Saturday, September 29, 2007

30 sec. Milky Way Photo

Some of you have commented on the star and cacti picture I posted on Sept. 21. I'm still scheming as to how I can get a picture with nice crisp cactus silhouettes on it. I could always make a composite picture on the computer, but I'd like to capture a real life image if I can.

I was out in our back yard last night to see an Iridium satellite produce a -6 magnitude flare of reflected sunlight. While I was waiting for the Iridium flare, I pointed my camera to the southwest over our house and Kaya G.N. Debrot and snapped a shot of Jupiter hanging out by Antares and the other bright stars of Scorpius.

I was surprised at how many stars turned up in this 30 second exposure. Now I had to work it over in Photoshop quite a bit, and there is a good deal of digital noise compared to images made up of a stack of longer exposures, but I'm still pleased. That is the roof of our house in the lower right corner, and it isn't that blurred.

So it looks like these settings of 30 seconds, at F2.8 and ISO 400 might also bag me a good cacti and stars picture. I'll have another go at it soon, if I can. Some of the newer cameras produce less noise than mine, so 15 seconds at ISO 800 or even ISO1600 wouldn't be out of the question. It seems to me that a 15 second exposure with a 28mm lens could be made from a stationary tripod instead of sitting on top of a star tracking telescope. Hmmm, Milky Way over Brandaris... that would be a cool picture. :)

That black blob at the bottom of the picture is the tube of the telescope I had the camera sitting on. The big white blob in the upper middle part of the picture is Jupiter. Antares is the bright red star to Jupiter's lower right. A little above the left end of the telescope blob is a pair of stars that make up the stinger of the Scorpion's tail. To their upper left are M6 and M7, a pair of open star clusters.

The spout of the teapot is a little way up on the left edge of the picture. A little above half way up on the left side of the picture are the Lagoon and Triffid Nebula, and some more star clusters can be seen above them on the left edge of the image. The WEB power plant would be just off the left side of this picture.

Satellite Watching

I've enjoyed watching satellites cruising across the vast Bonaire evening skies for more than 30 years now. One advantage of living on a relatively flat desert island is that one can see the sky from horizon to horizon. So satellites, meteors, low lying planets like Mercury are all readily visible.

Sandra and I saw a very bright Iridium flare last night. The Web sites CalSky and Heavens-Above both can predict all sorts of interesting goings on in the sky, once you enter your location. CalSky even sends customizable email alerts. The web sites also list exactly which satellites are visible on any given night, so we no longer have to resign ourselves to saying, "I wonder what satellite that was?"

The International Space Station will be visible here on Bonaire the next few evenings. The right coordination of orbit and sunlight seems to come in bunches. I may have a chance to see the ISS cross the moon as well as Jupiter if I am lucky.

The picture is from last night. An Iridium satellite flared right in the middle of the constellation Cepheus. Cepheus sort of looks like an upside down stick figure of a house. The five main stars are visible from our back yard, as are a few more in the general area. The three minute exposure shows so many stars that I can't figure out the shape of Cepheus, even though I know right where it should be. If it clear tonight, maybe I'll try a short exposure - because another Iridium satellite is going to be flaring in almost the same spot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Great Worldwide Star Count

Yippie, the moon was full 15 minutes ago, as I write this.... so it is going to rise around sunset tonight and then it will be coming up later and later each night. It's time to dust off the old telescope and hope for cloud free skies during the next two weeks.

If you don't have a telescope, be sure to head outside anyway. In fact, if you are into stargazing at all, and can find the Northern Cross in the Northern Hemisphere, or the Sagitarius Teapot in the Southern Hemisphere, you can contribute to an interesting science project examining the extent of light pollution around the world. Here is a Web page giving an overview of the project.

Here is where you can find out the details of how you can participate any time between October 1 and 15. I think I'll try it in my back yard in Hato and also maybe head out to Boca Onima or some other dark site and see if I can see more stars. Even if you live in a city or some other spot with lots of ambient light, your observations will still provide valuable information.

If any of you do this, how about commenting on this post with your location and results. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Studio/Office Move in the DR

Joe Barker and Ivan Statia recently travelled from Bonaire, to the Dominican Republic, to help set up a new office and radio production studio for our TWR partner there. It will be a nice birthday present for Radio Trans Mundial Dominicana, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on November 11.

The old office and studios were on the middle floor of a three story building that they shared with some rather noisy commercial tenants, like a laundry. The team in the DR often had to come in at all sorts of weird hours in search of peace and quiet to record their radio programs. The new facility is in a converted single family house, which should be much quieter. From left to right in the above photo, you can see Georgina Thompson, the director of RTM-DR, Joe Barker and Ivan Statia-from Bonaire, and Helmut Menzel-TWR's globetrotting design engineer.

They had two weeks to convert the house into an office and studio complex as well as completely move every last computer, document, microphone and paper clip from the old facility to the new one.
I the above photo, we see Ivan and Joe working on the sound treatment for the walls of the new studio.
Check out that carpeting on that door. It appears that Joe and Ivan's previous career doing van conversions for hippies in the 70's was perfect preparation for radio studio construction. ha-ha If enough of you ask, I'll post of picture of Ivan from that era.
Here the control room of the studio is beginning to take on a recognisable form. I hope that air conditioner unit is quiet. The old studio had a fan in it that we could sometimes hear in the background on some of the programs the produced for us to air on Bonaire. I could remove the noise with Adobe Audition, but a quiet room is always better, of course.
Hooray, it's moving day. The TWR staff, contractors, and volunteers were able to complete the two week project on time. Thank you, Georgina, for sending us these pictures.

By they way TWR's Spanish language Web site has been re-done since the last time I saw it. There is even a link to streaming audio from TWR in Uruguay, and it looks like audio from Venezuela will be coming soon. I got some Javascript errors when I browsed the pages but I could still read them, but hopefully all that will be fixed soon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fun Food Fridays at TWR

Friday has become food day here at TWR - Bonaire. Marie Franke almost always brings in some sort of exotic muffins that we eat right after our morning mini prayer time at the start of the day.

Then, to make things even more interesting, Donna Gassert and the Frankes have been ordering from the China Nobo five Guilder takeout menu for lunch each week. Most of the rest of us, recognising a good thing when we see and smell it, have joined in. The food is quite tasty, and the price can't be beat.

Coincidentally, I recently received an email from the Bonaire Insider, alerting me to the fact that the China Nobo now has a Web site. You can check it out here. There is some historical information, some details about the food, an online menu, and downloadable versions too. There is even a place for making dinner reservations online!

Starry Starry Nights

The moon is getting pretty bright right now, but back a couple weeks ago on September 4th, we had a clear dark night or two. I headed out try to get some Milky Way pictures with a cactus foreground. This picture was taken looking south from the dirt road just before you get to the Indian inscriptions at Boca Onima.

The sky glow on the left side of the picture is probably Radio Nederlands, or maybe Sabadeco. The glow on the right edge is Rincon. I drove along until the setting Milky Way was located mid way between the two glows.

This was a three minute exposure at ISO 200 and F2.8. The cacti came out blurry, even though they were pretty far away, because the camera was tracking on the stars. If we have some clear nights next month, I'd like to try some other settings, like 1.5 minutes at ISO 400, or 45 seconds at ISO 800 to see if I can get crisper silhouettes with shorter exposures.

This is all assuming that my camera hangs in there. It is having some shutter problems and I have to turn it off and back on in between each exposure to reset everything, so I can see my picture and then take another one. Sometimes I only end up with a partially exposed frame. That's why this picture has a panoramic sort of aspect ratio. The top part of the frame, which should have been loaded with stars, was black, so I just cropped it off.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Puppy Pix

Well it's another week and time to post a new puppy picture.
We're taking pictures quite frequently because they grow so fast, ha-ha.
Clicking on the picture should theoretically get you the 1024x768 version that we'll probably be using as desktop wallpaper for a while.

Shimaruku Follow Up

Sandra and I zoomed out to the Dos Pos area Sunday afternoon to see if I could photograph some Shimarukus. Sandra was hoping to eat some, which she did. It was overcast and getting kind of gloomy by the time we got there, so I used the flash. I like the effect, so I may try this more in the future.
There were a few of these cacti with fallen Shimarukus stuck on them. It looks like some nimble birds must have eaten some of the ones on this cactus.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shimaruku Surprise

It was pretty cloudy yesterday, which made for pleasant bike riding conditions. Cars visiting Washington Park during the week had pounded out some of the worst of the ruts caused by the recent rains so the ride wasn't as bumpy as last week either.

The highlight of this week's ride was the bumper crop of fruit on the West Indian Cherry or Shimaruku trees in the park. We had a Shimaruku tree in our yard when we lived on Kaya Rotterdam, so the sweet Shimaruku smell brought back pleasant memories as I pedaled along.

My tree book says that three Shimaruku cherries contain as much vitamin C as an Orange! I encountered a number of Bonairian families parked along the sides of the road and enjoying the harvest. Birds and lizards like the Shimarukus too.

Another Airline Option

Delta Airlines will begin flying direct to Bonaire from Atlanta in February. If I were to fly to the TWR office in near Raleigh, North Carolina, this would definitely be my preferred way to go.

The flights leave Atlanta at 10am and arrive here at 3:20pm. The flight back to Atlanta leaves Bonaire at 4:15pm and arrives in Atlanta at 7:45pm. I checked online and found that the round trip fares for the last two weeks of February were $407 including the various taxes and fees, which seems pretty good to me.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Breakfast Buffet

The International Bible Church of Bonaire (IBCB) had a men's breakfast at Den Laman last Saturday. We enjoyed Eddy and Sonya's great breakfast buffet and talked about church goals and plans. The sky was clear, the sea was calm, and early bird snorkelers were already in the water.
A panoramic version of this scene can be found here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My favorite Meteor Photo

It is actually pretty difficult get pictures of meteors, even dedicated images who set up whole banks of cameras don't get that many. Check out this setup.

Here is a link to my favorite meteor photo. The meteor isn't very bright, but the overall effect is wonderful. Ginger Mayfield's images are amazing and a real inspiration to me.

Actual Thickness of Meteor Trails Measured

One thing I appreciate about living on a flat desert island is that one can see a vast expanse of sky, compared to the hilly, forested northeastern USA where I grew up. So Bonaire is a good place to spot meteors, and I've seen plenty over the years even if I'm notoriously reluctant to arise in the wee hours of the morning during the recognised meteor showers.

So this article on space dot com about measuring the thickness of meteor trails caught my eye. It turns out that they are pretty thin.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Party Animal

While the big dogs faithfully guard our humble abode, the precocious puppy likes nothing better than to belly up to the bar and watch dinner being prepared.

We plugged in our web cam the other day and let our son and daughter in law enjoy his antics live on Skype.

Neighborhood Watch

I wrote about our Hato neighborhood watch a few months ago. Among other things, it is used to alert us to suspicious activities and the like.

Here is what our neighbor wrote about what happened last night. This morning at 5 AM there has been an attempt to steal a scooter from our property. The big gate was locked. The thiefs came in and began to cut one of the wired fences to be able to get the scooter out of the yard. They were disturbed when our Rottweiler discovered them and jumped up and ran to them. The other dogs were then alarmed as well. The thiefs dropped the scooter and ran. After about ten minutes they came back to see whether they'd have another chance, by then I had turned on all the lights, went outside and lett all the dogs out. The intruders then disappeared. I didn't see anyone, they were behind the bushes, only my dogs saw them.

I had been wondering what sort of cute comment to write about this photo I shot the other afternoon, but in light of the above, I think there is nothing more to say. Well.... other than to comment that that coconut has since been consumed by the pictured MSU (mobile security unit), and that if you want to learn about the chair, click here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Instant Forest

The Tree Elves were busy on Sunday. While most of us were cruising around the island looking for signs of damage from Hurricane Felix, they were busily transforming the grounds of the new shops across the street from TWR from a barren wasteland into a tropical garden.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bonaire in the News

A friend emailed me to say that CNN had mentioned Bonaire in connection with Hurricane Felix, but that they spelled it "Bonair".

Fortunately Scuba Divers know how to spell Bonaire, and how to get here. The September issue of Sport Diver magazine has a six page article on diving and dining on Bonaire. The Bonaire Insider web site has a link to a downloadable PDF version of the whole article!

We don't eat out much, so I think I'll save this story and consult it if anyone ever asks me for recomendations. :)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Saturday Bike Ride

I try to get in a long bike ride on as many Saturday mornings as possible. This past Saturday, I got back home just before a big rain squally hit us, whew! This week, I started in Hato and rode to Rincon on the upper one of the two dirt roads that begin just north of Sabadeco. I continued to and through Washington Park, and then road home along the East coast, on dirt roads as far as Boca Onima and then on the main paved road. The red line on the map shows the track of my ride. The short section where the loops merge to one red line is the area of the Washington Park entrance. The lowermost point of the red track is at the traffic circle by the TWR offices. I would normally ride out to the Park on the East side of Bonaire, to take advantage of a tail wind, and then come back on the West, in the relative shelter of the hills, but because there wasn't much wind this past week, I rode it backwards so to speak.
The chart shows elevation vs. distance. For those of you who are into Miles and Feet, the ride was 38.95 miles. It took three hours and 28 minutes. That's pretty slow, but I think of this ride as more of a survival thing than a race, due to the roughness of the Washington Park roads and the summer heat here on Bonaire. Race pace (for me) on this route would be about three hours.

The Washington Park loop part of the ride was 29.4 kilometers.

Tim Klingbeil Visits Bonaire

Tim Klingbeil, the TWR international director for the Americas region,was with us here on Bonaire this past Wednesday and Thursday. It was Tim's first visit to Bonaire.Tim is talking on what Sandra and I call "the batphone" an IP phone that appears as an extension on the TWR, North Carolina, office switchboard. In the foreground, you can see the old school video projector that we use to participate in the North Carolina office staff meeting each week. The tech. guys have tried a few different methods, but we usually video conference with Skype, believe it or not.
We had a staff dinner party with Tim Klingbeil at the office on Wednesday evening. On the left side of the picture, you can see Cees and Clary Bijl, who have just arrived from Canada, to join us for three months as volunteers.

Tim Klingbeil was with on when we joined the Cary, NC office staff meeting on Thursday morning. It was an interesting experience for him, since he is often on the other side of the camera at these meetings. The highlight of Thursday's meeting was an auction of no-longer-needed office plants to raise money for the Americas region Poster Antenna Project. (I'll have to fill you in on poster antennas soon.)

We were able to participate in the auction through our Skype connection, but shipping the plants to Bonaire would have been a bear. So a number of the Bonaire staff members successfully bid on plants to be placed in Tim Klingbeil's North Carolina office. You can see the results in the above Carol Witthun photo. Tim retaliated by winning the auction for a plant and designating it for a co-workers' office.

Hurricane Felix Misses Bonaire

Hurricane Felix missed Bonaire last night. We are very thankful for that. The storm wasn't that organized Saturday morning, but by the time it reached our longitude, it had developed into a for real hurricane.

It was just far enough north of us that we only had a bunch of rain and some strongish backwards winds. The backwards rain found its way into buildings that normally don't leak, and I know of two yachts washed up on the shore.

The airport remained open all night and we heard the KLM flight leave on time. American Airlines and Continental Airlines flights were delayed but still flying.

The power also remained on all night, our AM and FM transmitters stayed on the air, and most resorts on the island have checked in and reported no damage. You can read updates at the Bonaire Insider web site.
I was awakened by one of the computers at Trans World Radio, which was calling to report "dead air" on the FM station. I actually got a number of calls between 04:30 and 05:15, but I kept the radio on and they all turned out to be false alarms, grrrrrr. Since we were awake, we went out and checked up on the dogs. They were dry and in good spirits. We also watched the Tropical Update on the Weather Channel at 04:50 and saw that Felix was just passing due North of us.
The rain pretty much tapered off by 8:30 am. and the wind is back to the correct direction and the sun is out now. (5 pm.)