Archive: » 2014 » February

SkyPi Observatory has been added to the Dark Sky Finder

  • February 23, 2014

Good morning All!

SkyPi Observatory has been added to the Dark Sky Finder Map.  The Site number is 4585.  As you can see, we can boast some of the darkest skies in the U.S.

Bortle Map 1


Synchronized Roof Opening

  • February 19, 2014

We had some fun last weekend testing the roof opening for both Alpha and Bravo buildings.  Bravo is the second completed observatory housing 2 piers, almost identical to Alpha building.  There are a few cosmetic items to complete as well as installing the steps going into the building.  I hope you enjoy the video. We sure did!

Fate of Universe explained through basic Laws of Thermodynamics

  • February 19, 2014

Published on Jun 3, 2012

Courtesy : Universe Series from History Channel.
Scientists Alexei Filippenko and Michio Kaku explain in simple lay man terminology using the ‘Laws of Thermodynamics’ on how the Universe would end in Billions of years in the future.

What makes a halo around the sun or moon?

  • February 16, 2014

Halos around the moon – or sun – are a sign of thin cirrus clouds drifting high above our heads. They are a sign of nearby storms.

A ring or circle of light around the sun or moon is called a halo by scientists. We get many messages throughout each year from people who’ve just spotted a ring around the sun or moon. People want to know: what causes a halo around the sun or moon?

There’s an old weather saying: ring around the moon means rain soon. There’s truth to this saying, because high cirrus clouds often come before a storm. Notice in these photos that the sky looks fairly clear. After all, you can see the sun or moon. And yet halos are a sign of high thin cirrus clouds drifting 20,000 feet or more above our heads.

These clouds contain millions of tiny ice crystals. The halos you see are caused by both refraction, or splitting of light, and also by reflection, or glints of light from these ice crystals. The crystals have to be oriented and positioned just so with respect to your eye, in order for the halo to appear.

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That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the sun – or moon – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.

Because moonlight isn’t very bright, lunar halos are mostly colorless, but you might notice more red on the inside and more blue on the outside of the halo. These colors are more noticeable in halos around the sun. If you do see a halo around the moon or sun, notice that the inner edge is sharp, while the outer edge is more diffuse. Also, notice that the sky surrounding the halo is darker than the rest of the sky.

Bottom line: Halos around the sun or moon happen when high, thin cirrus clouds are drifting high above your head. Tiny ice crystals in Earth’s atmosphere cause the halos. They do this by refracting and reflecting the light. Lunar halos are signs that storms are nearby.

Valentine’s Day Full Moon

  • February 14, 2014

The moon turns full today – February 14, 2014 – on what we in the U.S. celebrate as Valentine’s Day. Do you celebrate it in your country? If so, happy V-Day! If not … we love you anyway. Today’s full moon is the second full moon after the December solstice. It reaches the crest of its full phase at 23:53 Universal Time. That’s 6:53 p.m. EST, 5:53 p.m. CST, 4:53 p.m. MST or 3:53 p.m. PST. The bright star near the full moon is Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion.

Want to impress your Valentine with some names for the February full moon? In North America, we often call this particular full moon the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon or Hunger Moon. We’ve also heard the name Ice Moon for this full moon.

But the February full moon can assume any number of different names. It was called the Snow-blinding Moon by the Micmac people in eastern Canada. This full moon was the Wind Moon to the San Ildefonso of the Southwest. And it was the Blackbear Moon to the Kutenai of the Northwest. The list could go on and on, as evidenced by Keith’s Moon Page.

Every full moon stands opposite – or nearly opposite – the sun. Try noticing how high above the horizon you see the moon tonight. Its distance above the horizon indicates approximately how far below the opposite horizon the sun is at that time.

Any time you see the moon near the horizon, it might have an orange or reddish color. The reason is Earth’s own atmosphere. The moon’s (or sun’s) light must pass through a greater thickness of atmosphere when rising or setting (that is, when it is near the horizon) than when overhead. Since the atmosphere scatters the bluish component of light, while allowing the redder light to travel straight through to our eyes, objects often appear redder than normal when near the horizon. So any moon, full or not, may look reddish when seen near the horizon.

This year, the full moon falls on February 14, Valentine’s Day. The phases of the moon recur on (or near) the same calendar dates every 19 years. So the full moon won’t come on Valentine’s Day again until February 14, 2033! After that, a Valentine’s Day full moon will occur on February 14, 2052, on February 14, 2071 and February 14, 2090!

Bottom line: Valentine’s moon! The moon is full on Valentine’s Day 2014. Some names for the February full moon. Also, watch tonight as the moon and star Regulus travel together across the sky tonight from dusk until dawn.


Chinese moon rover Yutu is awake

  • February 14, 2014

It was widely reported on Wednesday that China’s first moon rover – called Yutu or, in English, Jade Rabbit – failed to connect with mission controllers in Beijing following its second hibernation in the long, cold lunar night. Then yesterday afternoon, another report suggested signs of life from Yutu. Today (February 13, 2014), a spokesman with China’s lunar probe program has said that Yutu is able to pick up signals, although it is still experiencing a mechanical control abnormality, according to an English-language report Pei Zhaoyu, the spokesman, said:

… the rover stands a chance of being saved as it is still alive.


One of the first to pick up a signal from Yutu yesterday was an amateur group that monitors radio signals from deep space ( It reported that a downlink signal from the Yutu rover had been detected, indicating that Yutu is back.

Chinese media first reported Yutu’s malfunction on January 27, as night was falling in the rover’s location, when Yutu was about halfway through its three-month mission to study the moon. At that time, China’s state-run Xinhua news released a report in the voice of the rover itself, saying:

Although I should’ve gone to bed this morning, my masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system. My masters are staying up all night working for a solution. I heard their eyes are looking more like my red rabbit eyes.

Nevertheless, I’m aware that I might not survive this lunar night.

So that its delicate electronics could survive the extreme cold of a lunar night, the rover needed to hibernate, or shut down most of its systems, when nighttime came to the portion of the moon on which the rover sat. If a mechanical problem kept it from hibernating properly, then Yutu could “freeze to death.”

The Chang’e 3 lunar lander – which carried Yutu to the moon and successfully landed on December 14, 2014 and released Yutu to the lunar surface – is apparently still in contact with mission control.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission is the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. China is only the third country in the world to land on the moon, after the U.S. and former Soviet Union.

Whatever happens … hats off to Yutu and its builders!

Deborah Byrd

Arizona State Origins Project: Lawrence Krauss Lecture Feb. 19th

  • February 6, 2014
A Cosmic Mystery Story Part 1: A Lecture with Lawrence Krauss
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 – 7:30pm
Lawrence Krauss, ASU Origins Project Director, presents a series of lectures on the origins of the universe and our future.  Follow the link below for more information.