Sunday, December 30, 2007

No Loose Lithium Batteries in Checked Baggage

If you are travelling to Bonaire from the USA, you will be interested to know that beginning Tuesday, you can't pack spare Lithium Batteries in your checked baggage. You can pack them in your carry on, however. Make sure the terminals are protected so nothing can short them out.

Here is the full story on the Bonaire Insider web site.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Full Moon Fun

Bob Lassiter and I sallied forth last Friday, Dec. 23, for some full moon foto fun. Bob has been experimenting, for a number of months, with using the natural light of the full moon to get new views of familiar subjects. He's got some great shots of his house, for example. We headed up to Seru Largu to see what we could see. It was pretty hazy that night, so the full moon wasn't as bright as it could have been. So we may need to do this again. In the above photo, shot entirely with moonlight, we see Bob getting his big 100-400 zoom lens ready for action.
I cheated and used a bit of fill flash on this one to fill in the Moon shadows while Bob set his sites on the the lights of Playa.
Here is an attempt to expose for the lights of town, as well as the moonlit areas of the island. I'll probably play with these images some more to see what variations I can come up with.
There was a cruise ship in port that day. Cruise ships often leave shortly after sunset, but this one stayed around until late that night. To the naked eye, it looked like a big building covered with Christmas lights.

Moon and Mars

On Dec. 23, the full Moon passed right by Mars during the course of the evening. This picture, taken at Moonrise, shows Mars well to the lower right of the moon. (to the right of the cacti) By nine pm, the Moon was right next to Mars, and by the time I went to bed, the Moon was to the lower left of Mars.
Now I wish I had taken a series of pictures every hour or so, but this one will have to suffice.

Two Comet Show on Friday Evening

We got to see comets Tuttle and Holmes last night. In the binoculars, Comet Tuttle was about as bright as the galaxy M31 was to the naked eye, that is, we could barely see it.

There was some high haze present the whole night, so we couldn't see the Milky Way. That made it easy to identify the constellations. But there were periods of time when the thick clouds cleared away, so I got about 16 one minute exposures of the sky between the constellations Andromeda and Perseus. You can see both Comet Tuttle and Comet Holmes in this picture. Tuttle is small and aqua colored. The X below Tuttle is where it was on Thursday night, and the X above Tuttle is where it will be Saturday night. It looks like the comet will pass right by the galaxy M33 soon.
I labeled a number of interesting objects in this picture. The first letter of each label is to the lower right of its object.
I drew in some constellation lines. The somewhat parallel lines running off the left side of the image are Andromeda. The triangle above Andromeda is Triangulum. The sprawling set of lines at the lower right of the picture is the constellation Perseus.

I had just started a series of close ups on the Andromeda / Tuttle area when my scope mount quit tracking. I have a bad wire in the cable running between the hand controller and the mount. I've been able to nurse it along for months, but I think it died for good last night. To fix it, I'll have to cut about a foot off of the end of the cable and re-solder the individual wires to the teeny tiny printed circuit board inside the controller. I'm a ham handed solderer, so I'm a little concerned, but I've got nothing to lose at this point. :)
We'll be outside tonight to see what we can see. It's been pretty cloudy and rainy all day, so who knows.... There is an Iridium flare at 19:34, so hopefully we'll get to see that at least. (There were also nice flares on Thur. and Fri. evenings, as seen from our backyard.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Green Christmas

Sandra wound lights in and around most of our windows, for a nice ambiance inside, and a little holiday flavor from the outside as well. Bonaire is really green and lush right now, and many of what usually are dry stream beds and ruts in the roads have running water in them. It is a nice change. We had a Christmas Eve service at the IBCB. I was happy to see as many visitors as regular church fold there that evening. Room lighting, except for the platform, was by candles in paper bags with sand at the bottom. I lightened the picture so you could see everyone a little better.
Christmas morning found Sandra doing some last minute Christmas light repairs.
We didn't set up a fill size Christmas tree this year because our six month puppy would have probably knocked it over. So we had a mico mini tree on the table.
We visited with some friends in the afternoon, and then in the evening we went to the Christmas Buffet at the Divi Flamingo hotel. We enjoyed the buffet A LOT and will probably do it again next year. Entrees included baked fish, yummy turkey with all the fixings, baked ham, and rib roast. We tried them all of course.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Long Time No Post

It's been about two weeks since my last post, so I'll do a few tonight. I've got more stuff to share, so maybe I can get to it over the holidays. Life gets busy in December, even here on Bonaire. Then Sandra and I have been pretty sick for about a week, yuck.

But we're both feeling much better now. I might even venture out on an easy bike ride tomorrow. I think it will take me a couple weeks to get back up to speed though.

I sold all my Minolta camera gear on eBay since my last post. My six auctions ended late on a Sunday night, everyone paid promptly, and my dad graciously packed and shipped the stuff right away. By the Friday, everyone had received their goodies. The guy who won my Maxxum 28/2 lens was particularly happy. I'm not surprised. The 28/2 produced cleaner star shapes in my astro photos at F2.8 than my Canon 24/2.8 does at F4! The Maxxum 100/2.8 macro was also better wide open at F2.8 than my Canon 85/1.8 is at F2.8. Bob Lassiter has Canon's 100/2.8 macro, and he says that I can try it out under the stars some time.

I saw the International Space Station pass right in front of the Sun on Saturday morning. I tried to get set up to image it with my telescope, solar filter, lap top computer, and web cam, but didn't get it all hooked up and functioning in time. Now I'm usually so busy trying to get pictures that I don't even see the event at all. Yesterday was a different story and I am happy to report that the ISS looked really great in my ETX 90 and 26mm eyepiece as it zoomed across the Sun's disk.

I was out this evening taking some pictures of the beautiful Full Moon / Mars pairing and saw the ISS pass by at about 18:55. It was too hazy to get any useful pictures of the ISS but it was fun to see that it was right on schedule, ha-ha. The ISS will be also be visible, here on Bonaire, a couple more evenings this week according to CalSky dot com. As I've mentioned before, the Calsky and Heavens-Above Web sites are worth their weight in gold if you want to know what is going on in the night sky at your location.

Flamingo Dreamscape

I like this picture, from my Dec. 8 ride, because of the soft colors and the reflections in the water. Bonaire usually presents a pretty harsh image, but to me this has a softer feel.
Sometimes I really don't feel like carting my camera around as I cycle through Washington Park. A full Camel Bak is heavy enough all by itself, but I see such interesting stuff just about every time, that the camera comes along for the ride after all.
I was recently playing with Bob Lassiter's Canon 20D and found that it was quite a bit heavier than my new Rebel XTi. I must say that I was really lusting after the new 40D, when I bought the XTi, but now I'm glad that I won't have to lug the bigger camera around on my treks to the Park. (I do miss the 40D's astro photo focusing abilities though.)
I also chose the admittedly non-professional looking silver version of the XTi after discovering how amazingly hot my all black Minolta used to get when I was hiking around with it in the hot Bonaire sun. Now I just need to round out my collection of white lenses, ha-ha.

Flamingo Fun

Here ia a flamingo picture that I shot back on December 1. I briefly mentioned this bird in my Dec. 9 post. I was on a dirt road/causeway between two big ponds in Washington Park.
A flamingo suddenly decided to fly from the pond on the Playa Frans side over to the pond on the Brandaris side. I started snapping pictures like crazy as he flew towards me, passed right in front of me, and then curved on past me.

This is the best shot from that sequence, and I like it a lot! The version I posted here is a 429K file, so you might want to not click on the thumbnail if you are using a dial up connection. I don't know if Blogger will downsize it or not, but the photo I uploaded is 1680x1050 and I'll be using it as wallpaper on my laptop.

Starry Nights

It has been quite cloudy and rainy, here on Bonaire, for a couple weeks now. But back on December 11, I got out in the back yard and took a few pictures of the Milky Way running from Cassiopeia over to Taurus. This composite picture runs from Cass. to the Pleiades. The top picture has some labels to help you know what you are looking at. At the top left of the picture is the Andromeda galaxy, which I've incorrectly labeled M33. It is really M31. I could also see M33, the Triangulum galaxy, in the original picture, but I don't know that you can spot it in this downsized version, although it is barely there at the middle of the top edge of the frame.

At the left side of the picture is the constellation Cassiopeia, it is below the Cass. label and is pretty much lost in the clutter of stars. The double cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus is above the "D" in the label. Comet Holmes is to the lower left of the "C" in its label, and is above the central part of Perseus. Then way over on the right side of the picture is the Pleiades, located to the upper left of the "P" in the label.
The lower picture is a little larger and doesn't have any pesky labels in it. There is another comet in the sky right now, not too far from the site of this picture. It is much dimmer than comet Holmes, but we'll look for it later this week when the moon isn't up.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Big Sailboat

This sail powered cruise ship glided by while we were eating out under the stars the other night. So when it was time to head home, Sandra and I stopped off downtown to check it out.
Bonaire is usually too windy to allow for calm reflective water like this, but this time of the year is the exception, and I hope to take full advantage of it any chance I get.

Christmas Party Time

Our son, Richard, recently drove from NJ to Virginia, for the annual company Christmas party. Here on Bonaire, we had a staff Christmas food fest at Richards Restaurant.
Although we don't eat out much, Sandra and I have visited Richards Restaurant a good number of times during the 17 years he's been in in operation here on Bonaire, and we've been very pleased with both the service and the food each and every time.

Here's a picture of Sandra and friends enjoying the seaside atmosphere and camaraderie. Wish you were here, heh-heh.

Cara Cara - Wara Wara

The names for this bird remind me of the po tay toe - po tah toe song. By any name, these are impressive birds.
During the hot and windy spring/summer months, I often see them soaring on thermals and on wind pressure waves associated with some of the ridges and valleys in Washington Park. One bird, soaring near Yuwa Pass, shot up vertically like he was on an invisible elevator. I definitely was suffering from wing envy that day.
During the cloudy and windless fall months, I usually see these birds hanging out on the ground.

I saw four last week as I cycled through the park. Three of them scampered into the undergrowth when they saw me, but this one flew up onto a nearby cactus. He really has two legs, but spent a lot of time perched on only one.

I saw five Cara Cara yesterday. One was flying and four were hanging out on the ground.
Here is a 100% crop from the first picture.
This is a 100% crop of another image.
Some flamingos performed for me too. A couple were so nice as to fly right past me while traveling from one pond to another. I'll post flying flamingo pix sometime soon. I like the contrasting colors in this picture.

I also saw a bull and a few cows in the park last week, in the same area that I saw them once before. But no bovine pictures in the blog. I didn't stop to dig out the camera from my backpack, 'cause I wasn't sure if I could pedal as fast as the bull could run, if he turned out to be camera shy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Big Birthday

Sunday was Amado Felix's 60th birthday and a full day of festivities were planned, starting with a small reception following the morning service at the IBCB. If I ever fail to have my camera, I can count on Lucy to get some great shots. Here she zooms in on Amado while Keith and Barb Johnston sing him a special song.
Here we see the birthday boy with his wife Sue.
It looks like a photographer feeding frenzy. Notice the kids waiting in the wings before their own feeding frenzy!

Just Plane Fun

The sky was quite clear last Saturday morning. I really enjoyed the vistas in Washington Park as I rode my bike in there for the first time in about a month. Another Saturday morning regular is Ernie Franke, who often takes out the Bonaire Flying Club plane for a lap around the island. I frequently see Ernie fly by offshore as I ride along the "long route" in the park.

Regular readers of my blog will probably remember the aerial photos of Bonaire that I've posted from time to time. They are the result of Ernie kindly inviting me to join him for his aerial adventures from time to time.

Here is a shot, with my "new" 400mm lens, of Ernie and Janto as they flew by the north coast of the island on Saturday morning.

Visitors from the Cold North

It was great to see Tim Jones and family in church a week ago. Back when I was operating our TWR transmitters out by the salt flats five nights a week, Tim Jones, the son of TWR missionaries Warren and Bev Jones, used to hang out with me from time to time. We probably swatted a million mosquitoes and ate about that many Pringles, urp!

Tim, his wife Dawn, their two kids, and a Nephew all visited Bonaire a week ago. They had already plowed ten inches of snow back home in Pennsylvania before coming here, and it was 20 degrees F. when they returned. It sounds like they took full advantage of the snorkeling while they were here for an all too brief visit. Here is the obligatory "please stand in front of the big map at the IBCB" photo of the happy family.
On a side note, we still tease our son, Richard, about when cow poo splashed on him during a youthful visit to Dawn's family's dairy farm in PA. I can't figure out how we let Mike Rowe and the Discovery Channel series, "Dirty Jobs" run away with that scenerio and have all the fun.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ISS Flybys

The International Space Station (ISS) passed almost directly overhead on Wednesday and Friday evenings. I noticed that the ISS was going to almost "hit" the bright star, Deneb, in the Norther Cross, as seen from our back yard.
I did some playing around and found a spot just North of 1000 Steps where the ISS should pass directly in front of Deneb. Sandra and I zoomed out there. We marveled at how dark sky was compared to Hato, and enjoyed the first cloudless evening in a long long time.

With our naked eye, the ISS appeared to graze Deneb. In this picture, taken with a 400mm lens, it was a miss, but a near miss to be sure. I've labeled the stars with their Tycho catalog numbers. I'm still going to do some checking to try to figure out the scale of the picture.
The ISS went from left to right in the picture. You can see a wiggle at the left end of the ISS trail, probably from when the mirror went up and the shutter opened. My tripod was especially wiggly that night, but I didn' t have time to tighten it up. I generally lock the mirror up and take the picture two seconds later, but in this case I needed to have better control of the timing, in order to capture the ISS passing the star.

Comet Holmes (again)

Now that the moon isn't around in the evening, comet Holmes is again a naked eye object. But it isn't amazingly obvious like is was a month ago.

I took this picture Friday night. It is the first chance I've had to take a "real" astro-phot0 of the comet. Previous images were stacks of 2 second exposures. This one is a stack of one minute exposures, and better shows how rich the central Persius area of the sky is.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Comet Update

Comet Holmes is still putting on a show for us, but it is much more difficult to see, compared to a month ago. The above picture is from Friday night. The moon was very bright and there was a slight haze in the sky, even in between the many clouds. We couldn't see the comet at all with our naked eye, and could just barely see it with the binoculars.
Now that the moon isn't rising until later in the evening, we can see the comet with the unaided eye again. It has faded to mag 4.3 or so, so it doesn't jump out at you like it did at the start of November.

The skies were quite clear on Wed. and Thur., at least in the early evening. We could see lots of faint stars and could scan the sky across whole constallations, for the first time in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wonderful Weather

The rainy season is still with us, here on Bonaire, but we're more in the occasional downpour mode, than the steady rain all day type thing. Our earliest sunset time was about a week ago, and the dirt roads in the hills north of Hato are dry enough to mtn. bike on, so my after work bike rides will be a little easier to squeeze in soon.

The temperatures are noticeably cooler too, although there is often still a high degree of mugginess. Of course, noticeably cooler on Bonaire means a drop of a few degrees. When the weather hardly changes, we become amazingly sensitive to the slightest changes. It's not at all like New York last week, where it was sixty degrees F. for the Thanksgiving Day Macy's parade and about 30 degrees F the next morning when people were lined up outside all the stores waiting for those Black Friday bargains.

Here is a graph from Weather Underground showing the high and low temperatures, here on Bonaire, this month. If you look really closely, you'll see that it is indeed getting cooler, heh-heh.

In fact, the nights are so cold and clammy, the dogs make every effort to avoid sleeping on the concrete floor, as can be seen in the other photo I've included.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Multitasking / ATM

Our TWR facilities,here on Bonaire, are really into multitasking these days. Besides our offices and studios, they also provide a home for a grammar school, a high school, an Intelsat monitoring station, and the nerve center of the Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation.

The BYOF is in the news these days with a multimedia campaign called "Seks no ta un Wega." This effort, which has a broad base of community support, will culminate on December 1, the International day of AIDS/HIV awareness, with a big rally/concert at Jong Bonaire.

Last week, the BYOF held events in the barrios of Nikiboko and North Salina. They will be invading Anriol and Rincon this week. Their goal is to encourage kids and young people to consider abstinence as a way to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, and other consequences of "recreational sex".

Check out their creative web site that is loaded with all sorts of great content, and the tag line: "sex is not a game - don't gamble with your life."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday Comet Update

Comet Holmes was surprisingly difficult to see Friday evening (and Saturday too). It has dimmed slightly from mag 2.9 to mag 3.1, but that brightness is also being spread out over a larger area, so the "surface brightness" is a lot less.

The moon is getting bright too, which is probably making it harder to spot the comet. It was even pretty dim in binoculars on Saturday evening.

The bottom line is that the comet doesn't jump out and smack you in the eyeballs like it did just a few days ago, but it is still well worth checking out.

It still photographs well, as you can see in this shot from Friday night. This is a stack of four 4second exposures at F2.8 and ISO1600. It looks like I got the focus better on this one than the one from November 10.
Here is a link to the post from Nov. 1 as well, if you want to see a wide angle view and get a feel for how the comet has been moving with respect to the stars.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bad Feather Day

Well, we've all probably had a bad hair day at some time, so we can empathise with these birds who are having a bad feather day. We are at that time of the year, here on Bonaire, where early morning showers are pretty common, even on otherwise clear and sunny days. The above birds appear to be Bare-eyed Pigeons. They look a lot like the White-tipped or White-faced Dove, but have a light colored beak instead of a dark one.
This Troupial actually seemed to enjoy fluffing his feathers and grooming them with his beak, so the early morning showers may actually be a good thing, even if the birds look a little scruffy for a while.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fish Fun

We visited Washington Park a couple times while my family was here with us. It felt strange to me to glide up hills in our diesel powered pickup truck that I normally grind up with much huffing and puffing and perspiring on my bike. One of the highlights of our time in the park was snorkeling at Wayaka 2. There is a sandy beach entry to the fairly calm water, and fish that aren't afraid to get right up in your face.
Can you find the Flounder in the above photo? They are masters of camouflage. I can see it, even in the small thumbnail version of the photo. You might need to click on it to see the bigger version.
Two large angel fish were particularly nosey and hung around us the whole time we were in the water. Laurie also saw a giant turtle and a couple normal size ones.

Family Foto

As I mentioned recently, we've been enjoying some fun family times with my parents and my brother and his wife.
After the church service at the International Bible Church of Bonaire, we all posed by the big world map and asked some friends to help with snapping a couple family photos. Lucy shot some with her camera and later presented us with beautiful print copies.

Bob Lassiter used my dying Minolta camera to take the one you see here. Thank you Bob and Lucy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Comet Holmes Update

We've been watching comet Holmes each night. It seems easier to see now, even though it has dimmed slightly from magnitude 2.9 to magnitude 3. Even with the naked eye, it seems to have grown in diameter and now looks distinctly fuzzy.

It's really fuzzy in binoculars. I shot this picture with a 85 mm lens, so it shows a "zoomed in" view compared to the picture I posted earlier, which was shot with a 24mm wide angle lens. I stacked a number of 4 second exposures at F2.8 and ISO 1600 for this image. There was some coma in the corners of the image, which I have cropped out, so I'll probably be trying this lens at F4 next time out.
The original size images showed that the stars moved during the four second exposure, but after I scaled the picture down for the Web, the stars look ok. I was able to shoot eight second exposures with the 24m lens, but four seconds is a little too long at 85mm. The more of a telephoto lens one uses, the more the earths rotation streaks the star images, and the more one needs to get out the good old motorized telescope mount to track the stars during the exposure.

7th Annual Eco-Swim

I counted about 80 swimmers churning up the clear blue waters of Hato this morning. They were participating in the seventh annual Eco-Swim open water swimming races.
There were 10k, 5k, 3k, and 1k distance categories, as well as sub categories for those who were using fins. (seems like we used to call them flippers back in my youth)
I shot a a few pictures that I'll try stitching into a panorama, but don't know if it will pan our or not. It is tricky because those pesky swimmers keep moving while I am taking the images that will make up the panorama. Here is a regular picture that I cropped to resemble a panoramic image.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Family Fun

We're enjoying a visit from my parents these days. My brother, Bruce, and his wife, Laurie, have just wrapped up a fun filled week with us too.

We got in a bike ride to Playa Frans, lots of snorkeling, two trips to Washington Park, and managed to squeeze in some good old R and R as well.

While Bruce and Laurie were here, their daughter, who is a freshman at the University of the Pacific, was tapped to start for the Tigers in the first pre-season game. It looks like she is going to get a good bit of playing time at beginning of the season, which is an exciting, but somewhat daunting prospect.

We listened to her first game, live, on the Internet. UOP won and she did well, which resulted in lots of cheering from her proud parents. In this photo you can see the aforementioned proud parents, as well as a proud grandpa checking out the game stats.
Sandra, who grew up in countries where basketball wasn't that big a thing found it all rather puzzling, ha-ha.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Comet Holmes Picture

We could easily see comet Holmes the last three nights. Here is a picture that shows a rough outline of the constellation Perseus and where the comet is. It doesn't seem to move much from night to night.

You might be able to see in this picture that the comet is fuzzy looking compared to the stars. You can just barely detect this fuzziness with the naked eye, but it is really obvious in our 10x50 binoculars.

Sky and Telescope has more information and a finder chart that shows where Perseus and the comet are relative to some of the other stars and constellations.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Radio Listeners Respond

We pump out our radio programs, with 100 kilowatts of power, each night here on Bonaire, but don't always hear back from our audience. The emails, calls, and letters go elsewhere. However, we do eventually get to see some of the results of our efforts.

In August, TWR received forty letters from Cuba, in response to the program A Traves de la Biblia. We also received a letter from Las Vegas, from a person who listened to us when he used to live in Cuba.

Here is a translation of one that came from a listener in the Dominican Republic.
Greetings friends…I listen to you daily on 800 kHz AM during hours of night. My joy is great and I benefit spiritually listening each night to your programs in Spanish and I want to tell you that my life has taken a 180 degree turn around. The truth is that you cannot imagine the understanding that your programs have given me and the change that has taken place in me…May God bless you and I am listening to you everyday.

Hooray, the Weather is Back to Normal

While some may know October 31 as Halloween, I like to think of it as the last day of the official hurricane season. (oops, Georgina, the director of our Dominican Republic office informs me that the official hurricane season goes to the end of November, not the end of October. I did a Google search, and the NOAA agrees with her! Thank you Georgina.)

Our weather on Bonaire is getting back to normal now that Tropical storm Noel has moved further away. Normal for this time of the year is early morning showers, and then light winds and sunshine during the day. While Noel was dumping rain on Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR) to our North, we had a week of overcast skies and occasional heavy rains.

Our Trans World Radio team in the DR reports that water has entered part of their new office / studio building and that Noel has created "a national tragedy" in that country. We'll keep those countries in our prayers and we'll remember to be thankful that Bonaire never seems to catch the brunt of these storms.

The skies were clear enough to see comet Holmes the last two evenings. It is very easy to spot, if you know where to look. I snapped a couple pictures last night, but I haven't opened them on the computer yet to see how they look.

Five of us went for an early morning/before work group bike ride today. A lone rain cloud had paid a visit to some of the roads we rode on just before we got there, and they had a soupy sort of muddy texture to them. It was fun actually, but my chain started locking up part way up the back side of Seru Largu, probably because of that mud, grrrrr...
I got myself and the bike cleaned up and still made it to work by 8 am. so all in all, it was a success I think.

Recent Picture Posting Malfunction

I've noticed that in my recent post about the new satellite antenna, I somehow uploaded some large out-of-the-camera jpegs, instead of my downsized, color balanced and curved jpegs. I'm just going to leave it as is, I think, but I do apologize for the over sized and gloomy images.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Big Bonaire Birdbath

Ernie, Benny, and Ivan added another giant bird bath to our collection behind the office wing. This week they'll probably install the gear that turns it into a satellite antenna. Notice the lush grass. It has been raining a lot here this fall. Stuff is growing like crazy, and some of the dirt roads and trails we mountain bike on are getting narrower and narrower as the vegitation expands.
That all purpose Gradall crane/forklift/cherry picker is fairly new on Bonaire, I think, and sure came in handy on this job.

The guys make a good team don't they.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dog Days of October

We've seen a lot of wet and muggy weather this month. Regatta week was rainy and hot. Last week was pretty nice. This week has been very rainy, but not quite so hot.

The puppy is growing like a weed, and hanging out in the nice dry car port. He doesn't look too impressed with his lot in life though.
I shot this photo while doing some camera testing. We're going to be switching from the Minolta/Sony world to Canon. I've pretty much worn out the shutter on my first Maxxum 5D - I have to turn the camera off and back on between each picture. The second camera has never really worked right. The Canons also have some real advantages for astro-photography so it seems to be time for a switcheroo.
My parents have graciously offered to help me sell my collection of wonderful Maxxum lenses on eBay. The good news is that they appear to have appreciated in value since I bought them. Time will tell whether or not the Canon lenses (the ones that I can afford!) will be able to equal the great vintage Minolta glass.

New Bright Comet

There is a weird comet that has just brightened a million-fold over the last couple days. It was magnitude 18 as recently as Oct. 20, but it is now an easy naked eye object in the constellation Perseus.

Our rainy weather here on Bonaire continued today and unfortunately, the sky has been completely clouded over last night and tonight, so I haven't seen it. Aaaarrrrrggggg......

If you know were Perseus is in the sky, you can learn the exact location of the comet here. It sounds like you can't miss it.

Delayed Listener Reaction

Sometimes we hear from our radio listeners right away, by email or on the phone. Other times, many years might go by before we hear from them.

This note, just received at Trans World Radio's office in Cary, North Carolina, is a case in point.

My parents were Wycliffe translators for 45 years in South America. Many times we listened to “church” on your radio station while we were out in the jungle. Thank you for feeding us God’s word while my parents worked to make it available to others!!! Blessings!!!

This is certainly not the first response of this type that we have received to our broadcasts. So for the last eight years or so TWR has been producing radio programs specifically for Missionaries and other NGO cross cultural workers. You can read about this initiative here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Star Count Update

Back on September 26, I wrote about the Great Worldwide Star Count project. Well, I went out Wednesday evening to see how many stars I could see. From my back yard, I could see all the stars on the Magnitude 5 star chart and a couple of additional stars from the Magnitude 6 star chart. I then drove a just little bit North of Sabadeco on the upper dirt road that goes to the Radio towers overlooking Rincon. The sky was darker there, I could easily see the Milky Way running from the western horizon, up through Cygnus (the Northern Cross) and over to Cassiopia. I could also see most of, but not all, of the stars on the Magnitude 6 star chart. I know the night sky pretty well, but I still found it tricky to match up what I was seeing on the Sky Count star charts with what I was seeing in the sky. So I've taken the liberty of labeling a few of the bright stars and drawing in some constellation lines. These charts might help you out if you want to head out and see how many stars you can spot in Cygnus, the Northern Cross. You can click on them to make them bigger, of cours, and probably print them to use them "in the field" with your red flashlight. I use my bicycle tail light.
If you like looking at the stars at all, do get outside during the next night or two, before the moon gets bright, and see how many stars you can see from your location. You can figure out your latitude and longitude from Google Maps, and report your findings on the Great Worldwide Star Count website.
It's not many times one gets to contribute to real science without needing a lot of equipment and training.

Speaking of equipment, I'm still experimenting with getting good star pictures with minimal fuss and equipment. I brought my camera and a regular tripod with me when I headed out to count stars. The picture below, shows the stinger of Scorpius' tail as a vertical pair of stars a little left of center at the bottom edge of the picture, just to the right of a cactus. The teapot of Sagitarius is standing on its spout with the bottom of the teapot on the left and the top of the cap to the right. The spout is a little to the left of the middle of the picture, partway into the Milky Way. The handle is a little down from the top of the image. Half way between the stinger and the spout of the teapot is M7, an open cluster of stars.

So I mounted the camera on my trusty tripod, used a 28mm lens at f2.8, and took some 15 second and some 8 second exposures at ISO 800. I could pick these exposure times from the camera's menu, so I didn't need a cable release or remote trigger device. When I got home and looked at the pictures at 100% size, I could see that the stars had moved during the 15 second exposures, but they appeared quite round in the 8 second exposures.

Having said all that, it is interesting that the picture here is a combination of three 15 second exposures that I've downsized for easier viewing online. The stars look round enough in this small size image. (well you can hardly see them at all in the thumbnail. I'm really referring to the 1024x768 image you'll see if you click on the thumbnail) The 15 second pictures showed a lot more Milky Way than the 8 second ones, so I used the 15 second images, and downsized them.

So, if you have a DSLR and happen to be somewhere where you can really see the stars, have a go at taking a picture or two, even if you have to prop up the camera with a rock on the roof of your car and use the self timer to trigger the shot. You won't get a prize winning photo, but you might be surprised by what you can see in that image. I shot some 8 second images of Cygnus while I was out star counting and they showed MANY more stars than I could see with my naked eye. I'm still snooping around Bonaire for a great foreground of cacti, in front of a non light polluted western horizon. I can find one or the other, but not both.... so far.