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ISS-Sun Transit Clouded Out;
2012 Year End Report

Posted: 31 December 2012

Clouds from an approaching "winter storm" arrived mid-day on Saturday, 29 December 2012. There was a good ISS pass that night but I wasn't able to image the ISS due to the clouds. There was another, even better, pass Sunday night but clouds prevented capturing that one as well. The storm finally arrived Sunday about 2030 MST. A little birdie told me it snowed overnight:


When I received an ISS-Sun transit alert from CalSky on 25 December, the prediction was for the transit to occur Monday, 31 December 2012, at 093215 MST, with the path shown on the left below. When I rechecked the prediction on 28 December, there was no longer a transit at this time. I redid the calculation for 093225 MST and got the result seen on the right. Not only did the time of the transit get delayed by about 10 seconds, but the track also shifted upwards. (Did an ISS orbit boost occur?) On 31 December, a couple of hours prior to the transit, I did another check but there was no change this time.

photo photo

Since the sky continued to be cloudy at the time of the transit, I couldn't verify how the transit actually occurred and as there was no chance of imaging the ISS-Sun transit, I didn't bother with cleaning the snow off the dome. This is the observatory at the time of the ISS-Sun transit:


This is a wide angle view using a 8mm 180° fisheye lens (cropped to remove the fisheye effect):


The sky began clearing slowly about noon and some of the snow began melting, but snow flurries here and rainshowers in the area continued during the afternoon. The forecast said clear sky for the night, so I went to the observatory at 1530 MST, temperature 38°F, to clean off the dome in preparation for the night's observing. A few snow flurries were still occurring from mostly cloudy skies as I was cleaning off snow and ice from the dome. A time-lapse movie of the day's weather is available from my Live Webcam. The observatory was opened Monday, 31 December 2012, at 1827 MST, 37°F, for the last session of 2012. The sky was partly cloudy but I was happy to do some final observing of 2012.

At 1833 MST, viewed Jupiter, 8" LX200-ACF, 77X. The four Galilean Moons were visible. The Great Red Spot was rotating out of view. Seeing was not very good. I did some viewing of the Galilean Moons at 206X and 364X. The disks of all four moons were visible. I added the 2X Barlow Lens and viewed the moons at 412X and 727X. Seeing was not good enough for 727X but the orangish color of Io was readily apparent and the disks were all visible. I tried using the 3X TeleXtender for viewing at 619X and 1091X; the disks were visible but otherwise the views were not good at these magnifications (which exceeded the theoretical maximum magnification of 400X for an 8" telescope). I switched back to 412X to watch Io enter eclipse behind the planet. At 1902 MST, the iPod, which was playing some background music, shut off due to the low temperature in the observatory (34°F). Although seeing was not good enough for precise timings, Io seemed to make 1st Contact at 1904 MST, was half-eclipsed at about 1906 MST, and had 2nd Contact at 1909 MST.

By 1915 MST, more clouds were coming in from the southwest. At 1920 MST, I took my last look at Jupiter for 2012 and then took a final look at M42, the Great Orion Nebula.

The observatory was closed at 1930 MST, 33°F.

2012 was a great year for astronomy: a visit to Kitt Peak to observe with the WIYN 3.5 meter telescope, a solar eclipse, the transit of Venus, planets, asteroids, ISS-Moon transit, comets, supernovae in other galaxies, and more. I prepared this montage of some of the over one thousand images I took from the observatory during the year showing two images from each month in 2012:

Click image for larger version (1.1 MB)

I spent 481 hours in the observatory during the 143 day and night sessions in 2012. The number of sessions was a slight increase over the prior years. This graph shows the length of each of the sessions since the observatory was opened in August 2009:


2013 should be another great year for amateur astronomy. I hope you will enjoy it with me.

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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