baltimoresun.com

January 3, 2012

Quadrantids meteor shower

Between the clouds and the moonlight, I'm not sure how much you'll see, but the Quadrantids meteor shower will happen overnight. According to NASA, the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour, varying between 60-200. Peak time will be in the early morning hours, so if you can't sleep, take a look out the window.
Posted by Kim Walker at 3:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

October 29, 2011

Webb telescope a marvel, if it's launched

Webb Space Telescope FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Spent time this week at the Maryland Science Center and learned a lot about the James Webb Space Telescope, which if completed will succeed the Hubble Telescope as the world’s leading observatory. Shade from a five-layer sunshield will keep Webb’s infrared sensors at minus-387 degrees F, while heat on the sun side rises to 185 degrees. Its 18 beryllium mirrors are so smooth, if they were scaled up to the size of the U.S., the tallest “mountain” would still be just two inches high.

(NASA IMAGE)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

October 28, 2011

Jupiter at opposition tonight; grab the binocs

Jupiter/NASAFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The planet Jupiter reaches opposition at 10 p.m. EDT tonight. That means it is “opposite” the sun from our perspective on the Earth. The gas giant now rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, and it reaches its highest point in the sky at 1 a.m. EDT. Opposition is also the middle of the best time of year to see Jupiter, currently the brightest star-like object in the evening sky. A good pair of binoculars will reveal its four Galilean moons, lined up on either side of the planet’s disk.

(NASA PHOTO: Jupiter and its Galilean moons)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

October 26, 2011

New moon at perigee today; watch for high tides

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASAAt 9 a.m. today, the moon will stand at perigee, less than 56 Earth radii away – just 221,874 miles. It’s the second-smallest distance between Earth and moon this year (after Mar. 19), and it occurs just seven hours before the moment of the new moon, at 3:56 p.m. EDT this (Wednesday) afternoon.

The combination of the nearness of the moon at perigee, and its alignment in front of the sun, may bring some unusually high tides today.

(NASA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

October 25, 2011

2011 ozone hole was ninth-largest on record

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASA It’s spring in the Antarctic, and time to measure the ozone hole.

This gap in the natural layer of stratospheric ozone that protects the surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation forms each spring. It’s a consequence of pollution by manmade chemicals called CFCs.

Levels of long-lived CFCs have been in slow decline since phase-in of a 1987 ban. But scientists don’t expect the ozone hole to heal until mid-century.

This year’s was the ninth largest on record, at 10 million square miles.

(NASA IMAGE: Ozone hole Oct. 21, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

October 24, 2011

The galaxy awaits; have a look, Friday in Dundalk

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Andromeda GalaxyHave you taken a good look at your galaxy lately? You really need to pay more attention to it. And if the skies cooperate, you’ll get another chance this Friday evening.

The Dundalk Observatory, at the Community College of Baltimore County, will hold another of its autumn observing sessions, starting at 8 p.m. on the CCBC campus, 7200 Sollers Point Road.

Jupiter will be rising in the east. If clouds threaten, call 410 282-3092 after 7:15 p.m. for a go/no-go check.

(NASA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

October 22, 2011

Ussher: Creation began this night, 4004 BC

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:James Ussher

Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar reminds us that, according to “The Annals of the Old Testament,” the 1650 classic by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, in Ireland, God began the creation of the world at nightfall on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22, in 4004 B.C.

Hubble Space TelescopeThat would make this night the 6,015th birthday of, well, everything.

Modern cosmologists, of course, have reached a different conclusion, dating the Big Bang to about 13.7 billion years ago.

(PHOTOS: Left, HST/NASA. Right, James Ussher) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

October 6, 2011

Rise and shine for space station flyby tomorrow

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Space Cadets! If our skies stay clear we’ll have a nice opportunity early Friday to watch the International Space Station fly by. If you’re up early for work, take a run or walk the dog, look to the northwest at 6:01 a.m. EDT. Watch for a bright, steady, star-like object rising into the sky as the ISS passes over the Great Lakes. It will climb to more than halfway above the northeast horizon, passing high over New York City at 6:04 a.m., before disappearing in the southeast at 6:07.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

October 4, 2011

Perfect powder, hard to reach

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Snow on EnceladusSkiers! The forecast for Enceladus calls for more snow flurries and perfect powder! Where’s Enceladus, you ask? Sadly, this little-visited destination is pretty remote. Enceladus is a moon of Saturn. Scientists working with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around the planet, reported evidence Monday that plumes of liquid water erupting through the surface have been falling back as snow for tens of millions of years. The powder in some places averages 350 feet deep.

(PHOTO: Paul Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 30, 2011

A time of toppling records

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Snowy CatonsvilleJust so you know: Since December 2009, Baltimore has endured its snowiest winter (2009-2010) since record-keeping began; second-snowiest December (2009); snowiest February (2010); snowiest month (same); biggest two-day snowstorm (Feb. 5-6, 2010); hottest summer (2010); most 90-degree days (2010); most 100-degree days (2010, a tie with 1988); wettest September (2011); wettest 30-day period (Aug.13-Sept. 11, 2011); and most combined Aug./Sept. rain (2011).

(PHOTO: Catonsville, Feb, 10, 2010. Nicole Martyn, Patuxent Publishing)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:07 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 23, 2011

Straight winds or rotating? It matters

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Ocean City tornadoDan Swegon, in Fallston, asks: “Why is there so much interest, after the event, as to whether heavy wind was a tornado? Severe windstorms cause damage whether the winds were twisting or straight.”

It’s for science and safety. Tornado winds are Nature’s most sudden and powerful. Saving lives and property demands accurate and timely warnings. That requires an understanding of when, where and why tornadoes occur. And scientific understanding demands precise, reliable data. 

(PHOTO: Tamara Ivan, in Ocean City, Md., Sept. 15, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Tornadoes
        

September 22, 2011

Autumn arrives at 5:06 a.m. tomorrow

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

If it feels ominously dark and autumnal this week, it should. Today is the last full day of Druids gather for equinoxsummer. At 5:06 a.m. EDT tomorrow the sun will appear to cross the plane of the Earth’s equator, marking what many regard as the start of autumn.

That hasn’t always been true. Celtic societies saw the equinox as the height of autumn. The season would end at Samhain, with the “cross-quarter” day on Oct. 31, when ghosts wandered by night, and the cold and deprivation of winter began.

(PHOTO: Druids gather in London for the autumn equinox. Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 21, 2011

Summer ends, and the alarm rings in the dark

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:Alarm clock

As we get nearer to the autumnal equinox on Friday, our family is really starting to notice how much darker it is when the alarm goes off in the morning.

By the end of next week, the sun won’t rise for Baltimore until 7 a.m. EDT, almost an hour and a quarter later than at the solstice in June. And sunset comes 90 minutes earlier, around 7 p.m.

The daylight now grows shorter by about three minutes a day; we’ve already lost nearly two hours and 45 minutes since June.

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, 1994)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 20, 2011

NASA satellite in fiery plunge this week

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

UARS/NASANASA’s defunct UARS satellite is expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in a fiery, uncontrolled plunge sometime in the next few days.

UARS was launched in 1991 from the shuttle Discovery. Designed to study the upper atmosphere for three years, the bus-sized spacecraft was finally decommissioned in 2005.

It orbits between 57 degrees north and south latitudes, and will fall somewhere within that range. The pass nearest to Baltimore was over N.J., at 5:29 a.m. today.

(NASA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 16, 2011

Like "Tatooine," new planet has two suns

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Tatooine, from Star WarsAstronomer Alan Boss, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, is reporting the discovery of a Saturn-sized planet orbiting a dual-star system. The discovery recalls images of fictional Tatooine, the sun-baked desert planet that was home to Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hut in the “Star Wars” movie series. Tatooine was depicted with two suns in a hazy sky. Boss and his team detected the real planet with the orbiting Kepler observatory by monitoring eclipses of the two stars and their planet.

(PHOTO: Tatooine, from "Star Wars: A New Hope")

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 12, 2011

We've skipped El Nino; it's La Nina again

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

La Nina is back. The cooler-than normal sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that influence weather around the world, have returned after a summer in “neutral” territory between cool La Nina and warm El Nino. It’s the same regime that brought us a comparatively easy winter in 2010-11 with a below-average 14 inches of snow. It’s also been blamed for the severe drought across the South, heavy snow and spring flooding to our north and west. And, it tends to mean more hurricane activity.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 10, 2011

Where's the missing tropical storm?

TD 10FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Don Dobrow, in Baltimore, wonders why Tropical Storm Maria was described as being the 14th storm of the season: “M is the 13th letter of the alphabet.”

It is. But what the National Hurricane Center is counting are “tropical depressions” — areas of heavy rain, with winds below 39 mph. Until they organize enough to push top winds to 39 mph, they aren’t officially “tropical storms,” and don’t get a name.

Tropical Depression 10 last month (map, left)never topped 35 mph before expiring on Aug. 27.

(IMAGE: National Hurricane Center)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricanes, Sky Notes
        

September 8, 2011

What does a "60 percent chance of rain" mean?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Heavy rain BaltimoreJohn Mitsak, in Baltimore, looks at a weather forecast predicting “a 60 percent chance of rain,” and writes: “I don’t know how to evaluate the 60% chance of rain. Maybe you can shed some light.” I’ll try. The percentages state how frequently in the past, under the same circumstances, it has rained anywhere in the forecast area . Chances from 60 to 70 percent may also be expressed as “likely.” Above 80 percent and rain is “categorical.” Forecasters would say, “Rain this afternoon.”

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Sept. 7, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

September 7, 2011

Celestial wonders in Dundalk

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Dundalk ObservatoryThe autumn stargazing calendar for the Dundalk Observatory is out. The facility is run by the Community College of Baltimore County’s School of Mathematics and Science, 7200 Sollers Point Road. They have a big, 14-inch Celestron 1400 XLT telescope. Planets, nebulae, comets … all sorts of wonders can be seen from Dundalk. The six free observing nights this fall begin at 8 p.m., Sept. 16. Call 410 282-3092 no earlier than 7:15 p.m. to see if weather has canceled the event.

(PHOTO: CCBC)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 31, 2011

Clouds may obscure Thursday's space station flyby

Space Cadets! The International Space Station will be passing over Baltimore shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday evening. It's predicted to be a very bright pass, but the weather forecast isn't very promising, so this is a web-only alert.

ISS/Heavens-AboveNWS/Sterling is forecasting "mostly cloudy" skies tonight. But on the off chance that they're wrong, here's the scoop on the flyby.

Look for the ISS to appear in the northwest at 8:20 p.m. EDT, as the station and its crew fly over the central Great Lakes. It will look like a bright, moving star. If it blinks or has multiple, or colored lights, it's an airplane. Keep looking.

It will fly through the bowl of the Big Dipper, rising to 61 degrees above the northeast horizon (about two-thirds of the way from the horizon to the zenith (straight up) at 8:23 p.m., as it passes over central New Jersey.

From there the ISS will pass very close to the bright star Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Deneb is part of the Summer Triangle, an asterism in the shape of a right triangle. The other points of the triangle are Altair and Vega.

FInally, the station will move off to the east-southeast, disappearing over the Atlantic at 8:25 p.m.

(MAP: Heavens-Above.com)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

August 24, 2011

Which is the coolest month of summer?

Late summer MarylandFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

John Polyniak, in Lake Shore, writes: “Hi Frank. Summer starts in June and ends in September. Which month is hotter on average?

The average temperature for June in Baltimore is 72.4 degrees. The average for September is 67.8 degrees - 4.6 degrees cooler.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. Summer begins at the summer solstice, June 21, when sun angles are highest and daylight is longest. By Sept. 23, we’re receiving almost 3 hours less daylight, at lower sun angles.

(SUN PHOT: Doug Kapustin, Sept. 26, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 19, 2011

Night owls! Moon and Jupiter take early A.M. stroll

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Staying up really, REALLY late tonight? If skies are clear tonight, step outside for a look at a striking celestial pair. The moon and Jupiter will be rising side-by-side, in the east, shortly before midnight Friday, climbing higher in the southeast each hour until the dawn fades our view of Jupiter. Moon and planet will appear less than 5 degrees apart – less than the width of your hand held at arm’s length. Jupiter is about 430 million miles out, the moon just 251,000 miles away. For more, see Sky & Telescope.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 15, 2011

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore tonight

ISS cupolaFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Space Cadets! The International Space Station is back in the evening sky. If clouds are sparse enough, there’s a great opportunity tonight to watch it fly directly over Baltimore.

Watch for the star-like ISS and its crew of two Americans, three Russians and one Japanese rise above the southwest horizon at 8:45 p.m. EDT as they fly high over Georgia. ISS will reach the zenith (straight up) at 8:48 p.m. From there it will sail off to the northeast, fading out at 8:51 high over Nova Scotia.

(NASA PHOTO) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

August 12, 2011

Full moon will dull tonight's Perseid meteors

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight. It’s most everybody’s favorite, thanks to the pleasant summer weather. Some clouds are likely. Worse, many of this year’s Perseids will be washed out by the glare of tonight’s full, Green Corn moon. But it’s still worth a try. Perseids are fast, bright and some leave persistent trails. Get as far as possible from urban lights. Best time to look is 2 to 4 a.m. Saturday. Then you can go home and sleep late.

And here's an online bonus. If you stay out a bit longer, at 4:33 a.m. the International Space Station will appear out of Earth's shadow, high in the northwest. A steady, star-like object, it  will move briskly toward the southeast, passing almost directly in front of the planet Jupiter, the brightest object in the southeastern sky. At 4:36 a.m., the station will fade from view.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

August 11, 2011

As the world turns, high tides arrive later

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

1952 floodTerri Clayman, in Columbia, noticed that the high tide on the Outer Banks was roughly 50 minutes later each day. “We were surprised that there was such a difference in the times. What is the reason?” 

The moon’s gravitational pull creates the high tides - twin bulges in the ocean, one on each side of our spinning planet.

The moon moves east a bit each day as it orbits the Earth, so it takes about 50 minutes longer, as Earth spins, for your beach to catch up to that same tidal bulge.

(SUN PHOTO: Light Street flooding at high tide after Hurricane Able. Dick Stacks, Sept. 1, 1952)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 5, 2011

Solar storm smacks Earth; aurora possible

The biggest solar eruptions to date of the current solar cycle have crossed the solar system and smacked into the Earth's magnetic field on Friday afternoon. The collision of solar particles with the Earth's atmosphere could trigger the aurora borealis, or "Northern Lights" tonight.

"My estimate is we will probably get aurorae in the northern tier of the U.S.," said Brian J. Anderson, a research physicist at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel. "We might be able to see it in the Baltimore-Washington area if it [the magnetic field in the solar storm] turns due south."

Coronal Mass Ejection Aug. 4, 2011That's not a guarantee, he cautioned. "If the magnetic field doesn't cooperate, this thing could be a dud... That happens half the time."

The sun is currently on the upswing of its 11-year solar activity cycle, and after a long, unusually quiet period at the solar "minimum," eruptions of solar particles and magnetic energy are becoming more common.

The website SpaceWeather.com reported that a large sunspot on the sun, numbered 1261, has hurled out three large flares in recent days, the latest on Thursday. The flares were imaged by NASA'a twin STEREO spacecraft. And as the blast of solar particles and magnetic energy, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) sped toward Earth, they were measured by the SOHO and Advanced Compositions Explorer (ACE) spacecraft.

"The first of these events, the plasma associated with it, the magnetic cloud, arrived yesterday at about 6 p.m.," Anderson said on Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. "The second one, the first hint of it arrived about two hours ago. Then the major piece of it arrived about an hour ago" as measured by instruments in geosynchronous Earth orbit and on the ground.

This kind of solar storm, rated a medium-sized "M-class" flare, can set the Earth's magnetic field ringing like a bell, accelerating ions and adding solar particles to the flow of energy around the planet. That can disturb the Earth's ionosphere and disrupt shortwave communications. It can also disrupt or disable communications and GPS satellites and electric grids. The solar blast can expand the Earth's atmosphere and bring down space junk from low orbits, and disturb the orbits of working satellites. It can also raise Aurora seen from Int'l Space Stationradiation levels aboard manned spacecraft and trigger northern lights in far northern and southern latitudes.

Analysts at the Goddard Space Flight Center said the CME has compressed the Earth's magnetic field on the sunward side of the planet to near the altitude of geosynchronous satellites, potentially exposing communications satellites to the solar wind. That could trigger outages. 

"We are seeing enhancement of the electric currents in the atmosphere as indicated by magnetic field readings in polar regions," Sullivan said. There may be more effects noted in the next day or two. "We're in the early stages of this event."

Cloudy skies and high humidity would, of course, make it impossible to observe any aurorae that do occur. But there will likely be more opportunities ahead.

"In a solar cycle there are perhaps 10 or 20 events of this size," Anderson said. "This is not a once-in-a-century type of thing. I'd say it's the first really strong one we're seeing out of this solar cycle."

Anderson is currently engaged in a research project called AMPERE, funded by the National Science Foundation. He is measuring solar-induced electric currents surrounding the Earth, using equipment on board 70 satellites flown by the Iridium satellite telephone system. In time, he said, he hopes the technology can be used to provide commercial interests, such as electric utilities, with site-specific warnings on potential impacts from solar storms.

(PHOTO: Top: Solar Dynamics Observatory, Aug. 4, 2011; Bottom: Aurora seen from Int'l Space Station, NASA/ISS, May 2010))

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:18 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

NASA's Juno spacecraft en route to Jupiter

NASA's newest planetary mission, Juno, has launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is reported in good shape as it begins its five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno's goal is to study the solar system's largest planet and learn more about its origins, and its influence on the rest of the planets as they formed some 4.5 billion years ago. 

You can see Jupiter with your own eyes this month. It rises in the east just before midnight and is bright in the southeast all through the predawn hours.

Among the instruments on board is the Jupiter Energetic-particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory near Laurel. It's designed to measure high-energy particles trapped in Jupiter's powerful magnetic field.

Liftoff came at 12:25 p.m. Here's how it looked:

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes
        

August 4, 2011

Crescent moon, Saturn and Spica to shine

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Clear skies are hard to come by in Baltimore, in August. But if we get lucky, we’ll have a nice opportunity tonight to see a waxing crescent moon alongside the bright star Spica and the planet Saturn. Look low in the southwest between 8 and 9 p.m. EDT. The moon should be easy enough to find. The bright star just above it is Spica, 260 light years from Earth, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. Yellowish Saturn, 930 million miles out, stands just to the right of the pair.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

August 2, 2011

Last Endeavour crew to speak Thurs. at Hopkins

The last NASA crew to fly the space shuttle Endeavour will speak at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg Center on Thursday, Aug. 4. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the Astronauts Hopkinspublic.

Astronauts scheduled to participate include Commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialist Mike Fincke. Also planning to be here is European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Kelly is married to Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He has announced that he will retire from the astronaut corps on Oct. 1.

The members of the STS-134 crew landed June 1 at the end of their 16-day mission. They delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to the International Space Station. They also lofted the Express Logistics Carrier packed with equipment to sustain the space station after the shuttle cargo service shut down.

The talk will be held in the Bloomberg Center's Schafler Autiorium. Parking is available in the parking garage off San Martin Drive, behind and adjacent to the Bloomberg Center.

For a campus map and parking information, go to  http://bsun.md/nBsiVI The Bloomberg Center is Building #56, and the parking deck is #58 on the map.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science, Sky Notes
        

108-degree reading was not a new state record

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sun Weather station 7/22/11Jeff Brauner, in Baltimore, understands why the 106-degree reading at BWI on July 22 – the highest ever recorded at the airport – did not constitute a record for Baltimore. That’s because it was 107 degrees downtown on July 10, 1936, before the station of record moved out to the airport in 1950.

But he asks why the 108-degree reading downtown on the 22nd  can’t still be the new state record. That’s because, on that same July 10, 1936, it was 109 in Frederick and Cumberland.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank D. Roylance, July 22, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Notes
        

July 31, 2011

August typically brings a break in the summer heat

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Maryland State FairAugust arrives tonight, and none too soon. The eighth month typically brings the first real break in our torrid summer weather. Average daily highs at BWI drop from 87 degrees to 82. The average lows slip from 66 degrees to 61.

It can still get quite hot. All but 10 August dates have triple-digit records, including three dates, in 1918 and 1983, that saw 105 degrees. August also brings the annual Perseid meteor shower, on the 13th, but the full Green Corn Moon will wash out the show.

(PHOTO: Patuxent Publishing, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 29, 2011

NASA prepares for new mission to Jupiter

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Juno at JupiterA week from tooday, NASA will try to launch a new mission to the planet Jupiter, now bright in the pre-dawn sky. The spacecraft, named Juno after the wife of Jupiter in Roman mythology, will reach the planet in July 2016.

A key objective is to find out what’s at the planet’s core. Did Jupiter – made up mostly of hydrogen and helium gas – form around an earlier rocky core? Or did all that gas collapse into a kind of eddy in the swirling disc of gas and dust that formed our solar system?

(NASA artist's concept)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 24, 2011

Space Station on a celestial tour Monday morning

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

ISSSpace Cadets! The last shuttle has landed, but the International Space Station sails on. If you’re up early Monday morning, and the weather cooperates, you’ll get a nice view of the ISS as it flies past bright Jupiter, the crescent moon and dim Mars.

Look for a bright, star-like object, rising in the southwest at 5:10 a.m. EDT. It will pass just above Jupiter around 5:13 and the moon soon after that, and Mars just before disappearing in the east, at 5:16 a.m.

(NASA PHOTO) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 22, 2011

Record heat index? You don't want to be there

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Stifling heat“Capt. Jack” writes: “I saw a heat index of 126 for Iowa… Is that a record? What’s the heat index record high for this part of the country?” According to Wikipedia, a report from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003 put the temperature at 108 degrees, with a dew point of 95 degrees. That makes the heat index 172 degrees. Another reason not to live there.

The unofficial record for BWI (since May 1977), is 122 degrees, on July 15, 1995. The temperature was 102, the dew point 79.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 20, 2011

We've hit 100 degrees 104 times since 1871

Cooling offFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The prospect of seeing several 100-degree days this week sent the weather forecasters digging through their archives. Since record-keeping began for Baltimore in 1871, they say, the city (or the airport after 1950) has seen 104 days that hit 100 degrees or more. We’ve hit the “century” mark in 46 different years in that period. The record for any one year is seven days at 100 degrees or more, reached in 1930, 1988 and 2010. The most consecutive days is four, in July 1930.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 16, 2011

NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrives at Vesta

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Dawn image of VestaEarthlings today reach out to yet another member of our solar system’s family. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft today slips into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. As wide as Arizona, Vesta is the second-biggest object in the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn’s approach photos of Vesta (left) are already twice as sharp as those from the Hubble Space Telescope. After a year at Vesta, Dawn will head for the dwarf planet Ceres.

(NASA PHOTO: Dawn image of Vesta taken July 1, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 14, 2011

Thunder Moon on the rise

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Full MoonThe moon is full tonight. As the first full moon since the summer solstice, it’s known to some as the Hay Moon or the Thunder Moon, for reasons that seem clear enough. It’s officially full at 2:38 a.m. EDT  - on Friday morning. Moonrise for Baltimore this evening is at 8:06 p.m. EDT. If you’re out on the beaches tonight, look for Luna to peek over the horizon at 7:58 p.m.  Out at Deep Creek Lake, you’ll have to wait until at least 8:18 p.m. to see the Thunder Moon rise.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2011)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 12, 2011

Neptune is back where we first saw it

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Neptune Voyager 2A milestone today for the planet Neptune: Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar says the eighth planet from the sun was first detected in 1844 by the French astronomer Urbain Leverrier. He calculated its likely position based on irregularities in the motion of the seventh planet, Uranus, discovered in 1781.

Neptune was finally seen in a telescope on Sept. 23, 1846, right where Leverrier said it should be. Today, Neptune completes its first complete orbit of the sun since that night. 

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 10, 2011

Baltimore heat record from 1936 still stands

1936 heat recordFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

On this date in 1936, Baltimore saw what is still the highest temperature on record for the city – 107.4 degrees, at 3 p.m. downtown. Cumberland and Frederick reported 109 degrees. The Sun listed 29 residents felled by heat prostration. An evening thunderstorm dropped the mercury by 12 degrees, but also toppled trees, cut phone and power lines and set several houses on fire. Water consumption soared. The day’s low reading was 82 degrees. Hundreds slept in city parks.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

July 9, 2011

Bay breeze caused Thursday storm to linger

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Kary Anne Tamblyn, of Ellicott City, watched Thursday’s storms on radar and noted they seemed to move generally west to east. But those that hit Dundalk, Lansdowne and South Baltimore seemed to stall there. “Why didn’t the stationary storms follow the general west-to-east movement of the other storms?” Blame the bay breeze front.” Southeast winds off the bay collided with the storm, and the updraft caused it to continually “re-fire,” or redevelop over the same spot.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Phenomena, Sky Notes
        

July 7, 2011

On losing the daylight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

John Polyniak writes from Lake Shore: “What month has the biggest loss of sunlight, and what month has the biggest increase in sunlight?” As sunrises get later and sunsets grow earlier in late summer and fall, the hours and minutes of sunlight diminish. The U.S. Naval Observatory says Baltimore loses 73 minutes of daylight in September. The October loss is slower, but the month is a day longer, so it adds up to another 73 minutes. March sees the biggest gains, at 77 minutes.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 29, 2011

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

International Space StationSpace Cadets! Wednesday night should be mostly clear, a good opportunity to see the International Space Station fly almost directly over Baltimore.

The ISS will be very bright, rising above the northwest horizon at 10:11 p.m. EDT. Look for a bright, steady, star-like object passing right through the stars of the Big Dipper, and then near the zenith (straight up) at 10:14 p.m.

From there, it flies off the Delaware coast and disappears into the Earth’s shadow at 10:15 p.m.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 28, 2011

Year's latest sunset is tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sunset ChesapeakeDavid Blumberg writes from Baltimore:While I see that sunset for about 11 days straight is 8:37 p.m., I wondered if you could tell me which actual evening has the latest sunset.”

The latest sunset comes this evening, at 8:37 p.m. EDT for Baltimore. But sunrises have been coming later each day since June 14. On balance, the days stopped getting longer on the 21st, and we’re now losing 3 or 4 seconds of daylight per day. That will accelerate to nearly two minutes a day by July 31.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2010)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 26, 2011

Duck! Asteroid headed for Earth

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

asteroidA newly-discovered asteroid is hurtling toward Earth this morning. I’m happy to report it will NOT strike us, and this is not the end of the world as we know it. But the space rock – Asteroid 2011MD, as big as 65 feet across – will skim within just 7,500 miles of the South Atlantic at about 9:30 a.m. Monday.

That’s VERY close as these things usually go, well inside the orbits of our geo-synchronous communications satellites. Rocks this size get this close once every six years, on average.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 25, 2011

On the matter of Civil Twilight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Twilight driveJoe Bollinger, in Glen Burnie, asks: “What time did twilight begin and end on June 21st, and is the length of twilight the same on the winter solstice?” Civil Twilight begins when the center of the sun’s disk is 6 degrees below the horizon, and ends when it’s 6 degrees below the horizon after sunset.

Civil Twilight on June 21 began at 5:08 a.m. EDT, 32 minutes before sunrise. It ended at 9:09 p.m., 32 minutes after sunset. On the winter solstice, Dec. 22, twilight will be 30 minutes long.  

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2008)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 24, 2011

June has the most daylight, but July is hottest

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Maryland sunriseJohn Polyniak, in Lake Shore, asks: “What month has the most daylight (sunrise to sunset)?  I know it’s either June or July.” It’s June, as you might expect, given that the longest day of the year comes at the summer solstice, June 21.  Daylight in Baltimore on June 1 lasts 14 hours, 45 minutes. It rises to 14:56 from the 16th to the 26th, then diminishes to 14:54 by July 1. By the end of July, there are just 14 hours, 14 minutes of daylight here. Even so, average daily temperatures peak in mid-July.  

(SUN PHOTO: Chiaki Kawajiri, 2005) 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 22, 2011

The odds of being struck by lightning

Lightning BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

It’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week. A bolt from the blue is the gold standard for risk-takers. “You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than …” So what are the odds?

NOAA says with 280 reported U.S. deaths and injuries each year, your odds are roughly one in a million. Estimated deaths and injuries are higher, bringing it to one in 775,000.

Your odds of being hit in an 80-year lifetime fall to one in 10,000, but the chance you’ll be affected by someone being struck are one in 1,000.

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, May 2011)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 21, 2011

Solstice marks the start of winter south of equator

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cape of Good HopeWe often forget about our cousins in the southern hemisphere. There’s more ocean down there, after all, so less land and fewer people. And their seasons are, well, all wrong. For them, today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the start of another winter.

Cape Town, South Africa, didn't see the sun rise until almost 8 a.m. today, and it sets at 5:45 p.m. At least it’s mild. At just 34 degrees south latitude, the coastal city’s looking for highs this week in the 50s and 60s.  

(PHOTO: Cape of Good Hope, Mary Ann Anderson/MCT)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 20, 2011

Summer arrives Tuesday with the solstice

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

It seems like summer’s already well underway. We’ve had eight days over 90 degrees this spring, and one that reached 100. But for the Northern Hemisphere, summer doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, with the summer solstice at 1:17 p.m. EDT. “Solstice” comes from the Latin, “sol stitium,” meaning the “sun stands still.” It appears to pause directly over the Tropic of Cancer, the line around the globe at 23 degrees, 26 minutes north latitude, before heading south again, toward winter.   

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 18, 2011

Temperature readings from planet Earth

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

A few notes from NOAA about Earth’s temperatures so far this year: Combined global land and sea-surface temperatures in May were the 10th warmest for a May since records began in 1880, 0.9 degrees F above the 20th century average. Averages from March through May also ranked 10th warmest, and January through May they rank 12th-warmest. Arctic sea ice extent in May ranked third-smallest since records began in 1979. Antarctic sea ice ranked 14th smallest.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 14, 2011

Tomorrow's lunar eclipse won't be visible here

There will be a total eclipse of the moon on Tuesday, but unless you're living in eastern South America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Southern or Southeast Asia, Australia or floating in the Lunar eclipse Baltimore 2004Indian Ocean, you won't see any of it.

Now, one person in a fine position to watch the eclipse is my old friend and regular WeatherBlog reader Jack Starmer, director and founder of HealthCare Nepal, who is currently leading a medical mission to that mountain republic.

He and his team should take a break from their work at 18:23 UT and watch the moon drift into the shadow of the Earth. The eclipse will become total at 19:22 UT, and end at 22:04 UT.

Should be a spectacular sight with the moonlight on the Himalayas.

For the rest of us, the next total lunar eclipse visible in full from the mid-Atlantic states will be on April 15, 2014.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

June 13, 2011

The sun makes its earliest appearance Tuesday

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sunrise MarylandRising with the sun is a real chore in June. Tomorrow’s sunrise will be the earliest of the year. Sol’s disk pops above the horizon at 5:39 a.m. EDT for Baltimore, and 5:36 for lucky ducks at the beach. Sunsets continue to get later, at a faster pace than sunrises, until the summer solstice on June 21 marks the longest day of the year. The latest sunset occurs on the 28th. Then it, too, reverses. Sunrise and sunset both draw closer together, and the days grow shorter until December.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2011)

 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

June 4, 2011

Some sights in the early June night sky

Crescent moon BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

If predicted storm clouds hold off, tonight will be a good opportunity to step out and get your bearings in the night sky.

After 9 p.m. or so, look to the west as the crescent moon – just three days past new – begins to set. The two bright stars just above and to the right are Castor and Pollux, the heads of the Twins in Gemini.

High in the southeast is bright, orangey Arcturus, guardian of the Great Bear. Below Arcturus, and to the right, about halfway up the southern sky, is yellowish Saturn.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2001)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

May 31, 2011

Solar milestones noted in June

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Maryland sunsetJune arrives at midnight tonight. The sixth month brings the earliest sunrise of the year (June 14), the longest day (with the solstice, June 21), and the latest sunset (June 28). Average high temperatures for Baltimore rise from 79 degrees to 86, while average lows move from 57 to 64 degrees. Our wettest June (9.95 inches) came with Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972; our driest was in 1954 (0.15 inch). BWI-Marshall Airport set four daily record highs in June last year, and twice topped 100 degrees. 

(SUN PHOTO: Elizabeth Malby, 2007) 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 29, 2011

Urban landscape can alter approaching storms

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Baltimore thunderstormDo thunderstorms often seem to split apart as they approach Baltimore? Researchers at Purdue University looked at 10 years of Indianapolis radar data and found that 60 percent of the storms – especially those that arrived with a daytime cold front – split and then reformed with more intensity beyond the city. When they duplicated the conditions in a computer model, with Indianapolis removed, the effect went away. They blamed the urban landscape - tall buildings, heat and pollution.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2007)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 28, 2011

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore early Sunday

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASASpace Cadets! I know you’re just dying to pop out of bed at 4 on a Sunday morning to see the International Space Station. So do it tomorrow, when the ISS will fly almost directly over Baltimore. Look for a steady, star-like object to appear high in the southwestern sky at 4:25 a.m. EDT, moving high overhead through the center of the Summer Triangle at 4:26 a.m. From there it will sail off to the northeast, fading out to the left of the crescent moon, low in the east, rising alongside bright Jupiter.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 24, 2011

Fireball comet strikes Earth

A NASA fireball camera in Georgia has captured a fragment of a comet as it entered Earth's atmosphere last Friday at 10:47 p.m. It has been identified as a member of the Halley's Comet family of objects. It was about six feet wide when it hit the atmosphere, but it broke into at least four pieces as it plummeted through the air at 86,000 mph.

The fireball was the brightest seen in the three years the meteor network cameras have been operating.  Here's more from SpaceWeather.com

And here's the video from the NASA camera, shown at 1/3 the actual speed.

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:44 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Phenomena, Sky Notes
        

May 23, 2011

Record highs now solidly in the 90s

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Eighty-six years ago today, the mercury began rising in the early morning and didn’t stop until itDeer at Loch Raven reached 98 degrees. That set a new record for May in Baltimore. It’s been matched three times since then – in 1941, 1962 and again in 1991.

Record highs for Baltimore are all above 90 degrees after May 3. They begin to poke into the 100s on June 5. There are 60 dates after that with record highs of 100 degrees or more, until Sept. 11, when they all drop back into the 90s, and to the 80s by Oct. 23.

(SUN PHOTO:  Gene Sweeney Jr., August 2008)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 22, 2011

Sunrises creep north as solstice nears

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sunset ChesapeakeRussell Loy, in Cockeysville, notes that the sun rises and sets much farther north at this time of year, compared with the winter. “What is the maximum … number of degrees between [where] the sun rises above the horizon at its extremes in winter and summer, and is that the same for … the sunset?” It depends on your latitude. But for Baltimore, at about 39 degrees north, the difference between sunrises at the winter and summer solstices is about 63 degrees. It’s the same for sunsets.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, May 2010)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 20, 2011

Big spring storm raging, but it's far away

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cassini SaturnSick of all the showers and thunderstorms yet? Well, imagine a “springtime” thunderstorm that begins in December and is still raging in May. This one, fortunately, is on Saturn.

It boiled out of the depths of the planet’s shroud of gas. Its cloud tops surged high into the atmosphere and spread around the planet, making it visible in backyard telescopes.

It is only the sixth such storm recorded since 1876, and the first to be watched by an orbiting spacecraft, NASA’s Cassini.

(NASA CASSINI PHOTO) 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 18, 2011

Behind rain clouds lies our galaxy

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Milky WayAll these showers and clouds have made it easy to forget there are still stars out there. Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar reminds us that in May, the disk of the Milky Way – our spiral galaxy – lies flat around the horizon. That makes it hard to see. But late on May evenings, if you walk toward the constellation Cygnus the Swan, in the northeast, you are traveling in the same direction our solar system is orbiting around the galaxy. The galaxy’s center is 25,000 light years to your right.  

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 17, 2011

Can tornadoes strike at night?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

November twisterDonald Gansauer, in Canton, asks: “Can tornadoes occur at night? I can’t recall of ever hearing a report of one during darkness.”

They sure can. NOAA says most tornadoes occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., when daytime solar heating fuels thunderstorms. But they can and do strike at all hours. An EF-1 twister ripped Baltimore City and County at 1:35 a.m. last Nov. 17. Nighttime tornadoes are especially deadly because people sleep through warnings. Buy a NOAA Weather Radio.

(SUN PHOTO: Laura Dixon, Baltimore, Nov. 18, 2010) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 16, 2011

How long is the full moon "full?"

Full moonFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Austin Zang, in Columbia, writes: “Some of my co-workers believe that the full moon lasts for three days, while I believe the full moon is only visible for …one night.”

Who’s right? Define “full.” Technically, the moon is “full” only at a precise moment. This month it’s at 7:07 a.m. EDT on Tuesday. But we won’t see it until moonrise (in Baltimore) at 8:55 p.m., almost 14 hours after it’s begun to wane. Is that still “full”?

Or, it may depend on your eyesight. To me, if it’s not round, it’s not full.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 14, 2011

Saturn patrols the night sky

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASAWith Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter all gathered in tight formation in the dawn sky this month, the only naked-eye planet left to patrol the night sky is Saturn. Weather may spoil the view this weekend, but if and when skies clear, the planet is easily visible high in the southeast each evening. Look for a bright, yellowish object. If we get lucky tonight, look for Saturn about a hand’s width above the moon. It’s also a good time for a look through a telescope at Saturn’s iconic ring system.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

May 10, 2011

Venus and Jupiter rising together before dawn

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASA JupiterPlan to be up early Wednesday morning? If skies stay clear, find aNASA Venus spot with a good view of the eastern horizon and plant yourself there 45 minutes before sunrise (which occurs about 6 a.m. for Baltimore). The two brightest star-like objects in the sky – the planets Venus (the brighter of the pair) and Jupiter – will rise less than a degree apart. Mercury is just below and to the right; Mars farther away, to the left. Take binoculars. Had a good report on the spectacle from my South Africa correspondent.  Here's how the planets will re-arrange themselves in the coming days. 

(NASA PHOTOS: Jupiter at left, Venus at right)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 6, 2011

Dance of the planets this month

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Planets at dawnMercury, Venus and Jupiter stand within a narrow circle 30 minutes before dawn in the coming week. It’s part of a complex dance by four of the five naked-eye planets, playing out low in the east each morning this month. They’ll be difficult, or impossible to see without a clear view of the eastern horizon and a haze-free morning. It’s a tall order. Binoculars will help. The two brightest – Jupiter and Venus - will be less than a degree apart on the 11th and 12th, and still close through the 16th. 

(PHOTO: Stan Honda, AFP-Getty Images) 
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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 5, 2011

Int'l Space Station crosses B'more skies tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASASpace Cadets! The forecast looks promising tonight for a good view of the International Space Station as it flies from high over the Great Lakes, across the Jersey Shore and out to sea.

Look for a bright, steady, star-like object, rising above the northwest horizon at 8:21 p.m. EDT. It will climb more than halfway up above the northeast horizon, passing through the handle of the Big Dipper at 8:24 p.m. Then it zips off toward the southeast at 17,500 mph, disappearing at 8:27.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

May 4, 2011

Some tornadoes have no visible funnels

TornadoFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Jeff Brauner, in Baltimore, writes: “An EF-0 tornado was confirmed near Westminster, but witnesses just saw strong winds and some things blown over. Is it possible for the actual funnel of an EF-0 tornado to go completely unnoticed?”  Yes. Funnels become visible when air pressure in the vortex drops enough to condense water vapor. Weak ones may not form that “condensation funnel.” Some tornadoes can produce high surface winds while the visible funnel remains high overhead. 

(NOAA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Tornadoes
        

May 3, 2011

Tornado outbreak recalls 1994 storms

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

April tornadoSome readers were surprised by the number of tornadoes confirmed in Maryland and Virginia in the wake of last week’s storms – up to 11 at last check, including four in Maryland. Outbreaks like that are uncommon here.

But it brought to mind the July 27, 1994 outbreak, which saw 21 tornadoes touch down in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Fourteen struck in Maryland. The four strongest, rated F-2, hit Charles, Anne Arundel and Kent counties. Four people were hurt, one in Maryland. 

(PHOTO: MMdrummer3153, screen shot from the YouTube video) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

May 1, 2011

Happy Beltane, Baltimore!

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

May Pole dance BaltimoreToday is Beltane, one of four “cross-quarter” days on the year’s calendar – halfway between the equinox and the solstice. Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Companion says we can consider the date to be mid-spring. But others in our collective past regarded it as the first day of summer. The summer solstice, the sun’s highest point in the northern sky, marked mid-summer. Beltane was celebrated with bonfires, as were many Celtic festivals. May Pole dances and May Day marches followed.  

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2009)

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 30, 2011

Snow in May? Or 98 degrees?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

May arrives at midnight, another month of extreme possibilities in Baltimore. Record dailyMay heat in Baltimore temperatures reach as far down the temperature scale as 32 degrees (May 11, 1966), and as high as 98 degrees (four dates, in 1925, 1941, 1962 and 1991). The latest snowfall on record here was a trace, on May 11, 1951.

The average highs climb from 69 degrees on May 1 to 79 on the 31st. Three daily records from the 1870s still stand, the oldest a record low of 34 degrees, set May 1, 1876.

(SUN PHOTO: Nanine Hartzenbusch, May 2000)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 27, 2011

La Nina spring brings swarms of tornadoes

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Tornado damageForecasters warned that the springtime after a La Nina winter typically comes with lots of tornadoes. It seems they may be right. AccuWeather.com forecasters predict April 2011 will end Saturday with something close to the record 267 twisters confirmed in April 1974. Meteorologists are still sorting out duplicate reports, but the estimated total for the year through Sunday was 766, in two dozen states, with two months left in the peak season. The record is 1,817 tornadoes, set in 2004.  

(PHOTO: Damage in Colerain, N.C., April 18, 2011. Sara D. Davis, Getty Images) 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 18, 2011

Planets rising early for May conjunctions

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Planetary conjunctionsRegular visitors to this page, if they glance at the Astronomical Data section above, may have noticed that five of the seven heavenly bodies listed are all rising between about 5:20 and 6:30 a.m. EDT.

This is a prelude to the extraordinary conjunction next month of all the naked-eye planets except Saturn, low in the east. For about three weeks, early risers can watch Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter in a complex dance just before sunrise. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies. 

  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 17, 2011

Tonight's Egg Moon not "super," but almost

Full moon BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The full moon rises over Baltimore tonight at 6:41 p.m. The first full moon since the spring equinox, this is the Egg, Grass, or Easter Moon.

We’re just past this month’s lunar perigee, its closest approach of the month, at 56.17 Earth radii from our planet.

Last month’s “super moon” was only slightly closer, at 55.91 Earth radii. So, if skies are clear, look for another beautiful, fat moon tonight.

Luna will appear smallest at the year’s farthest apogee (63.72 Earth radii) on Oct. 12.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 16, 2011

A memory aid for BGE/Fox weather line

Rotary iPhoneFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Verizon’s dial-up weather number was a brilliant choice - 410 936-1212. It was easy enough to remember, especially back in the day when telephone exchanges had names. It was WE (for Weather) 6-1212.

And if your finger slipped, it hardly mattered. Any WE 6 number works as well.

With Verizon killing the service June 1, we’re left with the BGE/Fox45 line – 410 662-9225.

Need help remembering it? I worked it out: It’s 410 MOB WACK.  

(CHICAGO TRIBUNE PHOTO: 2006)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 15, 2011

Wild swings in Baltimore's weather

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Steve Connor, in Parkville, asks: “What is the biggest difference between the high and low temperature … on the same day?” Steve Zubrick, at the NWS, found the biggest change on a single calendar date was 48 degrees, on April 1, 1978, from 40 degrees to 88. The biggest 5-day drop in Baltimore was 62 degrees - from 87 degrees on Oct. 20, 1969 to 25 degrees on the 24th. The widest 5-day rise was 68 degrees, most recently on March 4-8, 2009 - from 8 degrees to 76 degrees.

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 14, 2011

Water temp. was 28 when the Titanic went down

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Titanic modelAs forbidding as the North Atlantic can be, 2,224 people aboard the RMS Titanic 99 year ago this week are thought to have had pretty nice weather for their first three days at sea, with light winds and mild temperatures. They made good time. But on the 14th, they ran into a cold front moving off Canada. The mercury fell from the 40s to near freezing. Northwest winds drove an ice field into the ship’s path. The water temperature was 28 degrees early on the 15th, when 1,513 people were lost.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2005)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 13, 2011

Mid-April is a dry period for Baltimore ... on average

April sunshine BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Like baseball, weather is a game of statistics. Averages, extremes, records and trends are all of interest to the aficionado.

And here’s one I’d never noticed: In Baltimore, April 13 to 18 is, on average, one of the two driest periods of the year. On those dates, the average daily rainfall (since the 1870s) has been just 0.09 inch.

Except for a similar period in the fall (Oct. 23-26), average daily rainfall ranges from 0.10 to 0.14 inch. The wettest days are in mid-September. Who knew?  

(SUN PHOTO: John Makely, April 2006)   

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 12, 2011

U.S. weather averages mask regional extremes

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

March in Baltimore was warmer and wetter than average, in step with the averages for the contiguous 48 states, according to NOAA. BWI averaged 44.3 degrees (slightly warmer than the norm), with 4.99 inches of rain, third-wettest March since 2000. But averages can deceive. The Pacific Northwest saw one of the wettest Marches on record, while Texas saw its driest. The area in “severe” and “extreme” drought doubled to more than 20 percent of the Lower 48 states. (Click on Drought Monitor map to enlarge.) 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 11, 2011

85 at BWI ties record for the date

Instruments at BWI-Marshall Airport this afternoon show the temperature at 4 p.m. had reached 85 degrees. That ties the record high for the date, set 124 years ago, in 1887.

TulipThe temperature at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets was 86 degrees. It was 73 closer to the bay in Annapolis, and 75 degrees at Martin State Airport in Middle River.

It is the second Monday in a row that the mercury has reached a record high in the 80s at BWI. For the Orioles' home opener April 4, the high was 86 degrees at 5 p.m. That broke the old record of 83 degrees, which had stood since 1956. The average high for an April 11 in Baltimore is 63 degrees.

Temperatures this time began to drop after clouds thickened ahead of tonight 's rain. It was 84 at 5 p.m. Forecasters said the 4 p.m. reading was likely to be the day's high at BWI.

Records at Washington's Reagan National Airport and Dulles International seemed safe this afternoon. It was 82 at Reagan at 4 p.m., where the record set in 1930 for the date is 91. At Dulles, the 4 p.m. reading was 84, and the record set in 1977 is 87 degrees. 

The heat won't last.

"The high tomorrow [Tuesday] will only be ... 62 for Baltimore," said NWS meteorologist Heather Sheffield, from the regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. "The cold front moves through and the rain will continue into tomorrow."

"We have a kind of a low forming as the front goes through, and that will keep the showers around tomorrow," she said. "It looks like by late tomorrow [Tuesday] night the low will be moving off the coast."

That should bring the sun back sometime Wednesday or Thursday, forecasters said. More showers and thunderstorms are forecast for late Friday and Saturday. Daytime highs drop back to the 50s early next week.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance, 4/11/11)

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Categories: By the numbers, Sky Notes
        

Frost danger ends today in Baltimore, on average

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

FrostBaltimore, you’ve made it. Today is the average last frost date for the city. It’s an average; we could still get, well, frosted. But it’s the first of the average last-frost dates for Maryland as warmer weather invades the state. Annapolis follows on the 23rd, according to NOAA via the Victory Seed Co., then Cambridge on the 26th, Hagerstown on May 3 and Pocomoke on May 8. Gardeners in chilly Oakland, out in Garrett County, bide their time until June 5.

(SUN PHOTO: Frost on grass. Kim Hairston, 2005)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 9, 2011

T'was a twister that tapped Marbella

TwisterFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Lots of people were awakened before dawn Tuesday by roaring winds as a sharp squall line and thunderstorms crossed the state. But only little Marbella, in northern Charles County, can claim a tornado.

The National Weather Service looked at the damage and declared it was a minimal EF-0 twister that snapped ornamental trees and toppled a big pine onto a house. It carved a path 50 yards wide, and raked the ground for just a tenth of a mile. The whole event lasted less than a minute.

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, 2005)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 7, 2011

Mars' long northern winter begins tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Mars polar iceJust as spring gets rolling in Earth’s northern hemisphere, the northern half of Mars tonight marks the beginning of winter. The Martian winter solstice occurs at 11 p.m. EDT tonight.

Joe Rao, writing in Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar, notes that Mars’ north polar axis tilts 25 degrees from the sun in winter, similar to Earth’s 23 degrees. But Mars takes two Earth years, and 50 days to circle the sun. So the northern winter on Mars will drag on ‘til Sept. 13.  Pity the poor Martians.  

(NASA PHOTO: Polar ice on Mars)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 3, 2011

Telescope time; Saturn at its best

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

SaturnSaturn is at opposition at 8 p.m. tonight. That means it’s visible all night when skies clear, rising in the east as the sun sets. Look for a yellowish “star” with a steady shine. Opposition is also the planet’s closest approach to Earth this year – about 801 million miles away. It’s the middle of the best time of the year to see Saturn, and its iconic ring system, in a telescope. Try the Maryland Science Center’s Stargazing Fridays. Call 410 545-2999 Friday after 5 p.m.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

April 2, 2011

April Fools Storm in 1924 was no joke

April snow BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cleft by vivid flashes of lightning, and its quiet fall accompanied by
April

 

DC
Baltimore
Dulles
5.5"
1924
9.4"
1924
4.0"
1990
4.0"
1889
5.0"
1894
2.6"
1982
3.5"
1915
5.0"
1916
2.5"
1996
3.0"
1918
4.5"
1915
1.0"
1973
2.0"
1894
3.0"
1917
0.6"
1964

reverberating peals of thunder, the heaviest snow of the year yesterday enveloped the city in a white mantle nine inches deep.” 

That’s how The Sun reported the April Fools Storm of 1924, the nastiest spring prank ever sprung on the city. The snow began at 4 a.m. and finally turned to sleet at 5 p.m. Traffic stalled, horses and pedestrians alike slipped and fell. The snowstorm remains heaviest on record here for April.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, April 9, 2000)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

March 29, 2011

First image from Mercury orbiter: looks like the moon

The first picture taken from a spacecraft in orbit around Mercury has arrived on Earth. And to no one's surprise (it's been photographed from close-up during three previous flybys), the planet looks like the moon. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The image, taken at 3:40 a.m. Monday as NASA's Messenger spacecraft passed high above Mercury's South Pole, shows hundreds of small craters scattered across a dark gray surface, and a handful of craters that appear to have blasted much lighter material across the landscape. It is a region never photographed before.

Scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel, released the first image from orbit Tuesday afternoon, as they continue to wake up Messenger's instruments. Full science operations are expected to begin April 4.

Launched in 2004, Messenger was maneuvered into orbit around the planet on March 17. NASA plans to support Messenger for at least a year of study of Mercury's surface composition, internal structure, magnetosphere, tenuous atmosphere, origins and evolution.

"The first images from orbit and the first measurements from Messenger's other payload instruments are only the opening trickle of the flood of new information that we can expect over the coming year," said Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, the principal investigator on the mission.

Several more early pictures are to be released Wednesday afternoon during a press conference.

For more, http://bsun.md/gztnEo 

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Categories: Cool pictures, Sky Notes
        

March 24, 2011

Baltimore can see snow in April, even May

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Spring snowfallJohn Hasler writes from Sparks with a question: “When is the last day in spring, on record, when there has been a measurable snowfall in Baltimore?” At the risk of tempting the weather gods … The latest measurable snow for Baltimore was the 0.1-inch that fell on April 28, 1898. But the latest in this century was a 0.2-inch dusting on April 7, 2007 – just four years ago. We’ve had traces of snow as late as May 11, in 1951.  The most recent May flakes fell on May 1, 1963.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, March 19,1997)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

March 22, 2011

Baltimore's reservoirs runneth over

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Spring arrived Sunday with all three of Baltimore’s reservoirs filled to the brim by the month’sLoch Raven dam ample rains. Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven held 75.85 billion gallons, well above the 66.25-billion-gallon average for this time of year, public works officials said.

The last time they were all spilling over was in late 2009. In 2002, a year of severe drought in the region, the water levels sank to less than 46 percent of their capacity, a record low. 

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, May 2000) 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

March 20, 2011

Remember when spring began on March 21?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Equinox in GizaHappy Spring, almost! The vernal equinox occurs tonight at 7:21 p.m. EDT as the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator into the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the traditional start of spring here, and of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Many of us still associate the arrival of spring with March 21. But 1979 was the last time that occurred in the Eastern Time Zone. And in 2020 we’ll see the first equinox to fall on March 19. The calendar resets with a Leap Year in 2100.

(PHOTO: Mona Sharaf, Reuters, 1998)

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Categories: Almanac, Sky Notes
        

March 19, 2011

Crow Moon on the rise

crow moonFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The moon is full tonight. It’s the third full moon since the winter solstice, making it the Lenten Moon, the Sap, Crow or Worm Moon. Take your pick; each one evokes something about the season we’re in.

If skies are clear, look for the moon to rise over Baltimore at 7:37 p.m. This moon is also special because it stands at perigee at 3 p.m. today. It’s the full moon’s closest approach to Earth this year, and for the past 18 years. So it may look a tad bigger and brighter. Tides may also run a bit higher. 

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2009) 

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Categories: Almanac, Sky Notes
        

March 13, 2011

Mercury, Jupiter in close conjunction this week

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

JupiterThis week stargazers have a rare chance to see a closeMercury pairing of the planets Jupiter and Mercury. Jupiter is the bright “star” already visible low in the west, about 45 minutes after sunset. Starting tonight, if skies are clear, Mercury should be visible as a dimmer “star” below and to the right of Jupiter. Each evening Mercury will climb nearer, passing Jupiter Tuesday evening — just 2 degrees apart. After that, Mercury climbs to Jupiter’s upper right, as the giant planet sinks slowly into the sunset.

(PHOTOS: Left, Jupiter, NMASA/ESA/Hubble; Right, Mercury, NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL)

 

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Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

March 10, 2011

Planet Mercury in the news next week

Messenger at MercuryFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The planet Mercury will be in the headlines a week from today, as scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab try to put NASA’s Messenger spacecraft into orbit around it. If they’re successful, Messenger will stay for a year of scientific study. It would be the first time a spacecraft from Earth has orbited the planet. Mercury will be visible to the naked eye next week, in a close conjunction with Jupiter, low in the west after sunset, Sunday through Wednesday.  

(IMAGE: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

March 8, 2011

Space Station, shuttle Discovery in flyby tonight

NASA PhotoFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Space Cadets! If the clouds hold off tonight, we’ll see a really interesting flyover by the International Space Station. The ISS will rise above the northwest horizon at 7:23 p.m., moving toward the zenith (straight up). If our timing is right, the (dimmer) shuttle Discovery will appear just ahead of the ISS, as its crew prepares for landing Wednesday. The ISS will pass almost directly overhead at 7:26 p.m., then slip into the Earth’s shadow at 7:27, vanishing near the bright star Procyon.

(Above: NASA Photo)

UPDATE, Wednesday, 10:20 p.m.: Here's a 60-second exposure showing the shuttle Discovery passing over Catonsville on Tuesday evening. Thanks to Travis "the Shorts-Wearing Shoveler." Used with permission.

Shuttle Discovery Catonsville, MD

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Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

March 5, 2011

"Ash Wednesday Storm" struck 49 years ago

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Assateague IslandOne of the greatest nor’easters on record struck 49 years ago today. The “Ash Wednesday Storm,” as it came to be known, generated 70 mph winds that piled up 40-foot ocean waves. Ocean City sustained major damage. High “spring” tides submerged Assateague Island. Coastal damage from North Carolina to Long Island was estimated at $200 million in 1962 dollars. New Jersey saw 45,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Heavy snow fell in the Appalachians. Forty people died.

(AP PHOTO: Roberto Borea, February 1998)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

March 3, 2011

Winds on Feb. 19 were highest in 10 years

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Brush fireDonald Gansauer, in Canton, asks: “Have we had an above-average number of days with wind advisories this past winter?” Unfortunately, that’s not a statistic the National Weather Service routinely tracks. But when I asked, Steve Zubrick, at NWS-Sterling, produced another pretty nifty wind statistic.

The winds on Feb. 19, which fanned many wildfires, averaged 55 mph at BWI-Marshall Airport, with a peak gust to 60 mph. That made it the windiest day here in at least 10 years.  

(SUN PHOTO: Kevin Richardson, Feb. 19, 2011)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 28, 2011

March brings Worm Moon, vernal equinox

Skunk cabbageFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

March arrives at midnight. The third month of the year sees average high temperatures for Baltimore rise from 49 degrees to 59, while the average lows climb back from below freezing (29 degrees) to 38. It can get hot. Record highs climb from 80 (on the 1st in 1972) to 90 degrees (on the 29th in 1945). The record lows rise from 5 degrees (1873) to 21 degrees (most recently in 1982). The full Sap, Crow or Worm Moon rises on the 19th. They all hint of spring. Spring itself arrives with the equinox, at 7:21 p.m. on the 20th.

(SUN PHOTO: Nanine Hartzenbusch, 2006)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 27, 2011

Crescent moon, Venus, align before dawn

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASAIf pre-dawn skies are clear, early risers Monday will be greeted by a beautiful pairing of the waning crescent moon and the planet Venus, low in the southeast. The sun rises at 6:49 a.m., so start looking between 5:45 and 6 a.m. You’ll see Venus just to the left of, and slightly below the slender moon. If you oversleep, or clouds interfere, try again Tuesday morning. The moon will have moved to the left of Venus. These are the two brightest objects in the sky after the sun.

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 26, 2011

Are Hubble's colors for real? Find out today

Hubble Heritage ProjectFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Ever wonder whether the spectacular colors in photos from the Hubble Space Telescope are real? Is that how the universe would appear to the naked eye?

You can find out today from Zolt Levay, senior image processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He’s speaking at 10 a.m. at the Banneker Planetarium, on the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.

The event is free and open to everyone. Call 443 840-4560 for more information.

(PHOTO: Hubble Heritage Project)

 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 25, 2011

Hot date? Try stargazing

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Dundalk ObservatoryLooking for a different kind of date on a Friday evening? Why not go stargazing? The Dundalk Observatory, at the Community College of Baltimore’s Dundalk campus, is holding free observation sessions from 7 to 9 tonight, and on the second and fourth Fridays in March, when weather permits. Get a look at stars, planets and nebulae through their powerful, 14-inch Celestron CGE 1400 XLT telescope. Call 410 282-3092 before you leave to check for weather cancelations. 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 24, 2011

A night of planetary alignments

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

All sorts of planets aligning tonight, none visible from Earth. First, at 10 p.m., EST, the planet Mars is at “heliocentric conjunction” with both Neptune and Uranus. That means if you were at the sun and looked out into space, Mars would pass in front of both Uranus and Neptune. But wait, there’s more. At 4 a.m. Friday morning, Mercury is at “superior conjunction” with the sun. That means it will pass behind the sun as seen from Earth, and move into the evening sky.

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 22, 2011

Washington's birthday is when you say it is.

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:George Washington

Today is George Washington’s REAL birthday. Right? Well, sort of. Our first president was actually born on Feb. 11, 1732.

But in 1752, the American colonies finally switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and everyone skipped ahead 11 days. So George began celebrating on the 22nd.

In 1971, most states, including Maryland, swept George’s day, and Abe’s, into President’s Day, marked on the third Monday in February.

But federal agencies, by law, still call the Monday holiday “Washington’s Birthday.”

(PHOTO: Baltimore Museum of Art)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 21, 2011

Moon, Spica and Saturn align late tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Saturn/NASAPlan to be up late tonight? After midnight? If so – and skies are clear to the southeast – step outside for a minute and look for the not-quite quarter moon, low in the southeast. Immediately above the moon is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, the only female figure in the zodiac. Spica is Latin for “ear of wheat,” held in the virgin’s hand. The star is 260 light years from Earth. A short distance above Spica is the planet Saturn, now almost 820 million miles away.

(PHOTO: NASA/Hubble, 2009)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 20, 2011

Space Station back in our evening skies

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

ISS/NASASpace Cadets! The International Space Station is back in our evening skies, with several viewing opportunities, weather permitting. The first is Sunday evening. Look to the south southwest at 6:42 p.m. as the ISS passes over North Florida and zips up the East Coast over Hatteras. At 6:45 it will be halfway up the southeastern sky, passing through Orion’s feet before hustling off to the east northeast and disappearing at 6:47 p.m. Look for ISS again at 7:08 p.m. Monday, moving west southwest to north northeast. 

(NASA PHOTO)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 19, 2011

Morning "star" is the planet Venus

VenusFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Judy M. writes from Catonsville: “In the pre-dawn hours (when I am walking my dog), I notice a very bright ‘star’ in the southeast sky? Can you tell me what it is?

I can. As you may have guessed, it’s not a star, but the planet Venus. It has dominated the pre-dawn sky all winter. Now about 89 million miles from Earth, Venus will sink lower in the sky each morning this spring until it’s swallowed by the dawn’s glare. We will see it again in the fall, when it becomes the “Evening Star,” in the west, just after sunset.

(PHOTO: NASA/Galileo, 1990)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 17, 2011

Tonight's full moon is the Hunger Moon

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

LeoThe moon rises over Baltimore tonight at 5:19 p.m., and is officially full at 3:36 a.m. Friday. The second full moon since the winter solstice is the Wolf Moon or Hunger Moon, so-named for reasons chillingly obvious to our ancestors. If the clouds part, look for a bright star to the left of the moon, high in the southeast after 9 p.m. It’s Regulus, at the front foot of the lion in Leo, killed and placed in the sky by Hercules. Regulus is 85 light years away.

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 16, 2011

"Frost quakes" rattled Ohio, Indiana

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

cryoseismHere’s one I’d never heard of: The Dayton Daily News reported last week that seismic shakes felt by residents of southwest Ohio and southeast Indiana on Feb. 10 were actually “frost quakes.” Known to scientists as “cryoseisms,” they can occur when temperatures plummet to below zero. Moisture in the soil or rock freezes and expands, setting off sudden and violent cracking. The Ohio shakes reportedly persisted for eight hours. No damage was reported. Similar cryoseisms have occurred in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and upstate New York.

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 15, 2011

114-degree spread between B'more's hottest, coldest

Record heatFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Online Maryland Weather Blog reader “Johnny C” writes: “After hearing about the temps in Ark and OK the last few days, I’m curious as to what was the lowest temp … around Baltimore, and when it occurred.”

Our coldest reading is minus-7 degrees. It’s been matched five times between Feb. 10, 1899 and Jan. 22, 1984. That 1984 record came just five months after a reading of 105 degrees, on Aug. 20, 1983, still the record August high.

Baltimore’s hottest temperature was 107 degrees, on July 10, 1936.

(SUN PHOTO: Larry C. Price, 1999)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 14, 2011

NASA makes a pass at a comet today

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

StardustHappy Valentine’s Day! Sometimes taking a fresh look at an old acquaintance can lead to something exciting. That’s NASA’s hope today as its Stardust spacecraft makes a pass at Comet Tempel 1. Scientists got their first good look in 2005, when another craft, called Deep Impact (on a mission led by the University of Maryland), flew by and tried to stir something up with a smooch from an 820-pound copper projectile. Now they want to see if the comet has changed since its spin around the sun.  Click here for more.

(NASA image)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 13, 2011

February 1899 set weather records that still stand

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

One of the coldest periods in Baltimore’s weather history has left what seems like an indelible mark on the city’s record books. It was February 1899. The month saw record-low temperatures on Feb. 10, 11 and 12 that are still the records for the dates (minus 7, minus 6 and 5 above, respectively). Likewise, the daily highs from Feb. 9 -13 have never been lower since (8, 3, 11, 11 and 10 degrees). And the snowfall on the 13th, during a three-day blizzard, totaled 15.5 inches. One hundred twelve years later, that’s still the record for the date.

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 12, 2011

"Milk famine" followed 1899 Valentines Day snow

1899 snowstormFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Baltimore’s great Valentine’s Day Storm began on this date in 1899. Three days of snow piled up more than 21 inches downtown, and up to three feet in to the north and west. Armies of men with shovels took to the streets once the flakes stopped falling, charging homeowners between 15 cents and $2 to dig them out. The snow brought a “milk famine” to the city as snow-clogged roads prevented dairy wagons from making their rounds. Homeowners hung plaintive “milk wanted” signs from their second-floor windows.

(SUN PHOTO: Thanks to Sun Librarian Paul McCardell)

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 11, 2011

Record low of minus-7 set in February 1899

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Headlines in The Sun on this date in 1899 reported “Lowest Temperatures Known Here Since The Weather Bureau Was Opened, Seven Degrees Below Zero.” That’s still Baltimore’s record low. The paper reported: “The local interest in the temperature yesterday was nowhere better shown than in front of The Sun office, where the reliable thermometer records for the public benefit … every change implying heat or cold. All day long there was a throng gathered about the instrument, striving to note the variations of the mercury.”

 

 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 10, 2011

80 percent of Maryland "abnormally dry"

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

After all our snow, sleet and freezing rain, you’d be reluctant to call it a dry winter. But in fact, BWI-Marshall has recorded precipitation deficits each month since October. The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued Feb. 3 showed 80 percent of Maryland was “abnormally dry” – all except Southern Maryland. We’re at the northeastern extreme of a dry region stretching across the south from Arizona to the Atlantic. That’s typical of a La Nina winter. NOAA says 24 percent of the U.S. saw “moderate” to “exceptional” drought in January. 

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Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 9, 2011

Second snowshoe fell a year ago today

Snow BaltimoreFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

The second of Baltimore’s back-to-back February blizzards began a year ago today. We were barely three days past the final flakes from the previous storm, and still digging, when the new one arrived. By the end of the following day, another 19.5 inches had fallen at BWI-Marshall Airport.

If you accept the measurements, it ranks as the city’s eighth-biggest two-day storm, and the ninth-ranking storm overall. The 15.5 inches that fell on the 10th was the ninth-deepest one-day fall since daily snow records began here in 1892.

(SUN PHOTO: Gene Sweeney, Jr. Feb. 11, 2010) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 8, 2011

Two months in, it's been a cold winter

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cold in BaltimoreDon Dobrow, in Baltimore, asks how January stacked up against December for cold temperatures: “December seemed much colder.” Both were cold, and I think lots of us are ready for a break. December averaged 32.4 degrees at BWI, more than 4 degrees below the 30-year average. January averaged 30.2 degrees, but only 2 degrees colder than the norm. December saw 23 days below the daily averages; January saw 21. Both months included a 10-day stretch of below-average temperatures. I say we’re overdue for a warm spell.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 7, 2011

Hurricane, typhoon or cyclone?

Japan Meteorological AgencyFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Fred Rasmussen wrote last week from the Obit Desk, after a big storm battered, Australia: “Why is it called a Force 5 cyclone? Is there any difference between a cyclone and a hurricane?” Only in where you happen to be when one blows you down. They’re all tropical cyclones.

 “Hurricane” is derived from the names of Carib and Mayan storm gods, “huracan, or “hunraken.” We apply it to these storms in the North Atlantic basin and Northeast Pacific. In the northwest Pacific they’re typhoons. Elsewhere, they’re cyclones

(PHOTO: Japan Meteorological Agency, Cyclone Yasi)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 6, 2011

If clouds part, moon and Jupiter grace the evening

NASA/JupiterFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

If the clouds back off in time, tonight offers a nice opportunity to see a pleasing conjunction of the crescent moon and Jupiter. The moon is just four days past new, still a slender crescent, hanging in the west just after sunset. It’s at apogee tonight, 250,400 miles from Earth, its most distant this month.

Just to the left of the moon, that bright, star-like object is the giant gas planet Jupiter (photo). Uranus stands to Jupiter’s lower right, but is too dim to see.

(NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

February 3, 2011

Sunshine, snow and a "snowbow"

Appaloosa in snowFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Charlie Charnigo, of Abbottstown, Pa., was driving near Carlisle recently when he saw what he described as “wavy … rainbow rays” moving across the snowy fields as he drove. “I … grew up in the country and have never seen such a thing.”

It’s a snowbow. On the ground, or perhaps in blowing snow just above the surface, the principle is the same: Sunlight striking the snow is bent, or “refracted” inside billions of ice crystals, spread into its constituent colors and reflected to your eyes.  

(SUN PHOTO: Perry Thorsvik, 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 2, 2011

Of groundhogs and pregnant ewes

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

GroundhogPunxsutawney Phil will be all over the TV this morning. But how many viewers know Groundhog Day’s origins as one of the year’s four “cross-quarter” days? This one falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The Celts called it Imbolc, for “in the belly,” a reference to pregnant ewes. Christians morphed it into a feast day called Candlemas. They said that “if Candlemas be fair and bright, come winter, have another flight. If Candlemas bring clouds and rain, go winter, and come not again.”

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2008)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

February 1, 2011

Rush Hour Storm set weather records

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Rush Hour stormThe first weather records of the new year were set during last Wednesday’s very wet “Rush Hour Storm.”

 The National Weather Service says the liquid precipitation at BWI-Marshall Airport totaled 1.82 inches, beating the date’s previous record of 1.33 inches, set in 1895.

And the 7.8 inches of snow that fell topped the old record of 6.9 inches, set in 1966.

Similar precipitation records were broken at Reagan National and Dulles airports. The snow at Dulles also set a new record: 7.3 inches.

(AP PHOTO: Pablo Monsivais in Washington)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 29, 2011

Moon and Venus paired in dawn sky

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Plan to be up early on Sunday? If skies are clear, look out a window that faces southeast for a nice view of Venus and a crescent moon. The moon will be just a few degrees below and to the left of Venus. They make a pretty pair on a cold winter morning. Venus will be sliding into slowly into the sunrise this spring as the planet rounds the rising sun. It will reappear in the west, from behind the setting sun, late in the fall.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 23, 2011

January Thaw - fact or myth?

National Severe Storms LaboratoryFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Rosi McCloskey, in Stewartstown, Pa., asks: “Is the ‘January thaw’ an actual annual occurrence, or just wishful thinking?” 

Maybe both. Stats for the Northeast do show a warm temperature “singularity” around Jan. 20-25. It’s about 6 degrees in Albany, N.Y. But no plausible physical mechanism has been found to explain it.

A Cornell study found the oddity to be “well within the limits of what might be expected to occur by chance alone.” There are other such singularities in the stats, warm and cool. Europeans watch for the “Ice Saints” – a cold spell May 11-14.

(National Severe Storms Laboratory)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 21, 2011

CoCoRaHS Network needs volunteers

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Measuring snowEverybody complains about the weather, but too few of us do anything about it. Now you can.

Volunteers with CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, measure and report daily precipitation. CoCoRaHS then generates online rain, snow and hail maps used by the NWS, emergency managers, the media and others.

More volunteers are needed, especially in and around Baltimore. For more info, or to sign up, visit  www.cocorahs.org

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 20, 2011

Forecast scaled back to 1-3 inches

Looks like this will be yet another annoying little snowstorm of just 1 to 3 inches. The storm approaching from the west just doesn't carry very much moisture, forecasters say. And the southern storm is expected to move out to sea without providing much energy or moisture to the game.

NWS/NOAAThe National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. has posted a Winter Weather Advisory , covering the northern tier of counties from Frederick to Carroll, Howard, Baltimore and Harford counties, including the City of Baltimore, and the northern counties of the Eastern Shore.

South of there, the forecast accumulations diminish and the potential impacts on travelers does the same. Little or no accumulation is expected in Southern Maryland or the Lower Eastern Shore. Here's how this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling put it:

"Northern Maryland, Potomac Highlands stand best chance at receiving a couple inches of snow accumulation. Could see southern counties struggling to get an inch out of this. And that's still subject to change. DC right now on the edge..." 

The snow is expected to reach the Baltimore area between 10 p.m. and midnight, tapering off around daybreak Friday, with the highest accumulations closer to the Mason-Dixon Line. Could this be another Hereford Zone storm?

As minor as it seems, the snow could still produce slippery walking and driving conditions. Temperatures overnight will be in the upper 20s, and will stay fairly cold on Friday. The forecast high for BWI-Marshall is only 31 degrees. Watch for re-freezing of earlier snow melt. I nearly took a header on some black ice this morning.

Friday night and Saturday will see some of the coldest temperatures so far this winter, with an overnight low near 14 degrees at BWI, and a Saturday high of just 25 degrees - 10 to 15 degrees below the averages for this time of year.

The weekend will remain unusually cold, with highs in the 20s and lows in the teens.

Then, there may be m ore disappointment ahead for snow lovers hoping that next week's storm will redeem all that have come before it this winter. Here, on the jump, is Eric the Red's dispiriting assessment of the various model solutions:

Continue reading "Forecast scaled back to 1-3 inches" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:59 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Forecasts, Sky Notes
        

Perigee makes the Old Moon look bigger

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Full Moon over BaltimoreYes, that was a full moon last night. It was the first since the winter solstice, so that makes it the Moon After Yule, or the Old Moon.

It would be nearly as full tonight, if you could see it. Skies should clear by Friday night.

And if the moon looks unusually big to you then, that’s because it will be at perigee – its closest approach to Earth this month.

On Mar. 19, the closest lunar perigee of the year will occur simultaneously with the full moon. Watch for unusually high tides. 

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 14, 2011

Friends, Romans ... Happy New Year!

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Roman ruinHappy New Year to all of Rome. This is the first day of the year 2764 under the old Julian Calendar instituted in 45 B.C. by the Roman dictator Julius Caesar. He dated it from the supposed time of the city’s founding 709 years earlier.

Pope Gregory XIII replaced it in 1584 with the modern Gregorian Calendar because it had fallen 10 days behind the seasons.

The Julian reckoning is now 13 days behind. It will lose another day by January 2101.

(PHOTO: Allison Long, Kansas City Star)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 13, 2011

Int'l Space Station over Baltimore this evening

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

ISS/NASASpace Cadets! Step out tonight as the International Space Station makes a pass almost directly over Baltimore. Watch as it soars from high over Lake Michigan, to Ocean City and out to sea. If skies are dark enough and clear, the ISS will rise above the northwest horizon at 5:17 p.m. and be 218 miles over your head by 5:20 p.m. The station, with its crew of six, will seem to skim past the moon before fading out in the southeast at 5:23.  

(NASA PHOTO)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

January 7, 2011

Merry Christmas to "Old Calendarists"

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Merry Christmas to anyone of the Eastern Orthodox faith still among the “Old Calendarists”Orthodox Christmas using the Julian calendar. By that reckoning, today is Dec. 25. The “modern” Gregorian calendar was promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. The update was needed to keep the Western church calendar in step with the seasons by imposing a new leap year system. Most Western countries had adopted it by the 18th century. The Julian calendar has now fallen 13 days behind the Gregorian. 

(AP PHOTO: Mikhail Metzel, 2010)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 6, 2011

Md. astrophotog captures Quadrantid meteor

Mike Hankey, an amateur astrophotographer in Freeland, in north-central Maryland, set up his camera Tuesday morning to capture images of some of the Quadrantid meteors.

He only managed to snag one, but it was good one. He stitched a series of stills into an animation that includes the meteor and the glowing trail that he said persisted for more than 10 minutes.

Quadrantid meteor animation

Continue reading "Md. astrophotog captures Quadrantid meteor" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures, Sky Notes
        

Rise and shine! Sunrises now getting earlier

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:  

Sunrise BaltimoreCheer up! Sunrise today was a few seconds earlier than yesterday. Our daylight hours are now increasing at both ends of the day. That’s because Wednesday morning’s sunrise was the latest of the year – 7:27 a.m. for Baltimoreans. It was a bit earlier at the beach, later at Deep Creek. Sunsets have been advancing since Dec. 8. By month’s end, we will have added 12 minutes of sunlight in the morning, and 29 minutes in the afternoon. Can spring be far behind?

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 2, 2011

Closest to the sun at the coldest time of year

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Winter sunOur planet is at perihelion tomorrow, the point in its elliptical orbit closest to the sun – about 3 million miles closer than at “aphelion” on July 4. Being closest to the sun at the coldest time of year seems odd. But the difference in distance has little effect on solar heating. Seasonal temperatures are driven more by the 23.4-degree tilt of Earth’s axis. Our northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun in winter, and the lower sun angles and shorter days sharply cut solar heating. So we shiver.

(PHOTO: Getty Images, Andrew Burton) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

January 1, 2011

Bright Sirius shines all night in January

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sirius and the PupThe second decade of the third millennium begins today. Sirius, the brightest true star in the sky, crosses the meridian – its highest point in the sky - at midnight tonight. You can find Sirius (the “Dog Star”)  in the east after 9 p.m. Trace a line through the three stars of Orion’s belt, southeastward to Sirius. It’s bright because it’s close – “only” 8.8 light years from Earth. It’s orbited once in 50 years by a faint companion star, nicknamed “the Pup.” 

(X-RAY IMAGE: B. Smith, East Tennessee University, Chandra Space Telescope) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 26, 2010

Christmas in B'more can be arctic, balmy

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Did you overdo things a little yesterday? No worries. Even Mother Nature can overdo things at Christmastime. The coldest Christmas in Baltimore was in 1983, when the mercury hit zero degrees F. The most recent Christmas in the top-five coldest was 1998, when it was 13 degrees. The warmest Christmas at BWI-Marshall was in 1964, when it was a tropical 72 degrees. The most recent Christmas in the top-five warmest was in 1989, when it was 67 degrees.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 25, 2010

Christmas snow in B'more is a gift, not a given

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Christmas on the PotomacGot snow? It’s a rarity at Christmas in Baltimore. If you run the numbers, I’m told, Baltimore has just a 6 percent chance of measurable snowfall on Dec. 25. There’s a 13 percent chance of having snow on the ground; last year was one. We’ve had just six Christmas Days since 1892 when Santa has brought an inch of snow or more. The biggest Dec. 25 snowfall was the 9.3 inches that fell in 1909. The biggest Christmas Eve storm brought 8.4 inches, in 1966. Let it snow!

(GETTY PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla, Dec. 24, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 24, 2010

Forecast low is for the next night

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Roger Hendrix, in Pasadena, is confused by forecasters’ habit of listing the day’s high first, then the low:MON High 34, Low 22.” After all, the low for a given date usually occurs around sunrise, well BEFORE the day’s high. He suggests listing the low first, then the high. Or, “is there too much history behind this reporting standard to make simplifying change possible?”  Old dog. No new tricks. The forecast looks ahead to the next overnight low, even if it occurs on the following date

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 23, 2010

NWS lowers our Christmas snow risk

Now the National Weather Service has begun to fall into line. The forecasters out at Sterling have begun to lower their estimates of our snow risks for the weekend, dropping the snow Snow chance 30 pcthazard on Sunday from 50 percent to 30 percent. But they remind us that this storm's track, while trending away from our shores, is not yet entirely certain:

"A COASTAL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM IS FORECAST TO DEVELOP ALONG THE SOUTHEAST COAST AND THEN TRACK NORTHEAST UP THE EASTERN SEABOARD SUNDAY INTO MONDAY.

"WHILE LATEST FORECASTS HAVE TRENDED TOWARD KEEPING THIS LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM FAR AccuWeather.comENOUGH OFFSHORE FOR LITTLE TO NO IMPACT ACROSS MUCH OF THE MID ATLANTIC...THERE DOES REMAIN A DEGREE OF UNCERTAINTY REGARDING THE EXACT TRACK OF THE STORM. ANY SHIFT IN THE TRACK OF THE STORM TO THE WEST WOULD BRING A CHANCE OF SNOW TO THE AREA."

Maryland residents could still see flakes in the air as early as Saturday afternoon as a weak storm system - the first of the weekend - moves down from the northwest, according to the forecast from Sterling. If it manages to hold itself together as it crosses the Appalachians, we could see some light accumulation.

Then, the second act begins, with the storm intensifying off the Southeastern states on Sunday and moving up the coast. The latest model runs keep the storm pretty well off shore. If they're proven right, we may see nothing from it. A shift more to the west could bring us some accumulating snow Sunday into Monday, Sterling said: 

"WE CANT COMPLETELY LET THE GUARD DOWN JUST YET AS THERE REMAINS A DEGREE OF UNCERTAINTY WITH THE EXACT TRACK OF THIS STORM. THEREFORE ALL INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:53 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts, Sky Notes, Winter weather
        

December's cold continues

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:Cold Baltimore

Our cold weather continues. December at BWI saw 13 days with highs below 40 in the first three weeks. It’s only the fourth time since 1871 that’s happened, says NWS forecaster Chris Strong. The record was 18 days below 40, in 1910. Ten Decembers since 1871 have been colder in their first three weeks than this one. The coldest was in 1989, with an average of 27.1 degrees. We’ve averaged 31.4 degrees so far. The next-coldest in recent years was 31.8 degrees, in 2005.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 1996)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 22, 2010

Storm edges into Sunday, track still uncertain

The most definite thing that can be said about the prospects for a Christmas snowstorm in Baltimore may be that the storm mostly likely won't get to the East Coast by Christmas. But nobody is sure yet whether Central Maryland should prepare for a near miss, or a serious day-after-Christmas winter storm. Cars in snow 2010

The best news is that, if you're traveling in the region on Friday or Saturday, the chances are you'll be able to make the trip without worrying about getting stranded in a ditch, or at the in-laws' house.

Forecasters say the storm - still coming ashore in California on Wednesday afternoon - looks like it will be moving slowly enough to put off any snowfall in the mid-Atlantic states until Sunday and Monday.

What happens then remains a frustrating meteorological cliffhanger - all the more so because so many millions of Americans will be traveling this weekend into the path of this cross-country storm. 

"To give you a number, an exact snow total, wouldn't be a great forecast because there is such uncertainty with the storm," said Jared Klein, a National Weather Service forecaster in Sterling, Va. "It's a very complex pattern" that is still coming together.

The complex computer models that forecasters use to predict the evolution of such storms days ahead of the actual events simply have not been able to reach agreement on this one. Some have been predicting a track that would take the bad weather off the southeast coast of the United States and out to sea. Others bring it off the Virginia Capes by Sunday, tracking up the coast with a major snowstorm for the mid-Atlantic.

"There are some models that are showing a light dusting, and there are some systems showing heavy snowfall ... six inches or more," Klein said.

It's not like last year, he said. "With the December and February storms, five or six days out we saw this coming. We didn't give amounts this far out, but there was a lot of agreement on a big storm."

That should begin to change as the Pacific element of the storm gets ashore in California, and more surface observations and analyses can be made. "Usually, when you start getting three days before the event, you start getting higher confidence," Klein said.

One issue on which there was increasing agreement Wednesday, in addition to the later arrival, was on the storm's intensity. "There is increasing confidence it is going to be a strong storm," Klein said. But "it may be out to sea, too."

As the hours went by Wednesday, the models, and forecasters, could do no better than offer a choice between two possible scenarios.

The afternoon online forecast discussion from the weather service in Sterling, said, "The first scenario is that low pressure intensifies as it tracks along the coastline, producing a significant snowstorm across the area. The second scenario is that the low remains far enough off the coast for little or no snowfall across our area."

"Latest guidance [Wednesday] has trended a bit towards the first scenario, but [computer model] AccuWeather.comguidance still remains divergent in the overall solution," forecasters said.

The forecasters at AccuWeather.com, in State College, Pa., took a similar, two-choices (map at left) approach: "The first is the storm will quickly strengthen, tracking northward along the coast and spreading heavy, accumulating snow through the I-95 mid-Atlantic and New England. Snow could extend back to the Appalachians with this track."

"The second," they continued, "is the storm will drop accumulating snow on part of Georgia and the Carolinas, but then head out to sea. However, this track could still allow the storm to hook back into New England with heavy, windswept snow."

Other meteorologists have weighed in with their own ideas about how this storm will behave four or five days out. Eric the Red, a professional forecaster from Baltimore who contributes his predictions anonymously to the Maryland Weather Blog, said, "The trend is ominous ... There is going to be a whale of a storm moving up the coast Sunday into Monday. Its final final track means everything ... but I'm starting to get that sinking feeling about Monday."

Foot's Forecast, a forecasting web site manned by high school and college students who did well with last winter's storms, was saying this on Wednesday: 

"Abundant surface and upper level cold air in place across the eastern U.S., combined with the expected influx of Pacific moisture may increase the possibility that energy from [the] northern jet stream phases with an already active subtropical jet. This scenario would produce a significant to major winter storm along the U.S. East Coast."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:34 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Forecasts, Sky Notes
        

December 20, 2010

Eclipse forecast improving

Worries that increasing clouds leading to possible snow on Tuesday seemed to be easing Monday morning, giving renewed hope for Marylanders eager to see tonight's total eclipse of the moon.

Lunar eclipse 2004Forecasters out at Sterling, in their morning forecast discussion, said it looks like we'll get an opening in the clouds tonight just long enough to catch at least part of the eclipse:

"Low-level stratocumulus will linger into the evening before clearing out. High clouds ahead the approaching front will begin to overspread the area late tonight. Therefore, most of the [forecast area] should have a mostly clear look at the lunar eclipse tonight."

Okay, so it's not quite unequivocal. But it's a pretty good forecast. I know I'll be out there to watch. Here, again, are the key times:

Partial eclipse begins: 1:32 a.m. The full moon begins to slide into the Earth's shadow.

Total eclipse begins: 2:41 a.m. The moon is now in total shadow, taking on what may be an eerie coppery color. It always looks strangely three-dimensional, too, at least to me. 

Mid-eclipse: 3:17 a.m. This is the darkest part of the eclipse.

Total eclipse ends: 3:53 a.m. The moon begins to re-emerge from the Earth's shadow.

Partial eclipse ends:  5:01 a.m. The moon is now back in full, direct sunlight.

Be sure to stop back here after the show and share your impressions. Did you wake the kids for a look? How did they react? My grown kids still remember when I got them up for a lunar eclipse back in the '80s. It makes an impression.

The next lunar eclipse visible from Maryland is in 2014.

(SUN PHOTO: Total lunar eclipse, October 2004, Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

December 19, 2010

A celestial trifecta on Tuesday

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Lunar eclipse October 2004On Tuesday, Dec. 21, we will hit the celestial trifecta with three red-letter events on the same date. It begins with the first total lunar eclipse since 2008, and the last visible here (weather permitting) until 2014. The period of totality begins at 2:40 a.m. EST and ends at 3:54 a.m.

In mid-eclipse, at 3:14 a.m., the moon will be full – a moon known to some as the Long Night Moon. And about 15 hours later, at 6:42 p.m., we’ll mark the winter solstice, and the official start of winter.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Lunar eclipse, October 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 18, 2010

Expanded color weather page coming soon

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Weather mapThanks to the many weather page readers who have sent us their suggestions for the things they’d like to see included on our new, expanded print weather page. The debut is still about a month away, and we’re still tweaking the design. But it appears the new, half-page, color weather display will include better graphics, a national weather map, degree-day totals, rise-and-set times for the visible planets, and more of the features you asked for.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 17, 2010

More cold, more snow, then winter starts

Do you remember what we were all doing a year ago on this date? Here's a hint: We were watching the weather forecasts as a weekend coastal storm threatened to dump heavy snow across the region on the night of Dec. 18-19.

Thank goodness that's behind us, right? Except that today, we're all watching the weather forecasts as a weekend coastal storm threatens to dump snow across the region on the night of Dec. 18-19.Dec. 19, 2009 White House

In fairness, this one doesn't yet appear to be nearly as formidable as the 2009 blizzard. By this time last year, snow chances were set at 80 percent, and by the late afternoon, the predictions from Sterling were rising above 5 inches. By the next day, they were in the range of 1 to 2 FEET.

In the end, the Dec. 18-19, 2009 storm (photo, right) dropped an official (and debatable) 18 inches on BWI-Marshall Airport, now ranked the 9th deepest two-day storm on record for the city. Many locations saw far more than that.

The National Weather Service forecast for this weekend puts the snow risk at 50 percent, with the flakes beginning to fall sometime after 1 a.m. Sunday. Computer models continue to disagree on the precise track of the storm as it redevelops off the southeast coast of the U.S. A more westerly track up the coast would mean plenty of snow for our region. A more easterly track would keep the snow on Delmarva, and shift the greatest threat to New England.

NWS forecasters at Sterling this morning are saying the model solutions generally have been moving to the west. But at least one has shifted east. "Obviously the changeable nature in the forecast track of low pressure from the models provides a low-confidence forecast right now," they say, "and thus it's important to stay apprised of the latest forecasts for Saturday night/Sunday."

The Hazardous Weather Outlook says:

"A COASTAL STORM WILL BRING A CHANCE OF SNOW TO THE AREA SATURDAYBWI Temperatures December
NIGHT AND SUNDAY. THERE REMAINS UNCERTAINTY REGARDING THE TRACK
OF THIS STORM. AT THIS TIME THIS LOOKS TO BE A COASTAL EVENT."

What seems more certain is that the cold weather that has settled into the mid-Atlantic states since the first of the month (graph, right) is going to hang around until further notice. Thursday's HIGH of 25 degrees at BWI was 2 degrees colder than the average LOW for the date.

Highs through the weekend will stick in the low- to mid-30s, with lows in the mid-20s. That's 10 degrees below the average for this time of year.

Blame a "blocking" pattern over Greenland that is holding a deep southward loop in the northern jet stream in place. And that has allowed arctic air to plunge deep into the eastern half of the nation, all the way to Florida's orange groves. 

AccuWeather.comThe pattern is also what will bring this weekend storm out of the Southwest, slide it across the Southern states and out to the coast, where it promises to intensify and become a snowmaker for someone.

AccuWeather.com  (map, left) seems to be siding with a more easterly storm track, giving no more than a glancing snow-blow to the Lower Eastern Shore and nothing much at all for the I-95 corridor.

Foot's Forecast is taking an "either-or" approach:

"Scenario A would allow the system, now in the four corners area, to track close to the coast, bringing heavy snow for the entire I-95 corridor from Richmond, Va to Boston, MA. Scenario B would permit the system to track off the Southeast coast and further out to sea, with snow being confined to coastal portions of the Mid Atlantic."

"Timing for this system would be from late Saturday evening 12/18 into early Sunday evening 12/19 for the Mid Atlantic. One year to the day. Even the Climate Prediction Center came out guns blazing today with "Heavy snow and high winds remain a possibility for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast." Just when you thought this weekend would be nice and calm."

Eric the Red is unequivocal: "Looks like the weekend storm is a no-go ... so that should do it."

Whatever happens, winter will arrive, officially, with the winter solstice, at 6:42 p.m. EST on Tuesday. Oh, and we may see more snow that day, as another clipper system passes by to our south, much like Thursday's storm. Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts, Sky Notes
        

BWI's last sub-zero reading: February 1996

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:Sub-zero on Mount Washington

Sure it’s cold. But it’s been much colder in Maryland. The record low for Baltimore in December is minus-3 degrees F, set Dec. 30, 1880. The all-time record here is minus-7 degrees, reached on five dates in January and February, most recently on Jan. 22, 1984.

The last time BWI saw a temperature below zero was a minus-1 reading on Feb. 5, 1996. The airport has recorded 20 sub-zero days since 1960. Dulles International has had 56, Washington’s Reagan National, just four.

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(SUN PHOTO: Sub-zero weather on Mount Washington, N.H., 2004, Candy Thomson)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 16, 2010

It's cold, but not a December record

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:Bitter cold in Baltimore

Fred Weiss, in Baltimore, asks, “Have we set any records with this cold weather?

December has been unusually cold so far. We’ve averaged 33.4 degrees through Tuesday. That’s 5.4 degrees below the long-term norm.

If it stayed that cold, this would be the coldest December since 2000. The coldest on record was December 1989, which averaged 25.4 degrees at BWI-Marshall. Brrr! Tuesday’s electric demand did set a new December record in the 13-state PJM Interconnection.  

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(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, January 2000) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 9, 2010

Sunsets get later from now until June 28

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Winter sunsetCheer up! Your days will soon brighten – at least in the afternoon. Last night witnessed the earliest sunset of the year, at 4:43 p.m. EST in Baltimore. From today, our afternoons will begin to get longer until the latest sunset, at 8:37 p.m. EDT, June 28.

 We’re not fully over the hump. Sunrises will continue to get later until Jan. 4. And total daylight hours will continue to dwindle until the advance of dusk outpaces that of the dawn, on Dec. 21 - the winter solstice.

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(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, February 2003)

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 7, 2010

Beautiful crescent moon tonight

NASAOn Wednesday night we will witness the earliest sunset of the year, at 4:43 p.m. in Baltimore. We're also just two days past the new moon, and skies should be clearing.

That means Tuesday and Wednesday evenings will be great times to pause and look west right after sunset to see the young moon as the thinnest crescent, with "Earthshine" dimly illuminating the rest.

We're also now just two weeks from the next full moon, the one that will be be fully eclipsed early on the morning of Dec. 21. Later that day we will mark the winter solstice and the beginning of winter.

We'll have more here on the eclipse as the day grows nearer.

(NASA PHOTO: Andy Skinner)

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Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching
        

December 6, 2010

Cold continues; snow hawks eye storm next week

Officially, despite sightings of flurries in many places around the Baltimore region Sunday, there was no snow at BWI-Marshall - not even a trace - on Dec. 5. So, for those counting the Dec. 5ths that have produced at least a trace of snow, we stand at six out of the last nine years. Of all the dates in December, it's still the record-holder. 

Now the cold: Sunday's high of 39 degrees at BWI-Marshall marked the first time since last Feb. 26 that we've failed to reach 40 degrees. The unseasonably cold weather - the average high for this time of year at BWI is 49 degrees - is forecast to continue all week.Wisp resort web cam

Blame a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation - the key to snowfall in Maryland. That is contributing to a deep southerly loop in the northern jet stream, which is allowing arctic air to surge into the mid-Atlantic states. Foot's Forecast says low pressure over Maine is powering the NW winds that are crossing the Great Lakes and dumping lake-effect snows on the lee shores.

The folks in Sterling say we may see some snow showers in Baltimore overnight tonight, with a low of 27 degrees. Tuesday's high may be no better 35 degrees, with gusty winds that will make it feel much colder.

Our compatriots in far western Maryland have been seeing far more than flurries. There are Blizzard Warnings posted today for parts of West Virginia just south of Garrett and Allegany counties in Maryland. They're warning of 10 to 20 inches of snow from this afternoon into Tuesday, with winds of 20 to 25 mph gusting to 40 to 50 mph. Garrett and Allegany are under a Winter Storm Warning of their own.

Web cam photos from CHART and the WISP resort (photo) show the terrain draped in white. Some of the white stuff at WISP is manmade, but they're getting the natural variety, too. No skiers in evidence yet.

As the week unfolds, it will remain cold, with highs in the upper 30s to low 40s, and overnight lows in the 20s. At the far end of the 7-day forecast the NWS has inserted a chance of rain for Sunday. AccuWeather.comBut there is considerable disagreement in the models about that storm, and the usual snow hawks have already begun to chatter about the possibility of a significant snowstorm for the mid-Atlantic early next week.

Once again it comes down to a debate over the storm track. A more westerly track up the Ohio Valley or the Appalachian chain would admit plenty of relatively warm air here, bringing us mostly rain. Edge the storm track farther east and we get a wintry mix. Send it out to sea and we keep the cold air in place and see the snow pile up.

What we need to remember, though, is that in a La Nina winter like this one, most of the storms can be expected to track to our west, bringing us more mixed precipitation and smaller accumulations compared with the big coastal storms more typical of an El Nino winter (like last year).

That said, there have been exceptions - big coastal storms in La Nina years. And even a few inches of snow and ice can be every bit as disruptive as an 18-incher, and maybe moreso as more people venture onto the roads, figuring they can tackle a few inches of snow and ice, no sweat.

Anyway, here's AccuWeather.com's take on the prospects for early next week. 

Eric the Red, a professional forecaster form Baltimore and frequent contributor here, says we may see some light snow Friday, but:

"The bigger issue is Sunday into Monday. Models have been all over this for days. The idea is pretty straightforward... moisture-laden storm will approach from the west-southwest.

"But the models are all over the place on the track this thing takes... some have it going into the Ohio River Valley, which puts us on the warm, southeast side of the storm (mostly rain), while others take it right overhead (that's a mixed mess), and still others show a track closer to the coast (kaboom!).

"Two things here: (1) the models have been trending farther north and west with the track, and (2) this doesn't make much sense since a strong blocking high would typically cause the storm to track farther south and reform on the coast."

"So we have the models showing a less favorable track for snow, but this solution - for now - just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Many days to sort this one out as well."

And finally, here's how Foot's Forecast sees it: "Forecaster Hunter Outten stated in a mid-November report that within a 60-day "Long Range Cycle" would be a significant event in the mid-December period. With the long duration period of cold weather to dominate much of the nation this week, the stars appear to be aligning for what could be the final significant coastal storm of the year to occur in the December 12-15 period."

Stay tuned.

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Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts, Sky Notes
        

December 3, 2010

"Bay-effect" snows are rare, but possible

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Lake-effect snow in BuffaloEarl Needhammer, in Westminster, writes: “We hear of ‘lake-effect snows’ up around the Great Lakes … Is there a noticeable ‘lake-effect’ on local weather from the reservoirs and the Bay?” Lake-effect snow requires a pretty long “fetch” of cold wind across relatively warm, open water, then rising terrain. Our reservoirs are too small. “Bay-effect” snows are rare, but possible. N.C. State scientists reported a 1999 event when north winds blew down the bay and dumped snow on Norfolk.

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(GETTY IMAGES: Lake-effect snow in Buffalo 12/2/2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
        

December 2, 2010

Venus dazzling in the east before dawn

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Venus in crescent phaseUp early? Venus dazzles this morning, close beside a crescent moon. It’s the brightest appearance by the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and moon. You can even see it in daylight if you know where to look.

Through a telescope, Venus, too, appears as a moon-like crescent. Look for it in the east an hour or two before dawn.

Missed it today? Venus will be nearly as bright for the next few weeks.

(NASA photo: Venus in crescent phase, April 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Notes
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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