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Archive for May, 2011


4:58 AM CDT 5-18-11 (9:58 UTC), 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece. The Moon was riding low in the south as viewed from my northerly location, and was already sinking into the ground clutter as viewed from my backyard. Interesting shot through the leaves, though!


It was more easily seen from the neighborhood park. Nineteen minutes later at 5:17 AM using the 60mm refractor and 17mm eyepiece.


5:42 AM CDT 5-19-11 (10:42 UTC), 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece.


Here’s a little experiment in photomontagery. The Venus photo was taken with 7×35 binoculars, the Jupiter photo with 60mm refractor, 17mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow. I glimpsed Mercury once again but didn’t manage to photograph it. I doubt that I’ll even see Mars until June, as here in the Northland the planetary grouping isn’t very high above the horizon when the sky gets light.


The swallows have the birdhouse staked out.


Edgar the Eager Egret is eager to eat!

Below: a series of gosling photos and a couple of videos, mostly from dawn on May 18, but the last photo was taken on May 19:


At about 12 seconds into this 19-second video, a low-swooping adult goose causes a cute flap and kerfuffle, good for a chuckle.

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Bird photos either with 60mm refractor and 25mm eyepiece or with 7×35 binoculars.

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At long last, a perfectly clear morning, with the hope of more to come this week! Jupiter is a little higher each morning, soon to dominate the predawn sky once again:


5:21 AM CDT (10:21 UTC) 5-16-11, 60mm refractor with 25mm eyepiece

Venus soon follows. In the following two pictures Venus is on the lower left and Jupiter on the upper right. They were taken with 7×35 binoculars. The first one has the nicest landscape, I think, but please forgive the dirty smudges on the lens. It was taken through the left half of the binoculars, which apparently need cleaning! The second picture was through the cleaner right half, but with less landscape, so I decided to show both:


5:27 AM


5:30 AM

The highlight of the morning was spotting Mercury to the lower right of Venus. This is the best I did at capturing Venus and Mercury together in one view. Venus is on the upper left, just about falling off the edge of the field of view. I promise you that Mercury is there in the lower right corner of this picture, but you might have to squint:


5:35 AM (10:35 UTC), 60mm refractor with 25mm eyepiece

Below, Mercury by itself close to the middle of the field of view at 5:37 AM. Unseen in orbit around Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft is hard at work:

Last but not least, egrets! Yesterday morning at 6:05 AM – they roost at night and go elsewhere at sunrise. Lots of people probably don’t even realize we have them so close to downtown:

Egret pictures with 7×35 binoculars. An egret takes flight:

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Clickable for larger view.

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Here’s the Moon at 12:19 AM CDT 5-11-11 (5:19 UTC), 8″ f8 homebuilt reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece.

I had hoped to view and photograph the planetary gathering in the east at dawn, but a bank of clouds stood in the way. The weather report is promising for the coming week, so stay tuned. This month’s “planetary dance” is much more easily viewed in more southerly locations; check out some beautiful pictures taken in the Philippines at Journey To the Stars.

I turned my attention to the many birds which populate the neighborhood park where I had gone to look for the planets. Here’s a series of completely unedited pictures of goings-on at what I’ve come to call the “Flying Circus.” All photos in this post were taken with my usual LG VX8360 cell phone camera between 5:40 and 6:30 AM, and may be clicked for a larger view. The bird photos were taken through my 60mm Meade refractor. The ones with the smaller field of view were using the 25mm eyepiece (28x magnification) and the larger field of view with the 17mm eyepiece (41x magnification).


Above, the pelicans occupying “Pelican Point” as usual. Below, the first Canada Goose family with goslings! Two more goose families have appeared since:

Below, a short “action shot,” very peaceful. It was the fourth anniversary of my Father’s passing, and it was a joy to see new living things:


A lone cormorant swimming:

Back to the goslings! The proud parents guide them as they search for morsels on the bank:

Below, the top of a certain dried-out branch is very popular with swallows:

A pal (or mate?) arrives:

A swallow on a closer twig wonders what I’m up to:

… and is soon joined by another:

Mr. Mallard weighs their options as Mrs. Mallard rests on her feet:

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I don’t get many chances to take pictures of the waxing crescent Moon, so I enjoyed the chance to view it this evening. Above, at 8:42 PM CDT 5-7-11 (1:42 UTC 5-8-11), with 8″ reflector and 25mm eyepiece. Below, a closeup of the southern part of the Moon with 8″ reflector, 25mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow, two minutes earlier at 8:40 PM:

In August 2010 I wrote a post about an area I like to call “Mickey Mouse On the Moon,” which consists of Janssen and adjacent craters. At the time I only had pictures during the waning period, but finally here’s a waxing closeup of the “Mickey Mouse” area cropped from the photo above, followed by three pictures from my previous post for comparison:


8:40 PM CDT 5-7-11 (1:40 UTC 5-8-11)

At 6:09 AM CDT, July 28, 2010:

Next, roughly 23 hours later, at 5:19 AM CDT, July 29, 2010:

Next, at 5:17 AM CDT June 30, 2010, nearly a month earlier, but slightly further ahead in the phase cycle:

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click large pictures for larger view.

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Venus rising just before dawn at 5:43 AM CDT 5-6-11 (10:43 UTC), photographed using 7×35 Bushnell binoculars and LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click photo for larger view. I also spotted Jupiter but didn’t manage to capture its image, but I liked this pic of Venus just the same, so I decided to share it. Mercury and Mars also are close by in this month’s planetary pre-dawn dance party, but I haven’t yet glimpsed them. Rainy days are coming – I hope we’ll have some more clear mornings this month so I can spot more planets!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on April 14, 2011:

When I was a sixth grader, in the Autumn of 1976, my teacher gave us an interesting assignment: she handed us a long, detailed list of typical grocery items, and asked us to go to the store and write down what their prices were. It was a simple yet profound lesson in economics. For awhile I decided that we should buy Corn Flakes since it was the least expensive cereal! Of course, after awhile I branched out again to other cereals. But of all the assignments I ever did in school, it was one of the most memorable, and I wish I still had that 1976 grocery price list that I made! It would be utterly fascinating to see what all those items cost over 34 years ago, a true time capsule.

Not long ago I was trying to research inflation on the Internet. To be specific, I remembered that when my Dad and I built my large telescope in 1979 it cost a total of $300, and I wondered how much that would be in today’s dollars. Perhaps about six or seven hundred, I speculated. Soon I found the answer: the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis had what I needed, a calculator to translate one year’s dollars into another’s, and I was surprised to find out that those $300 in 1979 equal over $900 in 2011 dollars! That made me appreciate even more the investment that my parents made for their teenage son, both in spending that money and in the many evenings of work that Dad spent building my telescope. At that time my homebuilt telescope was a good deal, but it wouldn’t be that way today, as one can now order a sizable no-frills telescope equal to my own for about $325 in 2011 dollars, and it would weigh less than half as much as well! Wouldn’t it be great if groceries, or gasoline, had also plunged in real price during the last 34 years the way that telescopes have?

(Note: After publishing this article it’s coming back to me that the cost of my telescope was $150-200 rather than $300, but that still would be at least $450-600 today.)

One thing I’ve learned in life is that there’s often little, if any, relationship between
something’s price in the marketplace and its true, intrinsic value. That’s especially true spiritually. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 NASB) Lent and Easter are a great time to remember
what is truly worth the most, and especially to remember that Jesus considered us sinners so valuable that He spent everything, including His life, in order to buy us back. “You were bought with a price.” (I Corinthians 7:23 NASB)

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This essay was written in 2004 as part of the final exam for the Course entitled “The Religion of Biblical Israel” at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Click the thumbnails for a full-sized view of the photographed pages. See my Jewish Studies Page.


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