Sky Watch: Be quick or you miss the shot

Professor Ricardo Vaz Tolentino writes on an unusual coincidence. A speeding satellite in  the Earth’s orbit flashes across the face of the SuperMoon. Luckily the camera and the reflexes were ready. As Ricardo describes it: Artificial satellite caught with trajectory in the line of sight of the lunar disk.

SATELLITE: Caught on camera.

SATELLITE: Caught on camera.

A pleasant coincidence happened a few days ago. With the camera focused on the Moon, while waiting for the moment of the beginning of the total lunar eclipse on 27 and 28 September 2015, I was surprised with the passage of a satellite in my line of sight with the Moon (observation point: LAT: 19 the 55 ‘40.6 “S, LON: the 043 55’ 04.1” W). Said satellite passed at high speed and I had almost no time to photograph it.

 However, I got two sequential ­photos of the satellite’s passage in my line of sight with the lunar disc, with a difference of three seconds of each other (27 September 2015), the first at 21:19:48 and the second at 21:19:51. Note that due to the timing of photos (almost 21h20m), I was no longer ­possible to visualise the passage of satellites with the naked eye, as is ­common in the early evening.

PLUTO: Blue skies of Pluto.

PLUTO: Blue skies of Pluto.

Blue skies on Pluto

Earth isn’t the only planet with blue skies. Pluto has them, too. 

The first colour images of Pluto’s atmosphere were beamed back to Earth by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft just last week, and the sky looks a lot like home:

New Horizons took the picture just after it sped by Pluto on July 14, 2015. 

The spacecraft’s cameras were looking back at Pluto’s nightside as sunlight illuminated the fringe of blue around Pluto’s circumference. 

The amazing thing about this Plutonian atmosphere was that it was discovered by amateurs. 

There was to be an occultation of a background star by the tiny planet and the experts set up along the line of ­transit and measured the brightness of this distant star.

 Just seconds before the background star blinked out they noticed to their great surprise that the star light dimmed slightly. This dimming indicated atmosphere. 

You can imagine their excitement as they waited for the star to reappear and sure enough it appeared rather dim and rose to full brilliance. 

An amazing example of what can be done with modern technology and dedication.


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