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Smoke From West Coast Fires Impacting Our Local Skies

Brian Ottum
Brian Ottum

If you heard or checked the weather forecast but looked outside and saw something different, it’s not your imagination.  Smoke from the west coast fires in the United States is moving into our area, according to local sky watcher and amateur astronomer Dr. Brian Ottum.


Lisa Barry talks with Dr. Ottum about our current sky view, as well as about some upcoming exciting planetary views and the annual "Astronomy On The Beach" event.

Brian Ottum
Credit Brian Ottum
Smoke over the atmosphere of Manistee National Forest: September 2017.

Saline amateur astronomer Dr. Brian Ottum says smoke from the west coast fires is blowing across the northern part of the United States and could impact our outdoor visibility for weeks.  Dr. Ottum says the sky looks milky white and hazy, due to the smoke being brought this way due to the jetstream.  He says it will also cause the moon to look a bit more yellowish or orangish or brownish than normal, due to the smoke in the atmosphere, and he says the sunsets could appear more colorful due to the smoke as well.

Brian Ottum
Credit Brian Ottum
Smoke over the atmosphere of Manistee National Forest: September 2017.

This is happening just as the moon is getting ready to move close to several planets making them more visible at night.  Next Thursday, September 24th, the moon is going to be next to Jupiter right after sunset and we will be able to see Jupiter's moons with binoculars.  Then the next night, the moon will be right next to Saturn on the 25th.   The moon will then move further  to the left on Saturday the 26th of September, which also is "International Observe the Moon Night," as declared by NASA.

This also coincides with the annual "Astronomy On The Beach" event which will be held on line this year, due to our current pandemic.

Michigan’s Largest FREE Astronomy Event!

September 25 & 26, 2020 6:00 pm-Midnight

For the public’s safety, the GLAAC board has decided to host the 2020 Astronomy at the Beach event as an online / virtual event this year.

  • This year, we will have numerous live presentations about astronomy and space science by local astronomers and our special guests!
  • Several remote telescope viewing sessions will show you live views of the Moon, planets and deep-sky objects through telescopes located across the U.S.!
  • We’ll also have a large selection of recorded presentations by local astronomers, and videos we hope will get you interested in astronomy, and keep you interested for a lifetime!
Credit Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs / glacc.org
Astronomy at the Beach 2020

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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