Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Successful Mosaic

Spiky Eruption

Two cold fronts passed in succession leaving a clear sky on September 14th. Observing conditions were wonderful. Temperature ranged between 68 and 71 degrees, and a slight breeze puffed from time to time. It had been cloudy and hot nearly every day for the previous three weeks, and the Sun had been almost entirely blank. So it was nice to finally have some modest solar activity on a comfortable clear day. This Modis satellite image shows how cloud free it was over the eastern U.S. coast on September 14th. My location is marked with an arrow.
The cloudless sky gave me time to capture the entire Sun in the following 38-panel mosaic using a 5X Barlow lens. The image presented below is only one quarter the size of the original 6826 by 6284 pixel image! Four sunspots are visible in the southern hemisphere. From left to right they are numbered: 2418, 2415, 2412, and 2414. Some nice prominences adorn the eastern and western limbs. This is the most successful mosaic I've made so far with my ZWO ASI174MM camera. (Click on the images for larger views.)
The next 4-panel mosaic shows a closer view of sunspots 2418 and 2415.
Sunspots 2412 and 2414 were near prominences on the Sun's western limb.
While capturing videos for the whole disc mosaic I was lucky to see a temporary spiky eruption from the vicinity of sunspot 2418. The eruption didn't last long, probably less than 20 minutes.
Finally, I tried making an image from a 2000-frame video instead of my usual 400-frame video. The following picture of sunspot 2415 was made by stacking the best 100 frames from a 2000-frame video.
The previous image contains probably the best detail I'll ever get with my particular combination of telescope, camera, and viewing location.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Day of School

Kindergarten and Preschool

My granddaughters, Sophie and Annabelle, passed a major milestone last week. Sophie started kindergarten, and Annabelle started preschool. Sophie took great care preparing her backpack for the big day.
Annabelle got some breakfast in her special chair.
Then it was time for pictures. Three cameras were furiously clicking!
Grandparents took their turn in the photo limelight.
It was time to walk to the bus stop. Sophie's entourage included her Mom, sister, and three grandparents.
Sophie met a new friend at the bus stop, a kindergarten classmate. Soon they were looking for bugs together.
When the bus arrived, Sophie set off cheerfully on her new adventure.
Later, Annabelle was warmly greeted by her teacher at her special preschool.
Annabelle gets along with everybody. Soon she was happily installed in her special chair and busy with her classmates.
My earliest memories begin in kindergarten - memories of mistakes, disasters, and misunderstandings. I hope Sophie and Annabelle, instead, will have happy memories of friendships and success.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Exploring With My Granddaughter

Nature Hike

My granddaughter has discovered the joy of walking through the woods!

I was recently invited to accompany Sophie and her Mom on a little hike in neighboring forests. Just before the hike began I saw a red-shouldered hawk on a residential lawn.
Unfortunately, I brought no telephoto lens. When I approached for a closer shot, the hawk flew away and perched itself, majestically, on a rooftop.
Much to our dismayed amusement Sophie insisted on preparing a fully loaded backpack. She enjoyed stuffing her pack with essentials like crayons, markers, notepads, dolls, and snacks. She wore boots in case we wanted to walk through any water. Here Sophie and her Mom begin our adventure on the bike path ahead.
Soon Sophie wandered off the path anxious to show me where she had explored on an earlier trip.
What's more fun when you're a kid than walking through a stream? Sophie walked through overhanging vegetation where I declined to follow.
Next, it was time for a snack on the bank beside the stream.
Upon resuming our walk we encountered an amazing number of wild grape vines. As you might expect, most of the low hanging fruit had been removed, but the vines were heavy with grapes higher up. The ripe wild grapes tasted like Concord grapes.
Sophie said, "This tree looks like a fork!"
Along the shaded trail we encountered a pair of dueling butterflies. Two swallowtails seemed to be battling each other as they circled up and around us.
We next spotted an odd furry creature huddled against a tree trunk. The red glow in its eye from the camera flash made it look like a small demon from hell. We think it must be someone's pet rabbit that somehow escaped into the woods.
Soon it was time for the hike to end. Ellen and Sophie walked off to their home not far away.
It has always been my hope to encourage Sophie's curious observation of the natural world. I wanted to collect specimens along the way for her to view later through a microscope. On this trip I came upon only one, a dead green beetle which I scooped up for later examination.
A few days later I persuaded Sophie to examine the beetle through my microscope. It might be an impossible task, but I'll gently urge her to patiently examine things in detail. I've seen too many people look through an eyepiece for 3 seconds and think they've seen everything. Slow, careful observation shows the depth of nature's beauty and reveals features not noticed at first glance.
But Sophie's attention span is limited at this point. After looking at the beetle's hairy, spiky legs, Sophie pronounced them "gross and creepy". She was then eager to run off and play with something else. I hope we do more exploring in the future.

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