Lunar Eclipse 15th April 2014

Tonight Melbourne got to experience the tail end of a lunar eclipse as the moon rose in eclipse at 17:48. We took a friend on a trip up to the (apparently now closed) Olinda Golf Course to view the moon rise. It was nice and clear and after roaming around a bit to find a place where we should have been able to see the eclipsed moon we found a suitable spot but couldn’t see the moon itself. Mars was visible in the right area but of course the salient point of a lunar eclipse is that the moon is in the earths shadow and so wasn’t findable until it started to exit at third contact. Got a few photos, of which this was the best.

Lunar Eclipse 15th April 2014 taken from Olinda Golf Course

We had to head back down the hill as Donna had an appointment at 7pm but later on our friend called up and said excitedly “Have you seen the moon? Go and look!”. I went out to see but the hills were still in the way then, so later on I headed out with the camera once the moon was visible and got some more photos as the moon headed towards fourth contact (when it exits the shadow of the Earth).

Lunar Eclipse 15th April 2014 taken from Upper Ferntree Gully
Lunar Eclipse framed in gum leaves, 15th April 2014 taken from Upper Ferntree Gully
Lunar Eclipse through trees, poles and wires - 15th April 2014 taken from Upper Ferntree Gully
Lunar Eclipse shortly before fourth contact, 15th April 2014 taken from Upper Ferntree Gully

Melbourne Partial Solar Eclipse, May 10th 2013

This morning was a partial solar eclipse in Melbourne. Back up where we saw the total solar eclipse last November they got an annular eclipse which would have been spectacular, but work is too frantic at the moment bringing up a new machine to even think about going up!

The first glimpse of it was from the train going into work with (of course) eclipse glasses (from Ice In Space) and by the time I got to Richmond I remembered I’d not taken a photo so had a go with my phone and the eclipse glasses and came up with this:

eclipse_train

My plan though was to go to the playing fields at the University of Melbourne where I’d learnt before (via Twitter) that there would be some astro folks. There was a small group of people there with a telescope set up to project onto a screen at the rear who were having fun trying to keep it on target as it wouldn’t lock into place. The nice thing about projections like this is that you get a nice big image, like this:

Melbourne Partial Solar Eclipse, 10th May 2013

I had a couple of left over eclipse glasses from the total eclipse so I passed them around and left them with them, they seemed to go down well!

Astrophotography: Comets C/2011 PANSTARRS and C/2012 F6 Lemmon

Friday night I was at the Mount Burnett Observatory for the talk about the ASV’s New Astronomers Group (NAG), but we took a break from the talk shortly after sunset to look for the two comets in the southern sky that night, C/2011 PANSTARRS and C/2012 F6 Lemmon. It was a lovely clear night, though very windy, and we managed to see both of them. I’d brought my camera and tripod along and got these photographs:

Comet C/2011 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Burnett Observatory

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon as seen from Mount Burnett Observatory

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon

…and this time with a passing aircraft…

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon with passing aircraft

Then on Saturday night I got this photo of PANSTARRS from Upper Ferntree Gully, visible as a naked eye object.

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS over Upper Ferntree Gully, VIC, Australia

Sadly PANSTARRS is heading off to the northern hemisphere so we may not get much more of it here in Australia.

Mount Burnett Observatory (@MBObservatory) now on Twitter

For almost a year now I’ve been a member of the Mount Burnett Observatory, a community project at the old Monash University astronomical observatory at Mount Burnett in the Dandenong Ranges. It’s great fun with both the original 18″ telescope and new 6″ and 8″ Dobsonian telescopes (some thoughtfully sponsored by the Bendigo Bank for education and outreach purposes).

It’s had a Facebook presence for a while, but nothing on Twitter, so after speaking to the webmaster and the president I’ve now set up a Twitter presence as @MBObservatory.

So if you’re into astronomy and around Melbourne (especially the south-eastern suburbs, though we do have people travelling in from quite a way) and use Twitter please do follow us!


Total solar eclipse in far north Queensland, 14th Nov 2012

Donna and I travelled up to Trinity Beach, about 20 minutes north of Cairns, for a holiday with a total solar eclipse in the middle of it.

We were really lucky as firstly we nearly didn’t make it up there at all as Jetstar cancelled our flight up and couldn’t get us another seat until Wednesday which would mean missing the eclipse and losing the accomodation we’d booked. Fortunately we were able to get a flight up with Virgin instead on the same day as our cancelled one, but it cost more than the refund from Jetstar. Then there was the weather; we arrived on a nice sunny Sunday and it looked quite promising, but Monday and Tuesday were both pretty cloudy and wet at times, so it wasn’t looking good.

Wednesday morning rolled around and we were up early (with three different alarms, just in case) and it was clearer than the previous days, but still plenty of broken cloud around.

First Contact, Obscured By Clouds #1
First Contact, Obscured By Clouds #2

There were probably a few thousand people around on Trinity Beach…

An audience for an eclipse, Trinity Beach, QLD

…who watched the partial phases nervously, but with growing excitement, through the cloud.

Peek-a-boo #1
Peek-a-boo #2

We were getting close to totality, but a large cloud was looming, and we wondered if we might miss the total eclipse phase!

Audience anticipation - eclipse or cloud?

Our luck held though, and we managed to see totality through broken cloud. :-)

Totality through the cloud!

Of course, after third contact and the end of totality the cloud started to clear and we had a good view for once.

After third contact - in a clear sky

The folks down in Cairns (including my friend Ian Grant from the Bureau of Meterology who lent me a 1976 solar eclipse filter) were not so lucky, they saw the partial phases but missed totality due to cloud. An American in front of him told him that was the third time in a row it had happened to him!

Video of Total Solar Eclipse, Trinity Beach, QLD – 2012/11/14

This is my attempt to capture the view of the total solar eclipse as seen from Trinity Beach in Queensland, Australia with my D90 DSLR, uploaded to YouTube with a CC-BY license.

Our tripod wasn’t usable unfortunately so this was taken resting on my knee and, as you’ll see, I got distracted by totality so it wandered off target a couple of times. I stopped filming so I could try and take a still photo as it looked like we were about to get clouded out, hence stopping short. We did manage to see the diamond ring just after though!

Mars Science Laboratory Safely on Mars

MSL is safely on Mars, now to go a roving!

The 2012 Hoax

It’s sad that such a site is even necessary, but if you find yourself trying to explain to people why the world won’t actually end in 2012 (which I’ve found myself doing a couple of times) then the 2012 Hoax website (run by astronomers and others around the world) has a heap of info that should help. Please give the Mayans a break, they didn’t predict this..

Hopefully this blog will also lend some of my Google-fu to them (though they are doing pretty well so far!).

Reflections On Apollo

A video screen telecasting Buzz Aldrin reflected in the helmet of a spacesuit in Washington (ABC News) It’s been 40 years since Apollo 11, something that I’ve known about for as long as I can remember as I was born not that long before it and, apparently, screamed all the way through the landing televised at the hospital. Sorry about that! :-)

The fact that the Apollo programme ended so soon after Apollo 11 (Apollo 17 was the last mission, and the only one to carry a scientist, geologist Harrison Schmitt) was already foreshadowed in budget cuts in 1967, which to me seems a great shame given the fact that we were for the first time looking at leaving the cradle of the earth – something that humanity will have to do eventually before the sun dies (assuming we can survive the current issues facing us). I wonder what we would have found on the lunar surface if further Apollo missions had taken more scientists to the moon ? Would we have already explored the craters nearer the poles where we now look for water ice ? Would we have have a permanent base there ? Few people know that NASA had already planned, prior to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, longer stays, a lunar flyer to let astronauts visit other areas on the surface and even a base on the moon as part of the Apollo Applications Program, though sadly only Skylab survived the axe to make it into space.

After Apollo 17 it took another 6 years for NASA to get back into space with STS-1, the first shuttle space flight, and we’ve still not been out of earth orbit since 1972, 37 years ago. It would be tragic if we ended up like the original settlers of Easter Island who used up all the resources needed for long distance travel and effectively stranded themselves.