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Geomagnetic storm coming our way | Earth | EarthSky June 22, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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There’s a real chance of aurora in Michigan!

Geomagnetic storm coming our way | Earth | EarthSky.

Of course the solstice means the best places for aurora to happen are also the places most likely to be too bright to see the aurora. But don’t let that stop you from getting outside and looking up. You might also catch a noctilucent cloud, and of course Venus and Jupiter are worth watching.

Peas and onions with bacon  June 10, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
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My husband had a conversation with a coworker that prompts me to say this is a thing.

You will need:
Two slices of bacon
One chopped onion
2 cups of frozen peas

Place two slices of bacon in a sauce pan. If the bacon is frozen, add a bit of water. Cook over medium low heat until the bacon has started to brown and the bottom of the pan is nicely glazed. If you like your bacon really crisp, cook it until the edges crisp.

And the onion and cook until it is transparent and lightly browned. If you want, you can add minced garlic when the onions have started to turn transparent, but have not yet started to brown.

Dump the bacon and onions onto a couple of paper towels to drain. If you don’t have really crispy bacon, you may want to chop the bacon up.

bacon and onion actually looks kinda gross on paper towel...

bacon and onion actually looks kinda gross on paper towel…

Add the frozen peas to the pan and turn the heat up to medium high. As they melt, the liquid will deglaze the plane. Stir every 2 or 3 minutes until the peas are warm and the liquid evaporates.

The melting peas will deglaze the pan

The melting peas will deglaze the pan

Put the bacon and onion back in the pan (be sure you get all the onion bits!) If you want to add thyme, mint, dill, or tarragon, now is the time, but go easy on them. They don’t all play well with onion or garlic. Still well, serve, and enjoy!

It looked better before the camera steamed up...

It looked better before the camera steamed up…

As a footnote, take the pictures first. If you try to switch apps one handed to get a picture, the Post button in the wordpress iPhone App is in just the right spot to hit when you fumble your phone.

June meteors – in daytime! June 4, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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There’s an incredibly unusual meteor shower going on, but it’s a bit tough to observe. Here’s the text from the spaceweather.com email alert:

Earth is entering a stream of debris from an unknown comet, and this is causing one of the most intense meteor showers of the year.  Ironically, most sky watchers won’t notice because the shower peaks in broad daylight.  We only know it’s happening because a radar in Canada is picking up echoes from meteoroids streaking through the blue sky overhead.  Astronomers call these meteors “Arietids” because they emerge from the constellation Aries not far from the June sun.  For observing tips on how you might be able to see earthgrazing Arietids just before sunrise in the mornings ahead, visit http://spaceweather.com

For “observing” daytime meteors, you might want to check out the AMS’s page on forward scattering radio observations. They have a nice set of recordings, so you can hear the difference between meteors and other random events. Once you know what to listen for,  you can set up your radio, or head back to Spaceweather, where they have usually have links to live audio streams.

June 2015 Urban Observing June 1, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
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Special Events

Meteor Showers

June is a slow month for meteor watchers. There are no good showers, so your best bet is catching a random event. In really dark skies, you might catch as many as six per hour. If you really want to see a shooting star, check the AMS website each week for prospects.


  • Full: June 2
  • New: June 16


Highlight of the month: Jupiter and Venus close in on each other in the western skies at dusk, nearly meeting on June 30!

Jupiter and Venus in twilight

June 30, 10 PM, looking toward the west at Jupiter and Saturn, which will be so close some people may have difficulty seeing them as two objects.

Mercury is in conjunction at the start of the month. Look for it in the east at sunrise beginning around June 12. A thin waning crescent passes mercury between the 14th and 15th. It reaches greatest western elongation on the 24th, when it is also right next to the bright star Aldebaran. The last week of the month is a good time for morning skywatchers spot it.

Mercury and the Aldebaran are just above the trees.

Looking east at sunrise on June 26

Venus is at greatest eastern elongation on the 5th. It is bright enough to stand out in the long slow summer sunsets, so evening observers should be able to catch it all month. On June 1, it is nearly in line with the twins Castor and Pollux. It passes the Behive cluster, M44, on June 12. It closes in on Jupiter this month, leading toward a less-than-half-degree separation on the 30th. You should be able to fit both planets in a small telescope that night! Also, don’t miss the view on June 20 when the moon joins the pair.

The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn are in a group.

Looking southwest at about 9:15 PM on June 20.

Mars is in conjunction on the 14th, so it won’t be visible at all this month.

Jupiter makes a spectacular pairing with Venus all month in the evening western sky. See the notes for Venus above.

Saturn returned to the evening skies in May, and is just past opposition as June opens. Look for it with a nearly full moon on the first, and again on the 28th.

Saturn in a purple twilight sky with constellation stick figures

Saturn in the evening sky

Morning observers have an easier chance of finding Uranus on June 11, when the moon is less than 2° and almost due north of it.

Looking east at 5 AM on June 11. With a small telescope, you can use the Moon and reddish Zeta Piscium to find Uranus.

Looking east at 5 AM on June 11. With a small telescope, you can use the Moon and reddish Zeta Piscium to find Uranus. Since this is facing east, south is to the right.

Deep sky:

Summer brings some of the nicest star clusters into view for evening observers. The Beehive cluster, M44, disappears into dusk early in the month, but look for the Wild Duck cluster, M11 to rise about the time M44 sets. That area of the sky also holds the Eagle Nebula (M16), Trifid nebula (M20), and Lagoon Nebula (M8). The clusters associated with the nebulae are usually visible, but the nebula is tough in urban skies.

If globulars are your thing, M13 and M92 are high in the sky an hour after sunset. You might also try for M3, M62 (the flickering globular) or M22 (the Sagittarius cluster).

For those with somewhat darker skies (or filters that work well) check out M81 & M82, two spiral galaxies in Ursa Major. M51 is also a good galaxy to try for.

The dumbbell (M27) and ring (M57) are the two nicest planetary nebula, and they both appear in the summer skies. M57 is slightly more compact, and right between the stars of Libra, making it a bit easier to spot.

Double stars are e treat for urban observers. Point sources penetrate the light pollution much more easily, and a colorful pair can be a nice warm up to a bigger challenge. Look for Albireo or Cor Caroli for color. Alcor & Mizar are an easy warm up (or a frustration break). Epsilon Lyrae will tell you how good your telescope’s resolution is (most ‘scope will show 2 stars, a good one will split it into 4 stars).

If you want color, T Lyrae and Erakis (Herschel’s garnet star) are worth a look. They are two of the reddest stars known.

Full sky map for June 1.

Full sky map for 10 PM June 1.

Full sky map for 10 PM on June 28.

Full sky map for 10 PM on June 28.


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