astrophotography

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.

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.

22
Mar

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.

27
Jan

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.

14
Dec

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
15
Nov

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



I've spent the last week trapsing around NSW, starting at the Central West Astronomical Society's 2009 Astrofest in Parkes - home of 'The Dish' (better in HD!):

03
Mar

Chasing Comet Lulin with Neil

On Saturday I dragged Neil Creek, a long time and astronomically minded friend, to Heathcote. A contributing factor was that I knew we'd both enjoy pointing his brand new Canon 5DmkII at the heavens, and in particular towards Comet Lulin.

Am I jealous.. you bet :-)

13
Sep

Cloud Forecast Accuracy

This set of images compares the actual infrared satellite image for midday Saturday 13th September 2008 with forecasts made on the same day and up to 5 days ahead. The forecasts made up to 2-3 days ahead are quite accurate, so that a reasonable estimate of the astronomy prospects for a Saturday night could be made on the Thursday beforehand. While the general trends are still correct in the 5 day forecast, the details for a particular location become much less accurate.

07
Sep

Cloud Forecasts for Victoria, Australia

Edit Oct 2009: Since I originally wrote this article, SkippySky has become available. It uses the same US GFS weather model data so the discussion about accuracy is still relevant, but SkippySky is a much more convenient way to access the cloud forecast data, with great maps for all of Australia among other places.

Check out Cloud Forecasts for Astronomers for the story behind some of this and how to generate your own cloud forecast maps using US GFS model data.

Also see Cloud Forecast Accuracy for comparisons of the forecast charts with actual satellite images.

Melbourne




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