Monday, May 31, 2010

Old Business

On the last dark-of-the-moon a few weeks ago, I headed west towards Kitt Peak for some astro imaging. It seems like forever since I've had an observing session with the C-14 and digital camera, and with some clear Arizona skies, it was time! In the springtime, multitudes of galaxies rule the sky, so there were a couple groups that easily fit into the C-14 plus Hyperstar combination.

I usually arrive to set up just before sunset so that the telescope can be assembled, allow to cool a bit, then the photographic gear installed and focused before twilight so I can do "twilight flats" to help calibrate out unevenness in illumination. While the sky was fantastically clear, there was a bit of a blustery breeze that came up and irked me into the evening... One of the drawbacks to observing at high elevations, the wind can come out of nowhere, even though it is calm on the desert floor.

First up was the group of galaxies that are gathered around Messier 106 (NGC 4258) in Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs), not far from the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. I "discovered" the galaxy a few years back when doing the springtime messier Marathon - it has a bright core, but a large extended fainter halo that shows up nicely in an exposure. There is an abundance of galaxies scattered throughout the frame, and the edge-on spiral below right may be a companion (NGC 4217). M106 (number 106 in Charles Messier's catalog) is about 24 million light years away. Of course, all the stars visible in the exposure are much closer to us in our galaxy. The streak of light through the frame is a satellite that moved through the exposure, still lit up by the sun even though dark at my location... The blowup at right actually shows a fainter one as well. This exposure is a cumulation of about 25 minutes of exposure on 9 frames that were added together with the Canon 20Da.

I then moved down to the constellation Leo and shot the "Leo Trio" of galaxies, made up of M65, M66 and NGC 3628 (CW from lower right), all about 35 million light years away. This grouping is a favorite of visual and photographic observers and never disappoints. Unfortunately, in moving south of the zenith, either the angle of the scope changed, or the wind picked up and it was nearly impossible to keep the guide star centered on the cross hair of the guide scope. After the 9 minutes of 3 exposures shown, I gave up - it was just too frustrating. The enlarged images caused by the wind are evident. As a result, even though it was a clear night, it was an early night. I could have done some wide-angle imaging, but it was hours for the Milky Way to rise, and small galaxies don't show up well with just camera lenses. So I was home by midnight and got to see a bit of Craig Ferguson before turning in. A fun night just to get under the stars, but frustrating as well. It isn't always equipment issues or clouds that can mess up your plans!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yet another highlight!

We've arrived back in Tucson, as of last night. At the end of the trip one tends to reflect on the fun they had, and in our case we tend to blog about it! We'd be remiss if we didn't do an entry about our trip into Chicago to have dinner with our friend, Lynn!

I have known Lynn for several years, meeting her as a "friend of a friend". We always have a great time together, and as luck would have it - she lives in Chicago. Lynn is originally from England, and moved back there for a couple of years (in recent history). She has moved back to Chicago, now, however - and through the wonders of Facebook we have been in contact with each other on a regular basis! I hadn't seen Lynn since 2007, so it was fun to plan a visit. She had been to our house in the woods when we first bought it (before any improvements were done), and we had hoped to have her out for a weekend - that was not to be, this time. Lynn lives in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago (somewhere between downtown and Wrigley Field), which is a beautifully picturesque area full of old brownstone homes, charming restaurants, and upscale neighborhood pubs. It's the perfect setting for her - cozy, relaxed, and even though you are in a huge city it has a very 'small town' feel to it. I had visited Lynn before, and had a great weekend there with friends - enjoying the neighborhood, the shopping, and the closeness of downtown. This trip was for just the evening, but we had a great time! It was raining that evening, on our trip into the city...and rush hour. I'm not sure where the term "rush hour" originated, but I'm sure Chicago was involved somehow. I laugh when people talk about rush hour in Tucson - it's nothing compared to a million cars on the highway, some going into the city - some coming out....equal amounts, typically, either way! The drive home (late in the evening) took us 1 hour; the drive into the city took a full 2 1/2 hours! The rain wasn't any more of a factor than there being a Blackhawks game that evening, and it was Friday night. By the time we reached Lynn's home the rain had stopped, however. We hugged and greeted, and then headed out for dinner. Again, this neighborhood is so charming. We walked to dinner, just a few blocks away, enjoying the little wrought-iron rimmed gardens in front of the homes along the way. Gardens bursting with Iris', Tulips, Peonies, and full of Ivy! Lynn had chosen a favorite restaurant for dinner, Rose Angelis. Rose Angelis is a beautiful, little Italian restaurant, situated in an old house. The food and wine was exceptional! Lynn had a seafood fettuccine, Dean had a chicken ravioli, and I went for the eggplant Parmesan (one of my favorites!). There was enough food for two or three meals in each serving - and it was something that you wanted to take home as leftovers! Lynn and I enjoyed catching up with each other, and she enjoyed getting to know Dean (her first time meeting him) over dinner. After dinner we ambled back to Lynn's home, where we visited some more before heading back to our cottage in the woods. While other commitments prevented Lynn from coming to join us for the weekend in St. Charles, she has promised that she would come out for a cottage weekend this summer; and we're going to hold her to that promise!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Little Home Improvement!

Even when we are visiting for a few days, like on this trip, we still make some improvements in our lil' "House in the Woods"! Actually, most of the improvements are due to sister Maj, who spends a great deal of her spare time working on projects. She is a tireless model for us all - I wish I had her energy!

Shown at left is an early stage of the hallway foyer project to a little-used entry door 2 months ago. Melinda had already wired new switches for external and internal lights, and Maj had finished tearing out the old acoustic tile, installed insulation and applying the bead board ceiling. On that trip we did drywall to cover the old external wall of the house, and ripped out part of the carpet to replace it with stained pine planking near the external door. Since that visit, Maj primed, painted, installed the flooring and built the cupboard with door around the electrical fuse box. We returned just in time to do a little trim work and paint touch up as it is being declared complete.

As if this were not enough, Maj has also been making improvements in the bathroom, which also looks incredible (though we don't have "before" pics for comparison). We're getting down to the only major projects left is the kitchen ceiling, the current guest bedroom, and someday soon, an external paint job. One day we envision coming here and not using tools!

Cross-State Day Trip

But first, a diversion... I mentioned in our last post that it was iris season - most of their flowers are at their showy peak. But as we see outside our sunroom window every day, the resident Canada Geese babies are at their peak too! The little canoe beach is perfect for them to enter and leave the water, and the manicured lawns here are perfect for them to graze with a clear shot to any predators or escape back to the Fox River. In this particular group there were at least 30 goslings, at various stages of development, still a few yellow fuzzballs, some larger ones changing to their darker brown already. They all elicit laughs as they run and flap their little wing nubs as they copy mom and dad.

Whenever we spend our week here in Illinois, Sundays are typically reserved for the drive to Iowa to visit the Ketelsen family. All of the sibs live within a 45 minute drive to Clinton County and the Mississippi River near where they grew up. And Sundays are the easiest time to make plans for a get-together or share a meal. It is a straight shot west on the Interstate 88 tollway, getting us to Clinton in just over 2 hours. This particular visit, our Aunt Velma, who we usually stop to visit or kidnap to join us, had other plans; and sister Linda had an afternoon church function, so leaving St Charles at noon we had a couple hours to do some exploring.

First up was a place we've driven past many times, and no, the picture is not of a recent tornado strike, but rather, the grounds of "Barnyard Antiques", on Highway 136 east of Fulton, IL. Click on the photo to load the full size image and to find Melinda among the "collection". A couple years back, the main highway was closed, and the detour was past the barn and yard piled high with "stuff" that we always wanted to stop and explore. Well on Sunday we had the time and inclination. The barns were pretty much heaped high and impenetrable, but at least the yard had aisles of sorts to get around. James, the proprietor, has been at it about 15 years and might have just what you need from recycled building supplies to old farm tools of all kinds. We decided that nothing was calling our names that day, but you never know about a return visit.

From there we crossed the Mississippi and turned north a few miles to Eagle Point Park, built on a bluff overlooking the broad pool built up behind lock and dam 11. I can't tell you the number of times the Ketelsens and their relatives picnicked there over the decades, but it has to be in the hundreds! It is a very nice park by any standard with lots of lawns, playgrounds and ballparks for kids to tire themselves out, as well as shady pavilions and picnic tables for adults. The overlooks provide a nice view of fishermen in the River, as well as barge traffic plying the waters. Here is a large barge moving north out of the locks. We also spotted a small flock of White Pelicans, the second largest bird in the country (behind the California Condor). They never got very close, seemingly a mile away, but this shot blew up nicely to make a positive ID.

After a cruise through downtown to reminisce about the "Olden Days", we still had a few minutes to spare before hitting DeWitt and the pizza feed, so we swung past Uncle John's place, where I spent a multitude of summers working on his farm. The farming operation consists of only crops now, much of the pastures and woods cleared for a housing development. He and Aunt Judy confirmed they were headed out for pizza too, so we headed west to the farming community of DeWitt and Happy Joe's Pizza, located right across the street from the Pizza Hut. Both have been in business for decades, so there must be enough business for both in the town of 5,000.

It was nice as always to see everyone. Of course, sister Sheri and her family lives in San Antonio, so they were not there, and brother Jim, as always, was having a LONG day retrieving his daughter Breanna from Luther College in Decorah followed by chores, so he wasn't there either. But there were about a dozen of us to catch up on news... Star of the show was again great niece Alivia - the camera just loves her and she has a good time mugging for it as well. And surprise, Breanna the returning college student made an appearance (shown here with sister Linda on the left)! She is on her way to a medical mission trip to Haiti in a couple weeks, so she is having a whirlwind summer planned.

After 3 hours (!) of chowing and visiting, it was time to return east. It seemed strange to be returning to the Chicago area when it was still light, but the northern sun and daylight savings time helped that too. We were back home by 10:30 - early for us, but it was a great day trip to visit family!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Iris Season!

Everyone is asking "are you enjoying our Spring weather?" After an early spring thaw and warm weather in April, it has been cool and wet here lately, but has finally settled into the mid-70s. But the amazing display we're seeing upon our arrival here is the wide variety of Iris flowers currently at the peak of their bloom. The word itself is from the Greek word for "rainbow", referring to the wide variety of colors they display. That is sure true, because all of the pics here were taken today within a few minutes drive of our place here. Because of their hardy perennial show, they are a standard addition to the Midwestern garden. Enjoy the show!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feels Like Home!

We had an uneventful trip back to "Ketelsen East" in the far western suburbs of Chicago. The flight left on time, and though we went around some severe storms in Kansas, still got in early. Melinda's sister Maj again fought rush-hour traffic to pick us up and drive us out to the Aurora airport where she and husband Jeff store our car for us. Of course, as soon as her car stopped at the small airport, Melinda had to take her shoes off and run around in the green stuff coming out of the ground here! You just don't see that in Tucson yards, and if you run barefoot in our yard, you will likely end up bleeding! And of course, once Min (aka Melinda) got down in the grass, Maj had to follow. From all outward appearances, the sisters are glad to be in each other's company again!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kitt Peak Star-B-Que!

This last Saturday was the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) Spring edition of the Kitt Peak Star-B-Que. The idea is simple - club members and their guests are welcome to meet up at the Kitt Peak National Observatory picnic area, enjoy a pot luck cookout, then stay far into the night for observing. I remember back in the '90s when we were first allowed to stay up on the grounds after hours - it was a pretty big deal. The chance to be on the mountain, over 6400 feet elevation, flush toilets, paved road to the site, and the excellent skies is a great combination! Back in the "Olden Days" when we were first allowed up there, we were limited to 20 people, but the limit has slowly been raised to I think 70 now, but we are rarely close to filling all the spots these days. At left is a stereo pair of the view towards the mountaintop with one of the 82 foot (25 meter) antennae of the VLBA Telescope in the foreground. Go to my first 3-D post for hints on seeing the 3-D image. As I setup the telescope, Melinda cooked burgers for us and friends Donna and Roger who joined us for the night. We brought a double batch of brownies that did not survive the night!

This time, as is often the case, TAAA member Claude Plymate, who works at the National Solar Observatory, offered a tour of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope after the cookout, and the 30 or so who preregistered got to observe the sunset through the second largest solar telescope in the world! Just superseded by a slightly larger solar telescope a year or two ago, the 63 inches (1.6 meter) diameter mirror forms an image of the sun about 30 inches (80cm) diameter. The key to not catching things in the lab on fire is that the focal length of the mirror is so long (285 feet, or 87 meters) that the light is concentrated only about 4 times that of unfocused sunlight, but the large image scale allows study of small features on the solar disk.

There were a score of interesting effects visible in such a large solar image, particularly as the sun neared the horizon. Looking through the atmosphere at very low angles, the Earth's atmosphere acts like a thin prism, so edges of the sun display color effects. The upper edge of the sun shows a blue-green edge that was quite striking as shown here. This effect is occasionally demonstrated as the "Green Flash", sometimes visible to the naked eye at sunset. We saw a number of jet planes as the sun neared the horizon - likely passenger planes in the busy corridor of western California. The planes are far enough they take 10 seconds or more to cross the half degree disk of the sun. We did see a mystery, though - there was a spot that took a full couple minutes to cross the sun! Claude claims not to have ever seen anything like it and did not know what it was. It seemed pretty featureless, small and perhaps round. My theory is that it was a weather balloon, again, at some distance, that slowly drifted across the sun's disk.

Before we knew it, the horizon came into view, seen in silhouette against the disk, complete with little saguaro cacti a couple millimeters high on distant mountainous horizons likely a hundred miles away. And then the sun was gone, and we left the observing room and telescope into the darkening twilight.

We all hustled down the mile and a half to the picnic area to finish our telescope setup for the evening. A skinny crescent moon shared the western sky not far from the brilliant planet Venus. This time of year we are also blessed with views of Mars and Saturn all high in the sky, so 4 of the 6 visible planets were readily visible (counting Earth, of course!). Only Jupiter and Mercury were not visible in the early evening.

We had another treat visible in the early evening sky. While the International Space Station had made a poor appearance very low in the north, the Hubble Space Telescope made a fine pass very high in the southern sky. The photo here shows the horizontal streak of HST between Saturn at top center, Corvus at lower center, and Spica at left center. And at the exact time HST was passing by, another bright tumbling satellite crossed the HST apparent path 10 seconds or so before. If you click to load the full size image, you can see the variable brightness of the out-of-control satellite.

It was a spectacular night! The seeing was a little soft early, providing so-so views of Saturn at high power, but the sky was quite clear and we took advantage of the Spring galaxy-filled sky to observe a few friends I'd not seen in a while. I also took the opportunity to hunt down some bright comets - I mentioned C/2009 K5 McNaught in last night's post, surprisingly bright just 5 degrees south of Polaris. Much harder to find was 81P Wild 2, hiding among the disguising fuzzy galaxies of Virgo. I'm glad I took a break from the comet searches to check out Saturn again - the seeing had improved markedly and it looked fantastic! One of the moon's motion was easily detected from earlier in the evening as it moved inward past the tip of the rings, and the rings themselves, as well as their shadow cast on the disk of the planet stood out in sharp relief. it was quite fantastic...

I took occasional observing breaks to take some images that caught my eye. The summer triangle was rising over the mountaintop and a very busy radio telescope. I was taking 2 minute exposures which was just about the maximum length of time the dish spent sitting on one object before moving across the sky to another object. It was tough to catch it from blurring! The Summer Triangle consists of Vega at top center, Deneb at left center, and Altair just clearing the mountain at right. The cloudy glow of the Summer Milky Way is just winning the battle of being drowned out by the glow of city lights of Tucson directly behind the mountaintop and Observatory. The domes visible against the sky are the 4-meter Telescope at left, Steward Observatory's 2.3 meter just to it's right, and to the right of the radio dish is the 3.5 meter WIYN Telescope.

Before I knew it it was nearly Midnight and I had a few tuckered observers ready to call it an evening. Surprisingly, given the quality of the night, there were only 2 cars left when we pulled out, but many people might have left early to go down the unfamiliar road. While people were packing up, I took a stroll with a tripod-mounted camera to catch the rising Milky Way and Scorpius. Here Jim O'Connor is packing up his scope under the rising dark clouds of the Scorpion.

With the pleasant temps and low-key spectacular observing, it really makes me wish we could get out more often under such amazing skies. With the summer Milky Way getting higher, and Summer heat approaching, it is time to head for the high country soon. Grand Canyon is only 3 weeks away!

Comet McNaught

I'm working on a post for the Kitt Peak "Star-B-Que" that the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association held last night at the Observatory's picnic area. Lots of pics to show, but haven't had a chance to sit and write text, so it will wait for tomorrow.

However, I was impressed by a little comet, Comet C/2009 K5 McNaught, discovered last year by Robert McNaught, who lives in Australia working for a NASA project searching for interplanetary interlopers. While not spectacularly bright, nor sporting a spectacular tail, it is likely the brightest in the sky right now at magnitude 8.3 as recently as a week ago. It is also easy to find with a small telescope in a dark sky - currently right below Polaris! The following picture (cropped from exposures taken with the Canon XSi and a 70-200 zoom set to 100mm) shows 7 co-added exposures of 150 seconds each. Polaris is at the top, the bluish comet near the bottom. The fuzzy spot below Polaris is NGC 188, an open star cluster. Note that in the blowup of the comet, it's motion is shown as a streak during the sequence of exposures. If the pictures are co-added such that the comet is tracked, the stars trail, but the comet and very faint tail is now sharp.

The comet is slowly moving away from both the Sun and Earth (about 140 million miles from each), so it won't be getting any brighter, but it is always fun to see one of these "dirty snowball" visitors!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Last kitty update...for awhile anyway

We've been posting about the cats, a lot, lately. We'll try to make this the last update for a while - barring any bizarre happenings with them!

Atticus is adapting to his newly shorn self. We are still laughing at him, he's like a hairy noodle - and always running! While they may call this haircut "the lion cut" - on him it's more like a poodle. Ah well, he's adjusted to it and may be sleeping indoors more than he used to since he doesn't have so much hair to keep him warm on our cool nights.

The other update we need to do is on our YellowCat. He has been healing well since his surgery, though still seems to have some bruising. We received "the phone call" from the Vet's office, however, on Thursday evening. The news that we didn't want to receive was the topic of the message. YellowCat is, indeed, FIV+. Our other newest feral, Scruffy, is also FIV+. It wasn't a great surprise that YellowCat tested positive, it was news we were hoping wouldn't come however. As you can see from this picture (taken this morning), Yellow Cat is looking much healthier than when we first brought him into the house two weeks ago. It's amazing what a little bit of love, care, and healthy food will do to transform these poor little guys! Dean set up the dog cage/crate in the living room on Thursday night and we moved YellowCat from the guest bathroom to the dog crate yesterday. He's not happy (he's pouting a lot) in the dog cage, but it is giving the rest of the tribe a chance to get used to him - and hopefully him a chance to get used to the rest of the group. My biggest concern is his biting. We haven't had that problem with Scruffy since he is missing his upper fangs. YellowCat, on the other hand, has very healthy teeth - and likes to bite in defense. Dean has been bitten a couple of times, as have I. Since that would be the primary method of infecting the other cats, that is behavior that will have to stop. The rest of the gang isn't prone to fighting or biting, but if YellowCat is frightened I'm concerned that there will be a problem. At this point, we are proceeding with the idea of keeping him. We are quite attached to him. We'll take it day by day, and hope for the best!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Atticus does his part.

Atticus, before the haircut
If you remember when we had Scruffy shaved, you'll know where I'm heading on this.  Atticus (the baby of the family at 4 years old) is a mixed breed, probably of a Norwegian Forest Cat.  He's slim, has long hair, and all in all - quite the handsome little boy.  His only downfall is that he is terrible at taking care of his coat!  As a result, he frequently has mats that need cutting out - never a fun experience for him or for us.  In fact, it was in cutting out some mats in the past that we, accidentally, cut some skin as well.  Some of his current mats were knotted really close to the skin...heading for dread lock category.  It was time to take some action.  This morning Dean took Atticus to the groomer.  I had an early class, so I didn't get to go along for the fun.  Dean said that Atty did very well, in fact he behaved like the best of the show cats!  He also enjoyed getting to see the poodles who were there, getting their haircuts too!  Other than seeing him with mostly short hair for the first time, the other shocking aspect is how skinny this guy is!  Really, we DO feed him!  In fact, he has a very healthy appetite - finishing his food, and usually Annie's as well!  He is a really active kitty, however, and I think he burns up a lot of calories chasing leaves and butterflies.  You can see in the pictures where the hair has been cut nearly to the skin...that is where the worst of the mats were.  It's nice to have that problem taken care of for now. 
Atticus, after his haircut!
After the haircut!

The best part of this story, however, is what happens to the hair that was shaved away! The groomer told Dean that, yes, the hair is being shipped to the Gulf of Mexico - to use to try and clog up the oil spill! So, not only is our little guy neat and clean now; he is also doing his part to remedy the environmental problem at the moment!  

YellowCat, when he first came in from the outside.
Of course, no "Kitty Post" is complete without the latest update on YellowCat!  After being on antibiotics for a week it was time to get to the Vets for the rest of his care.  I had spent a good part of that week cleaning him up as much as possible.  He had some pretty nasty cuts on his head, near his right ear; and his left eye was red, swollen, and draining.  He didn't seem to mind me wiping his head with a warm, damp washcloth - so I did that a lot.  I'm sure the antibiotics helped with the healing, as well as constant (healthy) nutrition.  He was looking pretty good, over all, by the time he went to the Vet's office yesterday.  We haven't gotten his lab results back, yet, but his surgery was without incident or complication and Dean picked him up last evening.  He was pretty sleepy and quiet when I first saw him.  Today he is more active, happy and purring!  You can see in the 'after' picture, he still squints that left eye a little.  He still has a couple of scabs to come off from his head too.  He's making a great comeback though!
What a handsome YellowCat!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

More Macro Fun!

As I noted in our last post, the more I use the macro lens, the more I notice the small stuff. The top image was easy to spot - not only was it a bright yellow color, but the mesquite thorn was right where I normally park and exit the van and found at eye level. I almost couldn't miss it! I photographed it a time or two, sending it along to UA entomologist Carl Olson to get an ID (he is good!). He guessed ladybugs.

A couple days later I got home from work and the little thorn was a mass of bugs - actually, more properly, beetle larvae. For a while the slowly writhing mass was so compact, I couldn't even tell if they were insects or spiders - I thought maybe I saw 6 legs, sometimes 8, so I was naturally confused...

By the next morning, they had thinned out some, so you could tell they were insects with 6 legs, but they didn't look like the cute ladybugs you normally see... But of course, they are the larvae, and after molting a number of times, they pupate into the ladybird beetles you normally associate with the name. Carl confirmed the hatchlings, so his first guess was right. They have since all dispersed, but will keep an eye out for ladybugs to try to ID the species...

( From Melinda: "eewww")

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Out and About With The Macro Lens

It is deep into Spring now in Arizona, finally breaking 90F (32C) for the first time on the 4th, and has been solidly in the mid-90s since. But as I tell everyone, 90F is really pretty comfortable with single-digit humidity! In my excursions through Tucson last weekend, I realized it had to be just about the peak of the Prickly Pear blossom season. The example shown is a couple blocks from the house, and it was just aglow in the afternoon sun. Of course, the honeybees were working overtime. This bee, while covered with pollen, isn't carrying the pollen sacs (normally looks like yellow purses attached to his legs) you can sometimes spot.

I finally took the neighbor's advice down the street and cut off a couple pads of his cactus and stuck them in the ground in front of our house (talked about towards the bottom in this post). That is all you do for Prickly Pear - stick one in the ground and they will root and form a new plant. The two pads are shown here, covered with flower buds. They've even flowered, even though there isn't a root system to support much activity yet... Interestingly, while digging the little hole to plug them into, I found this cicada! While some species back east have a well-known life cycle of 13 to 17 years, those found in the Southwest only spend 2 -3 years underground. This fellow might actually have been coming out in a month or two when I interrupted his feeding. Didn't see that I caused him any damage, so I reburied him when I planted the prickly pear pad.

Since I've been routinely using the macro lens (this is the Canon 100mm F/2.8 Melinda got us for last year's anniversary) it is interesting how you pay so much more attention to the tiny things around you. After spotting the aphids on the neighbor's cactus last month, I've also been watching them feeding on new shoots of a Rhus Lancea (African Sumac) tree in our back yard. On a breezy afternoon last weekend, they were taking shelter between some shoots to stay out of the wind. You can even see a little "sap ball" that the largest is carrying like a canteen. Click on the image for the full size view. Note the white forms that are the discarded exoskeletons they've molted! Thanks to UA entomologist Carl Olson for his assistance and comments on the creatures I've been catching...

The last shot is a 3-D image of a Spring-blooming fishhook barrel cactus in our front yard. As mentioned a few posts back, you need to view one image with each eye, in this case, crossing your eye slightly to view the left image with your right eye and vice-versa. If you get it, click on the image for the full-size view. Taken from slightly different perspectives they show the flower "popping up" from the cactus spines, with some spines towering over the blooms. Melinda doesn't want me to overdo my 3-D images on this blog, so I'm in the process of starting another blog of the more offbeat stuff. Will have a rollout of it in a week or so! Stay tuned!