Thursday, January 8, 2009

Astronomer's Friend

I've recently added a widget for the Dallas Clear Sky Chart to the site. It is a great tool for getting a sense of what the sky conditions will be over the next couple of nights (as well as during the day for folks who enjoy solar viewing). It uses weather forcast models published by the Canadian Meteorological Center to show key factors that can affect viewing. While I configured my widget form conditions in Dallas, they are available for sites all over North America.

As cool as that is, the point of this post is something that takes this to the next level. I just received the following email (and I get email on my phone, so I saw it come in immediately):

Favorable observing conditions at Dallas
Based on your Default subscription.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
01-08 @ Hour 19 for 4 hours (0%/Transparent/Good)

Check out your clock at
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Consider a sponsorship of the Clear Sky Alarm Clock.
Reach over 3000 astronomers every week with your message.
Inquire at

This tells me that the skies above Dallas will have no clouds, will be very transparent and will have good seeing at 7pm for the following 4 hours. Based on this, I can take a closer look at the clear sky chart itself and also see that it won't be incredibly dark until the wee hours when the moon sets, that the wind and humidity will be low and the tempurature moderate.

Very cool, huh? This is thanks to the efforts of Mark Casazza, who runs a site called Clear Sky Alarm Clock. When you sign up for Mark's service, you can configure one or several "alarms" that trigger an email like the one above when a specific set of conditions are coming up. I have one alarm (Default) that tells me when the seeing will be generally good at my home. I also have one that goes off when conditions are going to be excellent and one for when daytime solar observing on the weekend will be good. I won't go into the details of all the features here - go check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, it's time for me to run... need to get ready to get the scope out and take advantage of the clear skies!

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