Saturday, August 14, 2010

Three Planets and the Moon

I managed to get one quick shot last night...after the improv show. Didn't have time to go anywhere scenic...just stepped outside the hotel and found the place with the clearest western horizon (which doesn't exist in that part of Tucson). You can see Saturn is well off to the right with Mars above Venus. The pattern is changing pretty rapidly now. Venus and Mars will get a little closer over the next few days, but Saturn is going to Exit, Stage Right pretty quickly here so better get your views in quick. Mercury is probably out of the question (or will be shortly) if you missed it. Mercury was never easy to see this time.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Checking in from the Library...(again)....

SIGH! Here I am, checking in from the library....AGAIN! My PC is still down. YUP... It's been a week since I've been able to really sit down and catch with my e-mail, Facebook and the blogs. Time is really limited here at the library. With hope, by Saturday I will.

I know I heard that before. The hard drive in my PC has been replaced and brand new. The issue now is WAITING on the fricking recovery discs! I had ordered these discs LAST Thursday after I had taken my computer to Best Buy to get repaired. So what's taking so dang long? It's the idiots at the God knows where technical support center in India! It has been one hassle after another with these clowns!

First, I called for a rush on the discs. Supposed to be here within two days, NOT five business days!

Two, they sent them to the WRONG address! Luckily, I was able to figure out where they were sent to and retrieve them personally.

Three, the WRONG discs! What I needed where RECOVERY discs, NOT the Windows 7 upgrade!

So now I'm waiting on the recovery discs, they SHOULD be here by Friday. By Saturday, with help from the nice gentleman at Best Buy, I should be good to go... If not, I'm gonna go postal...

Keeping my fingers crossed, because I'm getting tired of waiting in line to use a computer.....

UPDATE!-Went to check on the status on the recovery discs yesterday, come to find out, they were out of stock with "none left" and my order cancelled! Outraged I decided to scrap the HP bullcrap and get my computer back from Best Buy. I was gonna let someone fix it. The Geek Squad guy was sympathetic to my situation and CALLED HP tech himself! There WERE discs in stock! They should be here on Tuesday...SIGH! If that doesn't work, it's back to plan B or get a new computer...

My visit to WI

I was in Wisconsin for my family reunion last weekend. Thought you guys might enjoy seeing a couple of pictures.

When I arrived at my brothers 'cabin' in Gilman, I was greeted by a couple of young pygmy goats...Jack and Jill (the young boy butting heads with Jack is my great nephew Keegan)...they are just plain too cute. When I met the llamas I was warned that the llamas like to kiss...what???? Oh boy....then came out the rooster(the young gal is my niece's oldest daughter) and rabbits, some cats, chicks...guess my brother won't be lonesome up there! Never take children with you to an Amish Animal Auction!!!!!

The other picture is the one room school I attended outside of Oconto Falls. It was named North Branch and when I went there, we had outhouses for the first three years of the four I was in attendance. Grades one through eight attended this school. I counted the children in the one school picture I have and there were 21 children. My Mother also attended school in the same building with probably the same outhouses. The little add-on in the back wasn't there when I attended. We had a pot-bellied stove powered by wood as I recall. Brrrr.....

Went right down memory lane when we stopped there....Drew, it's on hy 22 between Oconto Falls and Gillett...Drew is somewhat familar with this area.
Hope the goats bring a smile to your faces


Photos are courtesy of a fellow blogger
and those who took them

The Perseid Video

Okay, in my previous entry, I described how I took these 388 photos. Now I put them into a video. Each frame is up for .3 seconds. Feedback on whether that is too short is welcome. The camera stays pointed at one spot so you can watch the stars (and clouds) go by. Meteors show up as quick streaks, so watch close. I should have went out a little later in the evening since there are more toward the end than the beginning.


Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseid Pic

Okay, last night I tried my first meteor pictures. Here is the best one I got.

The meteor is in the lower left corner. Note there is some green in here. I am not sure if that is real or not since I was asleep at the time.

Yep, I am so lazy I take pictures in my sleep. I set up my Canon Digital Rebel XTi with a 35mm lens operating at f/2.8 and ISO 800 out on my roof about 1:15am. I recently purchased an inexpensive programmable remote timer. I set it up to just keep taking 15 second exposures until the battery ran out (I knew the battery would run out before the memory card filled up). I pointed the camera to the northeast, climbed back in through the window and went back to sleep. I woke up about 5:30am and retrieved the camera to find it got 388 shots before the battery died.

I am making these 388 shots into a time lapse movie. I am not quite happy with it yet. Still trying to get the timing reasonable on it. There are other meteors (haven't done a count yet) but this is the brightest. I will post the movie later today or tonight when I get it finished.

So I consider it a moderate success from my initial review of the images. Obviously, I would like to get somewhere darker to do this. Since my camera has an APS-C sensor, the 35mm lens really acts like a 56mm lens on a full frame camera. That means I don't get as large a chunk of sky as I want. I could have tried my 18-55mm zoom that came with the camera, but it only goes down to f/4 so I would have missed the fainter meteors. So my next priority is a wider field lens! I would love to get a fisheye lens and do this!

The other thing I wast to do is get an external power supply so I am not limited by the battery. I have batteries for my telescope, but I may need a cord/transformer to really make it work. My memory card holds about 1000 photos, so I can go over twice as long as I did.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Protest March at Bar-Closing Time Early Saturday

"A group is organizing a rally outside of Park 6 early Saturday morning. The crowd will then march to City Hall. Organizers are opposed to city efforts to revoke Park 6's liquor license, as well as the license for Ginger/Sticky Rice at 337 Main St. They're also upset over a city committee's decision to deny Joe Harris a liquor license for a jazz- and blues-theme bar at 1111 Washington Ave."

I was going to wait for the announcement today before linking to this story, but I'm out of time. If "the group" makes an announcement later, I'll add the link.

I don't know what to make of this. I think the effectiveness of the protest will depend upon the behavior of the crowd. All I know is that I'm not staying up late for it.

Edit: The Journal Times has now added this story:

According to the above, the night of the protest is unsure. I think that Saturday night/Sunday morning would ensure the biggest crowd.

The Journal Times also says that the protest is being organized by Thomas Holmes, owner of Park 6.

Edit 2: Now both stories are reporting that the protest has been cancelled.

Train systems of the World










And now the Best!




Pre-Perseid Planets

Just a quick one tonight...Moon, Venus, Saturn just above the palm tree, Mars on the left. Snuck out of improv rehearsal to nab this one so didn't have time to go anywhere scenic. If you review my pics, you can really see the changes in the relative positions of the objects.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Open Blog - Weekend Version

Uh-oh, Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Five, Count 'em, Five Solar System Objects

It was a tough shot...the Moon is only one day past old. Mercury is nearby, both close to the horizon in the fading glow of twilight. Venus, Mars and Saturn are higher in a darker sky. Can you balance all the competing lighting levels in this photo? Well, a professional photographer might be able to do a better job...I was just barely able to do it. You are going to want to click to embiggen...and I put the full size file here this time for you.

The bright one toward the top is Venus, Saturn to its upper right and Mars to its upper left. Now look at the slender crescent Moon toward the bottom. Look to the upper right of the Moon and just above the cloud is a little dot...that's Mercury! Yep, Jupiter is the only one missing from this party.

Since Mercury is hard to see in that pic, I am going to include another one with the Moon and Mercury zoomed in a bit here.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

MeteorWatch 2010

I didn't make a typo (for once) but am referring to the MeteorWatch project that is being held tonight through Saturday in conjunction with the Perseid meteor shower. Obviously, they want you to go out and watch the Perseid meteor shower which peaks Thursday night/Friday morning. They also want you to put your observations on Twitter using the #meteorwatch hash tag. Include your zip and your observations show up on a world map. Full instructions are on the Meteorwatch web site.

Although the Perseids peak the night of the 12th/13th, the debris stream that leads to this meteor shower is fairly broad leading to a good number of meteor a few days before and after. The best time to observe is after midnight...generally the later the better (up to the point when morning twilight begins). The Moon was new on August 10th and sets shortly after the Sun, so you don't compete with moonlight.

The best way to observe meteors is to get to a dark site, away from city lights as much as possible, lay back and look up to the northeast. Technically, you should look toward Perseus, but if you don't know how to find it, northeast is close enough. Scan the sky as meteors can pop up anywhere. Some will be bright, others dim. If you are lucky, you get a fireball. If you are really lucky, you might get one that leaves a smoke trail!

I will be trying some photography of the shower. Got a new timer remote for my camera so I am hoping for some clear skies.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophyscist Blog.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my darling dragonflies! How are you? Is it hot enough for you? It’s too hot for me. How hot is it? It’s so hot that I saw two trees fighting over a dog. It’s so hot, I saw a chicken lay a fried egg. It’s so hot, I saw an Amish man buying an air conditioner. Oh dear, I “borrowed” those from the internet, but it is hot enough that I’m considering some runs, or leisurely strolls, through the Dr. Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain. They don’t have an age limit, do they? Or any other restrictions? I’d wear my inflatable butterfly wings for safety.

The listless economy continues to impact my business. I am constantly trying to think up new ideas, or new angles on my existing products, to increase my cash flow. One notion I had was inspired by those “free” credit score ads. I see them all the time on TV. They always claim to have free credit score information available, but you really have to enroll in, and pay for, some credit protection or other service in order to get your “free” score. Well, I was thinking of doing the same thing, except also offering a look at your future credit score. That way you’ll know now whether this is your personal best time to refinance your home or buy a new car, or if you should wait.

Another area I see a lot of growth in is online dating services. I think I could tap a healthy portion of that market if I were to offer potential partners a glimpse into the future of their relationships before they do anything that they will later regret. eHarmony® may offer “29 Dimensions® of Compatibility,” but eZoltar® would offer the 30th: "What kind of a bum is he going to turn out to be?" Oh my.

With the persistent price rise in the gold market, there has been a huge upswing in gold buyers and gold buying events nationwide. It is fast-growing and often unregulated. I’ve been thinking this might be a good time to dust off the old alchemy kits that I have in storage and sell them to people looking to turn base metals into gold. You want lead abatement done right? Just give the crews these kits and watch them transform lead paint chips into gold flake right before your eyes. That dangerous old plumbing will become worth more than copper. And just imagine, golden gutters for everybody!

Finally, I am considering outsourcing my operations. I have remained loyal to Racine and Racine’s workforce since I first started in business, but I have to look at all of my options if Zoltar® is to remain viable in the current economy. Perhaps if someone in India could take my calls for me, then I could concentrate on the more lucrative private sessions that I offer my wealthier customers. If I can save 2 cents here and 3 cents there on some of my potions by having them made in China (where a lot of the ingredients come from, anyway), it might be the way to go. I don’t know. What do you think? Do any of the Irregulars have suggestions for my business? Please, don’t be shy and speak up in the comments below.

That’s it for this week, my friends. I so enjoy spending time with you. Thank you for reading my blog. I consider my time with the JT Irregulars to be a little island of tranquility in the weekly hurricane that is my life.

For up-to-the-minute forecasts (weather and otherwise), please contact:

Stay in the shade and keep your cool, Irregulars. It’s so hot that the cows are giving evaporated milk. It’s so hot that the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground. And here’s my favorite: it’s so hot that it will make you return things that you never stole. Anisoptera!

Open Blog - Wednesday

Butterflies are self propelled flowers. ~R.H. Heinlein

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Planet Picture of the Day

You know the drill by now...Venus, Mars and Saturn. Keep looking!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Ramadan Laughs

I am never quite sure what the appropriate Ramadan greeting is but it starts today. Happy Ramadan (or please tell me if there is a better greeting) to all who choose to observe.

I was listening to the podcast of On the Media today. They did several stories on Muslim issues in connection with Ramadan. The most entertaining one was on a Dubai based sitcom called Tash Ma Tash which they loosely translate as "No Big Deal". It has been on for 17 seasons but only airs during Ramadan. Bit of an unusual schedule, but I guess no stranger than our annual parade of Rudolph, Frosty and It's a Wonderful Life every year.

The show has caused controversy as it takes on the education system, what if women took more than one husband, and even a show themed on Bonanza. I gotta say, hearing this piece made me want to see it. There are some Youtube videos but haven't found any in English (or German...I might get the gist of it in German).

So Happy Ramadan...and enjoy the new season of Tash Ma Tash.

Do Conservatives Believe in GPS?

I don't get too political's mostly astronomy and science. Sometimes, however, crazy politics turns up in the place you least expect.

There is a website called Conservapedia (I am not linking to them because, well, I don't have to). It is the Conservative version of the universe without always a sound grasp of reality. Now I expect them to rag on the traditional hot button topics such as stem cell research, evolution and global warming.

Today it came to my attention that they have also included Einstein's Theory of relativity as an example of liberal science! To which I can only say, WTF? I have read all 24 of the "counterexamples" which Conservapedia claim disprove relativity. Whoever wrote this list obviously have never taken a single course in relativity or astronomy. Don't let the "footnotes" fool you. I have followed a couple of them to the cited papers and the papers don't support what they say at all (such as their objection to the Pulsar PSRB1913+16. I read the paper and the graph clearly shows NO divergence from general relativity outside the experimental uncertainties).

Many of their "arguments" are philosophical assertions that have no basis in science. Anyone with an undergraduate degree in physics should be able to explain how a photon has momentum but not mass, something that is beyond the comprehension of Conservapedia (leading me to believe they have less than an undergraduate education in physics). We have been measuring anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background for 20 years now with COBE, WMAP and now Planck, news that seems to have yet to reach Conservapedia.

They even try to deny the role relativity plays in GPS systems. They cite something from the "Time Service Department, US Navy" which as near as I can tell, doesn't exist (maybe they mean the U.S. Naval Observatory). Typing their claim into google yields hits that lead to (surprise!) Conservapedia! Claiming a non-existent agency said something is hardly proof (and the USNO did not say it either!) It is easy to find details on the GPS use of relativity.

I believe I have found where this comes from, a paper titled, "GPS AND RELATIVITY: AN ENGINEERING OVERVIEW" by .Henry F. Fliegel and Raymond S. DiEsposti.

First, the original quote in context.

"The Operational Control System (OCS) of the Global Positioning System (GPS) does not
include the rigorous transformations between coordinate systems that Einstein's general theory
of relativity would seem to require - transformations to and from the individual space vehicles
(SVs), the Monitor Stations (MSs), and the users on the surface of the rotating earth, and the
geocentric Earth Centered Inertial System (ECI) in which the SV orbits are calculated. There
is a very good reason for the omission: the effects of relativity, where they are different from
the effects predicted by classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, are too small to matter
- less than one centimeter, for users on or near the earth."

If I may further quote from the paper,

"If two observers determine what intuitively we call the same quantity - the distance between two points, or the time interval between two events - they will measure different lengths and times, if (1) they are moving with respect to each other, (2) one is higher or lower than another in a gravitational field, or (3) one is accelerating with respect to the other. Users of GPS encounter all three effects, and should correct their measurements accordingly, by formulas which we now explain."

Allow me to translate...there are lots of relativity effects GPS must take into account...but there is ONE really small correction due to a coordinate system change that is too small to matter.

I could go through and do the same analysis for all the claims, but that would be a waste of my time (and who would want to read the resulting document?)

Einstein's theories of Special and General Relativity have passed some of the most rigorous tests in any field of science. There are still puzzles to be worked out, but Conservapedia is zero for 24 in understanding them.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Four college Qs

1. Did you attend any college or Technical schools?

2. What was your degree(s)?

3. Are you now or were employed in a field related to your degree?

4. How did you pay for it?

Monday, August 9, 2010

They're Moving Closer!

Yep, my photos of the three planets tonight. Caught a couple of short breaks in the clouds. Venus is the brightest on the bottom, Saturn is above Venus on the right and Mars is on the left. It's getting really nice. Thursday night the Moon joins the party although it will be low in the sky. Friday the Moon will be just to the left of the trio. I'll keep trying to get more pics as it gets closer and the monsoons here allow.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Open Blog - Monday

Sorry, late again . . .

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Green Flash Sequence

I got out for sunset tonight and got a nice green flash sequence. The Sun was setting behind a mountain. Look at the right side of the Sun as it sets in the following sequence.

Unfortunately, I got distracted a few minutes later at sunset and missed the potential last green flash (bugs started biting pretty fierce at just the wrong moment).

Again, you can see this from anywhere...half the battle is just showing up and looking.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.