Friday, August 29, 2014

Comet C/2014E2 (Jacques)

It's exciting to have comets visit us, as they exhibit a range of qualities, defy prediction, and if nothing else, change position from night to night.

I've been able to photograph Comet Jacques twice this week using a telescope. These photos are with a 3-inch telescope at focal ratio 6.3:

Comet Jacques, 26 August 2014 (The image has been
cropped and the exposure level manipulated in Photoshop)

Comet Jacques, 26 August 2014 (Image cropped)

I can see this comet through a 9x50 finder scope, but not in my 7x50 binoculars. Two reasons may explain this: the finder scope isn't being held, so doesn't wiggle, and though both instruments have the same light gathering power, the higher magnification of the finderscope improves the contrast so that there is less glow from the background.

UPDATE: I got a little more quality time and space on Aug 29 to add this:

Same camera, same scope, but better sky.

In this animation, I spliced images taken from 9:40 to 10:20 pm:


Knowledge as a foreign, invading power

Knowledge is power, but there are people who see any application of physics, collection of data, and survey of scientific literature as foreign, and therefore they fight its presence as though it were an invading power.


The Bugle is a monthly paper produced by Knight Publishing. Ad hominem attacks are an assumed risk for anyone offering an informative article. The September 2014 issue published a community forum article that confused a high school reading level with jargon and attacks me personally.

Here is the Sept 4 Community Forum by Ken Woytek:
John Garrett took great exception to my “mythical” claims of fraud in the scientific consensus of climate professionals crying Wolf over dangerous trends in global climate. His response, printed in the Aug. issue, is replete with jargonic references that only serve the unbiased reader to agree with my premise condemning the self-serving 97% of active “climatologists.”
These alarmists are simply furthering their own secure careers in bolstering the theory of  anthropogenic global warming, as they toil away measuring conditions that support their creed. Computer models so key in the mantra are man-made and undeniably reflect the bias of the developer, equally as crucial as the manmade CO2 explosion.
Have you, for example, ever had any faith in a program sponsored by the U.N., which reacts to every open argument with condemnation of the West, USA in particular, to court the majority of General Assembly members that envy and despise America? The vaunted IPCC meets regularly to rebuke our material success, without recognition of our humanitarian exceptionalism, with climate-abuse sanctions never visited upon the grossest violators in China, India, or Brazil who share our planet.
The only answers to 176 climate myths announced by Garrett that were not faith-based are those that refer to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest as a causative factor in growth of the CO2 concentrations in the global atmosphere. That massive CO2 consumer, and all smaller brethren gardens, are pivotal in the equilibrium necessary to radiate heat back into night space after earth insolation temperature rises all day, acting together with cloudless skies. All the other references paraded by Mr. Garrett are similarly flawed pseudo-science, to which he has become irrationally enamored in classic scholastic fervor colored by his political persuasion and shared by Mr. Inconvenient Gore, Sir RT Watson, and eminent scientist BH Obama.
Best regards, Ken Woytek, Menifee
What did I say to deserve such a come-uppance?

I wrote this:

The July Community Voice [by Ken Wyotek] alluded to at least a dozen climate science myths(1), too many to discuss here, so we need to start with the basics to correct the misinformation:
Predictions of global warming are based on fundamental physics. How much warming to expect from a given increase in greenhouse gases is constrained by observations, computer modeling, and past climate reconstructions(2).
Observations include surface and ocean temperatures, solar output, Earth's reflectivity, greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations, and outgoing radiation.
When considering all of these, rising CO2 is the best explanation for a global average temperature increase of 1.44F over 150 years, a conclusion supported by 97% of climate scientists(3). For comparison, cooling of 9F gives us an ice age. Warming of 3.6F over pre-industrial climate is worrisome but possibly safe, so our current 1.44oF increase is almost halfway through our safe zone.
Observations can be compromised by small sample sizes and measurement errors; thus decade-to-hundred-year trends such as global warming can be masked by natural year-to-decade long fluctuations. It takes 30 years to see the long term rise among short-term waves; and no one region can be taken as typical of the planet as a whole.
Computer modeling tests our understanding of the underlying physics of the climate system. Models are tested against observations and past climate reconstructions. Any scientific theory is incomplete without a physics-based model. Models have even identified errors in observations(4) and have demonstrated how global warming can dry the western US while cooling the eastern US.(5)
Climate reconstructions are based on ice cores, sediments, plant residue, and cave formations. These reconstructions of past climate smooth out the short-term effects. For example, when you look at an ice core, you’re seeing hundred-year trends, not decadal trends. It is these hundred year trends that are most disturbing, for they show:
• Our climate has changed drastically due to very small but gradual changes in energy.
• Naturally occurring changes in atmospheric CO2 levels regulate global climate on thousand-year timescales.
• Warming trends invoke feedback effects that amplify the warming.
• Our current rate of warming and level of greenhouse gases have no precedent going back millions of years.
The concern for global warming will not go away because the science will not go away despite the steady stream of misinformation.
1. SkepticalScience: Rebuttals to 176 climate myths,
2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Assessment Report 5. On my entire summary of observations, modeling, and climate reconstructions,
3. Environmental Research Letters, Cook et al.,
4. Nature, Fu et al. How a long-standing discrepancy between models and temperature observations was resolved. htttp://
5. Geophysical Research Letters, Wang et al. Modeling study shows global warming influence in the 2013-2014 California drought,
Additional information:
For instrumental temperature records, see
(I’ve created interactive version here:
For CO2 and temperature data for the past 800,000 years, see CO2:
(I’ve created an interactive version here:
Questions and criticism are welcome
at my blog:
John Garrett -Wildomar

I think the differences between these two illustrate the gulf between reason and ignorance in the climate debate and in many other unnecessarily politicized issues.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comet Splicing

Last night I observed a comet passing through Cassiopeia. Here is a wide-field image with Cassiopeia rising on the right and the comet (a green smudge) almost dead center.

I was using a 28-105 mm zoom lens, so after centering the comet, I took images at maximum zoom:

The comet is just left of center and Cassiopeia's center star is at the right.

Here is an un-cropped wide-field image. Depending on how well this web media preserves the image size and quality, you may be able to click into the image and see the comet and the Andromeda galaxy.

When you think about it, the above image shows Earth, an object from our solar system, our galaxy, and a distant galaxy. 

Using the telephoto lens, you can also detect the comet's movement against the background stars. This animation joins three images taken between 9:40 and 11:05 pm:

The first two frames were taken at focal length 70 mm, and the last at 105 mm. I wasn't planning to capture an animation, so I failed to keep consistent camera settings throughout my session, but you can tell the comet's motion is not due to my inconsistency.


Update: I've added a map showing where to look on Aug 25:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Astro Time Machine

Last night I presented my talk "The Astro Time Machine" to the Julian Starfest. My talk is about my dabblings in the field of archeoastronomy. I share some examples of North American sun shrines and examples of observations made by pre-western contact Native Americans, as well as my own inquiries about local artifacts. Recent work on understanding the alignment of the Egyptian pyramids and the Greek antikythera mechanism comprise my closing chapters.

Image: an illustration I created to depict the loss 
of what came to be known as the antikythera mechanism

As with all my talks, I like to provide my material online, though it lacks suitable annotations for all to follow the talk without assistance.

I'll be giving this presentation to the Temecula Valley Astronomers on Oct. 6, 7:00 pm at the Temecula Library on Pauba Road. This meeting is free and open to the general public.

It is probably my best talk ever. "I wasn't wondering when it would end," said a child in attendance.

My show is on my website here: Bright Stars Temecula Valley
If you view my online version, be prepared for a dearth of on-screen instructions, but an inquisitive person will be able to find the chapters and page through the illustrations. Note: my presentation is in Flash, so I recommend using a standard Flash-enabled browser. Soon, I hope to have an html5 version.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Star Parties in August and September 2014

There are four star parties approaching. Each is free and open to the public.

Saturday, 23 August:

  • Julian Starfest, Menghini Winery, Julian, CA
  • Explore the Stars, Palomar Observatory Campground, Cleveland National Forest
Saturday 20 September:
  • Wildomar, Marna O'Brien Park
Saturday, 27 September:

  • Explore the Stars, Palomar Observatory Campground

The Julian Starfest requires a fee for attending more than the free Saturday night event. For more information, see

Explore the stars is also free, but takes place at Palomar Observatory Campground, therefore most of the attendees are camping. Camping is not free, but people do drive up for the event without camping. For more information on the location, see