Solar Eclipse | 23 Oct | Partial Near Sunset

Late in the day on Thursday October 23rd, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun and obstruct part of it. This partial eclipse will occur at sunset on the east coast. Nearly all of the states will have the opportunity to see a crescent shape to the Sun. Southern states will see about 40% of the Sun eclipsed. Northern will see over 60% eclipsed.

Below this graphic is an excellent video from the staff of Science@NASA which explains more about the eclipse and some interesting things to try to see. Now all we need is good weather. I will talk to my sources to see if it can be arranged.

Additional details can be found at this article from the editors of Sky & Telescope. I suggest you take a look.

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Sky & Telescope | Leah Tiscione

Milkweed | Seeds Harvested

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

Milkweed plants are disappearing according to Monarch Watch and other sources. The Monarch butterflies rely upon them for survival. I decided to gather a few seed pods so I can plant some in my backyard and along a trail near my house. I cruised around some places on my bike looking for patches of milkweed that had extra pods I could harvest and bring home. I only took seven and left the rest for nature. I placed them on the deck for a month to dry out. That worked well. They split open and revealed their many seeds with attached coma.

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Each pod had dozens of healthy brown seeds. The challenge was to remove them without getting coma fuzzies all over the place. The garage seemed the best place to do that job.

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I grasped each pod firmly by the end opposite the seeds. That is where the…

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Dead Trees | Impressive Removal Job

Two elm trees died on the property line between our house and our neighbor. We decided to split the cost and have them removed before they dropped dead branches and damaged our houses or injured a person. Their trunks were 14″ and 24″ in diameter. Equipment could not get to them between the houses. They couldn’t be dropped into a yard due to lack of space. In came the heavy duty 80 ft crane to my driveway. Because of its size, I had to sign a waiver for possible damage to the concrete. Nothing happened to the concrete.

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Castor Bean | Bigger | Update 5

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

We are nearing the dates of our first killing frost and hard freeze in Iowa. Here is the latest forecast this afternoon. We live one mile north of interstate 80. Bad news for Castor.

…COLD NIGHT WITH FREEZE AND FROST EXPECTED…

.A LARGE CANADIAN HIGH PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD DOWN ACROSS
THE UPPER MIDWEST TONIGHT. THIS SYSTEM WILL BRING CLEARING SKIES…
LIGHT WINDS AND COLD CONDITIONS TO THE AREA BY EARLY SATURDAY
MORNING. THIS WILL LEAD TO FREEZING TEMPERATURES GENERALLY NORTH OF
INTERSTATE 80.

The plant does not appear to care. It is bigger and stronger than ever. The last update 4 was September 14. Since then, we went to Oklahoma, New Mexico, back to Oklahoma, and now home. It continues to amaze.

After our walk yesterday, I took this picture from the same vantage point as most of the previous ones.

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It didn’t give a good sense…

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Lunar Eclipse | 8 October 2014 | Tetrad Part 2

Note: This lunar eclipse is the second of four in a tetrad. I wrote about the tetrad in April 2014.


I left the house a little after 5 AM and drove the half mile to my usual dark location on the north side of town. The sky was clear and seeing was good. The Moon, low in the western sky, was already well into the partial phase of eclipse. Totality was going to occur in 10 minutes. The Sun was still not showing any sign of twilight to the east. I scanned the sky for familiar constellations. Orion was high to the south. As I looked back toward the darkening Moon, a meteor passed. That might be a good omen I thought.

I set up the camera and tripod, tried a few test exposures, and decided which settings I would use. I have a Fuji FinePix s602z that is 12 yrs old. It isn’t fancy. I come from the old school of manual cameras and film. This camera gives me a lot of control. I don’t care for fully automatic features. Plus, I get good quality digital images.

Now, a little science about a lunar eclipse. This occurs when the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. The Moon orbits slowly from west to east, taking about a month to go around. Earth’s shadow is rather large. Odds are good that the Moon will align such that it passes through the shadow a couple of times each year. When it is wholly within the umbra part of the shadow, it is called a total lunar eclipse. That happened this morning.

This graphic from NASA shows the Earth’s umbra, darkest part of the shadow, which the Moon passed through. It is oriented with N north pointing toward the north star Polaris in the sky as viewed in the low western sky. The Moon moved from the lower right toward the upper left as it traveled west to east. My photographs begin at point U2 when the Moon just enters the umbra and end at U3 when the Moon emerges from the umbra.

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Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

Show me more and your photographs.

Astronomy | October 2014 Events

As you plan your month of October, remember to include some events that will occur in the sky. Mars sees the passage of a comet very close to its surface. There is a total lunar eclipse followed two weeks later by a partial solar eclipse. Both eclipses are visible in  North America. NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory have provided this brief video. Enjoy the shows.