Comet C/2023 P1 Nishamura

This comet was discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura. It was briefly visible in the morning twilight but became increasingly difficult as it got closer to the sun and was lost in the glare. It will very briefly be the evening sky this week but, again, the glare of the Sun may make it difficult to see.

Here are a few images taken in the pre-dawn hours on 08 September. In the foreground is Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0449 MST 08 September 2023.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0449 MST 08 September 2023.
A tight crop of the previous image.
A tight crop of the previous image.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0454 MST 08 September 2023. This is just a few minutes later than the previous image but the sky is already getting very bright.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0454 MST 08 September 2023. This is just a few minutes later than the previous image but the sky is already getting very bright.

Nikon D750, 85mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200, 10×3 seconds and stacked using Starry Landscape Stacker to reduce noise.

 

Rocket Launch from Vandenberg SFB–II

Another SpaceX Falcon 9 was launched from Vandenberg SFB during the evening twilight hours (07 August 2023). And this one might have been even more spectacular than the previous launch (19 July 2023).

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 with a brightly illuminated and expanding exhaust plume.
Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 with a brightly illuminated and expanding exhaust plume.
As the exhaust fades the red glow in the ionosphere can be easily seen.
As the exhaust fades the red glow in the ionosphere can be easily seen.

The rocket exhaust is beautifully illuminated by the light of the Sun–which is well below the horizon. Next, the rocket moves through the ionosphere and a red glow develops. From the SpaceWeather.com site:

“This is a well studied phenomenon when rockets are burning their engines 200 to 300 km above Earth’s surface,” says space physicist Jeff Baumgardner of Boston University. Some rocket engines spray water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into the ionosphere, quenching local ionization by as much as 70%. The F-layer of the ionosphere is particulary effected. Oxygen ions (O+) in the F-layer are hungry for electrons, which they readily steal from the rocket’s exhaust. Captured electrons cascade down the oxygen atom’s energy levels, emitting red photons at a wavelength of 6300 Å–the same color as red auroras.

The exhaust and red glow were bright enough to be reflected in the waters of Lake Mary.

Time lapse of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9.

The next launch of a Falcon 9 is scheduled for much later at night and will not be as well lit as this launch.

Monsoon–July 2023

A double rainbow arches above Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
A double rainbow arches above Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

The North American Monsoon (NAM) has been slow to get started this year. A general rule of thumb is it gets going around the 4th of July and is considered late (but still normal) by mid-July. Likewise an early start can occur as early as mid June–as it did last year.

Composite image of late afternoon lightning strikes over the grasslands of Wupatki National Monument.
Composite image of late afternoon lightning strikes over the grasslands of Wupatki National Monument.
A segment of a rainbow over Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
A segment of a rainbow over Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Several lightning clusters that occurred during twilight at Wupatki National Monument.
Several lightning clusters that occurred during twilight at Wupatki National Monument.

During the month of July the GFS weather forecast model consistently showed the NAM getting started “Real Soon Now.” But the target was always several days away. Finally, late in the month the rains arrived as an inverted trough (IVT; def. 2) moved across Arizona.

Lightning over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.
Lightning over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.
Lightning touches down deep in Grand Canyon.
Lightning touches down deep in Grand Canyon.

There have been some photogenic storms. A little over a week ago I traveled to the South Rim of Grand Canyon hoping to get some lightning. Although there were some flashes they were far away. On the other hand, the sunset was pretty good. A band of clouds just above the horizon effectively blocked the Sun at my location while beams of light were getting under the clouds and into the canyon farther to the west. The alternating beams of light and shadow were pretty nice.

Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.

The following day I went to Wupatki National Monument in hopes of lightning and rainbows. There was a late afternoon storm that moved towards the Monument and produced a lot of lightning. As it got closer it weakened but was still dropping rain and a short time later a beautiful, full double rainbow appeared. All I needed to do was position myself so that I could get the rainbow arch to frame Wukoki Pueblo.

Time lapse of convection developing over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.

A new storm formed to my southeast as twilight came on and began to produce a lot of lightning. This was the 3rd act of the day and it was a good one.

Later in the week I took a short drive to Marshall Lake near Flagstaff to time lapse the early stages of convection over the San Francisco Peaks–and with some reflections in the waters of the lake. A few lightning bolts landed near the peaks adding to the show.

A few more trips to Grand Canyon rounded out the month.

And, now, the monsoon is on hiatus again.

Three Planets and the Moon

A few days ago the waxing crescent Moon joined the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars in the evening sky. A few clouds and the reflection of the evening sky in the lake added a bit of color to the scene.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon in the evening sky.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon in the evening sky.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon in the evening sky (with labels).
Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Moon in the evening sky (with labels).
Screen capture from Stellarium.app showing the positions of the planets and Moon in the evening sky.
Screen capture from Stellarium.app showing the positions of the planets and Moon in the evening sky.

Afterwards, I stayed around to watch the rocket launch described in the previous post.