Tag Archives: science

ISS Passes Orion’s Belt

Earlier in the day on 2 Feb, my phone notified me that the ISS would pass nearly overhead and go through Taurus and Orion a few minutes after 6:30 pm. I prepared my iPad with the NightCap app. I placed it on the sidewalk in front of the house and started the exposure.

Four minutes and sixteen seconds later I got this result. Not only the ISS, but three airplanes passed by as indicated by the blinking lights. One of them is hidden in the tree branches lower right. While I watched the ISS pass overhead, I noticed a very faint object moving a short distance ahead of it, in the same direction, and almost on the same line. It was barely visible and left a faint trace on the image. This version of the image might not show it. My original image does show it faintly.

NightCap ISS mode, 256 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed

My photo compared well to the predicted path provided by Heavens-Above.com.


Magnetic Raisins

The common phenomenon of magnetism is familiar to most of us as the result of playing with magnets to pick up paper clips and nails. That strong effect goes by the name of ferromagnetism. There are two other types of magnetism unknown to most people. They are paramagnetism and diamagnetism. These two types are much weaker than ferromagnetism and go unseen. But, they exist and are observable under the right circumstances.

To demonstrate diamagnetism, I suspended dried raisins on the ends of a wooden skewer which was hanging by a fine thread. The assembly is very sensitive to twisting forces. I brought a very strong neodymium magnet close to the raisin at one end. Watch what happened.

The same effect occurred if the magnet was reversed. The raisin always repelled weakly. You might wonder if other things exhibit diamagnetism. What about a grape? This link takes you to a video by the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He tests a grape and even aluminum foil. The results might surprise you.

Water is a substance that exhibits diamagnetism. Objects consisting of nearly all water can be seen to repel from strong magnets. Scientists have even tested the effect on a living tiny frog. They were able to levitate the frog in a strong magnetic field. It suffered no ill effects.

If you are more curious and would like to see some explanation of these magnetic effects, watch this video from Khan Academy.

A Sand County Almanac

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.

Hummingbirds At The Feeder

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are marvelous tiny creatures. They arrive in the eastern half of the U.S. in the spring from over-wintering in Central America. We keep track of their progress toward eastern Iowa with Hummingbird Central. Users input the date of first sightings in the spring. Some hummingbirds fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico for hundreds of miles. Wings flap an average of 53/sec. They flap up to 3 million times during the long flight.

They will be departing our area by late September. We will miss them. Here are an adult male and an adult female borrowed from the All About Birds Macaulay Library.

Adult Male|©Ian Davies|All About Birds|Macaulay Lib

Adult Female|©Cathy Pondelicek|All About Birds|Macaulay Lib

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Kennedy Space Center | GOES-S Launch

by Jim and Melanie

This post describes our view of the launch of the GOES-S weather satellite from the vantage point of the Apollo/Saturn V Center on 1 Mar 2018. Our previous post about the Kennedy Space Center highlighted some of the exhibits at the Visitor Complex. If you are interested in seeing a launch, this link provides details about the options.

Our son-in-law works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA. His company gets the satellite ready for launch, and then tests it during the months after launch, before turning it over to NOAA for operations. He was entitled to nominate guests to view the launch. Our names were submitted along with that of his father, who joined us at the viewing site.

As launch time neared, we made our way to the buses provided for invited guests.

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Kennedy Space Center | Visitor Complex

by Jim and Melanie

Early in 2018, our son-in-law invited us to be his guests at a launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We immediately said “yes.” Our SIL is literally a rocket scientist/engineer. He works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA, whose mission is to support the launch and instrument checkout of the next generation weather satellites of the GOES-R series.

Geostationary GOES-R was launched 19 November 2016 and is now part of the National Weather Service fleet. It views the eastern half of the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean. Storm development, lightning, and hurricane tracking are parts of its main focus.

Our invitation was to watch the launch of GOES-S on 1 March 2018. When GOES-S is commissioned several months after launch, it will view the western half of the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean as GOES-West. Pacific storms, their impact on the western states, and forest fire tracking will be parts of its main focus.

GOES-R Series | Credit: Lockheed Martin

This post is about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Our next post is about viewing the GOES-S launch later that same day.

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Monarchs and Milkweeds

In the summer of 2015 I transplanted some local varieties of milkweed to a small patch in my garden next to the rain barrel. They were shocked by being dug up. I watered and they survived. In the summer of 2016 they all came up looking healthy. I was hopeful for visits by Monarch butterflies. I never saw evidence of any. If you aren’t familiar with milkweed, this link will help. When damaged, they bleed a white sap.

This year in 2017 the plants are nearly 6 ft tall and strong. I put a 4 ft tall piece of fencing around them so they wouldn’t blow over. This picture shows them in the center in full bloom. The second picture shows their flowered tops.

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Abscission | Autumn Leaves Fall

On 17 Nov 2016 we reached a near-record high of 75˚F in eastern Iowa. It started to cool off the next day and got very windy. That night and the next day were much colder and windy with gusts in excess of 45 mph. Most of the trees already dropped their leaves before this recent weather. The strong wind removed the rest, except for the mulberry trees. They still held tight to their dried leaves.

The next morning, it was the coldest night of the year at 20˚F. We knew what to expect from the mulberry trees. As the temperature warmed to near freezing, they would drop their remaining leaves within an hour. The process involves something called abscission. Earlier colder and frosty nights triggered the formation of a thin layer of cells at the base of the leaf stem. The very cold temperature helped complete the process of cutting the leaf loose from the stem so it could fall.

In this video the leaf drop occurs on the tree behind out neighbor as the sun warmed the leaves. There was no wind. The video is speeded up by 4X. It will help to view on a larger screen.