Comet Lovejoy Continues

February 24, 2015 § 2 Comments


We ventured outside last night to take another look at Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2.  It is easy to find in binoculars just to the west of the Lazy W asterism of Cassiopeia in the northwest sky.  You can see it more easily by looking for the fuzzy turquoise spot just to the left of center in the photograph.  I can almost imagine a wisp of dust issuing up and slightly to right from it {but it could be just my imagination :-) }

When there is a visible comet in the sky we are compelled to go out and appreciate its visit as it tracks across the sky…even on a brutally cold night {-5 º F last night, -13 º F this morning}.

Recurring Questions

February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment



It is February, so again I must ask the still unresolved question: “How can the longest month have the fewest number of days?”

Chasing Shadows

February 8, 2015 § Leave a comment


Winter is a hard time for those of us who chase shadows. Starting around the autumnal cross-quarter, in our part of the country the sky becomes overcast with a featureless gray cloud stretching from horizon to horizon that casts our whole world into a shadow. Our northern midlatitude location means that increasingly long portions of our day fall into the shadow of our own earth, which we call night. Our midlatitude sun, being ever lower in the southern sky, casts longer and weaker shadows on the rare days that it makes a true appearance. Shadows are everywhere but so hard to find.

Then around the winter cross-quarter, a glimmer of hope returns to chasers of shadows. Slowly we notice that the daylight hours have increased and that the shade of the overcast has lightened. The sun, which we can now sometimes see as a bright spot in the overcast sky, is a little higher in the midday. There are a few more partly cloudy days. This morning I looked out the window and saw a shadow on the snow! I grabbed my camera, slipped on my boots, and ran outside. It was gone. For the next few hours, I watched for another opportunity. My patience was finally rewarded with the photograph you see!

Spring is on its way…along with its chasable shadows.

Comet Lovejoy Update

December 29, 2014 § 6 Comments


We had clear skies this evening.  The comet was well placed for easy binocular viewing in the southern sky by 9 o’clock. The only issue was the bright waxing crescent moon.  It had moved a surprising amount since 2:30 this morning.

Comet Lovejoy, C2014 Q2

December 29, 2014 § 2 Comments


We have been anticipating the arrival of the new year and clear night skies for a couple of weeks for the opportunity  to see our latest visitor from the Oort Cloud, Comet Lovejoy C2014 Q2.  Last night, I checked the weather forecast before I went to bed, noting that it was to be partly cloudy.  I checked the Clear Sky Chart which indicated that we should have good to excellent viewing conditions after midnight.  I set my alarm for 2:00 am.

At the appointed hour we got dressed to go out into the cold night air.  The sky was nicely clear to the southwest.  The constellation Orion was shining brightly there, a little lower than I had hoped for.  I scanned around below Orion in the small constellation of Lepus but it was hidden in the trees.  This should not be a surprise.  Lepus is a rabbit, hiding right under the feet of Orion, the mighty hunter.  I could not see the comet.

I went back in and took a closer look at the finder chart for this comet.  When I returned out into the cold we walked up on the hill to get a better view of the southwest horizon.  With the better viewpoint and a fresh look at the finder chart, the comet was easily found in binoculars but just above the tops of the trees in our south woods.  I ran back into the house to get my camera and got a couple of exposures in before the comet went behind the trees again.  It is the bright greenish blob in the center of the photograph.  I hope that as it rises higher in the sky, I can make a little better photograph of it.

Comet Lovejoy is a lovely little comet holding the promise of future observations  on any clear night through January and perhaps beyond depending on how much it dims.



A Tenth Anniversary Reminder

December 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Tonight, just after supper, a gust of wind shook the house and the lights began to flicker.  The weather forecast had included a Wind Advisory until 4:00 o’clock tomorrow morning and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 10:00 o’clock this evening.  As a rule, I don’t keep gasoline over the winter.  With the wind and flickering lights though, I decided that perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to have a few gallons tonight.  As I went out into the stormy night, I was reminded that this is the tenth anniversary of the 2004 ice storm here in Holmes County.  Let us now remember that time, being thankful that it will not be repeated tonight.


The 2004 Ice Storm

{written shortly afterward}

A Winter Storm developed along a slow moving warm/cold front spanning two low pressure areas, one in Texas, the other in Ontario. The storm moved into our area of Ohio in the early afternoon of Wednesday December 22nd. The precipitation began as a light wet snow, accumulating about 2 inches. By early evening it had changed to sleet then rain as warm air moved north along the front.

During the night, we could hear trees falling and big branches snapping off in the woods, the woods our electric service comes through. The power flickered on and off several times during the night. Sometime around three o’clock in the morning, I finally shut down the weather station and seismograph. At about 5:30 am the power went off. We found out later from the crew that put our service back that three trees were on top of our line between our pole and the road.

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To the west of us there was heavy snow; I have reliable reports of 16 and 22 inches of snow in the Dayton/Germantown area but as we were without power I don’t really know any other snow depths. Sugarcreek and Newcomerstown, to the east, had little or no snow or ice. We ended up with something between 1/2 and 3/4 inch of ice in combination with the heavy, wet snow. There were trees and power lines down all through central Holmes County. It has always impressed me how strong trees are in bending when the wind blows but they don’t carry ice and snow well. That has to be an example of evolution. The wind always blows so subsequent generations adapt. Ice loads are rare. Anyway, there was apparently a narrow line of ice stretching from the Canton area southwest to Columbus that bore the brunt of the storm. The precipitation was over by Thursday at noon so I pushed the wet snow off the lane down to bare gravel. By Friday evening the temperature dipped to zero or below. Driveways and parking lots that had not been plowed now had a couple of inches off ice on them.

2004ICE (3)

Our life settled into a monotonous routine of balancing loads on our generator, trying to keep the house warm enough, eating, and sleeping. I had gotten a 5000 watt Honda generator in the late 90’s when we were experiencing a lot of power outages. Every year I would hear news reports of ice storms which would leave people with out power for a week at a time. I knew that could happen to us and now it was. It was before the Y2K fiasco and I had a hard time finding the transfer panel I wanted and the 5KW generator was the biggest I could buy for any reasonable amount of money. I found and wired in a small transfer subpanel with the furnace and the water well on it. The generator power came in through a heavy 10/4 cable that I had to throw out the window. The long and the short of it was that I was glad that we had spent the money. But now the gasoline supply for the generator was uncertain. I didn’t have very much in the garage. There was no power in Millersburg during the first couple of days. The roads were officially closed but I drove to Holmesville for fuel three times. They eventually sold out. The first trip to Wooster after this was all over, I bought a little hand operated transfer pump so we can now pump fuel out of our vehicle tanks if we need to. As a consequence of the short supply, we ran the generator only for specific needs; heat, cooking, water, showers, freezer, etc. We quit using the refrigerator and transferred the contents to ice chests that we put on the back porch. After the temperature went below zero, I had to get up a couple of times during the night and start the generator to run the furnace. The Honda engine started with one or two pulls even at 4 below.

Finally, on Tuesday December 28 at about 5:30 pm our power was restored 5 1/2 days after it went off. We were fortunate. Some isolated homes were weeks without power.


November 1, 2014 § 2 Comments

A poem by Thomas Hood (1799 – 1835)…


No sun, no moon!

No morn, no noon,

No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,

No comfortable feel in any member.

No shade, so shine, no butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!

No vember!


– from the November section of Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar 2014   (

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