Night Time Visitor

From a soybean field in Douglas County: Comet NEOWISE.

Thursday night was my first look at comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. Well this is a nice sight I have not seen for decades: a comet that is actually visible as a comet in the night sky!

I have been trying to see the comet since it started to appear in the evening sky. Every night until this Thursday has been pesky clouds or so much moisture in the air you couldn’t see anything below 20 degrees above the horizon. Looking at the satellite images Thursday I didn’t think I would get a chance but around 10:00pm I was outside and noticed it was pretty clear. Looked below the big dipper and I’ll be darned if I didn’t spot the comet from my front yard. Despite looking in the direction of the neighbors annoying overly bright yard light. So I threw camera and Abby into the truck and went north a mile or two to a field I had scouted.

Wow! Didn’t expect it to be so visibly comet like from the somewhat light polluted area. After gazing at it in wonder for awhile my immediate thought was I want to see this in a truly dark sky. Hopefully get the chance in the next few days.

It has been a long time since a comet showed up in the night sky that was more than a little fuzzball. Even if its not as spectacular as Hale-Bopp it is still a wonderful comet unlike anything else in many years.

Return of the fireflies

The past few days I have been enjoying the return of lightning bugs at my place. For the past week their numbers have ramped up and I may now be at peak firefly. Once its truly dark, near astronomical darkness, the show is at its best in my spot. Hard to tell if I have reached peak yet as I won’t truly know for a another week. But for now I’m just enjoying their nightly show.

This years return is nice treat compared to last years dismal showing. Last year my area had record rainfall for May through June and we were really wet. Parts of my yard were constantly soggy. This year I’m a bit dry and been hotter than usual. I think there is a correlation but that’s just speculating. Also of note this year is their nightly display has been closer to new moon so my area is darker.

Fireflies are one of the most fascinating nigh time displays in nature. That a little bug can fly around lighting itself up is really special. Gather several dozen or more of them together and they create a symphony of light.

April Lyrids

Out to the Flint Hills on Monday 4.20 to view the Lyrids. While this was one day earlier than the peak it was the only night the weather was going to cooperate for days. I was a bit surprised to see a few areas still being burned.

Looking West about 22:30 the sky was hazy from smoke

No matter as I could tell the north wind would blow any low level smoke away and the burning was pretty minimal. I’ve seen worse here.

Continue reading “April Lyrids”

Quadrantids: Years First Meteor Shower

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower timing for 2020 looked very good for me: being in CST timezone the shower should peak January 4th at 2:30am. During the day Friday the only question was would it stay clear in the Flint Hills. At last minute I didn’t drive out there for fear it would stay cloudy there. Stayed home to watch shower in less than great skies.

Well son of a gun, checking satellite next day the skies did cleared over the Flint Hills about 2:00am.

Regardless of location and weather the Quadrantids were a surprise this year. The peak came three hours early which was terrible timing for my location. This shower has a very, very brief maximum strength of only a few hours. It was greatly diminished by the time I observed 2-4am CDT . Bummer. Be a number of years before I get this favorable timing again.

Okie-Tex 2019: Twenty years

One week ago today I woke up to activity all around my tent. Abby was ready to get out and investigate. Outside the sky was clear. The 36th annual Okie-Tex Star Party had officially started and people were rolling into camp Billy Joe. My one hope that morning was for decent weather throughout the coming week. 

Abby pondering the situation. She’s 4 years old and this is her 4th Okie-Tex star party.

You maybe wondering how it is I woke up Saturday morning already at the camp. Like last year I came early to help setup. I arrived Thursday evening and late that night storms rolled through waking me up as it battered my tent. Abby wanted to retreat to the truck that moment. Friday I was on the field with the crew laying out power lines. Quite a change from how things started long ago.

Twenty years ago I made my first trip out to this star party. While an experienced camper I was still rather new to the star party thing. Looking back its funny to think I packed all my gear in a little 93 Geo Tracker. I was in awe of the pristine night sky once darkness fell. That first year in western Oklahoma began what has become my most anticipated time of the year: a chance to spend night after night with the star filled sky. My yearly trip is more than just a vacation from work and city life. Its become my time to fully embrace the night sky, to shift my daily rhythm from day to night. A place and time where I eagerly wait for the sun to set and the night sky to appear. A week under the stars.

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Beserker Day

July 23rd was US release day for Alita Battle Angel home media. For the first time ever I went out and bought a Blu-ray copy. In the past I just bought the occasional DVD but this movies CGI is fantastic. This live action movie based on Yukito Kishiro’s epic manga Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita in english translation) took James Cameron twenty plus years to bring to the screen.

The source manga Battle Angel Alita is one of my all time favorite tales. Its fantastic how the movie featured so many pieces from it. While the movies story line deviates considerably from the manga its to be expect given the manga’s violent and outlandish future world.

I won’t go into any in depth comparison here as I’d rather write a longer article for that. But the essence of Alita’s story in the manga’s first three or so volumes is in the movie. Her origin story and first heartbreaking loss. James Cameron’s original plan was to make three movies so it remains to be seen if that will happen, let alone where his version of the timeline goes.

But if I could see a sequel I’d hope for Alita’s battles with motorball champion Jashugan. And I’d be overjoyed to see anything from the ‘TUNED” arc, especially her interaction with Figure Four.

Alita as a tuned agent from the volume ‘Angel of Death’

#AlitaArmy

One For The Records

Kansas City International Airport (MCI) recorded the wettest month in KC history this year during May. So far through June its the wettest start to a year in KC ever. Now I’m some distance from MCI but I can attest to the fact May was ridiculously wet at my place. Every storm that came by hit me. Usually with heavy rain. My little creek flooded four times in May. I don’t think its flooded four times all year before.

Whats interesting has been the effect on lightning bugs. In May it would be typical to see a dozen or so every night with ever increasing numbers as June approached. For most of May I didn’t see a single firefly at night. By end of month I was seeing one or two. Unbelievable.

The question then became would the lightning bugs recover or would this wet weather completely change their cycle? By the end of May parts of my backyard were like a swamp with water standing on the ground. It had nowhere to go, everything was saturated. Its worth noting that the annual firefly display is a mating ritual and that marks the end of that cycle of their life.

Lightning bug warming up the lamp after sunset last Monday

Over the past week or so their numbers have risen substantially around my house. Substantial being a relative term since going from a few to several dozen visible is a big jump. Still, as best I can tell this will not be a magical year with hundreds and hundreds of them visible at once. So it seems the wet weather delayed their emergence from the ground. It remains to be seen if the current nightly display is this years peak or if it will last a bit longer than usual.