Archive for the ‘AstroInfo Article’ Category

PostHeaderIcon EVENT: Plutopalooza Phone Home

PlutoPaloozaBannerUp1

NASA’s New Horizon’s mission will flyby Pluto on the morning of July 14th at 4:49am Pacific Time. As it will spend the full period of the flyby taking photos and data, we won’t hear from the craft about its success until 6:02pm when it “phones home.”

Join me for this nailbiting moment of suspense at High Point Branch Library. As far as I’ve been able to determine at this time, this is the only live local event taking place in Seattle for the Pluto flyby.

  • When: 5pm-7pm (phone home broadcast at 6:02pm)
  • Where: High Point Branch Library, 3411 S.W. Raymond St., Seattle, WA 98126
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
    • Themed craft activity for children approximately ages 3-14
    • Short talk about New Horizons aimed at upper elementary through adult
    • NASA TV phone home broadcast for everyone (their broadcast commentary is aimed at a teen-adult audience)

P.S. If you want to build a model of the New Horizons craft and bring it with you to the event, I would love to see it. You can also post your West Seattle PlutoTime photos to social media, and tag me: @AlicesAstroInfo.

Pluto_backdrop_Postcard small

Wish You Were Here!

Here are some useful links:

Other Pluto Events:

7-1-15_Pluto_Charon_color_hemispheres_unannotated_JHUAPL_NASA_SWRI

Pluto and Charon in full color–July 1, 2015

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them, and to Seattle Public Libraries for hosting!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon June 20 Summer Solstice Sunset Watch – 2015

It’s time for the 25th seasonal sunset watch! Wow. That’s a lot. We should probably have some kind quadrans-quarter-ennial, or icosipenta-seasonal-versary, or quasqui-quadmensiversary celebration, don’t you think?

  • When: Saturday, June 20, 2015 at 9:00pm (so come at 8:45pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 9:11pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says, because of the horizon altitude.
    • The equinox moment is at Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 9:38 AM … but we’re watching the sunset the night before not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle. The stone markers have been removed for upkeep, so if they aren’t back yet, we’ll mark the location of the sunset ourselves. The earthworks are still in place, so we can definitely still see the alignment. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

Seattle, King County, WA (Longitude W122° 20′, Latitude N47° 38′)

June 20, 2015 Pacific Daylight Time
SUN
Begin civil twilight 4:30 a.m.
Sunrise 5:11 a.m.
Sun transit 1:11 p.m.
Sunset 9:11 p.m.
End civil twilight 9:51 p.m.

MOON
Moonrise 9:38 a.m.
Moon transit 4:44 p.m.
Moonset 11:41 p.m.

Closest Primary Moon Phase: First Quarter on June 24, 2015 at 4:02 a.m. (local daylight time)

Phase of the Moon on June 20, 2015: Waxing Crescent with 18% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Aurora Alert: March 17, 2015 G4 Storm

3/17/2015: Latest predictions have good numbers for Seattle from darkness until 11pm or 1am. This morning was better. Tonight’s a little unpredictable.
From 3/17/2015 pm:

NOAA Kp index breakdown Mar 18-Mar 20 2015

            Mar 18     Mar 19     Mar 20
00-03UT        7 (G3)     4          2     5pm-8pm previous date
03-06UT        7 (G3)     3          2     8pm-11pm previous date
06-09UT        6 (G2)     3          2     11pm previous date 2am
09-12UT        5 (G1)     3          2     2am-5am
12-15UT        4          3          2     5am-8am
15-18UT        3          3          2     8am-11am
18-21UT        3          3          2     11am-2pm
21-00UT        3          4          2     2pm-5pm

Rationale: 18 March is expected to (G1-G3) storm conditions as the
effects from the CME persist. Following the end of CME effects,
geomagnetic activity should remain below G1 conditions for days two and
three (19-20 Mar).

 

From 3/17/2015 am:

The greatest observed 3 hr Kp over the past 24 hours was 8 (NOAA Scale
G4).
The greatest expected 3 hr Kp for Mar 17-Mar 19 2015 is 8 (NOAA Scale
G3).

NOAA Kp index breakdown Mar 17-Mar 19 2015

            Mar 17     Mar 18     Mar 19
00-03UT        2          5 (G1)     4     5pm-8pm previous day    (PDT)
03-06UT        5 (G1)     5 (G1)     3     8pm-11pm previous day   (PDT)
06-09UT        6 (G2)     4          3     11pm previous day - 2am (PDT)
09-12UT        6 (G2)     3          3     2am-5am  (PDT)
12-15UT        8 (G4)     3          3     5am-8am  (PDT)
15-18UT        7 (G3)     3          3     8am-11am (PDT)
18-21UT        6 (G2)     3          3     11am-2pm (PDT)
21-00UT        5 (G1)     3          4     2pm-5pm  (PDT)

Rationale:  Geomagnetic storms reaching the G4 level are expected from
the combined effects of recurrent and transient features on day 1 (17
Mar).  Minor storm (G1) conditions are expected to linger into early on
day 2 (18 Mar).  Unsettled to active conditions (<G1) are expected for
the remainder.

Aurora viewing from Seattle, basic info, tips, locations and resources.

Basics:

What: Possible aurora. Slight greenish tinge, perhaps brighter columns or curtains in the sky, or a diffuse red glow. Do not be tricked by the normal red/yellow glow from downtown Seattle.

When: Use Timeanddate.com to convert aurora prediction times from UTC to Pacific Daylight or Standard Time.

Where: Always look North for aurorae. When clouds are predicted over Puget Sound, so I recommend viewing from Lake Kachess just past Snoqualmie Pass, or even further East. There may also be chances from Sequim or north of Everett.

How: A digital camera with a long exposure will be better at detecting the slightest glow than your eye, but once it gets bright enough you won’t need the camera anymore.

 

Tips (from my Twitter stream):

  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #1: Be patient, keep an eye on the data (see links below) until you see something. Then turn off the data and enjoy.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #2: Look North. Be in a dark place.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #3: Bring a digital camera or phone with a long-exposure setting. Long-exposure images gather more light than your eye with long exposures you may see the aurora first in a viewfinder, and with your eye as it brightens.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #4: It is usually hard to see from Seattle, even when visible. Give your eyes a chance to adapt. Enjoy the stars too.

 

Advanced:

When Kp levels surpass 5 it is worth starting to check in. In Seattle, we hope for Kp levels of 6 or greater for the best chance to see the aurora. I explained Kp over here.

 

You should watch these forecasts for minute-to-minute updates:

The Ovation Model – a prediction: bright green, yellow or red overlapping Seattle means go outside and look.

Soft Serve News – a prediction: Kp over 5 means possible aurora for Seattle, but the higher the better. If it hits 6 go outside.

Current Activity – a measurement: If the yellow/orange/red looks like it is overlapping the border between the US and Canada, the aurora might be visible from Seattle. Again, the closer the better.

Estimated Kp – a prediction: Kp over 5 is good news. Remember the date/time along the bottom are in Universal Time so subtract 7 hours.

*NEW* Advanced Solar Wind Charge/Direction – a measurement: scroll down. On the left under “Real Time Solar Wind” is a little speedometer thing labeled “Bz.” When this is pointed towards S/-50/Red we have better auroras in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is pointed the other way, the Southern Hemisphere has better aurora.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center – lots of info in one place.

 

Cloudcover prediction for tonight at 11pm:

This image should have today’s date on it. If it does not, click on the image and choose “Sky Cover, 11pm” from the table on the left.

Cloudcover information from NOAA

*NEW* Recommended Viewing Locations:

My general stargazing location recommendations.

Tonight's aurora, from Astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

August 19th’s aurora, from Astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

PostHeaderIcon Conjunction, Seattle, Today 2-21-2015 5:30pm

Come watch the conjunction with me today from 5:30pm-6:15pm from the South end of the beach at Lincoln Park. I’ll be just across from the swings, with binoculars.

It will be pretty.

-Alice

P.S. Since I’ll have a tripod or two set up for this, if you bring your dog could you leash them while they’re near the equipment please? Thanks, that’s a big help! :)

PostHeaderIcon Winter Solstice Sunset Watch – 2014

It’s time for the 23rd seasonal sunset watch!!

  • When: Sunday, December 21st at 4:05pm (so come at 3:45pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 4:20pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it.
    • The solstice moment is at 3:03pm… but we’re watching the sunset because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Solstice Moment: Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM
Universal Time: Dec 21 23 03

Sunday
21 December 2014 Pacific Standard Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 7:19 a.m.
Sunrise 7:55 a.m.
Sun transit 12:08 p.m.
Sunset 4:20 p.m.
End civil twilight 4:56 p.m.

MOON
Moonset 3:41 p.m. on preceding day
Moonrise 7:11 a.m.
Moon transit 11:54 a.m.
Moonset 4:38 p.m.
Moonrise 8:07 a.m. on following day

New Moon on 21 December 2014 at 5:37 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Where to Find AstroInfo?

What’s become of me? Like many other vaguely-successful authors, you can now find my work in more places and less often back here at home. This is great news for me, tough news for trying to follow me. I’m not gone for good, but check these locations for more recent articles:

Thanks for keeping up!

-Alice

PostHeaderIcon Fall Equinox Sunset Watch with Preschool Activities! – 2014

It’s time for the 22nd seasonal sunset watch!!

I’ll be doing three special things for this special sunset watch: First, I’m going to bring some preschool-focused activities. I’ve been testing out. I know it is nearly bedtime, but bring your 3-5-year-olds out for a special early-childhood edition of the sunset watch.

Second, I’m going to be available to answer questions about preparing for viewing the partial solar eclipse in October. I’ll do this part after the sunset and after the toddler activities have wrapped up a bit. That’s because you grown-ups and older kids have a slightly easier time waiting than the little ones. If you miss this chance to talk to me, I’ll have a few activities and talks in the local branches of the Seattle Public Libraries in the days leading up to the eclipse.

Third, I’m going to tell you all about MAVEN’s incredible entry into Martian orbit that will have happened about 24 hours earlier. Too much to do at once, I know, but I’m terribly excited about all of it.

  • When: Monday, September 22, 2014 at 6:55pm (so come at 6:30pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 7:07pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it.
    • The equinox moment is at 7:29pm… but we’re watching the sunset not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Monday 22 September 2014 Pacific Daylight Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 6:25 a.m.
Sunrise 6:56 a.m.
Sun transit 1:02 p.m.
Sunset 7:07 p.m.
End civil twilight 7:38 p.m.

MOON
Moonset 5:54 p.m. on preceding day
Moonrise 5:26 a.m.
Moon transit 11:57 a.m.
Moonset 6:19 p.m.
Moonrise 6:27 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 22 September: waning crescent with 2% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

New Moon on 23 September 2014 at 11:14 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

PostHeaderIcon Aurora Alert? Where to find more info

9/12/2014: Latest predictions have great numbers for Seattle from darkness until 11pm or 1am.

NOAA Kp index breakdown Sep 13-Sep 15 2014

            Sep 13     Sep 14     Sep 15
00-03UT        7 (G3)     4          4     
03-06UT        7 (G3)     5 (G1)     3     
06-09UT        6 (G2)     5 (G1)     3     
09-12UT        5 (G1)     4          3     
12-15UT        5 (G1)     3          2     
15-18UT        4          3          2     
18-21UT        4          3          2     
21-00UT        5 (G1)     4          2

 

Aurora viewing from Seattle, basic info, tips, locations and resources.

Basics:

What: Possible aurora. Slight greenish tinge, perhaps brighter columns or curtains in the sky, or a diffuse red glow. Do not be tricked by the normal red/yellow glow from downtown Seattle.

When: Use Timeanddate.com to convert aurora prediction times from UTC to Pacific Daylight or Standard Time.

Where: Always look North for aurorae. When clouds are predicted over Puget Sound, so I recommend viewing from Lake Kachess just past Snoqualmie Pass, or even further East. There may also be chances from Sequim or north of Everett.

How: A digital camera with a long exposure will be better at detecting the slightest glow than your eye, but once it gets bright enough you won’t need the camera anymore.

 

Tips (from my Twitter stream):

  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #1: Be patient, keep an eye on the data (see links below) until you see something. Then turn off the data and enjoy.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #2: Look North. Be in a dark place.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #3: Bring a digital camera or phone with a long-exposure setting. Long-exposure images gather more light than your eye with long exposures you may see the aurora first in a viewfinder, and with your eye as it brightens.
  • Alice’s Aurora Tip #4: It is usually hard to see from Seattle, even when visible. Give your eyes a chance to adapt. Enjoy the stars too.

 

Advanced:

When Kp levels surpass 5 it is worth starting to check in. In Seattle, we hope for Kp levels of 6 or greater for the best chance to see the aurora. I explained Kp over here.

 

You should watch these forecasts for minute-to-minute updates:

The Ovation Model – a prediction: bright green, yellow or red overlapping Seattle means go outside and look.

Soft Serve News – a prediction: Kp over 5 means possible aurora for Seattle, but the higher the better. If it hits 6 go outside.

Current Activity – a measurement: If the yellow/orange/red looks like it is overlapping the border between the US and Canada, the aurora might be visible from Seattle. Again, the closer the better.

Estimated Kp – a prediction: Kp over 5 is good news. Remember the date/time along the bottom are in Universal Time so subtract 7 hours.

*NEW* Advanced Solar Wind Charge/Direction – a measurement: scroll down. On the left under “Real Time Solar Wind” is a little speedometer thing labeled “Bz.” When this is pointed towards S/-50/Red we have better auroras in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is pointed the other way, the Southern Hemisphere has better aurora.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center – lots of info in one place.

 

Cloudcover prediction for tonight at 11pm:

This image should have today’s date on it. If it does not, click on the image and choose “Sky Cover, 11pm” from the table on the left.

Cloudcover information from NOAA

*NEW* Recommended Viewing Locations:

My general stargazing location recommendations.

Tonight's aurora, from Astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

August 19th’s aurora, from Astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station. Courtesy NASA

PostHeaderIcon Interview with KOMO Radio – July 2014

Here’s a recording of my interview yesterday with Tom Huytler of KOMO Newsradio. It’s quite short as usual, and it was also quite fun!

Link to download recording. (.mp3 3.2M)

As always I have plenty of respect for the anchors and reporters over at KOMO. Ever since my first interview there with Kathi Goertzen so many years ago, I have never been treated so well or with so much respect as an interviewee as by all the folks at KOMO. Tom, Jane, Rick (and Kathi, when she was around) always give me space to say what I think is important on a topic, and don’t pressure me to give the answer “they” think would be most interesting or incendiary to the audience. I know that sounds like just plain good journalism practice when interviewing folks, but I’ve had other experiences too and you’ve seen other styles of interviewing in this (hopefully declining) age of reality television.

Thanks for listening!

-Alice

PostHeaderIcon Summer Solstice Sunset Watch – 2014

It’s time for the 21st seasonal sunset watch!!

  • When: Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 9:00pm (so come at 8:45pm)
    • Actual sunset is supposed to be at 9:11pm, but we have noticed that the Sun sets about 10 minutes earlier than the USNO says it does, so I’ve moved the time of our sunset watch up so we don’t miss it.
    • The equinox moment is at 3:51am… but we’re watching the sunset not the sunrise because of how the park lines up.
  • Where: Solstice Park – all the way up the hill from the tennis courts (or, if you’re not in Seattle, wherever you have a view of the western horizon!)
  • Who: Everyone welcome, as usual.
Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Parent and Child at Sunset by Kazuhiko Teramoto, skyseeker

Come watch the sunset at Solstice Park in West Seattle. We’ll see if the sunset lines up with the placed marker. I’ll be there even if it is cloudy because sometimes the Sun peeks through just as it begins to set, but if it is driving rain or sleet I’m staying home with some hot tea!

If you’re interested – here’s the timing of various celestial events  from Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department:

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Seattle, King County, Washington (longitude W122.3, latitude N47.6):

Saturday
21 June 2014 Pacific Daylight Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 4:31 a.m.
Sunrise 5:11 a.m.
Sun transit 1:11 p.m.
Sunset 9:11 p.m.
End civil twilight 9:52 p.m.

MOON
Moonset 2:29 p.m. on preceding day
Moonrise 1:48 a.m.
Moon transit 8:38 a.m.
Moonset 3:38 p.m.
Moonrise 2:20 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 21 June: waning crescent with 29% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

Last quarter Moon on 19 June 2014 at 11:39 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

This event is my part of the NASA’s Solar System Ambassador program, and thanks to West Seattle Blog for publicizing all of them!

Everyone is welcome, see you there!

~ A l i c e !

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