Oh My Stars | Winner Chosen

Melanie and I are happy to announce the recipient of the Oh My Stars donation quilt. The story and monetary offer combined to make a compelling case that it should go to this person. She will be known as Grace in order to maintain her privacy. Here are details of the donation quilt offer in case you missed the earlier post.

Grace has been a volunteer with her local hospice center after they cared for her mother and father. She has assisted patients and their families as they transitioned through the hospice process. Grace knows first-hand the wonderful help they give to others in their hours of great need. She has chosen to donate her offering to Iowa City Hospice.

Melanie and I visited the office of Iowa City Hospice. We brought the quilt and Grace’s donation. We explained the circumstances of the quilt project that led to her donation. They were moved by Grace’s story and grateful for her donation.

Now Grace needs that same hospice care. She has been diagnosed with cancer which has metastasized. Previous surgery complications and resultant problems left her with difficult choices of what to do next during her remaining months. She has decided to forego more surgery and instead receive care from the nurses, doctors, and social workers of her local hospice.

Grace has been gathering together personal notes and gifts for various family members and friends. These will be given to family and friends upon her death. Grace and her sister are very close. She has been a welcome source of comfort and strength. Their bond is deep and complex. Grace wants something special to give to her sister. This quilt seems to be ideal as her remembrance.


Her sister is a seamstress and appreciates the work that is needed for hand made items like quilts. Her sister’s favorite color is orange, a color that stands out in this quilt. Plus, Grace and her sister have had long meaningful talks outside under the stars about many deeply personal things. The stars in the quilt are a reminder of those talks and what they have shared.

Grace’s son will act as executor of her Will. He will follow her instructions explaining the source of this quilt and how it came to be given to her sister. It will serve as a lasting memory of their love for each other.

Peace to you, Grace. Thank you for your moving and inspiring story.

Astro-Images | Globulars-Galaxies-Nurseries

Creating a color image from three grayscale images is a challenge I enjoy. The post linked here will explain how to use that process to create color astronomical images. Visit the gallery of my previous Astro-Images at this link.


NGC 104

Also known as 47 Tucanae, this object in the skies of the southern hemisphere is the second largest and brightest globular cluster of stars. It is nearly 17,000 light years distant and contains millions of stars of many interesting types. The Hubble space telescope was used to study the cluster in 2000 by watching 35,000 stars for 8 days expecting to find some extra-solar planets. It found none. The image below is of one quadrant of the cluster.

There are two kinds of star clusters. There are open clusters and globular clusters. Open clusters are loose groupings that have fewer stars and can be seen through. Globulars are so dense with stars you cannot see through their center.


From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

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Dawn | Flyover Dwarf Planet Ceres

The spacecraft Dawn is orbiting dwarf planet Ceres in the Low Altitude Mapping Orbit LAMO of about 240 miles (385 km). From August to October 2015, Dawn was in the High Altitude Mapping Orbit HAMO of 900 miles (1450 km). Images from that orbit captured many interesting features of Ceres. The German Aerospace Center DLR compiled many of these images into a simulated flyover of them. Expect another flyover video at a later date using images from the much closer LAMO.

Several previous posts about the Dawn mission are available at this link.

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Oh My Stars | Quilt Donation

Two years ago, Melanie made the quilt below for a blog project that I especially liked called Oh My Stars. I want to offer it for someone to purchase. The quilt dimensions are 59″x60″ (1.50m x 1.52m). A deserving charitable organization in our community will receive the money. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. We learn by doing.


My Stars | Melanie McNeil | Catbird Quilt Studio | 2013


My Stars | Melanie McNeil | Catbird Quilt Studio | 2013


The basic plan is for interested persons to (1) explain why they want the quilt, (2) make a monetary offer, and (3) choose one of the six organizations below as the recipient of their offer.

Offers are to be made in private using my email address provided below. Only offers submitted using that email will be considered.

Only offers from the U.S. will be considered due to shipping cost constraints.

The winner will be asked to write a check to the charitable organization they choose, not to me. Those details will be worked out after the selection of the winning offer.

Submission deadline is midnight 1 February 2016. I will review the offers and decide who wins. My choice will depend on the explanation by the person as well as the amount of their offer. No doubt, this could turn into a difficult decision. I hope that is actually the case.

Submit offer, explanation, and choice to:  Offer has expired. A winner was chosen.


Local Charitable Organizations

North Liberty Food Pantry

Domestic Violence Intervention Program

Free Lunch Program of Iowa City

Table to Table

Iowa City Hospice

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois

Occultation | Aldebaran Again

Update: Andrew Symes of Ontario, Canada, photographed the occultation with his iPhone thru an 8″ telescope. Please visit Andrew’s flickr account and view his two images. They are excellent.


January 19, 2016, the Moon occulted the star Aldebaran for nearly all of North America. The time for your location can be had from this graphic. Click to embiggen. Many more details are available from the EarthSky website. It last happened in the daytime. I was able to watch and wrote about it here. If your skies are clear, check it out. Good luck.

Chart by Curt Renz, shared by Stephen Aman at EarthSky

Smithsonian | Udvar-Hazy Center

Check out our visit to the Udvar-Hazy air and space museum.

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

When we get a chance, we enjoy visiting the National Mall in Washington, DC. Over time we’ve experienced many of the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is one we have visited several times. It is full of thousands of artifacts documenting the history of aviation and space exploration. Did you know about their companion facility the Udvar-Hazy Center? It is located near Dulles airport west of the DC area in Chantilly, VA. It consists of two hangars with some iconic space and aviation exhibits. We finally got to visit and urge you to do the same if you have an interest in aviation and space.


The hangars are enormous and contain displays at every turn. It would be impossible to tell about them all. We will focus on a few exhibits that were especially impressive and memorable.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Launched in…

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Camera Obscura | Granddaughter Results

A previous post of mine was on the topic of the Camera Obscura, a forerunner to photography and camera technology. Our granddaughter used the idea to create a project for her school science fair. She obtained three images which were excellent examples of her results. As a proud grandparent, I get to boast.

Camera Obscura is a simple device consisting of a light-tight box with a hole in one wall. The hole allows inverted and reversed images to be cast on the opposite wall. The box can be small or as large as a room. The image below is the basic idea. She used her bedroom as the box.



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