Astro Bob's Backyard Astronomy

© Bob King. Used with permission.

Bob King is back from his flight in search of the annular eclipse, and not only did he get spectacular pictures, he's written a whole article about it.

Find out about the flight and the eclipse in his article, "Chasing the Sun at 39,000 Feet," in Sky & Telescope magazine.

Another viewing/photo opportunity is much closer to home and you don't even need any special gear.  Just head out to an unobstructed view of the northern horizon about 10pm and look up into the mesosphere (about 50 miles up) and you may see the pale blue of noctilucent clouds.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

While disgruntled local weather watchers clambered out of bed early Thursday morning, only to be greeted by clouds instead of a (safe) peek at the annual eclipse, Bob King was almost 40,000 feet up in the air, far above the clouds and just about everything else, on his first eclipse flight.

He was invited on the 2021 Annual Eclipse Flight by Sky & Telescope magazine.  Enjoy his description and photos of the flight on their website, here.

Bob King. Used with permission.

The Curiosity, the Perseverance and China's Mars rover Zhurong are all trundling (or parked) on the red planet at the moment ...

China's answer to Starlink is hoping to add 13,000 satellites to the orbit already home to Starlink's 1600 ... here's an interesting article from March about possible effects on the planet if Elon Musk gets his way and can add 42,000.

Meanwhile, there's a terrific chance to see the International Space Station all night long over the next week or so, and next Wednesday, plan to get up early for the Super Blood Moon Eclipse early in the morning!

Andrew Spencer/Unsplash

The weirdness of gravity (and you could jump higher on the moon),  and a chance to see bits and pieces of Halley's Comet tonight!

Plus Venus and Saturn return to the evening sky.


NASA engineers got their "Wright Brothers moment" Monday when the solar-powered Ingenuity helicopter climbled straight up about ten feet, hovered, and dropped down again, the 40 second flight making history.  (You can see the video here: "NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight")


The Mars Perseverance rover carried the Ingenuity helicopter carefully to the red planet ... then set it down and "trundled away."

Undaunted, Ingenuity unfurled its solar panels, charged itself up and survived a brisk (-130 ℉) night alone.

Sparky Stensaas. Used with permission.

The sky was just begging us to get out and look at it last week.

From the weekend auroras and the waxing crescent moon to the upcoming waning crescent moon (with appearances from guest stars Saturn and Jupiter), there are all kinds of things for star-gazers to get outside for in the next few weeks.

You can read more from Astro Bob at his blog here:

Bryan Hansel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The weather is getting warmer and we've been having some clear nights recently, so maybe it's time to try your hand at some night sky photography.*

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mars is hopping with company these days: the United Arab Emirates and Japan have launched spacecraft to the red planet and the Perseverance touched down February 18th.

And no one is more excited about it than our own Bob King.

National Library of Norway

Get out and do a little stargazing on these clear nights ... but dress appropriately. (Roald Amundsen had the right idea in this photo).

Meanwhile, Astro Bob King says "all the planets are gathered around the Sun to keep warm," which means we can't see them for a while, but Mars will be a hopping place for a bit.

Anne Morris/Unsplash

As all Douglas Adams fans know, 42 is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything. (It was first calculated by the supercomputer Deep Thought after seven and a half million years of contemplation.)

52 has nowhere near that kind of gravitas ... but since it's the number of minutes we've gained in daylight since the winter solstice in December ... it makes us feel immeasureably better.

Copyright Bob King. Used with permission.

So much going on in the skies - if the clouds would just let up so we could see it!

Saturn and Jupiter and going their separate ways these days, but Mercury is waiting in the wings to console us for their loss.

We've intercepted a radio transmission from Proxima Centauri - communication or not?

Library of Congress [public domain]

December's full moon, the "cold moon," arrives tonight, though in our area it may be obscured by clouds and snowfall. However, if the clouds hold back on Sunday morning between 4 and 6 a.m. there will be a good chance of seeing the Quadrantids, an annual January meteor shower, radiating from a point above the handle of the Big Dipper. If the waxing moon to the west is too bright, Astro Bob recommends standing on the eastern side of a building to give yourself a good opportunity to see them.

Copyright Bob King. Used with permission.

The fabulous northern lights forecast for last week didn't materialize - the magnetic field was pointed the wrong way.

Then if you gave up on the Geminids last weekend and went to bed - the skies cleared around midnight.

But there's one last chance to see something cool and magical in the skies, and it's not only visible at a sensible hour, you have a window to see it of at least a week.

You can find more stargazing advice, stories and news at Astro Bob's Astronomy for Everyone.

Copyright Bob King. Used with permission.

Last night, astronomer and photographer Bob King went to the shores of Lake Superior to watch - and photograph - the moonrise.

But for the next week and a half, he'll be making plans for a meteor shower-watching party with his family, and preparing a step-by-step tutorial on how to take fabulous photographs of the Geminid meteor shower and stay comfy and warm at the same time.

You can find more Astro Bob here.