Saturday, June 1, 2013


I saw this Three Stooges' short yesterday and thought, "Curly invented the moonwalk." It looks like someone else had the same idea.

Open Blog - Weekend

It should always start here.  Happy June, Irregulars!

Friday, May 31, 2013


"Prancercise® is defined as: A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward,similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation. 'This form of movement, along with dietary and spiritual principles can create the most satisfying, holistic and successful fitness program one could hope to experience. I encourage anyone who is ready for a huge change in their lives, from the way they see the world, to the way they see themselves to explore the principles inherent in this program, especially as outlined in my book : Prancercise®:The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence.” 

"Joanna Rohrback, B.H.S. Owner/MGR.M of Prancercise LLC"

She knows we're laughing at her.  She loves the attention.

Four for Fridays

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Four for Fridays! Man. this week sure flew! Must be the extra day off. Anyways, some questions for you....

1) Have you ever forgotten what day of the week it is?

2) What movie can you watch over and over again?

3) What book have you attempted the read several times, but never been able to finish?

4) Do you prefer sunrises or sunsets?

Enjoy your weekend!

Open Blog - Friday

Me too.  It's the best.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Planets Line Up, Comet PANSTARRS and a Globular Cluster

I was doing a telescope training session for students last night, but of course I took along my camera. I got several photos of the planets and stayed after they left photographing a few other objects.
First, I have been posting a lot about the ongoing planet conjunction. All the planets are now starting to spread out more each night and I thought it might be a nice time to look at where all the planets are in our solar system so I created a little view of the planets (out to Jupiter) in their orbits using Stellarium. Click if you want a bigger version.
First find Earth (it's labeled). Mercury is the innermost planet and I couldn't get it to print the label, but you can see its orbit and find Mercury to the slightly to the right of the Sun. Now find Venus and Jupiter. You might notice you can almost draw a straight line through all four of these objects (not quite, but very close!) This line shows that if you are standing on Earth and look in that direction,you will see Mercury, Venus and Jupiter very close together in the sky which is exactly what has been going on the last couple of weeks. You also will notice this line passes pretty close to the Sun...therefore, we see them close to the Sun in the sky, in this case, after sunset (if they appeared on the other side of the Sun, we would see them in the morning...Mars is about to move into the morning sky).
Now think about the motions. From this perspective, the planets will orbit counterclockwise around the Sun.Planets closer to the Sun move faster and planets farther from the Sun move slower. Therefore, Mercury and Venus are catching up to Earth. As they orbit, the line you have to draw from Earth to Mercury or Venus will get farther away from the Sun so they will appear higher in the sky...until they really start catching up to Earth as they prepare to pass between the Earth and the Sun...then they will appear lower in the sky. This will happen pretty quick for Mercury. On June 13th, it will be as far away from the Sun as it gets this time and turn around and start getting lower in the sky each night (and pass Venus again on the way down as Venus keeps going up!)
Remember Earth moves around the Sun faster than Jupiter so in the not too distant future, Jupiter will appear directly behind the Sun from Earth's perspective. Therefore, Jupiter is getting lower in the sky each evening and will soon disappear behind the Sun. After that, Jupiter will reappear in the morning sky.
So now that you know a little bit about why the planets have been doing this dance, let's get to the latest pics from last night. They planets appeared almost in a straight line. Mercury is at the top,Venus is in the middle and Jupiter at the bottom.
By the time the students left, it was totally dark so I went for Comet PANSTARRS again. I have the tracking mount and decided to push the exposure further this time. I got a little trailing (not a perfect alignment) but was still pretty pleased with the pics I got showing its nice long anti-tail. I honestly have no idea whey more people aren't trying to photograph this...I know there are more skilled people out there with better equipment than I have...if I can do something this nice, they should be cranking out some jaw dropping stuff. 
Finally, I turned my sights toward something a little different. There is a globular cluster (M4) very close to the bright star Antares. A globular cluster is a gravitationally bound collection of 100,000 stars or so. M4 is one of the closer globular clusters at about 7,200 light years away. Globs (as the are affectionately known) consist of very old stars and this cluster is over 12 billion years old. Since it is so closer to Antares and close to Earth, I thought it might make a good target to photograph.
378101_10152844297420104_1691406866_nAntrares is the bright orange-ish star near the center with the cluster to the upper right of Antares. Not bad for a first try. Antrares is one of the brightest stars in the sky and is a red giant, hence the color. You also see a lot of background stars. Antares is in Scorpius, one constellation over from the center of our galaxy in Saggitarius so you get a higher density of background stars the closer you get to the plane of our galaxy. 
I only have two more nights to get potential photos here before I head up to Alaska for a couple of weeks where it will never get dark!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Useless Information

French engineer Louis Reard created the first modern bikini, promoting it as "smaller than the world's smallest bathing suit," according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal newspaper.
Originally banned in Italy and Spain as it was considered indecent, the bikini didn’t become a popular fashion trend till 1956 after French actress Brigitte Bardot was seen wearing one, reports

Saint Peter

Saint Peter is sitting at the Pearly Gates when two guys wearing dark hoodies, and sagging pants, arrive. St. Peter looked out through the Gates and said, "Wait here. I’ll be right back." 

St. Peter goes over to God's chambers and tells him who is waiting for entrance. God says to Peter: "How many times do I have to tell you? You can't be judgmental here. This is heaven. All are loved. All are brothers. Go back and let them in!"

St. Peter goes back to the Gates, looks around, and lets out a heavy sigh. He returns to God's chambers and says, “Well, they're gone."

“The guys wearing hoodies?" asked God.

"No. The Pearly Gates."

'Jean' - Rod McKuen

Remember that guy? He was to poetry what rap is to music - commercially successful, but 'purists' scoffed at him.

"Rod McKuen is an American poet, songwriter, composer, and singer. He was one of the best-selling poets in the United States during the late 1960s. Throughout his career, McKuen produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks, and classical music. He earned two Oscar nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his serious music compositions. McKuen's translations and adaptations of the songs of Jacques Brel were instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world. His poetry dealt with themes of love, the natural world, and spirituality, and his thirty books of poetry sold millions of copies.[1]"

Open Blog - Thursday

Do you Scrabble?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rationale For High Capacity Mags
A man walked into his crowded local bar, waved a revolver around and yelled, "Who in here has been screwing my wife?"
A voice from the back of the bar yelled back, "You're gonna need more ammo!"

Dear Madame Zoltar

Unfortunately, Madame Zoltar is still not feeling "up to snuff."  She hopes that another week in the Carri bean with a cabin boy will cure her ills.

We look forward to reading her blog next week.  Maybe.

Open Blog - Wednesday

Have a sparkly and effervescent day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

RIP Oscar Mayer Smokie Links

Bump! Today SER gave me Smokie Links. Where did you find them?

Originally published on May 7, 2013, 7:14 PM:
Yesterday, I had a craving for Smokie Links.  They're loaded with fat and cholesterol and salt and nitrates and nitrites and God knows what.  I don't eat them often, but I usually prefer them over regular wieners.

So I went to Piggly Wiggly to get some Smokie Links.  They didn't have any.  Hmm. I went to Pick 'n Save. They didn't have them either.

As it turns out, Oscar Mayer stopped making Smokie Links in 2008, because of poor sales.   That shows how often I eat them.

Unfortunately, there's nothing like them out there.  A website said that Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage comes close, but not quite.

Farewell, Smokie Links.  I wish I had known about your demise.  I would have stocked up. 

"Alderman McCarthy Dupes Alderman Shields"

"Published on May 23, 2013

"Alderman McCarthy in Racine WI. Committee of the Whole meeting purposely shuts off mike so black Alderman do not get to speak"

PANSTARRS Continues to Put on a Show

Earlier this year, Comet PANSTARRS put on a pleasing show in the western sky after sunset in March becoming a naked eye object for a while. For most people, it has faded from view
However, it is surprisingly still visible. I read a nice article on Universe Today about Comet PANSTARRS having a nice anti-tail. Comets tails usually point away from the Sun but they can form anti-tails which point toward the Sun. Right now, Comet PANSTARRS has an anti-tail that has been reported to be up to six degrees long. Based on its current brightness estimates I thought, hey, I bet I can photograph that.

Another nice feature is that right now Earth is passing through the orbital plane of Comet PANSTARRS. We are now viewing the tail edge on which makes it very thin and brighter than it would otherwise be.
Now I have gotten a new toy recently which I knew would play an important role in this attempt. I wanted to zoom in to get a better view, but when you zoom in your exposure time is limited to a few seconds before you get star trailing (with the 250mm lens I wanted to use, trailing shows up in about 3-4 seconds). This means you need something to let your camera track stars so you can take longer exposures without trailing. Fortunately, I just got an iOptron Sky Tracker. I had practices putting it together during the day, but last night was my frist try under the stars.

When I got to one of my usual places at the Douglas Spring Trailhead at Saguaro National Park East, I was greeted by a news truck that was getting ready to do a live feed for the Fox 11 news at 9 on vandalism of saguaros. They had some lights on I had to dodge but the reporter and techie were nice enough. So I set up my camera, did a crude polar alignement (I am sure I will get better with practice, but I got it good enough for what I was doing last night) and started shooting. I was pleased to quickly find the comet near Polaris and quickly got pics where it was showing up with a nice long anti-tail as advertised.


The nucleus is slightly above and right of the center with the long tail not quite vertical in this image (going from roughly 1 o'clock to 7 o'clock). This is a 30 second exposure on a Canon 60D with a Canon 55-250mm zoom lens at 250mm and f/5.6.

I was just able to see the comet in 8x42 binoculars, although the tail didn't show up that well. If it's clear tonight, I might bring out the big guns (20x80 binoculars) and see what it looks like.

And of course I am happy to see that the Sky Tracker handled my camera fine and was relatively easy to set up and get a reasonable alignment.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

The Triple Planet Conjunction of May 2013

I have been posting some pics on facebook, twitter and google+ the last week of the current triple planet conjunction in the evening sky. Last night the three planets made their closes approach to each other. Mercury, Venus and Jupiter were all easily visible to the naked eye and this is a great time to be watching them. You can clearly see the movement from night to night as their relative positions change.  Here are some pics from Tucson last night.

First a close up of the trio.


Next some wide shots of the three. There were low clouds on the western horizon so I got to watch the three play hide and seek amongst the clouds.


Although the night of closest approach is past, they will still be visible together after sunset and worth looking at for several more days as they continue to move away from each other. Jupiter will be lower each night while Mercury speeds higher and above Venus each night. Eventually Mercury will turn around and pass Venus as Mercury dives back toward the Sun and Venus continues to get higher in the sky (by this time, Jupiter will probably be too low to see easily).

Enjoy this one...we only get these triple conjunctions every few years.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Open Blog - Memorial Day

Thank you to all who have served.