Saturday, September 12, 2015

AM Saturday, September 12, 2015 - Notes

  During the short work week between the mornings of Tuesday, September 8th - Friday, September 11th the sky conditions didn't cooperate too well with my observing plans. This unusual stretch of hot and humid weather we'd been experiencing all month was changing as two slow-moving cold fronts passed through our area. I'd get some clear skies on some mornings, and get glimpses of the rising Winter Constellations. But there were usually scattered thin clouds around and light fog in the air, and the patio was usually damp from light showers that had fallen during the previous evening. I didn't think it was worthwhile to get the telescope out and try to observe under these circumstances.

  The second cold front of the week moved through during the day on Friday the 11th, and it was a cool, misty, sometimes rainy day with low, gloomy clouds everywhere. By the time I was driving home around 2:00 AM on Saturday the 12th, however, the rain had been over for hours and the sky was clearing out. A steady breeze had dried out the pavement a little and also kept a lot of low fog from forming. I thought that maybe my chance to observe variable stars was finally here. But every time I checked outside the back door between 3:00 AM and 5:00 AM, I was discouraged. Low clouds continued to march across the sky in waves (altocumulus and raggedy-looking cumulus) and the pavement of the patio was still damp. (This is always a concern since I plug the mount into the outdoor socket and the cord lies on the concrete.) Though it was mostly clear, I still didn't think it the ground and sky conditions merited taking the 10" scope outside.

  I stayed up very late, and went outside around 6:10 AM. At this time the sky had cleared dramatically! I believe the limiting naked eye magnitude was at least 5.0 since I could see a lot of the fainter stars in Orion, Taurus, and Gemini that I normally can't see in this light-polluted area. The sky to the East and Southeast was very dramatic. Though I've seen Orion several times in the morning sky over the last month, this morning it was high in the sky and dramatic, with Rigel and Betelgeuse blazing away. I could even make out the Orion Nebula (though, of course, it looked star-like without optical aid). I also had my first looks of the season of Procyon and Sirius sparkling away. At this time there was just a hint of the first light of dawn in the east. The temperature in the low 50's°F and it felt very chilly in comparison to the past several mornings. The sounds of singing insects were very subdued.

  However, the really showy object was Venus! This was my first look at it as a morning object; I'd last seen it low after sunset in July. It was so much brighter than any of the stars that it just looked unreal, like it was on fire! It was just peeking over the edge of the roof of our house from the edge of the patio.

  I drew a very rough sketch of how it looked below, though this drawing really doesn't do justice to how pretty it really looked:

  If I'd stayed up slightly later and had a better look at the eastern sky, and especially if I'd had binoculars handy, I probably could have also spotted Mars just 10 degrees or so to the lower left of Venus. And by 6:30 AM (though the sky would have been getting very bright at the time before sunrise) Jupiter also might have been glimpsed, just rising over the horizon, below and to the left of the star Regulus in Leo. This would have been a challenge, though, and almost certainly would have required binoculars. The Moon rose this morning just half an hour before the Sun, and it probably wouldn't have been visible in that very bright, very low eastern sky even with binoculars.

  New Moon occurs at 2:41 AM EDT Sunday September 13 (6:41 UT September 13). There is also a Partial Solar Eclipse at that time, but, of course, nothing of it will be visible from Indiana or anywhere near North America. It will be seen from South Africa and part of Antarctica.

  Venus will continue to blaze away in predawn skies from now through the whole winter, and even through May of 2016 (though it will be getting very tough to see by early Spring). In late October it will have a showy conjunction in Southeastern Leo with Jupiter and Mars. I'll keep watching the show when I can and try to add more sketches as time goes by.

Monday, September 7, 2015

AM Friday, September 4, 2015 - Lunar Observing / Imaging

  After coming home from work once again during the wee hours of the morning, and finding the sky once again mostly clear but murky and moonlit (pretty much like every predawn these first days of September) I decided to get the telescope out again to do some lunar observing and camera work again.

  The Moon was still a Waning Gibbous, but it was getting closer to Last Quarter. This time it was in far Eastern Taurus, higher in the sky, and shedding a little less light than it had three mornings ago. Though it was hazy and there may have been high fog in the air (and also still maybe a little high altitude smoke), Transparency was better than it had been on Tuesday morning this week. This time, 3rd magnitude stars could barely be seen, though anything dimmer was impossible with the naked eye.

  I had the 10" f/4 outside and set up by 4:05 AM, and at that time I also had a look at the Moon under 39x. I wasn't really trying to image any particular targets tonight; I just thought that Mare Imbrium might start looking interesting with the sunset line halfway through Mare Serenitatus and slowly heading its way.

  Lunar Colongitude at 4:15 AM (8:15 UT Sept. 4) = 159.48°
  Lunar Colongitude at 4:30 AM (8:30 UT Sept. 4) = 159.60°

  This time, unlike Tuesday morning, I only spent one short session outside between about 4:15 AM - 4:30 AM. During that time I managed to shoot 7 photos using 39x power and 36 photos using 78x power. These photos were downloaded into Folder #69 in my Nikon Transfer folder on my laptop.

  These are the best images of the session from what I've seen so far. All of them were taken using the Nikon Coolpix L20 digital camera handheld to the eyepiece of the telescope. I'm posting them here without much comment; obviously the Mare Serenitatus area and the heavily cratered highlands on the southern hemisphere were the most showy targets; though some shading can also be seen in Mare Imbrium's features and even on Plato. All in all, I was pleased with how the photos turned out! Once again, Seeing was great even though Transparency wasn't good at all!

  The image below is of the whole Moon. 39x power. 4:18 AM (8:18 UT Sept. 4). Lunar Colongitude = 159.51°

  The next image below shows the Moon's northern hemisphere under 78x power. 4:23 AM (8:23 UT Sept. 4). Lunar Colongitude = 159.55°

  This last image shows the heavily cratered lunar southern hemisphere. 78x power. 4:27 AM (8:27 UT Sept. 4). Lunar Colongitude = 159.58°

  I had the telescope back inside by 5:00 AM after what turned out to be a very short session. There was some dew on the telescope tube and dew cap, but, like Tuesday morning, I didn't really have it outside long enough for it to be an issue. Singing night insects were in full chorus again this morning.

  5:00 AM Conditions - Temperature = 72°F, Dew Point = 66°F, Humidity = 82%, Wind = SW at 6mph, Pressure = 29.98".

Tuesday September 1, 2015 - More on the Mare Crisium "Sunset Ray"

  Tuesday morning's observing / imaging session of the Moon was  a memorable one for a couple of reasons. Ever since viewing and sketching the "sunset ray" on Mare Crisium twice in 2008, I'd never seen this feature since, so this was the first time I'd seen it through the telescope in over seven years! And this was in spite of several attempts. It was also the first time I'd ever photographed it. I seemed to have caught it right at the beginning, so it also gave me a much better idea of when the effect on Mare Crisium starts. Here's a rundown of what I know so far from photographs and sketches:

Lunar Colongitude = 121.49° March 8, 2015 3:20 UT

  The photo above was taken early last March, at a time when the mountains along the southern rim of Mare Crisium first started to cast shadows on the plain. It was obvious even when I took the photo that it was still some time before the "sunset ray" was really noticeable.

Lunar Colongitude = 122.63° September 1, 2015 7:41 UT

  My first set of photos from Tuesday morning really made the situation clear. It shows this area of Mare Crisium at the equiv 2 hours 15 minutes after the first photo. Those mountain shadows were much more stretched out, but it's also clear in the photo (and I also saw this through the eyepiece) that the mountain shadow to the north hasn't quite reached the terminator yet, so even at this point there wasn't a cut-off lit-up area in between those shadows.

Lunar Colongitude = 123.06° September 1, 2015 8:34 UT

  The photo above shows this area just 53 minutes after the previous one, and by this time the northern mountain shadow had reached the terminator; making a true "sunset ray" in between. So now I know that the complete cut-off sunlit area starts around the time that the lunar colongitude lies at about 123°. This was the other real personal discovery on Tuesday morning before dawn!

Lunar Colongitude = 124.2° Sketched August 19, 2008 7:30 UT

  Now that I have pretty much pegged down the start time of this monthly lunar phenomena, my main mission in the near future is to find the "end time" and hopefully photograph it. The sketch above was from the second time that I've ever seen the "light ray" in 2008, and I recorded the colongitude then as 124.2°, which is the equivalent of about 2 hours 15 minutes after the last photograph. At the time, the "light ray" seemed narrow and even more detached from the rim of Mare Crisium. (I'd love to get a photograph of it looking like this some day!)

Lunar Colongitude = 129.37° March 30, 2013 5:38 UT

  Finally, this photograph shows the lit-up rim of Mare Crisium with the Mare itself all in shadow. It was taken at the equivalent of about 12 hours 30 minutes after the photograph taken when the colongitude was 123.06°. It's obvious at this point that the "sunset ray" is long gone. This photo gives me an extreme upper limit to how long it lasts, but until I make more observations of the Moon between when the terminator is between colongitude 124° and 129°, I'll never know for sure how long it lasts. I suspect it could be as short as four hours, though it could possibly be three times longer than that!

  (Postscript - I posted the photo from 8:34 UT Tuesday September 1 on the Facebook page Telescope Addicts - Astronomy and Astrophotography Community on Saturday, September 5 and asked if any other group members had ever seen or photographed what I've been calling the "Mare Crisium Sunset Ray." One reply that I received was from Rick Scott in Arizona. He seemed to think that this was the famous "false arch" along Mare Crisium; where the shadows seemed to suggest a natural arch lies on the rim. This was later proven false. I've read about this in the past but I was never sure where, exactly, this feature was located. He may well be right!)

AM Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - Lunar Observing and Imaging

  I didn't get home from work until about 2:45 AM on Tuesday morning, and it was a clear but very moonlit, hazy night (there was also, possibly, still high-altitude smoke over Indiana). The Moon was a bright Waning Gibbous, about two and a half days past Full, shining in Pisces. The bright, murky sky made 2nd magnitude stars very difficult to see with the naked eye, and anything dimmer impossible. In fact, only 1st magnitude stars or brighter were obvious!

  Even though I was tired, some quick calculations earlier on Monday had made me aware that this morning I had a great chance of observing the "Mare Crisium Sunset Ray." I hadn't actually seen it since observing it twice in 2008, and I'd never photographed it (since I've only had the digital camera since Christmas 2009). So I had the 10" f/4 set up outside by 3:25 AM; the first time I'd had it out, I think, since last April! I pointed it at the Moon and went inside to grab the camera.

  Lunar Colongitude at 3:30 AM (7:30 UT Sept. 1) = 122.53°
  Lunar Colongitude at 3:45 AM (7:45 UT Sept. 1) = 122.66°

  I first went outside from about 3:35 AM - 3:44 AM and I was able to snap 5 images of the whole Moon using 39x power and 42 images using 78x. These were downloaded into Folder #67 in the Nikon Transfer Folder on my laptop. While at the eyepiece, looking to the northernmost part of Mare Crisium, I was encouraged because it looked like the "sunset ray" wasn't too far away from being complete.

  Before I was finished, a lot of very thin cloud bands moved into the sky and "dulled" the Moon. I wasn't sure if I was going to get a chance to get in a second observing session.

   Below is the best image of the whole Moon obtained during the first session outside. 39x using the Nikon Coolpix L20 camera pressed up against the eyepiece, handheld. 3:45 AM (7:45 UT Sept. 1). Lunar Colongitude = 122.66°

  Lunar Colongitude at 4:30 AM (8:30 UT Sept. 1) = 123.03°
  Lunar Colongitude at 4:45 AM (8:45 UT Sept. 1) = 123.16°

  After downloading and looking through the first batch of photos, I went outside again to find that the thin cloud patches that had been drifting through the sky were gone, so I had a second session of photo shooting between about 4:30 AM - 4:45 AM. During this time I snapped 50 photos using 78x. These ended up being downloaded into Folder #68 in the Nikon Transfer Folder on my laptop.

  I should point out that in spite of the hazy (maybe smokey) atmosphere and the humidity in the air, the Seeing conditions tonight were excellent! The images through the eyepiece were very steady with just some shimmering now and then. And several of the camera shots were very clear.

  Below is one of the best photos I obtained during this second session outside. 78x and again I took it with the Nikon Coolpix L20 camera handheld to the eyepiece. 4:34 AM (8:34 UT Sept. 1). Lunar Colongitude 123.06°. Below this is an "extreme blowup" of the same photo to show the "sunset ray" near the center, which was now clearly visible! I'd finally captured it!

  After this second session, I packed everything up for the morning to get to bed and get ready for another workday. There was dew on the telescope tube and dew cap, but I hadn't had the scope out long enough for this to really be a problem. Singing night insects were chirping, whirring, clicking, and buzzing all around me in the mild, moist night air. This was a very productive night of observing and imaging!

  4:00 AM Conditions: Temperature = 72°F, Dew Point = 67°F, Humidity = 84%, Wind = Calm, Pressure = 30.09".

  (See next entry for more information about the Mare Crisium "Sunset Ray.")

Saturday, August 29, 2015

PM Sat. August 29 - AM Sun. August 30, 2015 - Full "Super" Moon Notes

  Full Moon took place on Saturday afternoon at 2:35 PM EDT (18:35 UT August 29), so tonight and last night could really both be considered Full Moon nights; one night with it slightly prior to Full and then, tonight, slightly after Full. Both nights have been partly to mostly cloudy and hazy. This was the best photo I could take tonight around 11:00 PM, using my cell phone camera held up against one lens of my 7x50 binoculars, hand-held. The Moon was partly obscured by thin altocumulus clouds.

  Though it's next to impossible to tell this tonight, with the haze and clouds, the Moon is in Aquarius near and south of the "Water Jar" asterism.

  This Full Moon has also been referred to in the media as a "Super Moon." This is because Lunar Perigee takes place around 11:25 AM EDT Sunday (15:25 UT August 30), less than twenty four hours after the time it was Full. It looks slightly larger than the other Full Moons this year, in other words, though the media is exaggerating this as usual!

  As I was writing in my last entry, moonlight is going to be an issue through the upcoming week, as it wanes and gets closer to the winter constellations before dawn (where the variable stars lie that I want to start observing). Warmer, muggier air is also forecast to move in through the week along with chances for rain. This will be a good week to get my charts and notes ready, and hopefully by next weekend (which is also Labor Day Weekend) I'll start logging in some brightness estimates!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

AM Thursday August 27, 2015 - Observing Issues

  I decided to focus on meteor observing through July and August, and actually had some productive sessions over the last few weeks, and filled out some IMO reports online. I may write some "catch-up" entries for this blog about these sessions if time permits. I also had some interesting email correspondence through August that might result in setting up an all-sky camera here at home to image bright meteors and fireballs, and I might elaborate on all of this in the near future.

  But my plan after the Perseid Shower and the Kappa Cygnid Shower ended in late August was to go back to Variable Star Observing, and I was ready to do this when this work-week began, in the wee hours before dawn. Unfortunately, several obstacles have prevented me from doing this.

  The Moon has been a Waxing Gibbous this week, brightening the sky more and more and setting later and later after midnight. I knew that this would make observing a challenge and give me a narrower "window" of dark sky every morning. But the stars I wanted to observe, in Auriga, Taurus, and Orion, were pretty much in the opposite part of the sky as the Moon, so I thought this was an issue I could get around.

  The real problem, however, has been the sky conditions themselves. On Sunday evening, August 23rd, a cold front passed through Indianapolis. The forecast for the next several days called for milder and drier air to move in, with mostly sunny days and clear, cool nights. Unfortunately, the low pressure system that drove the cold front through our area just sat and swirled through the Great Lakes and it kept streaming a "pinwheel" of clouds overhead. These clouds have been persistent!

  And even on the mostly clear mornings (Monday and now today), there's been a real "murkiness" to the sky. I thought at first that it might just be the result of high thin cloud cover, but the culprit seems to be high-altitude smoke, just like I saw and wrote about last June. Back then, smoke was drifting into the Midwest from fires in Western Canada. Now it's smoke from wildfires burning in the Continental US. Many of the fires have taken place in the Pacific Northwest, though, as the maps below show, there are also a lot of them in the Great Plains and the Gulf Coast. The Great Plains fires are contributing to the problems I'm seeing overhead.

Map of Wildfires / Smoke Monday morning August 24th

Map of Wildfires / Smoke Tuesday August 25th

  This morning the Moon looked yellowed and the sky had a weird blueish tint to it. Stars dimmer than 2.0 magnitude were tough to see. Since Full Moon is two and a half days away, I'm probably not going to be able to observe in dark conditions before dawn for almost two weeks, even if the sky really clears and the smoke goes elsewhere! I think I'll use this time to get my variable star charts in order and write some posts about the targets I plan to take some looks at over the next few months.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Saturday June 13, 2015 - Weather Notes for the Past Week.

  After a relatively mild Saturday, summer-like weather dominated our area for the second week of June. Things got hot and very humid, we had some passing thunderstorms, and there was an unusual event on Tuesday the 9th worth documenting.

  When Sunday the 7th began, the radar images seemed alarming. They showed a big arcing line of storms moving from the northern half of Illinois to the northern half of Indiana. It looked like a Derecho! Our skies stayed partly sunny but very hazy and humid through late morning, and it was windy. By noon the winds became strong and gusty and dark clouds moved in, but when I checked the radar, that menacing looking storm line had fallen apart, and scattered showers were skirting Indianapolis to the north. By afternoon, hazy and partly sunny skies returned again. I went outside to mow the front and side yards and the patio area in the back, but ran out of time to mow the back yard before I had to pick Adrian up from work and do some errands. The morning low had been 62°F and the afternoon high reached 88°F; the warmest day of 2015 in Indianapolis so far. Dew Points were in the upper 60's°F. Lines of storms developed again in northern Illinois and moved into north central Indiana by sunset, slowly sagging to the south. Even though skies grew overcast at sunset and lots of flickering lightning could be seen to the north during the hours before midnight, no rain fell in our area on Sunday. I was mesmerized every time I went outside watching the distant lightning and the flashes from fireflies all over the back yard.

  We stayed up late Sunday evening the 7th through Monday morning the 8th because severe thunderstorms were approaching from the north and west, and there were tornado warnings issued for counties near the Indiana / Illinois border. It seemed like we were in for a rough night. However, as they approached, the storms started to weaken and warnings were dropped. By 1:15 AM I could hear rumbles of thunder along with the flickering lightning, and the gust front hit our corner of Marion County right before 1:30 AM. But it was a much weaker storm than it had been two hours before. There were only a few rumbles of thunder and none of it was close. Heavy rain fell for just five or ten minutes, and the winds weren't damaging. By 2:00 AM the storms had passed and only light rain continued.

  Monday June 8th turned out to be an overcast and sometimes stormy day. It was gloomy through the morning with scattered rain showers. Just after noon, scattered thunderstorms started to develop just west of the city and started scudding to the southeast. There were pockets of brief, heavy rain in the neighborhood and lots of thunderclaps. These storms cleared Marion County by 3:00 PM, and skies showed some thinning clouds and filtered sunlight. However, I ran back into them during my drive to work, and they were just clearing Greensburg when I was walking in to the plant at 4:00 PM. Things were fairly quiet outside for both places until about 10:00 PM, when strong storms moved through Indianapolis with lots of close lightning bolts and heavy rain. An hour later, that same line of storms moved through Greensburg. I was working in Final Quality Inspect at the time, and I could see bright lightning flashes and a downpour of rain whenever the bay doors opened and shut to let the cars drive in and out of the factory. In fact, the car traffic was halted for about ten minutes due to lightning! This cleared Greensburg by midnight.

  The low temperature on Monday had only dropped to 60°F and though temperatures varied a lot with the clouds and storms during the day, the afternoon high reached just 79°F. The official rain total for Indianapolis from the NWS office by the Airport was a whopping 1.90" but my little back yard glass tube rain gauge only recorded 0.80". I'm guessing these scattered storms dumped a lot more rain at the airport than they dropped on the Southeast Side.

  Skies looked clear but murky by the time I was driving home from work after 1:00 AM on Tuesday morning, June 9th. I could see some bright stars and Saturn. I assumed that there was a high fog in the air along with some patchy low fog banks that I was driving through now and then. There were a lot of leaves, twigs, and small branches lying on the streets from the storms that had passed through a few hours before, though I'd seen much worse damage. What was strange, however, was the color of the Moon. By 3:00 AM I could see it risen above the roof of our house and the neighbors' house to our south. It was just nine or ten hours from Last Quarter so it should have still been pretty bright, but instead it was dim and very coppery in color even though it was up fairly high in the sky. By 4:30 AM, when I was about ready to get to bed, the Moon was up even higher in the sky but still looked eerie and ruddy. At that time, only stars that were 1st magnitude or brighter could be seen in the sky. I still thought that it was due to humid and foggy conditions in the wake of the storms.

  Tuesday the 9th itself was a very sunny and dry day with just scattered cumulus clouds around in the afternoon. The humidity was much lower in the wake of the passage of the cold front and the air was comfortable. But Tuesday was also a strange-looking day. From sunrise to sunset, the sky seemed very milky white or even grayish, and the sunlight was very filtered. It was hard to pick out the clouds from the sky throughout the afternoon. It should have been much clearer with strong sunlight, since the moisture level was so low. The answer to this came to me from local noon news; the meteorologist mentioned that the upper level jet stream was sending thick smoke from forest fires in Canada straight into the Great Lakes region and on southward. This was the reason for the strangeness of the sky and also explained to me why the Moon had seemed so coppery the night before. When I was at work on Tuesday evening, I saw the sun as a deep red orb set against a very dark gray sky, even though it was clear. Tuesday started out with a low temperature of 58°F and the high only reached 82°F. There was  no rainfall near Indianapolis. In spite of the unusual haze, this turned out to be the nicest day of the week!

  Satellite image from Tuesday showing the smoke in the upper atmosphere streaming into Indiana from Canada and the Great Lakes. This image is stunning to me! 

  Photo taken by me using my cell phone of the back yard early on Tuesday afternoon, June 9. This shows the ever-present haze and the weakened sunlight that dominated the daylight hours from the smoke in the upper atmosphere.

  This photo was taken by a friend of a friend in my hometown of LaPorte, Indiana, on the morning of June 9. It shows even smokier skies in far Northwest Indiana due to the smoke from Canadian forest fires. Steve Benner posted it to me on Facebook. 

  I expected skies to be hazy again when I was on my way home from work well after midnight on Wednesday morning the 10th, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. Things looked clear but murky by the time I was pulling up to the house. When I went outside at 4:30 AM, I was very surprised, because the sky was almost pristine! The Moon (now just half a day or more past Last Quarter) was shining over the roof of our house again, low in the east-southeast, but even with this moonlight interference I was sure that I could see stars to 4.0 magnitude or dimmer. There was even a hint of the Summer Milky Way that could be seen in Cygnus! It would have actually been a good morning to get the 10" scope outside and do some observing. But I was unprepared for the clear sky and it was just half an hour before the first light of dawn would have made variable star observing impossible. It was a brief, wasted opportunity. Looking back on it, it was also probably my only opportunity to get out and observe.

  Wednesday the 10th was a very sunny and hot day! Winds had shifted and were now coming out of the west and southwest. It was a mostly sunny day with a lot of cumulus clouds that built up in the afternoon and then waned away somewhat by sunset. The sky had very little haze and the humidity was relatively low with Dew Points that were usually in the low 60's°F range. The morning low was 65°F and the high for the day reached 90°F (our first day of 90 degrees or above in 2015). There was no precipitation on Wednesday even though some severe storms developed in northernmost Indiana (near the Michigan border) during the late evening hours and slowly drifted south. These storms fell apart after sunset and only brought clouds to Indianapolis by midnight.

  During the predawn hours of Thursday, June 11th skies were overcast during my drive home; the result of that northern line of storms that had petered out as they moved south toward Indianapolis. Thursday itself was a lot like Wednesday had been, There were scattered storms here and there around Indiana during the afternoon, but all of the rain stayed away from Indianapolis and Greensburg. It was cloudier than Wednesday had been with mid-level clouds around noon and then a mix of high and low clouds during the afternoon. It was also hazier than Wednesday had been, though not nearly as bad as we'd seen on Tuesday. The humidity was up. Dew Points were in the mid to upper 60's°F range for most of the day. The morning low was 69°F while the high once again reached 90°F.

  Things changed somewhat on Friday, June 12th. It was still hot and humid, but now the weather systems were close enough for thunderstorms to be generated, and this started fairly early in the day. When I was on my way home from work at 2:30 AM (after working a long evening with overtime added!) skies seemed fairly clear but murky. But by 3:30 AM the sky was full of bands of cirrus clouds that hid any stars dimmer than 2nd magnitude. Then the storms rolled in. I was woken up at 10:45 AM to the sounds of  close thunderclaps followed by brief heavy rain. This cell passed us within the hour, but other cells drifted by the Southeast Side from late morning through early afternoon, giving us mostly cloudy skies and lots of rumbles of thunder. Some of these cells were bringing down pouring rain just a few miles to our north. After I left for work, one very potent storm cell passed through Greenwood around 6:00 PM but they missed our neighborhood. There were limbs down due to strong winds and there was some damage to homes. I was told by Adrian that there were only some thunder rumbles, a little rain, and it wasn't extremely windy when this storm passed by.

  Things weren't over after sunset on Friday. Around 8:30 PM there was a strong storm band that passed through Greensburg (possibly the same one that had caused the damage in Greenwood an hour before) that brought heavy rain and frequent close lightning. I could hear thunderclaps in the Honda plant even over all of the machinery. Then another band of storms passed through Indianapolis around 9:00 PM and also swept through Greensburg around 10:00 PM. It was a very active evening during the hours after sunset! The stormy weather moved out of most of Central Indiana by midnight.

  Friday's high temperature was 72°F and the high reached 89°F, just one degree short of the highs that we'd reached on Wednesday and Thursday. Dew Points were incredible; reaching the low 70's°F range. That's like a rain forest! The official precipitation total at the Airport in Indianapolis was just 0.21". At home my little glass tube gauge only recorded 0.09". The storms were very hit and miss; some parts of Indiana, even nearby, had a real deluge!

  There was a real sky show going on when I was driving home from work between 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM from Greensburg to Indianapolis on Saturday, June 13th. Though I didn't drive through any rain, and there were some clear spots in the clouds, there were almost constant flashes of lightning to the north and northeast. It was like a strobe light! Some of the flashes were pretty bright. I realized later, when I was home checking radar images, that I was actually seeing lightning generated by severe storms that were drifting between Marion, Indiana, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. This was mind-blowing; these storms must have been 100 miles away! As I approached Indianapolis, there were also some lightning flashes to the southwest from smaller storm cells near Bloomington. These storms fell apart before reaching us.

  Saturday itself turned out to be a fairly dry day. There were scattered storm cells around us, especially to the north, but only a small shower passed through the Southeast Side of Marion County around 6:00 PM that barely wet the pavement. The low was 71°F and the high reached 88°F. Dew Points hovered a couple of degrees above and below 70°F so it was uncomfortably humid. The conditions outside convinced me not to get out and do any grass mowing or brush cutting. Instead, I was able to do some things inside the house that I'd been planning to do. After dusk, skies were mostly cloudy,. However, a little after 10:00 PM I was able to spot Venus and Jupiter just ten degrees apart in the west-northwest sky (they will be incredibly close together on the evening of June 30th).

  Forecasts called for warm, muggy, summer-like weather to continue for much of next week, with chances of rain and storms almost every day. Next week the predawn sky will be virtually moonless, since New Moon will take place at 10:05 AM on Tuesday, June 16th EDT (14:05 UT June 16). Since we're so close now to June Solstice, with Sunrises taking place at 6:16 AM all next week, the first light of dawn will set in at approximately 4:50 AM or even earlier. This is challenging to observing, but I would like to get in some more variable star observations. We'll see how it goes. If nothing else, I'm going to try to stay current in these entries with what's happening with the weather and also do some catching up of some of the amateur astronomy that I've been able to get in so far in 2015. There will be a lot of entries ahead!