Noon @ Ollantaytambo

We climbed the 245 steps to the top of the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo in Peru and reached the Temple del Sol. It was noon with the sun high overhead. Someone looked up and noticed an ice ring encircling the sun. I had to capture this photo.

I grew up and continue to live at about 40-42˚ north latitude in the center of the U.S. The sun has never been directly overhead. But now, at noon about 13˚ south latitude, the sun was nearly straight up. I looked down to my feet and saw something I’d never seen before. My shadow was directly below me. That was fun to see.


Inca Pot | c 1500

In Peru, one of our stops was at a ceramics studio by a local artist. He had a display of his personal collection of works by the Inca. The pattern on this pot inspired me to draw it in graphite pencil.

DAWN Spacecraft | End of Mission

NASA’s DAWN spacecraft ran out of fuel used to point its antenna toward Earth. Communications failed on 31 Oct and 1 Nov 2018. It was launched in 2007 to study minor-planets Vesta and Ceres, the two largest asteroid bodies in our solar system. It achieved the mission goals which I have highlighted in several previous posts. NASA issued this press release about the DAWN mission which I encourage you to read.

DAWN was the first spacecraft to fly to a body of the solar system, descend into orbit, conduct science, ascend from orbit, travel to a second body, descend into orbit, conduct science, and all under the propulsive power of an ion engine instead of a chemical rocket engine.

Chief Engineer and Mission Director Mark Rayman reflects on the mission in this video.


Leon Lederman | How I Knew Him

There was sad news in the physics community about the death of Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman on 3 Oct 2018. He was 96. He lived a distinguished career in physics research and education.

1988 | Director of Fermilab

My first contact with Leon came in 1983 as a participant in the first Summer Institute for Physics Teachers held at Fermilab near Batavia IL. Participants met daily for several weeks. Several days each week started with a talk by a physicist explaining the state of research about fundamental particles which make up the world we know. We had special tours of the research facilities. Through these insights we were charged to include modern physics topics into our classroom teaching.

Dr. Lederman was the lab director at that time. His interest in science education often brought him to our group of teachers. He showed up at the talks, took some tours with us, and talked informally with us. He always carried a smile and had a good joke to tell. His hope for the Theory of Everything was that it would fit on a T-shirt. Simplicity of concepts was important.

Leon meets with the Education Office team | 1985

I took over as coordinator of the physics part of the Summer Secondary Science Institutes until 1992. That’s me next to Leon. The Fermilab Education Office had a farewell dinner in my honor when we moved from the area. Seated at my table that evening were my wife, my closest teaching colleagues, and Leon. I was thrilled to share the evening with him.

One sad facet of the news of his death included the fact that in 2015 he sold his Nobel Prize for $765,000 to pay for medical expenses related to his care in a nursing home for dementia. His wife said:

“It’s terrible,” Leon’s wife Ellen Lederman told NBC News back in 2015 after they had to sell the Nobel Prize. “It’s really hard. I wish it could be different. But he’s happy. He likes where he lives with cats and dogs and horses. He doesn’t have any problems with anxiety, and that makes me glad that he’s so content.”

It is inexcusable that this wealthy country does not have a plan in place to guarantee care and comfort to its citizens. I believe it should be a right. Leon Lederman certainly did his share of contributions to our country. He deserved better.

Eye of Michael | GOES View | 10 Oct 2018

This is the best view I’ve ever seen of the dynamics of the eye and wall of a powerful hurricane. Michael was recorded by the GOES-16 weather satellite on 10 Oct 2018 as it made landfall in Florida with 150 mph winds. Notice how the eye lost shape as it went inland.

Click on the image to be taken to the University of Wisconsin Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. There you can watch the video.

U of Wisconsin | Dept of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences


Eye of Michael | ISS View | 10 Oct 2018

ISS View of Michael

According to NASA, cameras outside the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Michael at 12:58 p.m. EDT Oct. 10 from an altitude of 255 miles. The eye was making landfall with winds of over 150 mph as a category 4 storm. This video is part of a longer video captured from their YouTube channel. It is about double normal speed. The view is directly down into the eye.

3-D View of Eye

I got two screen captures of the view down into the eye a few seconds apart. They are from slightly different directions due to the rapid speed of the ISS. The two images were sized the same and placed side-by-side in the image below.

If you are able to do the parallel viewing method, stare through this image at a distance. The images for your right and left eyes should merge into a third one in the center. The center one is a 3-D view down into the eye. Be patient. It might take a few moments for the effect to become easily seen. I can see the water surface below a thin cloud deck. The walls of the eye are steep and tall.

Amazon River Sunglint

I looked at the GOES-17 full-disk view of Earth during sunrise across the Americas on the morning of 7 Oct 2018. It was a beautiful way to start the day. The video on the site looped repeatedly while I watched showing images taken every 15 min.

Something curious caught my eye in the Amazon Basin. I screen-captured this short video. Watch the Amazon region for movement of bright light up-river. It is sunglint. Reflection of sunlight off the water surface into the GOES satellite optics.

Using the tools on the site, I zoomed into the Amazon Basin for a better look. Here it is from the mouth at the Atlantic to the west toward the Andes. Not much of the river is visible.

Watch what happens when the same region is viewed at 15 min intervals in this video loop. I stepped the video forward over a 3 hour interval, rewound, and repeated.

Here is a close-up of the river and tributaries at the middle of the basin. Amazing what you can see with the new GOES weather satellites.

If you want to explore more from a GOES weather satellite. Here is a link to the image viewer. Note the tabs across the page. Try them out. The U.S. Regions tab offers closer views and animations. Go ahead and have some fun. You can’t break anything.