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Friday, January 1, 2010

A Blue Moon and Other Heavenly Delights

I was just blogging about how I was prevented from seeing tonight's partial lunar eclipse because of cloudy skies. I went out to bring my telescope in and behold - the clouds had cleared a bit. And a tiny portion of the moon was in darkness. :)
More later.

From Spaceweather:


Believe it or not, tonight's full Moon is a "Blue Moon." It's the second full Moon this month and the first Blue Moon to fall on New Year's Eve in nearly 20 years. Sounds like a rare excuse for a party... There's more. In Europe, Africa and Asia, the Blue Moon will dip into Earth's shadow for a partial lunar eclipse. At maximum eclipse, around 19:24 Universal Time, approximately 8% of the Moon will be darkly shadowed

Blue Moons are rare (once every 2.5 years). Blue Moons on New Year's Eve are rarer still (once every 19 years). How rare is a lunar eclipse of a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve?
A search of NASA's Five Millennium Catalogue of Lunar Eclipses provides an approximate answer. In the next 1000 years, Blue Moons on New Year's Eve will be eclipsed only 11 times (once every 91 years). A year of special note is 2848 when there will be two lunar eclipses in December--on Dec. 1st and Dec. 31st. Such a double-Blue Moon-lunar eclipse ending on New Year's Eve appears to be a millennium-level event. That's rare.
Go outside and enjoy the moonlight!
The daytime sky was brilliant and and relatively clear.
New, green shoots, taking advantage of the good weather.
The evening looked very promising too. Jupiter was shining brightly. Very beautiful.
Two images using Stellarium (thanks Jean!), since I can't photograph Jupiter and it's moons.
Io, which was visible over the last few nights is now in front of Jupiter and can't be picked out through the telescope.
Neptune is also supposed to be nearby, and the sky charts show Uranus too, but I guess they're too faint (and I'm too much of a beginner) to identify them in the sky.
Dominating the sky tonight however is the Moon. It really is splendid today!
On this photo, through the finderscope, you see both the moon and it's dimmer reflection.

Then the clouds came and soon the sky was almost completely covered. I did get some interesting photos though:
And, serendipitously, I was able to catch the lunar eclipse later on too!
A tiny bit of the top-right edge of the moon was darkened

Mars was visible by then too, also right in the middle of a break in the clouds.

The Moon and Mars (lower right hand side of the photo)

I'm very curious about how the ancients discovered and identified the planets and associated them with their gods. Perhaps the library has some interesting books.

Only noticed the large circular black patch, above the moon, extending from the eclipsed area, when I saw this photo.

It was an exciting New Year's eve, astronomy-wise :D

1 comment:

G said...

Fascinating Fotos! Thank you for posting. Hope you've had a chance to The Star of Bethlehem that, I think, came out last yr....really got me interested in how God controls the heavens. I think its at bethlemstar.net, if you're not familiar with it.

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