Perseids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a Side Trip to Mayberry

Parkway and New River Gorge-4

August 11, 2013

We hadn’t given the new Mini a proper shake-down road trip. When we got the Audi we took it completely across country, driving from South Carolina to somewhere north of Seattle. We didn’t have the time nor energy for such an adventure this time (Well, at least one of us didn’t :-)) so we decided on something a bit shorter.

It was time for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. We figured the perfect way to christen the car would be to take it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to find a bit of dark sky to watch for them. From there we would do some free form road tripping, hoping to wind up in Washington DC by the end of the week.

I had scouted a few potential sites on Google Earth, but there was no way to tell if there would be dark skies. So, shortly after lunch we set off, having somehow managed to pack our gear into the tiny trunk of the Mini. We wanted to make tracks, so we took the Interstate straight on up to Gastonia, then headed off toward Blowing Rock, where we hit the Parkway. We drove with the top back, enjoying the breeze.

There were quite a few clouds, but for the most part it was sunny and the day was spectacular. We pulled off at several overlooks, many of which looked like like they would work for meteor viewing. I didn’t take many photos along the way, though. Continue reading “Perseids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a Side Trip to Mayberry”

Video Project for 3D Printing

Trent and Elaine with Video Setup

File this under one of those “now that you have the time” requests. John Kaup handles science education outreach for Furman, and had first approached me about this project. Elaine Smith is a chemistry teacher at Marion High School in Horry County, and she is spending the summer developing modules for teachers to use with 3D printing. As part of this project she wanted to develop short introductory and closing video segments for each module. That’s where I came in. They needed my services to help put together the videos.

The project itself is quite fascinating. Elaine is working with Tim Hanks and Casper Wright from Furman on using 3D printing to create biomedical structures. Tim and Casper’s research involves developing alginates that are electrically conductive. These alginates can be loaded into a 3D printer and printed into any shape, and research is being done to see if they can eventually substitute for neurons and other tissues. Elaine’s portion of the research is to develop simple demonstrations for these techniques for high school students.

Alginates

For this project I wanted to use the best possible image source that I could, and I decided that was my Nikon D7000 DSLR. I hadn’t really done any video with it. In fact, I had shied away from video on this particular camera because the audio quality wasn’t what I wanted. The built-in microphone tends to pick up motor noise from the autofocus and image stabilization on the lens. Continue reading “Video Project for 3D Printing”

Blue Ghost Hunting

Blue Ghost Fireflies Color Corrected

Wednesday night is ghost night in the Taylor-Wright household. That’s the night Laura’s favorite paranormal shows come on TV – Ghost Hunters, Haunted Collector, and the latest, Deep South Paranormal. This particular Wednesday, though, we had something different in mind. We were going ghost hunting ourselves. Specifically, we were going to see the Blue Ghost Fireflies, Phausis reticulata. We had the privilege of seeing the blue ghosts a couple of years ago. Turns out that was another Wednesday night when we would have been watching Ghost Hunters, too. That would not be the last coincidence on this particular trip.

Our friend Joyce McCarrell arranged the outing and sent us the invitation. We met with her and the others that were going at the Cafe at Williams Hardware. Our host for the evening was Ann Tankersly, and we would be following her up to her property near River Falls. In all, there were nine of us heading out to see the Blue Ghosts.

Blue Ghost Fireflies-001 Continue reading “Blue Ghost Hunting”

Comet Pawn Stars

This evening David Moffett of the Furman University Physics Department was hosting a viewing of Comet Pan-STARRS on campus. Laura and I decided to head up and see if we could spot it. Of course, I came overloaded with cameras, telescopes, and binoculars. I wasn’t going to miss out on a photographic opportunity. When we … Continue reading Comet Pawn Stars

Amazing Water Experiment

A friend on Facebook shared this with me this afternoon… [Raises his hand and puts on his best Sheldon Cooper impression and says, “Pick me!  Pick me!  I know the answer!”, then launches into an overly long, round-about explanation of the video…] When I was a young teacher I visited Discovery Place in Charlotte.  They … Continue reading Amazing Water Experiment

A Night on Bald Mountain

Bald Rock Sunrise-016

For my birthday this year I decided to take a vacation day from work. Most people would take this as an opportunity to sleep in. I’ve always been of the mind that if I have a day off, I really don’t want to waste any of it, and usually would like to get an early start.

This year I got an earlier start than usual. This night is the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. My plan was to head up to Bald Rock in the South Carolina foothills and watch the meteors, then catch the morning sun rising over the Piedmont. I was hoping to replicate this photo…

Piedmont Sunrise 1 Cropped

…which was taken in January of 2007. Continue reading “A Night on Bald Mountain”

There’s a little black spot on the sun today…

Transit of Venus Jun 5, 2012 7-33 PM.16 PM

Yesterday evening Laura and I headed to to Furman to observe the transit of Venus, as the planet made its way across the surface of the sun.  This astronomical event happens every 120 years, and occurs in pairs, separated by 8 years.  The last transit was in 2004, and the next one won’t be until 2117.

It didn’t look like the weather was going to cooperate.  Heavy clouds obscured the sun, but there were enough breaks to make at least a momentary observation a possibility. So, we made our way down to the central quad area of the Townes Science Center at Furman, where Dr. David Moffat had two telescopes set up, and where others were gathering.

Transit of Venus Jun 5, 2012 6-54 PMTransit of Venus Jun 5, 2012 6-055Transit of Venus

Continue reading “There’s a little black spot on the sun today…”

Godspeed, Atlantis

dd263439da7840e6ae0ffd6edf870451.jpg by RndConnections on Aviary

The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Friday morning for the last ever space shuttle flight. NASA is ending the 30 year program and all the remaining orbiters are being parceled out to museums. It is a sad, sad day.

We had hoped to actually see this launch. Be coincidence we were going to be in Florida the day of the of the launch, and we thought about leaving early on Thursday evening so that we could at least be in viewing range, even if it was just from a rest area on I-95.

Alas, that was not to be. The weather didn’t look like it was going to cooperate, and there was only a 30% chance that it would go up. Also, I’d had a particularly rough day at work, and was still dealing with work issues when I got home Thursday evening. Between those two, we decided to leave early Friday morning. If it launched, so be it. Continue reading “Godspeed, Atlantis”

Brood 19

13 Year Cicada

Our outings lately have sounded like something from a season of the X-File. A couple of weeks ago we went in search of Blue Ghosts, and last night we went in search of Brood XIX of the thirteen-year cicadas.

I had heard these insects last Saturday on my kayaking trip on Lake Greenwood. The noise was amazing and was constant. It sounded more like the phasers from the original Star Trek series.

Hearing me talk about them, and hearing and reading about them on the news, both Laura and her mother wanted to find these things. So, late yesterday afternoon before it got dark we went in search of them. Continue reading “Brood 19”