Arizona: Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater Overview

Visitor Lookout Platform

Meteor Crater Panorama

Shaded Seating

Blasted Rock

Moon Mountain Telescope to View Crater

Apollo Test Capsule

Meteor Crater T-Shirt

Meteor Crater is the “World’s Best Preserved and First Proven” meteor crater on Earth.  It is nearly 1 mile across and 550 feet deep.  About 50,000 years ago an asteroid raced through the atmosphere at 26,000 miles per hour and slammed into the Earth with the force of 20 million tons of TNT.  The iron-nickel meteor is estimated to have weighed several hundred thousand tons and measured 150 feet in diameter.  Since no large core has ever been found at the base of the crater, scientists think the meteor was blasted to bits by the impact.  Since the landscape is so moon-like, NASA trained Apollo astronauts at the site in the 1960s and 1970s, and it continues to be a field trip for astronauts today.

If you would like to visit and see the crater from an overlook, it is an easy stop on your way off I-40 between Petrified Forest National Park and Winslow/Flagstaff, Arizona.  More info is at:  http://meteorcrater.com/

Florida: Spectacular Solar Probe Launch!

Launch of Parker Solar Probe (click to enlarge)

Image of Sun Taken with Solar Filter

We had a beautiful launch of NASA’s new Parker Solar Probe last night.  Only a few hardy souls managed to be up watching at 3:31 am for the second night in a row (first night was scrubbed).  Nevertheless it was spectacular!  The night was very humid with heavy water vapor in the air.  Can’t wait to see what discoveries will be made about the sun!  As a bonus, I saw a Perseid meteor streak by below the arc of the launch.  Wow!  Read about the solar probe at:  https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-ula-launch-parker-solar-probe-on-historic-journey-to-touch-sun

Arizona: Monument Valley

Spectacular Sunrise over the Left and Right Mitten Buttes

Classic Monument Valley View

Rider on Horse at John Ford’s Lookout Point

Director John Ford’s Movies Filmed Here

Three Sisters Spires

Big Hogan Rock Formation

The Thumb Stands Out

Tree Silhouette at Moccasin Arch

Antelope Petroglyphs

Milky Way and Meteor

Sunrise on Another Beautiful Day at Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a very scenic location in Utah.  It was a place we visited years ago on our first vacation together with our very first camera, and we’ve never forgotten it.  We returned to see it again last April and it was even better the second time around.  Many classic westerns were filmed in the area including John Wayne in The Searchers, plus also Stagecoach, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, The Wind Talkers, and Winged Migration among others.  We took a Navajo guided tour by Phillips Photography to see the park and also to photograph the Milky Way and sunrise.  Can’t wait to go back!

We filmed the short timelapse movie below at sunset from our room at “The View” Hotel.

Florida: Epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch!

Author Pam with Bill Nye “The Science Guy”

Apollo / Saturn V Center

Space Shuttle Runway

Commemorative Launch Brochure

3-2-1 Ignition Take-off

Falcon Heavy Launch into Space

Close-up of SpaceX Rocket

Twin Side Boosters Returning to Earth

SpaceX Tweeted Photo of Tesla Roadster in Space

On Tuesday I watched an epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  It was incredible!   I had purchased the “Feel the Heat” package to view liftoff from the closest public viewpoint at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at KSC (only 3.9 miles from launch pad 39A across the Banana River).  We could hear and feel the rumble of takeoff when the engines ignited and everyone wildly cheered!

While we waited in the viewing stands, we were entertained by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”.  Earlier we got the chance to walk on the shuttle runway.  The runway is so long (~3 miles) that you can’t see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  Locals call it a “gator tanning facility”, because alligators like to warm up in the sun on the concrete. 

This launch was the historic demonstration flight of the world’s most powerful rocket.  It launched from the same pad used by the Apollo moon missions.  Nestled inside the rocket was Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla roadster, including a dummy driver named Starman in a SpaceX astronaut suit.  Usually demonstration flights include demo payloads like a block of cement as weight, but Elon Musk wanted to make it more interesting.  And he certainly did, based on camera images beamed from the roadster!  My favorite one, which simply looks unreal, is a picture of the car after payload release showing Starman driving the bright red cherry roadster through space with Earth in the background.  Until the batteries give out, the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie will play on the car’s stereo.  A display panel in the Tesla says “Don’t Panic” – a reference to the sci-fi classic book “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  Ultimately the Tesla roadster will endlessly loop around the sun for billions of years in an orbit past Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, just as thrilling was to see the twin side boosters simultaneously descend to Earth and land on target at Cape Canaveral.  Their speed was so great they generated double sonic booms.  The third core stage was set to return to the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean offshore.  Unfortunately the core crashed into the water near the platform.  But that was a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless and amazing spectacle.  WOW!

The space center seems to be booming lately with private enterprise, and it is exciting to see new projects in the works.  Hopefully these launches capture people’s imaginations about future possibilities!  A great article about the launch is at: https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/02/07/spacex-debuts-worlds-most-powerful-rocket-sends-tesla-toward-the-asteroid-belt/

If you would like to visit Kennedy Space Center (highly recommended), learn more at:  https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for more detail.

Eclipse – Just WOW!!!

Solar Eclipse Collage

Eclipse Humor: Smiley Face

Eclipse 1: First Contact

Eclipse 2: Three Sunspots Visible

Eclipse 3

Eclipse 4

Eclipse 5

Eclipse 6

Totality 1

Totality 2: Solar Prominences

Totality 3

Totality 4

Totality 5: Regulus on Lower Left

Totality 6: Diamond Ring Effect

Totality 7: Venus on Upper Right

Totality 8: 360 degree Horizon Sunset Glow

Eclipse Ale

Jackson Hole Eclipse T-Shirt

Richard & Pam Winegar’s Eclipse Photography Gear

Eclipse Megamovie Postcard Recruiting Citizen Science Photographers

Eclipse Megamovie Photo Team Pin

There are no words to properly describe the eclipse – just WOW!!!  The collage shows the progression of the solar eclipse in Jackson, Wyoming, on August 21, 2017.  Individual pictures follow (click to enlarge for detail).  Early morning we walked five minutes from our Teton Village hotel to ride a gondola up Rendezvous Mountain.  We set up our camera equipment in a beautiful wildflower meadow overlooking Jackson Valley.  We heard a ram’s horn blown in the distance when the eclipse began.  First contact is seen in the collage photo on the upper left.  Three major sunspots were visible on the face of the sun.  An amazing amount of light still came from only the tiniest sliver of sun.  At totality at 11:34 am it was safe to remove protective glasses and filters and look directly at the sky.  The beauty and magnificence of the sight was jaw-dropping!  Everyone gasped and cheers went up!  Many of us, myself included, had an emotional response – it brought tears to my eyes. Photographs do not begin to capture what the eye can see – the corona’s streamers extend way out beyond the sun and across the sky.  It felt like Star Trek come to life.  At least three solar prominences were visible on the edge of the sun, and the diamond ring effect was stunning!  The sudden darkness of totality brought a chill to the air.  The star Regulus and the planet Venus became visible, and a sunset band of orange extended 360 degrees around the horizon.  After 2 minutes and 20 seconds the light burst forth again and the air warmed.  I will never forget that moment!  I think we have officially become eclipse chasers.   The next U.S. eclipse will be April 8, 2024 in a path crossing from Texas to Maine (https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/solar/2024-april-8).

UPDATE October 2017:  We have now received our pin for being members of the Megamovie Photo Team.  Thousands of photographers took pictures of the eclipse as it traveled across the United States.  Our uploaded photos were combined by computer into one Megamovie at: https://eclipsemega.movie/   All of the photos for this first-of-its-kind citizen science project will be archived for future research and analysis. 

Florida: Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Faint Ring Around Full Moon

Faint Ring Around Full Moon

Reddish Hue of Moon During Eclipse

Reddish Hue of Moon During Eclipse

Firefly Trail Over Camera Lens

Firefly Trail Over Camera Lens

We set up a time lapse camera to capture the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sunday night, September 27, 2015.  Although the weather started off iffy, in the end we did record the beautiful sight.  A list of worldwide eclipses over the next 10 years is at:  http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/list.html 

Individual pictures above are pulled from the video.  As you watch the video, you’ll first see a faint ring around the moon.  Then the moon disappears completely as it is darkened by the eclipse and is covered with clouds, before reemerging as a red dot during totality of the eclipse.  Next the moon brightens as it becomes full again while tracking right (west) across the sky.  Sporadically you’ll see bugs flying over the camera lens, including a firefly that flew close above it.  The clouds switch directions over time, and at the end you’ll see bright planet Venus rising on the left side (east) before sunrise fills the sky.

Florida: Spectacular Dawn Rocket Launch Today!

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

We had an absolutely spectacular Atlas 5 rocket launch this morning of a Navy MUOS communications satellite into orbit.  The 20-story tall rocket lifted off at 6:18 am.  The dawn sky brightened as the rocket took off and rose up.  Then we saw something we had never seen before – the white rocket plume brightened into an enormous tadpole-like cloud of mist as the rocket arced east across the Atlantic.  The phenomenon was caused by the perfect combination of sun angle below the horizon and high humidity.  The white cloud of water vapor (not smoke) was formed when the rocket’s hot exhaust gases hit the air.  It was an amazing sight, and one of the top two launches we have ever seen!

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