Solar Eclipse Follow-Up

   Fearing for massive traffic jams we (wife Susan and granddaughter Keeley) left for Briarcliff Elementary School in North Kansas City around 8 am. Virtually no traffic as we went around the city and went across the Missouri River and river valley on Highway 169 and then up the bluff on the other side to the school. Lightning was to the north and southwest and thunder was rumbling – but the Sun was sort of shining through broken clouds.

   The sky remained partly cloudy as I set up and students were coming outside to practice how to use their eclipse glasses. The sky stayed partly cloudy until about 10 minutes before totality as the leading edge of what would soon be rain approached from the northwest as broken cumulus type clouds.

   Leading up to totality there were two distinct sunspot groups visible as this picture shows. We were fortunate that the sky stayed relatively clear leading up to totality. However the broken clouds started clumping together but the clouds did part several times allowing for us to see totality each time there was a break in the clouds.
   No post totality pictures because within a few seconds after totality ended the last of the broken clouds passed and the sky was completely overcast. As we left the school it was raining. Got home a few minutes before the eclipse ended – skies were partly cloudy – so we had one last look with eclipse glasses.

   A big shout-out to Mrs. Kate Place, her staff and students, at Briarcliff Elementary School for hosting the Eclipse on the Cliff event.
   Click here to see 360o pictures and videos. Be sure to select HD at the highest resolution possible.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Not In Virgo

According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Maiden on Tuesday August 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun on this date is toward the west and still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.
   And if you were viewing the solar eclipse you were seeing the Sun in Leo with the heart of the Lion, the star Regulus, just to the left of the Sun.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

August Moon at Ascending Node – and Oh Yeah, A Total Solar Eclipse!

   Monday August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic at 10:34 UT (5:34 am CDT) within the constellation Leo the Lion. 8 hours later, at 18:30 UT (1:30 pm CDT), the Moon will reach new phase. This close timing between the new Moon phase and a node crossing means only one thing – eclipse!!

   My eclipse viewing area will be at an Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District. From that location totality will be approximately 80 seconds. This short video showing totality for 80 seconds, was clipped and edited from a video shot during the November 2012 total solar eclipse viewed from Australia.

   Read a bit more about this eclipse from a previous post.

      Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

2017 Perseid Meteor Shower – Not A Good Year

   In reality this year’s annual Perseid Meteor shower will be affected by the Moon. The waning gibbous Moon will rise at about the same time as the constellation Perseus – the location for the meteors. With the bright reflected light from the Moon it will be nearly impossible to see any meteors.
   Also keep in mind that the numbers quoted for meteors per hour, the ‘ZHR’ or Zenith Hourly Rate, is an average not a guarantee that you will see that many. On a good peak night in some years I have seen 30 or 40 bright meteors per hour from dark skies. The best time is the few hours before sunrise as the Earth rotates your location into the direction the Earth is moving and sort of puts you face-on into the meteors.
(graphic source from Facebook with this URL: — link takes you to a non-existent web site, or to a Go-Daddy advertisement
Update: I did a search for the web site and found that the correct address is, and after searching the web site I could not find this graphic. There is, however a write-up from last year about the Perseids.

   The peak time for the Perseids is August 12th and 13th but more specifically during the predawn hours of the 13th as the constellation Perseus is rising.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Juno at Jupiter-Update

   The Juno Spacecraft is now fully engaged in making its planned orbits around the outer planet Jupiter. Since arriving and orbital insertion the spacecraft has made 6 orbits around Jupiter sending back amazing images and advancing our knowledge of the planet and its role in the solar system.
   Showing my age but I can remember how excited I was during the Voyager 1 and 2 flybys of the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune during the 1980s. It was 40 years ago, Voyager 1 September 5th1977 – Voyager 2 August 20th 1977, when the spacecraft were launched. While both were targeted for a Jupiter and Saturn flyby Voyager 2 eventually had its mission rearranged so that it would fly past all four of the outer giant planets in a mission called the ‘Grand Slam’ or ‘Grand Tour’. The images from those flybys were just as exciting as the images we see from the current Juno mission albeit improved after 40 years of imaging technology advances.
   So Where are the two Voyagers now? Click here to find out.
   Click here to go to the NASA Video web site to see a short video (15 minutes) about the Voyager mission to the outer planets. This is part of a video series I often used in my Planetarium and classroom during the 1990s – so please realize that the graphics and animations, as well as some descriptions and some explanations are not necessarily as ‘advanced’ as things are now. However two of my heroes, Dr. Edward Stone, and Dr. Andrew Ingersoll, are featured making comments about some of the Science and discoveries.
   Below is a well done video compilation of images taken by the Juno Spacecraft. Click here to go to the Vimeo web site for the original video.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon in Conjunction with Jupiter and Spica

   Friday July 28th the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the outer planet Jupiter, and about 8-9o from the bluish star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The Moon will be closest to Jupiter on the 28th and then closer to Spica on Friday the 29th.

   With a 7×50 binoculars the Moon and Jupiter will easily fit within the field of view on the 28th, however the gap between Jupiter and Spica on the 29th will be just beyond that same field of view – as this animated graphic set for 2 days, 28th-29th, shows the view with 7×50 binoculars .


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

It’s The Final Countdown or Cassini Spacecraft’s Grand Finale

   Two months from this posting, September 15th, the Cassini spacecraft will end its mission at the planet Saturn by diving into the planet’s atmosphere and self destruction.
   This animated graphic shows the hourly position of the Cassini spacecraft as it makes a distant flyby of two of Saturn’s smaller moons, Atlas and Janus on July 19th. (the moons and spacecraft have been greatly enlarged to make them visible)
20 Years Ago
   On October 14, 1997, NASA launched Cassini, its largest interplanetary spacecraft, on a nearly seven-year voyage to Saturn. The voyage to Saturn was a two-part mission that included an orbiter and the Huygens probe. The Cassini orbiter was designed to explore Saturn’s system as it looped over, under, and around the planet’s many moons and rings. The Huygens probe was designed and planned for a study of the atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, as well as a parachute-assisted soft landing on the surface. On September 15th the exploration phase of the Cassini mission will end as the spacecraft runs out of fuel and descends into Saturn’s atmosphere. As frictional forces tear the spacecraft apart, instruments on-board will send back data about the planet’s atmosphere.
35 Years Ago
   Typically, little is known about what happens after or before the active part of a mission. We know that the follow-up to a mission is the data analysis, which usually takes many years. What is generally not acknowledged is the lead-up to the official mission, which begins with the launch. The Cassini Mission was first proposed in 1982, 15 years before the actual launch. Several years of planning and coordination between NASA and the European Space Agency followed. By the end of the 1980’s, the mission had been approved and was finally launched in 1997. Thirty-five years will have passed since the inception of the Cassini mission and the demise of the spacecraft when it enters Saturn’s atmosphere.

    Where is Cassini Now?
    Cassini grand finale fact sheet
    Cassini mission
    Cassini mission timeline poster
    Four Days at Saturn video
    Grand finale


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.