The only other remotely astronomical activity I did this week involved a short trip across the Missouri River to Parkville. My dad and I drove over to window shop at the HMS Beagle store. Due to a wrenched back, I had to cut our visit short, but I did purchase a nearly waterproof “Guide to the Stars” star-wheel for Terry to use when he visits the hot tub after midnight. I also picked up a laminated map of the moon, which I left with dad, along with my scope, at his house.
I left my husband a voice-mail as I left work, asking him to sharpen the mower blade so I could spend the evening trimming the verge. The front and side yards, I hoped, would be dry enough to mow. The backyard presented thick, lush, tall grass that would take longer to conquer. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw the mower waiting for me, but as I surveyed the side yard, I realized he had already mowed most of it. Since the garage door gaped open, I entered through the garage and sought my elusive mate. Apollo met me on the landing and I found Terry in the kitchen, slicing up the fresh green beans we picked up at the grocery store a few days ago. I scolded him for mowing, but he insisted he needed the exercise.
We spent the next hour or so crafting a wonderful dinner of home-made chicken friend steak, white gravy and fresh green beans sauteed with some bacon, white onion, garlic and chicken stock. Tasted divine, but left the kitchen a complete disaster.
We relaxed for a few minutes. Then I changed into some work clothes and went outside to see if I could get the mower started. Terry worried it had vapor locked or worse that the plug had fouled, since he couldn’t get it restarted after stopping it to talk to a neighbor. He instructed me not to prime it before attempting to pull start it. I tried four or five times without success when he joined me and told me to try priming it. I primed it and he pulled the rope. Of course the mower started up for him.
I finished the side yard in about fifteen minutes. I unlocked the side gate to the back yard and eased the mower through, making sure Apollo didn’t sneak by me and escape to traumatize our neighbors. Terry kept working on the hot tub, vacuuming it clean, in anticipation of our need to soak later in the evening. I slowly pushed the mower through the incredibly thick grass up the slight hill to the top of the backyard (the north end) and crept along the privacy fence. Thirty minutes later I had finished a bit more than half of the back yard, just as the sun set in the west.
As I returned through the gate with the now idle mower, I saw the last glimmers of sunlight illuminating the blossoms on our apple tree. I pulled my cell phone out of my jeans pocket and snapped a few photos, but without the benefit of my reading glasses, I had no idea that the close-ups of the apple blossoms I took would come out blurry. Oh well, at least the first shot I took (above at the top of this post) came out very well. I continued on to the garage and put the mower back in it’s neat little area (then I cleared for last weekend). Terry soon followed and we closed the garage for the night.
I watched an episode of Jeopardy (a couple of days old) in which the $1,000 clue for the Jeopardy round category of ‘Animals in Children’s Books’ referenced Rottweilers. Here’s the clue:
The title pooch of “Good Dog, Carl” is this breed named for a German place
I knew the answer immediately of course. None of the contestants guessed correctly, though.
By the time I finished watching one episode of Jeopardy, the clock displayed half past eight o’clock, and ticked inexorably on toward nine, the hour at which my mental faculties reduce themselves to the level of a pumpkin. I winced my way down the stairs to the laundry room to change into my bathing suit. I grimaced my way back up the stairs and slipped into the extremely hot water of our outdoor hot tub for a soothing soak. Terry joined me and I tried to show him some of the constellations currently visible directly overhead. I could only positively identify three or four, due to some lingering stratus clouds and light pollution. The moon appeared nearly half-full and Venus and Jupiter still dominated the western sky. I had remembered to take a few photos with my camera on a tripod earlier, but at that time the clouds had been thicker. Had I waited just a bit longer, I would have had clearer skies for a better shot. I’ll post this weeks’ Venus and Jupiter photographs tomorrow morning in my weekly wrap-up of my astronomy observations.
Another Friday arrives, and another installment in my ‘Remembering Roxy’ blog post series. Last week I reminisced about one of Roxy‘s nicknames – Bear-Pig, which followed the inaugural post on Roxy’s talent for Circling the Wagons. This week I decided to focus on Roxy’s first trip to a dog park. If I remember correctly, this trip occurred before we rescued Apollo.
A friend of ours had suggested taking Roxy to the off-leash dog park at Shawnee Mission Park. This never occurred to us, being residents of Leavenworth County, more than twenty miles north of the park. We made a family outing out of it. Even though the park allowed dogs to roam leash-free, we kept Roxy leashed until we were certain she would behave around other dogs. She roamed free and played with many other mostly smaller dogs for a few minutes. Then we put her back on the leash and headed to the beach.
Roxy, and all of our previous Rottweilers, did not care for water or being wet. Yet Terry thought it would be a good idea to take her down to the beach, where we saw retrievers and labs and Newfoundlands cavorting in the water just off shore. The shoreline included several large, flat sandstone boulders. Terry led Roxy up onto one of them, hoping to entice her into a quick dip with the other dogs. Another dog snuck up behind Roxy, eagerly sniffing her nub of a tail, and accidentally (or intentionally depending on your perspective) goosed her. Roxy leaped forward landing four-square in the shallow water, almost taking Terry with her for a tumble. Terry managed to salvage his balance while Roxy just stood there, standing completely still, looking aggrieved and resigned to the fact that she was, indeed, now soaking wet.
We took Roxy back to the field above the lake and let her roam free for a few minutes, mostly in an effort to dry her coat. As the sun began to set, we returned to our car and made the drive home to Lansing, convinced we would return in the near future for more fun in the sun with an unfettered Roxy.
I did a double-take when I realized this movie is fifty years old this year. I grew up with this movie. I’ve seen it I don’t know how many times. So when I had a chance to catch it again this week via HDNet movies, I snatched it.
No, there’s not much plot, but there’s plenty of comedy, ridiculous romance (it was the early 60s) and action. Hatari! provides a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous cinematography of north Tanzania (back then it was Tanganyika) and the dormant volcano Mount Meru as a backdrop plus great action sequences, including an astounding close-up of a charging rhinoceros. For my ears, I relaxed to the soothing jazzy soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini, including Baby Elephant Walk … one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano.
Most of the actors have passed on (John Wayne in 1979, Bruce Cabot in 1975, Red Buttons in 2006), leaving only Elsa Martinelli, who portrayed Dallas, and Hardy Krüger, who portrayed Kurt, but who is probably more famous for his role as Heinrich Dorfmann, the model plane engineer from The Flight of the Phoenix(1965), still alive today.
Interesting tidbit or trivia from the Wikipedia article on Hatari!
According to director Howard Hawks, all the animal captures in the picture were performed by the actual actors; no stuntmen or animal handlers were substituted onscreen. The rhino really did escape, and the actors really did have to recapture it – and Hawks included the sequence for its realism. Much of the action sequence audio had to be re-dubbed due to John Wayne’s cursing while wrestling with the animals.
The title of the film is the word “hatari,” which means “danger” in Swahili.
If no stunt double were used, then it’s a miracle that Hardy and Gerard Blain were not killed or seriously injured when their Jeep went tumbling across the African plains. Danger, or Hatari! for real!
I cannot remember now, nearly thirty years later, if I saw this film in a movie theater. I don’t believe I did. In fact, I think I saw it on a grainy VHS tape recorded from someone’s cable or satellite dish system (back when the dishes were six to eight feet in diameter). After attending a recent library event on Edgar Rice Burroughs, I placed the DVD for Greystoke in my Netflix queue. Terry and I watched most of it one evening, but didn’t get the last bit watched until the weekend. Even though not a BluRay, the wide-screen format on the HD plasma still provide stunning vistas out of Dark Africa.
Not having read any Tarzan novels, I can’t confirm (or deny) the authenticity of the adaptation. Most critics consider this one of the closest to the author’s vision. I liked it because of it’s believability, whether in the jungle or in late Victorian England. Lambert’s debut acting role still impresses me. This also happened to be Andi MacDowell’s first film. Both of them played very well together.
I liked the movie overall. I think it has held up well and is probably my favorite Tarzan movie to date.
I spent a lazy Sunday writing blog entries and emails, reading an ebook and watching the best bits of an old movie (Hatari! from 1962). I kept one eye on the clock and the other one on the sun because I did not want to miss the opportunity to photograph the conjunction between Jupiter and the Crescent Moon (the moon passed within three degrees of Jupiter last night). I had witnessed a similar conjunction last month when I went hunting for Mercury and caught it.
I had read earlier in the day that you can sometimes see Jupiter before the sun sets with your naked eye. I could easily see the moon and Venus before sunset, but try as I might I could not discern Jupiter amidst the twilight glare, even though the skies were exceptionally clear, free of clouds and haze and the wind seemed calm or non-existent. I switched my camera from it’s normal lens to the telephoto and took closeups of the moon in the hopes that I would later be able to find Jupiter once I downloaded the photos. I proved that theory this morning with the following photo:
I spent the next hour taking the occasional snapshot of the triangular conjunction and several planes that flew near or through the area. To view most of the photos (the ones worthy of uploading) in an album (or a slideshow), click on this link.
I packed up the camera and tripod at about half past eight and traipsed back inside. I returned to my library and finished my ebook just a minute shy of ten o’clock. I needed to charge my Nook Color, which required descending downstairs again. Since I was up and halfway to the band room, I decided to drag the camera and tripod back outside in an attempt to photograph the constellation Leo and the visiting Mars. I had to switch back to the normal lens as I could not get the entire constellation in the field of view available through the telephoto. I took three or four snapshots of Leo and Mars, but I could not see the stars very well through the viewfinder or the preview display on the back of the camera. I just had to cross my fingers and hope that my efforts had captured enough of the stars to clearly see the outline of Leo. The best of the photos turned out to be the three second exposure shown here:
This is the same photograph edited to add lines to outline Leo and a label for Mars:
I decided Apollo and I needed some physical therapy to deal with an entire week of rain which prevented either of us from enjoying the newly arrived spring conditions. The last time we walked happened to be exactly one week ago. To make up for six sedentary days, I decided to traverse the entire sidewalk system of West Mary Street in Lansing.
We set out at a quarter to nine and headed west from home to First Terrace, where we crossed to the other side of the street and headed north towards Olive. We passed a flowering red bud tree (see photo at right). We continued north towards Nina, where we dog-legged back west to First Street, which parallels very closely with Main Street (aka as US-73/K-7). While on Nina, a small Benji-like dog attempted to intimidate Apollo from behind a chain link fence. We’ll revisit this canine curmudgeon on the return trip.
Apollo always does well waiting to cross the busy intersection at Mary and Main Street. We proceeded west along Mary street, staying on the north sidewalk. I only spied one other person walking their much smaller dog ahead of us, but they turned onto the Town Centre boulevard that connects the terminally undeveloped land between Mary Street and 4-H Road.
West Mary Street makes several sweeping curves through the wooded hills and creeks as it meanders between Main Street on the east and DeSoto Road on the west. We passed by a muddy construction site for some additional multi-family housing, within easy walking distance of the nearly new Lansing Elementary School (in the background in the photo above).
We passed one walker and were passed by four joggers on our jaunt westward along Mary Street. I saw my first cardinal of the year, but didn’t attempt to photograph it with my cell phone. I prefer to have my good digital camera with my telephoto lens attached to photograph birds. We finally arrived at the top of the long hill, where Mary Street dead ends against DeSoto Road at a quarter after nine. I finally achieved my goal of a minimum hour long walk, since the return trip would take at least thirty minutes. I took the following three photos while letting Apollo catch his breath and cool off (being a black dog means he absorbs all the sunshine and it’s accompanying heat) from the top of the hill.
I crossed to the south sidewalk and Apollo decided he should become a hunting dog on the return trip down the hill. He foraged through the tall, wet grass, determined to pull me with him into the mud and the woods in search of deer. By the time we leveled off, his snout, paws, legs, underbelly and first third of the leather leash were soaked with dew. Several times he nearly pulled me off the sidewalk while sniffing and snuffling through the dew-drenched grass and soggy ground. I saw ample evidence of the presence of deer by the tracks they left in the mud. The wooded areas along West Mary Street team with them and I often see them emerge at dusk when Apollo and I venture out on sunset strolls.
I sighed with relief as we approached the construction site because the fence prevent Apollo from straying to far off course. The construction materials seemed to have other ideas about the fence though. The rest of our walk along Mary Street proceeded apace and without further forays into non-sidewalk environs.
We crossed back to the north sidewalk just before crossing the highway and continued back to Nina Street. Once again the Benji-like small dog charged the fence, snarling and barking and this time Apollo caught me completely off-guard. He lunged to meet and greet the dog at the fence. I temporarily suffered a wrenched left shoulder, elbow and thumb and had to scold Apollo for his un-gentleman-like behavior. I guess it’s time for some remedial obedience training with the large pinch collar instead of the small choke chain Apollo usually wears. My elbow didn’t stop aching until we crossed Olive and walked under another beautiful flowering red bud tree (see photo above).
We turned the corner east onto Fawn Valley and walked the half a block to our yard. Just one of the advantages of owning the southwest corner lot on Bambi Court. Apollo waited patiently on the porch for me to disentangle him from his leash (he set a record this walk, although I lost track of how many times) and open the door. He rushed to his water bowl and then collapsed for a nap under the table at my feet while I composed this blog post. I noted the time (ten o’clock) and took off my pedometer, which had recorded 7,695 steps (is that’s 15,390 for Apollo?) taken on our one hour and fifteen minute Sunday morning walk.
My dad and I attended the March 2012 general meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City last night. We arrived an hour early to attend separate meetings. Dad sat in on the Astro 101 class. March’s topic happened to be astrology of all things. Here’s the blurb from the ASKC’s web site explaining it:
For March, the topic is: Astrology — that’s stargazing, right? So, do you do horoscopes? Say, what’s your sign?” Wha???? Huh???
Sooner or later you, as an amateur astronomer, will run into something like the comments above from a friend, co-worker, relative or casual acquaintance who thoroughly confuses astrology and astronomy. Our own “Madame Ursula” (aka Jackie Beucher) will enlighten us all on the Zodiac, sun signs and what it doesn’t mean. Come join us at the March 24th Astro 101 session.
I attended a brain storming session for the teams responsible for administering the public nights at the Powell Observatory. Lots of good ideas were presented.
Dad and I reunited just before seven o’clock and chatted briefly with a couple we’ve known for years (and who happen to live in Leavenworth County as well). We seated ourselves with a couple of minutes to spare.
After some brief comments from the President on the ongoing Messier Marathon down at the dark site and an exercise in democracy (another paper ballot vote on a by-laws change), the Education Director took the stage and presented “April 2012 Sky Events” which actually spanned the next several months.
The highlight of his presentation proved to be the once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe the Transit of Venus on June 5th. I took mental notes, realizing I would need to purchase or engineer a solar filter for my ETX-90 in order to observe the transit. I only get one shot at this, because the next time this happens, in December 2117, I will be long gone. This morning, while researching solar filters, I found a helpful web site on safe solar viewing which I wanted to share with all of you. You don’t need a telescope to observe, but please take precautions (to avoid damaging your eyes) if you plan to observe any solar events (eclipses, sunspots, transits, etc.).
The main event of the March general meeting culminated in a presentation by Fred Bruenjes. His riveting account of discovering, just last month, Comet/2012 C2 (Bruenjes) impressed all of the audience. Follow this link for a similar recitation via Fred’s own web site, MoonGlow.net. Fred plans to continue comet hunting because, in his own words, the one he discovered was ‘defective.’ I disagree. It wasn’t defective, just unique. The most unusual feature of his comet is its orbit, which goes in the opposite direction of all the other solar system objects (planets, asteroids and comets).
On the ride home, I regretted leaving my camera and tripod lounging in the band room because I missed a stellar (pardon the pun) opportunity to photograph the crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus. I will get another chance this evening, when the moon is slightly larger and much closer to Jupiter. Click here to see my photograph of the three objects taken early Friday evening.
I left work Friday afternoon in a pouring rain. Nothing unusual in the grand scheme of things. It is late March and Spring had sprung this week, which usually brings rain. An entire week of rain, in fact. I had hoped, against all evidence to the contrary, that the rain would let up earlier in the day on Friday. I resigned myself to retrieving my vanpool riders and slogging through rain drenched traffic for the next hour. I wanted to participate in my astronomy club‘s Messier Marathon, but just didn’t think the effort would equal the returns. I would have to pack up all of my astronomical observing equipment (telescope, tripod, eyepieces, control device, cables, portable battery, sky charts, observing aids, red flashlight, chair, some kind of table, etc) and then drive over an hour to the dark sky site way south near Butler, Missouri. Early indications from other club members reported the dark sky site field was very wet and since I don’t own a four-wheel drive truck or SUV, I decided to stay in Lansing.
I had permission from my city council representative to contact the Chief of Police to make arrangements to use one of the city parks after dark. I hesitated to bother the police. That is a huge hassle to overcome, for me anyway. And I still needed to re-train my telescope’s Alt/Az drives before packing them up, since that process requires daylight and a terrestrial object to focus upon. Clouds still scudded across the sky while I set the telescope up outside on the lower back patio. I trained the drives for five or ten minutes and then powered down the telescope until later in the evening.
After watching a couple of episodes of Jeopardy and squeezing in my exercise routine (and making my legs wobbly and rubbery by trying a longer version of one of the higher intensity activities), I slipped back outside to see how many stars were visible at just a few minutes past eight o’clock. I spied the small sliver of a new crescent moon hovering just over my neighbor’s roof so I grabbed my camera (already on it’s tripod) and took a few photos (two of which I am including in this post). I even got Terry outside long enough to witness the new moon and point out how much higher Venus has gotten over Jupiter in a week since the last time I photographed the pair of them.
By the time I finished snapping a few photographs, I had enough bright stars to attempt an alignment of the telescope with my newly retrained drives. The Autostar easy alignment selected Sirius in Canis Major as the first star in the alignment process. After I found and centered the Dog Star, the next stop on the alignment workflow became Capella in the constellation Auriga, another easily spotted star in the evening sky. The Autostar reported a successful alignment so now for the first real test of the retrained drives. I instructed the device to find Jupiter. Surprise! The telescope found Jupiter on the first try! I did have to recenter Jupiter and it’s four glorious moons in the eyepiece, but I did not have to use either of my finder scopes. I inserted a 2x barlowe and a 26mm eyepiece and could clearly see the cloud striations on Jupiter. I could even see a hint of color. I again pulled Terry out to the telescope to take a look at the gas giant and its beautiful alignment of moons.
Next stop on my pre-Messier tour became Venus. Again the Autostar found our sister planet successfully. I only had to re-center the very bright planet in my eyepiece. I should have put a filter on the eyepiece, because even at only half-full, Venus almost hurt my eyes to look at. I felt confident enough in the telescopes alignment and the retrained drives to begin my mini-Messier Marathon.
My Messier Marathon Observer’s Form lists the objects in a ‘best viewed in this order’ arrangement. I knew I would not be able to observe the first two items on the list, due to the nature of my site. My house rests in a valley, behind a large hill to my west. In addition, I have several tall trees in my backyard, as do my neighbors to the west and north. Thanks to the highway just a couple of blocks to my west, I have ample ambiance (aka light pollution) and nearly all my neighbors must be afraid of the dark because they insist on illuminating nearly all exterior surfaces of their residences. Still, I told the Autostar to go find M77, a spiral galaxy also known as Cetus A. Unfortunately, the telescope came to rest pointing northwest, through at least three trees. I moved on to the next item, M74, another spiral galaxy in the constellation Pisces. But again, I saw only trees. A shame, really, as I would love to see that beautiful spiral galaxy (shown in photo above and to the left).
The next three stops on the observation list also happened to be galaxies, including the famous Andromeda galaxy, designated as M31 on the Messier list of objects. Since the telescope did not move appreciable away from the area of M77 and M74, I again couldn’t see the stars for the forest. Yet another galaxy I desperately want to observe, so to ease the pain of defeat, I’ll provide another image of that marvelous gem. The image above and to the right also includes M32, one of the other two galaxies I couldn’t observe.
I began using my Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas to assist me in locating Messier objects that I could actually view in my limited sky scape. The Pocket Sky Atlas‘s last pages contains an index of Messier objects and the star chart they appear on. I skimmed through the list of the next few objects and determined that M45 could be seen with the naked eyes. The Pleiades is an open star cluster. I still told the telescope to go find it and spent a few minutes marveling at the cluster of bright stars peering back at me through the eyepiece. Finally, I got to check off one of the 110 objects on my Messier Marathon Observer’s Form, writing 8:42 p.m. in the blank provided.
The next two objects I found easily included M42 and M43, both found in Orion’s sword and more commonly known as the Great Orion Nebulae and De Marian’s Nebula (really part of the other one or an extension of it). I wrote 9:07 p.m. in the blanks on my form.
I spent the next thirty to forty minutes trying to track down several objects I should have been able to find since they were south or directly overhead. I could not find the Crab Nebula (M1) and began to suspect I had messed up the alignment on the telescope. I had nudged a tripod leg more than once, so I reverted the Autostar to star mode and went searching for Rigel, Betelgeuse, Sirius and Capella again to retune the alignment. After that, I was successful in viewing several star clusters, including M44 (aka the Beehive Cluster), M48 and M50 (between 9:45 and 9:51 p.m.).
I got even more excited when I spied M95 on the list just two below M44. This spiral galaxy gained fame this past week by spouting a supernova. My earlier research also showed that Mars was just a few degrees away from M95. So I took a few minutes to realign the telescope and enjoy the ruddy beauty of the fourth planet in our solar system. Then I went on the hunt for M95. I spent many frustrating minutes attempting to find the elusive spiral galaxy but to no avail. The skies above Lansing are just not dark enough for my small telescope. It can’t gather enough light and my aging eyes can’t ever seem to get acclimated to the annoying and obscuring local ground illumination to spot such a faint (9.7 in magnitude) object. By a quarter after ten, I decided enough was enough.
And, for some unknown reason, the telescope had twice decided to go off on a tangent, causing the altitude drive to run off for no reason and would not stop when I entered commands into the Autostar. Hmmm. There must be a bug in the latest firmware I downloaded last week. I should probably hook the laptop up to it today and see if a ‘fix’ has been made available from Meade.
I enjoyed my mini-marathon of Messier objects and learned quite a bit about my abilities and the capabilities of my amateur astronomy equipment. Tonight I will attend the monthly meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City and tomorrow I will probably head south to Powell Observatory for a training session on the club’s large telescope. By Monday, I should have purged my system of all astronomical cravings, at least until the next new moon.
I can thank my son, Derek, for coming up with the nickname ‘Bear-Pig’ for Roxy. Back in 2005, Rachelle was a sophomore in high school and Derek attended a local community college but still lived at home. By then he had moved into the basement (don’t all young adult males thrive in those environs?) and only came up for air when he needed food or to leave for work or school. I often referred to him as ‘Derek the Destroyer who lurks in the Mossy Catacombs (or Dungeon).’ At that time, Roxy didn’t have a playmate or companion dog to annoy (we would rescue Apollo the following year).
Derek loved to tease and harass Roxy. She would wait for him at the top of the stairs when she heard him rising up from the basement. He would lean forward on the stairs from the lower landing so he was eye level with her and start making strange noises at her or woofing at her. Roxy replied with her own strange sounds, which reminded Derek of the sounds a bear makes. He would get her so worked up she would start to lunge at him. Then he would egg her on more by chasing her into the great room and wrestling with her. Roxy didn’t stand a chance by then, since Derek is an expert in nearly all forms of grappling – wrestling, judo and jujitsu.
That explains the first part of the nickname ‘Bear-Pig.’ The second half has more to do with Roxy’s typical Rottweiler appetite and the fact that when she sniffed around the house for anything remotely resembling a snack, she sort of looked like a wild pig. At least she didn’t ‘oink oink’ while she was rooting around for treats.