One of our activities is, and has been for quite a while (since living in California) watching the International Space Station fly over when visible. Last Sunday night’s pass was quite a treat in that it had nearly everything going for it: cloudless skies, convenient timing and an almost direct overhead pass.
In the image above, you can see the ground track of the ISS as it passed over the Southwestern US. The maximum predicted elevation for this particular pass was 88° which barely missed our exact location to the southeast, but watching the fly-over, one could not perceive any difference from a direct overhead pass. Image credit Heavens Above.
Another attribute that is not always the case during a pass is that the ISS remained sunlit during the entire pass. We live in a slight hollow below surrounding terrain and saw the ISS rise in the southwest above some local hills and it few over us and set in the northeast behind some other terrain. We always enjoy watching the ISS and other satellites flying over, but this one was unusually spectacular.
In anticipation of the Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14, 2023, I got out the Canon SL1 camera and associated accessories to photograph the solar disk. I used the Canon EF 100-400mm along with a Thousand Oaks Optical threaded SolarLite® filter to get the (clickable) image above. I had to experiment with the camera settings to get the image and further had to adjust it using a photo processing app.
The setup resolved the solar disk and a couple or three sunspots currently visible; the two larger sunspot visible are 3297 and below that 3294. Those numbers are according to SpaceWeather.com.
As I mentioned above, I had to experiment with the camera settings a bit. Using the camera’s Programmed (P) setting, the images were overexposed. I switched to the shutter speed priority setting and tried several exposure times from 1/1000 second, 1/2000 second, and 1/4000 second. The latter, which is the fastest shutter speed on the camera, captured enough of the details needed to produce the image seen above and will certainly be good enough for the annular eclipse. For the total eclipse in April of 2024, it will be necessary to remove the attenuating filter during totality in order to capture the details of the solar limb and the spectacular appearance of the solar corona.
Verna traditionally gets some Waterford Crystal on Valentine’s Day. She chose Irish coffee mugs this year. And yes, we have already enjoyed Irish coffee served in these mugs.
Sugar-free confections are the order of the day when it comes to Valentine’s Day treats. These candies are just the ticket for a sweet treat.
Verna’s favorite flowers, Stargazer Lilies are featured in our flower vase on this Valentine’s Day. Click on any image to enlarge.
Verna and I witnessed the occultation of Planet Mars by Earth’s Moon this evening. At about 7:32 PM Arizona Time, Mars could be seen to disappear behind the Moon and would emerge again about an hour later on the opposite side of the Moon. In the image above (courtesy Griffith Observatory) you can see the tiny Martian dot just below and to the left of the Lunar limb. This is just about the same as we saw it around 7:30PM tonight. We came back outside at 8:30PM and witnessed the re-appearance of the Martian dot on the upper right Lunar limb – very impressive (and nerdy). We both enjoyed it and commented that it was a fun thing to do. We also had witnessed a visible flyover of the International Space Station about fifteen minutes prior to the beginning of the occultation.
From In The Sky — About this occultation:
The Moon will pass in front of Mars, creating a lunar occultation visible from parts of the Americas, Europe and Northern Africa.
Lunar occultations are only ever visible from a small fraction of the Earth’s surface. Since the Moon is much closer to the Earth than other celestial objects, its exact position in the sky differs depending on your exact location on Earth due to its large parallax. The position of the Moon as seen from two points on opposite sides of the Earth varies by up to two degrees, or four times the diameter of the full moon.
This means that if the Moon is aligned to pass in front of a particular object for an observer on one side of the Earth, it will appear up to two degrees away from that object on the other side of the Earth.
At the time of the occultation, the Moon will be 15 days past new moon and will be 100% illuminated.
Yesterday, the 6th and 7th graders who attend the Wickenburg Christian Academy (WCA) participated in a car wash event to raise funds for a trip to Catalina Island. I spoke with one of the teachers who said they were going to learn about ocean biology when they get there. Of course, there is much else to see and do on the island.
Verna and I were married over 20 years ago in Avalon. We’ve been there many times together, and visited the island in our earlier lives as well, so that sort of makes us SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) on Catalina. We celebrated our anniversary by going back to the island for several years, but the combination of increased expenses (transportation, lodging, souvenirs and food) and an uptick in crime in the area eased us out of our annual pilgrimage.
As for the car wash, the kids and their teachers did a very good job on the truck (clickable image above); we made a reasonable donation to their cause. We support WCH and make annual contributions to their scholarship fund, which is adequate as a federal write-off and gets us out of Arizona Income Tax altogether.