Phil's blog

Cloud Forecasts for Australian Astronomers

Cloud Forecast Loop

Summary

Almost all free weather websites and smartphone apps use data from the United States GFS global weather model as it is the only one openly published for all to use. But for cloud forecasts in the Australian region, there are two significantly better (although less user friendly) options you should also be looking at. All up then, here are my three recommended sources for cloud forecasts in the Australian region:

1) Synthetic Satellite Forecast Loop from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology ACCESS model: Australian Region Forecast Loop.
2) European Model forecast via the Norwegian site yr.no (the only site I know of that publishes European Model data: e.g. Heathcote, Victoria. Search for your nearest largest town, then choose 'Hour by Hour' and 'Detailed' to see the full cloud breakdown for high/medium/low cloud.
3) US Model via Skippy Sky: This is the best display of GFS data and the most user friendly of these three options. I would place greater weight on the previous two models though, particularly for short-term forecasts.

Southern Skies Exhibition at Michaels Camera Store

Michaels Camera Store in Melbourne are hosting an exhibition of astrophotography images taken by members of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.

The exhibition will be on in the upstairs gallery at Michaels Camera Store, corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets in Melbourne. Opening night is Friday 3rd September from 5:30-7:30pm. The exhibition will then run until Thursday 30th September during store hours, Mon-Thu 9-6pm, Fri 9-9pm, Sat 9-5pm and Sun 11-5pm.

The 'Zero Carbon Australia' Plan

Cross posted from The Oil Drum

I thought I would share the key graphics and information from the synopsis report of the Zero Carbon Australia plan by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). Note also the launch of the full report in Melbourne on 14th July.

Energy independence. This time for sure.

Jon Stewart of 'The Daily Show': The last eight US presidents have gone on television and promised to move America towards an energy-independent future.

Funny, but sad.

ASV Messier Star Party - March 13th 2010

Every March, the Astronomical Society of Victoria hosts a 'Messier Star Party' at its Leon Mow Dark Sky Site near Heathcote, to celebrate and observe the famous catalogue of deep sky objects that Charles Messier originally recorded as nuisance objects that confused him in his hunt for comets in 18th century Paris.

If you've never heard of a 'Star Party' before, this video will give you a better idea, music and all :-). I recommend enjoying it in full screen glory via philhart.smugmug.com.

Bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes

These pictures of bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes in my gallery have proven quite popular, so it seems time to provide a story to accompany them. But this is not a short story, rather a convoluted one of fires and floods, of microscopic algae and the inspiring, remarkable and surprising beauty of nature.

Geminid Meteor Shower

At the end of a very enjoyable three days of astrophotography with a several other astronomers at the Leon Mow Dark Sky Site in Victoria (Australia), I caught a nice display of Geminid meteors. Over two or three hours, while also tending to cameras and telescopes, I spotted about 44 Geminid meteors as well as a number of other 'sporadics'. My camera also caught quite a few.

For two hours, I kept a Canon 5D mkII ticking over at ISO3200 with 8 second exposures through a 24mm f1.4 lens wide open, all on a Vixen GP-DX equatorial mount. I stacked that against a single 2 minute exposure to capture the surrounding stars and the milky way through Orion and up to Sirius and Canis Major at the top.


Click for larger size

Stars in Motion

It's been awhile since I started playing with night sky timelapse videos, but finding a way to share them online with better than YouTube quality has been a bit of a stretch. Enter SmugMug and their video galleries which do the job nicely.

Below are the first few videos I've put online. You can even get them in Full HD resolution via the SmugMug 'Stars in Motion' gallery.

Clouds and Stars over the Twelve Apostles



The Greens' Safe Climate Bill

As the convenor of the Australian Greens has just said, "perhaps the only thing more despairing than the science is the current politics of climate change". And it looks like Tim Colebatch in "The Age" agrees, with his article "A Race to the Bottom":

Where The Hell Is The Outrage?

Mike Shedlock (aka Mish) is an investment advisor with a popular blog. Despite his conservative political nature, he was not impressed with the Republican handling of the financial crisis and is now even more upset about the Democrat's response. And rightly so. Obama may be winning friends around the world (and Nobel prizes) with his smooth talking, but he is in charge of a ship that is absolutely shafting U.S. taxpayers and, by extension, the economic future of just about everybody else as well.

In his post, Where The Hell Is The Outrage?, Mish recounts some of the incredibly close connections between the White House administration and the top end of Wall St. Here is how he ends:

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