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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When You Get Caught Between the Moon and Comet Pan-STARRS

Last night a friend and I took these pictures from Pukalani. We used my Canon SX130, but there was a certain amount of...collaboration.

The Moon and Comet Pan-STARRS from Pukalani
March 12, 2013

(Click to embiggen.)

It's been cloudy here for days, ever since the comet moved north. It was cloudy when I got to work yesterday, and I figured we were out of luck, but the clouds dissipated around sunset, and there it was!

Here is an "arty" shot, taken just before it set.

The Moon and Comet Pan-STARRS from Pukalani
March 12, 2013

Comets are fun! I'm going to try again tonight, maybe use my film camera. It won't be so easy to spot tonight, because the moon's not near. I know now that you have to wait until it's good and dark.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Y Factor

From tomorrow's Day by Day:

Like women, cookie dough can be soft and sweet, but without the 'Y' factor of yeast, it'll never rise to any potential.

The "Y factor" (as in the Y chromosome) is "male virtues".

Problem is, cookie dough doesn't contain yeast.  It rises via baking soda.

Via Instapundit, who I expected to know better.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mele Kalikimaka!

Couldn't sleep much last night -- damned reindeer clopping on the roof all night long. But that was OK, because it meant I was awake to see this:

Sunrise from home, Christmas 2012

Niles and I wandered around in the yard -- I in my kerchief, he in his cap -- well, no, we were just in our jammies (*) -- taking pictures.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

(*) Though, strangely enough, I did get kerchiefs for Christmas.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

Pillow Fight!

On Tuesday, we will decide which soft, squishy, spineless creature will lead our great nation for the next four years:

Can you spot the Presidential Candidates?

I am talking about Obama or Romney, not the green thing with the teeth. It didn't acquire enough signatures to get on the ballot. Maybe next time.

These are pillows/toys in one of those crane machines where you spend $40 in quarters obtaining a $5 doodad. I first saw them at Wal-Mart, but these were at the local grocery store. They have also been spotted at K-Mart. At the grocery store there were several Obamas but only one Romney.

I have an even more disturbing picture of this, but it will have to wait for after the inauguration, because it predicts the future! (Not necessarily correctly.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Here is a very nice picture:

Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae and friends

Go see it in its full glory here.

Main page here, for other pretties.

I wonder if there's a way to make this into a Christmas ornament.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

There's a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today

Transit of Venus today. Here's a big pile of info. This post will be updated, if possible, with bad photos.

UPDATE 23:08 UTC: Here's another NASA site, with what looks like more info. They're doing a live webcast from Mauna Kea, where it's clear. Clear on Haleakala too. Here's a link for pictures from there. It's not quite so live (that I can see).

It was cloudy when I got up, then it started to clear, then it clouded up again. A few minutes ago the sun peeped out for about 30s. "Tag! You're it!" It does this to me all the time. Usually it's clear on the south coast, but it looks a bit cloudy right now. If I must I'll drive down there later.

AFTER ACTION REPORT: OK! This post should be subtitled "The Triumph of the Will," because the pictures represent the triumph of obstinancy over equipment, skill, and Nature. Just after 3pm local time I decided that the clouds were not going to part anytime soon, and it was time for a road trip. It was sprinkling when I left. Drove down to the beach. When I opened the car door the wind nearly ripped my arm off. Well, this will be fun.

But I managed to find a sheltered spot and got some decent pictures, considering. First, here is an illustration of my sophisticated astrophotographic technique:

Kibitzer Cat is optional.

The expensive filter there was a solar viewer given out for free by the U. of Hawaii. No eyes were harmed in the making of these pictures, because the camera doesn't have a viewfinder, only the LCD display (I mutter about that a lot), so the only risk is to the camera's sensor. The chief difficulty with this technique is that I couldn't see what I was doing 90% of the time. The glare on the screen was brighter than the filtered image of the sun (as you can gather by the reflection there). It was only when the sun began to set that the angle was such that I could actually see what was going on. Of course, most of the time nothing was going on, due to clouds.

Here's the photo I took down at the beach:

Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

Venus, a pimple on the face of the sun! We also see our friends the sunspots from yesterday. (Click for bigger images.)

After a while I figured I'd done enough there, and it was time to come home. It takes me about 40 minutes to drive home, and it was hot and sunny the entire way. It was sunny when I got home. It was, however, cloudy by the time (about five minutes later!) I got the tripod set up again. The clouds didn't clear off again until the transit was nearly over:

This way to the egress!
Transit of Venus during egress, June 5, 2012

The sun looks a bit mottled and bilious because this was shot through thin fog. Yes, Venus is the little notch in the sun's lower right. I had hoped to be able to show you several phases of the transit, but c'est l'astronomie. I was lucky to be able to see it at all.

And, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, that concludes our broadcast day.

Sunset, June 5, 2012


Monday, June 04, 2012

Moon Missing, Sun Spotted

So last night I was puttering around before bed, when something caught my eye through the skylight. Oh! It's just the half moon. Well, that's all...wait...the moon is full. What's it doing half? Must be an eclipse. And, indeed it was. Funny, I hadn't heard about it. Must've been concentrating too hard on the transit of Venus tomorrow. Anyway I rushed out to see if I could get a pic. I had to prop the camera up against the porch railing, and hold it carefully in place, anchoring my left arm around a convenient spiderweb, but it turned out pretty well, considering:

Partial lunar eclipse, June 4, 2012

Turns out it's very scary outside at night. There were evil little rustlings, punctuated by tiny thuds, as if small yet vicious rodents were sneaking up on you. And then there were simply ghastly gnawing sounds, like the small vicious rodents nibbling the bones of previous unwary night photographers. But the former turned out to be the dropping of failed baby avocados, and the latter were the palm fronds rubbing one another.

There was also the occasional hideous shriek, but those didn't bother me; that was just the deer.

During the day today wasn't nearly as scary. As practice for tomorrow's festivities, I tried taking a picture of the sun through a solar viewer (that is, a piece of specially-made dark film, mounted in cardboard, that I very professionally held in front of the lens). But at least I used the tripod. I don't think it turned out badly:

The Sun! June 4, 2012

(I have just realized that the image names here say 20120603, but it was really 20120604)

You can see sunspots! Barely. Here's a quick-n-dirty enhancement using an unsharp mask. Sunspots are labeled. Click for a larger image.

Image above with unsharp mask applied, with sunspot groups labeled.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- kind of looks like a crayon drawing. But it's real!

Compare with this image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory's Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager:

SDO/HMI Intensitygram

That image came from here. I rotated it 90 degrees, scaled it down, and added the sunspot labels. Found those at, but there wasn't a permanent link. Any errors are mine.

So, really, that's pretty good for a cheap $200 camera. The gazillion-dollar solar satellite makes much prettier pictures, though.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Foto Friday: Calmer Chamaeleon

Male Jackson's chamaeleon in an avocado tree
Maui, April 2012

How'd you like this monster staring at you in the morning? This is a Jackson's Chamaeleon. (Very nice pic in that link, with the pink flowers and all.) They're native to East Africa, but were introduced to Hawaii for God knows what reason. This one is in an avocado tree, surrounded by avocado blossoms. He stood out because of his tail, which is a bluish green (and also because the tree was losing its leaves, as they do, and the new ones were coming in red). I've noticed a couple of these around the house now and again, and they stand out for their brilliant green color -- they're really not all that well-camouflaged!

You'll note this one has a dark red head; I'd never seen one with that coloration. Someone told me that they'd do that if you held onto them for a while, but I was not about to make that experiment. The first of these I saw blended in perfectly, because it was dead and flat and leathery, and I nearly stepped on it. I was at the tiny and remote Sun Yat Sen Park, and I saw this dead monster on the ground. It was kind of like finding a dead baby tyrannosaurus in the yard. You wonder if there are bigger ones lurking about.

When I went down to get a closer look at this one, I found out he had a girlfriend:

Female Jackson's chamaeleon, Maui, April 2012

The female lacks the horns of the male, and this one, at least, is a much different color from her mate. I couldn't get such a good shot of her. I was wondering if one day I'd find myself overrun by tiny baby monsters, but after a few weeks they disappeared. I hope a cat or an owl didn't get them. They are incredibly slow, slower than arthritic turtles or lazy snails. They can't outrun me, in other words, and that's pretty pathetic.

Jackson's chamaeleon, May, 2011

Here's one from last year. I saw him from the kitchen window, and ran out to get a pic. He started climbing the date palm, and in a half hour or so, he would've gotten clean away.

What are you lookin' at?

Here's a close-up, taken the month before. Isn't he adorable? This one I also nearly stepped on, despite his not being dead and brown and leathery. I was minding my own business, wandering around the driveway, and almost put my foot down on him. Note that the famous chamaeleon camouflage does not extend to "concrete". I am disappoint. This is the same individual as in the previous pic, I'm pretty sure. He has the same coloration on his left hind leg (you see that in other photos of the same set). He's not the man with the girlfriend, though, because his legs were differently colored. Unless they do that sort of thing.

See ya, toots. I gotta motor.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Foto Friday: Possible Pillar

Sunset, Mar 8, 2012

This is last night's sunset. When I snapped it I thought it was a sun pillar. That would be a little unusual here, since those are caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere, and we don't get those a whole lot (though I have seen them). But now I think it's just the sunset reflecting off of virga.

Virga is precipitation which evaporates before it hits the ground. Now here's some virga for you (from this site). It's the Attack of the Extraterrestrial Jellyfish.

Lately our virga has not been evaporating, instead hitting the ground as simple rain. For the first week I was very glad, as we had not had enough rain this winter. But I'm about ready for it to end now. There's mildew everywhere. And besides, Kauai is washing away.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Foto Friday: Pinker

A rare sunrise here. This was taken one morning after work. Rather than going to bed like a sane person, I wandered all over the yard taking a picture every few seconds. "Wait! The light changed! Right? It's pinker now! Gotta snap another."

Sunrise from home, Jan 2012

Then when I was going through them, I found multiple identical frames, and had to decide which to keep. "Is that pinker? I think it's pinker. It's definitely pinker. But I don't care." With film, you kinda have to keep them all. Cuts down on the angst.

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