Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Penumbral Waves!

Late November Sun

My last solar observing day for 2011 was November 25, just 28 days from the winter solstice. The Sun manages a maximum altitude of only about 30 degrees above the horizon at this time of year and is mostly hidden behind trees and rooftops from my observing spot. Even though a small two hour window between trees still exists, the colder weather discourages me. My tolerance for winter observing has been severely diminished by 33 freezing years spent in the unheated Randolph College observatory. I probably won't observe again until March or April.

It was unseasonably warm and pleasant on November 25, so I made the most of my brief view between trees. First, look at this mosaic of sunspots and filaments:
Sunspot 1358(L) and the 1356 group(R) (Click for full detail)
Moving across the Sun to the right of the mosaic above brings sunspot 1355 into view to the right of the 1356 group along with a nice set of filaments:
Sunspot group 1356(L) and sunspot 1355(R) (Click for full detail)
After completing the still images I tried, once again, to make some movies. Seeing conditions were fairly good in spite of occasional wind. Once again I failed to record any extremely dramatic eruptions, but I did manage to capture examples of a phenomenon known as penumbral waves. The first movie below shows 60 minutes of action in sunspot group 1356 from 12:16 PM to 1:16 PM EST. (Be patient until the movie loads and plays properly.) An eruption spewing out a gas plume was already in progress on the far left as recording began. Focus attention on the largest dark sunspot umbra and the lighter grey penumbra surrounding it. You will notice circular ripples heading out from the center like waves from a stone dropped in a pond. These are called penumbral waves.
Penumbra waves were also visible in sunspot 1355 below during the same time period:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Graphs and Laughs

I'm a quantitative guy!

Those who know me laugh and roll their eyes at my habit of measuring, counting, and graphing all sorts of things. For instance:
  • In 2003 I ate 29 boxes of corn flakes.
  • Over the course of several years I've picked up 20,526 walnuts from my back lawn before finally deciding to remove the annoying walnut trees.
  • I once got 69 shaves from one razor blade.
  • During my academic career I spent 439 nights, more than a year of nights, at the college observatory measuring variable stars.
I find these trivial facts strangely amusing. Let's see. If I've been eating 29 boxes of corn flakes a year ... in the last 30 years ... I've consumed 870 boxes! Maybe I should order corn flakes by the truckload. Geez! A lot of corn flakes have gone through my system!

I've accumulated a good number of running miles over the years, 43,755 miles to be exact. Now, like an aging machine, my body is beginning to creak, clank, and groan. Here's a record of my yearly running mileage since I started keeping records in 1972. (Incidentally, 43,755 miles is nothing compared to many lifetime runners who have gone three or four times this far!) This year I've managed to run only 581 miles so far. A knee injury is holding me back at the moment.
Note the recent decline and the optimistic continuation to 2020. (click to enlarge)
On the other hand, I've been more durable on my road bike. I've accumulated 36,576 road biking miles since 1987.
Biking mileage hasn't declined in recent years! I'm not dead yet! (click to enlarge)
Compare the graphs for years 1988 and 1989 when I could hardly run at all due to running injuries. I switched to mostly biking and recorded big bike mileage then. This year has been my second best biking mileage year ever at 2,722 miles so far.

Every year I fight a constant battle to maintain an athletic weight of 147 pounds. Every year I lose the battle during the winter months when I can't burn enough calories on my bike. For example, look at my weight last year in 2010:

The year begins with the usual bloat from the preceding 2009 Thanksgiving and Christmas. Weight starts to drop as I recover, but then, classes begin. Almost immediately my schedule and diet become chaotic as stress begins building. It's winter and there's no time to bike. Also, I can no longer run far enough to burn significant calories. So the sad inevitable weight increase proceeds through February and March peaking at over 158 disastrous gut-busting pounds in mid-April. I recover very briefly before the upward slide starts again. At last April ends, classes end, weather warms, my schedule loosens, and I get on the bike. Immediately my weight starts dropping as I get control of my life again. By the end of August I've reached my goal of 147 pounds. Unfortunately, biking gets harder as the days shorten and temperatures drop. I'm still near 147 in early November when I'm rocked by a 48-hour virus. The illness really depletes me. Notice what happens at Thanksgiving! Yikes! Big dinners, no biking, trays of caloric treat bombs sprinkled around the house, and more calories at Christmas lead to immediate weight gain. But I end the year at 149 pounds, roughly 7 pounds better than the previous year's 156 pounds.

How are things going this year? Although no longer teaching classes after retirement, I still gained weight during the winter because calories in exceeded calories out. But good news is recorded in the 2011 graph below.

I reached my goal weight of 147 at the beginning of July in 2011 instead of at the end of August as in 2010. Now, in early December, I've so far managed to avoid the usual holiday weight gain. It's after Thanksgiving and I'm still good! This year I am absolutely determined to stay near 147 until next spring when I get back on the bike again. Then let snacking begin!

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon