Sunday, September 16, 2018

Comet 21p tags M35

The morning of Sept 15, Comet 21p passed in front of open star cluster M35:

Comet 21p with M35. Image was processed to accentuate the green color.

Comet 21p with M35

My exposures spanned about 24 minutes. So, I put them together into an animated GIF to show the comets apparent motion over 24 minutes:

All photos were taken with a 3-inch refractor at F5. Exposure times and ISO settings varied, but my best results were with 1600 ISO at 30 seconds and 800 ISO at 60 seconds. Any longer, and I get too much light pollution. Still, I'm happy with what I can capture under my semi-urban sky.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Holy Jim Canyon Fire

On Monday, 6 Aug. 2018, an arsonist lit fire in Holy Jim Canyon, which quickly spread, and two weeks later burnt 22,986 acres. Since then, flareups have occurred within the burn perimeter.

(Photo: Holy Fire on 6 Aug 2018.
I consider this the most expensive solar filter I've ever used.)

A local politician found the opportunity to remind us that the damages from this fire are a result of unchecked mental health issues in our society: Lake Elsinore Councilman Bob Magee on the fires of mental illness

While unhinged persons are a threat, and such persons started two recent conflagrations in Riverside County, Magee's argument downplays the contribution of climate, weather, and topology in making fire devastating, whether it starts by arson or by accident.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suggested that environmentalists are to blame for not allowing forest thinning, claiming that an increase in fire severity is due to a build up of dead trees. In the case of the Holy Fire, steep terrain and abundance of chaparral makes thinning difficult. It's also not clear to me how thinning operations would make forests less prone to fire. Heavy equipment, for example, disturbs undergrowth, promotes erosion, and invites invasive weeds that can make fire more likely.

Yet others, suggest that California's governing political party is to blame for severity of recent wildfires. It's unclear to me how State Officials can be directly responsible for management of Federal forests, but that doesn't stop any finger pointing.

To examine the connection between dead trees and fire, I superimposed a map of the Holy Fire on a Forest Service map of tree mortality. It shows little correlation between the Holy fire and dead trees:

Note that the large pink area on the left is a Tier 2 hazard zone defined by the Forest Service. I believe this definition is based on threat to a region such as a watershed. So, in this zone, should a fire break out, it will likely not be contained till it reaches the perimeter of the watershed. Combined with the presence of high-density tree mortality, this warrants a Tier 2 designation. At least, that's how I interpret the map, yet, there is something odd about tree mortality maps. They are based on aerial surveys from 2012-2017, but close-ups of the region show mostly oak woodlands, chaparral and riparian canyons. So, it is not clear to me how how these fire designations are determined -- a project for further research



Tree Mortality Viewer

CalFire Incident map

Hotter weather turbocharges US West wildfires

Monday, September 10, 2018

Meteors, comets and clusters

Comet 21P is visible in the morning sky. Over the past week it has moved through the constellation Auriga. Here are images taken with a 3" telescope and digital camera.

8 Sept. 2018, 30 seconds, 1600 iso, f5

10 Sept 2018, 21P near M37, ISO 3200, F5, 20 seconds.

Meteors remain one of my favorite targets, being that the equipment set up is simple, tracking errors are easily forgiven, and success is related to opportunity. I've seen meteors brighten, dim, and then brighten, but this is first I caught on camera:

Sagittarius with meteor. 28mm, F3, 60 seconds


Thursday, December 28, 2017

What goes up vs what comes down

This past weekend was action-packed, so to speak, of objects making the upward or downward trip to and from space.

First, the upward trip:

On Friday, Dec. 22, the southwest United States enjoyed the launch of a Falcon 9 two-stage rocket. The twilight was perfect for illuminating the exhaust plume. From my vantage point, the event lasted about 5 minutes, from seeing the rising glow in the north until the rocket disappeared behind mountains to the west. This was enough time for neighbors to alert each other and run into the street and for friends to start texting. It was enough time for me to correct my original poor choice of camera location , run downstairs and across the street barefoot, dodge one car, and get numerous shots.

Falcon 9 launch viewed from in front of my home:

Moon, stage 2, with stage 1 falling away:

 A second burn from stage 1 occurred a second after the first:

And now the downward trip:

On Christmas Eve, at 5:15pm, I saw an amazing fireball, or bollide. Like the Falcon 9 launch, the event lasted a long time, that is, long for a meteor. I was parked and about to exit my car when I saw it. I had time to contemplate grabbing my camera, and chose not to. As a result, I saw a colorful break-up and burn that reminded me of a newspaper bursting into flame and being sucked up the chimney in fragments. My wife and daughter also saw it from about 5 miles away from my location. They also reported a red color to the burn.

However, my friend Andy Abeles from the Temecula Valley Astronomers, captured it from his dash camera. The full burn is cut off by the mountains, and I think most of what I saw is where it goes behind the mountain in this video.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Wildomar Fire vis-a-vis the proposed LEAPS project's transmission line.

Many of us in Wildomar and surrounding communities are rightfully giving thanks to CalFire and those fighting the fire at the front lines and from within the organization. We're also giving thanks to the tax base that makes such a response possible, but we should also remember that 10 years ago many local activists stood up to what was apparently a ploy by a small corporation to establish a transmission line for private gain. Activists like Bridgette MooreJohn LloydKristan Lloyd, to name a few that I'm still connected with, were able to win a local election and expose the flawed plans of the chief enabler of the LEAPS project. 

Also, our work halting the transmission line would not have been possible without Federal and State laws (NEPA and CEQA) that require environmental impact reports. Surprisingly, the backers of the transmission line have not given up, and have recently resubmitted their application. So, the fight continues. 

My compilation photo shows a plane last night dropping fire retardant. Also in the photo is my simulation of the proposed transmission line. I dug this file up this morning. I had last labeled it "work-in-progress" so I still need to verify the vertical placement of the towers, but I'm confident of the locations where I placed them. (Update: I'll stand by this simulated view. My placement of towers and simulated view is good.)


Friday, August 18, 2017

I can afford only a partial eclipse

The total eclipse is occurring for those willing to live in or travel to a 70-mile wide-band across the United States. I fear the desperate behavior that afflicts crowds, so I never made plans to attend. Astronomy offers my opportunity to relax, get away from bustle, and I can enjoy it any time. Though a total eclipse would leave me saying, "why didn't I do this before", I'm content to stay local and help others see the partial eclipse.

If you want to see the partial eclipse, come to Wildomar's Marna O'Brien park on Monday, Aug. 21, 9-11 am. If you have any doubt about the quality of your eclipse glasses, please attend and look through my safely filtered telescopes instead of dubious glasses. My solar filters are professional grade, and I've looked through them many times.

I hope to see you on Monday. Look for me and say hello. I'll be the frazzled guy trying to keep his sanity during the excitement.


Marna O'Brien Park:
20505 Palomar Road,
Wildomar, CA

Friday, July 21, 2017

Best ever circumzenithal arc,...

Best ever circum-zenithal arc and my worst camera met on the early evening of July 19, 2017. I drove to Riverside, and on the way, I became interested in the clouds and dispersal of a contrail. It looked like the conditions were right for hole punch clouds. I couldn't take any pictures, because I was driving.

Two hours later I emerged from a building and the sky over head smiled with the brightest and most long lasting arc I'd ever seen. I took numerous pictures with my aim-and-shoot camera and my iPhone. Neither of these devices captures the full color range of bright cloud effects.