Posted by at 6:06 am

  10 Responses to “Pensacola”

  1. Would like to know what I am seeing between 4 and 530 in the morning towards the east. It looks lika a star but with binonculars it is flashing red and green but does not move like an aircraft. It seems stationary. Do satellites flash like this? Can you identify this for me, thank you.

    • Artificial satellites bright enough to see with your naked eye would be moving quite a bit. If what you are seeing in the morning to the east is in roughly the same position from one morning to the next it won’t be a satellite. If what you are seeing is almost overhead you are probably seeing the planet Jupiter. It is currently quite bright ( approximate magnitude -2.6) and well above the horizon. This morning I noticed it almost directly overhead and very near the moon. If what you are seeing is closer to the horizon then there are several candidates. Closest to the horizon ( about 30 deg ) would be Betelgeuse. It marks the shoulder of Orion and is a magnitude 0.45. Higher ( about 50 deg ) is the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus at a magnitude of 0.87. Both are very obviously reddish in color to the naked eye. Farther afield towards the northeast is the 0.08 magnitude Capella in the constellation Auriga. And slightly more southeast is the bright (0.18) star Rigel. Neither of these are reddish in color. So what you are seeing depends on how ‘east’ you are looking. The ‘Orion’s belt’ asterism is easy to identify and would be the perfect landmark to narrow down your observation.

      George, thanks for the question.

      • When I went to my porch this morning the star was not there, It arose a little later and as of 0535 this morning I am still looking at it. The reason I have looked at it the past week is because it is the only star I can see, It twinkles very bright and with binoculars the flashing lights or maybe the reflection of the sun is beautiful. I took astronomy at PJC in the late 80’s and I have never seen anything like this. It is very bright and colorful and rises up with the sun. The “Twinkling” is very obvious with the naked eye. The flashing lignts are like strobes on an aircraft but it does not move like an aircraft. It seems to be following the path rising straight up from the east until it gets to bright to see it when the sun comes up. it is 0600 and I can still see it as the only thing in the sky visable with the naked eye. It is starting to get light out in the east and I can still see it. Thanks for you response, if you have any questions, I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. George.

        • George,
          A couple of questions:
          1. You said the object had not risen when you first looked this morning. What time was that?
          2. How low is your eastern horizon (trees, buildings ,etc.) ? That will effect what time the object becomes visible.
          3. How close to east is the object? Sirius (magnitude -1.44) rises just after 4 A.M. but that star is about 30 deg south of due east. As the star with the brightest apparent magnitude in the sky and with it very low on the horizon, it would ‘twinkle’ a whole lot. It would also be the last star near the horizon to be overcome by the rising sun.
          4. Just as a check, did you notice the moon and Jupiter overhead this morning? The moon has moved away from Jupiter a little but they still make a nice pair.

          George, we’ll narrow this down and get a good idea what this is.

  2. Am curious what is visible, with the naked eye, as a bright light to the south of west (from Southwest Pensacola), typically appearing near 1900hrs and wobbling around until it starts to drop (quicker than surrounding stars) near 2120.

    • Christy,

      The bright light seen in the southwest evening sky right now is the planet Venus. If you have a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope you can see that the planet is approaching a quarter phase. As it continues its orbit, it will get closer and closer to the Earth and become a thin crescent by mid February.

      Thanks for stopping by and posing the question.

      Tom Haugh
      Outreach Coordinator

  3. We see two bright circles in the se sky before sunrise. the north object has a smaller dark circle on it. The objects appear to be stationary. ( May 2-2017)
    Melbourne Beach- FL. The two circles are very close to each other when you look at them through binoculars ( 16 x 50 ).
    It is bright enough to see through thin clouds . You can see it till the sunrise becomes bright.
    The position is around 30 degrees up from the horizon and located to the ESE.
    Could this be a reflection off of a geo-scryn sat.
    We will look again early wed morning before dawn to see if we can catch them again .

    • Phil,

      At sunrise (0641) the higher object (altitude: 26°) is the planet Venus. The giveaway is the “smaller dark circle”. Right now Venus is in a crescent phase with only 28% of the daytime side visible from the Earth. Identifying the two objects you say are very close when viewed through your binoculars all depends on your binocular’s field of view (FOV). There are several additional bright objects visible prior to sunrise in that vicinity. One is the planet Mercury (altitude:10°) which is also in a crescent phase with only 13% visble. However, with an angular separation of 22° it is unlikely that both Venus and Mercury are in the same FOV in your binoculars. If you see more than one object when viewing Venus the only background objects are dim stars. But, if you are looking at Mercury several objects are probably visible. Less than 2° from Mercury is the planet Uranus and depending on how wide your FOV is, several stars. So, the question is “What is your FOV with the binoculars?”. Often the FOV is printed on the binoculars somewhere.

      Tom Haugh
      Outreach Coordinator

  4. I have never done this before, but I would like to observe Jupiter this Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. I live in Pensacola. Can I view it from the pier downtown and when & where do I look? Do I need a telescope or binoculars? Thank you for your help! ~Vicki Willis

    • Vicki,
      You are going to need a very clear low western horizon. On the 23rd, the Sun sets at 6:41 PM and Jupiter sets at 7:54 PM. So, at sunset, Jupiter will be only 14 degrees above the horizon. It will in the WSW sky at an azimuth of 249 degrees.

      As the sky darkens, the planet will brighten enough to see with your naked eyes, but will look just like a star. The view will be much more enjoyable with even a small telescope. As it gets darker, some or all of the 4 Galilean moons should become visible as well as the dark cloud bands that span the planet. Of course, as the skies darken, the planet is moving ever closer to the horizon. You will have to be quick to find Jupiter and make your observations. The lower in the sky the planet gets, the more atmosphere you are looking through and the more the atmosphere will distort what you are looking at.

      Good luck,
      Tom Haugh
      Outreach Coordinator

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