A Sunbow to Start Your Week
Posted on March 5, 2018 Posted by John Scalzi 14 Comments
I saw this beaut on the way to the gas station this morning; I pulled over to snap a photo with my phone. As a fun bit of trivia, the place I pulled into was Harris Creek Cemetery, which many of you may recognize as the cemetery at the very beginning of Old Man’s War. Kathy Perry will one day be buried over there to the right. I bumped up the contrast and saturation in the picture so you can see the entire bow better, but I assure you it was pretty impressive in real life, too.
This is one of the nice things about living in the modern era, incidentally: One has a decent camera with one pretty much all the time now. This picture probably would have looked better if I had taken it with my dSLR, but then I’m not lugging it with me when I go to the gas station. As they, the best camera is the one you have one you, and fortunately phone cameras these days do a pretty good job.
Speaking of cameras and things they capture in the sky, here’s a thing if you missed me posting it last night on Twitter:
After I posted this, astronomer Phil Plait told me that reportedly Copernicus himself never caught a glimpse of Mercury, so I had that on him. And I was all, Yeah! Suck it, Copernicus! Sure, he established the heliocentric theory, but I saw the smallest planet with my bare eye! That evens things out! History books should be updated with this equivalence presently.
There, I hope you have enjoyed these views of the sky through my cameras’ eyes. Off you go now into your Monday. Hope it’s a good one.
I saw this one afternoon as I was leaving work in Huntsville, Al. It was jaw-dropping.
Thanks for identifying Mercury and Venus for me. I was in Columbus last night and pointed them out to my husband, saying, “when was the last time the night sky was clear enough to see stars?” Now I can correct myself. We didn’t see stars, we saw planets. Very cool.
These are stunning pictures, and I love your commentary on them, too. Thanks so much for sharing with us!
Didn’t notice anybody at Sandy Cain’s marker, did ya?
Even the sun is better is your world. ((sigh))
I’ve been reading Sky and Telescope for 40-some years, so I’ve always known when Mercury is easily visible. As a result, I have usually sees it a couple of times a year, despite living in a light-polluted city and having most of the horizon obstructed to boot.
If that involves getting up half an hour before dawn, I normally do so.
This isn’t meant to be a wet-blanket comment, because any time people notice things in the sky, I rejoice (I’m a high school science teacher).
I would love to know the origin of the idea that Copernicus never saw Mercury. Personally, I have a really hard time believing that a man who reordered the Solar System, at risk to his own safety (although he waited to publish till he was on his deathbed, the coward), never made an observation that many of your readers will make this week, inspired by this post. It always seemed like an amazing fact that wasn’t.
Thanks for this! A reminder to simply look UP every now and then.
Michael Porter: The notion that Copernicus never saw Mercury seems to come from a misinterpretation of a passage in De Revolutionibus. Basically, he was saying that it was too hard to make consistent observations where he lived, and so he was using ones made by Walther and by Schoner at Nuremberg. Wikipedia notes that he did make “three observations of Mercury, with errors of -3, -15 and -1 minutes of arc”.
I never knowingly saw Mercury until just several years ago, when I bothered to look up its position when it was near maximum elongation. It actually gets quite bright by star/planet standards, brighter than Sirius; but it’s usually lost in the skyglow of sunrise or sunset, and it’s also hard to distinguish from an airplane near the horizon.
Thanks, Theophylact – I discovered the same letter (from 1892!) shortly after posting.
That is absolutely stunning! The sky can produce some amazing views, for sure. I still count myself as very lucky for being in the path of totality for last year’s eclipse. That was the most gloriously weird experience of my life.
“As they, the best camera is the one you have one you, and fortunately phone cameras these days do a pretty good job.”
I can’t parse this sentence.
@jamesabrown “As they say, the best camera is the one you have on you, and fortunately phone cameras these days do a pretty good job.”
I think I see sunbows and sundogs more often these days than, say, twenty years ago. I wonder if this is because back then I did not know what they were called, so had no term with with to index them mentally, and they got filed under “cool sky thing” which covers a plethora of things which means I did not keep track of the particular frequencies, or whether they are more frequent due to pollution or geographical location (I live around 760 miles further south now than I did then).