Moonrise over Grand Canyon

The late February full Moon presented an opportunity to photograph the Moon rising between the dramatic Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple in Grand Canyon.

Moonrise between Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple in Grand Canyon.
Moonrise between Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple in Grand Canyon.

Moonrise was about a half-hour before sunset. This meant that the distant walls of the canyon would still be illuminated by late afternoon Sun. On the other hand, the eastern horizon was still pretty bright as the Moon rose from behind Wotans Throne. So bright, in fact, that it was difficult to see the Moon. As a result, I got better results about 15 minutes later as the Sun moved lower and the Moon moved higher in the sky.

Moonrise with Earth's shadow over Grand Canyon.
Moonrise with Earth’s shadow over Grand Canyon.

The second shot was taken just a minute or two before sunset and only the uppermost portions of the canyon rim remain illuminated by the sun. In addition, Earth’s shadow can be seen just above the horizon.

Several groups of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon.
Several groups of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon.

Bonus shot: While waiting for the Moon to rise I took photographs of hikers ascending the South Kaibab Trail just below and above Ooh-Aah Point.

The 2020 nonsoon-Monsoon

A thin band of clouds partially blocks the sun and creates an array of crepuscular rays of light.

This is the second year in a row in which the North American Monsoon has failed to deliver its normal weather to Arizona. The monsoon had a late start in July with only a few isolated rain events early in the month and the main event starting around the third week of July. But even that faltered after a week and the final week of July was dry.

August was even worse with no measurable precipitation until after mid-month and even then the amounts were light. The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has posted some climate data for the area for August. It was the hottest August and the 2nd driest on record in Flagstaff and most of the west experienced similar conditions (Figure 1; Figure 2; Figure 3).

Photographing summer monsoon storms has been a challenge this year because there were so many dry periods. Even so, there are always interesting weather events and clouds that make it worthwhile. So here is a collection of the most interesting weather photographs from this summer.

Convection

Early stages of convection over the San Francisco Peaks as viewed from Marshall Lake.
Early stages of convection over the San Francisco Peaks as viewed from Marshall Lake.

A time-lapse movie shows that the ducks are more interesting than the convection.

Developing Cb's over the San Francisco Peaks.
Developing Cb’s over the San Francisco Peaks.
Small cumulus clouds over the Painted Desert.
Small cumulus clouds over the Painted Desert.
A weak thunderstorm near Two Guns, Arizona.
A weak thunderstorm near Two Guns, Arizona.
A well-developed thunderstorm over the Mogollon Rim viewed from Sedona.
A well-developed thunderstorm over the Mogollon Rim viewed from Sedona.

Rainbows

Full rainbows eluded me this year butI did manage to photograph a rainbow segment.

Rainbow segment over the North Rim of Grand Canyon.
Rainbow segment over the North Rim of Grand Canyon.

Lightning

As with rainbows, lightning was elusive this year. It was typically a case of being in the wrong place on the wrong day and at the wrong time. But I did get lucky with the following image.

Lightning illuminates the interior of Grand Canyon.
Lightning illuminates the interior of Grand Canyon.
In-cloud lightning illuminates a small Cb near the Grand Canyon. I was trying to photograph the comet so I got lucky with this storm.
In-cloud lightning illuminates a small Cb near the Grand Canyon. I was trying to photograph the comet so I got lucky with this storm.
Lightning at sunset over the Mogollon Rim viewed from Sedona.
Lightning at sunset over the Mogollon Rim viewed from Sedona.
Weak storms over the San Francisco Peaks produced these two bolts of lightning.
Weak storms over the San Francisco Peaks produced these two bolts of lightning.
In-cloud lightning partially illuminates Grand Canyon while the nearly-full Moon provides additional illumination.
In-cloud lightning partially illuminates Grand Canyon while the nearly-full Moon provides additional illumination.

Sunsets

And when there is no lightning and no rainbow, one can be content with the sunset.

A small rain shaft is illuminated by the setting sun.
A small rain shaft is illuminated by the setting sun.
Distant rain catches the last light of the sun and provides backlighting for the Cockscomb.
Distant rain catches the last light of the sun and provides backlighting for the Cockscomb.
A thin band of clouds partially blocks the sun and creates an array of crepuscular rays of light.
A thin band of clouds partially blocks the sun and creates an array of crepuscular rays of light.
The sun sets over ruins in Wupatki National Monument.
The sun sets over ruins in Wupatki National Monument.
The setting sun illuminates both Cathedral Rock and the clouds above.
The setting sun illuminates both Cathedral Rock and the clouds above.

Miscellaneous

Crepuscalar Rays—Wupatki National Monument.
Crepuscalar Rays—Wupatki National Monument.
Crepuscalar Rays—San Francisco Peaks.
Crepuscalar Rays—San Francisco Peaks.
Even thought it is supposed to be the wet and rainy season, we still managed to get cap clouds on the high peaks with stars above.
Even thought it is supposed to be the wet and rainy season, we still managed to get cap clouds on the high peaks with stars above.

Perhaps 2021 will be a normal monsoon year.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—VII

The waxing Moon is getting brighter in the evening sky and this makes it more difficult to see Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). In fact, I was unable to see it with the unaided eye but both binoculars and long-exposure photographs easily brought out the comet.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.

On the other hand, the presence of the first-quarter Moon illuminates the inner canyon while the comet is faintly visible above.

The image is a composite. The first image is on a fixed tripod to get a sharp result of the moonlit canyon. The second image is on a tracker to get sharp points for the stars and comet. The two images are then combined. Camera settings are 24mm, Ć’/4, 120 seconds, ISO 400.

Thunderstorm with lightning near Grand Canyon.
Thunderstorm with lightning near Grand Canyon.

As a bonus, a late evening thunderstorm developed just west of Page and moved to the northeast while producing a lot of lightning. Although no cloud-to-ground strokes were noted, the lightning easily illuminated the cloud from the inside.

Sunset with crepuscular rays over Grand Canyon.
Sunset with crepuscular rays over Grand Canyon.

Second bonus: there was a nice sunset, too.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—VI

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) remains visible in the northwest sky after sunset. It is slowly diminishing in brightness (current estimated magnitude of +2.8) and the waxing crescent Moon is making it harder to see the fainter portions of the tail.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.

These images overlook Grand Canyon and show the comet above the North Rim and Kaibab Plateau.

A New Comet in the Sky

A recently discovered comet is now shining brightly in the morning sky. Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was first spotted March 27, 2020, by NASA’s NEOWISE space-borne telescope. The comet passed inside Mercury’s orbit on 03 July 2020 and quickly brightened as it as heated by the intensity of the Sun.

Comet NEOWISE rises above Grand Canyon. Also visible are Venus, Hyades, and Pleiades.
Comet NEOWISE rises above Grand Canyon. Also visible are Venus, Hyades, and Pleiades.

The comet has been rising around the start of Astronomical Twilight when the eastern horizon is just beginning to brighten. Within about 45 minutes to an hour—or shortly after the start of Nautical Twilight—the morning sky has become bright enough to make observation difficult.

The image above was taken as the comet rose above Grand Canyon. Also visible in the image are the planet Venus, the bright star Aldebaran, and the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters.

Comet NEOWISE rises above the eastern horizon on 06 July 2020.
Comet NEOWISE rises above the eastern horizon on 06 July 2020.
Comet NEOWISE on 06 July 2020.
Comet NEOWISE on 06 July 2020.
Comet NEOWISE on 07 July 2020.
Comet NEOWISE on 07 July 2020.

By the third week middle of July the comet will shift from the morning sky into the evening twilight sky. Again, there will be a short window of time in which it is easily observed but viewing the evening is far easier than the morning.