Check out this mama lynx and her seven kittens that visited Tim Newton’s porch in Alaska. (They picked the right porch! He is a photographer). These are called Canada lynxes. Its cousin from the lynx genus, further south in North America, is the bobcat. Other species of medium-sized wild cats are the Eurasian lynx and the Iberian lynx, the Indian jungle cat, and Africa’s caracal, which we have in South Africa as well.
(These pictures are from Wednesday). We made a stop at Lake Lenore on Wednesday. Lake Lenore is a long, narrow lake (8 mi long, 15ft deep) formed by the Missoula Floods in the lower Coulee just north of the town of Soap Lake. There is a trail that leads up to caves in the basalt rock.
Driving further up north on Highway 17 brings one to Dry Falls, named for the massive waterfalls that existed there during the Pleistocene Epoch, when ice sheets and glaciers covered huge parts of Earth’s surface. This area was at the southern end of the Cordilleran ice sheet, and the melting of the glaciers carved out the coulees in the basalt rock that we see today.
The September equinox* arrived today at 20:02 UTC (1.02 pm here in my outpost on the globe), ushering in autumn. So for a moment, night and day are each 12 hours long**, sunrises are due east and sunsets are due west, for all creatures on the globe. The sun’s position crosses the celestial equator (an imaginary equator above the real one on Earth’s surface), and this happens no matter where one is on Earth.
*Equinox from Latin equi (equal) and nox (night).
**Precisely speaking, there is more daylight than nighttime on the day of the equinox, an additional 8 or so minutes of daylight, at mid-temperate latitudes.
This New York Times article points out that creatures of the deep sea use light much as animals on land use sound — to lure, intimidate, stun, mislead and find mates. I love the pictures of the creatures.
It’s 12 noon on Monday here in the Pacific Northwest, and the solar eclipse has just ended. It started at the Oregon coast, and the moon shadow traveled at about 1,400 mph across the continent. Here is a collage of (mostly) my own pictures of what we saw and experienced here in Seattle (92% of the sun obscured). We had blue skies; eclipse watchers in South Carolina had cloud cover, though. My takeaway: the sun is a mighty, mighty source of heat and light, radiating a lot of light even at 92% obscured. The ambient temperature did feel as if it went down by 5 to 10 degrees due to the obscured sun, though.
Update Tue 8/22: I added a few more interesting pictures that I found on line!
Of the things that came to my attention on Monday – for real, on TV and on-line – I was thrilled most by the webcast of the SpaceX launch. The mission is dubbed Commercial Resupply Services mission number 12 (CRS-12), and the launch went without a hitch.
Reportedly, there are 30 small cups of real ice-cream for the ISS astronauts* in the 6,400 pound payload of cargo, that also has live mice and science experiments. The first stage booster rocket made a perfect landing back to the launch pad, a nice bonus.
We are all ready for cool weather, and a little rain, to take away the heat and the haze here in the Puget Sound. And yes! – there is rain in the forecast for Saturday night! (The expected 56 days of dry weather by Saturday will be a new record on the books).
Seattle-Tacoma airport has a state-of-the-art AWPAG* rain gauge (a far cry from the graduated cone we once had in our backyard when I was young!). The gauge is surrounded by two shields to improve readings under windy conditions, and will melt snow so that it can measure the liquid equivalent accumulation. Fancy.
*All Weather Precipitation Accumulation Gauge (AWPAG)
Update Sun 10 am: 0.02 inch of rain at SeaTac late Saturday evening ended the record streak of 55 days (June 18-August 11) without measurable rain.
Coming to you every hour on the hour
Here is the news
The weather’s fine but there may be a meteor shower’
Bryan and went out to Hansville on the Kitsap Peninsula on Wednesday (to our friend Paul). Instead of taking the ferry, we drove around the Sound. The time is about the same as with taking the ferry provided there is no rush-hour traffic to deal with.
Out in Hansville, I picked up an osprey* feather. I found a handy feather atlas online that says it is a wing feather.
*Two side notes on the osprey:
1. Ospreys are sometimes called sea hawks but that is not really its correct name. 2. The Seattle Seahawks’ “Seahawk” is not actually a sea hawk. The 10-year-old bird that the football team’s name is lent from, is an augur hawk. Let’s just say then, that ‘Seahawk’ is short for Seattle hawk!
There were reports on Sunday night that Seattleites may see the Northern Lights*, and indeed, it was visible from here. (For the record: I did make an effort to get a clear look at the northern skies look at around 11, but did not see anything!).
*The Northern Lights (‘aurora borealis’) are generated during geomagnetic storms in Earth’s atmosphere. During solar flares, clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms are expelled through the corona of the sun into space. When these clouds of particles reach Earth a day or two later, they interact with gas molecules in the atmosphere, resulting in the greenish color displays.
Check out my elements collection, mostly metals. The little cylinder of pure Tungsten (W), and the mini-ingot of Zinc (Zn) are new additions. I’m trying not to buy everything all at once from the wonderful website for Metallium Inc. based in Watertown, Massachusetts!
Admittedly, my collection has a long way to go. I don’t even have pieces of iron or chrome in there, for example. The hunt for those is on!
Check out these illustrations from the New York Times, of the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor, underway in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in Provence, France. It is a structure that will be some 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall, with the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, and an electro-magnet so strong that it could lift an aircraft carrier.
This is the stuff that science fiction is made of. The first major operating goal for the plasma chamber is to contain pure hydrogen that will not undergo fusion, ‘first plasma’ (target: 8 years from now). Then the goal is to establish a so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, which can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes, but will release large amounts of energy (in the form of heat). This goal will not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ said Leonardo da Vinci once, a quote that appears on Toronto-based metal top maker ForeverSpin’s web site.
Tops are among the world’s oldest toys, and it really is fascinating to watch a spinning top, no? (But yes, we live in the real world, and so due to the hard reality of friction, the top does not really spin forever, of course).
It’s just so hard to choose which one of the 17 tops (ForeverSpin does a fine job of marketing, romanticizing the metals): titanium (the ‘strongest one’), 24kt gold mirror (the ‘luxurious one’), stainless steel (the ‘original one’), copper (the ‘classic one’), aluminum (the ‘playful one’), Damascus steel (the ‘unique one’), rose-plated gold (the ‘romantic one’), 24kt gold plated (the ‘stylish one’), magnesium (the ‘lightest one’), cast iron (the ‘medieval one’), zirconium (the ‘exotic one’), brass (the ‘mature one’), stainless steel mirror (the ‘shiny original’ one), bronze (the ‘ancient one’), nickel (the ‘fine one’), tungsten (the ‘heavy one’) or black zirconium (the ‘elegant one’).
Here are some pictures that I took while I was in Hansville this weekend. Be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry that shows the hummingbird’s wings in slow motion.
The Hubble space telescope turned 27 on Monday. After a troubled start with a faulty lens, it has by now provided many years of discoveries and spectacular pictures of the universe. Plans are progressing nicely for the launch of the new James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Telescope’s replacement. It is a project so ambitious, that it ate the whole NASA budget for some years, and was almost scrapped a number of years ago. Now, after 20 years, and with a budget of $8.7 billion, the James Webb telescope is on track to be launched in October 2018. (New York Times article here).
Entirely new technologies had to be developed for it, such as the tennis court-sized sunshield for the lens. The shield has five layers and is made of a material called kapton. ‘It will then be unfolded in space in a series of some 180 maneuvers that look in computer animations like a cross between a parachute opening and a swimming pool cover going into place’ .. a process that will cause 6 months of high anxiety, says Bill Ochs, a veteran engineer at the Goddard Space Center in Maryland.
A large asteroid that ‘brushed’ by Earth (less than 5 lunar lengths away) on Wednesday was in the news recently, but I see we get smaller ones brushing by with a berth less than one lunar length just about every year. In 2013 there was the Chelyabinsk meteor, that made a spectacular entrance into the atmosphere, even though it was just 20 m (65 ft) across. So celestial objects larger than 100 m are serious trouble, since they might wipe out whole towns or cities.
Then there was the 10 km (6 mi) wide asteroid of 65 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs – and an even bigger one, thought to have hit Earth some 3.26 billion years ago, that was 37 km (23 mi) wide. That last one caused an earthquake that would have measured 10.8 on the Richter scale. Whoah.
|Year||Asteroids > 100 m (except 2013)||Size||Lunar Distance|
|2004||Toutatis||5,000 m (3.1 mi)||4|
|Nov 2011||(308635) 2005 YU55||360 m (1,180 feet)||0.84|
|Dec 2011||2011 XC2||100 m (328 feet)||0.9|
|2013||Chelyabinsk meteor||20 m (65 feet)||0|
|2017||2014-JO25 'The Rock'||650 m (2,000 feet)||4.7|
Check out the Washington Post report of an elusive mollusk called the giant shipworm. It is as big as a baseball bat (and technically a bivalve, not a worm). Scientists had known of it for hundreds of years, from shell fragments and a handful of dead specimens. Recently a local TV station in the Philippines ran a short documentary about a strange shellfish living in a lagoon : the giant shipworm (kuphus polythalamia).
I like to read animal stories that is about saving them from extinction, since so many species are at risk. This black bird – with a soulful glint in its eye – is the Greater Adjutant Stork, found in India and South-east Asia. The Associated Press reports that the bird is a carnivore and scavenger, and had long been thought to bring bad luck. The sentiments against it have turned, though. Locals in areas close to its habitat are now making an effort to help it survive.