Spiders Rule


Forget cute baby kittens, look beyond conventional fluffiness and embrace the Peacock Spider. Look at this guy, he’s delightful. Yes, that’s a spider! A jumping spider native to Australia. Jumpers have excellent vision and stalk rather than trap prey in webs.

Cute soft-furred spider with vivid blue, red and yellow pattern on abdomen.

Delightful knows no bounds. Watch his courtship dance –

Considerably less fluffy, but equally remarkable are Diving Bell Spiders. In ponds across Europe and Asia, these wily arachnids spend their entire life underwater. They breathe air trapped in bubbles that are held in place by webs. Divers leave their bubble to hunt prey, surfacing only to gather fresh oxygen for their bubble.

See the source image

Flying spiders? Who knew threads of wind swept silk propelled spiders hundreds of miles? Known as parachuting or ballooning, countless small spiders raise their abdomen and cast silk to the wind. A phenonium which explains sudden appearance of spiders on ships at sea.

Long-legged spider, with back end pointing up.

Small spider raising its abdomen to balloon away. Image via Sarefo.

Orionid Meteor Shower 2020


Comet Halley is a prolific parent, matriarch responsible for the Eta-Aquarid meteors in May and October’s Orionid meteor shower. Every year between October 2 and November 7, Earth orbit encounters a elongated debris trail cast off by Halley – we know it as the Orionid meteor shower. This year Orionids peak the morning of October 21st.

Mountains with numerous thin white streaks in deep blue starry sky.

Composite photo of Orionid meteors over Montana in 2018, via John Ashley.

Orionid abhors flamboyance, preferring to stay the course with 10 -20 exclamations an hour radiating from constellation Orion. Orionid makes up for paltry frequency with dizzying speed ( 66 kilometers per second ) and roughly half the meteors leaving characteristic ionized trails lingering for several seconds in night skies.

Star chart showing radiant point of Orionids.

The Orionids radiate from a point near the upraised Club of the constellation Orion the Hunter. The bright star near the radiant point is Betelgeuse.

Constellation Orion is the radiant point, but meteors can appear over a wide angle view of dark skies. This year a waxing crescent moon delivers dark skies, ideal for Orionid watching. Best viewed between midnight and dawn.

Night Lights In Real Time


No matter how long the work day, disheartening the news or lousy the weather, Adrien Mauduit at Night Lights Films never fails to put things right. Treat yourself to real time aurora majesty coupled with Mauduit’s innate instinct to nail the perfect musical accompaniment.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0CLzCpM6nuLSAi1JNBjkA

Global Air Quality Index – Vancouver B.C. Worst In the World


A closed Canada/U.S. border is no match for invasive plumes of wildfire smoke blanketing the West Coast. For days, stinging brown haze has beset Vancouver, obliterating sunlight, vying with Seattle and Portland for worst air quality in the world. This morning Vancouverites woke to a staggering reality – official ranking as most hazardous air to breathe in the world. Link to worldwide air quality – https://aqicn.org/here/

See the source image
See the source image

I’m not crying in my maple syrup or diminishing the plight of countless thousand American lives impacted by the inferno. What I am is alarmed by unprecedented voracity of this disaster. Wildfire season is a fact of life, periodic stretches of regional forest fire smoke settle over Vancouver every few years. What I can’t recall is Vancouver ever having the worst air quality in the world. Nor air so hazardous Canada Post suspends mail delivery, If this is the face of climate disruption, we need to take notice.

See the source image

https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-worst-air-quality-world-september-14-2020

Finding Polaris – Embrace the North Star


Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.

Very many bright concentric circles in sky around a bright irregular dot, trees in foreground.

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”

To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.

Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.

Diagram: White sky with four black Big Dippers in a circle around Polaris.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.

Cloud Streets


Cloud streets are long rows of cumulus cloud oriented parallel to the direction of wind. Cloud streets are a product of convection – rolling waves of rising warm air met by sinking layers of upper atmosphere cold air. Atmospheric science 101 – clouds form when water droplets contained in rising warm air condense on introduction to sinking cold air.

http://www.eumetrain.org/satmanu/CMs/ClStr/navmenu.php?page=2.0.0

Morning cloud streets over Vancouver Island. Image via CTV News Vancouver Island.

Thin parallel lines of clouds extending from ice shelf in black-and-white orbital photo.

The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these cloud streets over the Bering Sea on January 20, 2006. Image via Jesse Allen/ NASARead more about this image.

Cloud streets are technically called horizontal convection rolls. Typically observed from satellite eyes above, cloud streets generally form over vast expanses of ocean water. Unique to cloud streets are cloud free zones on either side created by sinking cold air.

Every cloud has a story, explanation and reason for being there. Next time you look up, remind yourself of exquisitely balanced natural forces responsible for life as we know it.

Kings of Pain


Resistance is futile. Trust me, I tried to avoid Kings of Pain airing on History Channel. Ignored promotional clips, balked at tuning in, ran for the hills when it appeared on the TV guide. Ultimately I caved, momentary weakness spawned inexplicable obsession. Kings of Pain is satisfying on SO MANY levels!

Overview – hosts Adam Thom  ( “wildlife biologist” ) and Rob “Caveman” Aleva ( “animal handler” ) travel the globe in search of venomous, deadly or cranky insects and animals. Their mission, to rank bites and stings on a 30 point scale in 3 categories – 10 points each for initial physical pain, duration of pain and after effects. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_of_Pain

Kings of Pain must be seen to be believed. Not for the premise, but for dialogue (seriously now, how many times can two men call each other “dude” in an hour), absurd ineptitude of on camera medics and hysterical observation of fore mentioned medics posing awkwardly when on camera. It’s so great!

 

 

 

 

Winning Dark Sky Images


In May of this year the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) held its first annual Capture the Dark photography competition. Tasked with capturing  “meaning of the night”, participants were invited to submit images in one of five categories – Connecting to the Dark, International Dark Sky Places, Impact of Light Pollution, Bright Side of Lighting and Youth.

Connecting to the Dark winner –

Child with butterfly net containing several stars, star in deep blue sky just above net.

View larger | Mihail Minkov captured this photo, which is titled Star Catcher. The photo is from the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria. It’s the 1st-place winner in 2020’s IDA photo contest, in the Connecting to the Dark category.

International Dark Sky Places winner –

Milky Way above steep wooded valley with rocky stream in foreground.

iew larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this image at the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve in France. It’s the winner in the International Dark Sky Places category. The photo is titled Dark Night in Pyrénées Mountains.

Impact of Light Pollution winner –

A few stars visible in brightly lit night sky above hills with square tower in distance.

View larger. | Petr Horálek captured this image at the Great Wall of China. It’s the winner in the Impact of Light Pollution category. The photo is titled Remembering the Old Times.

Bright Side of Lighting winner –

Milky Way arching over streaming waterfall in hills with nearby evergreen trees.

View larger. | Jean-Francois Graffand captured this photo at the Pyrénées National Parc in France. It’s the winner in the Bright Side of Lighting category. It’s titled The Celestial River.

Youth winner –

Milky Way over distant farm building past wide field of red paintbrush flowers and bluebonnet flowers.

View larger.| Nayana Rajesh, age 16, captured the winning entry in the Youth category. The photo is set in Ennis, Texas. It’s titled “The Barn.”

View all winning and finalist submissions – https://darksky.app.box.com/s/yzvnppjej02asjtwvjsxmyr4twxr3e8g

Read more at – https://earthsky.org/earth/ida-2020-photo-contest-winners-night-sky-images?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=868f0bb18e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-868f0bb18e-393970565

Try To Live With Polite Spiders


Several months ago a tiny spider appeared on the bathroom windowsill. I said hello. Odd as this sounds, Spring doesn’t officially arrive until a polite spider homesteads on my bathroom sill. It’s been that way every year of twenty one lived in this house. Suffice to say welcoming spring spider, keeping her polite existence to myself is problematic. Mine is not a family of arachnid sympathizers. I clean around her, know that when startled she retreats through a vent in the aluminum window frame and hope for the best. In two months she’s doubled in size. Twice as large, neither a threat or concern – polite spiders know their place.

Arachnophobia is real, I get it. Expecting others to embrace polite house spiders is a big ask. That said it’s important to understand how vital spiders are to the balance of nature. Their prime directive is to control insect populations be it aphid, fly, moth or mosquito. Everyone needs to relax, understand house spiders are polite and predictable without a lick of animosity toward the human race.

Why is it I embrace the annual appearance of polite bathroom spiders while my family feels obliged to eradicate them with insecticide, wads of tissue or unceremonious suction of a vacuum hose? All because house spiders are demonized as vile marauders!  Oh my goodness, they’re not malicious, it’s so disheartening. I’m not asking you to hug spiders, I’m asking for restraint. Share your home with spiders, they mean no harm and conduct themselves with polite propriety if left alone. Sigh.