Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (3): the onset of good conditions

After the mediocre to fair nights described in (1) and (2), here are my observations during the next two following nights (August 31th to September 1st and 1st to 2nd). Those two nights have been somewhat cloudy, but with a much better seeing. Meteorological conditions had changed too !

During the night from August 30 to 31, I noticed that the unconfortable south-east wind, invisible on charts (see part 2) had stopped. During the day of August 31st, weather in France is changing: the meridional (southern) flux, responsible for the 2015 summer heat and that was still in place during our arrival at the observatory, is shifting to Italy. This was with the progressive installation of a cold front located west of France, in front of a low-pressure descending from Great Britain. Before the front, air is still warm and powerful thunderstorms are developing in the south-west air flux. The figure below presents the situation.
Left: position of fronts (UKMO); center: pressure systems; right: jet-stream. We progressively pass to a western flux in altitude. Ground wind is still undetermined so I do not show this data here.


Here are some daytime pictures that look relevant to me (clic for a better resolution). Above: the depht of Queyras Valley as in the preceding article, but without the clouds that were “sinking” from Italy. The Viso Mount is largely free of clouds too, and the Blanchet pass that marks the frontier is visible as well.

At the bottom: at western horizon, fair weather cumulus are forming above french Alpes. Thoses clouds sign the presence of a mild convection (only due to solar heating) and were not present during the preceding two days.

Only a brief window of clear night was caught that night but it allowed me to take images of Neptune under good seeing. There was no sensible nighttime wind.

From September 1st to 2nd: a superb steady sky… but still not completely clear!

On the next day, the sky is largely covered with a very low cloud basis: the cold front has arrived over eastern France. This was the occasion to take pictures of some curious weather phenomena, like the famous “glories”… to be seen on the blog of my fellow astronomers of the Olympus Mons club :).

On the “macro” meteo side, the situation of the preceding day is reinforced with an obvious western wind in altitude, with a faster jetstream. In my usual lowland site, I would not have trusted the seeing offered by such a situation… None the less this is when I met the best steady conditions on Neptune. The sky was unbelievable, but still quite cloudy. Here are the relevant meteo charts:

Pressure action centers at left: the air pattern is dominated by a vigourous low pressure (T) center on Danemark. On its southern flank (whole France) the westerlies create a noticeable jetstream (right chart, green color). The night ambiance was fantastic, with ghosts clouds illuminated by the Moon… that unfortunately won the battle against the telescopes.
Some of those clouds attracted my attention, as I had already seen them on lowland skies, accompanying a rock-steady seeing. I’m not sure to identify them correctly; they were either cirrocumulus or alto-cumulus. Here they are, in front of the Moon with the T60 dome at first plan:


During the following nights (2 to 3 and 5 to 6 September): persistent good conditions

The seeing during those two nights was again very good. Meteorological conditions remained the same: a relatively high western jet-stream on the southern flank of a “farewell” low-pressure.



Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (2): a strange wind at night

After a general review of the AstroQueyras observatory context, here are some of my notes related to the observed weather and night sky quality during my stay. On the first two nights (August 29/30 and 30/31) the  sky was clear but seeing was quite mediocre. I have note a particular […] Continue Reading…


Meteorological conditions at AstroQueyras (1): the context

AstroQueyras is an observatory located at an altitude of 2930 meters in the deep french Alpes mountains, very close to the italian border. It welcomes one-week amateur missions as well as one-night public stays. It’s equiped with a 620 mm F/15 Cassegrain, a 500 mm F/8 Ritchey-Chrétien and a 200 mm […] Continue Reading…


The Martian terminator “plumes” in Nature magazine

During the 2012 and 2014 apparitions of mars, we talked a lot about a very curious detail imaged by several amateurs: an object projected beyond the terminator, that could only be at a very high altitude. Seven scientists and six amateurs co-sign this month a paper about it in […] Continue Reading…


Some better conditions on Jupiter, why ?

In my last article Jupiter under the jet-stream, what’s the result? I described the effect of one the worst meteorological conditions for the seeing. During my last observing night of January 17th, images were noticeably better (although still not really good…). It is possible to find explanations?

Here are some Jupiter images […] Continue Reading…


Jupiter under the jet-stream, what’s the result?

Last year I made a summary on the best conditions for a good seeing. Unfortunately there are as well other conditions that damage it. Here is a “good” example on Jupiter: the influence of the jet-stream.

What is the jetstream?

The jet-stream is a very narrow, but very fast, stream of […] Continue Reading…


Prepare for the elongations of Venus in 2015: talk at RCE

Last week-end I gave a talk at the Rencontres du Ciel et de l’Espace (RCE) at Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in Paris, about Venus. The planet will be easily observable for northern amateurs in 2015, do not miss it!
In 2015, we will see two nice venusian elongations […] Continue Reading…


Different ways of using colors for imaging planets

The concept of color is often discussed among observers. The purpose of this article is not to debate about the concept of realism, but to describe and discuss the use of three ways to use color for planetary images : “true” colors, “false” colors, and colorized monochrome images…

The three […] Continue Reading…


The reference article about pro/am cooperation in planetary astronomy

Participating to scientific work when you’re an amateur observer, is that possible? Answer is yes! I have talked about it on several occasions on this blog, and here is a must-read on the topic if you’d like to get into that.

The adventure started two years ago during the “4th pro-am […] Continue Reading…


A possible new “high altitude cloud” observed

The most noticeable observation of Mars in the last 2012 season has been the imagery of what is generally interpretated as a cloud of very high altitude, because it was projecting well beyond the terminator into the night. Those phenomena look to happen regularly and many have been found […] Continue Reading…