Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Atmospheric Phenomena

Skywatching Treat on Christmas Day

On my way home after attending tonight’s Christmas Day Mass, I saw a faint ring or halo around the Moon. Lunar halos often result when moonlight enters randomly- oriented hexagonal ice crystals in wispy cirrus clouds. Refraction of light produces a 22 degree ring or halo around the Moon. In order for a halo to appear, the Moon must be at least 22 degrees above the horizon. Interestingly, Jupiter was also positioned inside the 22 degree halo on this night near the waxing gibbous moon.

Lunar halos usually indicate that a bad weather is on it’s way. In the Philippines, a new tropical depression is expected to bring heavy rains across central part of the country in the next few days.

Image taken using hand-held Canon Powershot SX40 HS.

Merry Christmas, folks!

 

 

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December 10, 2011 Total Lunar Eclipse

Despite the rain and an overcast sky, we were thankful that for a brief period of time God permitted us to have a glimpse of the Red Moon during the total eclipse of the moon last December 10, 2011.

The moon was nearly high overhead during the totality phase of the eclipse and was located in the constellation Taurus. Totality lasted for about 51 mins.

I didn’t get decent shots of the moon during this event but I was really happy to have witnessed it. 🙂

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

First sight of the moon at 10:22 pm
After a short while, the clouds began to move away and we had a clear view.
Moon at totality

The red tint of the eclipsed Moon is created by sunlight first passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, which preferentially scatters blue light (making the sky blue) but passes and refracts red light, before reflecting back off the Moon. Differing amounts of clouds and volcanic dust in the Earth’s atmosphere make each lunar eclipse appear differently.

Orion and the Red Moon at 10:56 pm
Moon exits totality. Image taken at 11:09 pm
Moon at 11:27 pm. Only half of the moon’s disk lies within the umbra.
Moon at 11:51 pm. A 22 degree lunar halo formed around the moon just before it exited the umbral eclipse phase.

By the way, I observed this event together with my friend and UP AstroSoc orgmate, Bea Banzuela. We were eating a cold dinner (literally!) from the rooftop of their house in Marikina City while checking the sky and taking photos of the moon.

Bea used her sophisticated camera, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 (with telephoto lens) in capturing lunar images. Below is one of the images she took:

Image courtesy of Bea Banzuela

The lunar features in this image are more recognizable. 🙂 I love that camera! Haha! Thanks Bea, for allowing me to repost this.

“When you want something, all the universe conspire in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
To the stars! 🙂


Eclipsed Moon and Anticrepuscular Rays Image in EPOD

My image ‘Eclipsed Moon and Anticrepuscular Rays‘ that I took during the Total Lunar Eclipse last June 2011 got featured in Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).

EPOD is a service of NASA’s Earth Science Division and the EOS Project Science Office (at Goddard Space Flight Center) and the Universities Space Research Association. It collects and archives photos, imagery, graphics, and artwork with short explanatory captions and links exemplifying features within the Earth system.

My image could also be found in Astronomy.com’s Online Reader Gallery.


The Blood Red Moon During Maximum Totality

The Moon (and the city) during maximum totality at 4:13 AM (PHT)

A marvelous apparition of a blood-colored or deep red Moon stunned a lot of Philippine sky viewers  during the Total Lunar Eclipse last June 16, 2011. The totality time lasted for about 1 hour and 40 minutes.

At the time of the totality – when the Moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow – the entire disk of the Moon turns vibrant red. The Earth’s atmosphere which acts like a filtered lens bends red sunlight into our planet’s shadow and scatters out blue light. It’s the same reason why sunrises and sunsets appear reddish. If Earth had no atmosphere, its shadow would be pitch black and the eclipsed moon would be invisible.

According to some astronomers, this eclipse was the darkest lunar eclipse in almost 100 years  because the centers of the sun, the earth and the moon were nearly be on one straight line.

I’m still editing the other eclipse photos. Will post the rest of them including my observation report soon. 🙂

This photo was taken from the very nice Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo.
Camera used was Nikon D3000 (48mm, f/5.6, 30-sec exp. at ISO 200)

* * * *

A Tip on Lunar Photography:

As you can observe, the image was a bit out-of-focused. I had a hard time focusing on the Moon as subject during that time because I didn’t have a good telephoto lens that could’ve made the Moon appear clearer and larger. Telephoto lenses are  well-designed for photographing distant subjects like the Moon. However, those are very expensive. Wide angle lenses used in landscape photography such as this makes the moon look even  smaller than how you had visualized it in the scene.


Red Moon in June: Public Stargazing and Total Lunar Eclipse Observation

The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) invites everyone in observing the spectacular total lunar eclipse on June 15 – 16!

After the moon got super huge last March 2011, this coming June 16 2011, the moon will once again be spectacular to watch as it turns red because of the total lunar eclipse.


The first of the two eclipses of 2011 will occur on the said date and it will start at around 1:25AM and will end at around 7AM but the fun part where it turns red will be on its totality at around 4AM.

What is more special about this eclipse is that this will be the darkest lunar eclipse in almost 100 years as the centers of the sun, the earth and the moon would nearly be on one straight line. This also means that the Moon will pass deeply through the Earth’s Umbral Shadow which will make the totality phase last about 100 minutes.

This event is open to all. Come and invite your family and friends, and witness this wonderful sky show.

Clear skies, everyone!


Iridescent Cloud from Above

Sometimes we can see several colors of red, blue or green in edge of cirrus or altocumulus in higher sky. These colors appeared when water droplets of nearly uniform size in clouds diffract sunlight. This relatively rare phenomenon is known as Cloud Iridescence.

The mechanism of cloud iridescence is quite same with the case of corona light around the sun or moon.

Here are photos an iridescent cloud that my friend, Andre Obidos took  while on board an airplane going to Cebu. He shared them to me when he came back to Manila. Thanks, Dre. 🙂

To me, it looks like a head of a colorful bird such as a Lorikeet. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Nature is really full of God’s wonderful surprises.


Sunset, Contrail and the Thin Moon

I and my friend Bea Banzuela were walking around the Academic Oval of our university last May 5 when we noticed the sunset behind the trees at the lawn.

The transition of the bluish sky into crimson during this time of the day is always lovely to look at.

Reeds!
PHOTO OP! That’s me posing in front of the setting sun 🙂 Haha!

I remembered that the 2-day old thin Moon will set just before the Sun that afternoon. I checked Stellarium for its location in the western sky and waited until it became visible.

We soon found it hanging below a contrail a few minutes after the Sun had disappeared from view. It was around 5% illuminated and barely visible to the naked eye.

Luna appears against the crimson-colored sky. Click on the image to see the hi-res version.

As the sky grew darker, the Moon become more apparent, along with the bright stars located around it.

A stunning sight! The Moon with its 'ashen glow' (or earthshine) beside Aldebaran

Staring at the beauty of the night sky

We were grateful that we had along with us a nice point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC camera which works great when used for landscape photography. Using its starry sky mode, we were able to produce the images above even with minimal light. This setting allows for 15, 30 and 60 second exposures that is best for night sky photography. Other cameras often produce very dark images unless there is some amount of light out. (Thanks to Aaron Misayah for lending us his camera.)

I hope the sky would always be this clear. 🙂


Pink Contrail and the Crescent Moon

On the walk from our house to the street one afternoon,  a nice sight in the western sky caught my eyes — the  27% illuminated waxing crescent Moon and a pink-colored sunlit contrail against a blue-violet sky. This contrast of colors looked just fascinating. 🙂

Fortunately, I brought my Kodak digital camera with me so I was able to take a picture of it. The image turned out to be a bit blurry though without using a sturdy tripod.

Notice that while both the Moon and the cloud were illuminated by the same Sun, the cloud was pink and the Moon was so white. The answer lies in the fact that the atmosphere absorbs and scatters the shorter (blue) wavelengths of light, while allowing the longer (red) wavelengths through. The low angle afternoon sunlight arriving at the cloud (contrail) had traveled through significantly more atmosphere than the more “pure” sunlight reflected by the Moon.


A Moonbow!

Have you seen a rainbow at night?

Well to be honest, I have never seen one with my own eyes.

But luckily, a persistent astrophotographer from Kamuela, Hawaii has recorded this spectacular example long after dark:

Credit: Ethan Tweedie of Kamuela, Hawaii

In this picture, the bright moon played the role of sun, illuminating nightime raindrops falling through the damp Hawaiian air.

This long exposure image also revealed something even more rare: a secondary moonbow. It’s the faint ‘bow arciing above the brighter primary.

Primary rainbows are caused by single reflections inside raindrops; secondary bows are caused by double reflections.

It was a night to remember, indeed. 🙂

Image was originally featured in http://spaceweather.com/


My Image of the Supermoon!

 

Supermoon – March 19, 2011 | Image enhanced in Registax

This image was taken during  UP Astronomical Society‘s free public viewing of the largest full moon at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden.

Thanks to Kuya Anthony Urbano of EtenyWorks for letting us take pictures through his 6″ NERT!

The Moon was ~14% brighter and bigger at the time of this event. Thin clouds blanketed the lunar disk during this night but we were still lucky to catch a glimpse of this celestial beauty.We even saw a 22 degree halo and a colorful lunar corona circling the Moon at the same time.

Saturn was also there within the halo and there were contrails, too left by a passing aircraft.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by. ‘Til next time 🙂 Ad astra per aspera!

“The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

[Some photos were grabbed from Nico Mendoza and Julee Olave 🙂 Used with their permissions]


Valentine’s Day Solar Flare

Image: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, [and the Stardust flyby of Comet Tempel 1] the Sun erupted with a massive X-Class flare, the most powerful of all solar events on February 14 at 8:56 p.m. EST . This was the first X-Class flare in Solar Cycle 24 and the most powerful X-ray flare in more than four years.

The gif above shows the flare as imaged by the AIA instrument at 304 Angstroms on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Video caption: The X2 flare of Feb. 15, 2011 seen by SDO (in extreme ultraviolet light) enlarged and superimposed on SOHO’s coronagraph that shows the faint edge of a “halo” coronal mass ejection as it races away from the Sun. The video covers about 11 hours.

A CME hit Earth’s magnetic field at approximately 0100 UT on Feb. 18th (8:00 pm EST on Feb. 17th).  Space weather experts predicted that jets of charged particles smacking into the Earth’s magnetic field could disrupt navigation and communication systems, and spark a bonus of bright northern lights dancing across the ionosphere.

Instead, nothing much happened.

“There were some nice displays of aurora, but you had to live in the northernmost or southernmost part of the globe to see them.

The storm was so weak because the flare’s magnetic field happened to be aligned parallel to the Earth’s. When the sun sends a mass of hot plasma hurtling toward the planet in a coronal mass ejection, the plasma is imprinted with its own magnetic field separate from the sun’s. Astronomers can’t predict the direction of the plasma’s magnetic field until the burst hits Earth.

If the plasma’s magnetic field is parallel to the Earth’s, the incoming charged particles are effectively blocked from entering Earth’s magnetosphere. An identical flare with a perpendicular magnetic field would have triggered a much stronger storm.

“If the magnetic fields are parallel, then the shields are up. We are well protected,” said space weather expert Juha-Pekka Luntama of the European Space Agency Feb. 19 at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.

But next time we might not be as lucky with alignment, and we can expect up to 1,700 more storms like last week’s in the coming months as the sun wakes back up.

 

Related Links:


Sunset by the Beach and Moon at Dusk

While spending our short vacation in the lovely island of Panglao in Bohol, we took the chance to reunite ourselves with the beauty and comforting embrace of nature. This island that is very famous for its pristine beach — clear, turquoise waters and dazzling white-sand — is really a perfect tropical sanctuary of natural beauty. 😀

As we were so excited to watch the sunset, we immediately headed toward the beach after our day-long tour on the other part of the island. Luckily, we got there just in time to witness this magnificent scene.

Notice the anvil-shaped cloud near the setting sun in the close-up photos above. Anvil clouds are the icy upper portions of cumulonimbus thunderstorm clouds that are caused by a rising of air in the lower portions of the atmosphere. They usually indicate a coming rain. Nevertheless, only a slight drizzle came later in the evening.

A few minutes after sunset, the thin crescent moon became visible as it slowly descended towards the western horizon following the Sun.

These sky displays never fail to make me smile and I was truly glad that I was given the chance to witness all of these during our vacation. God is really so great.

Special thanks to Andre Obidos for letting me use his sunset photos.

I will definitely miss this place a lot. 🙂

Supernumerary Rainbow over Cebu City, Philippines

Last February 5, I and some friends flew to Cebu City, the ‘Queen City of the South’ to tour around and explore some of its famous landmarks. As we were walking towards the harbor during the late afternoon, we felt a slight drizzle rain down our heads.

One of us thought that these conditions were perfect to see a rainbow. When white light from the Sun hits the raindrops at a certain angle, rainbow formation is possible. The angle is important as it effect the direct the light travels after it hits the raindrops and that determines whether or not we will see a rainbow. It is best if the sun is fairly low in the sky such as dawn or late afternoon just like during that time. To view a rainbow, your back must be to the sun as you look at an approximately 40 degree angle above the ground into a region of the atmosphere with suspended droplets of water. By knowing this, one of us found the brightly colored arc which formed above us. At first it was faint, until it become more and more visible. A secondary rainbow has also formed –  seen above and outside the primary arc, and has the order of its colors reversed (red faces inward toward the other rainbow, in both rainbows).

It was really a splendid sight! 😀

As I looked more closely, I noticed something unusual yet strangely familiar phenomenon. On the inner (blue) side of the primary bow, there were also several slightly detached and pastel colored bands that do not fit the usual pattern. It was then that I realized that we were actually looking at a supernumerary rainbow!

Notice the closely spaced greenish purple arcs on the inner (blue) side of the primary bow. (see inset picture)

A supernumerary rainbow—also known as a stacker rainbow—is an infrequent phenomenon, consisting of several faint rainbows on the inner side of the primary rainbow, and very rarely also outside the secondary rainbow.

The primary rainbow results from a single internal reflection of refracted light inside a raindrop, and the secondary rainbow results from a double internal reflection. But the additional rainbows are not explainable by geometric optics, and hence had been termed “supernumerary”.

Supernumerary rainbows result from interference of light which undergoes single internal reflection but travels along different paths inside a raindrop.

Seeing this rainbow is a gift from above.  It seemed like it has served as a lucky sign that we would have a nice weather throughout our whole trip; and indeed it happened. 😀

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13,15)


Skygazing – Dec. 15, 2010

In hopes of observing the Geminids again, I stayed over at a friend and fellow U.P. AstroSoc member’s house which has a roof deck in Marikina City.

As soon as we were at the roof deck, we immediately looked for the constellation Gemini. Even though the eastern sky was partly covered by thin, hazy clouds and the waxing gibbous Moon shone bright in the night, we were still able to find the stars of Gemini along with the stars of neighboring constellations. My friend, Bea who had her Canon 400D DSLR with her, began taking images of the night sky. You may click on the images to see a higher resolution.

 

Auriga and Gemini at 10:17 PM (PST) Yellow lines indicate the radiant of the Geminid Meteor Shower

Auriga and Perseus at 10:38 PM (PST)

In the northwest, our attention was also caught by the stunning Cassiopeia which was in a slanted “M” position above a dormitory building.

 

Cassiopeia at 11:05 PM (PST)

We scanned the rest of the sky for several more minutes and found not a single meteor. About half an hour later, we noticed that the cloud cover was getting worse and it was getting too cold outside. As we were starting to pack up and go inside the house, a lunar corona formed around the setting Moon.

 

Lunar Corona - Dec. 15, 2010

According to Atmospheric Optics site, a corona may be seen when thin clouds partially veil the sun or moon. They are produced by the diffraction of light by tiny cloud droplets or sometimes small ice crystals.

The night sky is really full of surprises. 😀

Clear skies, everyone!


Night with the Geminids

Last December 13,  I went to the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in U.P. Diliman to observe the peak of the 2010 Geminid Meteor Shower with my amateur astronomy group, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (U.P. AstroSoc).

When I came at around 11:00 PM, about 50 people were already at the Sun Deck of the observatory. Everyone was enthusiastically waiting for the bright Geminid meteors despite the growing chance of an overcast sky.  The other guests set up their personally-owned telescopes to view the Great Orion Nebula and other deep-sky objects not blocked by clouds.

Amidst the 40% cloudy sky, the constellation Gemini where the meteors seemed to radiate from could be seen at ~40 degrees above the northeastern horizon. In the west, bright Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon were already about to set. The pair looked beautiful as they went lower in the horizon and become partially covered behind the tree tops.

As moonlight disappeared, the sky become darker and more favorable for meteor watching.  Four big and bright fireballs zoomed across the sky before midnight. 😀 Unlike other meteor showers, the Geminids can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, making them fairly easy to spot.

However, this short-lived outburst was soon replaced with an overcast sky which lasted until about 2:00 AM. During this time, I took the chance to go online and update my twitter status regarding our observation (I was able to do this thanks to Sun Broadband plug-it!). Several groups locally and internationally were also sharing their meteor counts and meteor watching experience. Below is a screenshot showing  some of my tweets during that time.

As what I have noted there, the Observation and Instrumentation Cluster (ObsIn) of  U.P. AstroSoc kept a record of the  tally* of the number of meteors seen every hour during the Geminids observation.

Limiting Magnitude**: ~4.0

Dec. 13, 2010
22:00 – 23:00 —— 27
23:01 – 24:00 —— 29

Dec. 14, 2010
00:01 – 01:00 —– overcast sky
01:01 – 02:00 —– overcast sky
02:01 – 03:00 —– 20 (with one green fireball!)
03:01 – 04:00 —– 2
04:00 – 05:00 —– 0

Total: 78

————————–
prepared by: Francis Bugaoan and Carlo Selabao

* This report just shows the number of meteors seen.Values listed above are the max.  number of meteors observed  within each time frame which means that it includes all meteors seen by at least one person. These are not the computed Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of the meteor shower.

** This is used to evaluate the quality of observing conditions. It tells the magnitude of the faintest star visible to the unaided eye


By around 2:00 AM, clouds began to moved away which allowed us to continue on our meteor counting. One green fireball which crossed the northwest sky appeared like a falling big blob of light. 😀 Everyone cheered happily upon seeing it. It lasted for about 5 seconds before disappearing into view.

More than an hour later, Venus which is now a “morning star” lit up the eastern horizon together with Saturn, Spica and Arcturus. Gemini was then past the zenith while my favorite Winter Triangle was already in the west.

Because of this beautiful pre-dawn sky, U.P. AstroSoc members  took the opportunity to lead the guests into a star-hopping activity to familiarize them with these celestial objects and the constellations.

As sunrise approached, one member noticed a rarely seen atmospheric phenomenon called the Belt of Venus. It is an arch of pinkish band above the shadow that Earth casts on the atmosphere opposite the sunrise or sunset. It is best visible when the atmosphere is cloudless, yet very dusty, just after sunset or just before sunrise.  The arch’s pink color is due to backscattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun.

Venus rising behind the PAGASA Observatory Dome (image by Bea Banzuela)

 

We finished our observation at around 6:00 AM. A lot of the guest observers who came by told us that they enjoyed the meteor counting, as well as the stargazing activities and they’re looking forward to the next meteor shower observation.

Despite the cloudy weather, I was surprised that the Geminids still gave us a fairly spectacular cosmic  show. Truly, this shower never fails to live up its reputation as the best meteor shower.


Lunar Halo and Jupiter

In hope of observing the Orionids Meteor Shower, I and some UP Astrosoc friends planned to go to the south to avoid the unfavorable weather in Manila. Unfortunately, we were not able to pursue the plan due to the heavy rain. Instead, we went to Naic, Cavite, a town just a few kilometers outside Manila, a day after super typhoon Megi left the country to try our luck.

We arrived at the local beach resort and started setting up our things including our tent at around 11:00 PM. The sky was totally overcast, but the waning gibbous moon and a star, which I know was the planet Jupiter, were visible then.

After a few minutes of observing the two, we noticed a faint but full 22 degree lunar halo circling the moon. Jupiter was just within the circle. We even got more amazed as the halo became clearer when the moon reached the zenith. One of us took a shot of this stunning view using her Canon 400D Digital SLR camera.

Lunar halos are caused by sunlight being refracted by cirro-stratus clouds.  Cirro-stratus clouds are thin clouds, very high in the atmosphere, and are composed of ice crystals. The shape of the ice crystals results in a focusing of the light into a ring. They bend light at a 22 degree angle, which creates a solar halo or lunar halo that is 44 degrees in diameter.

Since the ice crystals typically have the same shape, namely a hexagonal shape, the Moon ring is almost always the same size. Less typical are the halos that may be produced by different angles in the crystals. They can create halos with an angle of 46 degrees.

 

Image courtesy of  Bea Banzuela.  Photo details: 18mm f/10 ISO-800 at 30 sec exposure. Click image to see larger version.

The sky remained overcast during the rest of the evening until twilight and so we were not able to see even a single fireball.

Nevertheless the attempt was worth a try, thanks to that wonderful halo which left us amazed and happy. 😀

 

Image courtesy of UP AstroSoc member Bea Banzuela.Taken using Canon 400D 18mm f/10 ISO-800 at 30 sec exposure