Many times as an amateur astronomer/astrophotographer you’re trying to locate good places with good seeing and local weather to accomodate your needs in astronomical observations. Many amateur astronomers have spotted favorite spots away from modern civilization’s disturbances such as lights, traffic, curious individuals that approach you with headlights in the middle of the night, such as dog owners, hunters, security guards, the local police force, etc.
I’ve met all of these types of people in the middle of the night and believe me sometimes they scare you more than nature wildlife sounds might do. California is rich in wildlife, such as snakes, bears, mountain lions, etc. Animals however always want to keep their distance to your nightly activities and are less curious than human beings on what you’re working on during a photographic session.
There are many stories I can tell you about these meetings, but this blog entry is more about loosing the beauty of nature that once was there protecting you from city and traffic light, dew, and temperatures. The devastating fires in my immediate close area last summer was different. I live with my family very close to California’s most aggressive fires that happened in this state’s history ever before.
The so called Carr fires in Shasta county (including Hirz) then later on the Camp fire in Butte county where the most devastating wildfires that I’ve ever seen. Loosing forests so drastically, not to mention cities and home societies that were wiped out of the map is a weird feeling. You realize how vulnerable we all are against the climate changes and you literally end up loosing everything. At my job we all know someone, either close family relative or a family friend that has lost property and even family members. It feels as if we are in a war zone and you can’t do anything about it. Human lives, wild and domesticated animals, acres of both forest and farming land was lost in matter of a week from the moment those fires started.
Insurance companies are now facing huge issues in trying to pay back all those incoming claims from their insurance policy members which effects everyone financially. Local businesses are lost and people end up moving (migrating) away from the areas. I saw people camping in parking lots and had nowhere to go and no family to take care of them.
It was most noticeable this past November in 2018 when Thankgiving was around the corner when you realized how many people wouldn’t celebrate one of the biggest key holidays in US, freezing cold that night in their cars completely alone from the warm homes that once protected them.
Everyone is making new year’s resolutions about gym, career, health, but I believe my new year’s resolution is to try and bring awareness to people about our nature changes and do my best to document and write more about the climate change and its effects on all of us. There’s a major disbelief that climate change is hoax, but you can’t simply ignore the fact that all these people and animals have died for something we all could have done something about.
While east coast is starting consequentially experiencing annually the wrath of hurricanes and extreme storms here in California we got something called Fire Season… It is unbelievable, you know it’s going to happen again every year and every time with more devastating effects. California’s once proud forests are slowly turning out to its neighboring state Nevada… A Marsian looking desert.
Forests are more than just nature’s lunges… They protect us from landslides, they improve home living from high summer temperatures and people who suffer from medical conditions end up living close to those areas to ride out California’s extreme summer heat, they provide us with knowledge, they improve local businesses and trade by bringing over tourists and campers, they host threatened from extinction animals and insects and many other things.
Let us hope 2019 will be more hopeful with less fires and nature disasters against our natural monuments and our homes.
So there was a mysterious smoke clearly visible in north California this evening. It was not the Delta IV rocket scheduled to be launched the very same evening. 4 minutes before the appearance the Delta IV launch was cancelled due to a leak in one of the hydrogen tanks.
From the appearance, this was not an airplane malfunctioning but most likely a meteor.
Tonight Venus and the Moon were in conjunction. A beautiful show that was clearly visible in the Sacramento, CA area despite clouds in the horizon
Camera: Canon EOS 50D – with tripod and remote control
Exposure: 2 secs
Focal Ratio: f/4.5
Focal Length: 96 mm
Original Dimensions: 4752 x 3168 px
Time: 4/17/2018, 7:37 PDT
Location: Sacramento CA, US
Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
There are many apps that went through my download lists over the years, but none that have drawn my full attention so far. When it comes to astronomy apps available around for Android, iOS and Windows, there’s a huge variety in the app stores (I’ve mentioned a few in the past). As matter of fact I’ve had many thoughts on building my very own to use out in the field in order to help find my favorite objects, guide my telescope, create log book entries, search in databases, etc. But nevertheless there has never been enough time to build something worth keeping a long time. Before you know it you either loose your phone, get a new one and loose whatever these apps have stored locally in their internal databases on the phone.
One day as I was browsing my emails doing my weekly clean up, I came across an email with subject “SWISS Made Cosmic Watch For Astronomy in 3D”. In the beginning I thought it was one of these ads I receive letting me know of what cool gadgets I can buy. Ads that normally find me through diverted AI search bots checking at my age, my interests, location and places I’ve visited on internet. Interestingly though, Google didn’t toss that particular e-mail in my spam folder and so I opened it up.
The very first sentence made me understand it wasn’t one of the regular salesmen or spam bots that greeted me, but instead a person who was impressed by my blog. I kept reading and he asked me to evaluate his app.
For starters I didn’t expect much until he gave me a redeem code to download his app for free. The download finished just before I had to leave for work and I didn’t have much time to look at it before it was lunch time. Needless to say my jaw almost dropped once I switched it on.
In all honesty I never seen such advanced graphics and such an awesome implementation of a mobile device app before. And mind you, I’ve worked as a software engineer for almost 20 years now.
Among the many features available, the ones I got mostly impressed about were the ability to see the planet positions over time both in the future but also in the past. You could look at the planet position on the day of your birth, or other historical events down to the seconds level.
The modes available can display the position of constellations in night sky at certain point of time or real time in the day, make you zoom into features on earth’s surface and add favorites to re-visit something.
Well done Cosmic Watch and big thanks for letting astronomy fans access such great work!
Cosmic Watch is developed by Celestial Dynamics Ltd.
For a few years ago an astronomy friend of mine and myself went out to our favorite location where we normally setup our telescopes and did our stargazing and astrophotography. On a late evening we had two journalists joining us (Johan Joelsson & Jonatan Jacobson) to do an interview based on a research my friend had been working for years, namely, charting how extensively light pollution had spread across in south and the central regions of Sweden. At the time there was no agency, or other independent organizations that had any detailed maps over this. My friend’s idea was to assist amateur astronomers but also provide awareness over this issue.
Light pollution can be typically described as the unawareness of the effects on how we use light sources at public, our buildings, our farms and other types of facilities/buildings and the consequences it brings towards the environment and the ecosystem overall.
Light pollution in our environment can be easily discarded as nonsense but when satellite imagery started to become publicly accessible, it was hard to ignore it. The expansion of cities over the decades, the deforestation, the new road systems with lights spreading across countries and the ever increased human population start paying its toll towards the environment (Below is a satellite image over US, showing us how extensive light pollution is across the east part of the country).
What many people are unaware of (other than the term itself) is that it has an immense impact to human life and wildlife. Wild animals that are using darkness to hide from nightly predators, or predators who use darkness to be camouflaged or to see better, or even newborn turtles are mislead starting to wander towards cities instead, are just a few out of many examples where the pollution got out of hand.
To us astronomers just like wildlife itself, are trying to seek ourselves away to darker areas, as far as possible from civilization in order to be able to observe the wonders of the night sky. Professional astronomers that work with research are trying to build new facilities in remote areas as well, such as the top large mountains or inhabitant areas in other continents.
Apart from that, there’s also on-going studies to determine how badly flora is effected when it comes to cellular respiration and growth. And not so surprisingly when it comes to humans there are already two types of cancer connected to this issue, as well as the disturbed production of melatonin in our bodies. In recent years there has been an increased amount of prescribed melatonin by doctors around the world to their patients. Melatonin is the substance produced by our brains to help balance our sleep cycles.
Below is an illustration from the software Stellarium that got a setting to turn on different levels of light pollution on your night sky. Stellarium can even extract data from your area you live at and apply the appropriate level of light pollution automatically for you. From left to right you have light pollution level 1 (national parks, or far away from civilization), level 3 in rural areas (country side, with few farms and some forests), level 5 (minor cities with a population of 1000 to 5000 people), level 7 (suburban areas with a population of 10,000 to 100,000 people) and finally level 9 are large cities where only main constellation stars, planets are making barely any appearance in the skies in ideal city conditions (without smog, fog, smoke, etc.)
All in all, the severity of the effects from light pollution can be easily classified as an equal to other environmental pollution. We loose our night skies resulting to younger generations having no memory of describing something as easily identifiable as the milky way. Some humans haven’t seen anything else apart from the moon and sun. Their knowledge is based on images from google, school books and because the teacher said so.
The night sky was once upon a time a source of inspiration from the ages of antiquity to recent years, but it is constantly under daily threat. Would humanity ever experience night-sky-inspired individuals such as Galileo, Newton or Einstein if the skies don’t look the same anymore? For those who’ve been reading on their biographies will realize that they were inspired by the freedom of thought and the wonders of cosmos.
There is still however hope as long as we get aware of what all this means and if all of us take a few moments to take our own little measurements that will add up. Get new light bulbs for your backyard that point downwards and don’t reflect or spread light more than what is necessary and even visit the International Dark Sky Association to read more in regards to light pollution and how you can help to educate others about it and to become the advocates of it.
Our environment is in need of more awareness from all of us, much more now than ever before. You can save energy and lower your energy bills at your own home by turning off unnecessary light sources, install light sources pointing down to the areas you’re interested instead of letting your light sources scatter light in your surroundings and the sky (unnecessary loss of energy for no purpose). If you live near the beach, harbor, sea in general, avoid pointing light sources towards the waters or forests. That may save the life for animals.
Once a year is the celebration of Earth Hour. Turn off your lights for just 1 hour to save energy and to teach your younglings about the environment which we are part of.
- International Dark Sky Association
- Skyglow Project
- Lasse Lindh – Road Astronomy (In Swedish)
- Light Pollution Map
- Clear Sky Charts
- Earth Hour
Right after solar eclipses it is commonly expected to observe a total lunar eclipse. In California we’ll be able to observe a total lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018 starting at 02:51 AM.
As the moon moves the first type of shadow will be the earth’s penumbra and as it finally reaches totality it will turn full red (umbra).
The examples I’m posting here, are some very old afocal photos I took when I was living in Stockholm, Sweden through a Newton telescope. These were my very first images back in August 16, 2008 and little I knew about focus, exposures, etc. That will make it easier for me to redeem myself with proper equipment and methods.
Below is how the total lunar eclipse shadow will move across the continents on January 31, 2018. This illustration originates from timeanddate.com. Visit this website to find out how your own eclipse will look like at your location and which time.
Here’s an image from the free license software – Stellarium, showing how the lunar eclipse will look at from your location. Stellarium can be downloaded at no cost for all platforms (Mac, Linux and Windows) click here to download Stellarium.
This is the first portion of photos me and my wife took during the American Solar Eclipse, August 21st, 2017 at Corvallis in Oregon. I’ll keep posting more photos as time goes and as I find more time in order to process them from their original format in my cameras.
Here are some of the total solar eclipse photos. To the left is the diamond ring while on the right is the totality. Note a couple of prominences (fire flares) showing in the edges of the sun on the top but also the moon’s surface doesn’t appear to be perfect round because of the mountains and valleys in its surface.
We met many interesting and friendly people from Kenya (the country), Phoenix Arizona, San Fransisco bay area, Arkansas, Texas and other cities in California. If you guys read this please comment or send me an email with your names so I can add you here!
Among all of them we also had Jodie Smalley coming up to us, asking if we could take some photos while she breathed fire during the totality of the eclipse. My wife went off with her at a place without grass to record that awesome idea she had (watch the fire breathing video below were Melissa talks also about the shadows on the ground).
Below you’ll find some of our videos and photos while we were preparing to start documenting this amazing event!
To my surprise Youtube has stopped offering the ability to add annotations in your videos anymore, as mobile devices don’t support them. Annoying as you can’t add corrections or additional comments to the narrative sound in the background. But according to Google 60% of the users are using mobile devices to watch these videos, which is quite remarkable. However, just before the eclipse I shouted “ring of fire” which is the wrong technical term. Obviously, I meant to say “diamond ring” instead.
A ring of fire is the maximum of an annular eclipse. Now, annular eclipses are the ones when the moon is further away from the earth hence it doesn’t cover the entire sun. An annular eclipse is around the corner and will happen October 14, 2023 and you can see it from northern California.
After the 2023 annular eclipse and If you’ve also missed the 2017 total eclipse, there’s one more chance in 2024 in Texas.
Here are some photos from my friend and colleague Akash Garg who was in Sacramento, California at our work area. Even though the eclipse was partial in Sacramento, he could still see the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground from trees and other objects.