Near us are railroad tracks aligned southeast to northwest. In early August and May, the Sun sets inline with the tracks. Often, it is cloudy or my timing is bad. This year things worked out so some photographs were possible.
It was about 8:03 pm for this first image. The Sun was slightly to the upper left of the vanishing point of the tracks.
I waited until 8:06 for the next shot. I noticed a few small clouds near the horizon. The alignment seemed a little better.
One minute later the Sun went behind the clouds. For a change, I held the camera very low to change the perspective a little.
Over the years, this book by Aldo Leopold has been recommended by many as a good read. I was born and raised only 30 miles from his hometown. My farm life and closeness to nature were strong influences on how I saw the world. A month ago while browsing a used bookstore, I found this copy of his book and decided it was time to read it. I am so glad I did. Leopold’s reflections on the natural world and our place in it fit squarely with mine. If you have not yet read the book, I encourage you to do so.
I stepped out onto the front porch and was startled when this thing bleated at me not more than 2 feet away lying next to the lavender flowers. It looked at me seeming to wonder ‘Are you my mother?” Momma deer was nowhere to be seen. It might have sniffed my hand if I’d offered. But, I didn’t want to startle it. Deposits of new fawn near our house have happened several times over the years.
Fairfield is a city in southeast Iowa with a population of 9416 based on the 2020 census. Like many places, it has a varied and interesting history. Higher education played a large role in that history. Fairfield was home to Parsons College from 1875 to 1973. Enrollment peaked at 5000 in 1966. Soon after, the school and it’s president, Millard G. Roberts, got caught up in questionable activities. Life magazine published a critical article. The school lost accreditation and he was asked to resign. Enrollment dropped and the school closed in 1973 bankrupt and $14 million in debt.
The skies cleared as evening approached. The Moon was aligned with Earth and the Sun. Their syzygy at 9:30 pm CDT brought the Moon into the umbra of the Earth’s shadow. Desktop software gave a simulated view like this. The faint inner circle is the umbra. The larger circle is the penumbra.
My camera was mounted on a tripod and set for capturing images about every 15 minutes starting at 9:30. The images were cropped to place the umbra in nearly the same place in each image. That placement highlighted the movement of the Moon over the 15 minute time periods between photos.
The Moon was watching from below as Jupiter and Venus neared each another. This view was at 5:40 am local time. The closest approach for the two planets is Saturday 30 April. They will be separated by less than the width of our Moon. Get up and see it if you have clear skies.
It is springtime in the midwest. Great flocks of American White PelicansPelecanus erythrorhynchosare fly north toward breeding grounds. We are fortunate in Iowa to have many of them visit our lakes and rivers. Dozens of the great birds were on the Iowa River in downtown Iowa City today giving residents close views. These birds are the biggest in the state at up to 20 lbs and with 9 ft wingspans. The loud roar heard in the videos is from water spilling over the nearby dam.
Seasonal changes occur very slowly. I enjoy watching for them as the year passes. Last fall, I did a simple set of observations to record how much lower the path of the Sun was tracking as the weeks went by. That post is here.
An unplanned seasonal change got my attention in recent weeks I looked out the north window toward out neighbor’s house at about 3 pm on 25 January. It was a very cold and sunny day. It was obvious from the direction of the shadows that the Sun was in the upper left, over my shoulder, out of view. Something bright caught my eye on the snow in the foreground.
Lots of commotion from the Crows this morning. Several of the them were scolding an immature Bald Eagle in the tree right behind our house. It is a BIG bird. It didn’t seem bothered. We have a lot of Bald Eagles around here. They congregate on the Iowa River below the dams to grab fish. It flew away and all was quiet again.
We went to a spot with a clear southwest view hoping to see comet Leonard. The conditions weren’t quite favorable. Instead, we admired the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. I pointed my camera on full zoom to Venus. It is currently rounding its orbit and passing us between the Sun and Earth. See the orbit diagram below.
We are seeing mostly the shadowed side of Venus. A thin crescent reflects off its surface. In the early days of January it will be almost directly between us and the Sun and not visible in the glare. It will emerge in the early morning hours by mid-January. It will remain our morning companion until October. This thinning crescent remains as our last view of 2021. The crescent will reverse next month.