Saturday, February 28, 2009

More window views

A few days ago, during one of the frequent rain squalls which are common in our city, a momentary break in the clouds was the cause of a beautiful rainbow. The picture on the left was taken from the front stairs. The rainbow appears high in the sky, because it was late in the day, around 20 minutes before sunset.

This picture was taken through the living room window. Notice the secondary rainbow, the intense colours, and the difference of the sky colour inside and outside the rainbow.

Last night, Venus (at the moment the evening star) and the Moon were in conjunction, an astronomical term for the appearance of two or more objects close to each other in the sky. It does not mean that they were physically close, it is just a view from our perspective on Earth. In reality, Venus was about about 140 times further away than the Moon. Click on the picture for a larger view. The view is through my double-paned office window. It was taken with a 200mm Sigma zoom lens, set at 200mm. This is an enlarged section of that image.

Venus also shows a crescent, just like the Moon (both somewhat distorted, due to the window glass). If you have a reasonable pair of binoculars (7x50 or 10x50, say), and mount these on a photo tripod, or hold them very steady, you'll also see the tiny crescent of Venus. You'll be able to look at Venus for the next couple of weeks, or so - weather permitting. Look for the brightest star in the west after sunset. Its crescent will grow a bit larger and get thinner as Venus moves closer to Earth towards the line between Earth and the Sun. This also means that Venus will set in the west sooner and sooner after sunset. On March 27, it will pass north of the Sun (don't try to look for it then - you could damage your eyesight if you look directly at the Sun!) and then become the morning star.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Picture Postcard day

Today is one of the days which keep my wife and me "glued" to the window. The scenery is one of the reasons why we love living in our house.

At left, you see a picture of Grouse Mountain, one of the "North Shore mountains" in Vancouver, taken with a 200 mm lens, through our double-paned living room window. The triangular area slightly above centre is the upper ski area, sometimes called the "upper cut".

This is the same area taken through a C-90 Celestron telescope, for which I have the appropriate adapters to attach my Canon Rebel XT digital SLR camera. This turns the telescope into a 1000mm f11 lens. Because there is no electrical connection between the telescope and the camera, the automatic features built into the camera cannot be used - manual focussing and exposures are required. The exposure for this picture was 1/4000 of a second at ASA 400. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, and look closely, you can see some tiny dots (skiers) near the lower left of the ski area, and the plume (or dirty exhaust?) from a (snowmaking?) machine at the top. Being a creature of comfort, I took this picture through the living room window as well. That affects the "definition" of the image, because the window glass is optically not perfect. I used Photoshop to increase the contrast somewhat, and also sharpened the picture a bit, to help overcome the effects of the window on the image.

Regarding the skiers visible in the picture, I'm always amazed about how small people are when compared to the grandeur of nature. Even Grouse Mountain, at about 1250m (4000 ft) a modest mountain, dwarfs a human being by a huge margin.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


As Derek mentioned in his blog, the woodpecker which last year decided to use our kitchen stove exhausts on the roof as territorial markers, has come back to re-establish his claims. I had wrapped the exhausts with bubble-wrap to discourage this "disturbing" behaviour (the 'pecker sometimes "rings the bell" just a little after sunrise), but the ravages of time destroyed that wrap. I removed the remnants some time ago.

For the last couple of days, the 'pecker has again made sure that we couldn't sleep in. So today I decided to frustrate him - and to allow us to extend our morning bedtime. I purchased some wire mesh and fashioned it into a kind of "cage" which now covers the exhausts (see picture of one). The cage is secured to the exhaust by means of an appropriate piece of wire coathanger, so that this undoubtedly clever little monster can't lift it up and out of the way. We'll soon see whether peace has returned.