Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Electifying Star Party!

About this stage of the summer, the wish for clear, cool evenings comes up against the reality that it is still summer, and monsoon moisture is still around us. The forecast was for clearing skies, so we made plans with friends Mike and Donna to meet at the Astronomy Club's TIMPA site for an evening picnic and some observing. Well someone didn't get the memo because the clouds stubbornly refused to leave, though about 8 photon-starved die-hard members also came out to tempt fate for clear skies. It was a pretty sunset though (Melinda may share some of those she took), and I was taking a timed sequence of a cloudburst that was headed our way.

The downpour is typical of those in the desert southwest this time of year - a thunderhead builds up and literally dumps beneath - perhaps a mile wide, sometimes less. It might rain as hard as you've ever seen, then be over in a few seconds... These pictures, taken 10 seconds apart, also show the lightning associated with these thunderheads. I've heard Tucson ranks second highest in the US for lightning (after Tampa, I believe). This strike didn't reach the ground, but still got our attention (I was shooting from under a shelter). And while waiting for the clouds to dissipate, it was fun to watch the lightning displays around the horizons - it reminded me of the last couple 4ths of July while on the road - scattered fireworks in most all directions, just like the lightning last night. Entertaining, but not something you usually get to enjoy while at a star party!

Before Dean shot the cloudburst sequence, I had pulled out my camera and taken a few shots of the surroundings as well as a long sequence of the beautiful sunset. Funny, the worst weather for astronomy makes for the best sunsets, photographicallly. I need Dean's expertise to get my sunset sequence into a 'flipbook' style of movie, but have chosen this picture to share on the blog tonight. The other picture is of a pretty rickety garage at the gate going back to TIMPA. It particularly caught my eye because of the color. Somehow, even an old garage looks better when painted in turquoise!


Anonymous said...

nice lightening images. what causes the reddish hue to the exposure?

Dean said...

The sun had set from oor location, so reddish cast is due to sunset colors, though the distant clouds are lit by the sun on the horizon (from their prespective).