Lunar Observations

Monday night I was doing some work outside and when I turned around to head inside I was struck by the brilliance of an object in the night sky. I had seen the Moon rise earlier in the evening, but this was far to the east. It was identifiable as a dot, not just a speck in the night sky. As I was now intrigued I went to grab my binoculars to see if I could see Venus.

Turns out I was wrong and it was Jupiter. But then I turned my binocular-aided eyes to the west and examined the Moon. That was then I decided to try and sketch my observations, as I had done with the Eclipse.

Unfortunately, it turns out it is far more difficult to sketch in the dark then under a still semi-sunny sky. But these are my attempts to digitise those observations. And as I sat and watched, I began to notice that some faint twinkling specks near Jupiter had also moved. After I came inside, I discovered that the movement and positions hewed close to the orbits of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Calisto. The moving speck near the Moon I had also observed was actually the bright star Regulus. (And to be fair, it had not really moved, the Moon had moved, but I was not redrawing the Moon.)

The Moon and Regulus. The cool part is the thin ring of one of the seas that could be spotted beyond the line separating lunar day from night.

Capturing the exact shapes of the lunar "seas" was difficult in the darkness.
Capturing the exact shapes of the lunar “seas” was difficult in the darkness.

Jupiter and two of its moons. The cool thing about Jupiter is just being able to see it as a round ball in space and not a distant twinkling speck.

Jupiter and two of its moons, as they orbit the distant planet
Jupiter and two of its moons, as they orbit the distant planet

Credit for these is mine.

The Timeline of the Voyager Mission

There are a bunch of things to look at this week, but what am I most excited about? Voyager. No, not Star Trek. (Did you know that the Vger entity from the first Star Trek film was a replica of the Voyager probes?) I am of course talking about the Voyager mission to the outer Solar System and beyond.

40 years ago today Voyager 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral—Voyager 2 left two weeks earlier, but would reach Jupiter and Saturn after Voyager 1, hence being named 2—and it has been collecting images and data for science ever since.

On 25 August 2012, Voyager 1 emerged from the heliosheath and entered interstellar space. In other words, Voyager 1—and sometime in the next few years perhaps—is the first manmade spacecraft to ever leave the Solar System. Mankind is finally out there among the stars.

I love space things.

So JPL and NASA put together this interactive timeline of the mission, which of course continues tomorrow and for years after today until their nuclear fuel runs out.

Boldly going…
Boldly going…

Credit for the piece goes to JPL and NASA.

The Solar Eclipse as Seen from Philly

As my last two posts pointed out, yesterday was the Solar Eclipse. It certainly garnered media attention as a news helicopter hovered over my building during the height of the eclipse. Very peaceful indeed. But, knowing that my smartphone would not be able to take the best photos of the eclipse, even with a solar filter, I decided to do what any good designer might do. I sketched out the eclipse.

The task of sketching an eclipse is not easy. You cannot, or at least should not, look directly at the sun. (You’ll burn your eyes out, kid.) But the solar filters make seeing anything but the most intense light sources near impossible and so you have to remove them in order to doodle in a sketchbook. Eventually I found a solution and was able to quickly move from filtered glimpses of the Sun to the sketchbook. (At least when the clouds would permit.)

Last night I digitised those sketches into this simple graphic. The sketches are not entirely accurate as the position of the Moon jumps in a few spots. But it does give you the impression of peak eclipse about 14.45 with just a sliver, or 25% of the Sun remaining visible. And indeed the neighbourhood was visibly darker.

The colour may be too yellow, but since I only saw it through a filter, I cannot say what the exact colour of the Sun was
The colour may be too yellow, but since I only saw it through a filter, I cannot say what the exact colour of the Sun was

Solar Eclipse Day

Today is Solar Eclipse Day.

Thankfully Vox has put together a great interactive piece to help you plan your day. This is for my viewing area in Philadelphia. We only max out at 75% of the sun, but that is still pretty fantastic.

I'm totally excited for this
I’m totally excited for this

Credit for the piece goes to Casey Miller, Ryan Mark, and Brian Resnick.

The Solar Eclipse

If you have not heard, the entire continental United States will, weather cooperating, be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse on Monday, 21 August. It is still too far away for an accurate weather forecast, but I am hoping that we have good weather in Philadelphia that day. Or else why bother working from home that day?

In the meantime, enjoy this eclipse-related piece from xkcd that ties together my love for astronomy things with my love for political things.

This weekend will be crazy town
This weekend will be crazy town

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

New Neighbours

Among the many, many stories that broke during my month-long radio silence, I got fairly excited about the discovery of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. And not just any planet, but a likely rocky planet within the star’s habitable zone. Put that all together and there is the possibility that the planet could host life as we know it. How can that not be exciting? Thankfully the Guardian put together a graphic to support an article detailing the discovery.

Our newest neighbour
Our newest neighbour

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian’s graphics department.

Quasi-satellite Asteroid Orbits

Scientists discovered Earth has a new quasi-satellite. It is an asteroid, and it does not orbit the Earth. But, because of the relationship between its orbit and Earth’s around the sun, it is involved in what NASA described as a dance with Earth. This is not Earth’s only dance partner, however, as we interact with a second asteroid as well. The screenshot of a YouTube video (from user britoca) shows how gravity choreographs the second dance.

Cruithne's orbit
Cruithne’s orbit

Credit for the piece goes to YouTube user britoca.

What Comprises Planet Nine

Well, to start, we don’t really know for sure. We also don’t really know Planet Nine exists for sure. But, you plug its existence into mathematical models and it explains some of the quirks we see in the Kuiper Belt, the cloud of dust and ice at the outer reaches of the Solar System. A team of intrigued Swiss scientists then created a model exploring the range of characteristics Planet Nine might exhibit. The BBC published an article that featured an image of the interior characteristics of the plent.

The possible interior of the possible Planet Nine
The possible interior of the possible Planet Nine

Credit for the graphic goes to Christoph Mordasini and Esther Linder.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Last night we experienced a total lunar eclipse here in Chicago. Unfortunately, significant cloud cover meant that much of the event went unseen. That was unfortunate, because eclipses are fantastic. To explain it we have this piece from the BBC.

What is a lunar eclipse
What is a lunar eclipse

And for those were either unable to see it or did not know about it, here is one of the photos I took.

During the eclipse
During the eclipse

Credit for the diagram goes to the BBC graphics department.

Credit for the photo is mine.