Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The True Meaning

(Yes, I post this every year)

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
--Linus Van Pelt (and Charles M Schultz)

Monday, December 24, 2007

A New Rant Today. Can You Believe It?

And it's the same old story. People can't get their facts straight. And this time I'm going to call them out by name.

If you've read my "stories" on here before, you know how I have ranted against the media when it comes to science and scientific accuracy. And most - if not all - of my rants have been focused on one television station: WOOD TV8 here in Grand Rapids. Not only are they the "National Enquirer" and "Weekly World News" of broadcasting, their weather department is a joke as well.

(In fact today they made an intern do the weather in the morning and noon, because the actual paid people probably whined about working today. So let's let someone who isn't even a meteorologist do the forecast. Oh wait... they do that all the time. Not all of their paid weather staff are meteorologists.)

But instead of being nameless (and leaving it up to the reader to dig for the info) today I'm calling one of them out.

Bill Steffen. You Are On Notice

Tonight on their 5pm news, he said three times that there will be a big full moon in the sky tonight,

That's WRONG!!!!

You hear that Bill? YOU ARE WRONG!!!

The full moon was last night, December 23rd. At 8.15pm EST exactly. There are numerous places to get this information, but apparently this fool can't be bothered. You can find it online, in books, and there are computer programs that will tell you (I use a great program called "Moonrise.")

Their tagline on their station for the weather is "accurate forecasting." Well, it isn't very accurate when they can't even get established information correct, let alone the weather (they are 3rd in accuracy locally behind the other two stations).

I can't write about this on my astronomy club's blog, because there I have to be the "voice of reason" and can't have personal vendettas. But here I can.

I urge everyone to boycott WOOD TV8, and send them emails, letters, even call them and tell them they are doing a disservice to the public, and they should be ashamed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shiny Goodness - and Pain

So cool, a present for myself.

I get (for free) an upgrade to a great software package because a few years ago the company bought one of my photos. So yesterday the big upgrade came in the mail.

I go out and get it from the box, turn and trip over my own big feet. The result? A dislocated finger on my right hand. And it's the important finger: the one I flip people off with.

So I go to the med station, and they say it's not broken, just dislocated. In fact, when it happened, I popped it back in when I grabbed the finger, spouting expletives into the crisp winter air. So it hurts like a bitch.

But last night I got the software up and running, and it's really cool. But typing's a bitch.

Why does everything happen to my right hand? When I was a kid, I got the ring finger slammed in a door. Then a few years later, playing football, I got the pinky bent backward and broken. Then, many years later, while cutting a mat for a photograph, I put the cutter (razor) through my hand. Oh yeah, I've also dislocated my thumb on that hand. But now how can I give people the bird if that finger is taped to the next one? Is there such a thing as a single-hand-double-bird?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Power and Popularity

Before I get into the subject matter, I have to say right now Dell is on my "cool" list. They fixed my laptop in two days. I sent it out last Friday, and it came back Wednesday. Had a bad hard drive and a bad board. Now to load everything on it.

Okay, on to the subject...

It is a known fact in this world that the people that hold the power (be it in actuality or implied) have the friends and popularity. And once said power is taken away, the "friends" and the popularity go as well. What does that have to do with me, who has neither? Well, in about 30 days I'll have less than neither, I'm guessing.

I'm considering it quite seriously to step down and resign all my positions in my local astronomy club except for the website (which is my baby: I designed it, built it, kept it warm in the winter and cool in the summer). My term as President is up in January, and the other positions I "hold" are mine by the simple reason that no one else wants to do them (or do anything, for that matter).

So if I leave it all behind, what will I be leaving, you ask?

A position on the board of directors for the corporation; the officership; editor and publisher of the newsletter; publicity; database management; media relations; membership affairs; correspondence; public event scheduling, and meetings and programs. Oh yeah, and the website.

I currently do ALL of this. And in reality, I'm only supposed to be President. People have become lazy, and are letting me do this because they are slugabed bastards. "In the good old days" as the saying goes, we had separate people for each of those jobs aforementioned. But not anymore. And I'm sick of doing it.

I'd like to take at least a year off. A year to kick back, de-stress, concentrate on my wellbeing, do some casual observing, photography, etc. I don't want to have to worry about meetings, programs, newsletters, etc etc etc etc.

And I know that if I go ahead and do this, I will be diminished. I'm sure that - once I don't have a position of power, the individuals who "hang around" me (whether often or rare) will fall by the wayside.

Do I care? I don't really know. I've been alone so long, fending for myself, that I don't know if I would miss anything or anyone.

Perhaps if I were left alone I could find my tail (I'm supposedly called "Eeyore" by some people).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Spanking, a Spanking!!

No, not a skit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately it's real life, and it's happening in Massachusetts. Proposed by someone named Kathleen Wolf.

The idiots in the government, along with some really bad idiots in the public sector (see the name above), want to outlaw corporal punishment completely. Even at home.

Supposedly it's to stop child abuse. But it's not. It's just a way for a small minority of religious zealots to get their way by abusing the rights of the citizens of this country.

My brother and I were spanked when we were kids, and we both grew up fine. We weren't beaten - just punished when we did something wrong. In fact, I remember being hit with a switch once, that i had to go out and get myself. And you can be sure that I never did anything bad enough to get hit with that again.

There's nothing wrong with spanking your kids. I don't agree with child abuse, and I think that people that abuse their kids should be put to death slowly. But to take away the right of a parent to discipline their child is just wrong. What's next, you can slap their hand when they are reaching for a hot pan on the stove.

The government needs to start realizing that the citizens of this country DO NOT WANT THEM MEDDLING IN THEIR (citizen's) AFFAIRS! Make laws, but keep your noses out of a person's private business.

To quote a young River Tam: "People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."

So hey Massachusetts! Keep your paws out of our houses!!! What's next for your stupid state? Teaching Intelligent Design in schools? Will it never stop?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Comets and more comets

Tonight was a milestone for me. I saw another comet. Now, that might not be big news for some, but it is for me.

Tonight I observed the comet 17P/Holmes, a small comet located in the constellation Perseus. This was an unplanned observation, but one I couldn't turn down. See, normally this comet is way below "normal" visibility. It takes a large telescope to see it. However, yesterday the comet brightened unexpectedly by a factor of 500,000 times! It went from "need a big scope" to "naked eye" visibility in a super outburst rarely seen. Sure, comets have outbursts, but nothing like this.

So I went out and was able to see it easily in the northeastern sky. It looked starlike, and to the uninformed they wouldn't notice anything different, but I had a sky chart for the comet, and it was easy to see that the constellation Perseus had an "extra" star.

So I got to see it, and I took a few photos. And the big news for me - it was the fiftieth (50th) comet I've seen in my years as an astronomer.

Cool, eh?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feelings About Space

(Note: Over on Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy site, some people responded to Phil's blog post about NASA mission and the shuttle. On the whole I tend to agree with Phil, but this time I have to take my own stand on the feelings about NASA, the shuttle, ISS, etc. So I posted this over there, and - since I wrote it - I am putting it here on my blog as well)...

Say what you will, but from a standpoint of “showing off” the wonders of the space program (and astronomy), there’s nothing like pointing out ISS (and the shuttle at times) going overhead to the public, especially at star parties. They are just amazed that you can see things like that.

And truthfully, no matter now many times I’ve seen ISS and the shuttles pass overhead in the night sky, I go out and look every time (unless it’s cloudy).

Some might think it’s “fluff,” but it’s also a teaching experience for the public. And any way that we can educate the public as to the wonders of science (instead of that other crap) — well, it’s a benefit.

I can tell you, in all the times we (in our astronomy club) talk about the shuttle and the station, not one individual is bored. They hang on our every word. The public is fascinated, no matter what the media says.

And personally, I feel just like a little kid again every time I see a launch, landing, docking, or even the shuttle and/or ISS going over my head. And if, after all these years, I don’t lose the excitement and wonderment, why should be be anything if not proactive in sharing it with the public?

Last week I saw the film In the Shadow of the Moon, and saw images of kids lying on the floor in front of the television watching Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface. It brought to my mind that I was doing the exact same thing at the same time as those kids on the screen - I was lying on the floor of my uncle’s house with my cousins watching the drama unfold from 240,000 miles away.

And even though it’s been nearly forty years, I haven’t lost the interest, wonderment, and amazement of space and astronomy.

So remember, no matter what you think about a certain part of the space program personally, don’t forget the underlying love you have for it in general.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To the Moon

I just got back from watching the documentary film "In the Shadow of the Moon" about the Apollo program to send humans to the lunar surface.

It... was... excellent.

It makes a fine companion piece to the Al Reinart film "For All Mankind."

I'm going to see about sending an email to the people who made the movie, telling them how much I loved it, and hoping that there will be a multi-disc DVD of the film soon.

Go out and see it if you can.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It was 60 Years Ago Today....

The clear skies over southern California was ripped by a small, orange machine, and a sound never heard before issued forth from the cerulean skies... Boom!!!

The Sound Barrier was exceeded.

Congratulations to Chuck Yeager, the first. And just to prove he's still got it, just last month he went Mach 1 in an F-16.

(Tip of the supersonic hat to Phil Plait, who mentioned it at his Bad Astronomy site.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So I Figured as Much

I gave this a few days so I could try and be calm and rational about this. Heh, we'll see.

As I predicted, my photos didn't get any recognition at the show. I still believe that it's because the subject of the prints was literally above the heads of the judges. Plus, looking back, the stars visible in the images might have been mistaken for dust spots.

I went to the unveiling, and I only asked my friend Sasha to attend, because she's about the only one who understands my feelings towards my work. So I get there, find her, and we look around. My photos are on a side table with some other pictures, as they didn't have enough of the presentation panels for all the images. Eh, whatever.

Many of the submitted images were very good, but there were some that just weren't my taste. However, what I alluded to actually happened: of the top six pictures, one was of a kitty-cat, and one was of a frog. So of course, I got kind of pissed off. But it's my fault, because I had actually started to think that I might have a chance at someone liking my work. So I got kind of down in my attitude, and just moped around there for about another half hour and then left. Sasha said she only had to hit me three times - or was it four? (She knows).

So the prints are hanging in a local township office for a month during the show, and then I can pick them up. And since I have no use for them, the will go in the back of the closet, possibly to not see the light of day for a long long time.

I don't think I will allow myself to be talked into doing anything like this again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Really Did It

Well, tomorrow night is the big reveal, and I'll see if other people think my photos are any good. Last night I did get an email from the show official, thanking me for my contributions, and letting me know that they are part of the show (106 images in all for the show).

They also said that during the show opening tomorrow night, there will be a "People's Choice" vote for the images. Heh, maybe I should get a bunch of people I know to show up and vote for my stuff. I had invited Sasha and Tony to come, and I know a couple of others who will be there because they are part of the event. So there's a few votes. But I purposefully didn't tell anyone I did this. Mainly because A) like I said, I don't think I'm any good, and B) I don't really want the attention. So on the off chance I do win something, no one's likely to know except me. I don't even know if I will tell my family. And even though I put a price on my prints, I seriously doubt anyone will want to buy them. So when the show closes in another month, I will have two framed enlargements that I can set in my closet and collect dust.

Oh well, just over 24 hours will tell...

Monday, September 10, 2007

So I Did It

I broke down and actually submitted some photographs to a local show/contest.

I was told a few months ago that there was going to be a photo contest in the surrounding townships to "explore the beauty of nature around you." People were encouraged to "discover the hidden gems of nature in your backyard."

Well, the person who told me of this thought that my photographs of the aurora (northern lights) over the observatory would be perfect: it's in a township, and it's nature. How much more do you need?

Well, I said yes, but didn't really mean it.

Fast forward to the last week of August. For reasons that are too painful to go into, I decided to enter this show. But I had one possibly insurmountable obstacle: where were the negatives for photos shot nearly six years ago? I have a terrible filing system - no system. All of my negatives are in three big boxes (you know, the kind you get 10 reams of copy paper in?) and that means I have to go through them. It took a while, but I eventually found the negatives. Now I had to get some good prints of them.

The only place to go is the local pro lab - Corporate Color/Prolab Express. So here's my daily journey to getting my negatives made into prints for the show...

August 30 - Drive out to the new place where CC/PE is (even father away from my house, but better than downtown). I had the negatives to my friend Sasha who works there, so they can be scanned for printing. I am having four negatives scanned at high resolution, and small prints made of each for color comparison. They will be ready after the Labor Day Holiday.

September 4 - Back out to CC/PE to pick up the CD-rom of the scans (plus the original negatives and prints). Now I need to take them back home, make sure I don't need to adjust anything, and get the back out to the lab. I can do it all via the interweb tubes, but wish to make this personal. Because I have some questions, Sasha agrees to help me that evening with the scans. She does, but ends up taking the CD-R home to work on them. I already have the copies on my laptop, so I will try my hand as well.

September 5 - After I put the touches on the scanned images, I upload them to my account at CC/PE, but then I drive all the way out there to do the actual order. Sasha thinks I should just get some 4x6 copies to double-check the color saturation, which I do. Meanwhile I ask around about mounting and framing, and a few places want nearly $150 for each print. Mind you, I'm currently unemployed. I can't afford anything like that.

September 6 - Drive back out to the lab again. I look at the prints with the help of Sasha, Becky, and Kathy, and decide on the two I will have made into enlargements. I order them via the computer, and come home. Two hours later I don't have the confirmation email, so I check my account - oops! I never hit the "submit" button, so the order was never processed. I quickly rectify the situation.

September 7 - Back out to the lab to pick up the 8x12 enlargement prints. They look okay. Sasha, Becky, & Kathy think they are great; sure winners. Kathy gives me suggestions on naming the images. I thank them, then go and find out about mounting/framing. To save money, I have the prints mounted at one place, and I purchase a frame at another one. I then take everything home and proceed to put them together: Clean the glass, make sure there is no dust on the glass or prints; glass in the frame; then print; then fasten it all in the frame.

All weekend - Worry about why I am doing this.

September 10 - Deliver the prints to the Township Hall. It's out of my hands now.

Judging will be later this week, and an "artist meet and greet" next week Tuesday, when the winners will be announced. Also, the top twelve images will be made into a 2008 calendar.

Now, because I don't think my stuff is any good, I'm really not sure why I entered this show. I really have no great expectations (please, no Dickens comments) about my changes for recognition. The main reason is that while my photos do show the "natural beauty" of the area, because it is about astronomy, it might be (literally) over the heads of the judges - who are all local professional photographers. They might not like it because they can't understand it.

So that is okay, I guess. But if I find out that I lost to someone who took a snapshot of a deer in their yard, or a rock, or a duck, I'll be pretty pissed. We'll find out in just over a week.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Eclipse Observing

I know this is a few days late, but what the heck.

Tuesday morning's eclipse is now a few days past. It was a really great show, especially out over Lake Michigan.

My brother and I left around 4.30am to get to Grand Haven pier, in order to have a nice, flat horizon in which to see the eclipse. Plus, I had a thought about some great photo opportunities.

We had to walk about a half-mile from where we parked to the pier (because there are closed gates all over the place at night - you would think they were trying to keep people out), and just as we got to the beach the moon because fully immersed in the umbra of the Earth's shadow. It was a darker eclipse than I had seen in previous years, and the cameras came out. While we were shooting, there were some interesting side notes.

We weren't the only ones there. There were other people on the pier to see the eclipse, and some of them had cameras. We talked with one woman for quite a while, and she was hoping to get some nice images. She was from the Grand Rapids area, and had been to the observatory years ago, and promised she would be going out there again.

I also ran into Steve, who has been a frequent visitor to the observatory in the past few months. He had thought the pier would be an excellent place to see the eclipse, so he came out to hang out on the beach. I spent a little time explaining eclipse physics to him, and hopefully he came away with some good information.

As it got lighter I wanted an image of the moon next to the lighthouse, so I left my brother and walked out past the one lighthouse to the end of the pier. There, I was able to get a shot of the fully-eclipsed moon - which was dimming in the rising light of morning twilight - next to the lighthouse. I then turned around and shot the bigger lighthouse bathed in the glow of said twilight. I could even see Venus low in the eastern sky through the thin clouds.

We ended up leaving around 7.15, since the sun was up and the moon was down. As we walked back to our car, the woman we had been talking to drove by and waved. Hours later, my brother actually ran into her at Meijer, as she was shopping with her kids.

All in all it was a good morning, except I was dog tired all day, and even on Wednesday. Now to hope that the next eclipse, in February, will be clear. But it's Michigan, so...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WOOD TV - Evil Weather

Okay, this is an outright rant against local television meteorologists. I'll warn you right now.

I've raged against the evil media a few times before, and I'm going to do it again.

Today we had some severe weather in the area. There was a possible tornado just to the northeast of my location. It was a TVS (tornadic votex signature) on the National Weather Service radar. Now, that happens a lot of times. Most of the time it's nothing. But a warning was issued for the area, and the meteorologists at WOOD TV went into full "storm attack panic mode."

They went on the air with the warning, and didn't get off for over three hours. Other stations did what they were supposed to: report, show the radar, and get back to regular programming. Oh, but not WOOD TV. They have to waste everyone's time, and possibly creating a panic, by "beating the horse to death" (incessantly talking and not having information). They bothered people up in the affected area with phone calls (at one point talking to the sheriff up there, who said "we have seen nothing that you are talking about").

That's the funny thing: they ask people to call in, and then when they do, the meteorologists ask them questions they couldn't possibly know, and also feed their fears. They are asking pointed questions, and people are scared. How low can a person go? Oh yeah, it's all for ratings.

At one point one of the meteorologists said "The NWS radar is tripping," which is usually that another TVS alarm went off. But the other meteorologist said "oh no! What that happens, it's catastrophic!!" What!??

And then, when there wasn't much happening from the tornado area, they started in on some storms down by Chicago. "This is going be a derecho, and I don't know why the NWS doesn't call it that." Once again, they were sensationalizing the facts. There was no derecho, just a standard MCS (mesoscale convective system), and it was over 100 miles away. But they turned their full attention to it, going as far as calling one of their daughters in Chicago to get her "take" on the storm. She's not a meteorologist!!!

I think they finally got off the air for the evening news. It was about damned time.

I hate WOOD TV Channel 8 and all they stand for. They are nothing but bottom feeders, leaching off the publics fears and frustrations. They are the "National Enquirer" of local news. They are beneath contempt.

And for the meteorologists, who are supposed to be scientists, I loath even more. As a scientist, you are supposed to remain calm, in control. You are supposed to observe the data, record the data, and formulate your results. You use the scientific method. You don't sensationalize the information.

Yes, you have to make the information palatable for the viewers, the public. But give them the information - don't inflate it!

To the Weather Department at WOOD TV: You have no honor. You have no integrity. You have sold yourselves and your souls. You are beneath contempt. You can scum. The dregs of humanity. And I will tell everyone I can how terrible you are, and what a disservice you do to the public and media at large.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google Astronomy

I don't know if you heard about this yet - I just did a few hours ago -

It's part of the latest Google Earth, and you can check out the sky from wherever you are on earth.

You can zoom, pan, etc. I have not yet played with it yet, but will soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Endeavour Lands Safely

The space shuttle Endeavour landed safely a few minutes ago at Kennedy Space Center.

Thank God I was wrong.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Changes - Birth and Death

The week that was saw the announcement of the new, and the departure of the old.

A friend of mine from Hollyweird called me last Wednesday night, and announced that he and his wife were expecting their first child. Great news.

Then, about an hour later, storms rolled through the area where I used to hang out in the summers when I was a kid, the small town were my Dad grew up. There were two EF1 tornadoes, plus a wider microburst that destroyed my grandfather's barn.

That barn was easily 120 years old. My cousins and I used to play around in that barn all the time, despite our mothers' cautions that "it was dangerous." Heck, I think the cause of my first tetanus shot was messing around in that barn and cutting my arm on a rusty nail. But it was a fun place to hang out for a bunch of young boys.

And now it's gone. Just the memories remain.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shuttle NOT to be fixed

Right now on NASA TV the Mission Status Briefing they are stating that there will be no spacewalk to fix the tiles on the underside of the orbiter. There is "no danger to the crew." "I am 100% confident that there will be no problems."

Famous last worlds.

I'm sorry, but in the immortal words of Han Solo: "I've got a bad feeling about this."

I don't know, and I'm the first to admit I don't have all the data, but my gut tells me that this decision could be trouble. And the time is 9.47 PM EDT on August 16, 2007.

If - God Forbid - something happens, it will spell the end of the shuttle mission right away. There will be no more ISS contruction missions, no vitally important mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. We will not have the capabilities to launch people into orbit until 2014 with Orion.

Please God, let me be wrong.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Random Synapse Firing - Part 34b

Last night at our observatory, the subject of photography came up. We spent time talking about CCD photography, and shooting with regular cameras. We imparted some knowledge to the public who were in attendance for the observatory's open night, and I didn't think anything more about it.

Until about a half hour ago.

Mind you, until I can find the money (or a benefactor - anyone out there?) for a digital SLR and equipment, I'm working with film. And there are times when i just want to go out and shoot photos for the heck of it. When i do that, my standard statement is:

"I'm going out to waste film."

Now here's the dilemma. If I ever go digital, what happens to my quote? You can't really "waste" a digital image. Can I really say "I"m going out to waste pixels?"

Now you see the conundrum I am in.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What's up with Birthdays?

Disclaimer: I am neither confirming nor denying that today is my birthday. That really doesn't matter (trust me, the number of people who actually know can be counted on less than one hand) but I just don't "get" birthdays.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't see the big deal. It's kind of embarrassing, all the attention. People that really know me understand that I vehemently avoid attracting attention to myself. I don't talk about myself, I don't flaunt what I do, I try to remain in the background. I just think it's wrong to boast about your accomplishments. Isn't it like a sin? You know... Pride? Vanity?

So when people (mainly my folks) try to wish me a happy birthday, I get mad. I usually spend the day away from everyone, don't answer the phone, etc. I guess I don't see the big deal about birthdays. I don't know what I would do if there was a party. Good thing that it won't be happening before we are hit by the rogue asteroid. :)

Other people celebrate their birthdays. Heck, they throw their own parties. But I've never thought that was a good idea. It's very self-centered, I think. Oh well, I guess I'm the weird one.

I did have this kind of wistful, hopeful feeling that I would find that , as a present, I was given a new camera, but I know that my folks can't afford it. And it's kind of a matter of personal pride (I hope it's not the wrong kind of pride) that I've bought all my own photography equipment over the years. I would love to buy my own digital SLR. Here's the one I would love to have:

And of course a couple of great lenses, ones that I can use for astronomy, plus portraits and weddings.

But that stuff costs money. Money I don't have, because I don't have a job. And at my age, it's an embarrassment (especially to my folks, who I can't help but think I'm a disappointment to them) not to have a job. I need to work on that. But I know that if I had the digital equipment, I'd be more motivated to go out there and do photography.

Oh well. rant/musing over. Back to science later.

Godspeed Endeavour

The space shuttle Endeavour has successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, and is now on orbit. Head over to SpaceWatch Michigan for a post about the launch.

This launch is cool for me personally, but I can't tell you why. :)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Phoenix Has Risen

At 5.26am EDT, the Phoenix spacecraft sat atop a fiery tail as it ascended into the early morning skies over Cape Canaveral, beginning its journey to the Red Planet.

Next stop - Mars in May of 2008. Phoenix will land near the North Pole region of Mars, and will study water in the Martian soil, as well as take other measurements.

Follow the mission from the websites at NASA and Arizona University.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fresh Apollo Images!!

This I am really excited about.

I read the enws release this mroning that NASA amd Arizona State University have hooked up to present pristine digital images of the Apollo missions. This is so cool! Here's part of the press release...
Nearly 40 years after man first walked on the moon, the complete lunar photographic record from the Apollo project will be accessible to both researchers and the general public on the Internet. A new digital archive -- created through a collaboration between Arizona State University and NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston -- is making available high-resolution scans of original Apollo flight films. They are available to browse or download at http://apollo.sese.asu.edu
Any fan of the space program is going to be bombarding that site to grab these images. What a great way to start of the morning (in fact, I can see the waning gibbous moon out my window as I write this).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Happy Cross Quarter Day!!

Isn't it wonderful?

Plus, last night the harvest began, as I was able to pick the first tomato of the year. Ah, such sweet, bountiful goodness.

Ini other news, we still have idiots - er, people - who think that Mars is going to be something really great to look at this month. Silly people. There have been many hits on the page I put up on the astronomy club's blog, and I have no idea how many hits have been on sites like Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy. But there's probably more than a few.

The one thing that sucks about August (there's more than one, and friends of mine know that big "suckage one") is that this is the month where we lose daylight like it's running down a drain. Now, as an astronomer, I like the darkness as much (if not more) than the next person (as long as they're an astronomer), but I love the long days of summer.

Case in point. Today, the sun will set here at 9.04pm EDT. On August 31st, the sun will set at 8.19pm! We'll lose 45 minutes of sunlight in the evening. Sunrise today was 6.33am, sunrise on the 31st? 7.05am. Another 1/2 hour lost. So in the month of August, we lost 1.25 hours of sunlight. Bleagghh.

But the good side to that is more darkness in which to observe. Which is always good.

As long as there are clear skies.

Finally, a shout out to AstroGeek, who I found added this site and my astronomy club's blog to his blogroll. I have since reciprocated.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mars is NOT Good This August

Sheesh, that stupid Mars email is going around again. Just late the past few years. I dont' want to write about it, so I will direct you to a page on my astronomy club's site...

So go over there, read it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Science is Sexy

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was on The Daily Show yesterday, and had some great lines. Here are a few...

Stewart: "Isn't it unknowable? Isn't the trouble with your job (astrophysics and outreach) not knowing?"
Tyson: "That is not the trouble. That is the seduction."
Stewart: "You just blew my mind."

Tyson: "We know that Mars was wet and fertile before Earth was."
Stewart: "Why is it when you talk about science... I get horny?"
Tyson: "It's exciting stuff."

Tyson: "You keep pushing it, and you reach the boundary of our knowledge. That is the ignorance that attracts us all."
Stewart: "
Tyson: "You realize that this offers you a cosmic perspective, because so many among us have such huge egos, that you look out in the Universe and you can't possibly sustain such self-importance in the face of what the Universe tells you. For example, how important are you when you then learn that one centimeter length of your colon contains more bacteria living and working there than the number of people who have ever lived on earth."
Stewart: "All I can say is this. Thank God the opposite isn't true."
Tyson: "There are more stars in the Universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of the world. There are more stars in the Universe than sounds and words ever uttered by everyone who has ever lived. Venus is so hot it will cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza out on the windowsill in nine seconds."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Must-See Movie

Continuing the theme from Friday's post, there is a documentary coming out in the theaters in September that should be on every space enthusiasts' calendar.

It's called "In the Shadow of the Moon" and is a film about the Apollo program. The director interviewed many of the surviving Apollo astronauts (but not Neil, of course. Too bad) about their missions, their view, and their experiences.

Here is a link to the film's website...

It's supposed to be released September 7th in the USA. Let's hope it's a "wide release."

Friday, July 20, 2007

One Small Step Years Ago

Mankind first set foot on the moon. I remember seeing it live when I was a kid.

I'm glad we are going back, but we never should have left. It was a big mistake on the part of the politicians back then.

I have written about it on a blog I write for my local astronomy club, so head on over and check that one out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Carnival of Space #12

The newest version of the "famed in song and story" Carnival of Space is up and available for viewing and adoration, hosted this week by Bruce at his Music of the Spheres site.

So head on over, and revel in the space news by the best the blogging world has to offer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Romantic Astronomy Part 2

Back in May I posted a little ditty about Romance in Astronomy. It engendered a couple of comments from the blogger community, which is nice. Glad to see that I'm not writing this for myself.

But I had also posted this on my myspace page (my myspace? oh oh. :) ) and my friend Sasha commented on it there. I'll skip most of her comment, but I wanted to share this part...
Now, I also have to be a bit cheesy here and say that Romantic astronomy is not dead. (wait for it, the cheesy part is coming...) Now things may be automated and some of the fun may be lost by the technology, but I'll tell you what...I am head over heels in love with our night sky. (Yes, that's the cheesy part.) I may be just starting out, but my gaze has always been at the sky...and it is a rush to see something new, or learn something new every time I look through a telescope. (Thanks to you no less!:) Teaching newbies, and getting people excited about astronomy is something that you do very well. To me, teaching something that you are passionate about only fuels the fire for other people to become passionate as well. You my friend are keeping the romance alive.
It's nice to know that when you make the attempt to widen the horizons of others, sometimes it works. I spend countless hours preaching the word of astronomy and science to both friends and strangers, and often wonder if my words have any effect. Mind you, I'm not looking for glory or the like; I just want people to be able to appreciate the universe they live in. And when I can impart a little expertise to someone, and they take it up and go further, that's what it's all about.

This past weekend we had a public night at our club's observatory. Of the hundred or so people there, a few visitors were really into learning about the night sky. So much, in fact, that they were there after our "closing time." I was still moving the telescope around to various objects, showing them off, when one of the people said "oh, it's okay, we don't want to keep you." I replied "you're not. That's what I'm here for", and it's true.

If someone is really interested in astronomy (or away from the observatory, anything else I'm talking about) I will make the time to talk to them more: to give them more information, insight, and experiences. Because what good is having knowledge when you can't share it?

And that's the big thing; sharing what you know.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Greatest Toon Ever

I was going to post my second part in my ongoing ranting about media, but something much more important crossed by virtual desktop, courtesy of Phil Plait and his Bad Astronomy site.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Warner Brothers cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?" And I must agree with him, it's the best cartoon ever. I rank it up there with other WB cartoons, including Duck Dogers, all the Marvin the Martian, and other Bugs toons. As I wrote in the comments on Phil's site...
All hail the almighty Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc!!

There's a CD that came out a few years ago called "Bugs Bunny on Broadway" and it includes this, Rabbit of Seville, and a bunch of others. We played it one night for a guy we know who professes himself as a "classical music expert." As the first strains of Wagner came up, he was "ahhh yes!!!" and was "air-conducting" along with the music. But as soon as heard Elmer Fudd, he got really ticked off: "ohh!! how dare they!!!!" We just laughed and laughed.

And to prove I have true geek moments, I've been know to - when a storm is coming - run outside and quote "Arise storms... North winds blow, south winds blow... Typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, SMOG!.. Flash lightning strike the rabbit!" :)
Ahh, my day has been made. :)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Random Synapse Firing

I'm going to rant again about the callous attitude of the local media in a while, but here are a few quickie things...

  • It's going to be frackin' hot today. Yeah, perhaps not as hot as out west, but here we get the humidity as well. At 6.45am the temperature was 78 with a dewpoint of 69. That's muggy. High today should be in the middle 90's. And the humidity will stay.
  • Last night I observed Comet C/2006 VZ13 (LINEAR). That might not be news to anyone else, or mean anything to anyone else, but it was the 49th comet I have seen in my short life. Maybe when I see 50 I'll get a set of steak knives!!!!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Wow!! Look at the date!!! It's 07/07/07!!!! Isn't it cool?

Big frackin' deal. It's Saturday, July 7, 2007. That's all.

If you have bought into the special significance of today by the media, you are a mindless drone. I feel sorry for you.

It's just another day here on earth as we swing around the sun. The only thing special about 07/07/07 was that at midnight Universal Time, the earth was at aphelion.

Some of these idiots who believe today is a special day -- pregnant women are having labor induced, so their babies are born today!!! And couples are flocking to wedding chapels (especially Vegas) to get married today!!! All because they think it will be lucky.

Just because a particular date comes around, is not the basis for making life decisions. These people have serious issues. My god, YOU ARE IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Planetary Sunsets

Look at the image below....

Is it...
  1. The view from a planet around the star Gliese 581?

  2. The star of the doomed planet Krypton? See the stellar material being blown off the upper left? Soon it will explode, but not before a young Kal-El is sent to Earth, to his destiny?
Or is it just an ordinary summer sunset here on earth; the haze and humidity and rayleigh scattering turning the sun red.

Nevertheless, it was a great evening to photograph sunsets. No matter what planet you were on.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Carnival of Space #9

The ninth edition of Carnival of Space is ready for your reading enjoyment. This week it is being hosted by The Planetary Society's weblog.

Carnival of Space - 9th Edition

Tip of the hat to Pamela Gay. If I hadn't been reading her blog (which you can access in the menu at right) I would have forgotten all about it. I've been working on some photographs I shot a few days ago, and another post to the SpaceWatch astronomy blog.

So head on over and read this weeks' CoS (I should remember to submit stuff to it each week), and also check out Pamela's site along with SpaceWatch.

Someday I might get my act together. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Space on the Interweb

Well, as if I didn't have enough to do, I've started a blog for my local astronomy club. It won't go live until tomorrow (I'm rolling it out at the Summer Solstice), but you can go and take a look if you wish.

I'm trying the free version of Wordpress, just because I don't want to clutter up the club's domain at this time. If, in the future, it would be better to host it ourselves, I'll get the full version.

Meanwhile, check out Spacewatch

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Let's go to the Carnival (of Space)!

(I should have posted this Thursday morning, but was no where near a computer with internet access for a few days. Sorry all.)

The latest Carnival of Space (#7) is up and being hosted by Dr. Pamela Gay at her Star Stryder site. Head on over there and read the Carnival blogs.

And while you're there, read what Pamela has to say. There's a reason I have a link to her site on this one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Public Perception and the Night Sky

It's interesting to note that with today's hectic world where most of the people don't bother do go out and "hang out" in nature, that sometimes - being unfamiliar with the surroundings - they "see things." Something that might be "ordinary" to astronomers might lead to an "oh wow, what's that?" moment to someone who is not knowledgeable of the night sky.

Case in point: it's been beautifully clear here for a week now, and with the warm evenings people have actually ventured outside, casting aside the computers and the television. Perhaps its to work in the yard; perhaps to take a stroll around the neighborhood. And as the daylight dims through twilight into darkness, the stars come out. Now, if you live in, or close to, a city, you don't get to see many stars, so if something in the sky catches your eye, especially something bright, it piques the interest.

So I receive an forwarded email from a local meteorologist, asking me if I had any clue to what this guy saw. Apparently the person was outside and saw a "real bright light in the southeast sky, and a 'much larger' one in the west. If you are an astronomy geek, you already know what this person had seen.

Yes, someone had stepped outside and saw Jupiter hanging low in the southeast, and when they turned around, there was Venus glowing like a beacon in the western sky. And since these two objects are the brightest things out at night currently (since the moon is nearly new) they "pop out" of the twilight sky much earlier than the stars. And they get the attention of the public.

But why did this person see Venus has "much larger?" It's all in the eyes and the brain. In the same vein as the "moon illusion" but with a twist.

Especially in the night sky, a person's eyes and brain work together to fool each other into thinking that "brighter is bigger." This phenomenon is not type-specific to the general public, but also includes members of the astronomical (and other scientific) community.

All you have to do is go out and look at the night sky some evening. You will see a smattering of stars across the canopy of the sky, and you will notice one thing right away: some stars are brighter than others. And even though they are all point light sources, your brain is fooled into thinking that the brighter ones are larger (and sometimes closer). But that is not always the case, especially with stars.

Basically all the stars we see in the night sky are so far away from Earth, they appear as points of light. But stars are not equal: some are brighter than others, and some are closer to earth than others. But they are all far enough away to present a pinpoint of light to the human eye. But a combination of distance and brightness lead our brains to think that if a star is brighter, it's bigger.

So what does that have to do with Jupiter and Venus? Everything. Although Jupiter is much larger than Venus (142,984 km vs. 12,103.6 km), it is much further away from the sun (778,000 km vs. 108,200 km). This also means two other things - Venus is closer to the Earth, and - because it's closer to the sun - receives a greater intensity of the sunlight. This, combined with the makeup of the Venusian atmosphere, means that more light is reflected from the planet than from Jupiter.

Visually, the apparent diameter of both planets at the current time gives the size advantage (almost double) to Jupiter. So in this case, "size doesn't matter." It all has to do wither perception. Because Venus is the brightest object in the night sky - apart from the moon - our brain sees it as being larger than anything else up there. Eyes+brain -- brighter=larger. We have been fooled.

Hopefully my explanation to this person (via the meteorologist) will cause them to look up and the night sky more, and even perhaps begin a wondrous astronomical journey through the universe.

Or the next time they will think it's a UFO.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Out into the Black

Last evening, the space shuttle Atlantis leapt off the launch pad, setting a course to the International Space Station. They are bringing new truss segments, solar wings, swapping out crew members, and delivering supplies.

One of the items that is on the manifest, which was requested, is the DVD set of Firefly. It's funny. A television show that was canceled due to ineptness by narrow-minded corporate executives continues to live on, and is now going to be watched by people not living on the planet.

It goes to show that you can't stop the signal. There are Browncoats everywhere.

That is shiny!

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Curse of Perfection

"Well let me enlighten you people! This baby has satellite comlink. We've got on-board pulse Doppler, we've got NEXRAD real time. Today, we're gonna make history. So stick around. Cuz' the days of sniffin' the dirt are over." - Jonas Miller, Twister

And so goes the battle between technology and instinct.

Yesterday the word got out that there was a chance of some really severe weather in our area. All the signs looked right for a few days, and the media weather-panic machine was going into full "storm alert" mode. The one local station (which I've written about before, because they are evil) even has their meteorologists doing blogs on their websites, which the public can lave comments on.

Well, starting Wednesday the comments really began about the possibility of severe weather for Thursday. And yesterday morning they really ramped up, with some of the public comments bordering on really scared and frightened individuals.

So I got on there around 10.30 in the morning and tried to be the voice of calm and reason. That went over sort of okay, but there were some people on there - and I don't know their credentials - who were going on about how bad it was going to be in the area later in the evening and overnight. I kept up with the "everything's going to be fine," and at one point I basically said that there wasn't going to be any severe weather. Well, one voice in a choir isn't heard. And I said it more than once.


So I continue to make little comments there throughout the day, and in the meantime I'm on a weather forum talking about how I don't think we're going to get much. oh sure, there's tornado watches/warnings to the west in Wisconsin, but we have big old Lake Michigan between us, and it's water is still pretty cold. Storms that attempt to cross the lake don't usually make it, especially those that try it overnight when there's no heating from the sun. So despite what the meteorologists and the computers were saying, I didn't think we would get anything. Heck, I didn't even get out my chaser/spotter stuff.

In fact, at the 6pm news, the "evil media" station's meteorologist was still talking big, severe storms late at night, but the other station (which is not as evil) had their meteorologist talking about the storms moving to the south of us, and perhaps the local area getting nothing.

Well, just after 11pm the SPC (Storm Prediction Center) posted a tornado watch for our area until 6am. I thought it was a waste of a watch, and didn't pay any attention to it, and went to bed at my regular time.

Cut to 7.00am. I get out of bed, and look out the window. The pavement was wet (well, damp) but not soaked. The rain gauge said .02 inches of rain. Our patio, which floods when we get downpours, was dry. So there were no storms overnight, and especially no severe ones.

Once again, the media was crying wolf, and I was the voice of "reason." But since "Wolf!!" was being sounded so loud, I wasn't being heard.

So all these people yesterday were panicking for nothing.


I hate being right all the time. People just don’t understand what a burden it really is. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is "Romantic" Astronomy Dead?

On CNN's site today is a link which says "Technology is taking romance out of astronomy." It's about Geoff Marcy and his search for planets outside of our solar system. In the article, Marcy is quoted as saying...
"There are no eyepieces anywhere. In fact, we don't have an eyepiece for the Keck telescope... Some of the romance of astronomy is gone."
He's absolutely correct, in my opinion.

Now, I'm not a Luddite. I know that the advances in technology are allowing us to peer farther into space than we have ever done before, opening up new vistas of wonder to the scientific community. But it is impersonal.

I remember having a conversation with a colleague a few years ago as we were sitting in one of the domes of our observatory doing some imaging. We were using a Paramount system, with the latest and greatest CCD cameras and filters. Sure, we were getting tremendous results, but it was antiseptic; there was no real work involved.

The telescope guided itself, the dome moved by itself, the filters changed automatically for each of the exposures. We just sat there in the dark and talked, looking out of the dome opening. Heck, we didn't even really need to be in the dome.

Our conversation was about the so-called progression of the art of astrophotography over the years. As we sat there letting the computers do all the work, I complained that the image would be good, but there's just something about putting a film camera to a telescope, meticulously focusing the image, and then being extra-extremely meticulous is keeping a star in the crosshairs of a guiding eyepiece for up to an hour at a time (in all kinds of temperatures) that gives a person more of a sense of accomplishment than just letting the scope and computer do all the work.

To take a photo with a film camera takes time, patience, and experience. The person earns the resulting photograph. With electronic imaging, you get a pretty picture by sitting around doing nothing. It takes no expertise at all to make a couple of mouse clicks and sit back in a lounge chair for a while.

(I'm not going to talk about the time it takes to manipulate the image in Photoshop or something like that. This has nothing to do with processing of images).

Technology is wonderful, but we are losing something in the transition. Wonderment is being supplanted by instant discoveries. The search is what is important to learning, in my opinion.

And it's not just the high-tech imaging that is ruining astronomy: it's other technology as well. Just try to get someone to go out and look up at the night sky; to put an eye to an eyepiece. Especially today's youth. Why would they want to, when they can sit in their homes and look at "pretty pictures" on the internet? Why take the time to learn the beauty of the night sky and take your own photographs when you can download a great Hubble shot? In this "age of the internet" people "want it now" without any exertion. Click and download, don't do it yourself. Sure, I think the work by Hubble and other instruments are glorious, and they serve a purpose. But photographs that I have taken personally mean more to me than anything I can download. They are personal; it was my knowledge and expertise that brought the image to life.

And this extends to astronomy and science in general. I said above that it's hard to get people to look up. Just try to get those same people to name constellations, or to point out a specific star or planet? Well, I can. I can go out and travel throughout the cosmos because I am familiar with the night sky. (Sometimes I think the people who swear they see "UFOs" wouldn't see them if they knew the night sky).

Some people say "I don't have time for stuff like that" but they can spend their time on frivolous things without thinking twice about it. I say if you have an interest in something, you make the time for it. You don't make excuses.

For me, my relationship with the cosmos is a personal one. It allows me a deeper understanding of the Universe because I take the time to learn. I don't "want it now." And so I pity those who don't spend time out under the stars.

Take the time. Gaze upwards. Experience the wonder of the Universe above you.

And bring a friend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Saving the Night Sky!

I have been an astronomer for most of my life, and even after all these years I love "looking up." It never gets old. I can observe the moon, the planets, nebulae, galaxies, and everything else in the cosmos time and time again without losing my sense of awe, amazement, and interest. I want to know more.

But one of the things that screws up the view of the night sky is light pollution. It gets worse every year, and not much is done about it. The public is misinformed by the companies that make lighting fixtures, and even the power companies. But there have been studies and studies that show that many lights to not a secure place make.

Soon it will be impossible to see the night sky from even the suburbs. Forget about the cities already. But things are being done, thankfully.

I just ran across this link, and it piqued my interest. It's a "Declaration in Defence of the Night Sky."

From the site.... This initiative is designed as an international campaign in defence of the quality of the night skies and the general right to observe the stars, open to the participation of all scientific, cultural and citizens' associations and institutions related to the defence of the firmament.

We definitely need to save the night skies for the generations to come.

Please do your part.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Channeling the New Astronomers

Last night was the inaugural edition of International Sidewalk Astronomy Night where amateur astronomers the world over set up and bring the wonders of the night sky to the public.

Dr. Pamela Gay has written a great article about this on Sky & Telescope's website, so go check it out.

Unfortunately for my area we were cloudy, so nothing could be celebrated. But it's sure to go against next year.

And also unfortunately, since it was cloudy I missed out on taking some photos of the Moon/Venus apparition. It' snot that I don't have dozens of images like that already; it's just a chance to taken more. And as a photographer and an astronomer, who can pass up the chance if it's available.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Evil Media

I’m going to vent here for a bit, because things like this tick me off.

There’s a local television station here – WOOD-TV – and they are about the worst example of a “news organization” that I have seen (although my friends in Los Angeles tell me that WOOD is tame compared to the stations out there). They (WOOD TV8) are the epitome of “If it Bleeds, it Leads.”

It seems like if there is something shocking, horrendous, or scandalous, it will be a Top Story on their station. They ignore “normal” things; nice things.

Case in point: Our astronomy club tries to get some publicity from local media for when we have open houses at our observatory, and other events. The other two main stations in town – WZZM and WXMI – have no problem giving us a plug on their newscasts and weathercasts. But WOOD? No way. We have tried and tried and tried, but they just won’t give us the time of day. A former high-up employee at WOOD told me last month that “if you don’t kill, rape, assault, or molest anyone, WOOD TV isn’t interested.” And this guy was a very popular personality on there, until they let him go, and kept some stupid air-head bitch who tries to pass herself off as a “kids reporter.”

In fact, it’s so bad that last year, when asked by WOOD to provide a graphic for them to use to promote us, they – after it was painstakingly made and submitted – never bothered to use it and, never gave us any publicity at all. The image was of a young lady using one of our large telescopes, and it showed that not only are kids interested in astronomy, girls are as well. Their excuses are “we don’t have any time to devote to that,” and then emailed about it, they don’t even bother to respond to the emails. The one time I called them, one of their head weather people said “I can’t tell what is email from people and what is from our blogs and forums, so I just don’t read them.” That’s a terrible thing to say: it just is proof that they have no respect or interest in the common people of the area. They believe they are better than the public. Well, they’re not. Not by a long shot.

They never know what they are doing, truthfully. Last spring there was a bright meteor observed in the sky, and did they call any of the experts of the local astronomy club? No, they got a hold of someone about 50 miles away, who – on the air – said it was probably a UFO. Oh My God.

Right now as I type this, there’s a possible tornado about 100 miles south of us. Out of their broadcast area. But is that stopping them? Heck no. They are live giving “breaking reports” about something that they know nothing about.

If you are a normal, law-abiding person, who never gets into trouble, you will never be on WOOD TV8 or have a story about you. But if you are a suspected murderer, rapist, molester, or abuser, they will make you a star. The have no morals, no honor, and no integrity. They are the scum of the earth.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Life is a Dark Room

But not a Darkroom. I'm selling it. "Everything Must Go!" "Best Offer!!"

Here's a list of what I have...
1 – Beseler 67C Enlarger w/B&W Head
1 – Beseler Dichro 67 Color Head
1 – Beseler pm2L Color Analyzer
1 – Omega Color Analyzer
1 – Beseler 2.25x2.25 Negative Carrier
1 – Beseler 35mm Slide Carrier
1 – Beseler 110mm Negative Carrier
1 – Beseler 126mm Negative Carrier
1 – Beseler 35mm Negative Transport
1 – Beseler Analite 300
1 – Patterson Negative Focuser
1 – Negative Focuser (needs mirror)
1 – 11x14 Speed Easel
1 - 8x10 Speed Easel
1 – 5x7 Speed Easel
1 – 3.5x5 Speed Easel
1 – 8x10 Combo Easel

1 – GraLab Timer
2 – Unicolor Uniroller Base Units
1 – Unicolor 8x10 Paper Drum
1 – Unicolor 11x14 Paper Drum
1 – Unicolor Film Roller w/4 Negative Reels
1 – Omega Stainless 2-Reel Negative Tank w/2 Reels
1 – Omega Stainless 1-Reel Negative Tank w/1 Reel
1 – Stainless Film Tank w/2 Reels
1 – 110mm Plastic Negative Reel
3 – 11x14 Plastic Paper Trays
2 – 8x10 Plastic Paper Trays
3 – Cesco-Lite 8x10 Plastic Paper Trays
1 – 8x10 Paper Safe
6 – 16oz Chemical Bottles
4 – 96oz Chemical Bottles
6 – Negative/Paper Clips
1 – Kodak Color Print Filter Viewing Kit
1 – 8x10 Paper Squeegee
1 – Yankee Safe-lite SL-2
1 – Kodak 32oz Beaker
1 – 16oz Beaker

How much, you ask? As much as you're willing to spend. The two Color analyzers were originally over $500 each.

I'll take $800 OBO for the set.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Faint, Fuzzy Comets

Earlier this evening I managed to observe two of the comets that happen to be zooming around the solar system - C/2007 E1 Garradd and C/2007 E2 Lovejoy. We had a visitors' night at our observatory, and after the public left we got down to the business of looking at faint fuzzies.

I had the charts for the comets, and they were pretty easy to spot, as long as one was dark adapted. Garradd was low in the southwestern sky, but was visible as a smudge in the eyepiece of the 16-inch SCT. Lovejoy, hanging around in Draco, was a might easier, and stood out among the background stars.

All I need to do is observe two more comets, and I'll have reached the big 5-0. Yep, I have seen forty-eight comets as of tonight.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Really Big Bang

About the largest thing in the Universe is a supernova. There are a couple of different types, and they all have different levels of energy, but the Chandra Observatory may have discovered a brand new classification.

This supernova was over one hundred times more powerful than any witnessed before and, according to the press release...
"That means the star that exploded might have been as massive as a star can get, about 150 times that of our sun. We've never seen that before."
-- Nathan Smith, UC Berkeley
They believe that what happened with this star is the same thing that could happen to the massive star Eta Carina, which is light years closer to us here on earth. This supernovas, cataloged as SN2006gy, was 240 million light years away in the galaxy NGC 1260. Eta Carina is only ~7500 light years away, and if - well, when - it blows, it could conceivably effect life here on earth.

You can read more about this in the Chandra Press Release.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The "Wally Show" Closes

I just found out that Wally Schirra, one of the Original Seven Mercury Astronauts, passed away today in California.

Yahoo News about it

I titled this "The Wally Show" because when he flew on Apollo 7 with Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham, their antics caused some at NASA to call the mission the Wally, Walt & Donn Show."

Of the Original Seven, Only Scott Carpenter and John Glenn are left.

Godspeed Wally.

Wally's Website

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Snakes & Arrows

That's the title of the new Rush CD, out in stores today.

I've heard the whole thing a few times, and I can definitely say this....


That's right, I don't like it that much. Oh, it's not their worst album, but it sure isn't the best. Scale of 1 - 5, I give it a 2.

Sorry guys.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut - RIP

NEW YORK - Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84.

Yahoo News

Sunday, April 01, 2007

NWS to be Reorganized!

WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez announced a restructuring of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA) will be undertaken by NOAA Chief Administrative Officer William F. Broglie, who will be responsible for said restructuring, which includes reallocating fund from the National Weather Service (NWS) to the National Park Service. The NWS will – as of 1 May 2007 – be under the regulatory jurisdiction of the Park Service, and will focus on forecasting exclusively for Visitor’s Centers at all United States National Parks. Mary Bomar, Director of the National Park Service, has promised that the transition will be undertaken with the minimum disruption possible, and the public should not even notice the change.

With the transition, responsibilities for meteorological forecasts will be the purview of local media. Grants will be made available from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) to fund media outlets so they may be able to acquire materiel and personnel needed to make weather predictions.

Michael Stromsen, broadcast meteorologist for KRWM FM in Rawlings, Colorado is pleased with the change. “For many years we have been able to know what has been going on locally with much more confidence than the National Weather Service, so why shouldn’t we be in charge of local weather forecasts. The local weather people can easily tell at least 8 to 14 days out whether a local event should take place, because we are familiar with the area. No more ‘long-range forecasts’ that have to be changed all the time because they are not accurate.”

Richard A. Anthes, President of the American Meteorological Society, believes this will spur not only advances in technological research, but also in growth and educational opportunities. “The National Weather Service has to work under the constraints of a budget given them by Congress, whereas local media outlets are more readily able to spend the funds needed for research, training, and equipment by utilizing money from their parent corporations. These corporations are not hamstrung by the necessities of laws and regulations.”

Full reorganization and transfer of NWS responsibilities will be completed by February 2008.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Random Thoughts for Today

Fun Thought One: I got carded the other day. Me! That hasn't happened in quite a while, believe me. And what's more, I actually got indignant about it.

Fun Thought Two: It's Severe Weather Awareness Week where I live, and a local Poll had the question "Does your family have an emergency plan in case of a tornado warning?"

Our plan is:

Step 1: PANIC!!!
Step 2: Drop to knees and pray
Step 3: Change pants.

Isn't that right?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring has Spring!!

The first full day of spring, and we've got thunderstorms!!! Severe ones at that!!!

I love this stuff. I even went out and chased for a while.

God, how I miss it when it's winter.

I just hope to get more chances to chase this year, and get some great photographs.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Sky at Night

Ah the beauty of the night sky.

For the first time in a long time, I went out under the stars tonight. I haven't done any observing in a long time, and I missed it. not only from a scientific viewpoint as an astronomer, but from a calming, aesthetic viewpoint as just a relief form the stresses of everyday life.

While either standing out under the canopy of the celestial sphere, or observing and becoming reacquainted with old friends through the telescope, it's a personal thrill just to be able to "unplug" from life and get back to the joys of discovery.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Spring Just Has to Come (Sometime)

(I posted this last year, but it's good information)

I'm just going to plug an item everyone should think about getting, especially those who live in bad weather areas.

It's a NOAA Weather Alert radio.

During severe weather, you can't always rely on the sirens going off - or your hearing them. That is, even if your town has warning sirens. And you can't trust the television stations either. What if they are off the air, or you don't have power?

The weather alert radios have a battery backup, so they will work without power if needed. If you don't know what they are, here's a quick overview...

It's just a small radio that is tuned to your local NWS (National Weather Service) office. When they send out watches and warnings, the first thing they do (I'm making this really simple) is trigger an alert tone to all radios set to their frequency. This tone "turns on" weather radios with an extremely loud alert siren/tone. This is followed by the actual alert which is read over the air.

I've done some timings in my area, and usually my radio "tones" up to 3-4 minutes ahead of the television stations alerting the public, and even the sirens going off (if it's a tornado warning). And those 3-4 minutes could save my life if there's something headed right at me.

(Of course, since I'm a weather chaser, I'm "out in it" anyways. icon_biggrin.gif )

There are several cities in the US near "tornado alley" where having a weather radio is "mandatory." Just like smoke detectors.

You can pick them up at local Radio Shacks or other electronic stores. They aren't that expensive, and the nice thing now is they come with SAME technology.

SAME, or Specific Area Message Encoding allows you to specify the particular area for which you wish to receive alerts. Most warnings and watches broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio are county- or independent city-based (parish-based in Louisiana), although in a few areas of the country the alerts are issued for portions of counties. Since most NWR transmitters are broadcasting for a number of counties, SAME receivers will respond only to alerts issued for the area (or areas) you have selected. This minimizes the number of “false alarms” for events which might be a few counties away from where you live.

Also, on some models, you can have it "ignore" warnings that you don't need to receive. Since I live in Michigan, I have "hurricane warning" turned off, since we rarely get hurricanes here.icon_smile.gif

Here's a link about the radios, what to look for, and where to buy...

Weather Alert Radios

We now return you to your regular programming.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Well, that was Fast

Spring's gone, and winter's back.

Stupid Michigan.

After all the fun yesterday, now we've got blowing and drifting snow, winds gusting to nearly 60 mph, and it's cold. At some points during the day - and even now - I can't see across the street. If it was colder I'd consider it a blizzard.

On top of it, in technology news: the NWS radar is down. So if you look at the regional radar plot, there's nothing going on here. But use low tech, and look out a window...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Like a Lion

March came in like a Lion, as the saying goes.

Today we had snow, then freezing rain, then sleet, then rain, and then thundershowers. Wow.

Spring's coming in full force: can chasing season be far behind? I think not!

Best Day in a While

Okay, perhaps not. But, for an ego-stroke, it was pretty good.

See, I'm participating in a research study to see how a certain medicine - Adenezine - works to help image the heart's blood vessels. Basically it takes 4 hours out of your life, but it may save your life (like mine did last year).

So this morning I meet the nurses who are the main researchers in the test, and go through all the stuff: electrodes on, IV tap, sit around, be imaged. Then comes the "stress" part.

When a different nurse/tech comes to get me from the waiting room, she says "you're really popular today. It's standing room only in the room. Hope you don't mind." Heck, why would I mind? It's for science.

Yeah, and cute nurses and techs too.

So I walk in, and there's eight women in the room. And the head one says "take off your shirt."

This is going well. :)

But then I just get wired up to the machine, and lay down on the exam table. After some adjusting of equipment, they inject the medicine right into my arm. So for six minutes I feel really weird, as the stuff does its thing. The nurses are hovering around me, checking pulse, blood pressure, wiping my forehead, giving me soft words of encouragement. Heck, if it weren't for the wires and test, I might be having a good time!

Finally the test is over, and they do the post-stress measurements. A little while longer laying there getting poked and prodded by beautiful nurses. What we do for science .

Then I had to sit around for another 45 minutes before the next series of images. Boring it was, but heck, I've never had that much attention from women in my life.

It was a good day. :)

Friday, February 23, 2007

frick frick frickin' frick frick

As the hot Dr. Elliot says.

Some of the WX numerical models suggest we could get up to a foot of stupid snow this weekend. Rats!!! I'm SOOO looking for spring to come in full force. We don't need this white crap.

Seems like another weekend in front of the DVD player. Good thing I don't have a life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2001: North vs Kubrick

So to bring everyone up to speed.

When Stanley Kubrick was making the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the studio forced him to use Alex North to score the film. Now, North scored Kubrick's Spartacus, so they had worked together before. But this time, Kubrick had it in his head what he wanted already, and didn't want anything North had to compose.

So Kubrick lead North on, letting him compose a score for the film, while all the time not even planning on listening to it, let alone using it in the movie. And North didn't even find out until the movie premiered.

Years later, North's music was finally released on CD, so we could all enjoy it. And what's better, the liner notes make it pretty clear where the music was going to be in the film.

So, a friend of mine mixed the music to the specific scenes in the film, and gave me a copy to watch, just to see if it would work. And here's what I think:
The music itself is wonderful, but in the film, it just doesn't work. I guess I'm going to have to give Kubrick his due. now, to be fair, I'm working on a nearly 40 year bias, as I've only seen 2001 one way all these times, and can never see it "for the first time" with North's music.

With the original North cues, the film takes on a very different tone. It's not as "deep" or "dramatic" as it was, and as I watched it, I seemed to not be able to immerse myself in the imagery as I could before. The music took me out of the experience.

Some places, like part of the Space Station Docking and Moon Rocket Bus do work to some extent, but it now - after knowing the film as I have - it takes away from the experience.
So I will continue to enjoy Alex North's music as it is on the CD - and wish he had scored more of the film - but I will continue to enjoy 2001 (the film) as Kubrick made it. And I won't wonder (much) anymore about "how it might have been."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"The Greatest Enthusiasm and Confidence in the Mission"

Prophetic words, spoken by an AI.

Those were spoken by HAL, as astronaut David Bowman was entering the computer's logic core to shut off HAL's higher functions.

The only reason I bring this up is that I got a CD in the mail today. It's the original score to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, written by Alex North. He composed this music for the film, unaware that the film's director, Stanley Kubrick, had no intention of using it. So it sat unused and (basically) unheard for decades.

A bunch of years ago Mr. North gave Jerry Goldsmith a listen to the music, and Jerry convinced him that it should be recorded. The Varese Sarabande label put out a CD in 1993. It was marvelous music, even though a mistake was made, and the first track was actually for a different North score: the film Africa.

A few months ago word came out that the Intrada label was going to release the actual tracks from the score. Many people in the film score fan community were critical of this, as it wasn't going to be in the "new millennium super-duper-surround-sound-ultra-stereo." Didn't care: I wanted it. Trouble is, I couldn't really afford it, as I'm still unemployed. However, my friend - and fellow film music buff Ed - bought it for me for Christmas (even though it wasn't released until the end of January 2007).

I finally received it today, uploaded it into iTunes for my iPod, andwas going to listen, but...

While I was getting the computer going with iTunes, I found out that TCM channel was showing 2001 as part of their "31 Days of Oscar." So I just had to watch it; it's like a personal law to me.

So I still haven't been able to listen to the CD, but I will. And when visitors' nights at the observatory start up in the spring, this music, plus the music used in the film, the Varese issue of North's score, and the score to 2010 will be playing as I show people the wonders of the universe.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

STS-107 (Columbia)

It was a great sixteen days in space. The space shuttle Columbia, the first operational space shuttle was orbiting the earth on it's mission of science and exploration. The mission was going so good, controllers gave them extra time to stay up. The new landing day was set for February First.

It looked like there would be a perfect ending to a perfect mission. But, unbeknownst to all, the shuttle had sustained damage during takeoff, when a piece of the foam insulation from the external tank flaked off during launch, and punched a hole in the carbon composite leading end of the left wing. But as Columbia was passing through the thousands-degree plasma of re-entry, those hot gases penetrated the left wing.

Sixteen minutes before the touchdown... sixteen minutes before the end of their sixteen day mission... the shuttle broke up and disintegrated over the southwest United States (mostly in Texas, although video showed pieces coming off as early as when the shuttle was over California).

Rick Husband
Willie McCool
Michael Anderson
Kalpana Chawla
David Brown
Laurel Clark
Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon had the honor of being the first astronaut from the country of Israel.

Interesting fact:

Launch - January 16
Mission Time - 16 days
Vehicle Lost - 16 minutes before landing

Again, it was the human element that failed. Nearly every mission had foam breaking off the ET and we had "gotten away" without any serious damage to the shuttle. But, as in the past, these things don't always turn out for the best. And again, there was another investigation, and more promises that it will "probably never happen again."

Well, things were changed, and in July of 2005 Discovery launched on a test mission.

So we are back in space. But have we learned the lessons of the past? How soon until there is another "accident?" We can only hope it's a long way off, if ever. But, that is the price we pay to be explorers.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Twelve Commandments for Amateur Astronomers

  1. Thou shalt have no white light before thee, behind thee, or to the side of thee whilst sharing the night sky with thy fellow stargazers.
  2. Thou shalt not love thy telescope more than thy spouse or thy children; as much as, maybe, but not more.
  3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's telescope, unless it exceeds in aperture or electronics twice that of thy wildest dreams.
  4. Thou shalt not read Astronomy or Sky & Telescope on company time, for thine employer makes it possible to continue thine astronomical hobby.
  5. Thou shalt have at least two telescopes so as to keep thy spouse interested when the same accompanies thee under the night sky or on eclipse expeditions to strange lands where exotic wild animals doth roam freely.
  6. Thou shalt not allow either thy sons or thy daughters to get married during the Holy Days of Starfest.
  7. Thou shalt not reveal to thy spouse the true cost of thy telescope collection; only the individual components and that shall be done with great infrequency.
  8. Thou shalt not buy thy spouse any lenses, filters, dew shields, maps, charts, or any other necessities for holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays unless thy spouse needs them for their own telescope.
  9. Thou shalt not deceive thy spouse into thinking that ye are taking them for a romantic Saturday night drive when indeed thou art heading for a dark sky site.
  10. Thou shalt not store thy telescope in thy living room, dining room, or bedroom, lest thou be sleeping with it full time.
  11. Verily, observe not through thy neighbor's Astro-Physics or Takahashi, lest thee be utterly consumed by the lust of apo-fever, and thy brain and thy bank account shall shrivel and wither like branches in a flame.
  12. Verily, observe not through thy neighbor's Dob of Goliath, lest thee be lain bare to the fires of aperture-fever, and thy sanity, thy sacroiliac and thy life savings be crushed as ye grapes of wrath.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

STS-51L (Challenger)

All was fine for the space program, until a cold, clear morning in Florida on January 28, 1986. That day, the space shuttle Challenger was scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral on a (much delayed) mission, carrying the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. It was a perfect morning, but it would not stay that way.

When Challenger launched at 11.38 am, everything appeared a-okay. But only for 73 seconds...

...when there was an enormous ball of fire which engulfed the shuttle, and seven astronauts lost their lives, with the whole world watching.

Francis R. Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Judith A. Resnik
Ellison S. Onizuka
Ronald E. McNair
Gregory B. Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe

And all because of people being sloppy, being careless, wanting to push on regardless of the data, of hubris.

The world was in a state of shock. Investigations were conducted; promises made. And we got back into space in nearly three years later.

And again, as with Apollo 1, we celebrated the successes in space, and forgot some of the lessons learned. For seventeen years and four days...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Apollo 1

40 years ago today, tragedy struck the space program, as fire engulfed the Apollo 1 capsule where the astronauts were in a final practice mission for their upcoming space shot.

The three astronauts who lost their lives in a short few seconds were..

Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
Edward H. White, II
Roger B. Chaffee

It set the space program back a bit, but we persevered. And a short two years six months later, we walked on the moon.

And triumphs and applause reigned supreme over all until the next day, nineteen years later....

Saturday, January 20, 2007

State of the "Art"?

For those of you who read this, please excuse this rant, but I have to get it off my chest.

In today's issue of the local newspaper, there is an image by a local photographer of the flyover for President Ford's internment a few weeks ago.

Here is a link to the image

It shows the 21 planes during the flyby up the Grand River. Looks good, doesn't it?

Except it's fake.

The photographer - who shall remain unnamed in case he somehow finds this (and me) and wants to sue - was quoted as saying "that's the photo that I had in my head. I think it's much more powerful that way." Well, to this photographer, that statement is bullsh*t.

I've been a photographer for over 25 years. In that time, I've shot my fair share of formal and informal events: from weddings, portraits, social gatherings, sports, etc. I've also done quote a bit of nature and specialized photography. And what you see is basically what I've shot.

Now, I'm not against working on the print to get the best available product from the negative. Heck, even Ansel Adams, perhaps the greatest American photographer who ever lived, considered (in musical composer terms) the negative "just the notes" and his finished print "the performed works." I've done my share of dodging, burning, and spotting in the darkroom to make a final print. And yes, in this age of digital imaging, I've used the computer to "fix" little things (a hair out of place, a straggling thread on a sleeve, etc.)

But I have never... NEVER... manipulated an image because what I saw in the "real world" wasn't what I saw "in my mind." To be, it's utter fabrication; it's blatant prevarication. You are, in essence, saying "that's not really how it happened, I know better."

This photographer is proud that he has manipulated his image to fit what he "thinks it should have been." In doing so, he's lowered himself to be as bad - if not worse - than someone who has stolen works and paraded them as their own (copyright infringement).

Thank you for letting me vent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Comet Mc (Not) For Me... Again!

Comet McNaught. The brightest comet in the past three decades. And I have been unsuccessful in seeing it. And apparently it's visible in the daytime. So...

I tried around 1.30 this afternoon with no luck whatsoever. And I didn't just go out and hide the sun with a building and use binoculars.

I went out to our observatory, plugged up the optics, and used the shadows of the tubes to center the scopes on the sun. Then, using a white-light filter in our 4-inch TAK, I got the sun perfectly centered, then synced up in The Sky.

I slewed over to where the comet was, took off the filter, and saw.... nothing. Just to make sure everything was okay, I did another slew -- to Venus. Whammo! Venus was dead-center in the eyepiece. So back to where the comet was, and again... nothing.

I even tried our filters: OIII, UHC, and even a polarizer. Nada... nothing. Strike three.

So I packed up and went home to warm up.:)

Dunno if I will get to see it. I might cry.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Rising Moon

Well, I started last night, and just finished, the porting over of my friend Bruce's astronomy program and website. The new URL is Moonrise.us.

Bruce is the friend of mine who unexpectedly passed away last September, and it was the wish of his family that the program stayed available. So they gave the program to the astronomy club, and any of the profits from the program (it's shareware, and a great little thing for $25.) go to his kids.

I got a domain for it, and ported over the website and all the program files. I'm keeping it basically the same as it was, but I'm going to make a few changes to it (the website, not the program).

There are a couple of things that should be done with the program to update some information, but I don't know anything about the programming language it was made in (Delphi).

I just hope I can do it justice.

Comet (Not) For Me

Well, I tried to observe comet McNaught this morning, and I busted. It was sort of clear, so I bundled up and got out around 7.15am to make a short trip east of town to a nice, flat horizon.

When I got to my destination (where I shot the conjunction last month), I noticed - in the brightening morning twilight - that there were some high clouds on the eastern horizon. But since the comet was supposed to be -2 mag., I thought I still had a shot. I mean, heck... there were pictures on Spaceweather.com of the comet through clouds, so I figured I had a chance.

I searched the horizon for a while, until about 5 minutes before sunrise, and never saw it. Figures. I have seen dozens of faint, fuzzball-type comets, but the brightest one in over 30 years? Nope.

And I froze out there as well. Even by the time I got all the way home, my fingers were still cold. But it was worth it, on the off chance I did get to see the comet.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hail to the (Astro) Chief

I'm President again. Of my astronomy club.

Oh well.

I do think my musical accompaniment should be The Imperial March from Empire Strikes Back.

Obviously they've never heard of term limits.