Solar Panels | Site Preparation

We decided it was time to install solar panels, something we wanted to do for a long time. Prices came down and tax incentives were still available. Most home installations are rooftop. We had room and chose a ground mount system. It won’t interfere with shingle replacement in a few years.

This overhead view shows the location of the 8 panel array on the south side of our house. The house is about 16˚ from alignment with south. The electric meter is on the north side of the house at the top of the picture. A sturdy black plastic pipe was buried around 3 sides of the house following the yellow line. The plastic pipe would contain the power cables from the array to the meter.

A machine called a sneaker outfitted with a vibrating 2 ft long knife blade cut through the turf and soil as it pulled the black plastic pipe with it. A few tree roots slowed progress until the blade cut through them.

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Climate Crisis Town Hall | 4 Sep 2019

A seven hour program about Climate was presented by CNN on 4 Sep 2019. Each of 10 Democratic presidential candidates was given 40 minutes to present their plans for addressing climate change and to answer questions from moderators and the audience. Finally there was substantive discussion on this topic in primetime TV hours.

Vox reporters watched it all and compared the policies and ideas proposed by the candidates. They published a story on 5 Sep giving 6 winners and 3 losers in the town hall. Their overall winner was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who wasn’t even in the program that night. He dropped out in August. But, he has put out over 200 pages of policy very detailed and ambitious. The other candidates have been paying attention to him. Quoting Vox:

Inslee sat down with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in Seattle last week as she was crafting her climate plan. He chatted with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. Former housing secretary Julián Castro has been “looking for me,” Inslee told Vox Wednesday, but they haven’t been able to connect yet.

Other winners were the audience questioners and CNN for hosting.

Click this image or this link to read the Vox story about all the winners and losers.

Edward M. PioRoda | CNN

Refugee Admissions to U.S.

A majority of Americans (62%) continue to say the country’s openness to people from around the world is “essential to who we are as a nation.” – Pew Research Center – 17 July 2019

The number who supported openness was at 68% in the 2017 and 2018 surveys. The drop appears due to changes in Republican attitudes of those surveyed. Democrat/Democrat Leaning adults remained strong supporters at 84, 85, and 86% in recent surveys. Republican/Republican Leaning adults decreased their support from 47 to 37%.

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Right Place | Right Time

Sometimes things work out just right. The Sun was high about 2pm in very clear blue sky. The Space Station passed over me and did a very brief transit of the Sun lasting only 0.63 sec. I drove 2 miles and put myself as close to the centerline as possible. The path of visibility was only about 3 miles wide. I needed to be in the right place at the right time. The video is slowed to 10% normal speed so you don’t blink and miss the transit.

Frame grab of the ISS in transit. Solar panels easily visible.

Of course, it is easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time. One of my favorite performers, Dr. John, captured the situation of being in the right place at the wrong time. Enjoy.

ISS Passes Arcturus & Jupiter

After admiring Jupiter, Saturn, Albireo, and Mizar-Alcor, I packed up the Celestron 8 and waited a few minutes. Right on time, the ISS rose from the horizon in the northwest passing just over the thin crescent new moon. The iPad was on the roof of the car with the NightCap app running and pointed high in the southwest. A passenger plane flew west with blinking lights. Then came ISS going right-to-left just below Arcturus. It brightened as it passed over Jupiter before dimming abruptly before reaching Saturn. A lot of ground is covered traveling 5 miles per second.

Policing the Skies

Many years ago I tried to view the Trifid Nebula with a 5″ diameter telescope. A dark sky was needed. My back yard in town was not dark enough. I scouted the neighborhood and found a dark place behind the local elementary school. An electrical outlet was also available to run the drive mechanism on the scope. As a precaution, I called the local police station and let them know my plan to be behind the school that night. They said ok to that.

Trifid Nebula M20 | Wikipedia | Hunter Wilson

Darkness approached. I drove to the school and set up and aligned my telescope. My eyes were dark-adapted after 20 minutes. I saw someone across the school yard walking their dog in the very dim light. I didn’t think they saw me.

The views of M20 were excellent. I could just make out the dark dust lanes visible in the reddish part of the image above. The image above is a time exposure revealing many details. It is not mine.

I was intent on pointing the scope to another nearby object when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to see who it was. A bright flashlight was pointed directly into my face. My dark-adaptation was over. The person with the bright light in my face asked who I was and what I was doing. It was a policeman. That dog-walker had called to report a suspicious person behind the school.

I explained who I was. He put down his light from my face. I told him I had called that afternoon to let them know I was going to be here. He said I should have called just before I came over. The day shift doesn’t usually talk to the night shift about stuff like this.

I was reminded of this story when I read the Focal Point story on the last page of the August 2019 Sky & Telescope magazine. It was titled Encounters With Police by Dennis Kelly. He is an amateur astronomer and holds two criminal justice degrees. He encouraged amateurs to be careful and very transparent about what you are doing in the dark with weird looking apparatus. Bad things could happen and much of it by accident.