Not Five Planets

You’ll see things online and in the press about another astronomical thing that’s happening in the next couple of days. If you’re lucky, and you have a flat horizon and very clear conditions, you might see it. Binoculars will help.

At the top you can see the Moon. Real bright directly below it is Venus. Easy peasy.

As it gets a bit darker than this, up overhead, near Taurus and Orion, you can see Mars. Again, easy. It’s red and fairly bright.

Now for the harder parts.

Very near Venus, visible only when it gets fully dark you might spot Uranus. It will be much dimmer than Venus and slightly bluish in color. A small telescope will be a big help, but binoculars will do if you have a good finder map. (See here.) If you have good eyesight and a good dark sky location far away from city lights, you might see it with the naked eye.

Remember how a month or so ago Jupiter was RIGHT next to Venus? And then Jupiter kept moving down toward the Sun and Venus kept moving up away from the Sun? (From our viewpoint, obviously.) Well, now Jupiter is almost there, just a couple of days away from disappearing into the evening twilight. You’ll need to have a flat horizon, without any mountains right in front of you. It’s faint, but visible, near the horizon, directly under Venus, immediately after sunset.

And right next to Jupiter is Mercury. Jupiter is brighter, but if you can find it in the twilight, look for Mercury very close nearby.

From the horizon up, there’s Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars. Plus, of course, that whole Earth thing in the foreground.

Tonight we had a pretty sunset (with clouds and rain expected for the next three days) but we have light pollution (hiding dim Uranus) and Castle Peak hiding Jupiter and Mercury. (See where the peak is and then that dip on the right hand side? That’s where they are while it’s too bright to see them. By the time it gets dark enough, they’re down behind the mountain.) So we have three planets visible, two in this picture. Venus and Earth. Mars is back behind us.

Good hunting the next night or two if you have clear skies and flat horizons!

Leave a comment

Filed under Astronomy, Photography

The Lizards Return

Finally. The sun, and temperatures kinda sorta warm, in the mid 60’s at least.

It’s nice in the sun, so I’ve started to see some lizards coming out of hibernation. So far most of them have been the “popcorn” type, small (just an inch or two long), newly hatched, existing mainly to be eaten by other lizards or birds or cats.

This guy (can you see it?) was about four inches long and “basking” doesn’t even start to describe the attitude it had.

Right on top of this piece of edging was ideal for soaking up sun, and the width was perfect for it to straddle. Nice and stable, warm, relaxing – there was no way it was going to run away unless I was going to step on him or try to eat him.

I’m not as fast as the hawks or cats, so eating him wasn’t an option, and I’m not clumsy enough to step on him. At least, not today.

Later in the afternoon as I went out the front door I almost stepped on a slightly bigger one. It was more like six inches plus, so it might be a yearling. It had found a spot right by the front door and next to the planter it could hide under, while simultaneously being the perfect spot to catch the last of the sunset rays. I opened the door, saw it, didn’t step on it. It saw me, took off under the planter, and we called it even.

Let the 2023 lizards thrive!

Leave a comment

Filed under Critters, Photography

Life Goes On

At the Music Center, just after sunset, cool but crystal clear. The brightest object at the top right is the crescent moon, with Venus just above the tip of the tall, black building. All of the other shiny things in the sky are aircraft of one sort or the other.

Tonight we’re back at the Ahmanson for “The Secret Garden.” I know nothing about it except that friends have said good things.

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Los Angeles, Photography

Dealing With Tragedy

The phone call.

Why is my sister calling in the middle of a Friday afternoon?

The unreality. Who? How? That makes no sense! HOW?

What can we do to help? Of course, I’ll call my other brothers and sisters…

And always back to the unreality. This can’t be happening. (You’ll tell yourself that a lot in the near future, I’m sure.)

So few details. So many questions.

Tomorrow will be another day. But they’ll never be the same for my sister. Or the rest of us, but especially, of course, for her.

What can we do to help?

I wish we could make it go away. To make it not be real. But that’s not the way it works.

Forward. Tomorrow. Then the next day. Then the next week. One step at a time. One day at a time.

What can we do to help?

Hug your loved ones tonight. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Be good to one another. Tell each other you love them. Be there for each other. Don’t put it off until tomorrow.

That’s how you can help.

It won’t be enough. But it’s all we’ve got. Each other.

1 Comment

Filed under Family

Venus & Crescent Moon In The Palm Trees

Pretty much what it says. It was the first time I could see the sky in the west at Sunset in many, many days, so I took the opportunity.

Tonight there’s one of the biggest solar storms in many years hitting the Earth and there are amazing auroras being seen all across Canada, the upper tier of US states, and as far south as Iowa, Kansas, and Northern California. Many other places that could see these unusual aurora (Chicago, Michigan, many others) are clouded out. Timing is everything and Murphy’s Law rules.

This far south, 34.2º, we won’t be seeing them. (But, yes, I went out and checked anyway.)

If you happen to see this post in the next couple of hours (early morning hours of Friday, May 24th) and you’re anywhere near the mid-US or parts northward and your sky is even a bit clear … go take a peak.  Let me know if you see anything, especially if it’s spectacular.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Timely Rainbows

There were some unpleasant and troubling bits of news delivered today. It was tough. Still is, going to need some time to process, time I might not have.

Nothing life threatening. No one’s dying, no one’s got cancer. We’ll figure it out. (We always do.) But it might not be as much fun as we had hoped for.

On my secondary desktop I had one of the Virtual Railfan sites up and running as eye candy. Hesperia, CA, to be exact. (Which may become more important soon, but that’s a whole different story and crisis.)

The weather there’s been just as rainy as ours, but just as I was looking, the sun same through.

Image: Virtual Railfan

Nice! I took a picture of the screen and passed it around. Maybe it was a sign. (I don’t believe in “signs,” but any port in a storm and there are no atheists in foxholes, so I’m apparently big on cliches.)

Then I went to take a few breaths outside for a minute.

Do you see it? Way, way, way off in the distance? Over by Griffith Park?

It’s not a whole rainbow, but I’ll take what I can get.

It may not have been big, but it was BRIGHT! This little arc of color really stood out.

It doesn’t show up super bright in this image, but to the naked eye even the violet on the left was vibrant.

As the sun behind me was peeking in and out of the clouds, at times it got even brighter, even if it didn’t get bigger.

Someone today gave me the “Hope is not a plan” quote.


But plans can be developed, and in fact are already in the works.

We don’t get overconfident, but when we say, “We’ll figure it out, we always do,” that’s not bragging, it’s confidence in our abilities and our team.

Plans aren’t made in a vacuum, and they’re not carried out blindly or automatically.

THAT’s where the hope comes in. Rainbows help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Photography, Weather

Not Little Bastard

You’ll remember that yesterday a hummingbird, presumably Little Bastard, was found semi-dead on the porch. After making him comfortable, he later revived.

Later, while I was refilling the hummingbird feeders, a hummingbird was perched right outside the kitchen window, near where the now-missing feeder was.

This is not Little Bastard. He’s an Allen’s Hummingbird. This one is (probably) a Rufous Hummingbird.

The whole time I was cleaning and refilling the feeders it sat there, looking at me.

I was thinking maybe it was thanking me for saving Little Bastard, or glaring at me for saving Little Bastard (he is pretty territorial, this one could have moved in on LB’s territory if I hadn’t revived him), but in the end I figure he had just enough brain cells to realize that I was going to bring food back out any moment and he wanted first dibs.

Still a stunningly gorgeous little critter. The way the colors change as his head moves around and the light hits it at different angles is just amazing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Close Call

(We’ll get back to the airshow pictures, I promise.)

I was going out into the back yard early this afternoon and I saw something on the Dodgers doormat outside the door. I got closer and realized it was a hummingbird.

I think that it was Little Bastard, the extremely territorial hummingbird that chases off all of the others that come to “his” feeder.

He body was shaking, vibrating, but that’s it. His wings or head weren’t moving at all.

I poked him very gingerly – nothing. Then he stopped shaking and was still.

He was on the ground right at the base of the sliding glass door, so my best guess is that he flew into the glass. I figured he was dead.

I’ve seen questions by people on Twitter who find birds that are stunned after flying into a window. The advice I’ve seen is to make them comfortable and warm someplace and hope that they’re just stunned. (Insert Monty Python’s parrot sketch here…)

I took a bunch of pictures of him in a bowl full of napkins. The colors are astonishing. I figured it would be the only chance I got to get this close to one of these delicate and beautiful creatures.

No movement at all. But for whatever reason it looked like there was an alertness in the eyes.

I decided to not bring him into the house – what if he recovered and started buzzing around inside the house? The comedy levels would have been awesome, but still…

So I put another napkin over the top, covering him fully, hopefully to keep him warm, but loosely enough so that if he recovered he could get out from under it. I left the bowl out on the patio table.

About 90 minutes later I was fixing lunch and needed bread from the outside freezer. I opened the door and was immediately buzzed by a hummingbird.

The attacker flew right back over to Little Bastard’s normal perch. Then he started clicking and barking at me with some vehemence.

I checked the bowl. Maybe it wasn’t Little Bastard. Maybe it was one of the other hummers. Maybe I was hallucinating.

The bowl was empty.


Filed under Birds, Photography


Today was my sixty-seventh birthday. 🎂🍾🎁🥳🦆 I celebrated by going off to the Point Mugu Airshow in Ventura County with some family members and friends.

NOT the sort of thing you want to be driving through on the way to an airshow! I had doubts that we would see any flying, but we persisted.

When we got there about 09:30, it was quite…moist.

The Navy Blue Angels were there. So were the Air Force Thunderbirds! It’s something like only the fourth or fifth time EVER that they’ve performed together at the same airshow.

Thus the urgency to get out there – it’s like if the Beatles and Rolling Stones were doing a double bill concert. You would stand in the rain for that, wouldn’t you?

Our local CAF SoCal Wing was there with static displays (the SNJ in yellow, the PT-19 on the right in grey, others not shown) and our PBJ bomber, F6 Hellcat fighter, and Zero fighter all flying.

A Harrier on static display.

The business end of an F-18 Hornet, both for going fast and for stopping faster.

One of the local F-18s that’s stationed with one of the Point Mugu squadrons.

An E-2 Hawkeye on static display.

Despite my doubts, the CAF SoCal planes, a biplane aerobatic routine, the Red Bull helicopter performance, a California Air National Guard C-130 demonstration, and most importantly, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels all flew.

It was spectacular!

It was amazing!

It was wonderful!

It was REALLY FREAKIN’ LOUD! (Which is really freakin’ great!)

Followed by the current leader so far for worst traffic jam of the year. From the time that the Blue Angels finished their show until I got to my car was 25-30 minutes. From the time I got to my car until I got onto the road outside the base gates, another 90+ minutes. From the time I left the base until I got to the 101 Freeway (normally 10-15 minutes) another 30+ minutes. (Worth every second of it.)

My thanks to those who sent birthday wishes. I had a great time at the airshow and took a gazillion pictures and videos.

If you don’t care about seeing any of those airshow pictures, this might be a good time to mute this website for the next week to ten days. Just sayin’.


Filed under Airshows, Paul, Photography

Green Redux

Yesterday I gave you a bunch of VERY green moss for St. Patrick’s day. While I was out there I noticed the new, spring growth on some of the other garden plants are a much different shade of green than the older leaves. I’ve got a suspicion that I’ve noticed this in previous years and posted about it then, but it’s late, I’m marginally brain dead tonight, and I’m just going to go with it.

Let’s all hope for clear skies and no rain tomorrow in SoCal, particularly in the Point Mugu area of Ventura County. (If you know, you know!)


Filed under Flowers, Photography