Friday, December 17, 2010

My "UFO" photos of a scintillating star

The UFO sighting explanations like "swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus" always seemed insufficient to me.  That's not to say I believe in flying saucers.

I was living in Phoenix during the Phoenix Lights event in the 90's, and half of my friends were shocked by what they saw.  I, unfortunately, was in the law library all night.  I have my own theories about military experiments in transporting enormous payloads using monstrously huge dirigibles... but that's a story I hope to publish in another format soon.

I even dated the grand-daughter of a former full-bird Air Force Colonel stationed at Roswell in the 1950's, and point-blank asked him about UFOs.  Wouldn't you?  He denied any substance to the Roswell crash stories, of course.  He did tell me all about his experience mapping magnetic polar drift for SAC in the 1940s, that I thought sounded nutty at the time, and only since have found out is an accepted, proven phenomenon.

A few times this fall I saw something that for a moment had my hopes up... a pinpoint of light flashing through cycles of brilliant color.  This was far more vivid than any twinkling star I'd ever noticed, and I thought it had to be a medical helicopter in the distance.  When it was still visible hours later I finally dragged a telescope up to a rooftop, and tried to see what it was.

I was looking at the star Fomalhaut, scintillating in that late September night.  I'm still amazed at the beautiful color palettes it formed, as seen in a few photos below.  They are 1/20th of a second exposures, within a few seconds of each other, taken with a Canon EOS XTi t-mounted on a short-tube 100mm aperture Orion refractor, enlarged quite a bit in Gimp, but without much adjustment of the color or brightness.

Fomalhaut, coincidentally, is the first star system in which astronomers have imaged an extra-solar planet in the visible spectrum.  The appearance of structure in some of the photos is probably an artifact of dust on the lens, imperfect focus, etc.

Here's an unaltered original of the 4th shot above, to put in perspective what I mean by imperfect focus.  I just eyeball it, but I do use a Hartman mask as an aid, so it was sharp to the limits of my gear.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Photos from the Paris Catacomb Ossuary

Happy Halloween!

It was tough to get any good shots in the dark, ancient catacombs under Paris - I couldn't use flash or tripod.  Nor would they let me build a platform out of human femurs.  Even the ones I brought with me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Covington sunset after the wind storm

The wind storm a few days ago was pretty impressive.  I hoped to get some shots during it, but the rain was too much for the equipment to bear.  However, it was a beautiful sunset afterwards:

I'm not promising anything, but I am going to try to overcome my curmudgeonly instincts about this social networking thing over the next few weeks.

On that subject, Twitter exhausts me even in concept.  I was quite an early adopter before it came along, but it hit the mainstream coincidently at a time when my sociability was at low ebb, and it looked more like a hailstorm than a cocktail party to me.  I was much more motivated to maintain an online presence when this blog was a vent for my political outrage.

How do you really follow thousands of others posting their stream of consciousness in tiny blurts?  What do you use as a front end to turn that info dump into coherent threads, and filter for meaningful nuggets?

I see that in the months I've neglected this site, the comments have become spam central.  I'll deal with that as well.  The more bitter, radicalized, and insane the comment boards all over the internet get, the more I am attracted to the "real names" movement.  Anonymity has its place, but everything seems to attract a shitstorm of phishing spams and tea-bircher tourette gibberish.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mt. St. Michel in the springtime

I haven't posted any photos in a while, because I haven't been taking any.  First I loaned most of my camera gear to a niece who received a compatible DSLR for Christmas.  Then I embarked on the herculean task of organizing the 165,000+ frames of my own photography, which built a massive aversion to adding any more to the mess until I get it under control.

I guess that's the downside to taking a bazillion shots with different settings in order to learn.

I've also had a very narrow focus on another project for the past few months, which I'll certainly announce here when complete.

In hopeful anticipation of spring, here are a couple of shots I took on a trip to France back in April of 2007:

From Covington Blog 2009

From Covington Blog 2009

From Covington Blog 2009

From Covington Blog 2009