Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Galileoscope Review

Galileoscope (2)

Note the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe Sticker

As you know, my Galileoscopes finally showed up last week. The first night I viewed Jupiter. It's particularly bright this time of year and is visible from my backyard. The Galileoscope gave me a pretty clear view of 3 of Jupiter's moons. I checked my StarmapPro app and saw one of the moons was either in front of or behind Jupiter that night. Most of the time I can see 4 moons with my binoculars. Jupiter was shrouded in what appears to be a fuzzy smudge around the edges. I wonder if I got a finger print on one of the lenses. Regardless, I think I could barely see some tan in the disc of Jupiter. I've seen it a lot in bigger scopes so perhaps my mind was playing tricks or the atmosphere wasn't cooperating. I'll keep trying.

Last night, I trekked a couple blocks from my house to catch ISS and Atlantis fly by. After that, I stuck the Galileoscope on the tripod. The first thing I noticed was: my tripod isn't very stable. The brisk wind giggled it around pretty good. In between wind gusts, I got a very nice view of the crescent Moon. Very good detail of the craters and shadows. The earth-shine was also impressive through the scope. I looking forward to night with a full moon. The fuzzy apparition around Jupiter was still present. I'm thinking of taking the scope apart to clean the lens but I really don't want to cut the stickers. Perhaps I'll build the spare and see how well that works.

I was only using the 25X setup because I heard negative feedback on the 2X barlow.

I've been toying with the idea of getting a decent telescope so this was a great learning experience for me. I definitely do not want a refractor like the Galileoscope. It's too difficult to maneuver my body around to see high in the sky targets through the eyepiece. I'm also having second thoughts on a dobsonian mount for a big reflector. It's a trade-off though. Dobs mounts are cheaper which means more money for aperture. Bigger aperture means more light. hmmm. I'll probably keep thinking about it and saving my money. A nice 8" or 10" on an equatorial mount is too much for my budget at this time (although I'm open for a Christmas present).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis Flew by my Neighborhood

ISS Atlantis
Originally uploaded by Mully410

I hope you got out to view the ISS and Shuttle tonight. I warned you yesterday. I waved at all the astronauts when they flew near my house tonight. They probably didn't see me because it was quite dark out and they were about 800 miles away. The above is the first shot I took (click it to embiggen). My camera shutter only stays open long enough to get a short streak of light. Go here for the full set. I also have some pics of ISS with Endeavour attached from earlier this year and some shots of ISS with Discovery trailing from about a year ago.

Friday, November 20, 2009

See ISS and Shuttle Atlantis Over Your Neighborhood

ISS and Endeavour (2)
Originally uploaded by Mully410

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is currently docked with the International Space Station. There is a very good sighting opportunity on Saturday November 21st for us in Minnesota anyway. At 5:18pm CST, this pair will become visible in the North North Western sky, just a little bit "right" of the bright star Arcturus. Follow the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to the left and you'll find Arcturus. Over the next 10 minutes, Atlantis and ISS will proceed towards the east, through the Big Dipper asterism, under the North Star, Polaris, and will disappear just as they pass the star Capella.

You won't be able to see any detail of the structures. To us on the ground, the ISS looks like a bright star that is streaking across the sky at about 17,500 miles per hour. Click the picture above to ebbiggen a two second exposure I took of ISS while shuttle Endeavour was docked earlier this year. My whole set from that fly over is here.

Since you are already outside, take a look south. The biggest star like object you can see is Jupiter. If you have a decent set of binoculars you should be able to make our 4 of its moons.

If you aren't in Minnesota or want to verify the sighting times in your area, go the JPL's Human Space Flight - Realtime Data site. You'll need JAVA to use the applet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Galileoscope Arrived!

Originally uploaded by Mully410

My two Galileoscopes finally arrived today. It took me about 20 minutes to put the first one together (I kept dropping the tiny eye piece lenses.) I'll try the other one in the old Galileo style setup later. I've read negative feedback about adding the 2X barlow so I'll hold off on that until I try it the way it is. It's cloudy here tonight so I will anxiously await clear sky. Too bad they didn't show last week so I could have brought them up north with me...way less light pollution.

I couldn't resist adding a JREF sticker on one side (above) and an SGU sticker on the other side (below). Click the pics to embiggen.

Galileoscope (2)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Storm Prediction Center Director coming to Saint Paul

Clouds at Dusk
Clouds at Dusk
By Mully410

If you read my blog back in March, you know I'm a severe weather spotter for the National Weather Service. There is an interesting event coming up next week at St. Thomas. The Storm Prediction Center director will give a talk on "Outlook and Watch Probabilities." I'm planning on attending at this time. Here are the complete details from the Twin Cities chapter of the American Meteorological Society:

The Twin Cities Chapter of the American Meteorological Society is hosting Dr. Joe Schaefer, Director of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, as our featured speaker for our November 17th meeting. Dr. Schaefer will be talking about "Outlook and Watch Probabilities" as used in Storm Prediction Center products. The meeting is open to everyone. There is no cost and you do not need to be a member of the Chapter to attend.

We will be meeting in the 3M Auditorium of the Owens Science Hall at the University of St. Thomas here in Saint Paul, MN. The presentation will begin shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17th. Parking is available in the Anderson ramp, just south of the Owens Science Hall at the cost of $2 per vehicle. The Anderson ramp is accessible from Cretin Ave.

We have a flyer about the meeting and a University of St. Thomas campus map. The Owens Science Hall is marked as #39 on the linked-to campus map, and the Anderson ramp is #35. Please help us share the information about this special event with your colleagues, students, friends, and anyone who you feel might be interseted.

If you have any questions or would like more details, please contact the Chapter officers by sending an e-mail to

We hope to see you there.

Twin Cities Chapter of the AMS, November Meeting
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Speaker: Dr. Joe Schaefer, Director of the Storm Prediction Center
Topic: Outlook and Watch Probabilities
Location: 3M Auditorium, Owens Science Hall, University of St. Thomas

Bryan J. Howell
Twin Cities AMS

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Annual Deer Hunt 2009

by Mully410

I just got back from my 24th consecutive deer hunting adventure. Between 6 and 10 of my family gather in northern Minnesota every year to eat, hang out and sit in the woods. My father and uncle have been hunting deer like this for over 50 years. Deer hunting is part of my heritage and my culture. We are responsible, safe and ethical in everything we do while hunting. Our "deer camp" is NOT the drunken red-neck stereotype that is so often made fun of by many.

Although killing deer is the point of deer hunting, I'm not sure if it's the #1 reason that I go. I enjoy being with relatives that I don't often see. We have many long standing jokes and rib each other frequently about the same old things. We tell the same old stories and make new ones every year. We eat very well and all get along great. This camaraderie is very important to me.

It may seem counter-intuitive on the surface but I really love nature. You know this already if you read my blog and visit my Flickr page and YouTube channel. I've seen many interesting and beautiful things while sitting in the woods with my rifle. This year I watched a porcupine eat on a tree for over an hour. A gray jay landed about 3 feet away and looked at me quizzically. I also saw: a bald eagle, many black-capped chickadees, some gray jays and pileated woodpeckers. I saw a beautiful sunset that looked like the entire forest was on fire. I came across some tracks I'd never seen before this hunt. There was even a bit of vandalism that I can neither confirm nor deny. In years past I've seen: weasels, a black bear, trumpeter swans, snow geese, wolf tracks, a freaky 10 minute snow storm and game wardens. One of my favorite memories is of a red squirrel that jumped on me. I was sitting on a log and very still against a tree and it apparently didn't notice me. He ran across the log, hopped on me and scurried up the tree. He stopped in the above me and chattered away until I moved. Then he took off leaping from tree to tree and out of sight.

I also enjoy the relatively peaceful calm out in the woods. I really enjoy hearing the wind. It can rustles through the trees and I can hear it approaching. Very cool. I can also hear the rain and snow coming for some time before it reaches me. Fascinating. The spot where we hunt is in the Chippewa National Forest. It's not very remote as far as wilderness goes and we don't "rough it" like some do. We stay at a very nice lake resort in a top notch cabin. In years past we stayed at other resorts without running water and little heat. This year they added cable TV and WiFi. There really isn't anything to complain about. The gravel roads are getting more paved every year. The traffic is picking up around our spot and more hunters are invading "our" territory but I can still go for hours without hearing a car.

Since we hunt on public lands, our tactics are probably a little different than people who hunt their own private lands. We get up and eat breakfast around 5:00 AM so we can make it into the woods at first light. We never know who may be out there so we wait until it's bright enough to see mostly so we don't tempt someone to take a shot at us (that's never happened, by the way). We often see the same deer hunters every year. There are some of us regulars to the area so we know where we are all are and try to maintain a polite distance between groups. We usually sit alone in our own regular areas first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. We don't have permanent stands. I carry a small beanbag like seat and look for a tree stump or lump of dirt. Some of us have small portable chairs. Sometimes new people are near "our spots" so we have to find a different spot. Every few hours we come out to the truck for lunch. We trade observations and head back to the woods. Sometimes we organize "drives." A drive is when some of us sit in certain spots while others walk towards us. It's usually done with some sort organization based on the terrain. We hunt in a mix of deciduous and coniferous forest land that contains thick dark cedar swamps and small open grassy meadows so there is ample opportunity to design effective drives. Our sit times and drive times are often dictated by the weather. When its real cold we move more often and eat more.

I saw a couple deer this year. Two were running away so all I saw was the raise white tail or flag as it's known. On the last hour of the hunt, I saw a doe approaching me at a good run. When I turned and raise the rifle, she veered to my left. It might have been a good idea for me to wait until she got closer but I didn't. Being still and very quiet is paramount. A large buck was running behind her. It was the rut so he only had one thing on his mind. I don't know how many points because as we say "if you can count the points, it should be dead." It was a far shot with my rifle's iron sights. The front site covered up almost half the deer. Had we not had any deer for our party, I probably wouldn't have taken the shot. I whistled because sometimes deer will stop but he didn't so I took two shots at about 100-125 yards. Miss. Alas he ran off unscathed. We searched for blood but found none.

To briefly sum up our deer hunting: It's almost forty hours of sitting or walking in the woods for a chance at 1-5 minutes of heart pounding action and an hour or two of gross gory field dressing and strenuous dragging.

This year we didn't get a deer but that's ok. I got to hang out with nature and my family. It was a great time.

If you like, feel free to ask me about how we hunt in the comments. I have some pictures, sans blood and guts, from this year's excursion here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics - Drinking Skeptically - November 12

Angel near the plane

Join Minneapolis Skeptics for our monthly Drinking Skeptically Meet-Up on November 12. We have great conversations on a variety of topics. RSVP here.

We begin at 5pm but that doesn't mean you have to be there exactly on time. This is a unstructured conversational event.

Bring your favorite woowoo, paranormal, cryptozoology, conspiracy or other interesting topics. Please post references to your evidence on our message board so we can be better prepared.

If you have an interesting topic in mind, please go ahead and post it as a comment on this Meet-Up invite.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Atmospheric Physics with the Critical Thinking Club of St. Paul

For meeting announcements for all Critical Thinking Club chapters, bookmark

Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul

Location: Kelly Inn, Rice Street and I-94

Date: November 8, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to Noon

Pesenter: Mark Hugo

Topic: Atmospheric Physics

Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to by the end of the day Thursday.

Mark Hugo writes:

There is an emphasis in the presentation on the history of work in this area, and extensive extracts from classic materials dating back to the turn of the century.

The presentation intends, very deliberately, to demonstrate the fact that radiation balance to the Earth's atmosphere is NOT merely a function of CO2 concentration. But rather extremely dependent upon water distribution, cloud formation and dissipation, the conversion of Ozone (ALWAYS formed in the upper atmosphere and ALWAYS decaying from O3 to O2, with release of the UV captured in the upper atmosphere as "heating" to the lower atmosphere...) to normal O2, and many other factors.

Mention is made of state of the art work by Dr. Hienrick Svensmark (Dutch Space/Atmospheric agency, their equivalent to our NOAA) and Dr. Roy Spencer (University of Alabama Huntsville, primary data analyst, NASA "Aqua" satellite.)

Dr. Svensmark has been elucidating the connection between sunspots, the solar wind, cosmic rays and cloud formation rates, and Dr. Spencer has been clarifying the proper "feedback" coefficient for "climate models" which will make the connection between temperature rise or fall, formation of clouds, and increase in "albedo" or reflection of incoming visible radiation. (Current climate models being used by the IPPC have ALL used "positive" feedback. Dr. Spencer has demonstrated the feedback coefficient is NEGATIVE, based on 9 years of Aqua data.)

Mark Hugo’scredentials include 20 years working in nuclear power and 5 years in medical device engineering. His degrees are an MS, Mechanical, Heat Transfer Specialty. BS Chemical Eng., BS Metallurgy and PE Electrical.

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