I went to see Iron Man 3 today and the played a Coke commercial before the movie. Watch the first few seconds of it and note the sunrise in particular.
Okay, now think about a real sunrise assuming you are in the United States (this is a U.S. commercial and they sure look like they are Americans in the U.S. so I think this is a reasonable assumption). To watch a sunrise you face east. In the U.S., the Sun rises from the north (which is to your left) and moves to the south (to your right) which is exactly the opposite of what happens here!
I suspect that they took a sunset and ran it backwards for this clip. From the U.S., the Sun sets in the west and moves from the south (your left) to the north (your right). Running this backwards would produce the effect observed in the commercial (it is possible they sent a film crew south of the equator to film a sunrise, but that seems wasteful for the clip they wanted).
As someone who photographs lots of sunsets, this type of mistake bugs me. I would like to point out that I can be hired as a consultant on these matters for a very reasonable fee to keep your company from looking silly.
Low clouds dotted the western horizon at sunset in Tucson tonight. However, that is not all bad. They can slightly dim the setting Sun making it easier to photograph sunspots. Today there were plenty of good sized sunspots. These pics were taken with my Canon 60D and 70-300mm zoom lens (at 300mm).
If you want to compare it to today’s Sun, check out the Spaceweather archive. Note, due to an effect called field rotation, the Sun is my pics is rotated 90 degrees clockwise relative to the image on Spaceweather.
Comet PanSTARRS is fading, but it is not gone yet. In fact it is better placed for northern hemisphere observers. It appears higher in the sky and is visible longer after sunset so you can see it in a darker sky. In fact, the farther north you are the better…Tucson is a little farther south than the best seats.
And this week PanSTARRS is passing near the Andromeda Galaxy. The closest approach is Thursday, but I went out to see them tonight. They are low in the sky and I had to wait for it to get dark. There was a pretty narrow window of opportunity…I had to wait for it to get dark enough to see them but then they were low in the sky and about to set.
But see them I did! I drove out to Saguaro National Park West. I did this so I wouldn’t have to try and spot them through the city lights…basically put Tucson behind me. They were not too difficult in 8×42 binoculars. Both were visible in the same field of view. And I got a few pics of them. Pics were also difficult…if the exposure was too long, the sky was overexposed. Too short of an exposure and they wouldn’t show up at all.
In this first picture, the trail made by the plane points to a small fuzzy blob. That fuzzy blob is PanSTARRS. Now look almost directly above the comet for another fuzzy blob. That fuzzy blob is the Andromeda Galaxy.
That picture is cropped. Here is a wider shot of the same image.
Finally, one more with the comet just about to set over the mountain. Oddly enough, this time the plane trail points toward the Andromeda Galaxy!
The next few nights you can watch PanSTARRS pass by the Andromeda Galaxy. You will probably need a pair of binoculars to see them. Make sure you have a clear western horizon…preferably without city lights to your west.
Tonight after sunset we were treated to a Sun Pillar in Tucson. Sun pillars are caused by light reflecting off of ice crystals high in the atmosphere. I was out photographing sunset (weak green flash tonight) and was starting to put my camera away. I turned around to look west again and that’s when I saw the pillar. Glad I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to get out of there!
Trying to catch up after last night…those in the northern hemisphere are enjoying Comet PanSTARRS this week. Well, I am visiting Chile and got to see Comet Lemmon last night. Comet Lemmon is pretty far south right now but will be putting in a dawn appearance for the northern hemisphere in April.
Comet Lemmon (discovered on Mount Lemmon in Arizona, hence the name) was not visible to the naked eye last night. It did show up nicely in small binoculars and on my Canon 60d.
Comet Lemmon also has a very different color than PanSTARRS. You have probably noticed PanSTARRS is very yellowish while Lemmon is much more blue. Cyanogen gas and diatomic carbon are tinting this comet whereas PanSTARRS is dominated by reflected sunlight from its nice dust tail giving it a more yellowish ting.
I don’t think Lemmon will put on as nice of a show as PanSTARRS, but its worth checking out as it moves north.
Today I am in Chile at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. I have been having a great time touring and doing night photography and observing (my camera is outside snapping shots for a timelapse I hope to put together tomorrow). I am sure I will post lots of pics and several blogs, but wanted to get tonight’s sunset posted. The Pacific Ocean is to the west and you get great temperature gradients when you look down from the top of the mountain over the cold Pacific Ocean. Lots of great effects tonight. Here are three of my favorite pics.
First look closely at the top limb of the Sun for a hint of a purple flash. I have never recorded purple so early in a sunset.
Finally, the same atmospheric processes that create these sunsets are also present at Moonset. Tonight the Moon became very distorted as it set.
I really wasn’t quite prepared for that and missed a great pic. I was watching the Moonset on liveview on my camera and saw a green flash FROM THE SETTING MOON! Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to capture it. I will have another chance from CTIO tomorrow night and will be ready!
It is late and getting cold and I am getting tired, so other posts will have to wait until tomorrow!
I was out again tonight…and Comet PanSTARRS brightened a bit from last night. Tonight it was visible to the naked eye for a while…fairly easily as well. If you haven’t seen it yet, try tomorrow night when the comet will be just above the crescent Moon. Unfortunately, I will be traveling but will try to get photos on my layover! Yes, I am that determined!
So here are a few shots from tonight…you can see a plane passing through a couple of them.
Comet Pan-STARRS has been heading toward Earth since its discover a couple years ago. Its orbit is steeply inclined with respect to Earth’s and its approach has been from the south so southern hemisphere observers have been taunting us with their views for a couple of weeks now.
Now the comet is heading rapidly north and is putting on a show after sunset for those in the northern hemisphere. Lots of clouds in Tucson recently, but the last weather system moved out and the skies cleared today and we had a wonderful sunset. First a few pics of the sunset.
It took about half an hour after sunset before the comet became visible. I never saw it naked eye but it was easy in my 8×42 binoculars, very nice in my 20×80 binoculars and even better in a pair of 22×100 binoculars that I was testing for work this weekend! All my pics were taken with a Canon 60d and a 70-300mm zoom lens at 300mm and f/5.6.
Pan-STARRS had it closest approach to the Sun which is when comets are usually at their brightest. The comet will slowly fade but should be good for a week or so (longer depending on what sort of optical aid you have!) March 12th should be a particularly good night to catch the comet as it will be near the crescent Moon (I, unfortunately will be traveling…if I am really lucky and my plane is on time and I can find a spot, I MIGHT be able to see/photograph it while on a layover in Dallas…that will be my last chance to see it as I am heading to Chile and the comet will not be visible from the southern hemisphere by then!)
So get out your binoculars and look for the comet after sunset. Just google Comet Pan-STARRS for finder charts…many good ones are on the web.
Although closest approach between Mercury and Mars was Friday night, the show is still going on and the Moon is joining the party. But before I get to that, sunset was particularly nice tonight. There were several nice flashes starting with green and even including blue and purple. Interestingly enough, last year on almost exactly this same date, I got wonderful pics of multicolored flashes as well. Wondering if there is something about this mountain that makes it particularly conducive to producing this phenomena. Click to see larger versions and look close for the colors.
After sunset, I was actually more interested in seeing the crescent Moon tonight. I knew it could be a challenge since new Moon occurred earlier today (12:22am MST) so the Moon would be less than 19 hours pas new. I finally spotted the Moon at about 6:43pm putting the Moon 18 hours and 21 minutes past new. At this time less than 1% of the Moon was illuminated.I probably could have found it a few minutes earlier, but I was looking a little too far south for it…I found it a little farther north than I was expecting (that will teach me to look up its azimuth before I go observing!) Here is a close up of the very young crescent Moon with a plane flying by.
As I said, Mercury and Mars are still fairly close together so I turned my attention to them. My real goal was to see if I could get Mercury, Mars and the crescent Moon. The Moon was rapidly setting at that time and I barely got it. Mercury is the brighter one toward the top and Mars is slightly beneath it. I got a plane in this one as well. The Moon is lower in the sky and its light is passing through more atmosphere so it doesn’t show up as well. Look to the lower right of the bright plane, just above the horizon. You have to look very close.
Tomorrow night the Moon will be much higher in the sky and easier to see. The Moon will be above and to the right of Mercury and about 3.8% illuminated, much easier to see. Mars will be the toughest of the three to pick out against the twilight sky, so have patience but don’t wait too long or they will set behind the western horizon before you see them!
Tonight was the Mercury-Mars conjunction when they passed within about 0.25 degrees of each other. Well, closest approach was at 17:00UT (about 10am Tucson time) so these pics were about 8.5 hours after closest approach. That may not seem like much, but tonight Mercury is above Mars, the reverse of last night, so these guys were moving fast. Here are a few pics.
- Coke Commercials Go South (of the equator, that is)
- A Spotty Sunset
- Comet PanSTARRS and the Andromeda Galaxy
- A Sun Pillar From Tucson
- Comet Lemmon
- Sunset and Moonset in Chile
- Comet PanSTARRS Gets Brighter
- Comet Pan-STARRS Finally Enters the Evening Sky!
- The Moon Joins the Mercury-Mars Party
- The Mercury-Mars Conjunction
- A Couple of Planets and the ISS
- The Winter Sky