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′

Spring House Guests


Three robin’s eggs in a nest on top of my back porch light. This is the second time since we’ve lived in this house that a robin has nested in that exact spot. The last time it didn’t end well for the robin chicks.

Robin’s Nest Flickr Album

I took these photos using my Samsung smartphone standing on a step ladder inside the house with my arm sneaking around the top of the patio door. I could not see the screen when I snapped the shots. Two of the photos I adjusted afterwards to enhance the visibility and vibrancy of the eggs (which were hidden in shadow inside the nest).

Porthos is lounging in the background (on the step watching me taking the photo above).

Windy Earth Day Walk

Windy and cloudy
Windy and cloudy

I waited until almost noon before taking Apollo on our weekly extra long Sunday walk.  Since I woke up in the middle of the night to watch some of the meteor shower, I slept a couple of hours past when I normally wake up.  With a brisk north wind blowing in clouds, I also delayed the walk in the vain hope the temperature would rise. I wiled away the morning recording the first two races of the F1 2012 season to DVD and reading a couple of books.  I wrote a couple of short blog posts as well.  Once Terry woke up, I left with Apollo, leaning into the stiff northwest wind.  I needed to reinforce Apollo’s training, so I placed the pinch collar on him.  I could immediately tell the difference.  Apollo did not want to pull me along, since he inflicted the pinch on himself when he did.

When we reached Nina Street, I noticed a different type of blooming flower growing along a fence.  I took a picture, even though the wind ruffled the blooms continuously:

Purple flowers

Apollo and I continued northwest towards the highway and West Mary Street.  I planned an hour long walk, meaning I would continue until a half hour had elapsed and then turn around and retrace my steps.

Apollo says Hi!
Apollo says Hi!

We didn’t wait long for the signal to change and were on our way west after safely traversing the highway.  I saw a couple of other walkers on the other side of the street, but so far no other dogs.  Apollo didn’t seem very interested in the grass or light posts or fire hydrants, perhaps because he didn’t like tugging on the leash and causing the collar to pinch him.

Bittersweet and MaryWe walked past the first apartment complex, where the American flag flapped stiffly in the wind (see first photo above).  We continued past the second under-construction apartment complex and approached the relatively new Lansing Elementary School.  Just as we were passing the school, I heard and saw lower flying jet aircraft just to the north of our position.  These planes were flying under the clouds, and circling around in formation.  I immediately realized they were military aircraft, probably rehearsing for a flyover of the Kansas Speedway and the NASCAR race to take place this afternoon.  I tried repeatedly to snap photos of them with my cell phone as I continued walking towards my chosen turnaround point:  Bittersweet Street.

We crossed Mary Street, mostly to give Apollo new sights and smells to investigate.  A man and his dog, which seemed to be a smaller younger version of Apollo, continued west on Mary Street, but not without the two dogs trying desperately to meet each other.  I finally got Apollo headed east, although he whined about not meeting a new dog friend for a few seconds.  I continued my efforts to photograph the jets, finally catching them as we neared the highway.

Miltary AircraftI learned (later) via friends on Facebook, that these were A10 Warthogs and they did, in fact, flyover the Kansas Speedway.

Apollo and I safely crossed the highway and returned home.  We walked for an hour, despite the wind and the Warthogs.

Spring Sprung, Grass Grew, Trees Bloomed

Apple Blossoms
Apple Blossoms

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.

Blurry Apple Blossoms
Blurry Apple Blossoms

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.