Archive for the ‘Special Event’ Category

Lunar Event of the Year!

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

The news is everywhere! Tonight’s Full Moon is a special phenomenon, featuring three lunar events in one: a Perigee Full Moon, the second Full Moon of the month, and a Total Lunar Eclipse!

While tonight’s Full Moon may not look any more spectacular than usual – except for those who manage to see passing through Earth’s shadow – the coincidental combination of these three events makes it a moment not to be missed.

PERIGEE FULL MOON: Because the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, there are closest and furthest points along the path. Perigee describes the closest point, and apogee relates the furthest point. A Perigee Full Moon (informally called a “Supermoon”) occurs when a Full Moon closely coincides with Luna’s closest orbital point.

A New Moon can also coincide with perigee, and both – Full and New Moons – often coincide with apogee (sometimes called a “Micromoon”.) Perigee Full Moons are not especially rare; they can occur a few times each year; but coinciding with other lunar events, such as the second Full Moon in a month or a Total Eclipse – is a less common occurrence. Coinciding with both is actually rare! You can learn more about Perigee and Apogee Moons, here.


A Sky Full of Stars: January’s Joys!

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

The New Year begins with an astronomical bang, with two perigee Full Moons, four morning planets, two Moon/planets conjunctions, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower, and a lunar eclipse – all in the month of January!


PERIGEE FULL MOON – January 1/2: January’s first perigee Full Moon will also be the closest, thus largest-appearing, of 2018. The Moon will reach lunar perigee at 21:54 UTC on the 1st and 100% illumination about five hours later, at 02:24 UTC on the 2nd.

You can use a timezone convertor to determine your local times, but wherever you are, the Full Moon will look especially large and bright during the first two nights of the New Year!

FUN FACT: January’s Full Moon is also know as the Wolf Moon. At perigee, it will be 221,559-miles from Earth.



Triple-Treat SkyWatching This Week!

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

This week’s night sky offers a solar system triple-treat, with the Geminid meteor shower on Wednesday night/Thursday morning (12/13-12/14) – a close grouping of Jupiter, Mars, and the crescent Moon on Thursday morning (12/14) – and a near-Earth pass of the Geminids’ source, 3200 Phaethon, on Saturday night (12/16).



Geminids, NASA/JPL

The Geminids; so-called because the shower appears to radiate from constellation Gemini; is a typically prolific event, with frequent fireballs and peak rates of dozens of meteors per hour – and the  meteors, themselves, are bright and often leave long trails. This year’s event should be especially fruitful, with a morning crescent moon offering darker skies for better viewing. has already reported 40+ fireballs in the past three days, so peak night could be especially exciting. UPDATE: reported 475 Geminid fireballs, as of 12/14!


A meteor shower from C/2015 D4 (Borisov) on July 29?

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

UPDATE : A meteor shower from C/2015 D4 (Borisov) on July 29?

In Memoriam: Martino Nicolini

Saturday, January 31st, 2015


Martino Nicolini

Feb 1961 – Jan 2015

… We’ll see you in the stars …


ESCAPE AT BEDTIME, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The lights from the parlour and kitchen shone out
Through the blinds and the windows and bars;
And high overhead and all moving about,
There were thousands of millions of stars.
There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,
Nor of people in church or the Park,
As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,
And that glittered and winked in the dark.

The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,
And the star of the sailor, and Mars,
These shown in the sky, and the pail by the wall
Would be half full of water and stars.
They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,
And they soon had me packed into bed;
But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes,
And the stars going round in my head.


Journey of a Comet

Saturday, December 14th, 2013
Comet ISON rounds the Sun (SOHO LASCO C3 NASA/ESA)

Comet ISON rounds the Sun (SOHO LASCO C3 – NASA/ESA)

Yes, it’s true that comet ISON did not withstand perihelion to become the ‘comet of the century.’ There was no glorious reappearance from behind the Sun, and our local horizons were not graced by a splendid long tail. Nonetheless, ISON’s solar-bound passage was a captivating journey, and it did provide unprecedented opportunities. Much of the world turned their eyes skyward for the first time ever; twelve different spacecraft managed observations and images; and professional researchers formally collaborated with amateur astronomers, in a global campaign to learn more about a pristine Oort Cloud comet. In fact, NASA tells us that “comet ISON was the subject of the most coordinated observing campaign in history.”

With the pro-am partnership in mind, NASA created the Comet ISON Observing Campaign, which encouraged amateur astronomers to share their observations with cometary experts. The amateur sector of this pro-am campaign was housed in the CIOC_ISON Facebook group and the Amateur Observers Program, both of which included participants from around the world and both of which succeeded in collecting an extraordinary amount of data for ongoing research.

In the coming weeks, Astronomy.FM’s own Under British Skies team will present a special program featuring many of the participants, both amateur and professional, of NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign. They’ll discuss Comet ISON’s journey through the inner solar system, the consequences of its encounter with the Sun, and the evidence of post-perihelion remnants. We’ll also hear about the pro-am collaboration: how valuable was the amateur data, what does it mean for future partnerships, and what have the amateurs gained from their involvement?

To whet your appetite for the upcoming special, we present you with an exciting collection of images, acquired by the CIOC_ISON Facebook group and beautifully compiled by group member Chris Pruzenski. Enjoy! And watch this page for dates and times of USB’s CIOC program!