Solar eclipse of Monday, Aug 21, 2017

SOLAR ECLIPSE TIME max lasting for about 2min over Vancouver, to 2min 17sec as you go to Eastern BC.

Here are times for cities across BC and Alberta. There are four numbers: the local times for the start, maximum and end, and the maximum fraction of the solar diameter covered: Victoria (09:08, 10:20, 11:37, 91%), Vancouver (09:10, 10:21, 11:37, 88%), Penticton (09:13, 10:25, 11:42, 87%), Cranbrook (10:16, 11:30, 12:48, 85%), Calgary (10:20, 11:33, 12:50, 81%), Edmonton (10:24, 11:35, 12:49, 75%).


TELESCOPE: if you setup a telescope (with a solar filter and video camera) the Sun should be seen safely on a video display.  We may see sunspots at the centre of the disc, even though the Sun is nearing sunspot minimum.

SPEED OF THE MOON’S SHADOW:  If it’s hazy with forest fire smoke, try going 7000 feet up a mountain to get clearer views.  From a mountain top, I wonder if I’ll be able to see the shadow of the Moon sweeping in from the West?  Over Eastern BC, It’s approaching at around 3,000 km/h; or 0.833 km/s.  That’s 2.5x the speed of sound, so a military jet could keep up with it, but a car can’t.  The totality shadow will be about 109km wide, and take just over 2 minutes to pass.  Source:

PATH OF TOTALITY: The Map of totality below shows you’ll have to go 500 km South of the US border to Salem, Oregon or to Idaho Falls in Idaho to get the full effect.

Map by Xavier Jubier.  http:\\

ECLIPSE GLASSES:  So, where to get adequate eyewear, sunglasses won’t do!  You can send away for cardboard eclipse glasses (mine haven’t arrived yet), but be sure they are very dark, like shade 14.  Try getting some welders replacement lenses; again, shade 14 is safest.   They are rectangular glass plates, about 4” x3” x2”.  They should be available locally at Air Liquide, or Acklands, or other welders supply place (unless they are already all sold out).
EYESIGHT WARNING: When you look at the Sun, the lens in your eyeball acts as a burning glass, and the target is the back of your eye, where imaging happens. You can also damage the protein jelly, or “aqueous humour” that fills your eyeball. The damage can be permanent. Staring at the Sun using a telesc​ope or binoculars that have not been modified for solar observing could likewise lead to permanent damage. A pair of 10×50 binoculars (10 times magnification, 50mm objective lenses), will collect between 50 and 100 times the amount of light and heat that your eye lens will collect. Permanent damage will be near instantaneous. There is specialist hardware that can be used with telescopes and binoculars that make them usable for safe solar observing. However, unless you are completely familiar with these devices and how to use them… DON’T. If you are not an expert then go find one.”  Quote from Ken Tapping, astronomer at Penticton, BC.

SOLAR PROJECTION: (adults only please) using a spotting scope or binoculars (or a magnifying glass).  Set it up on a tripod, and focus the telescope at infinity (a mountain first).  Then hold a white square of cardboard about a foot away from the eyepiece, or against a white wall (some telescopes come with a little arm and clip for this purpose).  The cardboard should be in a shadowed area.  Be careful not to look through the eyepiece of the scope (or the finderscope!)–just look at the shadow of the scope on the ground to point it at the Sun.  Centre the image of the Sun on the white card.  Move the cardboard close for a smaller/brighter image; and further away for a bigger/dimmer image. That way you get enough magnification to see sunspots too. (Galileo pioneered this projection technique back in 1612.  He didn’t go blind until he was 72, and that was from cataracts.)

FIRE AND BLINDING DANGER: Don’t hold the cardboard too close or you’ll burn a hole through it.  Don’t try to look through the eyepiece,  or you’ll burn a hole in your eye’s retina.  Don’t goof-up or you’re permanently blind.  Watch out for kids around you.  Don’t leave unattended.  Don’t burn your finger or start a fire!  (That said, I did this in grade 11 astronomy class and nobody had any trouble.)

2017-8-14 : Asteroid to shave past Earth on Oct 12: ESA By Mariette Le Roux Paris

A house-sized asteroid will shave past our planet on October 12, far inside the Moon’s orbit but without posing any threat, astronomers said Thursday.  The space rock will zoom by harmlessly at a distance of about 44,000 kilometres (27,300 miles) — an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, according to the European Space Agency. This is just far enough to miss our geostationary satellites orbiting at about 36,000 kilometres.

“We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit the Earth,” Detlef Koschny of ESA’s “Near Earth Objects” research team told AFP. There is no danger whatsoever.”

The asteroid, dubbed 2012 TC4, first flitted past our planet in October 2012 — at about double the distance — before disappearing from view.  It is about 15-30 metres (49-98 feet) long, and was travelling at a speed of some 14 kilometres (nine miles) per second when spotted.  Scientists expected the asteroid to return for a near-Earth rendezvous this year, but did not know how close it would get.  Now, the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile has managed to track the rock down, some 56 million kilometres away, and determine its trajectory.

“It’s damn close,” said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. “The farthest satellites are 36,000 kilometres out, so this is indeed a close miss,” he told AFP.

For researchers, the near miss will provide a rare chance to test Earth’s “planetary defence” systems — which at this point are focused on early warning rather than active asteroid deflection.

Observing TC4’s movements “is an excellent opportunity to test the international ability to detect and track near-Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to a real asteroid threat,” said an ESA statement.  Asteroids are rocky bodies left over from the formation of our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.  There are thought to be millions of them, most of them in a “belt” between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

A space rock slightly bigger than TC4, at 40 metres, caused the largest Earth impact in recent history when it exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908.

In 2013, a meteoroid of about 20 metres exploded in the atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russia with the kinetic energy of about 30 Hiroshima atom bombs.

The resulting shockwave blew out the windows of nearly 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people. It caught everyone unawares.

If an object the size of TC4 were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, “it would have a similar effect to the Chelyabinsk event,” said the ESA.

But Earth’s atmosphere stretches only a few hundred kilometres far, and TC4 will comfortably miss it. Also, it would likely behave very differently to the Chelyabinsk object.

“The Chelyabinsk meteoroid was a piece of comet and they are usually made of icy material,” said Densing. “Due to the icy nature it probably dissipated in the atmosphere… When we’re talking about asteroids, this is solid material. They are mostly made up of iron, so will not so easily dissipate their energy in the atmosphere.”

TC4 is unlikely to shed any debris into the atmosphere.

Even if it did, no evacuation would be required for an object this size, said Koschny, merely a warning for people to stay away from windows that could shatter from the shockwave.

Densing, who has previously warned that humanity is not ready to defend itself against an Earth-bound object, said he would not lose any sleep, not over this one.  “However, it makes you wonder what will happen next time,” he said.  “I would have felt a bit more comfortable if we… had a longer pre-warning time.”



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Welcome to the British Columbia Meteor Network

The British Columbia Meteor Network and its associate members are dedicated volunteers who have worked together to advance knowledge of meteor science. Some of our members are professionals although most are devoted amateurs.

The network is comprised of a video detection component as well as a radio detection component. We  share our data with multinational governments and astronomy groups.

Data collection is only one goal of the the network. We also hope to promote a strong educational program in open cooperation with the school districts and community colleges of British Columbia.

Feel free to browse our site. Likewise, feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to know more.

British Columbia Meteor Network Coverage Map



Click here to see the full resolution map.

For a brief history of how the network got started please read Ed’s article.


2017-8-7 : Meteor Echoes Live Stream:

When a meteor enters the Earth’s upper atmosphere it excites the air molecules, producing a streak of light and leaving a trail of ionization (an elongated paraboloid) behind it tens of kilometers long. This ionized trail may persist for less than 1 second up to several minutes, occasionally. Occurring at heights of about 85 to 105 km (50-65 miles), this trail is capable of reflecting radio waves from transmitters located on the ground, similar to light reflecting from a mirrored surface. Meteor radio wave reflections are also called meteor echoes, or pings.



Reporting Sightings

Please capture sighting on video as quickly as you can possibly react.

General Guidance

A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus as seen in the morning or evening sky. A bolide is a special type of fireball which explodes in a bright terminal flash at its end, often with visible fragmentation.

If you happen to see one of these memorable events, we would ask that you report it here to the American Meteor Society, remembering as many details as possible. This will include things such as brightness, length across the sky, color, and duration (how long did it last), it is most helpful of the observer will mentally note the beginning and end points of the fireball with regard to background star constellations, or compass direction and angular elevation above the horizon.

Individual reports are shared with other interested organizations, and saved for statistical study purposes. Reports are also shared with the general public in the form of our Fireball Sightings Log, which allows visitors to monitor the fireball activity which is reported to us from across North America, over the course of a given year. Although the AMS does not pursue fireball reports with the intent of recovering meteorites, we do notify relevant planetary scientists when promising events occur in their local geographic areas, for them to pursue as they wish.

Extra Canadian Reporting

Check :

Feel free to phone at reasonable hours : 250-598-6692 in Victoria, BC


2017-4-4 : The Apr 22 Lyrid Meteor Shower, Aurora Borealis and “STEVE”

April 4 and the 22nd had some excellent Aurora Borealis, and Saturday the 22nd was also the Lyrid meteor shower.  The skies were clear for a brief time, so I saw a few Lyrid meteors.

Jerry Mason’s photo above shows green auroral glow and blue streaks.  Taken from College Way above Vernon at 10:30pm.  I suspect the curved streak at right is a lens reflection from the streetlight at lower left.

Something new, have you heard about auroral proton arcs actually being a new high velocity 300km high, high temperature gas stream called “STEVE” acronym: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement?

STEVE was assumed by aurora photographers to be a “proton arc”. (Protons can hit the upper atmospheric gases also and while the electrons they bump loose can cause a glowing light, it’s a broad, diffuse and dim glow unlike the structure of STEVE that is a narrow streamer with rotation and other motion.

Proton Arc Vanexus Photography Aug2016

Photo Credit: Karina & Amir, Vanexus Photography, Vancouver BC. Taken at Porteau Cove provincial Park in August 2016.  “While it started as a thin white line, it transformed into vibrant greens and purples before fading away.”

Basics about STEVE, from NASA’s Aurorasaurus blog: source:

1.STEVE appears ~10-20° (in latitude) closer to the equator (south in the Northern hemisphere) than where the normal green aurora is overhead. This means it could be overhead at latitudes similar to Calgary, Canada.

2.STEVE is a very narrow arc aligned East-West and extending for hundreds or thousands of miles.

3.STEVE emits light in mostly purplish colors. It is quite faint but is usually photographed with 5-10 second exposures.

4.Sometimes, it is accompanied by a rapidly evolving green short-lived picket fence structure.

5.STEVE can last 20 minutes or even longer.

6.STEVE appears to have a season. For instance, it has not been observed by citizen scientists from October 2016 to February 2017.

7.This phenomena has been reported from the UK, Canada, Alaska, northern US states, and even New Zealand.

“Ordinary auroras we see from the ground and space are caused by electrons precipitating down into the atmosphere,” Dennis Gallagher of the Nasa Marshall Space Flight Centre said last year. “Protons can cause auroras, too, but they are different. For one thing, proton auroras are brightest in the UV part of the spectrum, invisible to the human eye.”

There is some visible light from proton auroras, but these are broad and spread out, not tight and filamentary like the streaks seen in the photographs.

Eric Donovan, a professor of Physics and Astronomy from the University of Calgary:

With data gathered by Alberta’s network of aurora watchers, Eric Donovan found it coincided with a flyby from one of the three satellites from the European Space Agency’s Swarm magnetic field mission.

“As the satellite flew straight through Steve, data from the electric field instrument showed very clear changes.  The temperature 300 km above Earth’s surface jumped by 3000°C and the data revealed a 25 km-wide ribbon of gas flowing westwards at about 6 km/s compared to a speed of about 10 m/s either side of the ribbon,” explained U of C astronomer Eric Donovan in an ESA blog post.

“It turns out that STEVE is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.

“Swarm allows us to measure it and I’m sure will continue to help resolve some unanswered questions.”

Roger Haagmans, Swarm’s mission scientist added that there is still a lot we need to learn about Steve. For example, it is not created by the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field, meaning it is not classified as an Aurora and requires further investigation.

So, instead of an aurora caused by solar particles slamming into air molecules, this turned out to be a super-heated ribbon of gases, where the air molecules were emitting light simply due to the heat, like the filament of an incandescent light bulb.

According to NASA’s Aurorasaurus blog, there were more than 50 observed sightings of Steve (which has since been hammered into the acronym Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) last year and they’re hoping to gather more data in 2017.

WT1190F Splashdown Friday

(Email from Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park volunteer William Smith)

Dear Gerhard Drolshagen : On the Orbit of WT1190F (aka Snoopy)

Does object  get captured weeks before and go into earth’s orbit, slowly losing speed and descending? OR does it come shooting directly into the earth’s atmosphere – almost perpendicular to a tangent  ie pointing at the earth’s centre?  This is important because if it orbits the earth one or two times as it slows down, then we might see it in the dark of the late evening where we are on West Coast of North America..  

 Look here :


If you look at the ISS paths then focus in on the one which crosses southern India, this might indicate that SNOOPY (coming also NW-> SE) would pass over Panana, Bahamas, Northern Spain , Mediterranean and then IRAN . No luck for west coast of USA/Canada where I am.  

Hello Bill,
Gerhard Drolshagen forwarded your message to me. Here is some of the info we have on WT1190F.

The object has been in Earth’s orbit at least since 2009. It has been moving in an elongated orbit with apogee at about twice the distance of the Moon, and perigee getting closer and closer to the Earth, until the upcoming re-entry. Since 2009, it has completed dozens of orbits around the Earth, and each orbit is about a month long.
The impact trajectory is not very vertical, but still much steeper than the typical re-entry of a low-orbiting satellite. It will come in with an angle of about 20° from the horizontal (=70° from vertical).

Given the fact that the orbit is so long, the geometry is totally different from a pass of the ISS. The latter orbits the Earth in about 90 minutes, while WT1190F takes weeks. So the current pass is actually the last part of the last orbit for this object.
Anyway, from a geometry point of view, it will definitely be observable from north America in the morning hours of November 12. However, it will be very faint, magnitude 19 or so, invisible by eye even with a large telescope. A CCD camera and at least a moderate-size telescope will be needed to get an image of it at that time.
Even for Europe and Northern Africa, which are the countries best-placed to observe it just hours before impact, it will only reach magnitude 15 or so, too faint for anything but images with a good telescope.

If you want to get an ephemeris for a specific site, I suggest you use this page from the Minor Planet Center: Just select WT1190F, enter the required information, and you will get your specific ephemeris based on the latest data.

Let us know if you need any additional info, and thanks for contacting us.

PS Young post-grads :

For media :