Milky Way over Chincoteague

While out in Chincoteague last weekend I was eager to take advantage of the clear, dark night sky to get my first photos of the Milky Way with the NEX3 and VCLECF1 lens. Our galaxy did not disappoint.

Milky Way over Chincoteague
Milky Way over Chincoteague

I did get some light glare off the McDonald’s parking lot lights and the Assateague Lighthouse, but a bit of contrast and stacking helped bring out the details, and the Andromeda Galaxy even showed up.

Chincoteague in the Fall

Went to Chincoteague again over the weekend for some hiking and seafood and ponies, to see the island in the Fall and hopefully see the Antares rocket launch. Sadly launch got delayed to the Monday and then the Tuesday after — and even more sadly, the rocket then exploded. We at least got to see Antares intact on the launch pad from Arbuckle Neck.

Continue reading Chincoteague in the Fall

Antares Explosion

Update: Via Zero-G News, multiple close camera views of the failure and explosion from photographers who had remote rigs set up near the launch pad, plus further details on the launch abort.

The Antares vehicle carring Cygnus CRS Orb-3, Orbital’s third cargo resupply mission to the ISS, suffered a failure shortly after liftoff and fell back to the pad in a fiery explosion. This was an uncrewed cargo capsule, and no one was injured.

Spaceflight videographer Matthew Travis got this alarming view of the explosion from the press viewing site:

I was at the first launch of the Antares rocket last year. That went well. This launch did not go so well, and there’s some speculation that the old Soviet engines powering the vehicle may have been a factor.

Collection of more Antares launch failure videos from Spaceflight 101.

News stories from Jeff Foust for Space News, and Phil Plait for Slate.

First person accounts from the NASA viewing site by Stephen Clark, Doug Mohney and Ken Kremer.

Official statements from NASA and Orbital Sciences.

We visited Chincoteague last weekend and were able to see the rocket on the pad from Arbuckle Neck. Here’s Antares in happier days, on the pad and unexploded:

Antares-Cygnus ORB-3

Failures happen in rocket engineering. Orbital and NASA will learn from this and move forward.

Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

We’d originally planned to go on a hike at Great Falls for Columbus Day, but rain changed those plans to a more indoorsy venue: the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center, which I’d been wanting to see but never got down to since we moved out to the county five years ago.

The museum occupies an old schoolhouse built in 1873 along Main Street. Upstairs is “The Fairfax Story,” a permanent exhibit of local history, small but dense with displays and artifacts ranging from pre-colonial times to the Civil War to the modern day.

Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

There was even a bit of space history in the mix, with a display case on NASA astronaut and Fairfax native Pierre Thuot.

Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

Downstairs is a mezzanine level for traveling and temporary exhibits. Out front is the visitor center, and from the front desk, a computer loudly broadcasts another historical artifact: an AOL “You’ve got mail” alert.

Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center

A nice little educational museum, right near Fairfax City, well worth a visit if you live in or near the County.

Lunar Eclipse of October 2014

I got up early enough to catch this morning’s lunar eclipse from the roof, but sadly did not make it to the Capitol in time for my original plan, to catch an eclipsed moonset with the DC skyline. Still, it was a lovely total lunar eclipse to start off the morning.

Lunar Eclipse Oct 2014 Lunar Eclipse Oct 2014 Lunar Eclipse Oct 2014

I also tried collecting my high ISO shots of the onset of totality into a crude animation:

Nicer gallery from Capital Weather.

Best tweet of the event was from Mike Brown aka Plutokiller:

Bardarbunga Drone and Ontake Hikers

Going back to volcanoes again, here’s a DJI Phantom drone, piloted by director of aerial imaging Eric Cheng (whom I had previously met a long time ago in Palau), visiting the currently erupting Bárðarbunga Volcano in Iceland:

Meanwhile, in Japan, a surprise eruption on the volcano Ontake has stranded and killed hikers on its slopes. One of the survivors captured video of the ash clouds from the eruption as they fled. Here’s a stabilized version:


I still run a webcam to keep an eye on the house while we’re out, and this week I found Martha making a special appearance in the archive.

Martha on Webcam

Both cats do like hanging around on tops of shelves lately.

Amelia and Martha #cats atop shelf

When they’re not looking out the window for birds.

Amelia and Martha by the window
Amelia and Martha look out the window

Or joining us at the dining table.

Amelia cat

Confessions Of

Sometimes I like to open up Google News and do a phrase search for Confessions of, which can turn up some interesting reading. Sometimes.

Confessions of a Google Glass Explorer. I was told that I was one of the first few hundred Explorers in the city, which made me feel like some third-rate Shackleton embarked on my own Nimrod Expedition into the neon ice.

Confessions of a Drone Pilot. Chillingly, to mitigate these effects, researchers have proposed creating a Siri-like user interface, a virtual copilot that anthropomorphizes the drone and lets crews shunt off the blame for whatever happens. Siri, have those people killed.

Confessions of a TSA Screener. Every now and then, a passenger would throw up two middle fingers during his or her scan, as though somehow aware of the transgressions going on.

Confessions of Cruise Ship Crew Members. Are crew members allowed to fraternize with the passengers? On the mass-market and other large ships, the answer is a simple “no.”

Confessions of a Divemaster. If dive guides or any staff members misbehaved too much, they’d be “NBO-ed” — i.e., fired and sent away on the Next Boat Off the island.

Confessions of a Fed Up Flight Attendant. Maxi Pads.

Confessions of a Vine Dad. Maybe I should stop. And yet … strangers liked me on the Internet—every insecure writer’s dream.