Stargazing Supreme

Riding the Loop

Tucson has a great bike trail system, called the “Loop.” We’ve ridden a very small portion of it, which abuts the back of our RV camp. There is a little brochure that talks about the art on the Loop. I decided to try to catch some of the art… so here are pictures from the Loop.

The Loop, at least near us, parallels the dry river bed. A couple of places the bed had concrete retaining walls, that were coming apart.

We spotted a Coyote walking along the other side of the river. He was just walking along, then stopped, and pounced into the bushes. He came out with a mouse in his mouth!

We had seen the Coyote catch his dinner, so we watched this little Road Runner for a while… and then he jumped straight up about 3 feet and caught a big flying insect! So both the little Road Runner and the wily Coyote got their dinners, and it wasn’t the Road Runner that got eaten. We did not see any anvils fall from the sky or TNT exploding in either case.

Tucson Water Treatment Plant

This might not sound like a fun outing, but the marshy area around the plant is supposed to be a great birding location. Some areas were quite pretty, and others just dry and not so pretty. There were some areas that seemed to have burned… is a marsh fire a thing?

We saw a lot of ducks, and some frogs under the green film over the water. We caught glimpses of some more interesting birds, but couldn’t positively identify any.

It was a nice day, and we had good views of the nearby mountains.

When we arrived, our GPS took us down a road and past a gate that was wide open. It had a sign “Authorized Vehicles Only,” but with the gate all the way open the sign was off to the side and seemed irrelevant. A short walk took us to the wildlife viewing area, and we spent a while there. Then I realized we’d spent a lot more time than I’d thought, and my Woodcarving class was starting soon. So we trekked quickly back to the car, back to the gate, and found it closed… and locked! There was a sign informing anyone locked in to call a phone number, which nobody answered! We left a message, and soon got a call back, and the guy said he’d send a city worker out to unlock the gate. Just then we saw another worker truck drive past the outside of the gate, flagged him down, and he unlocked it for us. I was only a few minutes late to class. Fun!

We’ve since found where we were supposed to park. We’ll try again earlier in the morning and hopefully see a few more exotic birds.

Stars!

We have a great neighbor across the street, Chuck Webb, who is seriously into Astrophotography. He has some amazing equipment, but far more importantly, he has the knowledge to utilize it all! He set up his gear and showed me how it all worked. Not that I could explain it all now… Each photo is a compilation of hours of exposures, then hours of computer work layering them all together perfectly.

Here are some notes on the following photos:

Below is the Soul Nebula, located in Cassiopeia. This photo is a result of 2 hours of 4 minute exposures, with sophisticated techniques to insure no extraneous visible noise. The Soul is an emission nebula, formed by the emission of ionized gasses. This exposure was taken the same night I took the above pictures of his equipment. A phenomenal exposure, especially when you consider it was taken under a 70% moon.

This exposure of the Horse Head nebula required about 4.5 hours of 6 minute exposures. This nebula occupies a special place in the universe… in the belt of Orion. Chuck created this exposure last week in Rodeo, New Mexico, one of the darkest sky locations in the States.

The following is the North America nebula, another emission nebula. It is in the constellation Cygnus, near the star Deneb, the brightest star in that constellation.

Chuck was very gracious in letting me show you these photos. If you want to get in touch with him, or tell him you like his work, his email is chuckwebb@shaw.ca

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