Green flash puts in an appearance over Lake Erie

Photo: Sunset with possible green flash. Credit: Jay Reynolds
At the bottom edge of the setting Sun, here, there may be a green flash.

The “green flash” is not a new Marvel Comics superhero but a subtle and interesting phenomenon sometimes seen just before sunrise or just after sunset; a green-colored ray or spot is seen just above the horizon. CAA member Jay Reynolds observed and photographed an occurrence of the green flash on Aug. 6 from Kelleys Island.

“Unfortunately, as these predictions go, the possibility of seeing it was well announced by TV meteorologists…” said Reynolds, “but this occurrence was subtle and not easily detectable.” In other words, many looked for the flash but few saw it!

“In photo number one, there is a possible green flash visible at the bottom of the sun. It is unfortunate that the shot is overexposed to the point of saturation” he said. “Suzie Dills deserves the credit for detecting it during the photo review.”

Photo: Green flash is visible just after sunset August 6, 2012. Credit: Jay Reynolds
Green flash is visible just after sunset August 6, 2012. Enlarge to best see color.

“Photo number two is the best of the main sequence,” said Reynolds of his images. Viewed in a larger size, the green coloration is easily visible.

“It still was an outstanding Lake Erie Sunset shared by all!”

Photo credit: Jay Reynolds.

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Big sunspot takes aim at Earth

Photo: The Sun with sunspots July 12, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
Just below center-left, is AR1520, as seen from Northeastern Ohio on July 12 at 6:18 PM EDT.

Dominating the face of our Sun, this week, has been an enormous group of sunspots including those designated AR1520. The active Sun has been very interesting to watch, of late, as the dark spots rotated over the star’s limb and towards the center of its disk, facing Earth. Hydrogen-alpha observers have also been rewarded with good numbers of prominences spouting into the blackness of space. Forecasters stated AR1520 had great potential for flare activity and on Thursday, July 12, the forecast was fulfilled — just as the sunspot was aimed directly at Earth.

According to SpaceWeather.com, “Big sunspot AR1520 unleashed an X1.4-class solar flare on July 12th at 1653 UT. Because this sunspot is directly facing Earth, everything about the blast was geoeffective. For one thing, it hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) directly toward our planet. According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME will hit Earth on July 14th around 10:20 UT (+/- 7 hours) and could spark strong geomagnetic storms. Sky watchers should be alert for auroras this weekend.”

NASA’s orbital solar observatories, of course, captured images of the flare as it erupted. Very rarely is any individual human observer watching when the detonation occurs but one can get lucky. CAA Vice-President Mike Williams was very lucky. “I was looking at the spot {with my personal solar telescope} when it popped,” he said. “Wow what a sight!”

As so often seems the case, weather forecasts for the weekend include plenty of clouds to interfere with the view. Still, aurora fans should stay alert to active displays and the potential for clear skies; it could be a good show!

UPDATE: The CME impacted the Earth’s magnetic field at ~ 1800 UT or 2:00 PM EDT, July 14.

Photo above: The Sun with prominent AR1520 accompanied by smaller sunspots. Canon EOS 50D: ISO 400, f/11, 1/1000 sec., 400mm telephoto lens with AstroZap white light filter, 6:18 PM, July 12, 2012 — “just before the clouds rolled in,” according to photographer James Guilford.

Wrapup: The CAA & Transit of Venus program

by William Murmann, CAA President

This month, we had one of the most successful public events in the history of our club with the 2012 Transit of Venus program at Edgewater State Park in Cleveland on Tuesday, June 5.

We worked with Cleveland State University, Baldwin-Wallace College, the Cleveland Astronomical Society (CAS), and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Edgewater State Park staff to present a program that provided an opportunity for about 7,000 people to personally use telescopes to observe one of the major astronomical events of this century and of our lifetimes.

I think it’s important to document our transit program here in our newsletter and on our website, and to recognize our members who provided most of the telescopes used at Edgewater State Park to observe Venus during the transit.

CAA member Jay Reynolds, a professional astronomer who teaches at Cleveland State University, personally organized and coordinated the transit program. Here are the major participants who worked with Jay:

Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. CAA members provided most of the 30 or so telescopes that were used for public observations during the June 5 transit, and helped assemble the 5,000 No. 5 optical-grade Mylar solar viewers that were given away to the public. CAA President Bill Murmann participated in planning and supporting the program.

Cleveland Astronomical Society. CAS President Bob Sledz and his wife, Ingrid, worked on the transit project. Bob designed the Mylar solar viewers, which were paid for by a personal donation from CAS member Joanne D. Denko, M.D. CAS members helped assemble the solar viewers, and manned a table during the transit program to distribute the viewers free of charge to the public.

Cleveland State University. CSU’s College of Science, represented by Jay Reynolds, was a major supporter of the Transit program. CSU science students helped with the event.

Baldwin-Wallace College. B-W Observatory Director and CAA member Gary Kader and science students from the college provided telescopes and other support during the program. The college also created and distributed special souvenir bookmarks commemorating the transit.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ODNR officials and Edgewater State Park staff provided outstanding support and planning for the transit program. Park Rangers and staff provided extra security, traffic control, and other services that helped make the Transit a great success.

Exhibitors. Ten exhibitors set up information tables for the transit program, including the Cleveland Astronomical Society, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the International Women’s Air & Space Museum, the U.S.S. Cod,  the Friends of Edgewater, Akron radio station WNIR, Baldwin-Wallace Admissions, Cleveland State Admissions, and the CSU Wolstein Center.

The Natural History Museum’s Observatory Coordinator and CAA member Clyde Simpson and Planetarium Coordinator Jason Davis brought a desktop solar telescope for use at the Museum’s information table.

NASA Glenn Research Center. While not an official exhibitor, NASA Glenn sent their Satellite Truck and Video Projection Truck to show a live video feed of the transit as seen in Hawaii.

News Media Coverage. The transit and CAA received extensive news media coverage before, during, and after the event, thanks to interviews and promotion done by Jay Reynolds. Media coverage included The Plain Dealer, Fox TV 8, WTAM, WNIR, WKYC, WEWS TV, WDOK, and WCPN.

*   *   *

CAA Telescopes. CAA members who brought their personal telescopes for the public to observe the transit include: Gary Kader, Bob Pence, Jay Reynolds, Bill Murmann, Susan Petsche, Jim Cofer, Tim Campbell, Bill & Carol Lee, Bruce Lane, Lynn Paul, Carl Kelley, Bob Wiersma, Matt Franduto, Steve & Gail Korylak, Steve Spears, Trevor Braun, Suzie Dills, Gus Waffen, Ted Sauppé, and Chris Christe.

Members and others who helped at Edgewater without telescopes include: Steve Gallant, Ron Devine, Kathy Ruffus, Isabel Guadiz-Tobey, and Mary Ann Wadsworth.

*   *   *

Thanks to the support of our members and other sponsoring organizations and individuals, this was a memorable program. Many thanks to all!

Catch the transit in Cleveland

Photo: Transit of Venus 2004 - Credit: SOHO
The 2004 Venus transit as seen by the Solar and Helospheric Observatory (SOHO). SOHO/EIT/ESA/NASA

Observers on the North Coast are well-positioned to see the last transit of Venus in our lifetimes on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The event is rare, indeed, with the next transit taking place in the year 2117 — and then not visible from Northeastern Ohio!

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association, with several other astronomical and educational organizations, will host a major event celebrating the 2012 transit of Venus. The public is invited to Cleveland’s Edgewater State Park where telescopes will be set up, exhibitor booths and hands-on demonstrations operated, and solar viewing glasses made available. Observing of the transit begins just after 6:00 and ends with sunset, the transit still in progress. As darkness falls, the telescopes will turn toward other objects: the Moon, Mars, Saturn, even the International Space Station will put in an appearance! The lakefront event ends at 11:00 PM.

The transit begins at about 6:04 PM EDT, when Venus appears to straddle the solar limb and is then visible until the Sun sets, having progressed halfway across the solar disk. In times past, transits of Venus were significant to astronomers as a means to accurately determine the size of the solar system. Astronomers from around the world embarked on expeditions to make observations from widely-separated locations. Today the rare alignment demonstrates how astronomers can detect planets orbiting distant stars using the transit method. For much more information on the 2012 transit of Venus, visit TransitOfVenus.org.

For a schedule of events and location information, see the PDF located here, courtesy of Cleveland State University. In case the weather is bad or you just can’t make it, view the transit via Webcast: Click Here for Webcast Information or visit the Space Camera site: Click here for Slooh.com.

Now all we need is clear skies

Photo: The Sun as it appeard the morning of May 24, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
The Sun with (center) sunspot #1486 and (upper-right) sunspot #1484. Converted to monochrome.

“I spent some time this morning experimenting with solar photography. On June 5 the transit of Venus will take place and, since the next one after that won’t happen for another 115 years, I thought I should try for this year’s! Call me impatient. I discovered to my dismay that my very expensive, modern-design, Herschel Wedge won’t work for photography with my six-inch refractor telescope and DSLR. I could not crank the camera “in” close enough to achieve focus with the wedge in place. Rats! I’m going to make quick queries to see what I can do to resolve the issue if I’m to use the wedge any time soon … and June 5 is soon!  So with the telescope still set up in the mid-morning sunshine, I removed the wedge and covered the telescope’s objective lens with the very inexpensive AstroZap filter made using Baader AstroSolar film. I connected my trusty (and light-weight) Canon Digital Rebel XT to the scope’s eyepiece holder for prime-focus imaging and made several bracketed exposures. Later I discovered the results were very good though not quite as good as shots made with my Canon EOS 50D and Canon 400mm telephoto. The difference in quality may be attributed to seeing conditions –the images were made days apart– but either setup will do just fine for recording the upcoming historic celestial event. Now all we need is clear skies on that day!” — James Guilford

Our (very) partial eclipse

Photo: Partial Eclipse at Sunset, May 20, 2012. By Dianna Lewis.
Partial eclipse at sunset from Cahoon Park, Bay Village. Photo by Dianna Lewis.

Sites along the US West Coast enjoyed a beautiful annular eclipse on Sunday, May 20, as did observers in China. We did not see much of an eclipse from Northeastern Ohio. We were, however, treated to some beautiful sunset views! Late-day clouds threatened to block the event entirely from view but, in some cases, contributed to the aesthetic.

Photo: Observers setting up to see partial eclipse of the Sun. Photo by Tim Campbell.
Observers setting up at Edgewater to see partial eclipse of the Sun. Photo by Tim Campbell.

A group of CAA members gathered at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park for a view of the sunset event over water — as distant an horizon as we can get here. Others viewed and photographed the partial eclipse individually from other locations.

Photo: Cloudy sunset during partial eclipse. Photo by Christopher Christe.
Cloudy sunset during partial eclipse. Photo by Christopher Christe.

So long, Venus!

Photo: Planet Venus setting over calm waters. Photo by Jay Reynolds.
Venus setting over the pond at Letha House Park. Photo by Jay Reynolds.
Jay Reynolds made this photo of Venus setting over the pond at Letha House Park. This week, Venus will be losing one degree of altitude per day as it heads towards its rendezvous with astronomical history — June’s transit of Venus! “So long Venus,” says Reynolds, “see you on the 5th!” Photo Notes: Canon 400D: ISO 1,600, f/2.8, 8 seconds, 24mm, May 11, 2011.