Chasing Comets

Highlights From This Past Weekend:

Friday evening (July 17, 2020) – We drove south (an hour drive) to Powell Observatory for an ASKC members only viewing of Comet Neowise plus Jupiter at opposition and glorious through the 30 inch. Clouds were an issue to our total viewing experience, but it was great to see everyone and it was a surprisingly pleasant evening. We left shortly before eight o’clock and were back home by two minutes to midnight. An excellent excursion and a nice field trip from our lock-down life at home.

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Children’s Games Plus Puzzle Progress

The coolest place in the house during July and August is definitely the basement. But the basement needs organizing and updating. We ordered a small chest freezer for delivery in early August, but that necessitated finding a suitable location to install it in. So for several evenings this past week, I rummaged around in large totes full of double weave judi gis, children’s bedding and other miscellany. And that was just the nook in the laundry room where an old refrigerator came with the house when we purchased it in February 1999.

Once we got that nook cleaned out completely, we realized we needed to paint it the same color as what’s behind the washer and dryer. Terry also measured it and determined there would not be enough clearance around it for the chest freezer so I had to pivot 180 degrees and review the contents of some utility shelves we installed a decade ago. Which led me to pulling off heavy cardboard boxes from top shelves and reviewing their contents.

The first one I pulled down was full of items belonging to my son. I found several computer video games from 1995 through 2005, parts of an remote controlled car (in the very bottom of the box), an old Sony PlayStation console, a game cartridge (not for the PlayStation), a box of Magic cards, some movies (DVD and VHS) and music CDs. I took photos of everything and sent the album link to my kids asking what to keep and ship, sell, donate or trash. The first comment I got back was from my son who simply stated “I’ll take all of it.”

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Classic Family Games Continued

Terry and I continued our trek down memory lane by playing Chinese Checkers, BackGammon and continuing to play, every other day, two rounds of Yahtzee. For the latter, I’m gathering stats and tracking averages for us. Over the first dozen games, Terry took the lead, winning seven. Terry tends to do better on the top half of the scored card while I tend to throw more Yahtzees.

I don’t fret too much because I’ll always have Boggle. Did I mention my best Boggle word of our half dozen games? Quandary.

To make the Chinese Checkers game more interesting, Terry and I played three colors each. In the game shown above, Terry is Red, White and Blue while I am Yellow, Green and Purple/Black (I can’t tell which color the plastic marbles are). We got quite jammed up in the middle of the board so our initial game took over two hours and probably closer to three hours to finish. Terry was the first to get a color home.

A couple of days later, we tried again but this time we alternated colors so we were less likely to setup one color to the advantage of our other colors. Again it took a couple of hours to complete and we actually stopped mid-way through and finished the following day.

We played a coupe of Backgammon games and split the difference. I need to find a better board though. The one I have is a magnetic travel version and it’s too small and unwieldy for our gaming enjoyment. I’ve been searching for vintage versions from the 80s on Ebay but haven’t quite find one I like enough to bid on or buy now.

We’ve avoided playing Pandemic for a couple of months. We seem to prefer the simpler (i.e. less moving parts and complexities) of these classic family games. It encourages us to interact and engage. Much better than lounging on the couch passively consuming a movie or television series.

Rainbow Lion Puzzle

King of the Jungle

Lord of the Rainbow

Second Summer Puzzle Project ~ July 2020

This second puzzle project of the summer involves less pieces than the first puzzle (two hundred less) but has a more difficult and complex color collage, which is proving to be challenging. Previously, I finished the dragon puzzle in less than three days and probably not more than six or eight hours total.

According to the bottom of the puzzle box, the artwork is called “King of the Jungle” by Blend Cota. An oil on canvas painted in 2018, his Artist Notes describe “This magnificent creature is sitting peacefully, his crown gently waving in the soft summer breeze as the tall savannah grass engulfs him. And yet, deep inside these quiet moments, I can feel the majestic roar ready to land shake… such a powerful symbol of strength, pride and glory.”

Click image above to see the rest of the photo album.

I am off to a slow and steady start. After nearly a week, I’ve completed most of the bright colored background (mostly yellows, oranges and greens). I’m not sure how to proceed or what color to focus on. I may try to complete the lion’s face, which will leave mostly a dark blue, purple and black pieces to sort through. Such a rainbow of colors and cathartic brush strokes.

I won’t have much time this month to devote to the puzzle though. I’ve started a soft skills online course this week which runs through the rest of July. I have several critical deadlines for projects at work that will probably mean longer hours. I will snatch a few moments throughout the day to find a piece or two and place it where it belongs.

I’ll take photos sporadically and update the album so check back to track my progress. With the heat forecast in the mid 90s with high humidity, any indoor activity is preferred to the sweltering summer outside.

Puzzling Times

A puzzle of fantasy tropes including a wizard with a staff blasting something with magic while riding a dragon and protecting a castle with a comet and a moon thrown in for good measure.

I had to end my post yesterday rather abruptly to run my Saturday morning errands. During my jaunt around Leavenworth, I stopped in at Wal-Mart for the second time in a week, which is very unusual as I avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. If I can’t get it at Dillons, my only other option in Leavenworth/Lansing is Wal-Mart, outside of places like Dollar General and large pharmacy chains like Walgreens or CVS. K-Mart/Sears closed over a year ago and is now a very large U-Haul dealer next door to Home Depot.

This week they demolished the Payless Shoe Source store that previously resided in the same plot of land as K-Mart. And the biggest development project of the year is wrapping up. Quik Trip is nearly ready to open where the Leavenworth Co-Op was for decades on the northwest corner of Eisenhower and Main Street (US-73/K-7). I’m not looking forward to the traffic headaches that configuration is going to cause especially in the mid-afternoon when all the people on Post head home (to Lansing from Fort Leavenworth).

The other large roadwork improvement project that was causing me inconvenience completed last week as well. My alternate route to Dillons using 4-H Road to DeSoto is now open and the northern half of DeSoto now sports a middle turn lane and wide sidewalks. The intersection of Eisenhower and Desoto (on the south) and Shrine Park Road (on the north) also got a complete makeover including left turn lanes and signals for all directions and right turns lanes in some directions. Traffic should flow better in the mornings and evenings now.

But back to my second trip to Wal-Mart.

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Summer Arrives

Summer Arrives

A Day Early and Sunshine Short

The last two to three weeks have felt more like Summer than today does. Yesterday, we had the first cloudy slightly rainy day since May and right now, outside my window, the clouds have come down to Earth. I’m not complaining, really! I needed a break from sunshine, humidity and mid-90s temperatures. But enough about the weather.

The flowers and plants I planted earlier in the Spring continue to bloom. I’m a terrible tender though and frequently forget to water early in the morning. When your commute is a matter of seconds from ‘home’ to ‘office,’ you (meaning I) tend to dive right into work. Despite evidence to the contrary, I remain extremely busy with projects and support for my employer, who is thankfully returning furloughed employees now. I even have plans to return to the office for a half day late next week; mostly because my laptop has decided to take an involuntary vacation so it needs a more permanent and reliable replacement. That and I have a major upgrade to perform so being on site means no risk of power or internet outages in the home office.

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Mid-Afternoon May Day Surprise

May first is our wedding anniversary. This past Friday was our thirty-fourth. I took a day off from working at home and turned it into a three day weekend.

Before Terry went upstairs for a nap shortly after noon, he warned me to answer the door if the door bell rang. Since I had no where else to be, I stayed in the living room, watching obscure dramas I stumbled across via the Tubi channel on our Roku. As foretold by Terry, sometime around two or three o’clock the doorbell rang and I receive a beautiful bouquet from a local flower shop with a note that brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart.

Click photo to see rest of album.

Next year, our thirty-fifth, we hope to spend a weekend in a remote location, preferably a dark sky site, so we can enjoy some star gazing and some peace and quiet. I’m hoping for a Flint Hills cabin or camping site myself. But we’ll see. We have a year to plan.

Gardening Baby Steps

I started writing this post last Monday. Now six days later, on Sunday, I’m composing this first sentence. I got only so far as to think of a title for the post. I’ll be inside most of today as the ‘good weather’ of the past week has finally reversed (as so often happens during springtime on the Great Plains). As I look out my home office window, the trees and lawns wax verdant. My mail box flower garden sports a single red Dahlia bloom while the Gazanias sleep in.

Sunday morning view out my home office window (looking southeast down Fawn Valley)

My front yard drama I’ll cover in a separate post that will become a review, possibly scathing, of a local lawn and landscape company. But I will not mar this post with dark brooding thoughts.

Over the past few days, I’ve planted a Dahlia, four Gazanias and sixteen moss roses (also known as Portaluca). I bought a bag of mulch but I had so many moss roses I’m not sure I can squeeze in the mulch between all these plants. All of this in half my flower garden on the south side of my mail box. The north side is still dominated by my two robust day lily plants. I had two on the south side but that bed was damaged sometime in the last year or two and I’ve lost one of the day lilies and the remaining one is small and stressed. At the end of this year, I’ll probably completely redo this flower bed, put in new soil and find some different perennials, leaving some space for annuals to switch out next year.

Click on photo of the Gazania to see my Flowers and Herbs photo album, updated frequently with new photos.
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An Hour Before Midnight, Lion Spotted

The weather forecast for today predicted over an eighty percent chance of rain so I either needed to make my observation before midnight or wait a couple of days for cloudless skies. Fifteen minutes before my Mythgard Academy class started last night (at nine o’clock Central Time), I decided to make my first observation. I set the timer on my smartwatch for ten minutes and hung outside while my neighbors to the north decided a fire in their firepit was warranted (not helping my light pollution survey one bit). My neighbor to the south also appeared to have search lights trained on my backyard so adjusting my eyes for optimal viewing already had steep hills to climb. I somewhat patiently waited for the timer to count down.

Meanwhile, I found Venus immediately, very high and extremely bright in the west. Next, both Procyon and Sirius shown brightly in the upper and lower southwest. Even though the sun had set over an hour ago, the western sky still seemed dimly luminescent and I detected a very slight haze obscuring the fainter stars. My timer buzzed and I began sketching out the brightest stars and the only constellation I could identify – Orion – sinking slowly into the southwestern horizon. To the north I could just barely make out Polaris but could not find the Big or Little Dipper (mostly because the trees are starting to leaf out).

Almost directly overhead but still on the eastern side of the zenith, I could barely make out a sickle, an asterism that can be found in the constellation Leo (see diagram below). I had checked the Sky and Telescope Interactive Star Chart before stepping outside so I knew where to crane my neck in the hopes of spotting the lion. In addition to the sickle, I could also make out, barely, the triangle of stars that form the lion’s rear and tail. I could not tell where Leo ended and Virgo began as the stars were so faint I gave up.

I returned to my computer, logged into the Webinar and while I waited for it to start, I verified my sketch against the star chart. I had found Leo, but only by the very brightest of it’s stars (which aren’t that bright when you compare them to Sirius, Vega or Procyon). Fast forward two hours, where I found myself nodding off and decided I’d consumed enough First Age elven antics for one session and bailed out of the webinar (I can always watch the last 15-30 minutes via YouTube later).

I went back outside and noticed immediately the haze had disappeared. The air was crisper and I didn’t even need to wait the full ten minutes before I could clearly see the constellation Leo, now slightly west of top-dead-center overhead. My northern neighbors were still enjoying their outdoor fire but my southern neighbors had toned down the search lights to just one very bright LED porch light.

I returned inside and recorded both of my observations via the Globe at Night web site. I plan to repeat my observations each night weather permitting until the middle of next week.

How did your observations go?

Astronomical Activity and Dark Sky Awareness – the Case of the Hidden Lion

Tonight and for the next few nights, you can participate in a survey of your night sky and increase awareness of dark skies (and the converse of light pollution). While we are sheltering at home, we have vastly reduced the amount of air pollution, but have we given thought to the loss of our dark skies while we hunker down, sheltering at home? No? Well, here’s your chance to pitch in and save our night skies!


The Case of the Hidden Lion

Can you find the constellation Leo (for Northern latitudes)? For the next week, take a few minutes out of your late evening and follow these simple instructions to locate the missing lion in your night sky.

Five Easy Star Hunting Steps

  1. Use the Globe at Night website to help find your constellation in the night sky.
  2. Use the Globe at Night website to find the latitude and longitude of the location where you are making your observation.
  3. Go outside more than an hour after sunset (8-10 pm local time). The Moon should not be up. Let your eyes become used to the dark for 10 minutes before your first observation.
  4. Match your observation to one of 7 magnitude charts and note the amount of cloud cover.
  5. Report the date, time, location (latitude/longitude), the chart you chose, and the amount of cloud cover at the time of observation. Make more observations from other locations, if possible. Compare your observation to thousands around the world!:
April 2020 Campaign – Find Leo After Sunset all this week!

I’ll be making my observations either tomorrow or Friday evening around 10 o’clock Central time. I’m just one degree shy of forty degrees north latitude. We’re in the last quarter of the moon, with the new moon occurring on the 23rd so this is the best opportunity to find that missing lion!

Times for Sunset and Moonrise for Kansas City, KS:

April 16, 2020
Moonrise: 3:55am
Twi A: 5:05am
Twi N: 5:40am
Twi: 6:13am
Sunrise: 6:41am
Solar noon: 1:19pm
Moonset: 1:59pm
Sunset: 7:57pm
Twi: 8:25pm
Twi N: 8:58pm
Twi A: 9:32pm
Day len: 13h 16′
April 17, 2020
Moonrise: 4:29am
Twi A: 5:03am
Twi N: 5:38am
Twi: 6:11am
Sunrise: 6:39am
Solar noon: 1:18pm
Moonset: 2:59pm
Sunset: 7:58pm
Twi: 8:26pm
Twi N: 8:59pm
Twi A: 9:34pm
Day len: 13h 19′