Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Back To The Desert!

Our last post related our night-o-fun dealing with the cancelled flight to Tucson and our search for a late-night way home. Recovering from cancelled flights has got to be hell for the airlines, and we weren't assured of seats until 2 days later. So today was the day! This time a 5:30 pickup for the 8:20 flight, no problems. Even though we took off in light rain, it was an uneventful takeoff and trip. Hoping for some shooting opportunities, I chose the right side so we would be looking mostly down-sun. We had pretty solid clouds well into Iowa, then they started to break, so I broke out the cameras. It was hazy enough I mostly shot with the IR camera today - much better haze penetration as you will see. I ended up shooting over 230 frames with that camera, and a couple dozen more with the normal color camera, many frames part of mosaics or stereo pairs - I see lots of posts in my future!

First up is the 2-frame mosaic shown at left. In the near IR (720nm up to about 1 micron), vegetation comes out appearing light, sky and bodies of water are dark. I wasn't sure of our exact path, much of our trip over clouds, so it is an exercise in Google Maps to find out later. The mosaic shows a huge reservoir, I was guessing somewhere in Kansas, and sure enough, from the distinctive shape, found it was Wilson Reservoir in north-central Kansas. It has over 14 square miles of water area, and more devoted to animal preserves and recreational areas. It was built for flood control in the mid-60s.

Passing somewhere over the intersection of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas, we noticed snow-capped mountains in the distance (shown at right). Looking on the Google Maps now, they are obviously the Rockies potentially far into Colorado, up to a couple hundred miles away - you can see a couple layers of ranges out to the horizon. Fortunately, haze is less and less the further west you go - almost none visible in this image.

We passed over Albuquerque, continuing south southwest. I knew that about 60 miles south and 60 miles west is the VLA radio telescope. It is difficult to describe, but is a "Y" shaped array of 27 radio telescopes. Each arm of the "Y" is 13 miles long, so the distribution of dishes can be up to 22 miles in diameter! Using aperture-synthesis, it can make radio maps as if there was a solid radio dish up to that diameter... I was thinking it would be easily visible from 30,000 feet, but I had to search hard to find it. The image at left is taken with the color camera (visible) with 100mm macro lens. You almost need to click on the image to see the dishes - the current configuration (it is regularly changed from spread out for highest resolution, to compact for better sensitivity) is spread out, so only about 8 of the 80 foot dishes are visible in this couple-mile-wide crop.

We headed south, passed Mount Graham and the LBT out my window, then turned west to go into Tucson.  We zipped over the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson at low elevation (those 3D images should be cool!), then did the normal long curl over the north end of Tucson before landing.  I had a great view of the Catalina mountains out my window, so took a frame every few seconds in hope of making some 3D anaglyphs.  One of the frames is shown at right, looking almost due north to Mount Lemmon.  At lower center is Thimble Peak, which bridges Sabino and Bear Canyons.  Some high clouds result in the sun-dappled slopes of the mountain range.

Finally our plane passed over our part of town in daylight with a camera in my hand! Over the years I can recognize neighborhoods around the University, so even at airline speed, I was able to snap a couple shots of the neighborhood, shooting almost straight down. I wasn't expecting much at such a steep downward angle through the plexiglass window, but was surprised how well it came out. This image is shown at full camera resolution. You can see why most people get lost getting into our neighborhood with all the cul-de-sacs and dead ends, but our "Ketelsen West" is marked here. You can also see the 5 acres of horse pasture south of us across the alley. While it may some day get developed into condos or apartments, we're glad it is currently undeveloped...

So it was a fun flight for me - it is always so nice to see the country roll by from 30,000 feet. Why would you want to read or sleep or play games on your phone with such a magnificent show out your window?!

Oh, and did I mention - we were greeted with a high temperature today of 109F!  No cooling trends soon - highs at or slightly over 110F the next few days...  Good to be home!

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