What’s In Your Bug Out Bag?

The start of brush fire season, the recent (relatively minor) earthquake, the newly aggressive and expanded hurricane season (I know, Florida, East Coast, Hawaii, all a long way away from here, but hey, 2020 in case you haven’t noticed!!), and the potential for an actual alien invasion of lizard folks who like think humans are tasty (again, first of all, 2020, and secondly, I would like to point out to our new reptilian overlords how well we have treated the lizards in the yard!) all have reminded me that it’s time to rotate out the supplies in our “bug out bags.”

These are the five backpacks (one for each family member, even though the kids don’t live here any more, and we used to have a sixth for the pets, but they’re gone, but maybe we should put that sixth one back for the SIL just in case, because, you know, 2020, reptilian overlords, etc) which we keep stocked with emergency food and water as well as flashlights, first aid kits, gloves, toilet paper, duct tape (don’t get the TP and DT mixed up!), masks, and so on.

The stuff coming out should still be good (especially the chocolate, which as we all know NEVER goes bad) so it will get eaten, while the supplies will be replenished with fresh replacements and we’ll be good for another year.

Should we put in some Purina Lizard Chow, just to be safe?

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Twelve Hours

I stumbled on a large can of worms a little over twelve hours ago and have spent the day, shuffling fairly large data files into order to figure out how many worms, how big, how wiggly, and training them to tap dance.

Another hour or so to go but the clock’s ticking and I haven’t posted today, so have a picture from a couple weeks ago when I was set up to catch a comet from my front yard.

Back to the tap dancing worms! It’s so hard to get them into those teeny, tiny, little tuxedos and top hats!

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How Did We Get Here?

I’m not 100% sure where I was, but I thought I knew at one time. I might have been wrong. Or I might have forgotten. Maybe I left myself notes. Maybe not.

And I’m not 100% sure where I am now. Or which way I’m heading.

I’m not 100% sure where these words come from. I think that I’m 100% sure where this image comes from, but I’m not 100% sure what it means.

I described it twice today as “trying to run a marathon while hip-deep in molasses.” That’s fair, I think.

But while that might all be incredibly frustrating (it is), I will not stop running.

That’s one lesson of the marathon. You can get carried off in an ambulance, and your time may suck and not be what you wanted, but you will not quit.

No matter how much you just want to take a little rest, sit for a few minutes, and see if maybe that leads to a quit.


When in doubt, keep moving.

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Never An Owl Around When You Need One

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

We’ve apparently got a gopher invasion happening. Makes it fun to wander around the yard in the dark taking pictures of comets and spacecraft.

It seems that their primary predators are coyotes, hawks, and owls, but they’re nocturnal, so I’m guessing that the owls are our best hope. We’ve got some around, so it’s time for them to get to work.

I’m “Team Silent Death From The Skies!” Where do I get the T-shirt?

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ISS Pass – August 02

I mainly wanted to take tonight’s picture because I’ve been trying to experiment with the focusing on this new lens that’s been giving me fits. There’s progress, this is MUCH better than what I got the other night. (Which I didn’t share with you because, you know, it sucked.)

The stars are still trailing because the Earth is moving over the course of these twenty-nine images and two minutes and forty-two seconds. Haven’t figured out a way to stop that, and probably wouldn’t do it if I could because, you know, destruction of civilization and all human life. (Although there are days…)

But the focus is much better and everything’s pretty sharp. I’ve got passes over the next few nights so I’ll keep playing with it to see if I can get it better.

You’ll see the Big Dipper up there, so Comet NEOWISE is up there somwhere, probably to the left of the ISS track and about halfway to the top of the tree on a line between the top of the tree and the far right star in the “bowl” of the Dipper. But I doubt it can be seen, again with the full Moon rising in the east and a fair amount of smoke and haze still in the air.

(Image: Star Walk)

Speaking of that smoke, in this image of the ISS track you can see how red the ISS looks down near the horizon versus how it looks overhead. That’s caused by the path of the light traveling through a lot more air down there, plus the smoke, so just the Sun and Moon will look orange or red as their rising or setting, so will the ISS.

What you won’t see tonight that you might have seen last night is the Dragon spacecraft – it landed in the water off of Pensacola, Florida this afternoon. The entry, descent, and landing were just about perfect, and Bob and Doug are back home with their families tonight, while a few hundred pounds of critical science results and samples are on their way back to their Earth-bound research labs, and the Dragon spacecraft is headed back to Kennedy Space Center where it will be examined in great detail (this was a test flight, after all) and then refurbished for use on the Crew-2 flight to ISS next year.



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Hidden Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft undocked from the ISS this afternoon and is on it’s way to splashdown off of Florida early tomorrow afternoon. Sometimes when the Shuttle would be coming or going from the ISS it was fairly easy to see it during a good ISS pass since it was fairly large and reflected a lot of light. The Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft are considerably smaller than Shuttle was, but if you have a good pass and they’re near the ISS, you might see them trailing along or leading, depending on their orbit.

There was a so-so ISS pass over SoCal tonight – low on the horizon, so we were seeing it through a lot of atmosphere at best, and our atmosphere is a bit hazy at the moment. While we don’t have any storms or clouds, we have plenty of smoke to go around. The fire near us from yesterday is out, but there are a handful of others around and one HUGE one that broke out this afternoon (way out in Riverside County), so the seeing is marginal.

Plus, there’s this monstrously huge source of “natural” light pollution up there tonight:

The moon is only a couple of days from full, and with that bright moonlight bouncing off of all of that smoke and haze, it’s ugly for star gazing. On the other hand, to the right of the moon is Jupiter and its moons, and to the left is Saturn and its rings, so even with binoculars it was nice to see detail in those objects.

But I did not see the Dragon. I saw the ISS and looked carefully, but couldn’t spot the Dragon. (I also looked to see if I could still spot the comet with binoculars, but struck out there also.)

While I had my Hidden Dragon, I did not see any Crouching Tiger. Which is just as well, because, you know, TIGER! The last thing I needed today was to be eaten and killed, or killed and eaten. (The order doesn’t matter to me, both are very bad.)

What I was constantly accompanied by during my astrophotographical quests of the evening were these guys:

These two finally got tired of running away every time I came out, especially since I wasn’t going to go under that honkin’ huge street light there, so they just decided to stay. There were another three or four who were just running wind sprints across the street and into the bushes every time I came out. More power to them.

Good luck coming home tomorrow, Doug and Bob! Go Dragon!


Filed under Astronomy, Critters, Photography, Space

July Can Take A Hike

As in, take a long hike off a short pier. Preferably into deep water with an anvil in your underwear. (Not a euphemism.)

As every month in the past four years or so has gotten steadily worse with only occasional bright spots (surgeries survived, great new job, fun trip in late 2018, Super Bowl champs, comet!) it’s gotten almost ridiculous how events come up some days and your only reaction is, “Really? REALLY??!! Where did THAT plot twist come from? That’s not believable, even Lot didn’t have that many bad things happening in such a short period!”

Yesterday we got the little earthquake to remind us to check our emergency bags. Today I was reminded why as much as I love flying things, I sort of hate hearing multiple helicopters and sirens. It might be a car chase or some other police activity, but you get to know the difference in sound between police sirens and fire truck sirens, and the helicopters sound different too, so at some point fairly quickly your subconscious says, “Maybe you should stick your head out the front door?”

Never good. Maybe it’s just a house or a car or something small…

Or, not. Good thing that it’s only 104°F out there and 14% humidity…

Fortunately Ventura and LA County Fire Departments are jumping on these little brush fires really fast and hitting them hard. This one was about two miles from us and even in this second picture which is only about a half hour after the fire started, you can already see the big fire-fighting bombers circling and dropping Phos-chek.

It was out in a couple of hours and it only burned 27 acres with no homes lost, so that’s a win.

But it’s time to review our evacuation plans and our 30-second, 5-minute, 15-minute, and 60-minute checklists.

It’s going to be a long summer. On top of COVID, fascism, and *waves hands vaguely* everything.


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Onward To Mars!

I had an alarm set for 04:45 so that I could watch Perseverance and Ingenuity launch toward Mars. Turns out I didn’t need it.

Alrighty then!

The launch was flawless.

So now the spacecraft coast for seven months with a couple of small course corrections as needed until it intercepts Mars and lands at Jezero on February 18, 2021. After enduring and surviving (and nailing the landing) in the classic “Seven Minutes of Terror.”

It’s only rocket science.

Not seismology!

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Perseverance & Ingenuity

If the weather holds (it’s looking 80% likely for a “go” right now) and the rocket gods smile on us, in a little under six hours the next NASA/JPL rover will be on its way to Mars atop a ULA Atlas V rocket.

Perseverance is an SUV-sized, nuclear-powered rover packed with experiments to search for signs of life on Mars. It will also cache a handful of samples for return to Earth, hopefully being picked up by the 2026 rover. It’s got even more and higher resolution cameras than Curiosity does (Curiosity is still going strong BTW, now it its 2,837th sol of its 687 sol mission), including cameras that will give us a HD view of the “seven minutes of terror” that are what it takes to land on Mars.

Finally, Perseverance also has experiments that will start to look toward humans being on Mars. There are multiple samples of spacesuit materials that will be exposed to the Martian environment (dust, wind, perchlorates in the soil, radiation, cold) as well as an experiment that will demonstrate how oxygen can be removed from the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere and stored for human use.

Also being carried by Perseverance is Ingenuity, a helicopter drone that has been designed to fly in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars. It’s stowed underneath the body of Perseverance, but after landing it will be unfolded, put on the ground, and Perseverance will drive away and expose Ingenuity.

(If you don’t think any of this is super, duper, über cool, then please unfollow me now…)

For the rest of us, NASA-TV coverage starts at 07:00 EDT (04:00 PDT, god help me!) with the launch window opening at 07:50 EDT (04:50 PDT).

We might be fighting COVID and actual demons, but let’s not forget that there are reasons we’re fighting. Family, friends, and freedom may be at the absolute top of the list of reasons, but stuff like this is pretty solidly in the Top Ten in my book.

Go Atlas!

Go Centaur!

Go Perseverance!

Go Ingenuity!

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Worth It

Checking my blood glucose after dinner, I was surprised at first. I didn’t know the numbers went that high…

Then I remembered the shrimp jambalaya that I had for dinner – and it was all okay. It was worth it.

Tomorrow I’ll be good again. (And, for the record, checking it before I went to bed, it was fine. As it’s supposed to be.)

Moderation in all things. Including moderation?

No, especially moderation.

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