Winning Dark Sky Images


In May of this year the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) held its first annual Capture the Dark photography competition. Tasked with capturing  “meaning of the night”, participants were invited to submit images in one of five categories – Connecting to the Dark, International Dark Sky Places, Impact of Light Pollution, Bright Side of Lighting and Youth.

Connecting to the Dark winner –

Child with butterfly net containing several stars, star in deep blue sky just above net.

View larger | Mihail Minkov captured this photo, which is titled Star Catcher. The photo is from the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria. It’s the 1st-place winner in 2020’s IDA photo contest, in the Connecting to the Dark category.

International Dark Sky Places winner –

Milky Way above steep wooded valley with rocky stream in foreground.

iew larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this image at the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve in France. It’s the winner in the International Dark Sky Places category. The photo is titled Dark Night in Pyrénées Mountains.

Impact of Light Pollution winner –

A few stars visible in brightly lit night sky above hills with square tower in distance.

View larger. | Petr Horálek captured this image at the Great Wall of China. It’s the winner in the Impact of Light Pollution category. The photo is titled Remembering the Old Times.

Bright Side of Lighting winner –

Milky Way arching over streaming waterfall in hills with nearby evergreen trees.

View larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this photo at the Pyrénées National Parc in France. It’s the winner in the Bright Side of Lighting category. It’s titled The Celestial River.

Youth winner –

Milky Way over distant farm building past wide field of red paintbrush flowers and bluebonnet flowers.

View larger.| Nayana Rajesh, age 16, captured the winning entry in the Youth category. The photo is set in Ennis, Texas. It’s titled “The Barn.”

View all winning and finalist submissions – https://darksky.app.box.com/s/yzvnppjej02asjtwvjsxmyr4twxr3e8g

Read more at – https://earthsky.org/earth/ida-2020-photo-contest-winners-night-sky-images?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=868f0bb18e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-868f0bb18e-393970565

Phenomenon Needn’t Be Mysterious


Natural phenomenon needn’t be mysterious. Ponder Aurora Borealis, arguably one of nature’s greatest phenomenon, least mysterious spectacles. Aurora are offspring of space weather, nothing mysterious about that. On May 11, 2020 Earth is expected to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. In less mysterious language – disruption of interplanetary space separating opposing magnetic polarities of Earth and Sun, briefly over riding Earth’s magnetic field, inviting solar energy to temporarily dazzle sky watchers with aurora majesty – consider yourself schooled in solar sector boundary crossing, a space weather basic.

Solar wind is the source of space weather. Just like Earth, the Sun has a magnetic field known as interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction dividing into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along an ecliptic plane (  direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.

http://spaceweather.com/glossary/imf.html

Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact the field link causes partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

Enough talk, time for dazzling aurora timelapse courtesy Adrian Mauduit at Night Lights Films –

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0CLzCpM6nuLSAi1JNBjkA

No Telescope? No Problem


On April 29th behemoth asteroid 1998 OR2 will make closest approach to Earth at a safe distance of approximately 6 million kilometers. Traveling through the cosmos at 31,320 km/h, 1.8 km wide, 4.1 km long 1998 OR2 reigns as largest near Earth asteroid flyby of the year. There’s no chance of planetary impact and sadly no chance of seeing it without a telescope. Fear not, the Virtual Telescope Project hosts free online viewing starting April 28, 2020.https://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/

Ghostly image of a large boulder in space.

Radar image of asteroid 1998 OR2, acquired April 18, 2020. According to current estimates, this space rock is probably at least a mile wide (1.8 km) and maybe 2 1/2 times that long (4.1 km). Image via Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

First glimpses of large asteroid due to pass soon

Super Pink Grass Egg


Folklore in North America regards the April full moon as Pink, Grass or Egg Moon. When the full moon coincides with perigee ( closest point in elliptic lunar orbit to Earth ) it’s called a Supermoon. Tonight’s pink supermoon boasts closest lunar perigee of 2020, a mere 356,909 km distance from Earth.

Year’s biggest and brightest supermoon on April 7-8

Moments ago I ushered my husband and son outside to the telescope. Nothing short of joy describes their reaction. A Moon so full and bright my son grabbed sunglasses to fully appreciate jaw dropping resolution. Can’t remember the last time anything made me as happy.

Lost track of how many times I’ve posted this video. Without hesitation, here it is again – three minutes of cosmic wonder guaranteed to evoke childhood wonder and imagination.

Couldn’t let this Pink Moon set without a nod to Nick Drake –

Springtime STEVE Sightings


STEVE ( Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement ) might look like an aurora, but it’s not. STEVE is an atmospheric phenomenon characteristic of northern hemisphere spring and fall. The result of uppity solar wind messing with Earth’s magnetic field. Meddling which allows ribbons of super heated gas travelling at speeds exceeding 13,000 mph to create observable arcs of soft purple hues. STEVE favours latitudes between +50N and +55N. Go STEVE! Hope to meet you one day.

Photo credit – Jocelyn Blanchette

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/3/eaaq0030.full

Aurora Cam Solution


Stay at home orders needn’t be defined by endless hours of television or Netflix. Consider using free time to embrace space weather, specifically Aurora Borealis. Start with https://spaceweather.com/ familiarize yourself with solar wind, sunspot numbers and current auroral oval. If favourable conditions suggest uppity auroras, find yourself a Aurora Cam.

See the source image

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/aurora-borealis-webcam-goes-live-1.866540

List of aurora cam links below –

Webcams

 

Comet ATLAS


In December 2019 astronomers at ATLAS ( Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System ) in Hawaii discovered Comet C/2019Y4, flagging it as one to watch come May 2020. Almost immediately C/2019Y4 became known as comet ATLAS.  At first astronomers predicted May 31, 2020 as day to watch ATLAS pass within the orbit of Mercury and the Sun at 0.25 AU distance, culminating in spectacular brightness as dissolving heat set ATLAS ablaze.

This week astronomers watched in amazement as magnitude increased 4,000 fold from +17 in early February to +8 by mid-March, stunned by runaway magnitude several months ahead of perihelion (closest orbital approach to the Sun ).  Magnitude is a measure of brightness observed from Earth, the lower the magnitude, the brighter the cosmic object. For perspective, faintest objects visible from Earth with binoculars have a magnitude of +9.5. Venus and Mars at their brightest, magnitude -4.4 and -3.0 respectively.  More magnitude linked below –

https://lco.global/spacebook/distance/what-apparent-magnitude/

“Comet ATLAS continues to brighten much faster than expected,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. “Some predictions for its peak brightness now border on the absurd.”

According to Dr. Tony Phillips at https://spaceweatherarchive.com/2020/03/16/comet-atlas-is-brightening-faster-than-expected/ if ATLAS magnitude continues to bloom at this pace, by May it could range between +1 to -5, possibly brighter than Venus and visible to the naked eye in daylight.

atlas3_crop

Comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4) photographed on March 6, 2020, by Austrian astrophotographer Michael Jäger. The comet’s diffuse green atmosphere is about twice as wide as the planet Jupiter.