Scotland | Barge Trip Coast to Coast

Part one of a great vacation in Scotland.

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

Great Glen Fault

The city of Inverness opens to the North Sea via the Beauly and Moray Firths. The city of Fort William opens to the Atlantic Ocean via Loch Linnhe. Three inland lochs (lakes) Ness, Oich, and Lochy are aligned between the two cities along a geological fault called the Great Glen Fault. It was formed about 400 million years ago.

Navigation by ship between regions around Inverness and Fort William was a long and dangerous undertaking over 200 years ago. They had to go around the islands to the west, or around England to the south. Both journeys faced hazards of weather and piracy. The trips took a long time.

A canal was proposed to be built between Inverness and Fort William which would drastically shorten the journey. Much of the 60 miles would utilize the lochs. To raise and lower ships, a system of 29 locks were…

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The Face of America

I haven’t said much about the presidential campaign this year. I know many are very disturbed by it in this country. The partisan splits and us-against-them encampments have left us with no common ground for compromise and problem solving. It is a sad state of affairs.

People in other nations of the world wonder what has gone wrong here. They don’t understand how we can have such a fractious campaign. They are justifiably concerned about the outcome.

You might not ‘like’ either presidential candidate. But, that is the choice we have in November. You should vote anyway.

Things to consider… Whose face do you want to represent America internationally? Does expression at a negotiating table matter? Are important treaties and agreements promoted by making faces at your opponent?

I think the impressions we give to others matters a lot. I want someone who acts like an adult respecting others, not an angry pissy 6th grader. I want someone with experience and poise who seeks solutions with the help from all parties involved.


I chose these faces from the video of the debate via NBC.

Jupiter | Juno Flyby | Venus Conjunction

On 27 August 2016, Jupiter was involved in two interesting events. At around 7:44 am CDT the Juno spacecraft made a very close and fast flyby of the planet going 130,000 mph. It came within 2600 miles of the cloud tops, the closest to the clouds for the entire mission of 35 more orbits. NASA reported the entire suite of scientific instruments was turned on and functioned well. Data will be returned over the next days and weeks.



The image at left is a view of the north pole of Jupiter just prior to the flyby. The polar orbit is a first for Jupiter exploration.

According to Scott Bolton, principal investigator, “We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak. It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us. We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world.”

High resolution images will be released in the next two weeks.

More information and details about the Juno mission are available at this previous post.

At sunset also on the 27th, Jupiter and Venus aligned about 1/2˚ apart low in the western sky. That is the width of a full-moon. The dense cloud cover earlier in the day gave way to some partially clear sky for the evening show. The air was laden with much moisture and cloud remnants. The planets were visible. But, hazy conditions made their images not sharp and clear. I couldn’t wait for darkness because the clouds were approaching. Below is a wide view and a fully zoomed view. Venus is the upper and brightest of the two.



Jupiter aligned with Venus but was much more distant, small and dim.

Solar Transit | ISS Crosses the Sun

I’ve been waiting patiently. Today, three parts of a challenge finally came together. The sky was clear. I had the correct video equipment. And, the International Space Station crossed the face of the Sun as seen from my location. I received an email notice from CalSky this morning about this event. The track of the centerline was directly over our communities. I had to be ready in about an hour if I was to record video of the event.

I put the solar filter over the lens of my camera and put it on the tripod. I stepped outside to test the video settings. A test video of the Sun turned out as I hoped. I went inside and set a timer. The transit across the Sun was to occur moments after 1:03 local time. I figured to record from 1:02 until 1:04. The transit would show a silhouette of the ISS for only 0.6 seconds since it is going so fast at 5 mile/sec. I used my cell phone to accurately keep track of time. It was within a second of the national atomic clock.

Here is the result. The video is slowed down to half speed. Transit occurs about 6 seconds into it. You can slow it down even more with the gear tool on the video panel.


I was thrilled with the result. This isn’t the first time I’ve recorded a transit. Others are here and here. But, this is by far the best quality. I am still waiting for an opportunity to record an ISS transit of the Moon.

Here is a sequence of superimposed screen shots from the video showing a more detailed look at ISS. Two large solar array panels are quite visible. Total transit time was 0.6 sec. Each position of ISS is about 0.1 sec apart. Notice a few small sunspots left of center and to the far right limb. The faint concentric rings are imaging artifacts and not real. North is to the top of the frame.


Sturgeon Moon | 17 Aug 2016

We were fortunate to have clear sky last evening. The nearly full Moon rose above the southeast. Here it is about 6 hours before full. Full phase was at 4:27 am CDT on 18 August.



According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this is known as the Sturgeon Moon.

Some Native American tribes called the August Moon the “Sturgeon Moon” because they knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon. They also called August’s Moon the “Full Green Corn Moon.”
Different tribes had different Moon name preferences. Other examples for August are: “Wheat Cut Moon” (San Ildefonso, and San Juan), or “Moon When All Things Ripen” (Dakotah Sioux) or “Blueberry Moon” (Ojibway).

Mars | Antares | Saturn | A Triangle

Fellow blogger and sky enthusiast, Scott Levine, pointed out the grouping of two planets and a star in the southern sky in recent nights. Our overcast conditions finally parted and gave us a beautiful view of the grouping the evening of 13 August 2016.

It was about 9 pm local time as we headed home from a gathering of about 30 friends. We have all been to Cuba in the past 3 years and were celebrating with some Cuban foods and drinks. We looked to the south and saw this view exactly as Scott described it. That is the roofline of our house at the bottom right.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Below is a screen shot of the same part of the sky taken from the software Stellarium. Each planet and some stars are labeled. Since Mars and Saturn are in orbits around the Sun, their positions in the sky change each night. Their arrangement with Antares looks different each night. Watch their progress.


Perseid Meteors | 2016

The annual meteor shower called the Perseids is due to peak in the early morning hours of August 12. The best show is forecast to occur between 3 am and 5 am on the 12th when the radiant is highest in the northeast. The Moon will have set earlier providing the dark sky essential for their easiest viewing. If the predictions are correct, a rate up to 200 meteors per hour is possible, twice the usual rate. Time exposures over several hours could yield an image like this one from 2009 when the Perseids last gave such a high rate.

NASA | JPL | 2009

The Perseids are dust grains from comet Swift-Tuttle which orbits the Sun every 133 years. Every time the comet orbits the Sun, it leaves more particles. Earth crosses the path of debris each year. Some enter the atmosphere at very high speeds up to 132,000 mph (59 km/s) and burn up in flashes of light. Their Perseid name is because they appear to radiate out of the upper part of the constellation Perseus close to Cassiopeia in the upper right part of this graphic.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared this video summary of the Perseids and some other features of the night sky in August you might find interesting.

What is the best way to view the Perseids? This short video sums up the task. It is very easy. Basically, you need to lie on your back and watch the sky. Thanks to the folks at the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their job is to monitor meteor impact hazards to spacecraft.

What if clouds are a problem? A live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT.