Thursday, April 14, 2016

Big sunspot possibly visible to the properly shielded naked eye

As of 13 April 2016, there's an exceptional sunspot visible. The usual caveats apply: never look at the sun without a proper sun filter over your eyes, binoculars, or telescope, but if you see the sun rise or sun set naturally shielded by fog, you may get a glimpse of the sunspot. Do so only if the sun is very dim.

Here are some photos taken with a 3-inch telescope with a white light solar filter:

Here's a close-up from the above photo. I sharpened the image in Photoshop. It looks like a heart or a silhouette of an affectionate embrace. Through the eyepiece, where the image was flipped in one axis, it looked like the British Isles.

I did try for an unfiltered shot of the sun yesterday when the fog was allowing for naked-eye views. But the trees dominated and gave the sun what looks to me like the face of a lion:


Friday, February 12, 2016

What's Up February and March 2016 for the Orange County Astronomers

It's been a while since I've presented a What's Up presentation for the Orange County Astronomers, and even longer since I've blogged about it. Friday, 12 February 2016, I'm doing the What's Up and I've included here many of the illustrations I'll be sharing in this presentation. I'm especially grateful that a leap day is added to our calendar on my watch, and so I have some illustrations of the long term effects of leap days on the timing of the calendar.

The sun has some activity. A week ago, I took this photo and expected the sunspots to be gone by this weekend, but more have emerged, making this weekend a fine time to view sunspots with the appropriate safety filter:

Most of our planets are near the sun making for this comparison between our view of the ecliptic between morning and evening. Notice that this time of year the ecliptic is at a low angle in the morning while at a high angle in the evening.

Jupiter is at opposition, meaning it rises shortly after sunset and is up all night. March 8 is the time of true opposition, a time when Jupiter will be closest and easiest to see well in a telescope. The bright object in this photo is Jupiter being jumped over by Leo the Lion:

Looking North in the early evening, we have Cassiopeia forming an M shape. Just above true north, the constellation Camelopardalis hosts the faint comet Catalina: 

Comet Catalina is too faint to see in binoculars or wide field photographs. This object requires a telescope and is likely to appear as no more than a faint smudge.

Go left from Cassiopeia and you'll find Pegasus, which you can use to find the approximate location of Uranus and the asteroid Vesta:

Left from Pegasus takes you to Orion and Taurus:

Southwest you find Orion confronting Taurus and backed by his faith dog Canis Major

Sirius and M41 in a 105 mm telephoto lens:

Note that the green splotch just left of the M41 star cluster is a camera artifact. It appears in a few of my photos and moved relative to the camera's field of view only when I moved the camera, suggesting some contaminant was on the camera's imaging chip. Tracing the most logical source of this splotch provided at 15-minutes of entertainment.

Overhead or Auriga, Gemini and an area rich in star clusters.

Star clusters M36, M37 and M38 taken with a 105mm lens:

Star cluster M35 taken with a 105 mm lens:

During my presentation, I did a little sidetrack into the effect that leap years have on shifting our calendar relative to the seasons. I'll develop this topic further in a separate post that I'm planning to make into a presentation. A member of the Orange County Astronomers offered me a nice topic name: Shift Happens. 


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Five Planets in the Morning Sky (January and February 2016)

All five planets visible to the naked eye are in the morning sky. If you have a low eastern horizon, and a clear sky, here's what you might see at 5:50 to 6:10 am:

(UPDATE: I added a new composite photographed on 30 Jan)

Old composite: 

(Click the picture, if necessary, to enlarge it)

Mercury is below the house in this picture, but all others are shown. I labelled a couple stars too. Note the Antares looks like Mars, and that is the origin of its name (the opposite or rival of Ares/Mars). The moon will be waning and each day moving eastward approximately along the curve outlined by these planets.

And, of course, by visible to the naked eye, I'm not counting Earth.


Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ghost of Climate Future

It's Christmas day, and for many, we've opened our presents and now post-gift-giving depression is setting in. So why not read Part 3 of the Ghosts of Climate Past, Present, and Future?

This diagram is my favorite of the three I drew for this story, and it depicts a real tank that used to be parked in my neighborhood.

I love that I can finally use my neighbor's tank, though my memory of details is a bit faded because other neighbors found the tank an easy target of their complaints and had it removed the from street. I, however, loved the tank and thought it showed politeness from the owner: that is, among other neighbor's RVs and boats parked on the street, this neighbor was the only one attempting to camouflage his vehicle. (In case my joke isn't clear, the tank was painted army green with foliage-like splotches, colors you'd expect of a combat vehicle.)


Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Ghosts of Climate Past, Present, and Future

I had the opportunity of contributing a few illustrations to a three-part post on Skeptical Science. The post plays off of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carole and portrays an unnamed US politician being visited by the ghosts of climate past, present, and future.

This story shows a future under a plausible scenario in which humanity's greenhouse gas emissions continue the current trend resulting in a scenario labeled RCP 8.5, meaning the additional greenhouse gases increase the energy in the climate system by 8.5 watts per meter compared to pre-industrial conditions.

This figure is from a recent paper in Nature Climate Change by Fuss et al. the black line shows our historical emissions up to 2015. All lines after 2015 are hypothetical scenarios. Note that so far, we follow the red line leading to 8.5 watts per meter or global average temperature increases of 2.3 - 5.4 degrees Celsius.

From Betting on Negative Emissions, Nature Climate Change 4, 850–853 (2014)

As of today, 24 December 2015, Parts 1 and 2 of the series are released:

Ghost of Climate Past
Ghost of Climate Present
Ghost of Climate Future (to be released in the future)

My etchings:

Ghost of Climate Past accosts an unnamed United States politician

Ghost of Climate Present whisks our protagonist away to a collapsing Antarctic ice shelf


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Letter to My State Assembly Representative, Melissa Melendez, regarding Planned Parenthood

Dear Assemblywoman Melendez:
I don't like to engage politicians over issues related to one's core values, but I feel you've made an error in your statements and position regarding the operations and funding of Planned Parenthood. On 29 July 2015 you released a request for an audit of Planned Parenthood. While you have that right, and the language in your audit request is within the realm of acceptable discourse, it is your public statements accompanying this release that are inflammatory, display ignorance, and show indifference to common values of our nation.
Your actions created three errors that I expect better from my state assembly representative:

  • One, your provocation was a privately-produced video. I shouldn't have to tell you that the video media is very easy to manipulate for the purpose of deceiving viewers. For example, videos argue that the Apollo moon landings were faked and that global warming is not real, and as a result many citizens believe these myths. You should have waited until a more careful review of the video's claims could be reported before taking action. Now, it's clear that extensive edits to the videos show that it is not an honest portrayal of any significant sequence of events. The video creator has also confessed to inserting fictional material.
  • Two: Your statements on 29 July 2015 that Planned Parenthood was engaging in "illegal" and "black market" activities dismisses the notion that in this country the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
  • Three: You've added accusations of "chop-shop", "illegal" and "black market" to an organization that is now enduring an increase in the severity of terrorism. These words coming from a state legislator are irresponsible. How can your words not affect people prone to committing arson and murder who believe they have a righteous cause and an elected official's support? Consider the arson on Oct 1, 2015 at the Thousand Oaks Planned Parenthood and now the murders on Nov. 27, 2015 at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

I come from a family that is majority women, any of which could need Planned Parenthood's services, ranging from contraception, cancer screening, prenatal services, adoption referrals, STI/STD testing, and abortion. What medical services they seek is their business. However, you've helped make it the business of would-be terrorists and witch-hunting politicians.
So please, walk back your public statements. Undo the damage, and show that you

  • Recognize that propaganda should not form the basis of legislative action,
  • That you recognize the American value of innocent till proven guilty,
  • And that you denounce erroneous statements that can be the antecedents to criminal and terrorist actions.

Thank you,
John Garrett

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moon dog

On Oct. 24th, 2015, I saw my second ever moon dog. A moon dog is the same phenomenon as a sun dog but the light source is the moon instead of the sun. Moon dogs are more rare than sun dogs:

  • The moon is dimmer, so the effect is less noticeable.
  • At least half the time, the moon is in a phase that is less than half full, so it provides too little light to observe the prism effect
In the following photos, the moon is on the right and is over-exposed. The moon dog is the splash of light and color near the tree. Also visible in the pictures is the 22-degree ice halo that is commonly seen around the sun and moon: