sun setting at maximum eclipse in places like Brisbane and Sydney. Eclipse timings and viewing guides can be found at my eclipse site.

Evening sky on Saturday April 26 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 pm ACST in South Australia. Jupiter is above the north-western horizon. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini and is the brightest object in the early evening sky. Jupiter is becoming harder and harder to observe as it sets earlier.

Jupiter is high enough to begin observing telescopically when twilight ends. Jupiter sets around 10:00, so there is only a few hours for good telescopic observation now.

In the early evening it is above the north-western horizon between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and the bright red star Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky, in the evening the sight of bright Jupiter sinking to the west, and bright Mars (still not as bright as Jupiter though) rising in the east is quite beautiful.

Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.

Mars  is easily seen in the evening, rising as Jupiter is setting. It is highest in the sky around 23:00. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th, and is readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the evening horizon. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo near the bright star Spica (see below). Mars is well worthwhile looking at in a telescope now, although you will need a decent one to see any detail.

Saturn is rising higher in the evening sky. Saturn is high enough around midnight for decent telescopic observation (see below).  Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion.


Morning sky on Saturday April 26 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACST.  Venus is near the thin crescent Moon. The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.  (click to embiggen).

The morning sky is quite impressive at the moment, with Mars, Saturn,  Venus and Mercury strung out across the sky.

Venus is in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the morning sky, it is now easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the morning sky for some months to come.  Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and now will begin to slowly sink towards the horizon. Venus  is now a clear  gibbous Moon shape. The crescent Moon is near Venus on the 26th.

Mercury is lost in the twilight.


Evening sky on  Saturday April 26 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 20:00 pm ACST in South Australia. Mars is close to the bright star Spica. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra. The insets show the telescopic views of Saturn and Mars at this time (although you will need a good telescope to see Mars in this detail).

The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are just below Mars, and easily visible in binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Two bright asteroids are now visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Vesta  is now bright enough to be just visible to the unaided eye in dark sky locations.Unfortunately the waxing Moon means that it will not be visible to the unaided eye this week. While Vesta is easily seen in binoculars, you will need to watch the same patch of sky in binoculars for a couple of nights to identify it by its movement. Ceres never gets brighter than magnitude 7, but is easily in the range of 10x50 binoculars. See here for a printable black and white map suitable for seeing seeing Vesta and Ceres.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter, Mars and Venus so prominent in the sky, and Saturn coming into view.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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Dark Sky Events April 20-29

Dark skies are something we appreciate in the outback, when the full canopy of glittering stars are drawn over us. For those of us in suburbs and cities, the experience of dark skies is becoming rarer and rarer as light pollution encroaches.

International Dark Sky Week is an initiative of the International Dark Sky Association which aims to raise awareness of this issue, and runs from April 20-26 (April 21-27 in Australia). Why not check your local  astronomical societies or the local planetariums and see if they are running dark sky events.

There is also the 5th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance, closing April 22 (April 23 Australia) it is a great opportunity to submit your dark sky images.

At the same time Globe at Night is running another of its global light pollution surveys  from April 20 to April 29. This is good time to help find map the extent of light pollution around the world and how it is changing.

It might also be a good time to read this interview with renowned Australian astronomer Fred Watson on taking back the night sky.

As well, although not light pollution related, on April 22 (April 23 in Australia) NASA will be taking a Global Selfie for Earth Day. So get out and get snapping, and send your selfies in to the Global Selfie social media sites.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

 

The 2014 Australian Lyrid Meteor Shower, Morning 23 April

The morning sky looking north as seen from Brisbane at 5:00 am AEST on April 23. The Lyrid radiant is marked with a yellow cross. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at an equivalent local time the radiant will be higher in northern Australia, and lower in southern Australia (click to embiggen). 

The Lyrids, the debris of comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) are a weak but reliable shower that occurs every year between April 16- April 25, with the peak this year between 4-15 hrs UT on April 22 .

That's between 2pm -April 22 to 1 am 23 April in east coast Australia, but as the radiant doesn't rise until 1 am, the best time to view the Lyrids in Australia is from 4 am on the 23rd. 

The predicted ZHR this year is 18 meteors per hour. This means that under ideal conditions, you will see a meteor on average about once every three minutes. This can be as interesting as watching paint dry. Also, while that meteor every three minutes is the average, meteors are like buses, you wait for ages and then a whole bunch turn up.
 
The rate is actually less than the ZHR, ZHR means Zenithal Hourly Rate, the number of meteors you could expect to see if the radiant (the apparent position where the meteors originate) was at the highest point of the sky, under dark sky conditions.

Of course under real conditions the Lyrids radiant will not rise that high for most places, and most places won't have really dark skies. The lower the radiant is, the thicker atmosphere will obscure the fainter meteors, and some of the meteors will start to "burn" below the horizon, so over all you will see fewer.

This is particularly true in Australia, where the radiant is very low to the horizon. In Australia the radiant rises about 1 am local time, but it is not really high enough for there to be any real chance of seeing meteors until around 4 am, when the radiant is between three handspans to four handspans above the horizon (see diagram above). The other factor is the just past last quarter Moon which is not far from the radiant, washing the fainter meteors out.

From Australia, at 4 am, under dark sky conditions, we will see between 2 meteors per hour (southern states) to 3 meteors per hour (Northern Territory and QLD).


 If you want to see what the rates will be like at your area, try the Meteor Flux Estimator. The illustration shows the output for dark sky sites in Brisbane.

Choose 6 April Lyrids from the drop down meteor shower Menu, the date (make sure that you set the year to 2014, and your location, most people will have to put in their latitude and longitude (strangely, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth are listed in the drop down menu, but Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart are not) under "other" in the location box.

This will give you a chart of the numbers of meteors per hour you can expect at various times (see image to the left).

The Lyrids are pretty poor in Australia, but if you are patient you may see the occasional meteor shooting up from below the horizon.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

 

Carnival of Space #350 is Here!

Carnival of Space #350 is now up at CosmoQuest. There's the first true Earth-sized world in a habitable zone around another star, planet formation, a new Moon for Saturn, sobering statistics on asteroid impacts and lots, lots more. Take a spin on over and have a read.

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Aurora Watch issued for April 20-21 (Easter Sunday-Monday)

The Australian IPS has issued both a geomagnetic alert and an Aurora Watch for April 20-21. Tasmania, Southern New Zealand, and possibly southern Victoria, southern WA and the North Island should be on the lookout for Aurora from around astronomical twilight (and hour and a half after sunset) on the 20th until twilight on the morning of the 21st. At the moment it is most likely that any serious geomagnetic storm, and hence aurora, will occur after midnight in the early hours of the morning of the 21st, but the solar wind streams might arrive early, of the combination of the two CME events may ramp up activity early.

However, the waning but still bright moon rises around 22:00 on the 20th and will interfere with seeing any aurora (although we have some recent good aurora seen under full Moonlight), and dark sky sites have the best chance of seeing anything.
SUBJ: IPS AURORA WATCH ISSUED AT 0001 UT ON 19 Apr 2014 BY IPS RADIO AND SPACE SERVICES FROM THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE FORECAST CENTRE Two Coronal Mass Ejections, the first slow and weak but the second faster and stronger are expected to impact the Earth. The first is expected sometime after midday on the 20th of April AEST, with the second expected around midnight on the 20th. Note that arrival times are generally uncertain by +/- 6 hours or so. The first event on its one would not warrant an aurora watch however the second would in its own right and the combination of the two may amplify the effects of the second. Auroral activity visible from Tasmania and possibly further north in Australia is expected from this event, should the arrival time coincide with local nighttime as anticipated. Aurora alerts will follow should favourable space weather activity eventuate.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

 

I missed the Occultation of Lambda Aquarii by Venus, but Tom Harradine didn't

I jinxed myself by not getting my travelling box of lenses and guff out of the cupboard and putting it on the bench the night before. But hey, I said, I'm not driving, so I have plenty of time to open the cupboard and walk to the back yard. Pah! So I missed wake up time (heck I missed my normal work wakeup time) and missed the occultation of lambda Aquarii by Venus.

But Tom Harradine didn't. Here is his shot of the star emerging from behind Venus, and a nice video of the star emerging.

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Partial Solar Eclipse, April 29 2014

Partial Eclipse as seen from Brisbane near maximum eclipse, 5:00 pm AEST. Simulated in Celestia. Click to embiggenPartial Eclipse as seen from Sydney near maximum eclipse, 4:55 pm AEST. Simulated in Celestia. Click to embiggen
Partial Eclipse as seen from Melbourne near maximum eclipse, 5:00 pm AEST. Simulated in Celestia. Click to embiggenPartial Eclipse as seen from Hobart near maximum eclipse, 4:55 pm AEST. Simulated in Celestia. Click to embiggen

On the afternoon of April 29, there will be an annular Solar eclipse. In an annular eclipse the Moon does not completely cover the Sun, and the Sun forms a thin ring around the Moon at maximum eclipse depth. From Australia though, we only get to see a partial eclipse.

Viewers will see between 64% (Hobart) - 4% (Darwin) of the Sun covered by the Moon, with southern Australia favoured (the opposite of last years annular eclipse). The partial solar eclipse occurs close to sunset and in some places such as Sydney and Brisbane the Sun sets during maximum partial eclipse (see the table below). This is an excellent opportunity of get dramatic images of the "Crescent" sun setting. You will, however, need a flat, unobstructed horizon to see the eclipse at its best.

A table showing eclipse times for more Australian cities in Universal Time is here, and a map of the path is here.

Do NOT look directly at the Sun! Do not use so called filters. Over exposed film, smoked glass etc. used as filters are NOT, repeat NOT safe. Only special solar-rated viewing spectacles from astronomical suppliers should be used (for one example see here), they may cost a bit, but your eyesight is without price. Never use eyepiece filters for telescopes. These can crack at inopportune times and destroy your eyesight. At no time is it safe to view the eclipse with the unaided eye.

The easiest and cheapest way to observe this event is by making a pinhole in a stiff square of cardboard and projecting the image of the Sun onto a flat surface. You are basically making a simple pinhole camera, which will reveal the changes to the Suns outline quite satisfactorily. A card with a 1 mm hole should be projected onto a surface (eg white paper, or a white wall) about 20 cm away, a 5 mm hole should be projected onto a surface 1 to 1.5 meters away.

You need to create a reasonable sized image, so you need a fair distance between the pinhole and the surface you project the image on. This will mean the image is going to be fairly dim, so you also need some sort of sun shield to keep in image in shadow. I use the longest available postpac postal tube, with alfoil over the top (and the pinhole in the alfoil), and wide ring of stiff cardboard to ensure that the image of the sun is projected into a dark area. This link will show you several methods to make pinhole projection systems.

You can also use binocular and telescopic projection systems. This link will show you how to make safe solar viewing and telescope projection systems. Here is my step by step guide to making a binocular projection system, and a guide to aiming your binoculars or telescope when you can't actually look at the Sun. And this is the projection system I use with my refractor telescope.

Remember, do NOT look directly at the Sun, as irreparable eye damage or blindness can occur (see this video for a graphic demonstration).

City Eclipse Start Mid Eclipse Eclipse End % Sun covered
Adelaide (ACST) 3:25 pm 4:37 pm sets 5:35 pm 51
Alice Springs (ACST) 3:44 pm 4:47 pm 5:54 pm 26
Brisbane (AEST) 4:31 pm 5:17 pm sets mid eclipse 24
Cairns (AEST) 4:25 pm 5:01 pm sets 5:59 pm 10
Canberra (AEST) 4:05 pm 5:12 pm sets 5:22 pm 46
Darwin (ACST) 4:21 pm 4:55 pm 5:28 pm 4
Hobart (AEST) 3:51 pm 5:00 pm sets 5:17 pm 64
Melbourne (AEST) 3:58 pm 5:07 pm sets 5:35 pm 55
Perth (AWST) 1:17 pm 2:42 pm 3:59 pm 49
Sydney (AEST) 4:14 pm 5:15 pm sets mid eclipse 41
Townsville (AEST) 4:49 pm 5:30 pm sets 5:52 pm 10

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 

Don't Forget, Venus Occults Lambda Aquarii Morning April 17, 2014

The bright star Lambda Aquarii about to exit from the dark side of Venus at 4:04 AEST as seen from Brisbane. Most other Australian locations that see the occultation will see similar views, although Venus will be closer to the horizon. The insert shows the telescopic view, click to embiggen.

Don't forget that tomorrow morning at 3:59 am AEST (3:29 am ACST) Venus will occult the bright star Lambda Aquarii.

This is a rare occurrence, and the sight of the Star exiting from Venus's dark side will be quite different to a Lunar occultation due to Venus's atmosphere.

Brisbane has the best view, with Venus being higher than all other locations when it occults the star. For more details, charts and timings see my Venus occultation page.

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The Sky This Week - Thursday April 17 to Thursday April 24

The Last Quarter Moon is Tuesday April 22.  Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky, visible in the early evening. Mars is prominent in the late evening sky. Saturn rises higher in the evening sky, the Moon is close to Saturn on the 17th. Venus is prominent in the morning sky and occults a star on the 17th.  Mercury is lost in the twilight. The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are visible in binoculars.


The Last Quarter Moon is Tuesday April 22.  The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on Wednesday April 23.

Evening sky on Saturday April 19 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 pm ACST in South Australia. Jupiter is above the north-western horizon. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Io is starting to cross Jupiter's disk. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini and is the brightest object in the evening sky. Jupiter was at opposition on the 6th of January, when it was brightest and closest to Earth, but will remain bright and easily observable in telescopes for in the early evening for the rest of this month.

Jupiter is highest around 17:30 pm local  time. It is high enough to begin observing telescopically when twilight ends. Jupiter sets around 10:00, so there is only a few hours for good telescopic observation now.

In the early evening it is above the north-western horizon between the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and the bright red star Betelgeuse. Jupiter is quite easy to see as the brightest object in the entire sky, in the evening the sight of bright Jupiter sinking to the west, and bright Mars (still not as bright as Jupiter though) rising in the east is quite beautiful.

Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars.On the 19th Io transits Jupiter. around 21:00.

Mars rises around 17:10 pm local time, and is now easily seen in the evening, rising as Jupiter is setting. It is highest in the sky around 23:30. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th, and is readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the evening horizon. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo near the bright star Spica (see below). Mars is well worthwhile looking at in a telescope now, although you will need a decent one to see any detail.

Saturn is rising higher in the evening sky. Saturn is high enough around midnight for decent telescopic observation (see below).  Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra, its apex pointing towards the head of the Scorpion. The Moon is close to Saturn on the 17th.


Morning sky on  Thursday April 17 looking east as seen from Brisbane at 3:58 am AEST in OLD.  Venus is above the horizon and has just finished occulting the brigtht star Lambda Aquarii.. The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.  (click to embiggen).

The morning sky is quite impressive at the moment, with Mars, Saturn,  Venus and Mercury strung out across the sky.

Venus is in the morning sky, above the eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the morning sky, it is now easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the morning sky for some months to come.  Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and now will begin to slowly sink towards the horizon. Venus  is now a clear half-Moon shape.

On the morning of the 17th Eastern Australia sees a rare event, the occultation of a bright star by Venus. Venus covers the start Lambda Aquarii around 3:58 AEST, and uncovers it from the dark side at around 4:04 AEST. Brisbane has the best view, with Venus being higher than all other locations when it occults the star. For more details, charts and timings see my Venus occultation page.

Mercury disappears into the twilight.


Evening sky on Thursday April 17 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 pm ACST in South Australia. Mars is close to the bright star Spica. Saturn forms a triangle with the two brightest stars of Libra and is close to the Moon. The insets show the telescopic views of Saturn and Mars at this time (although you will need a good telescope to see Mars in this detail).

The asteroids Vesta and Ceres are just below Mars, and easily visible in binoculars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Two bright asteroids are now visible in binoculars in the evening sky. 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta. Vesta  is now bright enough to be just visible to the unaided eye in dark sky locations.Unfortunately the waxing Moon means that it will not be visible to the unaided eye this week. While Vesta is easily seen in binoculars, you will need to watch the same patch of sky in binoculars for a couple of nights to identify it by its movement. Ceres never gets brighter than magnitude 7, but is easily in the range of 10x50 binoculars after the first few days when the light of the nearly full Moon interferes. See here for a printable black and white map suitable for seeing seeing Vesta and Ceres.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Jupiter, Mars and Venus so prominent in the sky, and Saturn coming into view.  If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 

Images from the April 15 Twilight Lunar Eclipse


I had my viewing spot all picked out for the eclipse when I got home, but unfortunately I got lost driving there. I ended up on the lookout above Mutton Bird Cove, nice stable surface on a rise with only a low line of hills between me and the rising Moon.

As the Sun set I scanned just above the hills while setting up the camera and the separate telescope camera combination (4" Newtonian reflector with 20 mm Plossl lens and Canon IXUS in infinity-infinity apposition). My mate Tony and his partner turned up and set up their cameras (serious cameras). Fortunately, they bought the one thing I didn't bring. mosquito repellent to deal with the clouds of ravenous blood suckers that had descended on me.

video

Just the I noticed the tiny sliver of Moon that had climbed above the hills, and rushed to get the scope on it (I had aimed too far to the left). I had not expected two things, how dim the eclipsed Moon would be in the horizon murk, and the degree of turbulence. The video above shows exactly how bad the turbulence was, I didn't get anything like a decent shot until the eclipse was nearly at an end.

Still even though the rising eclipsed Moon was nearly impossible to see early in the twilight, and the red of the dark part of the Moon was not as pronounced as it rose higher in the sky, it had a very eerie, ethereal quality, especially rising over the sinewy marshes of Mutton Bird cove with the pale hills beyond. The others got some great shots of the eclipsed Moon reflected in the rivulets of the cove.The growing sliver of Moon was oriented in a way no actual crescent Moon would be (facing the wrong way and almost vertically aligned in the beginning. Mats was it's companion early on, the rusty planet and the rusty chip of Moonadding to the unearthly feeling.

I had to pack up before the end (my family were wondering what had happened to me), but aside from the hordes of mosquitoes it was a unique and wonderful experience, the pale rddish chip of Moon suspended over the blue hills of one side, the flaming colours of the sunset seen through the industrial landscape on the other, it was fantastic. 

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Final Reminder, Twilight Total Lunar Eclipse, evening April 15, 2014

Eastern horizon as seen from Sydney on April 15 at 6:30 pm AEST. Totality is just ending. Click to embiggenEastern horizon as seen from Adelaide on April 15 at 6:00 pm ACST Totality is just ending. Click to embiggen

A final reminder that in the early evening of 15 April there there be a total eclipse of the Moon. This eclipse occurs mostly at twilight in the eastern and central states (Western Australia misses out entirely).

In both the eastern and central states the Moon rises eclipsed just as the sun sets, which will be a rather unique sight if you can find a flat, obscured horizon.  To see the dim coppery moon climb above the horizon will be a most unusual sight. The Moon then climbs into the twilight sky as eath's shadow moves off it and Mars pop's into view as the sky darkens.

Timings of Moon rise, sunset, mid eclipse, end of totality and end of the partial eclipse phase for major Australian and NZ cities are here.

See here for a map and contact timings in Universal Time  for sites outside Australia.


For some good tips on photographing the eclipse, see here.


If everything is clouded out locally, you can watch it live here.  


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

 

Mangrove, a floating installation

Just came back from Mangrove, a floating installation at Gallery Yampu at the old Port Adelaide Yacht Club. Had a picnic watching the fantastic structures and watching the light show. Got to eat wood fired pizza as well.

Last night is tomorrow night (sunset to 10 pm ish) , why not dress warnly and go along?

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The Twilight Lunar Eclipse of 15 April will be Cool! (with Astrophotography link)

Eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide on April 15 at 6:00 pm ACST. Totality is just ending. Click to embiggen.

In Australia, the April 15 Total Lunar Eclipse occurs mostly during twilight, with the Full Moon rising fully eclipsed, while the Sun is setting.

This can produce some dramatic images, if you have a flat horizon or an ocean horizon the copper coulourd Moon rising above it should be a magnificent sight.

But will you be actually able to see it? At twilight just at Sunset the full Moon is normally pale and washed out, surely it's eclipse dimmed face will be very hard to see?

No, as some wonderful photos from Phil Hart, a Melbourne astrophotographer show. Scroll down on this page (which has lots of handy photography hints for the eclipse, and a link to my eclipse page) and you will see some gorgeous images of twilight full Lunar eclipses.

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No, this coming Lunar Eclipse does NOT herald the End of Days

An April Lunar eclipse, the first of four consecutive total Lunar eclipses, just after the opposition of Mars, a sure sign of the End of Days ... oh, wait a minute, that's the April 24, 1967 Lunar Eclipse (just after the April 15, 1967 opposition of Mars), looks like the End of Days hasn't happened.

Predicting the End of the World (or some close approximation thereof) for astronomical events is a cottage industry that has been going on for millennia, the most recent include comet Elenin in 2011, of course the 2012 Mayan apocalypse and comet ISON in 2013 (although the doom does seem to be running out of steam lately).

Now it is Lunar Eclipses (really). If there wasn't enough real issues in the world today, Australian on-line news, the Courier Mail in Queensland, and the Mirror in the UK have been spruiking this "End of Days" nonsense which is linked to the upcoming eclipse.

This month we have a Total Lunar Eclipse coming after the opposition of Mars, in fact we will have four total eclipses of the Moon in 2014 and 2015. The Totally Eclipsed Moon is copper coloured, and Mars is red(ish), so it MUST MEAN SOMETHING!!!! Right.

Every year we have two Lunar Eclipses. To have a Lunar eclipse the Moon must cross Earth orbit when Earth is aligned with the Sun. This occurs twice a year, around 6 months apart (the drift of the timing of this occurrence means that sometimes there are more than two eclipses in a year).

While there are at least two Lunar Eclipses a year, not every year has two total eclipses, slight variations in the Earth-Moon geometry mean that sometimes we get partial eclipses, or the fainter penumbral eclipses, when the Moon passes through Earth outer shadow.

Now having four total eclipses in a row (a tetrad) is fairly rare, currently occurring every 10-20 years or so (it's more complicated than that of course). Note that world has not ended despite multiple instances of tetrads over the past few centuries. The last one was in 2003-2004 (note the world not ending) and prior to that in 1985-1986 (world failed to end again).

Or maybe you need Mars to be in opposition just before or during a tetrad (why? Because it's red of course). The chance of Mars being at opposition close to a tetrad is fairly low, but in 1967 Mars came to opposition on April 15, just before the first total Lunar Eclipse of a tetrad (on April 24 see image above). The world didn't end then either, or in 1909 when Mars came to Opposition during a tetrad, or in 1926 when Mars came to opposition shortly before a tetrad.

The take-home message is that despite multiple occurrences of Mars Oppositions/ Lunar Eclipse tetrads obet the past century there has been no "End of Days", and none in the multiple occurrences that have occured over the past millennia. So this up coming one will not be an  "End of Days" either.

I'm not sure why the newspapers are promoting this nonsense, especially since there are lots of interesting things happening in the world to sell newspapers, and since the stories are full of nonsense which can be easily checked and seen to be wromg.

The Australian on-line news quote pastor John Hagee, from San Antonio as saying
"NASA has confirmed that the Tetrad has only happened three times in more than 500 years — and that it’s going to happen now."
When a quick check shows that there were tetrads starting in 1909, 1927, 1949, 1967, 1985 and 2003.

Anyway, you enjoy the Total Lunar  eclipse of April 15, knowing the End of Days is nowhere in sight.






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