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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

As it turned out, I had completely overcast skies this morning, so I missed this morning’s penumbral lunar eclipse, but I’ve seen so many other wonders this year that I won’t complain. A number of other people have uploaded their own eclipse photos here, at spaceweather.com:

Spaceweather.com Realtime Image Gallery

Here’s a line or queue of very purposeful ducks crossing the ice yesterday afternoon:

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This daisy bloom was a pleasant surprise on our deck a week ago on October 22. Not many flowers bloom in Minnesota in October! More blooms have appeared since then, but this was the biggest and prettiest.


Last Thursday morning the 25th was very blustery, though nothing like what people out east are currently experiencing with Hurricane Sandy (if you’re affected, you’re in my prayers). These seagulls were flying into a strong headwind which made them practically stationary above the ground.

Meanwhile, Venus continues to recede from Earth as it races ahead in its faster orbit closer to the Sun. As of October 30, 2012, it is about 116 million miles from Earth (187 million km), and about 80% of the side facing Earth is illuminated, not conspicuously different from the top photo below, taken on October 12. It continues to beam in the eastern sky before dawn, balanced by bright Jupiter, which currently is in the western sky before sunrise. The next notable sight involving Venus will be a very close conjunction with Saturn, visible before dawn in the southeast on November 26 and 27, 2012.

1:12 PM CDT, October 12, 2012 (18:12 UT)
Angular diameter 14.69 arc seconds
74.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 105,565,517 miles (169,891,262 km)
2:00 PM CDT, September 21, 2012 (19:00 UT)
Angular diameter 16.83 arc seconds
67.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 92,101,088 miles (148,222,333 km)
8:26 AM CDT, September 10, 2012 (13:26 UT)
Angular diameter 18.36 arc seconds
62.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 84,452,528 miles (135,913,169 km)
10:17 AM CDT, September 4, 2012 (15:17 UT)
Angular diameter 19.31 arc seconds
60.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 80,311,754 miles (129,249,240 km)
1:15 PM CDT, August 21, 2012 (18:15 UT)
Angular diameter 22.02 arc seconds
53.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 70,401,199 miles (113,299,747 km)
7:36 AM CDT, August 13 2012 (12:36 UT)
Angular diameter 24.07 arc seconds
49.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 64,429,600 miles (103,689,390 km)
1:39 PM CDT, August 6, 2012 (18:39 UT)
Angular diameter 26.05 arc seconds
45.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 59,516,628 miles (95,782,727 km)
8:52 AM CDT July 30, 2012 (13:52 UT)
Angular diameter 28.56 arc seconds
40.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 54,298,771 miles (87,385,401 km)
5:49 AM CDT July 22, 2012 (10:49 UT)
Angular diameter 31.96 arc seconds
34.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 48,512,519 miles (78,073,332 km)
9:18 AM CDT July 13, 2012 (14:18 UT)
Angular diameter 36.52 arc seconds
27.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 42,450,876 miles (68,318,063 km)
11:56 AM CDT July 3, 2012 (16:56 UT)
Angular diameter 42.79 arc seconds
19.0% illumination
Distance from Earth 36,238,688 miles (58,320,514 km)
11:21 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (16:21 UT)
Angular diameter 47.07 arc seconds
13.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,940,927 miles (53,013,283 km)
8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece

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As I prepared to photograph Venus yesterday, this female Downy Woodpecker was happily hunting for tasty bugs in a nearby telephone pole. I had seen another woodpecker (her mate?) near her on the pole earlier. 60mm refractor telescope with 25mm eyepiece, 1:04 PM August 21, 2012:

Venus is now over 50% illuminated from our point of view, and from week to week there’s no longer such a dramatic difference in its phase and apparent size:

1:15 PM CDT, August 21, 2012 (18:15 UT)
Angular diameter 22.02 arc seconds
53.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 70,401,199 miles (113,299,747 km)
7:36 AM CDT, August 13 2012 (12:36 UT)
Angular diameter 24.07 arc seconds
49.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 64,429,600 miles (103,689,390 km)
1:39 PM CDT, August 6, 2012 (18:39 UT)
Angular diameter 26.05 arc seconds
45.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 59,516,628 miles (95,782,727 km)
8:52 AM CDT July 30, 2012 (13:52 UT)
Angular diameter 28.56 arc seconds
40.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 54,298,771 miles (87,385,401 km)
5:49 AM CDT July 22, 2012 (10:49 UT)
Angular diameter 31.96 arc seconds
34.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 48,512,519 miles (78,073,332 km)
9:18 AM CDT July 13, 2012 (14:18 UT)
Angular diameter 36.52 arc seconds
27.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 42,450,876 miles (68,318,063 km)
11:56 AM CDT July 3, 2012 (16:56 UT)
Angular diameter 42.79 arc seconds
19.0% illumination
Distance from Earth 36,238,688 miles (58,320,514 km)
11:21 AM CDT June 27, 2012 (16:21 UT)
Angular diameter 47.07 arc seconds
13.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,940,927 miles (53,013,283 km)
8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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As with the December 10, 2011 Lunar Eclipse, the Partial Lunar Eclipse of June 4, 2012 was still in progress at the time of moonset here, but the weather cooperated beautifully, so here’s a photorecord of the event:


Before heading to the neighborhood park with the small refractor, I managed to get in a few shots with the 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece (65x magnification), including this one at 4:10 AM CDT (9:10 UT 6-4-12).

At this time the Moon was already partially in the penumbra of the Earth’s shadow, but I couldn’t tell. In my experience there’s little if any visible change during the penumbral stage.

Most of the following photos are with the 60mm refractor and 25mm eyepiece (28x magnification).


4:50 AM, with noticeable darkening on the Moon’s left limb.


4:59 AM, the umbra becoming evident.


5:01 AM.


5:03 AM.


5:04 AM.


At 5:07 AM, a first for me, and one of those unplannable things that only happen “once in a blue moon.” I captured a distant jet transiting the Moon’s face, and didn’t even realize it until I saw the picture!


5:08 AM, the Moon sinking very close to the southwestern horizon.


Still 5:10 AM, looking northeast towards dawn, a pelican serenely crosses the lake.


5:12 AM.


5:15 AM, with 7×35 binoculars.


5:15 AM.


At 5:22 AM, 42 minutes before the time of greatest eclipse, the Moon is about to set.


At 5:27 AM, ducks and ducklings are going about their morning’s business.

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

Next stop: The Historic Venus Transit of 2012, only a day away!

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Reports of yesterday’s solar eclipse are coming in from all over:

From Journey To the Stars in the Philippines: Crescent Sun At Sunrise

From SpaceWeather.com: Fantastic Eclipse

From Sky and Telescope: May 20th’s Solar Eclipse

From soulblindministry in Arizona: My Solar Eclipse Video

And here’s my report: The sky was perfect for our party of family and friends who gathered at the neighborhood park to view the eclipse. I projected the Sun’s image into a makeshift projection box using my 60mm f11.6 refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece. We also used Eclipse Shades from Astronomers Without Borders, which I highly recommend. The direct view of the eclipsed (and uneclipsed) Sun with these glasses was not only clear but positively dramatic.

I simply note the local time on May 20, 2012, with the photos below, but for those interested in Universal Time, the photos were taken between 23:45 UT on May 20, 2012 and 1:34 UT on May 21, 2012:


The Sun viewed via projection at 6:45 PM, just over one half hour before the beginning of the eclipse. Look closely and you may discern three sunspot groups, which, stretching from about “eleven o’clock” to “four o’clock” are designated 1486, 1484, and 1482 respectively.


The uneclipsed Sun shining brightly at 6:53 PM.


7:18 PM, only a minute or two after the Moon started taking a “bite” out of the lower right limb of the Sun as viewed from our location.


7:30 PM.


7:44 PM.


7:47 PM.


My niece and great nephew, a mother duck and duckling, and the partially eclipsed Sun at 7:48 PM.


Party attendees sporting Eclipse Shades at 7:48 PM.


7:49 PM. Someone (maybe my great nephew) thought it looked like the Cookie Monster had gotten hungry!


7:51 PM. Others were photographing the projected image and even sending images to friends – I’m told that my sister elsewhere in Minnesota had pictures from our party up on her Facebook page while we were still at the park!


7:54 PM.


My wife (left) and two friends at 7:55 PM, enjoying the view via Eclipse Shades, which were a complete success.


7:56 PM.


7:59 PM, the Sun’s subdued light giving a lovely ambience.


8:01 PM.


8:03 PM. Four-year-old astronomer Ayden, my great nephew, shows off his Moon picture, traced in the ground before his feet.


At 8:15 PM, attendees continue to view the eclipse using Eclipse Shades.


8:19 PM.


8:21 PM.


At 8:29 PM, the Sun begins to sink behind the trees on the horizon.


8:29 PM.


The eclipse was still in progress at 8:34 PM, a few minutes before sunset.

All with my usual LG VX8360 cell phone camera. We also viewed Venus just after sunset – only 16 days before the transit, and later on back home a few of us viewed Saturn with my large reflector. “A great time was had by all.” And if you’re close to my location at the time of the June 5 Venus Transit, come join us!

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I’m truly honored to have been nominated for the “One Lovely Blog Award” by Kay of Kay-Kay’s Bird Club. It’ll be a great opportunity to honor some good folks whose blogs I appreciate, though I’ll admit I’ve hardly even had time to read my own lately! But keep watch for my own nominations.

Speaking of birds, my heart is always warmed by the arrival of the new ducklings and goslings of the year at the neighborhood park. Three proud pairs of Canada Goose parents have been devotedly caring for their goslings since about the first of May, and just this morning I spotted the first family of enthusiastic little Mallard ducklings, attended by their intensely watchful, constantly quacking mother, a regular helicopter parent:

There was a lovely halo around the Sun yesterday, caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere. 10:25 AM CDT May 9, 2012:

I’ve been working on a simple solar projection box for general solar observation, not to mention the upcoming 5-20-12 partial solar eclipse (annular for fortunate folks in the American Southwest), and of course, the 6-5-12 Venus transit. It needs a little work, but here’s the Sun at 10:33 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:33 UT), using the 60mm refractor with 17mm eyepiece to project the image on white paperboard. Note the rather large sunspot group currently in view. Ignore the lighter patches – they’re just reflected glare – I’ll be looking for something else less prone to glare:

Here’s the waning gibbous Moon at 6:12 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (11:12 UT), 8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece:

As of May 10, 2012, the upcoming Venus Transit of June 5/6, 2012 is T-Minus 26 days away, and counting. Here’s yet another plug for my community education class.

10:26 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:26 UT)
Angular diameter 43.71 arc seconds
18.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 35,473,212 miles (57,088,600 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
12:41 PM CDT May 3, 2012 (17:41 UT)
Angular diameter 39.11 arc seconds
24.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 39,649,337 miles (63,809,423 km)
18mm eyepiece

7:14 PM CDT April 22, 2012 (00:14 UT 4-23-12)
Angular diameter 33.12 arc seconds
33.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 46,812,338 miles (75,337,236 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow

6:28 PM CDT March 24, 2012 (23:28 UT)
Angular diameter 22.95 arc seconds
52.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 67,571,683 miles (108,746,083 km)

4:10 PM CST February 12, 2012 (22:10 UT)
Angular diameter 16.24 arc seconds
70.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 95,450,953 miles (153,613,419 km)
18mm eyepiece

1:48 PM CST February 8, 2012 (19:48 UT)
Angular diameter 15.82 arc seconds
71.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 98,020,580 miles (157,748,833 km)
18mm eyepiece

2:37 PM CST January 5, 2012 (20:37 UT)
Angular diameter 13.19 arc seconds
81.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 117,572,894 miles (189,215,232 km)
2:21 PM CST November 29, 2011 (20:21 UT)
Angular diameter 11.46 arc seconds
89.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 135,265,885 miles (217,689,541 km)
4:18 PM CST November 20, 2011 (22:18 UT)
Angular diameter 11.13 arc seconds
91.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 139,346,992 miles (227,254,246 km)
12:03 PM CST January 5, 2011 (18:03 UTC)
Angular diameter 25.58 arc seconds
48.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 60,611,164 miles (97,544,214 km)
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)
12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera, perfect for capturing those small moments in the history of the universe. Click to enlarge, though the Venus photos won’t get any bigger.

“We should always endeavor to wonder at the permanent thing, not at the mere exception. We should be startled by the sun, and not by the eclipse. We should wonder less at the earthquake, and wonder more at the earth.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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Above: 9:16 AM, March 30, 2012. Our unusually mild winter has given way to an early spring, for which I’m truly thankful!

Below: 1:03 AM CDT March 31, 2012 (6:03 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

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