I am a member of the Texas Astronomical Society and have
been active in Amateur Astronomy and Astrophotography since
Enjoy the links on this site and take a look at my images.
They are updated frequently so check back often.
2017 Total Solar Eclipse Visible Across
The United States.
Aug. 21, 2017, American skywatchers will be treated to a rare and
spectacular celestial show — the first total solar eclipse visible from
the continental United States in nearly four decades.
total solar eclipse last darkened soil on the U.S. mainland on Feb. 26,
1979. But August 2017 will mark the first time in 99 years that such an
event is "readily available to people from coast to coast.
fact that an eclipse can occur at all is a fluke of celestial mechanics
and time. Since the moon formed about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been
gradually moving away from Earth (by about 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters
per year). Right now the moon is at the perfect distance to appear in
our sky exactly the same size as the sun, and therefore block it out.
These are a happy accident of nature. The sun's 864,000-mile diameter
is fully 400 times greater than that of our puny moon, which measures
just about 2,160 miles. But the moon also happens to be about 400 times
closer to Earth than the sun (the ratio varies as both orbits are
elliptical), and as a result, when the orbital planes intersect and the
distances align favorably, the new moon can appear to completely blot
out the disk of the sun. On the average a total eclipse occurs somewhere
on Earth about every 18 months.
Click on image to enlarge to full resolution
the brief period of totality, when the sun is completely covered, the
beautiful corona — the tenuous outer atmosphere of the sun — is
revealed. Totality may last as long as 7 minutes 31 seconds, though most
total eclipses are usually much shorter.
closer you are to the path of totality, the greater the solar
obscuration. If, for instance, you are positioned just outside of the
path of the total eclipse, you will see the sun wane to a narrow
crescent, then thicken up again as the shadow passes by.
Image of the Month:
Spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 hurtles through massive galaxy cluster
Abell 3627 some 220 million light years away.
The distant galaxy is seen in this colorful Hubble/Chandra composite
image through a foreground of the Milky Way's stars toward the
southern constellation Triangulum Australe. As the spiral speeds
along at nearly 7 million kilometers per hour, its gas and dust are
stripped away when ram pressure with the cluster's own hot, tenuous
intracluster medium overcomes the galaxy's gravity. Evident in
Hubble's near visible light data, bright star clusters have formed
in the stripped material along the short, trailing blue streaks.
Chandra's X-ray data shows off the enormous extent of the heated,
stripped gas as diffuse, darker blue trails stretching over 400,000
light-years toward the bottom right. The significant loss of dust
and gas will make new star formation difficult for this galaxy. A
yellowish elliptical galaxy, lacking in star forming dust and gas,
is just to the right of ESO 137-001 in the frame.
Click on image to enlarge to full resolution.
New Telescope in Chile Now Searching for
A new alien-planet–hunting telescope has just come online in Chile, and
it could help scientists peer into the atmospheres of relatively small
planets circling nearby stars.
The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS for short)
— located at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal
Observatory — is designed to seek out planets two to eight times the
diameter of Earth as they pass in front of their stars. Such a planet
will cause the light of the star to dip ever so slightly when passing in
front of it, allowing the telescope to detect the planet during its
"We are excited to begin our search for small
planets around nearby stars," Peter Wheatley, an NGTS project lead from
the University of Warwick, U.K., said in as statement. "The NGTS
discoveries, and follow-up observations by telescopes on the ground and
in space, will be important steps in our quest to study the atmospheres
and composition of small planets such as the Earth."
The instrument is designed to measure the
brightness of stars more accurately than any other ground-based
wide-field survey, ESO officials said. The NGTS is made up of 12
telescopes that will operate robotically, according to ESO. Astronomers
using the survey hope to find small, bright planets in order to learn
more about the densities of them.
By taking these measurements, scientists might be
able to learn more about what makes up the planets — that is, whether
the planets could be rocky, gaseous, watery or composed of other
materials, ESO officials added.
"It may also be possible to probe the atmospheres
of the exoplanets whilst they are in transit," ESO officials said in the
same statement. "During the transit, some of the star's light passes
through the planet's atmosphere, if it has one, and leaves a tiny, but
detectable, signature. So far, only a few such very delicate
observations have been made, but NGTS should provide many more potential
NGTS' work is only the beginning. Scientists will
use other telescopes to conduct follow-up studies of planet candidates
that the survey finds when looking at the sky.
A consortium from the United Kingdom, Sweden and
Germany built the NGTS. ESO is an astronomy organization supported by 15
different countries. The organization operates three observing sites,
including Paranal, around Chile.
"We needed a site where there were many clear
nights and the air was clear and dry so that we could make very accurate
measurements as often as possible — Paranal was the best choice by far,"
Don Pollacco of the University of Warwick and an NGTS project lead, said
in a statement.
International Space Station
High Definition Earth Viewing
High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment places four commercially
available HD cameras on the exterior of the space station and uses them
to stream live video of Earth for viewing online. The cameras are
enclosed in a temperature specific housing and are exposed to the harsh
radiation of space. Analysis of the effect of space on the video
quality, over the time HDEV is operational, may help engineers decide
which cameras are the best types to use on future missions. High school
students helped design some of the cameras' components, through the High
Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, and student
teams operate the experiment.
Black Image = ISS is on the night side of the
Earth. Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with
the ISS is not available.
The Hubble Deep Field: The most important image ever taken.
It is the farthest we have ever seen into space using the most
advanced telescope we have.
Weather / Sky
The Clear Sky Clocks below are the
astronomers forecast. They show at a glance when, in the next 48
hours, we might expect clear and dark skies for one specific
observing site. The site is specifically intended for amateur
astronomers. The forecast data comes from a numerical weather model
run by The Canadian Meteorological Center.
Clear Sky Clocks
Cerro Paranal is an
astronomers paradise with its stunningly dark, steady and transparent
sky. Located in the barren Atacama Desert of Chile it is home to some of
the world’s leading telescopes.
Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located on the Paranal mountain,
composed of four 8 m telescopes which can combine their light to make a
giant telescope by interferometry. This film
is made with footage from the November 2011 TWAN imaging expedition to
Paranal assigned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Photographed 14 nights in a row from usually 05:30 pm to 08:00 a.m.
If nothing is faster
than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) then we are crawling
when trying to even break free of our own galaxy. This video puts
the distance of the universe into perspective.
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
JWST: Hubble's Successor
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called
JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for
launch in 2014. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the
early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Webb will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary
systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. Webb's
instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of
the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.
Webb will have a large mirror, 6.5
meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis
court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully
open, so both will fold up and open once Webb is in outer space. Webb
will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the
**Click on Arrows icon in lower
right of the frame to view the video in full screen mode. **
A lunar phase or phase of the moon
refers to the appearance of the illuminated portion of the Moon as
seen by an observer. The lunar phases vary cyclically as the Moon
orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of
the Earth, Moon and Sun. Click on each button to view the
various phases or click on the 'Run Animation' button to view
the entire lunar cycle.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or
LRO, has returned its first
imagery of the Apollo moon
landing sites. The pictures show
the Apollo missions' lunar
module descent stages sitting on
the moon's surface, as long
shadows from a low sun angle
make the modules' locations
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Camera, or LROC, was able to
image all six Apollo sites.
The satellite reached lunar
orbit June 23, 2009 and captured the
Apollo sites between July 11 and
15. Though it had been expected
that LRO would be able to
resolve the remnants of the
Apollo mission, these first
images came before the
spacecraft reached its final
As of 09/06/11, NASA has now
released improved images for
Apollo's 12, 14, and 17. These
images have been added below.
thumbnail image to enlarge
Lunar map of Apollo landing sites
Image width: 282 meters
Right Image width: 50 meters