Thursday, October 13, 2011

Equinox Sunrise, September 23, 2011

Well, I think I'm finally ready to write my blog again after taking most of the summer off. I'm going to post some older stories, starting with this one to start autumn.



I’ve wanted to do an equinox sunrise observation for a long time now, but it’s never worked out. Last Friday morning, however, I was free, and a quick check of the weather satellite looked promising. The plan was to get to Adler before sunrise. With the wide open horizon over Lake Michigan, all I needed was a clear sky to catch the Sun’s first rays of autumn. The rocks at the center of the spiral stones are supposed be aligned perfectly east-west, and I wanted to get pictures of the Sun rising right between the stones.

When I left home, I looked up and saw the waning crescent Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and the bright stars of the winter constellations. There were a few scattered clouds to the west, but not enough to consider staying home.

I got to Adler just after 6 AM. Sunrise was at 6:40, about 2 ½ hours after the equinox. The sky was already starting to brighten, revealing clouds in nearly every direction, with the worst over the eastern horizon. I walked down to the Lake, then came back to my car to get my table, computer, and solar scope. Just as I had everything ready to carry to the observation site, rain came pouring down. Not cool!

I sat in my car Facebooking while the rain came down hard. By 6:25 the rain had let up, but hadn’t stopped. Around 6:35 the rain finally moved on. With no real hope of catching the Sun peaking across the Lake, I only took my “new” camera down the spiral stones, dodging puddles along the way. There was a channel 7 news crew parked on the other side of Solidarity Drive, and a group of women with Adler umbrellas briefly gathered as the rain fizzled out. I got the impression the women were there to see the sunrise too, but I wondered if the news crew was there for the equinox or news about the UARS satellite that was expected to fall out of orbit later that night.

I took plenty of pictures documenting the sky conditions, but never saw even a hint of the Sun. Rain could be seen falling in the distance over the Lake, but the clouds over the horizon never seemed to move. I waited almost an hour to see the Sun, but it was in vain.

(Ignore the date and times on the pictures. I was using a camera for the first time, and didn't realize the date and time were not set). 


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I'm not sure why Channel 7 was at Adler.


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These four stones are supposed to be aligned N-S, E-W.


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Looking due east at 6:40 AM (sunrise time).


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It looked like it was raining over Lake Michigan.


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I watched a ship travel north, most likely leaving one of our Northwest Indiana steel mills, or the Port of Indiana.


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Still under a dark cloud, but it didn't rain again.


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A little pink on the southeast horizon, but no Sun.


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Trying to make the best of a clouded out observation.


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And, of course, the obligatory skyline pics.


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It was a dreary morning. Other than a few joggers, these two birds were the only signs of life. 


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I saw this duck on the Lake, and snapped some shots as it flew away.


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I finally found a clear sky driving home on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Only a few miles south I could have seen the equinox sunrise, and almost certainly would have seen it from home. Driving to the place that I thought would have the best sight line turned out to be a mistake. I drove right under the edge of a rain system that had developed after I checked the weather from home. Oh well. It happens, I guess. I’m not waiting until March for another sunrise observation, though. There are gaps in the spiral stones that are supposed to align with the solstice sunrises and sunsets. I hadn’t really noticed them before, but if the weather is looking good for the winter solstice, I’ll be back to document it.


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On the winter solstice, the Sun should rise between these stones...


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...and set between these stones.


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Summer solstice sunrise position...


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... and summer solstice sunset position.

I will have to go back and verify these.   :)

2 comments:

  1. Too bad the weather wasn't the best! The pics came great. Lake Michigan is really beautiful! I would love to see some pics of the Winter Solstice Sun setting and rising between those stones! Hopefully it won't be snowing or raining then! LOL

    By the way, during that time I was online all day trying to find out where the UARS satellite was going to crash. I REALLY wished it would crash in my backyard a ways from my house! I don't care what NASA says...I would have taken a big chunk out of the satellite, hid it somewhere far in my woods, and then wait till NASA left. I would forever have an AWESOME relic straight from outer space!

    Too bad it supposedly landed in the Pacific Ocean and NOT in my backyard! Oh well...till next time!!! :)

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  2. Hey Paulie! Bravo on a wonderful post and effort on your part to observe this sublime event; at least for most people it is sublime! Us astro geeks like these events and want to observe them! We all should have our own personal stone structures to mark these events!

    I observe the equinoxes & solstices sunrises from my second floor bed room window. Very convenient! The equinoxes can be observed without my head leaving my pillow - just open the binds and there it is!!!!!! I have made profound observations while all cozy.....conjunctions, occultations, planets on the rise......fun! Sunsets are observed from a small hill just across the street from me that provides a excellent view of my mtn surrounded horizon.

    But your drive and ambition to observe what you can and how you enjoy your hobby continues to inspire me my Hoosier friend! Do not stop telling us about it!

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