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Welcome to Cloudbait Observatory, located under the dark skies of the central Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Here you will find details about the observatory itself, its history (and my own as an amateur astronomer), the science I conduct here, and a collection of images I've made. Details of the instrumentation I use and some of the tricks I've developed to make it work well are given.
I am very interested in instrumentation, and much of what I design is freely available to anyone interested. Details about some of these projects are posted on this site.
I also enjoy both history and travel, and seek out places of special astronomical significance. The section on archaeoastronomy details some of the places I've been, and the historical astronomical sites I've explored.
There is currently a pretty comet visible in the western sky after sunset. Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is a non-periodic comet that passed closest to the Sun a few days ago, and can be seen in the west, close to the horizon, about a half hour after sunset. It is a naked eye object, but is best seen with binoculars. Images from Cloudbait can be seen here.
The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaked on January 3. There was some lunar interference this year, but the weather in central Colorado was excellent. The camera captured 79 Quadrantid meteors between sunset January 2 and sunrise January 3. A report is available here.
The annual Geminid meteor shower peaked on December 14. There was no lunar interference this year, and the weather was excellent until the last few hours of the shower, when snow rolled in. The camera captured 292 Geminid meteors between December 10 and December 14 (four nights). The Geminids are possibly the nicest visual shower, and easily observed since the radiant is in the sky all night long. A report is available here.
There was a bright fireball over Colorado on October 13. The meteor occurred at 6:59 pm MDT and was widely witnessed along the front range. It was captured on both the Cloudbait and DMNS allsky cameras. A preliminary report is available here.
There was a daytime fireball over northeast Colorado on June 20. The meteor occurred between 12:30 and 1:00 pm MDT, with most reports placing it around 12:40. Our camera network does not run during the day, so this was not recorded. It did not appear to generate any debris seen by local Doppler weather radars. All information has come from witnesses, currently over a dozen. Most reports are from Colorado Springs, but there are also reports from west of Denver, from Nebraska, and from New Mexico. The speed and direction of the meteor remain uncertain, but it appears to have been burning in the sky northeast of Limon, CO. It isn't possible at this time to determine if meteorites were produced. If I receive more information, I'll produce a formal report; check back here over the next few days. If you saw this meteor, please report it here. UPDATE June 21: Many news sources are reporting this event as a "meteor shower", and are reporting on fire fighting planes grounded yesterday for about 45 minutes as a result. This was a single sporadic meteor, not connected with any shower. It is probably being reported as multiple events simply because it was widely seen, and there is a range of reported times. Certainly, grounding planes because of a meteor sighting is an overreaction, and unusual. In this case, several sightings were from pilots (in Kansas and New Mexico), so it may have been a combination of notice from the FAA and fire planes hitting ordinary debris (like burning pinecones) that led to the groundings.
On June 5, 2012, Venus passed across the face of the Sun, a transit observable over much of the world. Despite marginal weather conditions, I was able to image this event from Cloudbait. A report is available here.
On May 20, 2012, the southwest experienced an annular solar eclipse. I traveled south to New Mexico to place myself on the eclipse centerline. A report is available here.
There was a total lunar eclipse on 10 December 2011. From central Colorado, the Moon was just entering totality at sunrise, providing an interesting photo opportunity. A report and some images are available here.
On September 2, 2011 the Cloudbait allsky camera captured three sets of sprites. Sprites are poorly understood electrical atmospheric phenomena that occur very high (50-100 km) above thunderstorms, and which are triggered by lightning below. Images of the captured sprites can be seen here.
On the morning of March 18, 2007, Pluto passed in front of a dim star, casting the shadow of the planet across North America. Examine the data collected from Cloudbait.
Looking for Colorado meteors? Check the new online
database of events recorded by the allsky camera network since late
There have been 3 fireballs recorded in the last seven days:
Meteor and fireball activity is high during the second half of the year. See how activity changes over the year.
If you live in Colorado or the surrounding states, and have recently seen a very bright meteor, please report it here. We continue to investigate bright fireballs, and now have an extensive network of allsky cameras in place to supplement witness reports. If you just witnessed a meteor and are curious if it was recorded from central Colorado, try the new real-time meteor log which lists all events captured by the Cloudbait camera as they occur. These events are normally processed into the main database each morning.
Read my discussion about an image by an Australian photographer purporting to show a meteorite impact.
Today's Sun and Moon, 20 May 2013
The material here is necessarily graphics intensive, but I've done my best to optimize the images so that download times should be reasonable even with slow network connections.
I'm happy to respond to emails with questions or comments. To avoid your mail being misidentified as spam, please make sure it has a subject line and no HTML content. If you are an AOL customer, I may not be able to respond. AOL regularly blocks vast amounts of legitimate email, including mine. I can't determine why, because the organization foolishly blocks mail to its own postmaster! My best advice is to dump AOL and sign up with a real Internet provider. You won't regret it. If your email server implements SPF filtering, I may not be able to respond. SPF is a protocol designed to control spam, but it also blocks a lot of legitimate email. I would suggest you contact your ISP or mail administrator and have SPF disabled. In spite of its good intentions, it is a badly flawed system.