Memories of Snow

All of the snow on Mauna Kea is gone again, the last forlorn patches disappearing in the last weeks of May. The glistening white has surrendered to the rich browns and reds of the cinder.

It was a bit of a bet among the crew as to whether the last patches would last until June 1st. Considering much of the snow in question fell just before Christmas, this was quite the run. Alas, the last bits were gone just before the 1st.

While we may get a light dusting or two over the summer anything heavier is unlikely. We had a fairly snowy winter over the 2016-2017 season. I wonder what next winter will bring?

Mauna Kea Snow Panorama
A modest snowfall in February, 2017 covers the southern plateau of Mauna Kea

Fly Over Jupiter

Take a series of photos from the Juno spacecraft and just project them in sequence to make a timelapse movie of the spacecraft swinging past Jupiter. Sounds easy… Right?

Not easy at all. As the spacecraft orbited past the planet the perspective changes rapidly. To make a natural seeming animation much more would have to be done. Mathematician Gerald Eichstaedt did just that… Taking 36 images he projected each image on a mathematically modeled sphere, then panned through each image using the orbital trajectory of the spacecraft to create a view to simulate actually being there.

Further work by filmmaker Seán Doran smoothed the resulting video into an even more natural view. This created the video posted below. You can see the original video at

The result is simply stunning, take look at what it would have been like to be there as Juno swung past the planet just a few thousand miles above the cloudtops.

Jupiter: Juno Perijove 06 from Sean Doran on Vimeo.

Morning Fogbow

As you drive to the top of the cloud layer you hit a point where the fog and the sunlight mingle. This is often between 7,000 to 9,000 feet, a mile or three below Hale Pōhaku. Passing through this zone is often a beautiful event in the day, rainbows, fogbows and misty shadows fill the mountain air…

A fogbow formed from drifting fog blowing across the Mauna Kea access road. Click on the image to peruse the panorama properly.

Venus at Maximum Elongation

Today Venus is at maximum elongation, as high in the dawn sky as it will get for this morning apparition, about 45.9°. After today the planet will begin its slide back into the glare of dawn. It will disappear from view around the end of the year and reach superior conjunction on January 8th, 2018.

As Earth and Venus race about the Sun, Venus will complete about one cycle of appearances each year. We can expect one evening apparition and one morning apparition to occur in 2017.

Continue reading “Venus at Maximum Elongation”

Another Night in the Dark

Moonset would not be until nearly 11pm, otherwise the weather looked quite promising for a night on the mauna. The plan… A late arrival and setup at the substation site across the street from the Mauna Kea VIS

Arriving late would mean most of the evening crowd at the visitor station would be gone, taking their headlights with them, hopefully leaving a dark and quiet night to enjoy. This early summer season places the center of the Milky Way high overhead for much of the night for excellent observing possibilities.

Waiting for Moonset
Deep Violet set up under Mauna Kea skies waiting for moonset and full darkness
Sometimes things work out exactly as planned.

Meeting me on the mountain would be David Kriege, owner of Obsession Telescopes. This trip marked his first opportunity for Hawaiian observing and to take advantage of that he brought along a 22″ ultra-compact model. Along with David came Mike, he brought a camera in place of a telescope, not a bad choice with the Milky Way high overhead all night.

Continue reading “Another Night in the Dark”

Shrimp Gallery