Category Archives: Video

Christmas Lights In The Rain

No Comet Leonard tonight for SoCal. But the lights on the ground are still lovely.

The rush is on to the year end. It’s yet another “Nantucket sleigh ride” as we head toward the event horizon of 2022 and beyond.


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I Caught A SpaceX Launch

I’m sure there are tens or hundreds of thousands (or more!) folks in Florida who have hundreds of these, almost as common as catching video of the mail carrier drive by.

I’m not in Florida. This is cool. (And it’s my website, so ppbbbbbbtttt!!)

On Saturday morning, December 18th, SpaceX was going to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with more Starlink satellites out of Vandenberg. We know this can be neat! At first, they were going to launch at about 01:30 or so and I was going to stay up to watch since the skies were clear. Then they switched to a 04:41 launch and I’m an old phart who needs my beauty sleep, so I did not get up.

The launch was successful, the first Falcon 9 to get launched and recovered eleven times. And I got to wondering…

We have a security camera looking at the front porch. It wouldn’t be as good as one of the good mini video cameras or even the iPhone 13 for video quality and it’s not tracking and the roof would cut off the view in just a few seconds. But, still.

Look in the upper left, right near where that arch is on the roof pillar. The neighbor’s house with a bunch of trees is off in the dark and you can really clearly see the Falcon 9 rising in the west.

The zoomed in view.

Takeaways – life is short, I can see the rocket from my front yard, it’s über cool, so make more effort to get your ass out of bed at 04:35 to watch!

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Moments Of Zen

It was windy. A pretty steady 20+ knots with gusts to 30+. The wind chimes were working overtime.

And dry. The hummingbird feeders were empty and Little Bastard was pissed. Every time I went out into the back yard he was buzzing me, reminding me that the feeders were empty. I finally took them down, cleaned them, and put more nectar in them.

After dark the clouds and fog of the past several evenings were gone (of course!) and our three current planetary visitors were still lined up nicely.

For those of you needing an assist to ID them:

Keep breathing, folks.


Filed under Astronomy, Birds, Critters, Photography, Space, Video, Weather

DART Launch From Vandenberg

It’s launch night out of Vandenberg again, but we had a fair amount of clouds and fog forming to our west. We’re about 130 miles from Vandenberg, and if the weather cooperates, we can see the launches very clearly. Tonight wasn’t going to be that night. But I took the setup on a tripod out to the front yard anyway, just in case.

Good move.

It wasn’t as great as when the weather’s “clear and a million,” but it was more than I expected to see!

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Last Night’s 97% Lunar Eclipse

Did you see it?

Here in LA I thought that I might not see it at all, given the clouds that were moving in earlier in the evening, but they were scattered around 23:00 when the umbral eclipse started

But, you deal with what you have been dealt, right? So here’s the first 30 minutes or so of the eclipse from the good camera, shooting thorough the cloud layer about every 6-7 minutes, focusing as best I could (which, frankly, is marginal):

Focus getting worse? Well, yes, because in addition to the high clouds, the fog was starting to roll in off of the coast and out of Ventura County to the west. So it was getting really damp, dew was forming on the lens, and no matter how much I tried to keep it dry and clear, I was getting to this:

Now, I was also running two other cameras including a good video camera, and that stayed clear of dew and condensation another hour or so until the fog completely wiped out the view right around maximum totality at 01:02. I may be able to pull some decent still images off of that. Later. Maybe.

As for the other camera, it was just an old iPhone that I put into time-lapse mode, and that actually turned out sort of cool!

So I gave the photography and video my best shot, but it was what it was. Aside from that, it was (as always!) really neat and interesting to watch the Moon disappear and see a demonstration of celestial mechanics right there in my own front yard!

Did you get to see it?

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Missing Man Today

Today’s “missing man” flyover pass.

First pass is our CAF SoCal Wing PBJ (B-25), F6 Hellcat, and an F8 Bearcat. (The Bearcat isn’t ours, I believe it’s from the Palm Springs Air Museum, but I could very well be wrong. Ours is in mid overhaul.) It’s the F8 that pulls out of formation overhead.

Second pass are T-6 Texans / SNJs from the Condor Squadron out of Van Nuys.

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Yes, We Actually Do That In California

It’s a common meme or urban myth about California folks, but there’s a basis in fact behind it.

Not everyone. Not everywhere in the state. But a lot of folks, in a lot of places.

Yes, rain is rare enough here so that when there’s a good, solid rain shower after a long, long drought folks do stop what they’re doing and go take videos of it and watch in awe.

On the other hand, M3.9 earthquakes barely bother to wake us up, whereas folks from Iowa or North Carolina would need new pants due to the panic.

Pick your poison.

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Another quick, impromptu test of what the iPhone 13 will do. I was out in the yard, catching up on some cleanup work and I had been hearing the hawks for a few minutes. Just like the soundtrack of the establishing shot in every Western movie ever made…

I heard them getting closer, so pulled the phone out, put it in video mode and started recording. No tripod, no instructions, just let’s see what happens. Here’s a 10-second shot that I edited out, when the pair was right overhead and maybe 300-400 feet up.

The sound isn’t overwhelming, but turn it up and watch it in full screen mode. Right around the four-second mark, when the second hawk flys in from the top, you can hear them calling.

It doesn’t suck for a five minute break from yard work.

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Sort of out of nowhere today the weather kicked up over the Catalina Channel to our south and a series of fairly good sized thunderstorm cells started drifting north over the Los Angeles basin. We don’t get that sort of weather often, maybe once every couple of years at best, and often even when we do, the storms tend to drift inland into Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and miss us over here at the far west end of Los Angeles County.

Not today.

It’s no secret that I absolutely ❤ LOVE ❤ rain and thunderstorms. So when they started coming in, I grabbed a whole slew of cameras and gear over the evening to take pictures of the clouds (some fantastic pictures of mammatus clouds right over head), to listen to the rain, wind, and thunder, and to try to catch lightning strikes on video.

Eventually about 20:30 there was a good sized cell sitting just to our south.

(Image from NOAA High-Def Weather Radar app)

Sitting out in the back yard, listening to the rain pounding on the back porch roof and the howling of the wind, seeing the flashes of lightning, this (long-ish, 4:31 total) clip ends (at 3:36) with a HUGE boomer. That was a good one!

A little later things had fired up again and a couple of big thunder boomers had rattled the house, so I took my iPhone out into the front. Another cell was coming in south of Calabasas, so I started recording. It was raining pretty hard, so I stayed on the porch, but then I couldn’t see the sky real well, so I decided to walk down to the garage door, figuring I could lean against the garage and stay pretty much out of the rain, but still have a good view of the sky. Just as I got there, at about 0:55 in this clip, and turned around… (I urge caution if you’re listening with headphones or earbuds or have the volume turned up!!)


How I managed to not clear out the deepest darkest corner of my obscenity directory, I’ll never know. How I managed to not come in with brown jeans when I went out with blue jeans, I’ll never know.

Curious, once I got my heart rate back down into double digits, while editing the video I checked a few figures on the timeline.

The frame where the bolt struck, at 1:02977 seconds.

The frame where the sound hit, at 1.04070 seconds.

That’s an elapsed time of 1.093 seconds. With the speed of sound being 1100 feet per second, that means that the bolt hit somewhere down the street 1,202 feet away.

That’s a really high “pucker factor.”

Furthermore, look at the soundtrack magnified way, way up:

About 1/20 second before the sound hit, there’s this.

An extremely vivid part of my memory of the event is that the incredibly bright flash hit, but in that 1.093 seconds between the strike and the sound I very distinctly heard a frying or sizzling noise, almost like someone on the roof right above me had a big sheet of cellophane and was crumbling it up into a ball. I think this is that sound. Why I would hear it separate from the “BOOOOOOM!” and every so slightly earlier, I don’t know.

Looking at the map shows more waves of showers building to the south and headed our way…

…with more behind that.

It could be a VERY long night!

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It Was A Good Night To Go To Space

SpaceX launched it first Falcon 9 in quite a while out of Vandenberg tonight. Vandenberg’s about 125 miles to the northwest from where I am in Los Angeles, up on the Central California Coast.

There have been some FREAKIN’ SPECTACULAR launches out of Vandyland as seen from LA, particularly when they happen just after sunset and the huge clouds of gas from the rocket catch the fading sunlight…

Tonight’s launch was a little bit later than sunset, so it wasn’t clear what we would see. But what the heck, eh? Let’s get out one of the good video cameras instead of the iPhone, set it up on a tripod…

The audio you hear from SpaceX’s launch webcast is lagging by about 30 seconds behind what’s really happening. So you see the rocket start to come over the horizon behind the mountains to our west and climb toward main engine cut off (MECO). There are a couple of spots where you see it “blank out” for half a second – that’s it going behind the palm trees across the street.

While this video stops after MECO, with binoculars I could watch the second stage go all the way to the southern horizon, by which time it was well to the south of us, probably way down off of Baja.

Next, it’s time to go see a launch. The ULA and NOAA are launching an Atlas V with Landsat 9 soon – it was supposed to be September 12th (good thing it moved back, I’m still swamped), then September 16th (still swamped), and now NET (No Earlier Than) September 23rd (I won’t be swamped!). We’ll see if I can sneak away for a day. That will be even MORE spectacular.

I’ll probably tell you about it if/when it happens…

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