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Above: My extremely humble, unedited photo of the Sun with a dramatically large sunspot group currently visible. I could even see the largest spot using the eclipse shades we used for observing the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse. Read all about it and see some very sharp photos at Spaceweather.com. Solar projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece.

Below: Waning Crescent Moon at 5:37 AM CDT July 3, 2013 (10:37 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.
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At the neighborhood park, at dawn on July 3:
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Above: A mother Mallard and half-grown ducklings heading towards the water.
Below: I was very pleased to see a mother Wood Duck with eight ducklings!
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Photos above with 7×35 Bushnell binoculars.

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Above: It’s amazing how much wildlife one can see so close to the city, and you see more by coming out at a quiet time such as the early morning.

Below: A very calm dragonfly, no doubt looking forward to a fine day of mosquito hunting.
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It’s good to get down to the neighborhood park again. Once I was there once or twice a day, but not very often for almost a year. The park is full of memory for me, the memory of two thousand walks with Pluto during the last two and a half years of his long life. But life goes on, new ducklings and all!

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

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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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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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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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On Saturday, December 10, 2011, the friendly neighborhood Downy Woodpeckers were hard at work, in the neighborhood park (look on the trunk of the middle tree):

… and in the neighbor’s backyard (these photos taken with 7×35 binoculars):


… and the planet Venus was slowly but surely drawing closer to Earth, 178 days ahead of the great June 5, 2012 Transit of Venus:

Venus, T-minus 178 days until the transit, shining in the southwestern sky at dusk, 5:15 PM CST December 10, 2011, about 130,340,000 miles from Earth. 7×35 binoculars.

As of today, December 12, 2011, the “Venus Transit Countdown” stands at T-Minus 176 days, and I’ll attempt to build anticipation and interest by posting some photos and interesting Venus facts along the way, including the following “Venus Update” series, with the most recent photo added on top:

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)

Meanwhile, I was happy to be able to witness and photograph a portion of the December 10, 2011 Lunar Eclipse, so here are three photos of the Moon beginning to wane after the eclipse:


12:44 AM CST 12-11-11 (6:44 UT), 60mm refractor telescope, 17mm eyepiece.

7:02 PM CST 12-11-11 (1:02 UT 12-12-11), 60mm refractor telescope, 17mm eyepiece.

9:05 PM CST 12-11-11 (3:05 UT 12-12-11), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.

LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

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About 2:30 PM November 21, 2011:

Our first lingering snow of the season has fallen, but a nearby warm water discharge keeps ducks and geese in the neighborhood all winter.


Pluto investigates signs of webbed-feet activity.


To my eye these duck footprints in the snow are creating a multistable perception effect. How about for you?

I’m sharing this for no other reason but that it’s utterly fun, and groovy, man! Far out! Outta sight!

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