Archive for August, 2007

Another thing to see in the sky this week- ISS and docked Shuttle

After I wrote my last post yesterday, I decided to check out the site, . I was looking at a few things and decided to look at ISS (International Space Station) and sts-118 (Current space shuttle mission) passes for my area. Sure enough I had just missed a pass but there was another in about 50 minutes and it would be a bright pass but a short one as (about half way across the sky before entering the earth’s shadow). BTW the shuttle is currently docked with the ISS. I also wanted to grab a long exposure picture, but my battery died just before the pass, but I got in and changed the battery on time but when time came to snap the picture, I couldn’t find my remote release. Turns out it was sitting where I changed my battery! I did manage to see the object and it was difficult to miss as they are some of the brightest objects in the sky.

If you want see the ISS and STS-118 in the next few days there are some good opportunities. Go to, put in your location and click on the link for the 10 day ISS passes. It will show you all of the passes for your area, the times, magnitude, sky charts and a ground track. Look for the passes with the largest – magnitudes. For example look for mag of -2.4 which is much brighter than -.4 or 1.5. Magnitudes are based on the brightest stars. Vega is a 0 magnitude star and Arcturus is -.04. In comparison the sun is -26 magnitude, a full moon is -12 and a ¼ moon is -10 magnitude.

Over the next week there are several good passes over Western Canada, including a good one tonight at about 10:08 PM. The ISS should pass in the northern sky (just by the big dipper) across the entire sky. I am planning on getting the camera out and trying to get a picture.

Check out Heavens above for all the details for your area. They also list all satellite passes for your area every night.



Two reasons to look up this month!

There are two celestial events to see this August, the first being this weekend. The annual Perseids Meteor shower is this coming weekend and the end of the month features a real treat, a Full Lunar Eclipse.

The Perseid Meteor shower happens this weekend August 11, 12, 13 with the peak occurring the evening of Sunday August 12th. While there is no expectation of an exceptional show, this years shower coincides with the new moon, meaning there will be no moonlight washing out the sky (that won’t help the light pollution in towns and cities though). While from a dark sight on Sunday evening you could easily see 80 to 100 meteors an hour, you may only see one of the brightest every 5 to 10 minutes in the city. The shower is expected to peak high in the sky Sunday between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM Eastern time. The meteors can appear any where over head so lie back and enjoy the show. If you can’t make it out Sunday you should be able to head out Saturday or Monday evening and catch the early or late part of the celestial fireworks show. Search the net as there is loads of information on the Perseids.

The early morning of August 28th brings a less frequent event, especially to watchers in Western Canada, a full Lunar eclipse! The Peneumbral phase of the eclipse starts at 1:53 AM Mountain Time, when the moon first starts to enter the penumbra or outer shadow of the earth. The moon starts to enter the Umbral phase at 2:51 AM and totality begins at 3:52 AM. Mideclipse, when the moon is deepest and darkest occurs at 4:37AM and totality ends at 5:22 AM, and the Penumbral phase and the eclipse ends at 7:21 AM.

During the umbral phase, the moon should appear as deep red/rust colour, although since it will be passing a little south of the centre of the umbra, the southern end should appear brighter and yellower than the northern half.

The entire event will happen in the South West part of the sky and while it can be seen with naked eye, binoculars or a small telescope is all that is needed to really appreciate this event.

If you want to see what your night sky will be like on the above evenings, check out this great online tool from Canadian Software Writer Attilla Danko using Environment Canada’s data called the Clear Sky Clock here . Astronomers all over North America use this data to plan their observing sessions, and it is some of the most accurate information I have seen.

Hopefully your skies will be clear to see these great events!


Trying something new

I am just trying something new here. Currently comments are being moderated, only to protect from Spam posts. I have just installed a Recaptcha plugin that will have commenters verify two words, prior to being able to post. By entering these two words not  only are you proving that you are human, but you are also helping to digitize books for the web.

Recaptcha is a project from Carnegie Mellon University, the two words you decipher come from scanned book texts that computer ocr programs are having difficulty making out. By entering the words you are helping out in getting the words recognized. You can read more about it here: