I think most of us will be happy to see the back end of 2021 here in
Australia. Here in SE New South Wales and the ACT things are slowly
returning to normal after a long lockdown. Let's hope 2022 brings a
return to some measure of normality. The various lock downs and
restrictions combined with a little bit of wetter cloudier weather took
its toll on most of my workshop program with most of the program
cancelled and interest and enrolments light as was to be expected given
the risks posed by delta, uncertainty with travel restrictions and of
A lot of preparation takes place before a workshop is even offered.
So, in advance of each workshop being posted for enrolment, all that
preparatory work was performed, in some cases for a workshop to be run
just once, and sometimes not at all. Even the Nightscapes Course which
has been run for a couple of years face to face had to be re-jigged for
the new delivery format.
Despite the recent opening up and relaxation of restrictions, I
informed Photoaccess that I wanted to put the workshop program to bed
for this year and we withdrew all courses that were on offer. My
apologies to those of you who had already enrolled. Hopefully we can
pick it up next year.
Meantime, I've had a fair bit of clear weather out here in the central
west. Some of you came out and stayed here for the one workshop that we
got up before the weather and Delta outbreak shut us down. Beyond that
I've done a lot of my own work during lockdown and under these gorgeous
skies. Yesterday marked one year since I moved out here and there are
four galleries under the heading "Past Year's Work" with many of my
astronomical images captured here this past 12 months.
Bye Bye Milky Way
So, what's happening in our skies in November-December?
I am always amused by the various posts that appear on astronomy social
media groups. Various people make absolute declarations of fact that
the Milky Way season is over. Incredibly, these usually start in July.
The Milky Way galactic core is still in a position where it is able to
be photographed at the end of twilight. This picture was taken two
nights ago on Sunday night, Creepy old deserted house on Halloween's
Even when it finally does disappear into twilight over the next few weeks, there is a beautiful summer Milky Way that awaits.
You only need wait until January when the Milky Way again
reappears. This picture below was taken from my backyard last
Wake up Geoff! Sun's up!
The Sun (aka Geoff) has woken from a long multi-year solar minimum
slumber. More sunspots are appearing. There is no safe way to look at
or photograph these without using highly specialised filters so don't
even try. With increased sunspot activity comes increased CME's
(Coronal Mass Ejections). These are commonly referred to in the media
as solar flares. Last Thursday there was a class X1 flare (the
strongest classification) and today there was another. This photo
below is of today's much smaller CME. To give you some scale, the white
circle is the outline of the Sun's disc behind the coronagraph. It is
1,000,000 km in diameter.
Today's CME photo at 9:54 EDT today Tuesday Nov 02:-
And below is the big eruption that occurred last Friday.
The little streaks all over the screen is noise generated by the
avalanche of radiation that hit the Earth and the orbiting solar
observatory at the time of eruption. Cosmic and Gamma rays move at the
speed of light and only take 8 mins to arrive. Big auroras were
expected but the main intense pulse of the flare (the solar wind)
narrowly missed the Earth when it reached us after about 30 hrs.
Nonetheless, on Saturday night I was monitoring the sky and saw a faint
glow visible to the eye. When I photographed it, I saw this amazing
airglow display. The radiation that hit energizes gases in the upper
atmosphere and causes them to emit light as the release energy and
return to their natural state.
Details: ISO 25,600 30s 14mm f2.8
and this, even looking north, away from the poles towards Orion and Taurus.
Details: ISO 12,800 30s 14mm f2.8
Keep your eyes open for airglow and aurora! This story isn't over. Maybe even tonight.
But wait, there's more..........
Five Meteor Showers visible between now and Christmas. None are really
high rates but you will see some. I've seen a handful of meteors per
hour every night I've been out. The Leonids on November 17-18 and the
Geminids on December 13-14 are the best. Moon interferes with both
these dates this year.
Orionid Meteor Shower
September 23rd to November 27th. Peak night Oct 21-22
Active from September 23rd to November 19th. Peak night Oct 28-29
Active from October 19th to December 10th. Peak night Nov 10-11.
Leonid Meteor Shower
November 5th to November 30th. Peak night Nov 17-18.
Geminid Meteor Shower
December 4th to December 16th. Peak night Dec 13-14th
Twilight Lunar Eclipse on November 19th
A deep partial lunar eclipse will be partly visible during twilight.
Maximum eclipse occurs as the Moon is rising and the Sun is setting. I
have written an article here describing what you will see in detail as
seen from our local region.
What's that you say? You want more?
How about A Solar Eclipse?
On December 4th, Canberra will see a small magnitude eclipse of the
Sun. The eclipse in total in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to the
south of Argentina and Chile. In Canberra, we will see the Sun with a
tiny little bite out of it 5% of the diameter covered conveniently at
Sunset when the Sun might, and I stress might, be a dim red ball on the
horizon. The safe way to view is to use a pinhole projector or eclipse
glasses specially designed for the task. I'm sure you have all watched
the odd sunset so enjoy but be careful. There is an article on my web
site about eye safety and viewing solar eclipses.
Eye safety for a partial, annular or total Eclipse of the Sun
A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and
the Earth. Total solar eclipses can only occur at some New Moon's but
they don't occur every New Moon because the Moon's orbit is inclined 6
o to the Earth's orbital plane. Eclipses only occur when the Moon
passes through the Earth's orbital plane at New Moon otherwise the
shadow misses the Earth (as illustrated in the ...
If you want to take photos, when the sun is near the horizon, try
ISO100, f22, 1/1000s as a starting point and vary your exposure as
required from that setting. Don't look through an optical finder, use
live view. Be careful, you can damage the sensor from the heat of the
sun. The partial eclipse begins at 19:56:54 EDT on December 4th and is
still in progress at sunset at 20:06 EDT.
Below is a picture I took from Mt Ainsley in January 2009 of the Sun in
a 0.6% eclipse setting into bushfire smoke. This one will be about
I don't believe it....you still want more?
Ok, I'll throw in a naked eye comet for Christmas.
Comet Leonard 2021/A3 will appear in the skies after sunset after Dec
18th. Now here's the catch, it's only just naked eye. It won't be easy
to see. At the end of twilight on December 18, the head of the comet
will be just north of south west with the tail if any heading up to the
right (north) just above Jupiter. Best seen with binoculars, 7x50mm if
you have them. Moonlight will also interfere with this comet on this
night, the full Moon is on December 18. But within a few days you'll
have a short moonless window in which to look for it. Each night it
will get a little higher but also a little fainter. It will begin to
fade by new year's day.
Lot's to keep you busy until Christmas and beyond.
Have a Merry Christmas everybody, stay safe, drive safe and I'll catch you in 2022.