House Wren | Welcome Back

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Our View From Iowa

I cleaned out the House Wren birdhouse last week to prepare for their arrival this week. This morning a single male could be heard in the bushes out back singing away. He soon got busy adding new twigs to the house in preparation for arrival of the females. He must do a good job in order to attract a female.

Wren1

Most of the twigs were small and fit easily into the small hole. But, now and then he brought one up that was awkward like this one. He tried several different approaches, first one end then the other.

Wren2

This stick got the best of him. He seemed quite frustrated with it. Persistence paid off in the end.

Wren3

These tiny birds are really busy non-stop. They forage for food. They sing loudly. They are very aggressive toward other birds much larger if they need to be. They scold us at times…

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Autumn Leaves | Scanned Images

Fellow bloggers Steve and Steve often include beautiful close-up photos of leaves in their posts. They inspired me to try imaging leaves in a different way. I decided to use a flatbed scanner. During a recent walk, I picked up three examples that were colorful and still in good shape. I got a pin oak, maple, and ornamental pear and headed home.

First up on the scanner was the oak leaf. I placed it face down on the glass and set the resolution to a high value of 800 dpi. I wanted to get lots of detail in the scanned image.

oak800_ref

Pin oak | 800 dpi | Reflection setting

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Gravity | How It Behaves

There are two astronauts somewhere in space, 3 meters apart, and not moving relative to each other. Astronaut Lucy has a total mass of 100 kg including her suit. Astronaut Ricky has a total mass of 140 kg including his suit. Question 1 – Is there a physical attractive force between them? Question 2 – What are the variables which affect the strength of that force? Question 3 – How large is that force? Those questions will be answered in this post.

astronauts

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Drought 2015 | Outlook Not Good

The regional precipitation for the western states of the U.S. during the recent 5 years has been falling below normal. The blue line is the historical average. Winter months are normally the wettest. Instead, the red bars indicate below normal amounts each year. One year ago, I wrote about this situation. The much needed precipitation is not coming.

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Comet Lovejoy | Motion and Details

If you are hoping to see Comet Lovejoy, there is still time. Here is where and how. I posted my photo of Comet Lovejoy from Monday January 12 here. The next night of January 13, my brother-in-law Dave, about 200 miles east of me, posted his photo of Lovejoy on Facebook. What is interesting is how much the comet moved in 24 hours. I superimposed the two photos and aligned the stars visible in each. The actual distance across the sky is about the width of a full moon, or the width of your thumb seen with your arm extended. Lovejoy will not be staying in our neighborhood for long. And, it will be getting dimmer as it departs from the sun.

Lovejoy_Dave

Dave and I used a single time exposure to obtain our images. Many amateur and professional astronomers have equipment and software that allows them to overlay multiple time exposures. This stacking process can bring out details and evidence of motion. You can see many excellent examples by viewing the daily gallery updates at Spaceweather. The animated gif below shows a sequence of 21 images, each 2 minutes in exposure time. More photographic details by clicking the linked image.

Philippe ROUCHEUX | January 12, 2015 | Joigny, Burgundy, France

Subtle and beautiful wispy details can be seen in many images. A good example is this one. Click on the linked image for photographic and equipment details and a much larger view. The large view shows the evidence for thirty 90 sec exposures used to make this composite.

Kasper Flückiger & Peter Kronenberg | January 12, 2015

Last evening, after Dave posted his picture, Melanie and I went out armed with our Astroscan telescope. It was 7˚F. We needed to be quick. Within 10 minutes, we viewed Lovejoy, the Orion Nebula, and Jupiter with the 4 Galilean moons all aligned closely on one side like this simulation from my free Stellarium desktop software. It was a fine night.

GalMoons

Comet Lovejoy | Successful Sighting

It was about 7 pm local time in Iowa. The temperature was 11˚F (-12˚C). The sky was clear. I scanned the star fields with binoculars to the right of Orion where the chart said to look. There it was. My telescope gathered more light and gave a much better view. It was a pale blue-green fuzzy patch as expected.

It was really cold. My fingers were getting numb. In a hurry, I set up the camera to take several time exposures. Not being able to see the comet in the viewfinder, I guessed that I was pointed at it. I came indoors and checked the memory card. No comet! Darn! I was pointed wrong. I went back out and tried again. This time the comet was in the frame and easily seen.

Time to thaw out under one of Melanie’s quilts and have some rum or scotch. I’m happy.

Comet Lovejoy | C/2014 Q2 | January 12, 2014

Comet Lovejoy | C/2014 Q2 | January 12, 2014

Camera Settings

ISO 1600

Focal Length 19.9 mm

Exposure 10 sec

Aperture f/2.8

White Balance Tungsten Bulb

Photoshop adjusted