Venus-Mars | At Their Closest

Two days earlier I posted some photos of Venus and Mars in the pre-dawn light. The positions of Venus and Mars were getting closer each morning. October 5th was to be the day they would be closest at 1/4˚ apart. For comparison, the Moon’s diameter is only 1/2˚ wide.

Our weather forecast said it would be raining on the morning of the 5th. I assumed that previous post was going to be all I would get to share about their conjunction. Today I looked outside before 6 am and was thrilled to see a clear sky. I got the camera and tripod to capture the unexpected scene.

First is a screen capture from my planetarium software showing the planets on the 3rd and the 5th of October.

Next is my photograph of Venus and Mars at 6 am on the 3rd of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image.

Finally, my photograph of the two at 6 am on the 5th of October. It is adjusted to be the same scale as the first image. They were about half the width of a full moon apart. Mars was hard to see without the aid of binoculars. By 6:30 am, the sky was too bright to see Mars. Venus remained bright and easily seen. In fact, in clear skies, Venus is not hard to see in the daytime if you know where to look.

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Solar Eclipse | Totality

Eclipse day finally arrived. Before dawn broke, we awoke to much lightning and thunder here in eastern Iowa. It seemed a bad omen. I checked the radar and forecast for central Missouri where we planned to drive. No rain there in the morning and still pretty good odds for a visible eclipse.

The phone rang about 7:30 when our daughter called. They were to meet us as we drove south so she and our two grandkids could share the experience with us. She said her daughter woke with a fever and aches and pains. It seemed another bad omen. She gave her some meds and still hoped to go. We would meet them in 2 hours and make the final decision. We met and decided to go anyway. She slept most of the 2.5 hr drive from there to Auxvasse, Missouri. Would the two bad omens spoil the day?

The weather improved as we drove farther south. The Sun came out and blue skies were peeking through the clouds. We reached the park in the tiny town of Auxvasse. It was a party! Maybe 100 people were in the park. Music was playing. Kids were on the playground equipment. We opened our picnic food. It noticeably darkened as it neared 1 pm.

Totality Approached

We watched through our eclipse glasses to keep track of the progress of the Moon across the Sun. A minute before totality I began to record this video. Next to me was Melanie and our 6 yr old grandson. I love his commentary. Notice how dark it got.

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Solar Eclipse | Totality Minus 3 Days

The Moon is slowly making its way to the east for its date with the Sun. Today is 3 days before eclipse. At 5:58 am, well before sunrise, the waning crescent was high in the eastern sky not far from Venus. Our plan is to drive south into central Missouri with our daughter and two grandchildren. It will be fun to share this unique experience with them. News reports show traffic is already a problem in some areas as people position themselves for their best views. It should not be an issue for us.

Mantis | Grasshopper Devoured

💢 Warning for the squeamish: This post is about insects eating each other.


Friends of ours live on an acreage several miles out of town which includes prairie, trees, a pond, and many kinds of wildlife. There are mantises and grasshoppers. One day, he found a mantis which captured a grasshopper and started to eat it. He recorded many photographs of the events to share with me. Here are but a few selected ones. It’s kind of gruesome. But, as Melanie has often said, “Hey, everybody has to eat.”

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Crepuscular Rays

I looked out the window just before sunset while visiting family near Boulder Colorado. The low sun angle cast a beautiful set of crepuscular rays across the sky. I love seeing those rays of light. I knew the moment would not last long. Our host had the only readily available camera in her phone. She got the photo and sent it to me to share. Do you like it?

Space Station Transits Sun | 11 Jun 2017

A few days ago I received an email notice from CalSky that the International Space Station would pass directly in front of the Sun for my location. The station moves about 5 mi/sec. The duration of the transit would be 0.67 sec to cross the full disc of the Sun. Here it is. Don’t blink.

This view is slowed down to 1/4 as fast and is much easier to see. Do you hear the birds in the background?

Here is a composite of the station position each tenth of a second.