Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Climbing over Graffiti

This is a personal post for friends who can't view the videos I posted on Facebook, but not so personal that I can't share for anyone. I like to rock climb, and I keep in shape in a nearby canyon that two years ago looked nearly pristine. Within the past two years there has been a increase in graffiti, such that I've been expecting some of my favorite climbs to become slicked up by layers of paint. This finally happened last weekend, so as personal therapy, I tried to dramatize the change in adhesion and therefore the tangible damage to me from someone's vandalism.

However, though I'm confident the new paint on my critical foothold will make it more slippery, and therefore, the climb more hazardous, it's hard to train one's body to not compensate for the increased hazard. So here was my first attempt to illustrate the increased risk of falling:

That was too easy. This day's temperature and humidity made for optimal adhesion between my climbing shoe and foothold. Plus, my instincts for preservation were strong.

Here's my second attempt:

But I think I over-acted, and I was afraid to simulate a genuine fall.

After two more tries I think my dramatization shows would would happen to me on a less than ideal day:

And last, a bit of climbing on a clean rock.


Illustrations for Seal of Approval, a Article about Bio-Logging

I've had the pleasure of contributing a few more illustrations to an article on Skeptical Science. I've shared the illustrations here, but recommend the article: Seal of Approval: How Marine Mammals Provide Important Climate Data.

A summary of advances in the use of animals to carry sensors.

A summary of the data collection cycle of an ARGO ocean sensor.

A summary of the how seals contributed to our understanding of the collapse 
of an Antarctic ice shelf.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Solar observation must be done in the sun, no exceptions

It was a hot, sunny day yesterday. Whimsically, I checked for sunspots with my Sun Spotter telescope. I had checked within the past week, so I wasn't expecting anything. However, a constellation of sunspots demanded my attention, so I set up the equipment for this photo.

I would have tried higher power magnification, but my equipment was getting hot to the touch.

The previous night I took my yearly light pollution monitoring photo. I try to capture the Milky Way from my backyard to verify that I can still do it and that protecting the night sky is still worthwhile in my community. My methods are inexact because I've switched from slide film to digital over the years, and I'm always dealing with variations in seeing conditions.

This time of year at 3:00am, the Milky Way rises straight up from the west and crosses the sky. This photo is a composite of two images from the morning of July 5.

This night was a bit humid, so the viewing was compromised by visible wispy clouds. I also tweaked the photos to enhance contrast. Directly overhead, I could see the Milky Way through Cygnus:

 However, once I turn northeast, the sky is heavily polluted:

The southwest, west, and overhead is our "Wildomar Window" and still worth protecting.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice

Every summer solstice, the sun sets behind a nearby mountain topped with communication towers, as seen from my backyard. And every year, I forget to get a picture. This time, I remembered. Below are two photos of the sun dipping behind the towers. Both were taken with a 3" telescope at F6.3 using a white light solar filter. 


Saturday, June 14, 2014

When looking up, don't forget to look down

A keen-eyed observer at the May 31 Explore the Stars noticed a glow on the sidewalk that turned out to be a caterpillar with a bio-luminescent belly. I tried to take photos, but getting a good focus in the dark was difficult. Still, I got close.

This close up captures the color of it's glow. I think this was a 5-10 second exposure.

Curious observers soon arrived and examined the sight with their red flashlights, which lit up the scene. 

I quickly realized that some context was essential to the photograph. The shadow of my tripod can be seen next to the glow.

A friend tells me that most likely it's parasites in the caterpillar that are creating the glow -- another subject to look up sometime.


Comet PANSTARRS 2012k1

I'm hopeful of seeing comet PANSTARRS 2012k1 this month. On May 31, I took 28 mm focal length exposures of the region between Ursa Major and Leo and was able to capture the greenish comet

Location of PANSTARRS 2012k1 
on 31 May 2014 relative to Ursa Major.

In this photo, PANSTARRS is in the smaller circle:

My experience suggests that if I can capture a comet in a wide-field photo, I can see it in a medium sized telescopes and possibly in binoculars. However, dark observing conditions will be necessary.

Here is a close-up of the larger circle. the object in the middle has a green hue, common with comets:

Using the Heavens Above website, I created a map showing where to expect the comet on the weekends of June 21 and June 28: 


UPDATE: I labeled the magnitudes of stars for estimating brightness. PANSTARRS is dimmer but more diffuse than a nearby 9th magnitude star.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Milky Way Mosaic

I believe this to be my first mosaic of the Milky Way:

I was on Palomar Mountain the night of May 31th, when a marine layer covered the surrounding area, leaving the sky unfettered by light pollution. My 28 mm focal length lens creates some distortion at the edges, and it's lowest f stop (2.8) introduces some brightness difference between the center and edge. I spliced two images and corrected the brightness and distortion in Photoshop. Perhaps "corrected" is the wrong word. I minimized the most obvious mismatches between the images.

This time of year is a good time to watch the Milky Way. It rises in the east, and in Southern California, many of our favorite viewing locations have desert to the east, thus reducing the impact from light pollution.