Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Black Hole Sun

    Back on May 10, 1994,  an annular eclipse (moon passes directly in front of the sun but is too far away in its orbit to totally cover the sun) was visible from my house in southeast Michigan.  I took the day off of work and had a little eclipse party with family and neighbors on my driveway.  We viewed the eclipse through my new Celestron C-8 fitted with a solar filter, and handheld mylar sun viewers (purchased from Jerry Sadowski at City Camera)  held directly in front of the eyes.    In astronomy there is a term  saros defined as is a period of 223 synodic months(time between full moons) approximately 6585.3213 days, or nearly 18 years 11 days (10 days if there are 5 leap years in the 18 year period). One saros after an eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon return to approximately the same relative geometry, and a nearly identical eclipse will occur.   Since a saros is not a whole number of days, the eclipse conditions occur roughly 120 degrees westward on the Earth's globe the next time around.  This past Sunday May 20, 2012 one saros later the Sun, Moon and Earth aligned once again.

   Although she was present for the driveway eclipse, my daughter Hannah claims to not remember it.  The fact that she was two at the time may have something to do with it.   So I packed up the same telescope and mylar viewers and invited her to follow me into the desert of Arizona for a birding trip and on the way home catch the eclipse in Santa Fe, NM. One more time around might do it.
    Here is the progression of the event.
  1) First contact- when the moon starts to cover the sun.

   2) Second contact- when the moon's trailing edge reaches the sun's disk.

 3) Maximum Annularity-  when the moon's center is as close as it will get to the sun's center.
4) Third contact- when the moon's leading edge reaches the edge of solar disk ending the annularity.

   5) Fourth contact- when the partial eclipse ends as the moon exits the solar disk. This was not visible because it occurred after sunset.
  An interesting effect of the sun not being it's  normal shape is that shadows take on an unusual appearance.  Hannah photographed the shadow of a tree and a multitude of images of the crescent sun are projected through small gaps between the leaves.

Here is a poor quality video thrown together from still shots.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 2 in SE Arizona

 With my body still being on Eastern Daylight time, it was easy to not oversleep. I woke at 3:30am, and went outside to see how dark the Arizona skies were. The center of our Milky Way galaxy was visible to south in the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpio.

  As the dawn progressed I took off for Madera Canyon for more birding.  The Acorn Woodpecker in the top photo was photographed there. Here are a few other birds I saw there.

I also heard an Elegant Trogon up the trail but never got close enough to see it.

The magnificent, black chinned and broad-billed hummingbirds were all at the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge on Madera Canyon Rd.

  Back in Patagonia, this  Lark Sparrow and Violet-Crowned hummingbird were in the yard at the Paton House, a world famous birding spot, known for its variety and volume of hummingbirds.

  I arrived back at the rental house 6 hours and 40 degrees later as the temperature had risen from a morning low of 47 degrees to 87 by 11:30am.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Arizona Trip


 The trip begins.  Arrived home from work around 8:45am, finished packing, woke my daughter and hit the road by 9:15am.  A 14 hour ride fueled by Mountain Dew and Pepto Bismol had us pulling in to Tulsa, OK for the night.

  Day 2, drive was uneventful except for the heavy rain in the Texas panhandle that washed all the previous night's bugs off the windshield.  Late in the afternoon we reached Roswell, NM.  Something tells me we weren't the first visitors here.

   On Tuesday, we reached our first destination Patagonia, AZ. The house we rented was billed as a nature lovers paradise.  That it was.  The bird feeders had been filled in advance  of our arrival and we enjoyed the first chance on the trip to kick back and relax.  But how can you relax when the feeders, birdbaths and the trees were abuzz with birds.  Here are a few images I was able to capture.

Bridled Titmouse

     A humorous exchange took place between these two birds, when the Western Tanager took exception to the Black-headed Grosbeak arriving at the bird bath. The tanager kept squawking until the grosbeak got fed up and answered back and apparently had the last word. 

  Fortunately for me the tanager landed in a more picturesque setting.

  Here is a link to the Vacation Rentals by Owner listing for the house. http://www.vrbo.com/230952

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Monarch Egg

    On Wednesday May 2 I saw my first two Monarch Butterflies of the year, one during my lunch break at work and the second flying high over my yard after I got home.  That is definitely the earliest date I've ever seen them in Southeast Michigan. Those butterflies perhaps the second or third generation offspring of last autumn's Monarchs that migrated to and overwintered in Mexico.  The monarchs of spring and early summer are here for one reason.  Reproduce.  
     Today I inspected my 8" high Swamp Milkweed sprouts and found four freshly laid eggs.  After checking all the plants for eggs I noticed a female Monarch flying low over the milkweed patch.  I left her to do her duty.  A couple of hours later I rechecked the plants and I found 37 eggs.  Below are photos of one of the eggs which in a few days will hatch and begin the two week larval stage of its life. 

  Checking my old records the previous early date for finding monarch eggs in the yard was May 22, 2001.    

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

    Here are three photos I took today at Lower Huron Metropark near New Boston and Belleville, MI.  The bird was found by Nate Crawford, and the birding public alerted by Kevin Arnold and Paul Cypher.   Great bird and great job guys.