Sunday, October 25, 2009
Cochise was perhaps the most famous Apache leaders to resist the settlement of whites in the Southwest. He was born, lived and died in or near the Arizona county that now carries his name. He is also the namesake of a college near Douglas, Arizona. He is a well-known historical figure in Arizona, and should be known to all Americans. Read the bio link above. He was portrayed in many movies, perhaps the best known was Broken Arrow (NOT the '96 film with John Travolta!), starring Jeff Chandler as Cochise, and Jimmy Stewart as his real-life friend Tom Jeffords. It was the first movie sympathetic to Indians, and while the story is fictionalized somewhat, is well worth a watch.
This trip I brought along a small telescope to take some close-up photos of the formation. Those lips! That Nose! That eyebrow! All accurately rendered in stone along with a pair of tall trees as eyelash. The monument is a spectacular place, and the next time we go I'd like to do some hiking and further exploring. It has been a few decades since properly exploring the trails and rock formations there.
I've also always wanted to get a night time exposure with star trails overhead, so tried it after our crowd of star party attendees left for the night. Unfortunately a few clouds started drifting in, but a couple exposures were taken. This is my favorite - the headlights of a car swept over the foreground, lighting some of the trees. This was the last one before the clouds moved in, so lucked out. Be sure to click on the images for a larger view!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We ended doing most of our tile shopping at Sierra Tile, both because of price and selection. We decided early on that we loved the rich color of the Cobalt Blue of the Talavera tile and would feature it extensively in the shower, but the it's handmade variations would result in grout lines difficult if not impossible to keep straight. So we went with a glazed ceramic tile that matched the color, but we are still using Talavera for some trim and accents. Decisions on patterns were really difficult to make, we wish there weren't so many choices!
We had to start somewhere, so a few days ago installed the bullnose tile around the edge of the backer board, and installed a reference edge (using some lumber) that started the pattern straight and level. Then Melinda had a solo session starting to fill in tile, and installed the soap dish insert. Melinda was a little surprised how easy it was installing the ceramic tile, as opposed to the floor tiles she had done before. With the built-in spacers of the ceramic tile, they mostly fall into place, though dealing with the irregularities of the Talavera may yet cause us some grief...
Another session today and we made really good progress. Since we'd not chosen plumbing fixtures yet, we wanted to keep the gaps around the valves as small as possible. I had offered to take tiles to work and use some diamond core drills (for cutting glass) to cut holes. Melinda was really impressed how easy it went and how well they came out. She was in charge of marking where the holes went, so that was a big part of the drilling success.
Melinda worked layout and I cut the needed trimmed tiles and worked on buttering the backs of the tiles. As the photos indicate, we broke up the blue with accents of Talavera medallions and a border line. The plan is to use yellow tile for the countertop, and our sink has several colors that match our accent colors. The gap at the left corner is for a little shampoo shelf that will get set in at our next session. I'm guessing we are about 60% done, but the rest should go pretty fast even with the Talavera left to go in. We think it is looking pretty good so far!
Friday, October 23, 2009
It was a beautiful evening, and I wandered about with camera and tripod to capture a few photos in the deepening twilight. The "King of the Mountain" is the 4 meter Mayall Telescope, it's dome dominating the mountaintop, even easily visible to the naked eye from Tucson 45 air miles away. Here it is seen with the University of Arizona's 2.3 meter telescope in the foreground. The four brightest stars in the background are the bowl stars of the Big Dipper, setting in the northwestern sky. As always, click on the image to load a full-screen version.
Out on the southwest ridge of the mountain is the 3.5 meter WIYN Observatory. The acronym is formed from the primary partners, the Universities of Wisconsin, Indiana, Yale, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, which also administers Kitt Peak National Observatory. The 3.5 meter (140 inch) diameter telescope was built 15 years ago, and it's mirror was cast at the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, where I work. The mirror was the 3rd large mirror I worked on at the Lab, along with 2 opticians from Kitt Peak's optics shop. The telescope has many unique features that were new at the time of construction. The mirror is a lightweight casting that is only a fourth the weight of a solid mirror. The mounting is an altazimuth design, aimed sort of like a cannon - left-right and up-down motions. The combination of the light mirror and Alt-Az mount reduce the moving mass of the telescope to 20 tons, compared to nearly 300 tons for the 4-meter across the mountain, almost the same size, but built a generation before! On Tuesday, the 2-day-old moon posed next to the faceted dome of WIYN. Also visible are the brightest stars of the constellation Scorpius, setting in the southwest.
One of the more interesting things going on Tuesday night, other than the meteor program, was that there was an "artists in residence" program going on. There were a number of members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists spending the better part of the week, getting inspiration by the sky and hardware assembled at the Observatory. The program was partially to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Kitt Peak. John and I met the 5 or 6 that were up and around Tuesday and toured their impromptu studio (housed in what used to be a rec room when I worked at Kitt Peak in the '80s). They later came by and observed through our telescopes, being suitably impressed with vistas of the cosmos. Shown here is a view of the 2.1 meter telescope "Midday on Kitt Peak" by William Hartmann painted last Spring, and is representative of the work that was ongoing, with several different media employed by different artists.
As our artist friends departed, I set up a camera on a tracking mount to take some wide-field shots of the sky, subconsciously attempting to catch any bright meteors that happened along. This shot is of a pair of the brightest galaxies viewable from the Northern Hemisphere - M31, the Andromeda Galaxy to the left, and M33 in Triangulum to the right. The former is easily visible to the naked eye from a dark sky, and represents the furthest one can see without optical aid - 2.4 million light years (multiply by 6,000,000,000,000 miles per light year to convert to English units)! When you click on the image to get the full size, there are two small fuzzy spots nearby that are small satellite galaxies to the Andromeda Galaxy. They are easily spotted in small telescopes, as are the dust lanes that are also seen. Both this image and the next are a stack of several exposures with a 50mm lens and the Canon XSi.
Also easily visible high in the sky throughout the night were these two clusters in the constellation Taurus. M45 or the Pleiades are in the upper right, and the V-shaped Hyades are lower left. Compared to the distant galaxies in the previous image, both of these clusters are close by, part of our Milky Way Galaxy. The Hyades are about 150 light years (the distance light travels in a year), and the Pleiades are about 440 light years. Upon spotting it in binoculars, some novices note a dipper shape and mistake the Pleiades for the Little Dipper. Interestingly, in Japan, the cluster is known as Subaru, and if you ever see a Subaru vehicle, look for a little map of the Pleiades on the rear of the car!
Finally, about 12:30am, the meteor observers came out and got down to observing, both with the scopes John and I had set up and for meteors. The Orionid shower originates from Halley's Comet - the meteors we see being caused by dust particles released in a comet passage long-ago. In fact, I saw some estimates predicting an enhancement in shower activity caused by filaments of dust released by Halley in a 1400BC pass! I likely saw a few dozen meteors over the hours, though I spent a lot of time looking through the telescope and camera screen. It was a great night, with some spectacular views, though I only caught part of one dim meteor on camera. It was also nice having the Visitor Center as a warm room, with snacks available! The observing ended promptly at 3am, and after packing up, I got home right at 5am. Fortunately I had taken Tuesday and Wednesday from work, so I could sleep in!
There are 2 more opportunities for Meteor Mania! - for the Leonid shower on 17 November, and the Geminids on 13 December. Check out the link if you are interested in taking part!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
It ended yesterday morning, and I miss it. It was big and grand, and brought people together. I had the girls in the front office at work following, and lately, even one of my workmates Kirk was checking the daily video highlights. In the meantime, you can still check out the summer's highlights and get a feel for it, in case you've been ignoring our link down on the right side and didn't go visit during the 100 days. Whether in Arizona, or Illinois, or even between, we could check on the daft English and see how they behave in public. Would we have done as well? Will they do something similar again? I would hope, it was great fun, but do go and check out the highlights - easily worth 4 minutes of your time!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
While the weekend forecast had been for perfectly clear skies, as we stopped for a snack before heading up the Mt Lemmon Highway, we saw the ominous sign - Sun dogs! Usually a sign of gradually increasing clouds, it was pretty at the same time. Undaunted, we figured we'd pretend we didn't see them, and would at least get a nice scenic drive out of the trip.
One of the interests in going out was to take a picture for a friend of mine - she wanted a photo of the Andromeda Galaxy that approximated it's naked eye view, including some nearby star or constellation references. Of course, it is always nice to provide some terrestrial landmarks as well, like the horizon or trees that "bring it down to Earth". Since Andromeda was well up at dark, a photo would have to be taken very soon - before you know it, a few more weeks of the Earth's trip around the sun will have Andromeda nearly overhead at dusk... So we set up the 14" Celestron to start cooling down for later observing, and I set up my little tripod and tracker for a wide field camera shot. With a 20mm lens and short 30 second exposures I was able to get the Great Square of the constellation Pegasus at right, all the way over to Cassiopeia's throne at left. The fuzzy patch at center is the Andromeda Galaxy, the furthest you can see with your naked eye - about 2.4 million light years away (multiply by 6 trillion miles or 10 trillion kilometers light travels in a year to convert to your car's odometer distance).
Geology Vista is a nice spot - with a remarkable view of the canyon and rock formations to the east, and the view takes in the entire range of the Santa Catalinas, of which Mount Lemmon is the peak, to the Rincon Mountains to the southeast, and Santa Ritas 30 miles to the south, and the entire Tucson Valley as well. There was surprisingly a LOT of car traffic - it was a Friday night, of course, and there a lot of residents that live on Summerhaven at the top of the mountain among the ponderosa pines and commute to jobs in the urban jungle. The picture here is 11 minutes long at F/5.6 with the ISO at 200. It shows the car headlights lighting the highway and outlining the canyon and rock formations (along with the lights of Tucson). The Pleiades are rising in the east, and the light glows of Safford and Wilcox far to our east is visible off the thin clouds.
As predicted, the thin clouds rolled in, but didn't bother observing too much. We got some great views of Jupiter and a few impressive sky objects for a passerby who claimed fate brought her to join us and enjoy the sky. After she left, Melinda and I tried some pictures of Jupiter with the C-14 and her camera - and we discovered again how difficult it is to try to retain some detail on very bright disk of the planet and still show the 4 Galilean moons that orbit Jupiter. The shot here shows the moons clearly, but none of the cloud bands that show up on shorter exposures (but then without moons). From left to right is Callisto, an overexposed Jupiter, Io, Europa and Ganymede. Io and Europa were moving quickly, and we're hoping to demonstrate that motion somehow in a subsequent post.
Realize that while we were over 6500 feet, we were still close to Tucson - likely less than 15 miles, and a glance south showed the "pretty lights", or as pretty as astronomers would allow light pollution to get. I observed Comet Hale-Bopp many times from this site and the sky was inky black, but it was far from it last night - perhaps it was the thin clouds that didn't help, but certainly Tucson continues to spread to fill up all the semi-level space that is available between the mountains. Be sure to click on the image for the full-size view.
After packing up before moonrise, we paused at Windy Point, just a quarter mile below Geology Vista, where the Tucson lights picture was taken. While walking back from the edge of the hill, I noticed the crosswalk that led people back to their cars if they parked on the northbound side of the road, but appeared to be leading right towards the Pleiades or Taurus. The hillside is lit up by Tucson's lights, and there is a halo of light over it from the just-risen moon. The appropriate title would be "Crosswalk to Pleiades". If only the sky were so accessible!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
These sinks are only the ones we liked, at only two of dozens of stores in Tucson that sell them! Then we have to find coordinating tile to go with the sink - not necessarily matching, but coordinating...
The possibilities will make your head swim! And....of course there is the usual amounts of coordinating accessories that one can find to go with any pattern you should choose.....
So....given the options it was difficult to narrow down the choices, which we did during our joint shopping venture. When I took Dean back to work he said "Go pick one of the two we both liked!" The only way of picking tile is to pick the sink first. That being said --we now have the round sink (first of the individual sink pictures above) sitting and waiting to be installed! The next step will be picking out the tiles that will be used as accents - we "gringos" don't tend to get as fancy as the true haciendas that we see in photos, but we are boldly jumping in, rather than just 'sticking a toe in' to the color pool! My plan is to do a tiled (solid color) counter top for the vanity that is currently in that bathroom. I'm not wild about the vanity itself, but we can change that...just wait and see! Tomorrow's lunch hour field trip will be to "Woodworker's Source" to see what kind of wood we can find to cover the current vanity. This should be a fun project, and I'm looking forward to the transformation that occurs before our very eyes!
You didn't really expect us to sit idle for very long, now, did you?