When Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition. Over millennia, […]

Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition.

Over millennia, stars along the path of the planets and sun through the sky held a special place for careful observers. Twelve patterns were imagined, each a named constellation. The word “constellation” means “to know from the stars.” Indeed, we can know much from the constellations. For example, it is winter in the northern hemisphere when the constellation “Cancer” (The Crab) is high in the night sky.

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Click photograph for my OnLine Galleries. Clicking the other photographs in this post will yield a larger image.

On the evening of January 20/21, 2019 the full moon climbed from the horizon (Click this link for the first post of this series “Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019…”) to a point high overhead were it appeared to float among the stars of Cancer, the crab. On the way, the disk darkened as its orbital path brought it into the earth’s shadow. The surrounding stars emerged from the darkening full moon glow. I captured the sight using a Canon dslr, the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on a tripod by setting the ISO to 3200 to reduce the exposure to 1.3 second and placing the auto exposure area (a feature of the dslr/lens combination) away from the full moon.

Additionally, the moon is overexposed on the original image, for the following I used Photoshop to cut and paste the moon from the last photograph of this blog, reduced it to the approximate angular diameter of the moon and pasted it over the overexposed disk. There are better astrophotography images of this event, this image is mine to use and adequate for this purpose.

The Moon on the Crab’s back

Cancer is difficult to trace, the constituent stars are all dim. Hint: click on any of the following photographs and a new page will open with a larger resolution image. What is striking in the following photograph are the number of apparently paired stars. Our sun is an exception, it is not part of a star system; even so, most of these pairings are line of sight, not physical star systems. For example, starting from the “red” moon there is a faint star, “Delta” of Cancer. Trace an imaginary line between the moon and Delta, in your mind move the line down and a little to the right to a pair of dim stars, “Nu” and “Gamma” of Cancer (left to right). The two are not a system, being 390 and 181 light years away. Each is a multiple star system in itself as is Delta. The three are on the back of Cancer, with two stars on the upper right being “Alpha” and “Beta”.

A most interesting object of this photograph, well worth the price of binoculars, is between Nu and Gamma and a little higher, towards the moon. It was what I saw the first time viewing this photograph: a cluster of stars called “The Beehive.” This was how I identified the location of the moon on the back of this crab.

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Click photograph for a higher resolution version
Total Lunar Eclipse and Surrounding Sky with labels for primary element of the Cancer constellation

For the following photograph I cut/pasted/enlarged a square with the (enhanced) Moon, Delta. Nu and Gamma, below, with the Beehive between them. See that the stars, though “fuzzy”, have colors. Delta is a orange giant, also known as the “Southern Donkey”. Gamma, the “Northern Donkey,” and NU are white. The back of the Crab holds a two donkeys eating from a manger, a Galactic Stellar Cluster name “The Beehive.” This night the moon joined the feast.

Click photograph for a higher resolution image
“Beehive” with Total Lunar Eclipse with labels for primary elements of Cancer Constellation

The Beehive

With binoculars (or telescope with a wide field eyepiece), the Beehive is a glorious spectacle of 1,000 gravitationally bound stars, a mixture of colors from blue to red. It was one of the first objects Galileo viewed through the telescope, picking out 40 stars. In later years it was here we found the first planets orbiting sun-like (i.e. having the characteristics of our yellow star) stars within a stellar cluster. In spite of being 600+ light years distant the Beehive was known since ancient times, being visible without a telescope in clear, dark skies.

The Total Eclipse

A glorious moon at full totality is captured in the following two photographs. I used the dslr at 3200 ISO with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens at 300 mm. Setting the exposure area to the Moon, the exposure was 3.2 seconds.

In the first photograph, I especially enjoy the effect modeling of the shadows does to make the disk appear round. The field of view does not include Delta, Gamma, Nu or the Beehive. At this time I was not aware how close the Beehive was, or even that the Moon was in Cancer. The beauty of the moon floating among the stars is apparent.

Click photograph for larger image
Click photograph for larger image

Click link for the first post of this series 

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Falcon 9 rocket puts satellite into orbit for Luxembourg

Here is a series of photographs of the January 31, 2018 SpaceX launch of a Falcon9 bearing a Govsat1 (aka SES-16) satellite for Luxembourg.  The re-used Falcon 9 was in expendable mode. The photographs, taken from Cocoa Beach, Florida show the rocket rising above the city and port of Cape Canaveral, through cumulous clouds and into space.

There are the unedited “jpeg” files from the series. I need to crop out the dust spots and such.

Click for complete mission details.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Sunset Visions of Kite Surfing

One day before the 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse a full moon rose 4:25 pm above the Atlantic Ocean off Cocoa Beach, the “Space Coast” of Florida. We saw a power kite to the south, with the southerly winds there was time before he was on us. I took the following photographs with what was at hand, an iPhone 8.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset

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At 50 minutes post moonrise, I included the orb in this frame as the rider tacked, rising a water crest.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset
Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset

A flick of the fingers to zoom in, the moon and rider are together as he rides toward shore.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset with cruise ship
Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset with cruise ship

This time of, Saturdays, the cruise ships depart Cape Canaveral Port. The kite is above the distant ship. It is amazing the kite allows sailing into the wind, his heading is southwest. The shore limits his progress, forcing a tack towards a southeast heading.

Kite Surfer coming to shore at sunset.
Kite Surfer coming to shore at sunset.

Or not, it seems he plans to tack to the northeast, continuing progress north up the coast. I have to wonder how he will return to the starting point?

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Cocoa Beach Kite Skating

Kiteskaters and Cruise Ships

In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 10, 2017 as Hurricane Irma approached the Florida Keys, I cannot sleep, worried about family members north of Miami and in Daytona Beach. To pass the time, I returned to the golden hours of March 4, 2017 evening.  On vacation, Pam and I walked Cocoa Beach starting from Lori Wilson Park, headed north.

The light was perfect when I decided to switch to Raw-Jpeg mode, feeling the extra space was worth it.  I don’t know why I don’t shoot Raw 100% of the time, as always, in retrospect, I regret using jpeg only. The camera was the Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens purchased 2008 after an expedition to the Superstition Wilderness.

After capturing a wedding photo shoot and surfers there was this set of two Kite Skaters going at least 20 miles an hour. The Sony Alpha was quick enough to capture some of the action in raw mode, I am not satisfied with the sharpness of the images as the lens was not fast enough.

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Overview, Approaching Kite skater

We had never watched kite skaters before and were prepared to understand the vision from watching distant kite surfers out beyond the breakers. North winds are the best for any type of kiting on Cocoa Beach and, that day, the wind was northeast. These riders zipped by in less than a minute. The sport is low key, it does not exist on Wikipedia. Image that. These two are having a fantastic time and stayed upright, going on and on and on down the miles long beach.

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Sailskater Dreamview with Cruise Ship

1990 KiteSkate pioneers on the USA east coast experimented with four-line controllable parafoil kites powering in-line skates for exciting rides on asphalt surfaces.

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Her partner approaches

The name “Wheels of Doom” suggest the danger of going this fast over a hard, rough surface.

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He makes it look easy

These Cocoa Beach riders are outfitted for speed and safety: pads, helmets.

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He maneuvers kite overhead to slow down.

Barefeet?? Unprotected skin? They must know how to dress, though maybe not.  He has never fallen?

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Full speed ahead with the kite positioned forward.

The beach within the tide line is solid, the pebbles, broken shells and such unforgiving as asphalt.

Click this link for another Cocoa Beach post
Click this link for a Kite Surfing post

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Queen Victoria Arrival

Little did they know what lay in store….

Pam and I walked from Cheri Down park this morning of February 2020 to Jetty Park where we were fortuitous witnesses to the arrival of the Cunard ship Queen Victoria on an 84-day cruise around South America.

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I used my IPhone 7 to capture the event. Understanding the context of a ship’s arrival opens a whole new world. Standing on the pier I researched the voyage.

Here is the list of ports on the itinerary. These include the Caribbean, Central America and many of the same ports visited on the 2016 Oceania cruise Pam and I enjoyed from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hamburg, Germany
Southampton, England
Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Port Canaveral, Florida
 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bridgetown, Barbados
Manaus, Brazil
Santarem, Brazil
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Montevideo, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, rgentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentinia
Cape Horn, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
San Antonio, Chile
Coquimbo, Chile
Arica, Chile
Callao (Lima), Peru
 Manta, Ecuador
 Panama City, Panama
Panama Canal, Panama
Cartagena, Columbia
Willemstad, Dutch Antiles
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ponta Delgada, Azores
Southampton, England
Hamburg, Germany

Little did they or we know the happy voyage was destined to terminate and return.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Secretive and Failed Zuma SpaceX Mission

Driving to Cocoa Beach from Ithaca, Pam and I missed a horrendous storm because we did a side trip to Louisville, Kentucky, avoiding I95 January 4th and 5th and a rare and treacherous ice storm.

We met people who were stranded overnight near Savannah, Georgia while, on the same days, we drove Kentucky Hill Country for an overnight at Macon, Georgia all in excellent, dry, cold weather.
The storm itself, was a stroke of luck.  The first Space X launch of 2018 was delayed by the weather until the evening of Sunday, January 7th.
I was in place, in the dark, on Cocoa Beach with my Canon DSLR on bulb mode, securely mounted on a travel tripod.  My choice of lens was the 24 mm “wide angle.”

Proximity to the Kennedy Space Center is a reason we return to Cocoa Beach.  A year ago, March 2007, we did the “Launch Director Tour” offered once a month (if at all) and had a fantastic day. I’ll need to blog about it.

For now, here is a shot from the former Space Shuttle launch room.

Launch Control Center

I planned camera placement well for this night launch.  The view held the entire parabola of the trail. Camera placement was based on researching the launch complex, finding it on Google Earth, using the line feature to determine the orientation of the complex from my location on Cocoa Beach.

Live, the start of the launch is like a dawn in the northern sky.  I broke off the exposure to somewhat capture the effect.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The human eye, only the Falcon 9 flame is visible, as a single point of bright light ever rising, lighting the beach and clouds in a soft glow.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The long exposure blends the flame into a bright parabola, at one point the rocket engines throttle back, eventually the color changed to reddish from bright white.  I held the exposure until the rocket flame, in the image, turned to blue and faded away.

We waited for six (6) or so minutes, the camera mount and orientation unchanged, and then the incredible returning booster briefly lit up to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I missed the beginning of the burn.  In retrospect, I should have timed the launch and opened the shuttle 5 minutes or so after “blast off.”

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

Followed by a TWO sonic boom finale. Kabooom….Kabooom.

We read in the news the secret military satellite, named “Zuma”, on top of the Falcon crashed into the Indian Ocean.  SpaceX claimed the launch was a success (??), that the protective fairing jettisoned successfully.  No mention was made of the secret payload. The failure was with the Northup Grumman built “Zuma” satellite?  Hmmmmm.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Feeding Frenzy

Nine videos taken the same morning, February 5, 2022

A multi-day hatch of small fry around the time of a new moon triggered this Black Skimmers (scientific name: Rynchops niger) feeding behavior surf off Cocoa Beach, Brevard County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Here and There

Around Cocoa Beach

Sights and Sounds

Black Skimmers

Scan of Lori Wilson Park beach

Hunter

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Whale Sighting

Right Whales in February

No, the Manatee mailbox on Atlantic Avenue is NOT the whale sighted….more of that later. February 3rd 2022 dawned with scattered clouds to fracture sunbeams.

Walking south I made the 2+ mile point where, up from the beach on South Atlantic Avenue, is a memorable facade.

Also exotic schefflera, paths to the beach through Sea Grapes.

February is the time for Right Whale sightings on the Florida Atlantic Coast. On the beach, near the blue dot on the following map, were lines of people facing the ocean, some with binoculars and cameras with long lenses.

About 500 feet out, beyond where the wave roll begins, a person sat on a paddle board looking to my right. In the following IPhone videos an occasional black hump, roiling water, a flipper and the signature spout are visible. It is too far for identification, I call it a Right Whale from their reputation for visiting these shores in late January/February.

An hour later, I left the beach at South 4th Street to capture the following local color.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Dive!!

Less than 3 seconds elapse from the Osprey initiating dive to emergence from the surf and flight, fish in talons.

A sequence of high speed shots of what the Osprey does best. For this, the sixth and final post of this series (Click me for the first post, “Endless Searching“), we follow the bird in a dramatic plummet into the surf until it rises, catch in claws.

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“All Elements In Place”

Late morning of January 20, 2019 I headed out with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III mounted with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L USM lens for handheld shots. Many elements aligned for these shots: weather, equipment, placement among them. The angle of the sun at 11:21 am was not optimal, but the cloud cover made up for it.

Click any photograph for a larger view.
The Day’s Setting

Commitment

The dive impact happens in less than 2 seconds.

My observation is the reason the wings are extended is to maintain control of the dive…..
…..I have seen these dives terminate inches from the water with a u-shaped swoop.
Talons are extended in the final seconds.

The Strike

Less than one second from point of impact until emgergence and flight.

Instant of impace with wings still extended.
Gone

Arise

What strength, to lift off from the water.
Catch in talons
Copyright 2022, Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved