Astronomical Observing and Photography - Joseph Cali


Hi Everybody,

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 course, lockdowns.

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. 


So, what's happening in our skies in November-December?

Bye Bye Milky Way
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 eve.

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 January. 

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..........

Meteor Showers
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

Southern Taurids

Active from September 23rd to November 19th. Peak night Oct 28-29

Northern Taurids

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. https://joe-cali.com/eclipses/Eye_Safety/index.html
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 3-4%. 

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. 

Best Wishes

Joe Cali


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