Before the sun went down today I wanted to get some grass cut. When I started it was warm and dry but on the horizon I could tell it was raining. The rain didn’t really look like it was going to come meet me but about half way into my task it really started to rain.
It was one of those rains that wasn’t overcast; just showery. I was thinking, “Why don’t I just park this thing and be done with it for the day?” I was soaked all the way through all my clothes and getting cold riding on the mower. “Just another 15 minutes and I’ll be done,” says my internal voice (like it always does).
Then I looked up and saw a full, very bright and vibrant double rainbow. By the time I got my phone out, figured out how to get into the camera app in the rain this was all I could capture:
I was sitting next to my bees, in the rain with nothing more important to do.
I’m reminded to slow down and enjoy the moment. It may not seem like it but little bits of nirvana surrounds us all the time. Everything is as it should be.
Today nirvana was a rainbow sitting in the rain at the end of a busy work day. All I had to do was look up.
Winter sneaks up on me every year. Slowly the weather turns colder as the days get shorter. But generally it’s not until one day in December when I walk outside in the evening that I think to myself, “Wow, it’s cold out!”
Tonight was that time for me this year. It’s December 15, very close to the winter solstice. Tomorrow is our first real snow storm predicted to bring more than a dusting. Actually it might be more like a foot here where I live according to some models. Time will tell.
It will be interesting to see what pans out. Normally I don’t worry about cleaning off snow until there is more than 8″ so tomorrow may be one of those days. The temperature is in the Goldilox zone of right at freezing and down to 20º with lots of water in the air. We’ll have to see but I’ve noticed out here that these forecast numbers can be conservative.
I don’t have a business that requires me to work outside in this stuff so I say let it snow! How much will determine if I get out and shovel with the tractor or let nature take it’s course. I’ve marked the drive so that if it’s deep I’ll be able to see where to plow.
A quick reminder that tonight is the best night to view the Geminids. If the sky around you is clear to the west after midnight look up in the direction of the Gemini constellation. Find the Betelgeuse star and you are there.
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Universe. I work to keep that in mind as I live from day to day.
From my front porch every evening this summer Jupiter and Saturn have been some of the brightest objects in the sky. Using Gloria’s telescope I’ve been able to clearly see the rings of Saturn and the storms of Jupiter along with many of their moons.
Even with nothing than a regular set of binoculars Jupiter is so close to Earth that the moons are clearly visible without much aid. With a zoom lens, camera and tripod one can take a picture of them without much difficulty.
Then there is comet Neowise. This one snuck up on us. Somehow we can put landers on the moon but not know when a comet is orbiting the sun. Granted, the last time it was here was 6,766 years ago. And it won’t be back for another 6,766 years.
That being said, I wanted to find this comet and see if I could capture it from my own front yard. The biggest problem I have with some of the astronomy stuff is that it happens at like 5 in the morning. That’s not always appealing to me. I’ll do it but it would be way more convenient if it was like around midnight.
And, as it turns out, that was going to happen. All I had to do was wait a couple of weeks and I could get a view in the northwest sky as it set with the sun after 10pm.
The first time I saw it was with binoculars. It was so much larger than I was expecting that I had overlooked it for 30 minutes. And it was much more faint than I was expecting especially as it was dodging in and out of the clouds. With my older eyes and the less than ideal viewing conditions this was going to be challenging to take a clear photo of this thing at night.
With a 600mm lens I knew that I could only keep the shutter open for about 5 seconds to keep the blur at a minimum. That means the ISO has to be fast and the aperture wide open. This is going to produce a grainy/noisy photo and if it’s not tack sharp it not going to come out well.
Focusing in the night sky is not easy. Because my eyes are not the best at determining the focal distance like they were when I was 16 I have to use the camera to help me by focusing on stars in the sky and getting them sharp and then assuming that the comet will be sharp in that background. One tiny camera shake and the photo will be ruined.
300 images later, I picked the 3 I liked the best.
The color image above shows the green core of the comet against some of the stars on a very cloudy night. I was never afforded a totally dark sky view of the comet while it could be seen from here.
When the comet was behind the clouds I turned my camera around to see if I could take a decent photo of Jupiter and maybe some of it’s moon. Keep in mind I only have a Nikon camera and lens on a tripod so this is not a telescope or anything fancy.
The picture of Jupiter doesn’t look like much at first glance. But I was shocked that I could get such a good photo of the planet and some of it’s moons. If you zoom into the photo you will see that one of the moons is blue. I think this is Europa which has high water content.
If you didn’t get to see it this trip around the sun unfortunately you are now going to have to take my word that it was there. Or use better camera gear than I have.
It was a fun evening I shared with my family. Interesting time in an interesting year looking at cool astronomy objects.
If you get bored, look up. The comet is about gone but many other object are up there. The sky can offer some interesting things to think about. Maybe give you break to think about other things for a while.
We have such interesting weather here in between the mountains. The original farm here was named “Crosswind Farm”. I didn’t think much about this until we moved in. The winds come from all directions all the time.
The Coriolis effect is very pronounced here. It’s very easy to see the cloud layers moving at right angles from each other.
It’s been very sunny and warm lately. Thankfully. I was pretty done with winter temperatures around here. It can get cold and stay cold here for half the year. So it’s nice to be in the 80º’s again.
A front came through and brought these clouds, some rain and lightening storms. The grass and trees are uber green. Summer is well on it’s way.
Water is going to be a very big problem at some point in our history as humans. If it’s not already.
I had not seen a map like this before. The USGS put out a cool map with data on the USA aquifers. Click on the map for the PDF file that explains what the map means.
The areal and vertical location of the major aquifers is fundamental to the determination of groundwater availability for the Nation. An aquifer is a geologic formation, a group of formations, or a part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs.
A two-dimensional map representation of the principal aquifers of the Nation is shown below. The map, which is derived from the Ground Water Atlas of the United States, indicates the areal extent of the uppermost principal aquifers on a national scale. In this map, a principal aquifer is defined as a regionally extensive aquifer or aquifer system that has the potential to be used as a source of potable water. (For study or mapping purposes, aquifers are often combined into aquifer systems.)
On Saturday November 2, 2019 NASA launched an Antares Rocket as a resupply mission to the International Space Station from the Wallops flight facility in Wallops, Virginia. Wallops is about 160 miles from my home.
Wallops is fun because I can see the rockets as they start to enter orbit once they get pretty high in the sky (like 80,000 – 100,000 feet). In the evenings it is very easy to spot them but hard to photo. This is my first attempt to see if I can see them during the day.
Friday night I did the research on when the launch was going to be performed. They had a 5 minute launch window to complete the launch. I really wanted to drive to Wallops for the launch but knew I would not have the time due to my work schedule. I’ll save that trip for another time. My mission this time was to see if I could actually see the rocket from my home and do my best to photo the rocket on the horizon.
The morning was very clear and cold but hazy. The sun was very bright making the haze even worth. I didnt think I’d be able to get a decent photo of the rocket. During the event I am listening to an Internet stream from NASA giving me details of the launch in progress. So I had a decent idea of when I might see the rocket.
I decided to use my drone to photo my “process” before and during the launch. It would also serve as a queue on where to sync up the video after the event. I start the video about 2 minutes before launch. Here is that video:
Looking through a 600 mm lens is like looking through a very powerful telescope which makes it quite hard to find your subject “randomly” when you are holding it in your hand looking through a tiny view finder window. You really have to focus. And then focusing on such a faint subject so far away takes a little skill. Even so I was quite surprised that I could seen the rocket so clearly once I locked on the image through the long lens. It wouldn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds.
The photo I took looked pretty good. Until I got it on the computer I didnt realize that it was in perfect focus and you could see the engine firing through the smoke of the contrail.
It turns out that I have to wait until the rocket is just about done with its first stage burn at an altitude of about 100,000 feet before it comes into view. For future launches this is helpful to know. And now that I’ve seen many of these launches I know exactly where to look on the horizon.
It was fun to participate in the event even if it was from afar. We’ll get out there soon during one of the launches in the future. Hopefully to get photos that are a little closer.
Well, it took me 22 days to write my first post in 2019. Happy new year to you!
All this “Blood Moon” talk hyped up this event which is really just the earth passing in front of the sun casting it’s shadow on the moon (lunar eclipse). It does glow an odd color when in totality. That’s about it though. All the drama in the “news papers” made it more than it really was.
I did get a nice photo of the moon in totality.
At my home in Virginia the sky is always very clear if there are no clouds. This night happened to be one of those super clear nights so taking a picture of the moon would normally be a piece of cake. Enter the 40 mile an hour wind, 10º temperature and the location of the moon at 90º to the horizon.
The photo was taken with a 600mm lens which is not the smallest, lightest lens in the world. Attached to the camera and a tripod it’s steady but unwieldy. The wind was so strong that I had to use f-stops much higher than I normally would so the photo was not blurry. Had this been in the summer, for instance, I could have laid on my back and peered into the sky indefinitely. Not this night!
I did three sessions each about 5 minutes long. At the end of each session I could not feel my fingers! This photo came at the end of the last session after I dialed in the light and shutter speeds that I could use with a shaky camera(man). It wasn’t until I saw it on my computer that I knew I didn’t have to go out for a fourth session. Shew!
The camera was pointing straight up in the sky making it very difficult to focus on the moon and set the camera up to take the photo. But I finally managed to get a good one. It would have been fun to spend more time outside but it was just too uncomfortable.
Some astronomers have captured a meteor striking the moon during totality. That would have been cool to witness. You can find that on the web if you are interested. I don’t think it was fake news. It’s always possible these days.
The sun (barely) poked through multiple layers of clouds this morning before the rain returned.
So far this week, in just the past 3 days, we have logged 6.5 inches of rain. We went from being pretty dry and things looking deep green again. I know all the plants are much happier with this water.
It’s too bad I didn’t’ think to get it on video but we also know that at least some of the animals are happy with the rain. With my girls as a witness we watched a fawn just go absolutely nuts in the water puddles two days ago. I don’t know if it was a boy or girl but it was driving the adults pretty crazy with its hyperactivity. It was the kind of unfettered happiness of seeing something new for the first time and being consumed by it all. It was fun to watch.
Above is the USGS station near my home. It’ hasn’t updated fully for today yet. You can see we went from essentially no precipitation lots of rainfall lately. In particular was the 21st when the rain first started falling. It was “heavy at times”, as the weather man likes to explain.
Personally, I like the rain. And the snow. Since I no longer have to work in this stuff it’s nice to be able to get rain on my face again. If this were snow it would be SIX FEET deep. 1″ of rain is about 1 foot of snow equivalent. That would be interesting.
I hope at some point when we live here we get 6 feet of real snow. I just want to see what that would be like. I’ve seen almost 4 feet of snow a couple of times. But it always stopped there. It would not be easy to dig out but I’d eventually do that. It would make for some interesting photos for sure.
This is my current weather. The temperature is very nice and it’s a bit breezy with spitting rain. This beats 100º for sure! I made the graphs you see below and you might also notice that the “green zone” is between 60º and 80º. This is my favorite temperature range.
Here are a couple of random photos of what happens when the skies change around here. They are taken with my cell phone so the quality is not like my still cameras but you’ll get the idea.
We have the prettiest sunsets around here. From the pastel skies above to the most beautiful rainbows of anywhere I’ve ever lived.
And this is very consistent weather. Anytime there is a storm come through in the evening where the sun pops out of the sky we get edge to edge rainbows. Super bright and very distinct colors.
And if there is a sunset with clouds in the sky they turn pastel as the sun angle dips below the cloud line like the picture above. I can take this same picture any given day of the week when there are clouds present. Deep pastel colors of deep blue, pink and purple are always present.
I hope it’s pretty where you live and that you love where you’ve hung your hat as much as I do here. Have a super day!