Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Water Rises!

In my last blog I mentioned that it is highly unlikely earthlings will ever encounter intelligent life from space due to what is known as the “rare earth” hypothesis. Even if there is life, the problem of traversing the amount of light years to reach any other life permitting planet makes it practically impossible. But, what if we have “alien life” right hear on earth?

I think the closest thing we have to this type of experience is the ocean itself. Many of the creatures that live there are intelligent, but have that mysterious otherworldly appearance to them. That watery environment is one we don’t live in so it is almost like being in space. So, it is like visiting alien beings from another world. Many people have had similar thoughts about this. The most famous example is Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series where he refers to dolphins really being aliens from another world. My views of astronomy have made me connect with the ocean world in much the same way.

Since I am fortunate to live relatively close to the ocean for most of the year, I have spent a lot more time whale watching and visiting aquariums during the past two years. When I was kid I used to go to the Marineland of the Pacific to see Orky and Corky the killer whales and other dolphins. Corky is still around and lives at Seaworld San Diego. The aquarium aspect isn’t new to me. On the other hand, my only experience whale watching when I was younger was a complete flop where we saw no whales at all. So, it was relatively recently I started doing this again.

A blue whale model from the Aquarium of the Pacific:

The blue whale is the one that we see the most of during the summer months. It is the biggest creature that has ever lived on the planet including the dinosaurs. It is the one I emphasize, but we do get fin whales, minke whales, gray whales, humpback whales, and sperm whales. The last two are more rare around where I live, and I have yet to see them in person. We also gets lots of common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, pacific-white sided dolphin, risso’s dolphin, and orcas (killer whales). The last three are much more rare to see around here.

Here’s the deal. I originally was not sure I would ever upload any pictures or video about these animals for a bunch of reasons. One, there is already so much out there you can watch on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, not to mention tons of stuff online already. Two, in the past when I uploaded anything on animals I always did it in a slightly humorous way, and I would always attract people that took it way more serious than I intended. Third, some of the “animal rights” crowd I don’t want anything to do with. Notice I say some and not all because, like within any group, you will find different types of people that are not all the same. But, I have encountered some really nutty people that I consider crackpots that don’t know how to make basic moral/ethical distinctions or basic reasoning itself for that matter. In fact, some I would consider “morally sick” if they really believe what they say they believe. For these reasons I really have hesitated whether I wanted to post anything at all on this.

I did start another blog just for this sort of thing to keep it separate from what I do on here, but I have not followed up on it. I’m still not sure what I will do with that. If I do start doing more of that then I will link it on the side with the rest.

I would highly recommend you check out these three videos which I did last week with the new camcorder:

Let me throw in these two that were done in August, 2012:

Blue Whale Breaching Competition

The Day of the Fin Whale

This is the Youtube channel that I will put up various whale watching videos:

The Water Rises (Youtube Channel)

It’s a lot more of a challenge to do these types of videos because of the conditions I encounter with the boat rocking along with the waves, the way the captain moves the boat, the weather conditions, whether the animals cooperate in the right place at the right time, and whether the animals are there at all. I have a lot of junk I will never ever post.

I don’t intend to use this blog for this because I don’t want my ocean adventures to dominate the content I produce for the blog. Maybe once in a great while if I get extraordinary footage, but that is it. I’m fine with keeping this blog the way it is right now.

As an important current event issue relating to all of this…during last year I had this idea that yesterday (July 20th) would be the day I announce “The Water Rises” project. Part of the name of the title is laugh and nod at the recent The Dark Knight Rises movie and the main villain of the story saying “The Fire Rises” at the beginning. “The Fire Rises” was also used as a promotional tool last year. Well, yesterday came and due to the tragedy in Colorado I did not feel it was right putting this up yesterday. I am truly in grief about what happened. Evil exists and there are powerful forces that are way beyond any of us that I am not sure we have the ability to stop with our own abilities. We are shocked with mass killings, but you know it will happen again in the future. All I can say is be aware of your surroundings out there and how you plan to get out of areas in a hurry if something does go down.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Venus Transit (June 5, 2012)

So after the partial eclipse I encountered I was eagerly awaiting June 5, 2012 that would be the final Venus transit of the sun in our lifetime. So, here is how the sun was that day:I took tons of pictures that day and I was constantly heading to the computer to transfer my pictures and see what was being said online. I had a few video feeds open, and there was a satallite taking pictures of the sun that I collected the jpgs from all that evening. I think the whole thing ended just after 9pm pst. Here is Venus making the transit:Through the perspective I have it in these pictures, venus continued going straight up and crossed the sun that way. I think when I ended my telescope viewing the sun was just past half-way of its traversing of the sun. It was a unique event so it was worth checking out.

BTW, back in December I woke up early one morning to catch the Lunar Eclipse. Unfortunately, it happened almost before the sun was about to come up. So, it was not as impressive as it could have been. I was robbed the year before during a lunar eclipse because it rained that night. So, this one I finally saw with my telescope. This is a short video of the event just with my camcorder. No telescope involved with it:

Glimpses of the Moon

Now I wish I could show views of galaxies, nebula, stars, etc. on here, but unfortunately I would need to spend a lot money for astrophotography equipment. Not now, but I leave that open for the future. I have other things that are more important to me right now. So, this will probably the last I do of showing pictures of astronomical objects for the time being.

What is interesting to me is looking at all of these pictures that the Hubble Telescope has taken of all these galaxies and places so far away. There are so many light years between us and them that we will never reach them. When I was younger there was talk that since our sun is just a star then all those other stars must have planets. Therefore, there probably is life out there somewhere. However, that has changed in that we have found out that the earth and its conditions for life are much more rare that previously thought. So, we probably are the only intelligent ones around in this huge universe.

So, we will probably never meet "aliens" out there. Disappointing? Maybe. However, maybe there is an alien world out there with intelligent life...but it happens to be on our own planet. ;) I'll explain tomorrow in my next blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Partial Eclipse (May 20, 2012)

I thought I would continue my little mini-series here on astronomical objects with a few photos I have taken in the past two months on some of the solar events that took place. I meant to have all this up right after the events happened, but I had so much going on that it was just not possible. Not to mention that on the days both events happened I had some personal issues that made me not enjoy doing this as much as I would have liked, BUT I DID IT ANYWAYS! You can't stop science! :)

On May 20, 2012 we had an annular eclipse where I live. However, I only got to see a partial version of it. Had it happened a week later I might have been able to see it in Reno, NV completely, but that's how things work out.

I am not going to try to fool anyone. I am a total amateur when it comes to telescopes and taking pictures with them. I have an eight-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope. I purchased a specific filter to be able to do this...stating the obvious: never look at the sun through a telescope without the proper protection.

To get better pictures of this event I would have had to thrown more money at some other items, but this was good enough. The astronomical hobby is one where you have to be ready to spend big money the more you want better features. That is something I am trying to avoid doing too much of right now.

What you see in the next picture is the sun with the black sun spots on it. Nothing was happening at this point that afternoon.
Then the moon started to intercep the sun.As more time went on the sun started to look like Pac-man.This was one of the final shots I got. At this point a bunch of the neighbor's trees were going to get in the way and I decided I got what I wanted. I could have taken the scope somewhere else and continued, but this was good enough.Tomorrow I will show what I did regarding the Venus transit of the sun that happened a few weeks after this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Return to Mt. Wilson

This blog is a follow up to my series I did about Mt. Wilson Observatory about a year ago. At the end of November I went back to Mt. Wilson Observatory, but this time it was by car making it an easier trip on the legs this time around. It was done on the final weekend of the season where the public can still access it. The purpose of this visit was to take the tour of the place with a docent.

We visited the 150-ft solar telescope by going inside the small room they have there for it. This is where they take readings of the sun through the scope. The machine they have moves it back and forth capturing the whole sun.That circle you see goes back and forth. It gets readings of the solar happenings, like black spots.The tour lasts about two hours and the docent covers everything, but the main event is the trip to see the 100-inch Hooker telescope. This is the bottom of the telescope up close. If you look in from one of those bottom holes you can see that green glass that is the base of the big mirror.These are the controls to the finder scope.Looking at the top from below.It was really fun seeing this stuff from the inside rather than behind the window I had to view it from last time. You have to take the tour to access the inside.

There were a couple of things that came up the docent answered that made more sense to me after this tour. The first thing was that the "Hubble Chair" that is on what is called the "Diving Board" was essentially a "prop" that really was never used to view the telescope. The user of the scope would be on that platform sitting down rather than being in a chair. If you go back to the historical picture I showed in that series of blogs you will see Hubble and James Jeans sitting like they would have rather than using a chair.

The second thing mentioned was someone asked where the eyepiece would have been to allow the viewer to see whatever was being viewed. This was something that puzzled me as well. The docent said that early on that might have been the case when the telescope was first being used, but the whole point of it was to take pictures of the night sky. So, it was a case of lining it up with whatever needed to be viewed and then let the picture be taken of the night sky. Most amateur astronomers use various eye pieces for their telescopes, but this was not the case here.

The Return to Mt. Wilson (Youtube Version)

The Return to Mt. Wilson (Vimeo Version)

This blog and the previous blogs on Mt. Wilson Obsevatory can be found by clicking this link.

Finally, to visit the observatory grounds by car you need an Adventurer's Pass to park on the grounds. Also, the Cosmic Cafe is open on weekends during the season the public can access the place. You can buy food here, merchandise, and tour tickets.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

High Sierra Fireworks

Nothing too impressive here. I just wanted to do a short test to see how Youtube is working these days and what features have changed. This was near a lake looking at the fireworks done at a local town. After the car drives by you can kind of a hear the night sounds of what lives at the lake as the fireworks are going off.