Friday, May 30, 2008

Can't get Here from There

Travel to and from Bonaire will get a little trickier this fall, when American Airlines cuts back on flights between North America and its San Juan, Puerto Rico, hub.

The Bonaire Insider has a good overview of the upcoming changes.

Sunday Mtn. Bike Race on Google Earth

I have uploaded a Google Earth KML data file for this Sunday's mountain bike race. Miguel has included a jpeg screen capture of the course in his blurbs about the race, but you can see a lot more detail if you open the data in Google Earth for yourself, and then zoom in.

The Google Earth projection doesn't give one much of a feel for the elevation changes of the race course. This chart from my GPS track has the altitude in Meters and the Distance in Kilometers.

It looks like one person, besides me, has already downloaded the KML file of Washington Park roads that I posted yesterday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Washington Park on Google Earth

I recently mentioned that the annual open house at Washington Park is coming up on June 1. I also recently noted that Google Earth has added some hi-rez views of the northern part of Bonaire. There are still some areas of Bonaire that are fuzzy and there are some clouds that get in the way, but the new imagery is still a very welcome improvement.

Here is a link to a Google Earth KML file that shows the track I obtained on my GPS receiver as I bicycled through the park. I took the long route (along the seashore) on my way in to Slagbaai and the short route (the only one open these days) back out to the park entrance.

So download this file, and save it to your hard drive. Then fire up Google Earth and click on "file" and "open", and navigate to the KML file that you just saved. On my computer, if I simply double click on the KML file, it all happens automatically.

Once you have the track through the park superimposed on the Google Earth image, it is pretty easy to take a virtual tour of the park. Zoom in on one your favorite spots, like Wayaka, and it is almost as good as being there.

If you still have a hard time identifying the various points of interest in the Park, have Google Earth running in one window and this map of the park open in another. (scroll down on the page a bit to get to the map)

Let me know how this works for you. I plan to add more Google Earth tours of Bonaire, from my bike rides, if it proves practical.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gas Pains

The price for regular unleaded gas here on Bonaire just jumped up to about $5.86 per gallon (once you convert it from guilders and liters) this week.

The good news is that we don't drive that much these days. Maybe I should figure out how many miles I would need to ride to equal the price of a new bicycle, ha ha.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Comet Boattini Update

Sandra and I zoomed to the south end of Bonaire last night and observed Comet Boattini, and a bunch of other fun stuff in the southern skies. It got cloudy and hazy after a while, but it was still worth the drive to get away from the the ambient light of town.

The comet is easily visible in probably most any binoculars, but we still didn't spot it with our naked eye. This picture is a stack of 10 four second exposures, and shows the comet at the upper right of the middle of the picture. There are two "X"s that show roughly where the comet was on Thursday and Friday evenings. The comet is moving from upper left to lower right as one observes it in the western sky. There is a star at the bottom middle of the picture with a "y" by it. Its gamma Pyxis, and it and the star to it's upper left are visible with the naked eye. One of the stars to the left of the lower "x" is also visible with the naked eye.

This was our first night out with our binoculars in really dark skies and we were not disappointed. The area around the Southern Cross and Carina was really really beautiful in both pairs of binoculars. The keyhole nebula wasn't quite as nice as what I saw in Pierre's 22x60 Takahashi binos (probably the coolest thing I've ever seen in the sky other than a total solar eclipse), but the views, especially in the 10x50 Fujinon fmt-sx, were still exquisite. I can't wait for a look at the Sagittarius Milky Way star clouds this summer.

Leo was directly overhead and I could see M65 and M66 in both the 20x80 and the 10x50 binos. M65 looked more like a fuzzy star in the 10x50s. I could also just detect the nearby galaxy 3628 in the 20x80 binos. It was right at the limit of vision, but when I got home and compared what I saw with the binos, to a hi-rez view on the star charts at Cal-Sky dot com, I was spot on.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tower Painting Update

The clear skies we've been enjoying this week are making for great stargazing. They also allowed me to get some nice telephoto shots of the crew that is cleaning and painting one of our antenna towers.The guys have to chip and scrape off all the rust, down to bare metal before they can apply the primer and paint, which is hard hard work even at ground level.
Benny says that they were working about 350 feet up when I took these pictures on Wednesday. Yikes!

Comet Update

Wow, there were no clouds in the evening sky last night. And the moon wasn't due to come up 'till 9:30 or so. Sandra and I set up the binoculars in our back yard, applied insect repellant, and did some comet and star gazing.

The comet had moved a little bit since the previous evening. That was encouraging because it confirmed that we were really looking at comet Boattini and not some miscellaneous background object in the sky.

Mars had also moved and was right in with the stars of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer. There was a little too much ambient light in our neighborhood to see the Beehive with the naked eye, but it was a beautiful site in the binos.

If the skies stay clear this weekend, we plan to head to a really dark site and see the stellar splendors in all their glory

Outdoor Activities on June 1

Miguel, of Bonaire Wellness, is kicking of a big month of fitness activities on June 1 with an afternoon mtn. bike race. The short but challenging course begins near the radio towers on the hill overlooking Rincon. Part of the race route is on donkey trails that most people have never seen. There are categories for all ages and levels of experience.

Also on June 1 is the annual Washington Park open house. There are all sorts of (free) fun and educational activities, and the park roads have been repaired for the event. This is the time of the year that I usually try for a personal best time when cycling through the main park loop. Smooth dirt roads are a lot faster than eroded and rutted ones. I've been sick a couple times this year, so my rides in the park these days are more survival rides than speed runs.

Here is a link to a page outlining the various attractions and activities at Washington Park on June 1. The cyclists in the picture at the top of the page are me, Miguel, and Frank.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh No! Another Comet

It seems like I've barely finished filling these pages with reports and pictures of Comet Holmes, and now there is a new "bright" comet gracing the evening skies.

Wednesday night was the first really clear night that we've had in a couple months. Fortunately it happened the night after the full moon. The moon wasn't scheduled to come up until 8:30, so Sandra and I zoomed out to one of our darkish star gazing spots to try out our new and "new to us" binoculars, and to try to spot Comet Boattini.

It turns out that the comet was easy to see in both the 10x50 and the 20x80 binos, but looked more interesting in the 20x80s. We couldn't spot it with our naked eye. We were quite pleased with the overall quality of the views delivered by the binoculars.

I took some 10 second long pictures and stacked a bunch of them. The comet is visible in the pictures, but not as impressive as it looked visually. I'll try to get some real pictures if the sky stays clear. The moon won't be up 'till about 9:30 tonight, whoo-whoo!

We have also seen three very nice International Space Station passes the last three evenings.

Here is a web page with a good chart showing where comet Boattini is each night.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mars on the Move

A couple weeks ago, the planet Mars was right in line with Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins. It looked like there were Gemini Triplets!

Since then, it has been zooming (relatively speaking) towards the constellation Cancer. Over the next few nights Mars will sweep through the stars of the Beehive Cluster. It will be easy to see Mars change position from night to night, especially if you look through binoculars.
You can read about it online here.

It's still pretty hazy and cloudy here on Bonaire, but we'll head outside in case it clears up enough so that we can see the moving Mars show.
There is also an Iridium flare tonight and a International Space Station pass too, so it will be a good night to try out our new binoculars, weather permitting.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tower Painting Time

Its that time of the year again, so a brave and hardy crew has assembled to clean and paint one of our antenna towers.
Its a loooong way up to the top!

Blasts from the Past

Sandra knew Sallie and Alex Turoczi (pictured below right) back when she was a kid living in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I met them in NJ 20+ years ago. The Turoczis have served on Guam with Trans World Radio as well. They recently visited TWR Bonaire, with their long time friends, Mel and Jan Albright. Pictured below are Don and Dianna Strong. There were here on Bonaire when I first came here in 1975. Their Spanish language program was the last thing on the schedule each night, before we turned off the transmitters and headed home around 2am. (Another team came in to resume broadcasting at 3am)
The Strongs were here with their kids, Everard and Miriam, and their families. I did shoot a few family portrait type pictures, but with their cameras, not mine. Maybe they'll email me one.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pre-Race Photos

I recently wrote about doing some trail maintenance on one of the single track sections of our North race loop. I got so enthused in my bush cutting that I hurt my wrist and couldn't ride in the pre-race last Saturday. So I manned the stop watch and camera.I think a good title for the above picture is "are we having fun yet?" While riding around on a bike is a lot of fun, bike racing is a surprisingly painful endeavor. Sam, shown above, did his first lap at about the same pace as he did in last year's race. He slowed down on the next lap because his legs were still tired from the Kralendijk to Rincon running race he had participated in earlier in the week!
Miguel did four laps and rode a LOT faster than last year. When Miguel and some of our riding buddies go for a brisk before work fun ride, I have to ride at an all out race pace to stay with them. Shameless wheel sucking helps a lot too. :)
I don't think that John, shown above, did this race last year. He got in three good laps in this pre-race, even though his tire was slowly going flat. He should be ready to deal out some punishment to his riding buddies in June 1's race. The start/finish area, shown above, is the only smooth flat spot on the course. The rest is either super bumpy or super steep.

Clouds, the Moon, and Mercury

Yikes, it has been quite hazy and cloudy for weeks here on Bonaire. That was a good thing when I was out the other Saturday, clearing the thorn bushes from a bike riding trail, but it has wrecked the stargazing.

Last night the slender crescent Moon and Mercury were right next to each other in the west after sunset. We could see the moon peaking dimly through the clouds, but Mercury was hidden. I just saw a cool picture online from someone who had clear skies in Ireland.

Mercury is well placed in the evening sky for a week or so now, so get outside and look for it if you have a chance. Here is a brief article about where to look and what you'll see.