Sunday, April 20, 2014

Star Trek - Light Pollution Graphics

It is International Dark Sky Week (#IDSW2014). Since doing something about light pollution is important and because I'm something of a Star Trek geek and haven't posted about Trek here in a while, I thought I would make a few graphics that combine the two. There's even one from TNG.

If anyone actually likes these (I may be the only one), please feel free to share them.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

International Dark Sky Week April 20 - 26 2014

Welcome to International Dark Sky Week!
Everyone who cares about astronomy should be concerned about the problem of light pollution, but there are lots of reasons to want to take action on light pollution beyond just the loss of the night sky. Light pollution is caused by excessive use of light at night which in turn is a waste of energy that negatively impacts ecosystems, decreases visibility and even has impacts on our own health.
Insects attracted to light at night
To learn more about the problems of light pollution, how to measure it, and what you can do about it all head on over to the International Dark-Sky Association's web pages for International Dark Sky Week.

You might also want to check out the blog post I wrote about International Dark Sky Week for Astronomers Without Borders.

Monday, March 31, 2014

This Evening's Moon

Was out for a walk this evening and had to hurry back to grab the camera so that I could grab a shot of tonight's thin crescent Moon.
Seeing low thin crescent hanging in the western sky, reminded me of seeing and photographing Comet PanSTARRS in March of last year.
I don't know about you, but I am ready for another comet to grace our skies.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Up, Up and Away!

I've taken a lot of photos of the various hot air balloons that drift by my home, this past week I finally had the chance to go up in one.

It was a fine day for sailing. We made arrangements to go up with Southern Arizona Balloon Excursions and they gave us a fine ride.
There were two other balloons heading skyward just ahead of us from our launching site in Avra Valley, AZ. You can see in this shot that they are nearly ready to takeoff while the crew was just getting our balloon, at lower right, ready for hot air.
It was a beautiful Arizona morning. The vivid colors of the balloons stood out against crisp blue sky intermixed with white cirrus clouds. 
It was great fun to be up close and personal photographing the first two balloons as they headed skyward and our balloon was prepped to follow.


Finally, our turn was nearing.


 Here is the view from in the basket, looking into the heart of the balloon:
Eventually, we were airborne:
I can see my car from here:
and a whole lot more:
even the Moon:
Near the top of this image is the Avra Valley solar farm:
All to soon, it was time to come back down to Earth. Flying in the balloon was a gentle and peaceful as can be. In landing you are at the whim of the winds and the skill of the pilot. Our pilot took us down into a flat area of desert away from major obstacles. The bottom of our basket passed through a low mesquite tree and bounced, sliding a bit as we came to a stop. Here is the skid mark we left on the desert floor:
The flight crew had been chasing us and, once everyone was safely out, quickly began deflating the balloon and folding it up for its next trip.
 It was a wonderful trip and I someday I plan to do it again.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Signs of Spring and an Iridium Flare

The desert southwest didn't get much of a winter this past season. And while the weather hasn't show much of a change as we've moved into spring, there are still signs of spring on the ground and in the skies.
Canon T31, 18mm, 25 seconds, ISO 3200
The palo verde tree (Arizona's official state tree) that lives in our front yard is in full bloom, a sign here in the desert that spring has sprung. I took the shot above last night. Also in the shot are the stars of the Big Dipper, which stands high in the our evening skies in spring.

The reason I was out with my camera was to catch this:
Canon T31, 18mm 30 seconds, ISO 3200
A magnitude -5.8 Iridium flare that was visible in the northern part of the sky. Iridium flares are reflections of sunlight off of satellites that can be some of the brightest things seen in the night sky. I caught this one very near the star of the Little Dipper.  That's Polaris, the North Star, just above and left of the flare. Polaris is the star that marks the end of the handle of the dipper.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Moon and Venus: Together again

In case you missed it, here is this morning's view of the Moon and Venus.
Seeing them paired together in the sky like that makes for a nice way to start the day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Three Balloon Morning

There was quite the show this morning, the first Saturday of spring, from the backyard. There were three hot air balloons that made relatively close passes to my home.

The first balloon lifted off just before sunrise. It glided past in the west, passing in front of rugged Sombrero Peak of the Tucson Mountains.

The second balloon was to the east in nearly the same direction as the Sun.
I was hoping that it might pass directly in front of the Sun from my vantage point forming a balloonar eclipse, but alas, it was not to be. As it glided further northward it moved out of the Sun's glare and made a nice appearance in the sky.
The third balloon was on a course to pass nearly directly overhead from my vantage point.
While it wasn't exactly at my zenith, it did indeed make a close encounter.
It is always nice when you can look up and into the heart of the hot air balloon as they unleash the fire, giving it more lift.
Certainly it was a fine morning for sailing.