13, 2005: by mid-May, viewing of dark sky objects and phenomena
(stars, planets, meteors, aurora) in southcentral Alaska is
diminishing for the season. With sunrise at 5:18 AM and sunset
at 10:38 PM and at least an hour or more of twilight and pre-dawn
lighting the night sky viewing opportunities are of short
duration. And even
at the darkest hour of the night there is still light along
the northern horizon and few stars are visible. For more on
the night sky in summer, see my web cam postings on
day length and changing of the seasons, the webcam
record of daylight and darkness on summer solstice 2001,
and the current
night, moon lit, night sky photos.
Display from Space
of the aurora australis (Southern Lights) taken from the Space Shuttle.
Image source NASA: http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/ace/gallery.html
Hemisphere Auroral Activity Map (NASA)
Aurora Makes the Astronomy Picture of the Day!
Viewing Northern Lights From the Ground!
over Matanuska Peak
(see web cam for day time view)
Lights, Palmer, Alaska (3/31/01) & Hints on Photographing Aurora
with a Digital Camera
Host a Night Sky
decide what you want to watch. Meteors?
Stars & Constellations? The Northern Lights? Then decide when
you might see it!
you're going to host a night sky viewing party in Alaska, you have
some serious planning ahead. First consider the time of year. For
stars and northern lights, summer is bad because, of course, it
seems like it's daylight all the time. From May through mid-August,
plan to fish or run or bicycle or whatever whenever. Point is, in
southcentral Alaska don't even consider hosting a night sky party
until at least September.
May 1st sunset in Palmer, Alaska is at about 10:00 p.m., sunrise
at about 5:45 a.m. By August 15 it's about seven weeks past the
Solstice and sunset is around 10:00 p.m. with sunrise at about 6:00
a.m.* (Considering the extended twilight period, add another hour
or so until there is truly a dark night sky.) ...look-up
to select a location with minimal or no light pollution. So be sure
to ask about light pollution if you're travelling to a place you're
unfamiliar with. (Here's a sobering look at light
pollution on the planet Earth. The three bright light spots
in Alaska, from south to north, are Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Prudhoe
so plan for when it gets dark at night. Then you need a clear night....
Start by checking the long-term (5 day!) weather
you have a clear, dark night. Check to be sure that there isn't
a full moon. Plan for the period when there is a new moon or when
rises late in the evening.*
forecast or for meteor showers.
the comfort of your guests. Remind them to bring warm clothing,
because, guaranteed, from September through April night temperatures
in Alaska range from chilly to dangerously cold. And consider the
comfort of their necks. Round up as many chaise lounges as you can
or suggest that guests bring their own along with blankets and sleeping
and Snacks: Hot Drinks and warm desserts are just the ticket
for watching meteor showers or the aurora borealis.
Items that might be handy: telescope or spotting scope on a
tripod, binoculars, cameras/tripods, fast film (400 or 800 ASA)**,
and perhaps a sky
good friends, good company, and with a little luck, mother nature's
best sky show!
and Constellations Viewable from Palmer, Alaska
Picture of the Day Calendar
the Sunrise/Sunset & Moonrise/Moonset for a Place and Date at
the US Naval Observatory web site