Dr.Sky “Great American Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Survival Guide 2017”

Dr.Sky “Great American Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Survival Guide 2017”

August 21st 2017

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Welcome to our Dr.Sky.com website coverage of what may well be the largest Astronomy
event in the past century!
We hope that this tutorial, will be of help to you and yours, so you may get the most out of
this rare celestial event!
We believe the content below, will help answer many of your questions and concerns.
E-mail the Dr.Sky Team at: drsky@cox.net……
Some History……..

I have had the honor of being able to witness four of these type eclipses…..March 7th 1970,
in Perry, Florida…..July 10th 1972, in far northern Canada in Quebec…..May 30th 1984 ….
a near total eclipse ( deep annular), along costal Maryland……July 11th 1991…a great total
solar eclipse, from the big island in Hawaii……and now…the August 21st 2017, “Great American Total Solar Eclipse”, from Rexburg, Idaho!

The next major total solar eclipse, visible in the USA, will occur on April 8th 2024!

I was lucky, I saw this rare phenomenon, within two years between the first eclipse in 1970,
twelve years between the 1972 eclipse and the 1984 event. After that, there was seven years
between eclipses ….and finally, 26 years between the 2017 eclipse and the 1991 event!
Way too long to wait!

How many eclipses have you seen? And if you did see one, was it a true total solar eclipse?

These type of eclipses are rare, if you stay in the same location and wait for one to return to
your home….after you see your FIRST one, you will have true “Eclipse Fever” and want to
see your next one!

Some say that it takes around 350 years on average for a total solar eclipse to return to the exact location that you saw the last one!

Either way, we hope that this basic, but informative guide will help you to enjoy this rare
celestial event, in comfort and safety!


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Here is a rare photo, from our 1972 Eclipse Expedition to Canada. Here is my Dad, Mom and
brother Joe…just 3 years old!

We ran a special eclipse tour to a little town in Quebec, Cap Chat, to see the July 1972 event!
The Hackensack Astronomy Club made the trip and I was just 16 years old!

Watergate was going on…the war in Vietnam , Apollo 16 had landed on the moon and Apollo 17 was to get there in December 1972….a long time ago!
Our Astronomy club, published a magazine called the “ECLIPTIC” and we ran it off on the
old mimeograph machines…what a smell!

We actually had a role for each person in the club, to make the eclipse trip possible!


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What Is A Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a natural event that takes place on Earth when the Moon moves in its orbit between Earth and the Sun (this is also known as an occultation). It happens at New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction with each other. If the Moon was only slightly closer to Earth, and orbited in the same plane and its orbit was circular, we would see eclipses each month. The lunar orbit is elliptical and tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit, so we can only see up to 5 eclipses per year. Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon and Earth, the Sun can be totally blocked, or it can be partially blocked.

During an eclipse, the Moon’s shadow (which is divided into two parts: the dark umbra and the lighter penumbra) moves across Earth’s surface. Safety note: do NOT ever look at the Sun directly during an eclipse unless it is during a total solar eclipse. The bright light of the Sun can damage your eyes very quickly.

Facts About Solar Eclipses

Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, there can be between 2 and 5 solar eclipses each year.
Totality occurs when the Moon completely obscures Sun so only the solar corona is showing.
A total solar eclipse can happen once every 1-2 years. This makes them very rare events.s.

The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.

The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 km across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.

During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.


A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon completely blocks the solar disk. In a total solar eclipse, the narrowest part of the path (where the Sun is completely blocked and the Moon casts its darkest shadow (called the umbra)) is called the “zone of totality”.

Observers in this path see a darkened Sun (often described as a “hole in the sky”) with the ghostly glow of the solar corona extending out to space. A phenomenon called “Bailey’s Beads” often appears as sunlight shines out through valleys on the lunar surface. If the Sun is active, observers can also see solar prominences, loops, and flares during totality. A total solar eclipse is the ONLY time when it is safe to look directly at the Sun. ALL other solar observations (even in partial phases) require special solar filters so that you do not harm your eyes.

Total solar eclipses have not always been visible from Earth. In the past, the Moon was too close to Earth and during eclipses it completely blotted out the Sun’s disk. Over time, the lunar orbit has changed at the rate of just over 2 cm per year and in the current epoch, the alignment is nearly perfect at times. However, the Moon’s orbit will continue to widen, and in perhaps 600 million years, total solar eclipses will no longer occur. Instead, future observers will see partial and annular eclipses only.


Not every solar eclipse is a total one. When the Moon is farther away in its orbit than usual, it appears too small to completely cover the Sun’s disk. During such an event, a bright ring of sunlight shines around the Moon. This type of eclipse is a called an “annular” eclipse. It comes from the Latin word “annulus” which means “ring”.

The period of annularity during such an eclipse can last anywhere from 5 or 6 minutes to up to 12 minutes. However, even though the Sun is mostly covered by the Moon, enough bright sunlight escapes during annularity that observers cannot ever look at the Sun directly. These events require eye protection throughout the entire eclipse.


A partial solar eclipse occurs when Earth moves through the lunar penumbra (the lighter part of the Moon’s shadow) as the Moon moves between Earth and the Sun. The Moon does not block the entire solar disk, as seen from Earth. Depending on your location during a partial eclipse, you might see anything from a small sliver of the Sun being blotted out to a nearly total eclipse.

To view any eclipse safely, use approved filters or use an indirect method of viewing, such as projecting sunlight through a telescope and onto a white piece of paper or cardboard. NEVER look at the Sun through a telescope unless it has the appropriate filter. Blindness and severe eye damage can result due to improper observation technique.


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Eye Safety and Solar Eclipses-
B. Ralph Chou, MSc, OD
Associate Professor, School of Optometry, University of Waterloo

A total solar eclipse is probably the most spectacular astronomical event that most people will experience in their lives. There is a great deal of interest in watching eclipses, and thousands of astronomers (both amateur and professional) travel around the world to observe and photograph them.
A solar eclipse offers students a unique opportunity to see a natural phenomenon that illustrates the basic principles of mathematics and science that are taught through elementary and secondary school. Indeed, many scientists (including astronomers!) have been inspired to study science as a result of seeing a total solar eclipse. Teachers can use eclipses to show how the laws of motion and the mathematics of orbital motion can predict the occurrence of eclipses. The use of pinhole cameras and telescopes or binoculars to observe an eclipse leads to an understanding of the optics of these devices. The rise and fall of environmental light levels during an eclipse illustrate the principles of radiometry and photometry, while biology classes can observe the associated behavior of plants and animals. It is also an opportunity for children of school age to contribute actively to scientific research – observations of contact timings at different locations along the eclipse path are useful in refining our knowledge of the orbital motions of the Moon and earth, and sketches and photographs of the solar corona can be used to build a three-dimensional picture of the Sun’s extended atmosphere during the eclipse.

However, observing the Sun can be dangerous if you do not take the proper precautions. The solar radiation that reaches the surface of Earth ranges from ultraviolet (UV) radiation at wavelengths longer than 290 nm to radio waves in the meter range. The tissues in the eye transmit a substantial part of the radiation between 380 and 1400 nm to the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. While environmental exposure to UV radiation is known to contribute to the accelerated aging of the outer layers of the eye and the development of cataracts, the concern over improper viewing of the Sun during an eclipse is for the development of “eclipse blindness” or retinal burns.

Exposure of the retina to intense visible light causes damage to its light-sensitive rod and cone cells. The light triggers a series of complex chemical reactions within the cells which damages their ability to respond to a visual stimulus, and in extreme cases, can destroy them. The result is a loss of visual function which may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the damage. When a person looks repeatedly or for a long time at the Sun without proper protection for the eyes, this photochemical retinal damage may be accompanied by a thermal injury – the high level of visible and near-infrared radiation causes heating that literally cooks the exposed tissue. This thermal injury or photocoagulation destroys the rods and cones, creating a small blind area. The danger to vision is significant because photic retinal injuries occur without any feeling of pain (there are no pain receptors in the retina), and the visual effects do not occur for at least several hours after the damage is done [Pitts, 1993].
The only time that the Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is during a total eclipse, when the Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques. Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn, even though illumination levels are comparable to twilight [Chou, 1981, 1996; Marsh, 1982]. Failure to use proper observing methods may result in permanent eye damage or severe visual loss. This can have important adverse effects on career choices and earning potential, since it has been shown that most individuals who sustain eclipse-related eye injuries are children and young adults [Penner and McNair, 1966; Chou and Krailo, 1981].

The same techniques for observing the Sun outside of eclipses are used to view and photograph annular solar eclipses and the partly eclipsed Sun [Sherrod, 1981; Pasachoff & Menzel 1992; Pasachoff & Covington, 1993; Reynolds & Sweetsir, 1995]. The safest and most inexpensive method is by projection. A pinhole or small opening is used to form an image of the Sun on a screen placed about a meter behind the opening. Multiple openings in perfboard, in a loosely woven straw hat, or even between interlaced fingers can be used to cast a pattern of solar images on a screen. A similar effect is seen on the ground below a broad-leafed tree: the many “pinholes” formed by overlapping leaves creates hundreds of crescent-shaped images.

Binoculars or a small telescope mounted on a tripod can also be used to project a magnified image of the Sun onto a white card. All of these methods can be used to provide a safe view of the partial phases of an eclipse to a group of observers, but care must be taken to ensure that no one looks through the device. The main advantage of the projection methods is that nobody is looking directly at the Sun. The disadvantage of the pinhole method is that the screen must be placed at least a meter behind the opening to get a solar image that is large enough to see easily.

The Sun can only be viewed directly when filters specially designed to protect the eyes are used. Most such filters have a thin layer of chromium alloy or aluminum deposited on their surfaces that attenuates both visible and near-infrared radiation. A safe solar filter should transmit less than 0.003% (density~4.5)[1] of visible light (380 to 780 nm) and no more than 0.5% (density~2.3) of the near-infrared radiation (780 to 1400 nm). Figure 24 shows the spectral response for a selection of safe solar filters.

One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is shade number 14 welder’s glass, which can be obtained from welding supply outlets. A popular inexpensive alternative is aluminized mylar manufactured specifically for solar observation. (“Space blankets” and aluminized mylar used in gardening are not suitable for this purpose!) Unlike the welding glass, mylar can be cut to fit any viewing device, and doesn’t break when dropped. Many experienced solar observers use one or two layers of black-and-white film that has been fully exposed to light and developed to maximum density. The metallic silver contained in the film emulsion is the protective filter. Some of the newer black and white films use dyes instead of silver and these are unsafe. Black-and-white negatives with images on it (e.g., medical x-rays) are also not suitable. More recently, solar observers have used floppy disks and compact disks (both CDs and CD-ROMs) as protective filters by covering the central openings and looking through the disk media. However, the optical quality of the solar image formed by a floppy disk or CD is relatively poor compared to mylar or welder’s glass. Some CDs are made with very thin aluminum coatings which are not safe – if you can see through the CD in normal room lighting, don’t use it!! No filter should be used with an optical device (e.g. binoculars, telescope, camera) unless it has been specifically designed for that purpose and is mounted at the front end (i.e., end towards the Sun). Some sources of solar filters are listed in the following section.

Unsafe filters include all color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Most of these transmit high levels of invisible infrared radiation which can cause a thermal retinal burn (see Figure 24). The fact that the Sun appears dim, or that you feel no discomfort when looking at the Sun through the filter, is no guarantee that your eyes are safe. Solar filters designed to thread into eyepieces that are often provided with inexpensive telescopes are also unsafe. These glass filters can crack unexpectedly from overheating when the telescope is pointed at the Sun, and retinal damage can occur faster than the observer can move the eye from the eyepiece. Avoid unnecessary risks. Your local planetarium, science center, or amateur astronomy club can provide additional information on how to observe the eclipse safely.

There has been concern expressed about the possibility that UVA radiation (wavelengths between 315 and 380 nm) in sunlight may also adversely affect the retina [Del Priore, 1991]. While there is some experimental evidence for this, it only applies to the special case of aphakia, where the natural lens of the eye has been removed because of cataract or injury, and no UV-blocking spectacle, contact or intraocular lens has been fitted. In an intact normal human eye, UVA radiation does not reach the retina because it is absorbed by the crystalline lens. In aphakia, normal environmental exposure to solar UV radiation may indeed cause chronic retinal damage. However, the solar filter materials discussed in this article attenuate solar UV radiation to a level well below the minimum permissible occupational exposure for UVA (ACGIH, 1994), so an aphakic observer is at no additional risk of retinal damage when looking at the Sun through a proper solar filter.

In the days and weeks preceding a solar eclipse, there are often news stories and announcements in the media, warning about the dangers of looking at the eclipse. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions behind these messages, they frequently contain misinformation, and may be designed to scare people from seeing the eclipse at all. However, this tactic may backfire, particularly when the messages are intended for students. A student who heeds warnings from teachers and other authorities not to view the eclipse because of the danger to vision, and learns later that other students did see it safely, may feel cheated out of the experience. Having now learned that the authority figure was wrong on one occasion, how is this student going to react when other health-related advice about drugs, alcohol, AIDS, or smoking is given [Pasachoff, 1997] Misinformation may be just as bad, if not worse than no information at all.

In spite of these precautions, the total phase (and only the total phase) of an eclipse can and should be viewed without filters. It is crucial that you know when to take off and put back on your glasses; see Eye safety during a total solar eclipse

Eclipses In History- From Time and Date.com

Scientific Discoveries
The British astronomer and mathematician, Sir Arthur Eddington, used the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919 to test Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

By taking pictures of stars near the Sun during totality, Eddington was able to show that gravity can bend light. This phenomenon is called gravitational deflection.

All eclipses worldwide 1900–2099
Helium Named After the Sun
A solar eclipse is also responsible for the discovery of helium. The first piece of evidence for the existence of the second lightest and the second most abundant element known to humans was discovered by the French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse on August 16, 1868. Because of this, it’s named after the Greek word for the Sun: Helios.
Predicting the Emperor’s Future

Surviving records have shown that the Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 BCE.
In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

Mythology of eclipses

Substitute Kings
Clay tablets found at ancient archaeological sites show that the Babylonians not only recorded eclipses—the earliest known Babylonian record is of the eclipse that took place on May 3, 1375 BCE—but were also fairly accurate in predicting them. They were the first people to use the saros cycle to predict eclipses. The saros cycle relates to the lunar cycle and is about 6,585.3 days (18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours) long.

How often do solar eclipses occur?

Like the ancient Chinese, the Babylonians believed that solar eclipses were bad omens for kings and rulers. Predicting solar eclipses enabled them to seat substitute kings during solar eclipses with the hope that these temporary kings would face the anger of the Gods, instead of the real king.

Eclipses as Peacemakers

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, a solar eclipse in 585 BCE stopped the war between the Lydians and the Medes, who saw the dark skies as a sign to make peace with each other.

The Greek astronomer Hipparchus used a solar eclipse to determine that the Moon was about 429,000 km (268,000 mi) away from the Earth. This is only about 11% more than what today’s scientists accept as the average distance between the Moon and the Earth.

Kepler Close, Halley Closer

Although early eclipse pioneers, including Chinese astronomer Liu Hsiang, Greek philosopher Plutarch, and Byzantine historian Leo Diaconus tried to describe and explain solar eclipses and their features, it was not until 1605 that astronomer Johannes Kepler gave a scientific description of a total solar eclipse.

More than a century later, Edmund Halley, who the famous Halley’s comet is named after, predicted the timing and path of the total solar eclipse on May 3, 1715. His calculations were only 4 minutes and about 30 km (18 mi) off from the actual timing and path of the eclipse.
Halley’s comet causes 2 annual meteor showers: the Eta Aquarids and the Orionids.

Some Other Notable Solar Eclipses in History

The scientific fascination with solar eclipses has led to some important scientific discoveries about the nature of the Sun, Moon, and our solar system.
January 27

Visible in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the eclipse coincided with the death of Prophet Mohammad’s son Ibrahim. The Prophet reportedly dismissed rumors that this was a miracle, stating that the Sun and the Moon are signs of God and that they are not eclipsed for the birth or death of any man.
August 2

King Henry’s Eclipse: King Henry I died shortly after the eclipse, prompting the spread of the superstition that eclipses are bad omens for rulers.
May 15

English astronomer Francis Baily first discovered and described Baily’s beads—a phenomenon that occurs in the seconds before and after totality in a total solar eclipse and annularity in an annular solar eclipse.
July 28

The first photograph of the Sun’s corona was taken by a Prussian photographer called Berkowski.
July 21/22

Longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century. Totality lasted for 6 mins and 39 secs.

Links To Eclipses in History:




How Eclipses Are Predicted:




Your Guide To The 2017 “Great American Solar Eclipse”-

How To Photograph A Solar Eclipse:



The Reaction of Nature /During a Total Solar Eclipse:

Amazing things happen from the natural world, during a total solar eclipse…Here are some
links to what may occur!

Total Solar Eclipse Phenomena

The Amazing “Shadow Bands”/ What Are They? / How To Observe Them!:



Here is an activity that you can participate in, if you are in the path of totality!
How dark will the sky get during the eclipse?:


What Will The Sky Look Like At The Moment Of Totality:

Courtesy: Shadow and Sunstance.com

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During the few minutes of totality; Venus and Mercury will be visible in a clear sky, as well as many of the bright stars in the sky.
The Sun will be very close to the bright star, Regulus in Leo the Lion.

How many stars can you see and for how long?

Here is a listing of what we feel are some of the best links for the August 2017 eclipse!


DR. SKY/ The Dr.Sky Show










Dr.Sky Appears Each Monday Night 10 PM PDT


The Next Major Eclipse In America- April 8th 2024


KTAR/ News  92.3 FM/ Dr.Sky Blog:


Amazing Links:

Follow the August 21st 2017 Eclipse / Interactive GOOGLE Map:


This is the BEST site to look at the details of the eclipse…locations, times, percentage
of eclipse, etc. We suggest you use this and tell others!

Shadow and Substance:

A great site that shows you what you can expect with the eclipse in each state and some great
Eclipse and other sky simulations…..We really like this one and you will too!!!


Super Moon- November 14th 2016


Get set for the best full moon of ALL of 2016!

The November 2016 full moon, is known as the Full Beaver Moon, or a Super Moon The moon will rise on the night of November 13th to provide observers with the best

and closest full moon of all 2016! This full Super Moon, will be closest to Earth, during the early morning hours of the 14th…at a near all time close approach to Earth, of 221,524 miles!

Not since January 24th 1948, have we seen a full moon , this close! The moon will not be this close again, till November 25th 2034! The moon will appear full at 9:52AM EST on the 14th.

Observers should look for the moon on the night of November 13th, rising, just after sunset and follow the moon as it moves across your skies, into the morning of the 14th.

You will still get a great view of the moon, rising on the night of November 14th too! In summary, the moon will be some 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the

average full moon and here is your chance to take some great photos of this amazing event.

Here are some links and videos to enjoy the show!




Howl at the Moon:


Super Moon:


Perseid Meteor Shower In Possible “Outburst” This Week


Meteor season is here!

Get set for what might be; one of the best meteor showers of the entire year!

The 2016 Perseids are peaking later this week, with the potential of a very

unique, “outburst”; from particles that have been moved closer to Earth, by


The meteor streams of 1079AD, 1479 AD and 1862 AD, may have been

moved closer to Earth, by the gravity of Jupiter.

Is, so; observers with clear skies, may get to see upwards of 150 meteors

per hour, from this stream.

The parent comet of the Perseids, is Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which has an

orbit that takes it around the Sun, once, every 133 years. Last seen near the Sun, in 1992 and a return date set for 2126, this comet has a nucleus of some

16 miles in diameter….

The comet was discovered in 1862…..

This comet has been described by some as “the single most dangerous object

known to humanity”……

To view the shower….the peak night would be; August 11th into the 12th.

All of this week, would be a good time to look too!

The Moon will be out and bright, setting around 1AM local time, providing you with some good hours to see Perseids.

Best time to look….Look into the NE sky from 10PM till dawn…the radiant

will be high in the NE…from 2AM till dawn….

Here are some links to help you score more Perseids and learn how to take pictures of meteors…..Good luck and clear skies!












How To Take Pictures Of Meteors:



Dr.Sky and Photorecon Fly Aboard NASA’s SOFIA Aircraft


For the longest time, mankind has reached for the stars, by building larger and larger telescopes, to peer out into the vast unknown! The major problem for all telescope designs, is being able to cut through the Earth’s thick atmosphere and still acquire quality image of faint celestial objects.

In the early part of the 20th century, astronomers in California, build some of the largest telescopes known. Two examples of this, are the 100 inch Hooker telescope that sits atop Mt. Wilson in Los Angeles County, the largest telescope in the world, from 1917 to 1949, when another great telescope, the impressive 200 inch, Mt. Palomar telescope, came online. Edwin Hubble used the 100 inch telescope to prove that our universe was expanding! Many discoveries were made with these giant instruments, about what the universe is made of and where we are in the Milky Way galaxy!

 Welcome to airborne astronomy!

The combination of using aircraft and telescopes to peer deeper into the universe, came about in the early 20th century! Flying above most of the atmosphere to capture images of faint celestial objects, is one of the great technological achievements of science and so it is with the NASA/ SOFIA Science Center’s specially modified 747SP aircraft. The name SOFIA, stands for Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy. This amazing aircraft contains a specially designed 100 inch telescope that peers in to infrared portion of the spectrum, while viewing select objects of interest.

With a team of scientists and aviation professionals, SOFIA makes regular flights in the sky, to help solve some of the many mysteries of our known universe. Our media team, got to fly aboard SOFIA, on a scheduled mission! Driving from Phoenix to Palmdale, California, was an easy six hour drive. With the help of Nicholas Veronico, the SOFIA Public Affairs Officer, we were greeted at the Palmdale facility, to prepare for our flight, along with a number of teachers, in the SOFIA Ambassador program.

Day one, consisted of going to a few special classes on the safety aspects of the flight and the aircraft. What amazed me most, was the size of the hangar that these aircraft were in! I was told that the hanger that we visited, was once the production facility of some of America’s great bomber aircraft. The place is huge!!

SOFIA is huge too; a specially modified Boeing 747 SP aircraft that is one of the 45 or so SP “Special Performance” models of the 747. This aircraft has a history of it’s own; being a former Pan Am and United airlines aircraft that moved lots of passengers in its day. During its Pan Am days, it was christened “ Clipper Lindbergh” in honor of aviation great, Charles Lindbergh.

After a day of meeting many of the scientists and flight crew, we were set free to get a good nights sleep, as the next day, we would be ready to embark on a nearly 10 hour mission. We were told and given information on the flight path and the objects that we were to observe on our special journey in the sky!

Flight day has arrived!

With great anticipation and excitement, we gathered our camera’s and equipment, shopped for a few food items and headed off to the base for our new journey on SOFIA. Our plan, was to have our Photorecon team document the mission with still photography and have some of the Dr.Sky team, videotape a short documentary of the mission. The best of both worlds!

Another special treat that we looked forward to, was for me to do my LIVE radio report for Coast To Coast AM, with George Noory, from the SOFIA aircraft, somewhere over America! This is a show that is heard on well over 1,000 stations in the USA and Canada and beyond.

A final formal briefing was held, so we got to meet all the players from pilots, to scientists for this mission. One final check of all the safety items and equipment and we rolled our team and gear out to the flight line! Wow, SOFIA is really huge, especially up close. We boarded SOFIA with our team and gear and lots of activity was brewing inside this flying metal laboratory. At around 4;30PM local time, we took our seats and strapped in, as we found our way around the maze of runways at the Palmdale airport. Imagine how many famous aircraft have taken off from these runways! B-1 bombers, B-2 bombers and a famous aircraft, the legendary XB-70 Valkyrie, to name just a few.

With great precision, SOFIA lurched off the runway and thundered skyward, with its large telescope and curious crew of scientists, eager and thirsty for more data on the wonders of the universe. Our flight took us over a good portion of the US, in different legs of our journey, over California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Kansas, just to name a few.

During each leg of the mission, scientists were securing LIVE data from the air, as they zoomed in on objects, in hopes of studying star formation. During the flight, the doors of the 100 inch telescope were opened in flight, but there was no trace of feeling the doors open…it was that smooth of a flight. We were cruising at between 41,000 ft and 43,000 ft above the ground, during much of the mission, high above most of the water vapor in the atmosphere….right were SOFIA is at home.


SOFIA is tasked to explore the following:

  •  Star birth and death
  •  Formation of new solar systems
  •  Identification of complex molecules in space
  •  Observing planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system
  •  Nebulae and dust in galaxies
  •  Black holes at the center of galaxies


During the flight we got to see the Northern lights from some 43,000ft over Montana. The highlight of the mission for me, was being able to do my radio show, LIVE from 43,000ft above Nebraska, with millions of listeners hearing me do this, from a moving aircraft…promoting the crew and staff of SOFIA!

Equally important is the great work that is being done on SOFIA to advance science and everyone should know that your tax dollars are being well spent! All this will be put into a picture and video format, to share with you and yours, but a special thank you to Nicholas Veronico, SOFIA Public Affairs Officer, for making all this happen.


 Dr.Sky reminds all of you to always, keep your eyes to the skies!

See you on the next exciting mission……



More on NASA  747NA

The SOFIA aircraft is a modified Boeing 747SP (serial number 21441, line number 306; registration N747NA; Callsign NASA747) with a distinguished history.

Boeing developed the SP or “Special Performance” version of the 747 for ultra long range flights, modifying the design of the 747-100 by removing sections of the fuselage and heavily modifying others to reduce weight, thus allowing the 747SP to fly higher, faster and farther non-stop than any other 747 model of the time.

Boeing assigned serial number 21441 (line number 306) to the airframe that would eventually become SOFIA. The first flight of this aircraft was on April 25, 1977 and Boeing delivered the aircraft to Pan American World Airways on May 6, 1977. The aircraft received its first aircraft registration, N536PA and Pan American placed the aircraft into commercial passenger service. Shortly thereafter, Pan Am named this aircraft in honor of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. At the invitation of Pan Am, Charles Lindbergh’s widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, christened the aircraft Clipper Lindbergh on May 20, 1977, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of her husband’s historic flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

United Airlines purchased the plane on February 13, 1986 and the aircraft received a new aircraft registration, N145UA. The aircraft remained in service until December, 1995, when United Airlines placed the aircraft into storage near Las Vegas.

On April 30, 1997, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) purchased the aircraft for use as an airborne observatory. On October 27, 1997 NASA purchased the aircraft from the USRA. NASA conducted a series of “baseline” flight tests that year, prior to any heavy modification of the aircraft by E-Systems (Later Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems then L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Waco, Texas). To ensure successful modification, Raytheon purchased a section from another 747SP, registration number N141UA, to use as a full-size mock-up.

Commencing work in 1998, Raytheon designed and installed an 18-foot-tall (arc length) by 13.5-foot-wide (5.5 m x 4.1 m) door in the aft port side of the aircraft’s fuselage that can be opened in-flight to give the telescope access to the sky. The telescope is mounted in the aft end of the fuselage behind a pressurized bulkhead. The telescope’s focal point is located at a science instruments suite in the pressurized, center section of the fuselage, requiring part of the telescope to pass through the pressure bulkhead. In the center of the aircraft is the mission control and science operations section, while the forward section hosts the education and public outreach area.

At NASA’s invitation, Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik Lindbergh, re-christened the aircraft with the name originally given by Pan Am, Clipper Lindbergh, on May 21, 2007, the 80th anniversary of the completion of Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight.

During 2012 the plane received a Glass Cockpit upgrade along with new Avionics Systems.


Dr.Sky and Team To Fly Aboard NASA/ SOFIA 747


Welcome to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy- SOFIA

The NASA/ SOFIA 747 is a most impressive aircraft and the science behind this aircraft is most amazing!

Members of the Dr.Sky team, as well as members of our other aviation and space related web team; Photorecon.net; have been invited to experience a true SOFIA mission, in the next few weeks!

Joining us on a nearly 10 hour mission, will be some educators/teachers from around the nation. The emphasis is on education and NASA does a great job at that!

We will be interviewing the pilots, scientists and guests, on what is going on with this interesting mission. Expect to see a high quality video and audio interviews from this mission, here at drsky.com and photorecon.net, in the weeks to come!


Here is an overview of the SOFIA program:

SOFIA Overview

Mission Overview

SOFIA is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes. During its planned 20-year lifetime, SOFIA also will inspire the development of new scientific instrumentation and foster the education of young scientists and engineers.

SOFIA is an 80/20 partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), consisting of an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft carrying a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches).

The observatory is based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages SOFIA’s science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA; Columbia, Md.) and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI; University of Stuttgart).

The Flying Observatory

The SOFIA observatory is a Boeing 747SP with a distinguished history. It was originally acquired by Pan American World Airways and was delivered in May 1977. The “SP” designates that this is a special performance, short-body version of the 747, designed for longer flights than the Boeing 747 Classics (747-100, -200, and -300 series jetliners).

Although Pan Am typically named its aircraft after famous clipper ships, they gave this aircraft a special name — the Clipper Lindbergh — in honor of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh’s widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, personally christened the aircraft and officially placed it into service on May 6, 1977 — the 50th anniversary of his history-making first solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927

SOFIA and the Infrared Universe

Studying the universe using only visible light results in a very limited view, as you can see from the two images on the right. Visible light – the light you see with your eyes – reveals only part of the universe. Astronomers observe many other types of “light” to expand our views of the universe. SOFIA is designed to observe the infrared universe.

nfrared energy is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes visible light, x-rays, radio waves and others. Many objects in space emit almost all their energy at infrared wavelengths. Often, they are invisible when observed in ordinary visible light. In other cases, clouds of gas and dust in space block the light emitted by more distant objects, but allow infrared energy to reach our telescopes. In both cases, the only way to learn about other objects is to study the infrared light they emit.

SOFIA will be used to study many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena, but some of the most interesting are:

  • Star birth and death
  • Formation of new solar systems
  • Identification of complex molecules in space
  • Planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system
  • Nebulae and dust in galaxies (or, Ecosystems of galaxies)
  • Black holes at the center of galaxies

SOFIA’s instruments — cameras, spectrometers, and photometers — operate in the near-, mid- and far-infrared wavelengths, some better suited to studying a particular phenomena, while others are general purpose but capable of acquiring data simultaneously with another instrument.

For a gallery of SOFIA science images, click here.

It is our goal, to broadcast LIVE, on Coast To Coast AM with George Noory, on Tuesday, November 3rd; at 10PM PST/1AM EST Nov.4th , from the SOFIA 747, somewhere over the USA….Stay tuned!







Dr.Sky Visits A-12 Pilot Frank Murray


From the Dr.Sky files, comes yet, another great interview!

Here I have the honor of interviewing one of the last surviving pilots of the A-12 aircraft……a single seat CIA, Mach 3.3 aircraft that was built by the great team of the Kelly Johnson and the Skunk Works.

Here is pilot, Frank Murray and his story of the A-12 and the mission that he conducted, to find the US ship PUEBLO, when it was captured by North Korea.


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Astronomy & the Bible-The 4th Blood Moon


Astronomy & the Bible-The 4th Blood Moon

Join us on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at NSCC 4pm-8 pm

North Scottsdale Christian Church–28700 N. Pima Rd. Scottsdale, AZ. 85266 (NW Corner of Dynamite & Pima Rd.) Friends and families welcome. Children Free, $5 per Adult donation! For information- giza@cox.net or 602-818-8838

Total Lunar Eclipse/ Blood Moon/ Harvest Moon/Super Moon event. Last lunar Eclipse in Arizona, Till 2019, with Radio/TV Host, Dr. Sky, Steve Kates.

Over the past year, we have seen a collection of Total Lunar Eclipses (Blood Moon’s) which have some great scientific & biblical messages associated with them. This program, will highlight the significance of the event on BOTH levels.

The first part of the program starts at promptly at 4 PM, with the movie first!

The FOUR BLOOD MOONS combines scripture, science, history and big screen live action spanning centuries-exploring a rare lunar phenomenon that over the centuries has accompanied both tragedy and triumph for the Jewish people. From Pastor John Hagee’s New York Times best-selling book of the same name. It is rare when science, history, and Scripture align, yet the last three series of “Four Blood Moons” have done exactly that. Are these the “signs” that God refers to in His Word? If they are, what do they mean? What is their significance for us today? Produced by Rick Eldridge and directed by Academy Award winner Keith Merrill in a compelling docu-drama. The second part of the program begins at 5:30 pm, as we explore the science and mystery behind this rare celestial event. You will want to have all members of your family attend this great presentation and become a part of history, as we then go outside (weather permitting) to view the eclipse. The third part of the program will start by 6:15 pm, with the viewing of the Blood Moon through telescopes. You and your family will be able to view the eclipse, with telescopes and commentary provided by Dr. Sky! It is our intention to hook up, via the internet, at a LIVE feed that will be coming from Israel at the time we are conducting our program. Just as in biblical times, perhaps God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something is about to change.

The question is: Are we watching and listening for His message?



Total Lunar Eclipse- September 27/28 2015


September 27th/28th 2015…….will be a night to remember!

This will be the last major total eclipse of the Moon for most of America, till 2019! Over the past year or so, we have had a number of these rare events take place and you have a great opportunity to see this eclipse, if you live in the western hemisphere. For US observers in the mainland, you will either see the entire eclipse, or you will get to see the Moon rising during the partial or total phases…..

You will find the exact times of the eclipse fo your location, by viewing the attached links in this post. This eclipse is special to many, as it is the last of the Tetrad eclipses that to many, have some connection to biblical prophesy and the end of times!

While I can not speak to the exact nature of this, I really urge you to get ready for a most amazing event, with or without a telescope.

For observers in the Phoenix, Arizona area, we will be conducting another major public event, similar to our August 2015 “Meteor Madness” event.

This one is called “Astronomy & the Bible- The 4th Blood Moon…Here are some of the details:

This full moon is also the “Super Moon of 2015”, in that the moon will be at it’s closest

for 2015…at a distance of some 221,753 miles…Very close…some 30,000 miles closer than average.

This is also the “Harvest Moon” of 2015. A harvest moon, is the next moon that occurs after the Autumnal Equinox (September 21st at 4:21AM EDT).

Here are the times of the event in EDT (convert to your time zone): September 27th


Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 8:12PM EDT


Partial Eclipse Begins: 9:07PM EDT


Totality Begins: 10:11PM EDT    Get set for 74 minutes of TOTALITY…..


Greatest Eclipse: 10:47PM EDT


Totality Ends: 11:23PM EDT


Partial Eclipse Ends: 12:27AM EDT  (September 28th)


Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 1:22AM EDT (September 28th)








Cloudy Weather Or One The Wrong Side Of The Earth?/ Watch LIVE:




NASA site:









Biblical Connection To Eclipse: What Do You Believe?









Lyrid Meteor Shower To Peak This Week


Meteor season opens up for 2015, with the arrival of the first major meteor

showers of the year!

The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest of the known showers and will

peak during the night of April 22nd, into the morning of the 23rd. The meteors

from this shower, come from an old comet….; known as Comet Thatcher.

The Lyrids are best seen from April 16-25th, with rates hovering at peak, of

about 20 meteors per hour!

The parent comet of this shower is, Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher).

To view the shower. look to the NE sky, after midnight and look to the area

of the bright star Vega, in Lyra.

The moon will not be a factor in this years shower, so dark skies will rule, as

long as you have clear skies.

Reports have come in of some rather bright fireballs, from this years Lyrids….

To learn more:




Could Asteroid 2012 TC 4 Hit Earth October 12 2017 ?


An asteroid, some 40 or more meters in diameter is being looked

at with great interest, as it will come very close to Earth in 2017!

Just how close, is not really known at this time. The asteroid in question, is known as 2012 TC 4, which came close to Earth in 2012, with no known problems.

At the present time, there are some 1,570 or so objects that are listed as near earth asteroids, with many yet to be discovered.

A 40 meter object would cause major damage to a city or other populated areas.

The chances of this object hitting the Earth, may be as small as

one in a million, but it still warrants watching. In October 2012, this object passed Earth by only……98,000 kilometers…..that is


More on this story as it unfolds……


Links www.ibtimes.co.uk/asteroid-size-albert-hall-could-hit-earth-2017-astronomer-1496414

Unique Total Lunar Eclipse/ April 4th 2015


A very unique eclipse of the Moon will take place on the early morning

of April 4th 2015. The next in a series of total lunar eclipses, will be a must

see event for observers in the mid to western USA and Pacific.

This is the second eclipse of 2015, following the total solar eclipse of March

20th. This “total” lunar eclipse, will be the shortest eclipse, since 1529 and

at its best, will only have some 4 minutes,43 seconds of actual “totality”. The reason for

this is simple….the Moon will cross the umbra of the Earth at a very shallow

angle, As the Moon will not move deep into the umbral shadow.

This lunar eclipse is part of Saros 132, which has a total of some 70 lunar eclipses in it. The first, was back on May 22nd 1492 and the last will be on

June 26th 2754.

The total eclipse of October 17th 1529 lasted only 1 minute and 42 seconds

of totality, but this eclipse will have a totality of over 4 minutes. The fact is;

you still will be able to view the partial phases and that begins at 3:16AM PDT on the 4th, with totality at 4:58AM…till 5:00AM PDT…then the partial phases return, and end at 6:45AM PDT….

A very unique total eclipse indeed!

The Moon will appear low in the sky, riding in or near the constellation of

Virgo, with the bright blue star Spica, close to the Moon.

This is a great time to learn how to use your camera equipment!

Here are some great links, to enjoy this total lunar eclipse…….




Great animation of the eclipse-








Photograph The Eclipse-





Dr.Sky Interviews Jim Lovell- Apollo 8 Astronaut


Apollo 8 Orbits The Moon-46 Years Ago / Merry Christmas

It is hard to believe that Apollo 8 and the crew, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders, made that historic journey around the Moon, back in 1968! To celebrate that event, I had the recent opportunity to interview, USN (Ret.) Captain Jim Lovell, who not only made this historic journey, but was also on board that other important Apollo mission…..Apollo 13!

After the launch on December 21st 1968, the Apollo 8, was the first manned spacecraft which left the gravity of the Earth and this crew, had the most amazing journey of a lifetime; orbiting the Moon, with a spacecraft that was still new by space standards.

They will be remembered for ALL time, when they conducted a very special TV broadcast on December 24th 1968, when they recited various versus from the Book Of Genesis, as they orbited the Moon. This was the most watched TV broadcast of the time, with possibly, 2 billion people tuning in….


Here is what each man said:

Bill Anders 

“We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
‘And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.'”

Jim Lovell 

“‘And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
‘And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
‘And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.’”

Frank Borman 

“‘And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
‘And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

Here are more links to this amazing mission:



Video Of Lunar Broadcast:



1968 A Year To Remember:



Click on link to listen to the interview.

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“Object E” update


The recent launch of a Russian satellite , known as Cosmos 2499, has caused some concern in the world space community, as this recently deployed satellite may be the beginnings of a new Russian space weapons platform. This object, launched back in May 2014, has actually been kept a secret and may be a type of “Satellite Killer” platform….similar to that of other superpowers. The object was recently tracked, maneuvering towards another spacecraft…..intentions unknown!

The satellite has also been known as “Object E”, one of the many objects released into orbit on May 23rd, 2014…….

Object E, has been moving on a slow rendezvous with a Russian craft known as Briz-KM.

What is the intention of  “Object E”, which was thought to be a piece of space junk, but has now been identified as a satellite of its own!

Object E might be a new kind of satellite catcher, inspector, or satellite destroyer……..

only time will tell!………….


To learn more and follow this unique mission: