Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Window Seat!

Have been at "Ketelsen East" for over a week now, and time to get my travellin' photos posted! It is fun to schedule a down-sun seat and watch for the waypoints we pass every trip that seem like long-lost friends. And every time you seem to see more and sometimes weird stuff - no exception this trip! The plane, a 737, was absolutely full, so took longer than normal to load and we took off about 10 minutes late. The photo at left shows the view from my vantage point from seat 28A as we turned onto runway 11 to start our takeoff roll.

The flight path usually takes us just south of Mount Graham and in many recent trips have gotten some impressive views of the telescopes there. This time the plane flew pretty much due east for a good length of time - I could look out my window and see Willcox below me and Mount Graham a good 30 miles to the north. We must have turned towards the NE shortly after as a bit later the big copper mine at Clifton/Morenci came into view as usual. We never got close to it, but thanks to the clean windows, got some decent views! At left is one of the photographs showing good detail, and at right is a pair of images put together to make a 3D anaglyph image. You will need the red/blue glasses to see the 3D, red lens on the left! The mine is the largest production copper mine in North America, so is a big deal in the local economy - Morenci is located in eastern AZ, in fact, I'm thinking we might even have been in New Mexico airspace when this photo was taken!

Now that we were nearer our normal flight path, the waypoints came by like clockwork... Twelve minutes later, the VLA (Very Large Array radio telescope) came into view. It was tough to spot visually, but a little contrast adjustment in Photoshop brought the telescope dishes into clear view. 27 dishes, each about 80 feet in diameter are spread out along a big "Y", each arm about 9 miles long. The dishes can be easily moved on a rail system, mounted closer to the center to provide highest sensitivity, or spread out widely along the 9 miles of each arm for the highest angular resolution. According to the observing schedule, this is configuration "B" which provides the second-highest angular resolution...  Click the left image for the full-size view!

Six minutes later and we were approaching Albuquerque, looking up the Rio Grande Valley. At right is a great view up the river. Click to load the full image and you can see some Fall colors in the foliage near the river, as well as the patchwork of fields irrigated by river water. I believe the town above center is Belen, NM...

We passed Albuquerque and the Sandia mountains they nestle against as we continued ENE. Then I spotted something I've never seen before - what appeared to be a landing strip built along the top of a narrow mesa, with some symbols bulldozed into the desert. I took some photographs and didn't think much about it, finally looking along our path on Google maps, finally finding it! It is known as CST Trementina Base, so named because it is near Trementina, New Mexico. It belongs to the Church of Spiritual Technology, affiliated with the Church of Scientology. Supposedly the location houses an underground vault where the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard are preserved for future scholars, the symbols - another Scientology emblem for future faithful to find the vault. The view at left is the straight image, and at right is the 2-photo combo made into an anaglyph that shows the impressive terrain there. Again, the red/blue glasses are needed to see the 3D image.

Eastward of New Mexico and Kansas we
ran into clouds, which forms their own set of pretty views! The photos for the anaglyphs are easy to take in a plane going nearly 600 miles per hour... All you need is a little stereo separation between the 2 frames, much like your eye separation provides for items close enough to reach with your hands. Since clouds are farther away, typically 4 or 5 seconds of a plane's motion is fine. If the clouds are more distant, I've gone as far as 12 or 15 seconds to show a good stereo effect... At left, I love the effect of the clouds floating over the landscape forming a pair of layers at different heights. And at right, when the ground can't be seen, even the clouds themselves form their own landscapes analogous to mountains and valleys. There is a never-ending variety to clouds that I've seen over many trips... Again, both of these are anaglyphs, so use of red/blue glasses required!

It is always a challenge I set for myself to see how soon I can locate where we are as we approach Chicago. Paying attention to the flight path, I can spot the Illinois River and that network of locks, dams and barges plying their way to Chicago. If there are clouds over the Mississippi, hiding where we are crossing, it is sometimes a challenge to locate our approach. On my July trip clouds prevented me from seeing the Illinois river, and I didn't catch the location till we descended over the Fox Valley and saw the "big circles"! As seen at left, it is the Fermilab nuclear accelerator just outside Batavia, about 15 miles south of "Ketelsen East". By using strong magnets, atomic ions can be made to follow the circles and be accelerated to nearly the speed of light and collide into another beam or target, releasing strange and exotic atomic bits and pieces. It was state-of-the-art 45 years ago, but has been superseded by the big accelerators in Europe.

This trip, we were further north, in fact,
likely flying within a couple hundred yards of "Ketelsen East", which is often in the flight path of approaching planes.  I knew because I could look out my left-side window and see the Stearns River bridge, built just a couple years ago and a frequent turn-around point for my walks along the Fox a mile and a half north of the house.  This trip, with the loss of Daylight Savings Time, it was too dark to grab a photo, but the one at left is from April on the same flight following the same path.  The view is looking north up the Fox River, with the Stearns Avenue Bridge at bottom, with it's distinctive green pedestrian and bike path built-in underneath.  Note also the much older railroad bridge just north, which I've not seen used...  In any case, you can see the bike path along the left (west) side of the river, where I took the photo at right last Spring on a walk...

Of course, the endpoint destination is O'Hare Airport (ORD), named for Edward O'Hare, the first WWII flying ace and Medal of Honor winner.  Built in the late 40s and later, it is one of the busiest airports in the world.  We flew past it in September as we went out to Lake Michigan to turn around for our approach towards the west.  The photo at left shows it sprawling over it's 7,000+ acres of land.  I would be intimidated as hell trying to fly a small plane into something like that!

Well, that was this flight - we landed nearly 30 minutes early even with the late start, likely the jet stream was behind us!  I'll keep pushing for the window seat - too much to miss by ignoring the view!

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