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Comet PanSTARRS — Night #2

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 10:00pm EST

Comet PanSTARRS low on the western horizon with the 2-day old Moon. [March 13, 2013 @ 8:10pm EDT; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-200mm f/5.3 5s ISO 100]. Click for high resolution version

Comet PanSTARRS [March 13, 2013 @ 8:04pm EDT; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-200mm f/5.6 3s ISO 100]. Click for high resolution version

Comet PanSTARRS [March 13, 2013 @ 8:04pm EDT; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-200mm f/5.6 3s ISO 100]. Click for high resolution version

Comet PanSTARRS [March 13, 2013 @ 8:06pm EDT; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-200mm f/5.6 2s ISO 200] Click for high resolution version

Comet PanSTARRS [March 13, 2013 @ 8:06pm EDT; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-200mm f/5.6 2s ISO 200] Click for high resolution version

Comet PanSTARRS — Night #1

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 10:00pm EST

Caught my first glimpse of Comet PanSTARRS tonight! Marginally naked-eye from a sub-optimal site. But very beautiful through 10×80 WW II binoculars and my grab-n-go 66mm scope.

Click for high resolution view

Click for high resolution version

International Space Station flies over Charlotte

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 9:44pm EST

Our Live Sky Cam captured two images of the International Space Station as it flew over the Southeast tonight shortly after 7 p.m. EST.  The International Space Station can easily be spotted with the naked eye because it’s relatively large (110m x 100m x 30m) and reflects a lot of sunlight.

Note that the camera was already in nighttime mode, shooting 20-second exposures.  Hence the ISS appears as a streak of light because of its motion during the 20 second exposure. The twilight sky appears brighter than normal due to the long exposure.

Click for high resolution image


Some technical information about the flyover provided by the excellent website http://iss.astroviewer.net/observation.php


Here are the original sky shots. The ISS was captured on two sequential 20-second exposures taken 1 minute apart.  The ISS is a faint streak low on the west northwest horizon in the first image and much higher in the second image.

Click for high resolution image

Click for high resolution image

Jupiter and the Moon

Monday, January 21st, 2013 11:00pm EST

Jupiter and the Moon with only 1/2 degree or one Moon diameter of separation. This photograph was taken at 10:11pm EST on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. They won’t appear this close again until 2026!

Geminid Meteor Shower

Friday, December 14th, 2012 9:44pm EST

Dr. Chris observed about 50 meteors over a one-hour period.  Most were faint ones like the photo above.  Observing conditions were ideal….clear skies and no Moon. The Geminids are the last big meteor shower of the year and usually put on a spectacular show.

Bright Meteor

Saturday, November 10th, 2012 2:15pm EST

Click for high-resolution image

The Live Sky Cam captured this very bright meteor streaking across the western sky very early this morning. Be sure to click on the image for a closer look.

A meteor, or colloquially shooting star or falling star, is the visible path of a meteoroid that enters the Earth’s atmosphere.  Meteoroids are typically pebble size pieces of debris that enter the atmosphere going approximately 18 miles per second.  They typically burn up in the mesosphere at an altitude of approximately 50 miles.


Our Little Piece of Halley’s Comet

Saturday, October 20th, 2012 4:31pm EST

A Piece of Halley’s Comet Rains Down on Charlotte
(Click for larger image)

Our Live Sky Cam managed to a snap a shot of an Orionid meteor streaking down on Charlotte. The Orionid meteors are debris left behind by Halley’s Comet.  The Earth passes through the comet’s orbit twice a year, although the comet itself only comes around every 75 years.

Actually seeing an Orionid in the Live Sky Cam was a pleasant surprise because the viewing angle was far from ideal. Our Live Sky Cam is pointed toward the west horizon which was about 90 degrees away from the constellation of Orion at 5am EDT when this image was recorded.  The Orionids radiate from the direction of the Orion constellation — hence their name.

Here’s a bright Perseid meteor we photographed in August.  A much more spectacular flash but not nearly as pedigreed as the Orionid.

Orionid Meteor Shower to Peak This Weekend (Oct 20-21)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 10:58pm EST

The 2012 Orionid meteor shower will peak this weekend! Look for the greatest numbers of meteors to streak the sky in the dark hours before dawn on Saturday, October 20, and Sunday, October 21, with forecasters giving the nod to Sunday. Fortunately, the waxing crescent moon will set way before the prime time hours for watching the Orionids.

The Orionid meteor shower isn’t one of the year’s richest, but it’s pretty. Every year it produces up to 20 “shooting stars” visible per hour before dawn given good sky conditions.

The Orionids have an illustrious parentage. Like the Eta Aquarids of May, they are bits of debris shed long ago by Halley’s Comet. The two showers are essentially one and the same; Earth intersects a single, broad stream of meteoroids at two places in its orbit on opposite sides of the Sun.

Sky & Telescope

Can you spot the Moon?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 9:00am EST

This is one of the first good sightings of the Moon since the Live Sky Cam was installed in late July. The Moon’s position near the horizon varies over the course of the year due to the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis and, to a less degree, the tilt of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.  The Moon has been moving from South to North (left to right in the image below) lately toward Moonset and is now regularly traveling through the Live Sky Cam’s field of view. Hint: look left of center in the photo below

Technical details:
Waning Gibbous, 17.9 days old, ~88% illumination, azimuth 278d 45m, altitude 18d 44m at 8:49 a.m. EDT on 10/03/2012

Moonset over Mint Hill (8:49 a..m. on Wednesday, 10/03/2012)
[click on image for a larger view]


Perseid Meteor!

Sunday, August 12th, 2012 8:00am EST

Captured this meteor flash early this morning at 3:06am during the annual Perseid meteor shower. The weather forecast was not good but our “robo-cam” took advantage of a break in the cloud cover.

Meteor flashes across the sky at 3:06 am EDT on August 12, 2012

Click on the image for the high-resolution version.