We headed home late in the afternoon after visiting our daughters in southeast Iowa. A small thunderstorm was leaving the area we drove north of the town of Mt. Pleasant. We hadn’t paid attention to the weather notices since we were busy visiting. A severe storm watch had been issued. This small storm looked quite energetic. I remarked how the trailing part of a storm is often where funnel or tornado activity originates. Thank you spotter training 101. In all my years of watching weather, I have not seen a tornado in real time.
We approached the rear of the storm as we drove north. The arrow in this radar map shows our location. The sky was bright to the west and dark to the east. A few cloud formations appeared low to the northwest. I was not driving the car and watched one funnel shape in particular. It was small and rotating very fast. We pulled to the side of the road to avoid driving into the path of it in case it got to the ground. It broke up.
We drove another mile and watched the same cloud form another funnel. This one was larger and longer. We pulled off the main highway to a side road for a better and safer view. The funnel was but a half mile away, still to our northwest. Full screen gives a more detailed view.
I called the NWS reporting phone number to give them details on location and movement they need to issue warnings. We watched the storms later as they moved into Illinois. Some storms caused heavy rains and hail. Extensive tornado damage occurred in the small town of Cameron about 30 miles east of where we watched this funnel.
Update: July 14 6:15 am
Latest just before flyby of Pluto in color posted on Twitter by Alex Parker.
It has been 85 years since the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in February 1930. It was but a tiny speck of light on glass photographic plates. Tombaugh systematically imaged a region of the sky in pairs of photographs. For hours on end, he studied the pairs to see if any objects shifted position. He used a blink comparator to quickly shift views of each of the plates. If any objects changed position, the blinking created the illusion of movement.
Lowell Observatory Archives
Pluto remained a speck of light until the Hubble telescope images revealed it with some hints of varying patches of color as in this highly processed image. This was the best view until now.
NASA | ESA | M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)
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During June 16-30, people around the world watched the planets Venus and Jupiter near each other in the evening sky. Their performance culminated on the 30th when they were a mere 1/3˚ apart. Details here.
Multiple day events like this are challenging to watch. Weather in some parts of the world is unreliable. Here in the middle of the U.S. we have a wide variety of sky viewing conditions. Even so, I attempted to document this two week event with a picture each evening at about 9:30 pm. I put the images in sequence to show the movements of each planet.
I found a good location half a block down the street from our house. The camera was on a tripod and set to manual. It has a 6x optical zoom. Each photo was at a 3x zoom setting. ISO was 200. Aperture was f/5.6. Focus distance was infinity. Shutter speed was between 0.5 and 2 sec depending on brightness of the sky. Self-timer was always used to avoid shaking the camera.
I want to see your results.
I hope you have been blessed with some clear sky conditions enough to see Venus and Jupiter in the west soon after sunset. During the recent two weeks, the pair have drawn closer together. Tuesday evening June 30, they will be 1/3˚ apart, closer than the width of a full moon. They will put on an beautiful show for us.
More details about this planetary encounter in earlier posts here and here. I wish you clear skies.
My actual view June 16, 2015. Venus is the brighter one.
My actual view June 23, 2015. Same zoom as before.
Simulated view for June 30, 2015.
There was much anticipation about the recent encyclical from Pope Francis on climate change. You can see and read the document at this link. No doubt you have seen and heard the news about it with some analysis of what is contained in it. I offer my impressions of the broad picture described in the 184 page document.
I’ve written a lot about climate change. It is one of the most important challenges faced by mankind. It will force us to deal with issues we already know about and some that we have yet to encounter. It will not go away if we ignore it.
Whether the encyclical is accepted by the world of Catholic leaders and followers will only be known by our actions in the future. There was a flurry of attention for a few days. Like many stories today, the attention has faded. I hope its messages are not forgotten.
Each chapter of the encyclical addresses aspects of the climate change problem I feel are very important. The document does not lay out a prescription for what humanity should do. It does serve as a reminder of our responsibilities to the Earth and to those less fortunate who do not have the means to help themselves easily. We all need reminders and guidance in those areas.
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Friday June 19 was a special day for me. I’ve been watching Venus and Jupiter in the evenings as they have come closer to each other. They will be at an amazing 1/3˚ apart on June 30. Details of that coming event are in this previous post.
After Sunset at 9:30 pm
Weather and clouds play a big role in getting good views. The past week has been mediocre. I have viewed the pairing on three of the recent five evenings. I am trying to get a series of photographs that I can combine into a sequence to document the days leading up to the close pairing on the 30th. The view Friday evening was perfect. Plus, the new moon was nearby. Bonus points for me.
Jupiter upper left | Venus center | Moon bottom
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