Monday, April 16, 2007

Venus and other Bright Lights

We've been watching Venus for some months now. It has moved quite a bit to the North as we look to the West after sunset and is more obvious to people living up north of us. Here is an article with interesting info. about viewing Venus these days.

There are occasionally some other bright lights in the night sky. A week ago tonight, Sandra and I saw two of them on the same night. The International Space Station (ISS) passed overhead around 7:15 pm and then around 8:30, one of the Iridium satellites did a bright flare of reflected sunlight.

Venus shines at a magnitude of about -4 these days. The Iridium flare we saw last week was at -6. We saw one a few weeks ago at -8. These stellar magnitudes are logarithmic, so -8 is really intense, compared to Venus at -4.

Satellites are a thorn in the side of astro-photographers, but we're casual enough stargazers that we still find them fun to watch. I get customised emails every day from calsky dot com that tell me what is going to be happening each night, as seen from our back yard here on Bonaire. I also go to heavens-above dot com regularly to see what sort of interesting things are happening in the night sky above Bonaire.

The processing power of today's PCs, together with the Internet makes it possible to observe things I never would have even known about back in the old days. I'm still intending to try imaging the ISS with a telescope and webcam some day. If I ever pull it off, you'll be the first to know, ha ha.

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