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 had my bike all set up with everything I could find on Bike Hint. 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”

In Search of Blue Ghosts

Fake Blue Ghosts 2

Wednesday evening is normally our night to watch Ghost Hunters.  This evening, however, we decided to hunt for our own ghosts.  Specifically, we were after the elusive Blue Ghost Firefly, Phausis reticulata.

Blue ghost fireflies only glow during mating season, and are only found in isolated areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Both the males and females give off a constant bluish glow, unlike the fireflies in our area, which pulse on a regular basis.  The males hover about head-height off of the forest floor, while the pale, wingless females glow along the bottom of the forest.  The effect is mesmerizing, as these bluish orbs float through the woods.

The fireflies have a very limited range. They are found in undisturbed forested areas, often in the Smokey Mountains and in Dupont State Forest in North Carolina. Continue reading “In Search of Blue Ghosts”

Super Harvest Moon

Last night we got to witness a rare astronomical event. We were able to view a “Super” Harvest Moon. This happens when the full moon falls on the same night as the autumnal equinox. The sun sets at just about the same time that the moon rises, and does so in a nearly precise east-west … Continue reading Super Harvest Moon