Strawberry Moon June 16, 2011Posted by dakotabiker in Space Stuff.
Tags: LRO, Moon
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Another monthly lunar update from my friend and co-worker Gordon:
The next full Moon is on Wednesday afternoon, June 15, 2011. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on 4:14 pm EDT on Wednesday (i.e., from Tuesday morning through Friday morning).
This full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon, a name universal to just about every Algonquin tribe. The name comes from the relatively short season in June for harvesting strawberries in northeastern North America.
Europeans call the June full Moon the Rose Moon. Because the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is almost in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun (only about 5 degrees off), near the summer solstice when the Sun appears highest in the sky at noon, the full Moon will always appear lowest in the sky at midnight. Some believe the name Rose Moon comes from the color the Moon can get because, particularly for European nations at the higher latitudes, the full Moon is low in the sky and shining through more atmosphere that at other times of the year.
More recently, a new tribe has arisen, geographically scattered but mostly living in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This tribe’s language is primarily English, but with a liberal smattering of acronyms and Hawaiian phrases. Comprised of people from all backgrounds, this tribe sports a pirate flag as its emblem and is devoted to the study of the Moon. This tribe calls June’s full Moon the LRO Moon, in honor of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft they placed in orbit around the Moon two years ago, on June 23, 2009.
There is a total eclipse of the Moon associated with this full Moon, but this eclipse will not be visible from North America. LRO, currently orbiting the Moon, relies on sunlight to keep warm and solar power to operate. This will be the longest eclipse that LRO will encounter in its expected life. LRO will have to preheat most of its systems, put an extra charge on the batteries, and leave most of the science instruments off in order to get through this long eclipse without getting too cold or running low on power. Only the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment will remain on, and we expect to get unique information about the surface of the Moon from watching how key locations cool down as the Earth blocks the Sun.
As usual, the suitable celebratory activities and attire (e.g., Hawaiian shirts, bow ties) are encouraged in honor of the full Moon.
As to other celestial events between now and the next full Moon:
The night of the full Moon is also the peak of the June Lyrids, a relatively minor and variable meteor shower. With the full Moon in the sky it will be difficult to see these meteors (if there are many of them this year).
Tuesday, June 21, 2011, is the summer solstice, the day with the longest period of sunlight and the astronomical start of summer. Because the solar days this time of year are slightly longer than 24 hours, the earliest sunrises occur before the Solstice and the latest sunsets occur after the solstice. For NASA Headquarters, rounded off to the minute, the earliest time of sunrise is 5:42 am EDT from this past Tuesday, June 7, 2011, through the morning of the Solstice, Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Rounded off to the minute, the latest time of sunset will be 8:37 pm EDT from Thursday, June 23, 2011 to Sunday, July 3, 2011.
Back in late May, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter all appeared clustered together in the morning sky, while Saturn was up pretty much all night. By late June and early July, Saturn is gradually shifting more towards the evening sky, Jupiter and Mars are appearing higher in the morning sky, Venus is low in the morning sky and soon will pretty much disappear from view in glow of the Sun, and Mercury will switch to low in the evening sky.
In the morning of Sunday, June 26, 2011, the waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper left of bright Jupiter in the eastern sky. For the Washington, DC area, Jupiter rises around 2:20 am.
Before dawn on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, the waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper right of Mars low in east-northeast. For the Washington, DC area, Mars rises around 3:45 am.
The next day, in the glow of dawn on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, the even thinner waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper right of bright Venus (about halfway between Venus and Mars) very low in east-northeast. For the Washington, DC area, Venus rises around 4:50 am, less than an hour before sunrise.
Even harder to see in the glow just before dawn, on Thursday, June 30, 2011, the Moon will be just to the lower left of bright Venus, very close to the horizon in the east-northeast.
Friday, July 1, 2011, is the new Moon and a partial solar eclipse. For this eclipse the shadow of the Moon almost misses the Earth. The eclipse will only be visible from a part of the Antarctic Ocean south of Africa. It may be an eclipse that nobody sees.
On Saturday, July 2, 2011, especially with a pair of binoculars, you may be able to see Mercury to the upper right of the faint crescent Moon. You would need to look close to the horizon in the north-northwest about 1/2-hour after sunset (around 9:10 pm EDT in the Washington, DC area, as the Moon will set by about 9:30 pm). The glow of sunset will likely make this difficult to see without binoculars.
On Monday, July 4, 2011, at about 11 am EDT, the Earth will be aphelion, the point in its orbit where it is farthest from the Sun. In general, the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are milder than they are in the Southern hemisphere, because northern summer occurs when the Earth is farther from the Sun, while northern winter occurs when the Earth is closer to the Sun.
In the evening on Thursday, July 7, 2011, the waxing quarter Moon will appear to the lower left of Saturn. For the Washington, DC area, this pair will start the evening high in the sky and set a little after midnight.
The full Moon after next will be on Friday, July 15, 2011.
C2C Day 26: The Final Stretch July 28, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, LCROSS, LRO, motorcycle, Pennsylvania, Rides
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I arose late from the festivities of the night prior, and again packed up the gear and loaded the motorcycle, but this time I knew was the last for this journey. Unlike some previous trips, my thoughts at the “last packing” were quite neutral. It seems most vacations are either “too short” leaving one thinking it is not yet time to be going home, or “too long” inducing a heightened eagerness to get going. Perhaps it is the nature of being on the road such that the packing and unpacking is more of a daily routine than a milestone, but I felt I had been gone for just long enough: not too long, not too short — and I was happy to go going home.
I gassed up and continued along US-40 though Wheeling until it met up with I-70E. I rode into Pennsylvania, stopping in a truck stop for a red bull and Advil, and plotted my course to Indiana County. I continued east on I-70 crossing my outbound track on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, picking up toll road SR-66 a short while later. I took SR-66 north to US-22 toward Blairsville to pick up my final county. Unfortunately, US-22 was one long 35-40 mph construction zone, and the sign for Indiana County completely inaccessible. I stopped in Blairsville at the local hardware store and asked about the whereabouts of any other Indiana County signs (courthouses, county road maintenance buildings, county offices, anything…) and was told that Indiana, PA would be my best bet. I blindly started up SR-217 toward Indiana, when it dawned on me that SR-217 southbound must cross the Indiana County line without taking me further off-route; hopefully the sign would be accessible given that the county line is a river.
Heading south looking over my shoulder at the northbound signs, I found it just at the start of a bridge with the narrowest of shoulders leading up to it. The road was narrow and had recently been chip-sealed. Construction trucks (presumably going to and from the morass on US-22) were speeding up and down the narrow road throwing gravel at anyone dumb enough to be parked where I was. Playing a bit of real-life Frogger, I dodged traffic to get my ABCs pic completing my list of 25 counties from A to Z (there is no “X” county). I got back on the bike, managed a U-turn, and continued south on SR-217 as the sky started to look threatening.
I pulled over in the parking lot of a closed restaurant with a “Welcome Bikers” sign out front and adjusted my gear a bit in preparation for rain. Snapping one end-of-journey self portrait in my mirror before stowing the camera in a sandwich bag, I saddled up and rode south to US-30, the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway was the first coast to coast highway running from New York to San Francisco. US-30 subsumed the Lincoln Highway running from Atlantic City to Astoria, Oregon keeping the nickname.
I have traveled many Pennsylvania sections of US-30 in the past, and have really enjoyed the scenery and small towns it offers. Unfortunately, US-30 consists for very long lengths of “no passing” zones which can destroy an otherwise great ride when there is traffic. But today on a mid-day Monday, the road was reasonably clear (at least from SR-217 to Breezewood) and the ride was enjoyable.
Somewhere near Stoystown the sky was really looking ugly and the air had that feeling of oncoming rain. I pulled over to don the raingear, questioning myself as I was doing so, as the sun started coming out again. I figured I’d be better off with it, and the forecast was calling for storms, so I kept gearing up. Getting back on the road, within an eighth of a mile, I hit, not rain, but wet, very wet roads like they had just been deluged by a storm. I was glad to have the rain pants on as my legs and the bike became saturated with road spray. Then within a few miles… dry roads again.
I had been really lucky on this trip with weather, hitting only two patches of rain worth mentioning (outbound PA and leaving Yellowstone) and this is despite so many forecasts for storms on my route. I had managed to be a fraction of a day ahead or behind avoiding the weather an unbelievable number of times:
- en route to Sturgis, threading the needle between two storms;
- the day after leaving SD, tornadoes and storms hit behind me;
- in the desert of eastern Kern County, CA there were storms, hail, and 62 mph gusts within miles from where I was recovering from heat stroke.
- the day after leaving Vegas, torrential rain and mudslides hit behind me;
- in the happenstance of an early stop for laundry in Kanab, thunderstorms deluged the area while I was safely in the hotel blogging and folding laundry;
- the day prior to my arrival in Amarillo the temperatures were in the 100′s; when I arrived it was 76°
- about to cross into Illinois, T-storms and hail passed quicker than forecast letting me skirt the northwest edge of the southeast-bound storm.
I was making good time and stopped about 150 miles from home in mid afternoon at a little diner at Reels Corners where SR-160 intersects with US-30. After a ribeye sandwich and iced tea, I headed outside and chatted with a couple from Seattle who were out on their Road King. They flew in and bought the Road King to ride while there, and will sell it when they leave. Not a bad plan given the cost of renting. I talked with the gentleman, Skip, for a while. Skip had recently retired from civil service working with the Navy. He also happens to be an avid space enthusiast. He was actually down in Cocoa Beach for the scrubbed shuttle launches at the same time I was there for the LRO/LCROSS launch . Unfortunately, he didn’t know that LRO/LCROSS was going on June 18th, and he has flown home right after the shuttle scrub on the 17th. He was sincerely disappointed at missing the Atlas V launch of LRO/LCROSS. As consolation of his misfortune, I gave him an LRO/LCROSS mission pin which really seemed to make his day. We talked a while longer about adversity on rides, and how that is where all the good stories come from. We said our goodbyes and he went into the restaurant to join his wife, with his new pin already on his biker vest.
The rest of the ride was pretty routine. The weather had grown quite hot and humid, and I started questioning my logic of wearing my raingear. Even if I were to hit a downpour, I’d be home in a few hours with a shower and fresh clothes anyway. I pulled over and stowed the gear and continued on to Breezewood, PA, the quintessential rest stop. From what I have seen of Breezewood, the entire town’s economy is based upon travelers needing gas, food, and lodging. About 130 miles from home, it is a good fuel-topping point in either direction. From there — a nearly normal interstate ride home, except for a crash about halfway causing a 2 mile backup (was really glad I ditched the raingear as I melted over my hot pipes).
Arriving home is a little jarring in a low-key kind of way. I had spent really more than a month on the road, home for only 4 days between the Florida trip and the California trip, and totally disconnected from work for the latter. In that time I pretty much lived in a microcosm of the trip not thinking about my to-do lists and normal responsibilities. Arriving in my driveway there was a feeling of: ”Huh. It’s over. Now what?”
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the grass was not as overgrown in the last three weeks as it was when I returned from the Florida ride in June. The pile of mail is intimidating, and I don’t even want to think about what is in my work email inbox. I have budgeted a week to transition back to real-life, and will likely take every minute to do so.
Wait, wait. There’s more. Still coming…. The Wrap Up
Nothin’ Could be Fine-ah June 7, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, Harley, LCROSS, LRO, motorcycle, North Carolina, Rides, steak
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Than to be in Carolina in … Ribeyes Steakhouse
LRO and LCROSS are all set to launch out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 17th, and I am heading to Florida for the Flight Readiness Review on the 10th. Instead of flying down, I took the opportunity to ride the Harley. I broke the trip into three legs – the first stop in Lillington, NC.
Am sitting in Ribeyes Steakhouse, the same wonderful establishment from my Columbus Day ride. I love this place. The salad bar is a carnivores dream (or at least my ideal) — it’s small but with everything I could want. My “salad”: lettuce, shredded cheese, ham, real bacon, hard-boiled eggs, onions, sunflower seeds, croutons, french fried onions, and the creamiest ranch dressing. Oh yeah!
Having had a significant stomach issues following a 32-oz cowboy cut ribeye a few weeks ago, I chose to me a little more parsimonious in my selection this time. I debated between the 14 and 16 ounce, and finally went for the 16. ‘Cept after telling the story of my Columbus Day ride (340-odd miles for a Ribeye’s ribeye) to the barmaid, and the guy at the end of the bar saying “Yeah – I remember that!”, the chef upgraded me to an 18 ouncer…. I regret to inform you that I am kind of wimping out with half the slab of Pittsburgh-charred cow flesh still sitting there as I very unrealistically hope to get a second wind….
The ride down was generally pretty good. Excellent weather: warm with sun, very little wind. Shade was a bit chilly with a jacket, but completely tolerable. I got on the road much, much later than I had hoped and was a little concerned about making it to Lillington by nightfall. I pretty much stuck to I-95 hoping for a fast ride but ended up hitting major backups just south of DC and some slow-downs near Richmond, VA. Looking at my unfinished steak I realize my stop south of Richmond at Hardee’s was a huge mistake.
I hopped off I-95 about 8 miles ahead of the North Carolina boarder onto US-301 to pick up my ABCs-09 picture at the same conveniently-placed North Carolina sign I used in 2008. As a bonus I picked up my “N” and “G” counties in the same stop.
A few miles down the road I saw a biker waving his arms as he sat in the shade of a roadside tree. I did a quick U-turn to see if he needed help. He had stopped for a quick “bio-break” and found his bike unable to start. Unfortunately, I was at a loss as to how to help. I offered my cell phone but he already had one. I hung with him for a while until he got a line on a towing service. Despite my inability to provide much more than moral support, he thanked me profusely for my willingness to stop to try to help. With tow truck en route, I got back on the road.
I hopped back onto I-95, near Weston, NC pleased to find beautifully new smooth asphalt with little traffic. I raced down the interstate making excellent time as my shadow grew longer and longer to my left.
Reaching Benson, I turned off onto the road to Lillington. I was thinking the place looked quite pleasant, but smelled of a familiar stink I couldn’t quite remember. What was it? Oh, yeah — a chicken coop. Hmmm, must be a poultry farm nearby… Nope. It was a semi stacked 8 layers high with live chickens. The two cars in front of me turned off leaving me following directly behind the cluck-truck Now, I have followed garbage trucks on my commute into DC many times before, and have to say that the foul stench if a DC sanitation vehicle is truly rivaled by the fowl stench of a poultry wagon. A few times I saw “something” leaking from the side of the truck. “Gross!” I thought. But that was topped by the sight of chickens projectile crapping, literally shooting excrement from their cages. I tried to back off but was caught in the wake of chicken shit and feathers for several miles until the truck turned off.
Shortly thereafter I was in Lillington. I pulled into the Mictotel lot, unpacked the bike, and checked in. I dug thorough my poorly packed luggage to find a clean shirt, cleaned the chicken shit off my jeans, and walked over to Ribeyes….
First MegaTweet April 1, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet.
Tags: LCROSS, LRO, NASA
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As anyone who has ever blogged would say (and a lesson I learned years ago on another attempt at authoring an antiquated web page) — keeping fresh content takes work. A lot of work. Providing polished, fresh content even more so.
Four weeks after my “first nice weekend ride” to Harpers Ferry, and I still have but a draft, and a partial one at that. Not good. I’ve watched my numbers rise with the Dragons Tail, seriously spike with the Witicisms, and (justifiably) decline in the absence of an update.
So — how to fill the gaps?
When I started this blog I toyed with the idea of the occassional “MegaTweet” — for when 140 characters just ain’t enough. Not just filler (which is worse than nothing) – but a more spontaneous, raw, realtime blog akin to Twitter, but unfettered by character restrictions. And, if I really plan to roadblog (which I do), I will not have eight hours of time to edit an 8 hour ride story. But the MegaTweet would not be a replacement of ride stories, rather an addition, an augmentation. Like the weekday comics between the big colorful Sunday Funny Papers…
But I certainly don’t want to lose theme either… You are most likely reading this because you are interested in the an inside look at what a “typical” NASA person may do or you share the passion for riding, or… maybe… both! So let’s give it a try…
Been an interesting day today. LRO and LCROSS are both at the launch processing site getting ready for there joint launch to the moon. I flew down this morning to attend a Launch Vehicle Ground Operations Readiness Review and Launch Vehicle Readiness Review tomorrow. I completed a review of an LRO requirements assessment on the flight, and upon landing, I was pleased to be running ahead of schedule and managed to call into the weekly telecon for the Lunar Mapping & Modeling Project (LMMP). The LMMP team is preparing for their Formulation Review next week which has had several of us putting in some extra time the last few days to get ready.
After the telecon, I drove the rental east toward the coast. Arriving at the facility where LRO and LCROSS are being prepped for launch. It is the first time I had been there since LRO and LCROSS arrived. Things are very busy in the launch manifest at the moment, so LCROSS had to set up their offices in a double-wide trailer for lack of more conventional office space. Seeing the big “Got Water?” banner of the side of the trailer as I drove into the facility told me I found where I was headed.
After getting badged for the facility, I headed over to the trailer, lucky enough to have just made it just in time for the LCROSS Plugs-Out test that demonstrates that LCROSS can operate all by itself (like in its mission) without a bunch of test support equipment attached to it.
I met up with some of the lead engineers and they took me on a little tour of LCROSS in its new home. Since LCROSS is being processed in a cleanroom, we had to gown up in “bunny suits” (clean jumpsuits) to prevent from carrying particulate into the processing area.
After a great walkthrough and test briefing, the team got to work with the test. Having been a spacecraft power systems engineer earlier in my career, I knew the best place for a Headquarters observer during a critical test was “anywhere else” out of the way. So for once I had the means of controlling at least one observer (me), and I left the team to conduct the test. I headed back to the “doublewide” office only to realize I hadn’t been given the keycode to get back in.
I headed over to the LRO banner hung outside the “real” office facilities and met up with some of the LRO guys, and arranged to get a tour of their setup. Back into a bunny suit…
I got to see LRO up-close. The spacecraft was in the middle of a 5-day long mission simulation to prep the ops team for the journey from the earth to the moon. I was also afforded the opportunity to see the Atlas fairing (the top of the rocket that encloses LRO and LCROSS during launch). Very impressive. The fairing has the mission graphic of LRO hand painted on the side, with smaller decals of the LCROSS graphic and the NASA emblem. Being that close to the fairing halves really puts the enormity the launch into perspective.
After the LRO walkthrough, I managed to get the LCROSS office keycode and settled into catching up with the dozens (and dozens) of emails that had accumulated during the day…
About 5:00 a thunderstorm came rolling in — with tornado warnings, and here’s the LCROSS team, assigned to a doublewide (i.e. tornado magnet in midwestern parlance). Figuring I’d hear an alarm if things got worse — I hunkered down and plowed through the emails — notices of meetings, out-briefs of meetings, reporting actions, strategic planning, review packages…
Finally the storm started to let up and I finally headed off the hotel. After another dozen emails and five late telecons to coordinate launch planning, and I decided to go off the clock and blog a little….