Oct 052015

On September 27, 2015 at dusk, we observed the full moon rising over the Cascade mountains when it was already in eclipse. At first it was difficult to see as the sky was not very dark yet. Then gradually as the moon rose and the sky darkened, the dark red orb became more apparent. As the moon moved through the Earth’s umbra shadow, patterns of brightness changed until it finally emerged as our familiar bright full moon.

Lunar Eclipse 2015-09-27

If you were standing on the surface of the moon during this eclipse, you would see the Earth blocking the sun, and surrounded by a ring of red-orange light. In essence you would be seeing all the sunrises and sunsets of planet Earth at one time. The center of the Earth’s shadow is toward the upper right in this photo and the lower left is not as deep in shadow.


Final stage of lunar eclipse

This is a “phase” of the moon you will never during a typical month — a bite taken out of the full moon as the moon emerges from the Earth’s shadow or umbra.

These images were taken with a Canon 6D DSLR camera with an f/4 300mm fixed lens on a tripod.

Jun 062012

A Transit of Venus (Venus passing across the face of the sun) is a rare event. This alignment of Venus directly between the Earth and the Sun will not occur again until the year 2117, when I am 169 years old. So I really wanted to see this one. Cynthia and I had planned to drive to Eastern Washington if the sky conditions there looked more favorable. But on the contrary, on Tuesday morning the forecast for East of the mountains looked worse than for here (cloudy to mostly cloudy). So we decided to stay on Whidbey and take our chances.

It was raining here early Tuesday afternoon, June 5 and the sky was overcast. The Venus transit was to begin at 3:06 pm. But this ever-optimistic astronomer went out to turn on his equipment in the observatory and set up the “sun funnel” he built for this occasion.

Friend Sue and second cousin Emily showed up full of hope, believing that anything is possible: for all we knew, we could get lucky and the sky could clear just in time. We couldn’t open the observatory dome right away, but by 2:30, the rain had turned to a light mist so we opened the dome.

Telescope at the Tinyblue Observatory

Takahashi 4" refractor telescope mounted on Paramount ME mount with sun funnel

sun funnel

This "sun funnel" is attached to the telescope eyepiece.

It was too cloudy during First Contact (when Venus first appears to touch the disk of the sun) and Second Contact (when Venus is completely inside the disk). But about 45 minutes after the transit started, the clouds thinned out a bit. We never had a clear sky, but the clouds were thin enough that we could see an image of Venus, along with a few sunspots and clouds drifting by.

Image of Venus crossing the face of the sun

Venus crossing the face of the sun

Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus about an hour after first contact

Cynthia viewing the transit of Venus

Cynthia viewing the transit of Venus

Be sure to take a look at the movies taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is an earth satellite in a geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 22,000 miles.

So thank you, Sue and Emily and Cynthia for your optimism. I’m glad I don’t need to wait until I’m 169 to see my first transit of Venus.