Cycling, hiking, camping, etc — now back in southern Indiana. Words and photos.

Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Observation

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Observing

(Photo taken by my wife.)

I’ve been making a concerted effort to be a better observer. In particular, ever since we watched the Perseid meteor showers, I’ve been more interested in stargazing. On our vacation, I gained a newfound appreciation for birds, thanks to all the interesting birds we saw in the Outer Banks of NC.

Astronomy

Since we got back from our vacation, I bought some binoculars. It’s amazing the mileage I’ve gotten already from a couple of library books on astronomy and a cheap pair of binoculars — even with the nearly-full moon, when the moon is so bright it interferes with night vision.

The Harvest Moon was spectacular last Thursday, and Jupiter has been very bright the past few nights as well. Friday night I had a revelation when I was able to view Jupiter and all of its moons, through my binoculars. It was quite a sight: Jupiter and its four moons were all in a line. From left to right, I saw Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede, followed by Jupiter, followed by Io. I looked for Uranus, but didn’t find it. I also saw an amazing cluster of stars which I later identified as the Orion Nebula.

I’m still learning my way around the night sky. It’s frustrating sometimes trying to find things, but again, the incredibly bright moon has made things more difficult. I think I’ll have more success once the moon wanes a bit more.

I found an amazing, free astronomy program called Stellarium. You set your location, and it shows you how the stars look from your location, complete with constellation/planet/nebula labels, if you like. You can also search for objects and it will show you where they are, or enter a different time and it will show you how the sky will look then. It’s absolutely amazing!

Birds
I haven’t spent as much time on birdwatching, but today we did a nice hike along Lake Monroe and I brought my new binoculars. They really made a difference. I was able to watch quite a few birds, mostly herons, egrets, geese, and turkey vultures. Some of the birds have quite a bit of character, and I loved being more aware of things going on around me in general.
Photos?

Ultimately, I would like to extend my photography into the astronomy/birding realms, but both can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. For now, I’m focusing on observing. Later, once I learn more, perhaps I can work on photographing stars, planets, nebulae and birds and other wildlife.

For now, I’m enjoying learning more about the world around me — looking up at the stars, I feel an almost childlike sense of wonder that as an adult is rare, and it’s quite refreshing. I’m amazed at the things I can see that have been there all along, but I to which I previously paid no attention.

Night and day

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Here’s a shot of the moon taken the other night from the deck of our beach house.

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And, the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, the following morning.

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Perseids

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Last week was the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower peaked Thursday night, but Sarah and I went out both Wednesday and Thursday nights to see what we could see. We drove outside of town a good 20 minutes or so, into a very dark state forest and laid on the ground, on the dam of our favorite lake, looking up at the night sky.

Wednesday, we saw about 15-20 meteors, include 3-4 really long/bright ones. I tried to take some photos, and while I did get some good shots of the stars, the meteors proved difficult to photograph.

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In this crop, you can see a meteor. I had to increase the brightness a lot to be able to see it, but it’s there.

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The next shot appears to have a meteor, but it’s actually an airplane.

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Thursday night, my mom and nephew joined us. I was worried that my nephew, who is 12 1/2, would get bored — even at the peak of the shower, in a very dark location, it can be 10 minutes or more between meteors. It takes a lot of patience. But he was fascinated! And, he was great at spotting meteors. He counted 22 meteors … and he noted that number 5 was the best.

Even if there hadn’t been a meteor shower at all, it would have been a great experience. It’s shocking how many more stars you can see, just by going a ways out of town. We all also enjoyed the sounds of various insects, and the¬†occasional¬†“ploop” sound of a frog jumping in the water, or a fish coming to the surface.

Watching the meteor shower certainly gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for astronomy, and I’m glad my nephew was fascinated as well. My great-great uncle discovered Morehouse Comet, so I guess it’s in our blood!

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