Busy Hill skies: crazy clouds, Saturn, Mars and Venus hanging out together and a full moon

Sunset from Capitol Hill (Photo: Chat Noir Photgraphie)

Fantastic images of Capitol Hill come into the CHS flickr pool. We use a lot of them to illustrate CHS posts. But our favorite are stories unto themselves. This weekend, we found two post-worthy entries — both from Chat Noir Photographie. The first shows the amazing cloud formations over Seattle’s Thursday’s night sunset. Let’s turn to area meteorology expert Cliff Mass to explain the amazing-ness:

I can tell you exactly what you are seeing–Kelvin Helmholtz instability clouds. Now that will impress your friends!

When the wind shear builds up sufficiently an instability forms in which wavelike disturbances are created that can amplify like a breaking wave on the beach. And like the breaking wave there is often a lot of turbulent motion.

Yesterday this was a large change in wind direction centered around 1300 meters (roughly 4300 feet). At low levels there was southerly flow and above northerly flow.

The second shot from the pool by Chat Noir is from far beyond Capitol Hill but inspires us to post something we’ve been looking for an excuse to share.

That’s Saturn through a telescope. Posting about celestial events in Seattle is usually just cruel. But with the clear weather we’re seeing, even with a big bright moon and the city lights, it’s a good time to look to the sky. There’s some interesting stuff going on up there right now:

Venus, Mars and Saturn are all currently appearing slightly north of the ecliptic, the path the sun appears to follow over the year, shown in green in the sky map.

Note the positions of these three planets in relation to the bright background stars, because they are beginning an interesting journey which you will be able to follow over the next two months.

In early July, Venus will have moved rapidly to the left, crossing Cancer into Leo so that now it is next to the star Regulus. Mars, meanwhile, will have moved somewhat to the left. Saturn appears to have hardly moved at all.

By then, the three planets will now cover only 37 degrees in the sky, only half the spread they showed in early June.

A month after this, in the first week of August, the planets will be crowded into a 7-degree angle, and Mars will now be to the left of Saturn in Virgo. Venus, too, will have moved into Virgo.

Look to the west about an hour after sunset to find the alignment. Here are more tips on when and what to look for. For even better views, the Seattle Astrological Society holds its next star party at Green Lake on August 14th and UW’s Jacobsen Observatory is open for public viewings on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

Sunday night, the planetary trio will face some competition from July’s full moon — rising in Capricorn if you are planning any pagan cermonies. A planetary celestial event, a full moon and Capitol Hill Block Party’s first third night ever on the same Sunday night? Sounds like a party.

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One thought on “Busy Hill skies: crazy clouds, Saturn, Mars and Venus hanging out together and a full moon

  1. Helpful News: I live near Volunteer park and was out for a walk on a hot evening earlier this month. There is a guy with an amazing telescope that he sets up near the round sculpture. I could see the rings of Saturn! The guy told me that he got the telescope for free because someone didn’t want to move it (the thing is really heavy and BIG), so he’s going to be out in the park on clear evenings to share it with other people. Check it out!