We had an uneventful return trip to Tucson after a great visit to the Midwest. With temperatures still pushing 90F (32C) in Arizona, it was a thrill to experience some Fall colors and brisk temperatures in Illinois and Iowa. Of course, it won't be many weeks till the colors transform to bare trees, bleak skies and frigid temperatures for the next 5 months. One of my regrets is that we still didn't see any northern lights this trip. The one night there was a minor display in the northern tier of states, we had thick clouds and some rain. They are getting closer, so perhaps our December trip will have better chances of spotting them. Even while flying over south-central Iowa, I took the chance I might catch something with the camera far to the north, so took the 10 second exposure at left. The big dipper is visible over our wing, but look at the greenish glow to the right - I'm thinking I've caught a little aurora far to the north! There is a chance it is the over-the-horizon glow of Minneapolis, but the color is wrong. I think it is aurora, but still not a visual sighting... The cats were sure glad to see us - more so that other trips where they could care less. They were all over us for the couple hours we stayed up. We missed them terribly too, so the feeling is mutual!
The next morning I got an e-mail from our Russian friends who had visited us a couple weeks back. They also arrived safely home after spending a good 10 days after leaving us in Tucson. Sergey included the picture at left - the same cast of characters we had every blog post for a while, along with astronomy promoter John Dobson front and center! John just turned 97(!), and is hobbled somewhat by the lasting effects of a stroke a few years back, but it is good to see him, if only in a photograph. Besides being the originator of the Grand Canyon Star Party back in the late 70s (which I restarted in the 90s), he visited our friends in Krasnoyarsk on 2 occasions in the last decade, so they were glad to visit him in California.
And look what Sergey and crew got to fly through in their marathon flight over the Arctic - Northern Lights! He provided the picture at right which is a 30 second exposure out his plane window. The constellation of Orion is visible at left over the wing, so they were still short of the pole while headed north. No question about his auroral detection!
He thanked us and everyone who had a hand in providing support for their unforgettable experience in Arizona. He says: "Maybe in months or even years kids will fully realize what they experienced for these 3 weeks that flew by so fast. I do realize it myself - impressions I got would be enough for many years to share with future generations of (Astronomy) Club students". It was a pleasure to help host them, and both Melinda and I hope we can do it again!