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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Merry Christmas to all my readers! My wife thought this photo looked like a “Moon bridge to the stars.” :O) So I decided to share it as part of my Christmas greeting:

7:53 AM CST 12-20-11 (13:53 UT), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, 2x Barlow. Click for larger view.

This article was originally published in the West Douglas County Record on December 15, 2011:

I almost made it through 2011 without noting a very important anniversary: this year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611. The King James Bible has been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language”, “the most important book in English religion and culture”, and “the most celebrated book in the English-speaking world.” Even National Geographic magazine has featured the King James Version in its latest issue. Recently a group of over 100 members of churches in Perry, Georgia, took turns reading the entire King James Bible from beginning to end in 76 hours, reading in 30-minute shifts between December 1 and December 4, 2011. I will celebrate the anniversary of the King James Version by quoting Luke 2:8-14 from it, just as Linus does in “A Charlie Brown Christmas:”

“‘8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'”

“…And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

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Above: Not my most impressive Saturn photo ever, but at least you can see that it’s there & its usual self. 7:13 AM CST 12-18-11 (13:13 UT).
Below: Waning crescent Moon at 7:36 AM CST 12-18-11 (13:36 UT).

Both with 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece. I tried a few photos of Mercury and Mars as well, but they really weren’t good enough to show.

Here’s the Light Ship (my dusty, trusty old 8″ reflector) trained on its quarry at 7:39 AM:

Could somebody tell me what kind of nest this is? I suppose Pluto and I walked right by it 200 times this summer and fall, and now in December I spot it! It’s about 3 inches across:

Temperatures have been mild by Minnesota standards, and webfoot traffic on the frozen lake has been pretty steady:

Below: I do believe that Venus is edging out Jupiter for the 2011 “Christmas Star Contest,” even though it’s appearing in the west instead of the east:

5:35 PM.


5:38 PM. You can see how much the twilight has faded in three minutes. T-minus 170 earth days till the Venus transit, by the way.

Below: Jupiter high above the southeastern horizon at 5:39 PM.

LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

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After a week of clouds (and wind, and a little rain, and a few snow flurries), the Solar System has come into view once again, hooray! Be sure to look up to the skies after sunset these days, as Jupiter and Venus are both trying to be the “Star of Bethlehem” for this Advent & Christmas season (I’d say it’s a tie):

Above: Venus shining above neighbors’ Christmas lights in the southwest, 5:31 PM CST 12-17-11, about 127 million miles away, a little over 3 million closer than it was last weekend. T-minus 171 Earth days until the Venus Transit of June 5/6, 2012.

Below: Jupiter and the four Galilean moons, high in the southeastern sky, lined up almost as for a family portrait. 5:22 PM CST 12-17-11 (23:22 UT). From left to right: Ganymede, Io, Jupiter, Europa, Callisto (fainter, but it’s there). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, both with LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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The skies cleared up after all!

8:05 PM CST 12-1-11 (2:05 UT 12-2-11), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.

Below, 8:07 PM CST with the 17mm eyepiece. Just north of Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), craters Eudoxus (smaller) and Aristoteles (larger) are now in sunlight, though parts of their interiors are still shadowed. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

I’ve always liked Amy Grant’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride on her 1983 “A Christmas Album”, and I especially get a kick out of how she holds out the M on “pummmmm-kin pie.” Enjoy:

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Cell phone camera + toy microscope = a new adventure that’s only just beginning:

Above: Pure Cane Sugar
Below: Iodized Table Salt

Both magnified 75x with Lionel toy microscope.

The Christmas lights are lit on Broadway once again:

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Below: The Concordia Choir performs Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque (“Light and Gold” in Latin) at the 2005 Christmas Concert of my alma mater, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota

My college and others like it are preparing now for this year’s Christmas concerts, and I love seeing and hearing each new group of young people participating in this timeless tradition. Some, like the angelic-voiced young woman in the video, take on prominent leading roles; hundreds of others simply are voices in the chorus. There are a number of choirs and other ensembles involved in the Christmas Concert, some more prominent than others; but each voice is important, and I, for one, would rather be a small part of something big, excellent, and meaningful, than to be a big part of something mediocre. Believe me, I’ve experienced both.

Throughout college I was involved in the Orchestra as well as the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, but I was in the big Christmas Concert just once, during my senior year in 1986, which happened to be Dr. Clausen’s first year as director of the Concordia Choir, and he was the first one to introduce the Orchestra into the Christmas Concert. Thanks for including me, Dr. Clausen!

…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…

– I Corinthians 12:22 NIV

Do small things with great love.

– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Kinda reminds me of this song:

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As of Thanksgiving night, 2011, the retirement village over yonder has their outdoor Christmas tree lit once again. With no magnification:

With the 60mm refractor telescope and 25mm eyepiece (28x magnification):

This morning, with the 8″ reflector telescope, 17mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow (191x):

The following crowds were gathered on Thanksgiving Day, but they appeared quite serene and completely unaffected by “Black Friday” hype:

Now to astronomy: Jupiter and the Galilean moons at 12:24 AM CST 11-24-11 (6:24 UT), with the 8″ reflector and 17mm eyepiece. From left to right: Callisto, Jupiter, Europa, Io, Ganymede:

These days, just after sunset, you will see Venus shining brightly in the southwestern sky, and Jupiter shining much higher in the eastern sky. Keep watching, because during the next few months they will treat you to a striking spectacle. Evening after evening they will draw closer together until they make a magnificent conjunction high in the western sky after sunset in mid-March. Then, even after Jupiter fades into the sunset, Venus will continue to blaze brightly until the upcoming historic Venus transit on June 5, 2012. You may learn more about the transit here, and much, much more about it at www.transitofvenus.org/

As a “preview of coming attractions,” here’s a table of my previous Venus observations, with my recent 11-20-11 Venus photo added at the bottom:

6:23 PM CDT, August 21, 2010
Angular diameter 24.92 arc seconds
47.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 62,222,852 miles (100,137,974 km)
5:58 PM CDT, August 28, 2010
Angular diameter 27.16 arc seconds
43.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 57,092,020 miles (91,880,700 km)
2:26 PM CDT, September 11, 2010
Angular diameter 32.85 arc seconds
34.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 47,199,203 miles (75,959,754 km)

6:13 PM CDT, September 19, 2010
Angular diameter 37.21 arc seconds
28.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 41,671,869 miles (67,064,373 km)

1:39 PM CDT, September 26, 2010 (18:39 UT)
Angular diameter 41.52 arc seconds
23.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 37,345,447 miles (60,101,671 km)

4:05 PM CDT, October 3, 2010 (21:05 UT)
Angular diameter 46.63 arc seconds
16.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 33,248,887 miles (53,508,897 km)
2:27 PM CDT (19:27 UTC), October 11, 2010
Angular diameter 52.75 arc seconds
9.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 29,391,701 miles (47,301,357 km)
3:23 PM CDT (8:23 UTC), October 16, 2010
Angular diameter 56.44 arc seconds
5.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,472,436 miles (44,212,600 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)
6:35 AM CST November 23, 2010 (12:35 UTC)
Angular diameter 47.81 arc seconds
16.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,427,864 miles (52,187,588 km)
Venus photography generally works better in the daytime, as in the dark its apparent “thickness” gets exaggerated by its intense brightness.
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)
9:04 AM CST December 13, 2010 (15:04 UTC)
Angular diameter 34.77 arc seconds
33.9% illumination
Distance from Earth 44,589,852 miles (71,760,411 km)
This photo taken with 60mm refractor & 17mm eyepiece, looking out through the kitchen window!
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)
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)

8″ reflector telescope with 25mm eyepiece, unless otherwise noted. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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