Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hunter's Moon - October 26-27, 2015

The nearly full moon just over the horizon, hiding behind cloud cover.
Tonight (October 26th) and tomorrow night (October 27th) we are on either side of the full moon, which actually becomes full while it is below the horizon on the morning of October 27th.  Despite the cloud cover this evening, I was able to get some wonderful images of the Moon.  Unfortunately, I missed it as it was coming up over the mountains;  the cloud cover was just too thick.

Tomorrow we will try again.  The October full moon, the Hunter's Moon, should present a spectacular show.  As it comes up low over the horizon, it should look lightly burnt orange due to the effect of the atmosphere on light waves. The atmosphere scatters blue waves so when we look through the densest part of the atmosphere to the full moon at the horizon, we will be seeing the red light waves reflected to a greater or lesser degree, hence the amber or orange color.  And since the Moon is still in perigee, it will be the last supermoon of the season.  That coupled with the phenomenon of "moon illusion" makes the moon look overly large as well.

The "halo" is created by the effect of moonshine on the high thin clouds that are floating in front of the moon.
The full moon, nearly directly overhead, at midnight.  It had just peaked out from behind some clouds.

The Hunter's Moon rises just after sunset in the east, so check the time of your local sunset and moonrise times so you don't miss the action.  Tonight the moon will rise about 45 minutes later and set tomorrow morning over an hour later than today.  Do drop by this post tomorrow for additional images of the moon as it rises this evening and sets in the morning.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Beautiful Roses... Patio Perfection

Potted annuals on the table on the patio.
Our patio garden is thriving.  We have pots and pots of annuals -- I just replanted the window boxes with chrysanthemums and pansies in and amongst the calibrachoa and coleus which continue to thrive.

Our Meyer lemon tree will have a generous crop of lemons for us in another month or two and around the bottom of the lemon tree, spearmint is growing enthusiastically and will be a welcome addition to tabbouleh salad over the winter.

The mauve blend floribunda Koko Loco.
We continue to harvest thyme and oregano but I've fought a losing battle with the slugs over the basil.  And our succulents are doing equally well.  In fact, they've grown so much, they need to be repotted again.

But the stars of the patio are, without a doubt, the roses.  Neptune and Strawberry Hill just finished a bloom cycle; Neptune has a single bud remaining after a beautiful display of deep mauve-purple  blossoms. But Koko Loco and Sugar Moon picked up where the others have left off.

Koko Loco is a mauve blend floribunda bred by Christian Bedard in 2010 and introduced in the US in 2012 by Weeks Roses. We bought it for our garden in Newburyport as soon as it was available and I had it growing with Hot Cocoa where the pair made a fabulous combination.

Bud, barely opened, of Koko Loco
Here in California, the roses are much more enthusiastic growers and bloomers than the same roses grown in New England, with its much shorter growing season and variable weather. 

Here, we can really appreciate the color changes in Koko Loco. Considered a "mauve blend", the buds have a dark peachy color, open up as a buff that is close to the color of creamy hot chocolate, and gradually evolve to a true mauve. Having all of the different colorations present in different blooms at the same time on the shrub is a treat! 

It's coloration reminds me a lot of Bella'roma, a hybrid tea bred by Dr. Keith Zary in 2003. It was one of the first roses we planted in our garden in Newburyport and was one of my long time favorites, not just for its color but for its wonderful fragrance. Bella'roma is a peach-yellow blend, but in our New England garden, the colors were more subtle and before it turned brighter yellow, it was the same buff colored tinged in peach that I love in the Koko Loco.

The hybrid tea, Sugar Moon, crisp white and wonderfully fragrant.
The white bloom, one of the purest white roses we have ever grown, is Sugar Moon, another wonderful hybrid tea hybridized by Christian Bedard (2012). I was attracted to Sugar Moon not only because of the large blossoms and bright white coloring but because of the fragrance - a perfect blend of citrus and rose.

Although not as prolific a bloomer as the floribunda Koko Loco, the blooms are amazing and the rose usually has at least one blossom open and perfuming the patio at any given time. It's a wonderful cut rose for the vase as well, and I frequently clip buds to finish opening indoors.

Koko Loco,showing hints of peach and mauve.
The opening blossom of Koko Loco shows more of its peachy tones.
Koco Loco, bloom gradually shifts from peach to mauve
Early bloom is more peach in color.
Side of our patio, the coleus have thrived!

Front of our patio, with newly replanted window boxes; the snapdragon we planted in spring is still blooming vigorously.  In the background, the Meyer lemon displays fruit from several bloom periods.
Some of the smallest baby lemons from the last bloom a few weeks ago.
One of the earliest lemons is started to ripen but it will be weeks yet before it's ready to be picked.
This morning I discovered new buds - meaning yet another crop of lemons.  With at least four different crops from four different blossoming times, we should have fresh lemons over the winter and into the spring.
These were from the second crop and won't ripen for at least a couple of months.
This bud of Neptune will be open in the next day or so.  While the buds are a deep rosy mauve, the mature blooms are a lavender mauve and the roses has the strong citrus notes in the fragrance that I've come to associate with lavender roses.

Sunrise, Sunset

Here in the Napa Valley, where we can go weeks or months without clouds or rain, thunderstorms are such a rare occurrence, they are a media event and sunrise and sunset are magical times of the day.  There is no question we had some exquisite sunsets on the East Coast, but they occurred far less frequently than we see them here, mostly due to the weather.  And unlike here, a colorful sunrise on the East Coast signified bad weather in the offing.  
That old sailor's ditty, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky at morning, sailors take warning." held true where we lived on the Northeast Coast of Massachusetts. Here, a gorgeous, brilliant colored sunrise usually gives way to bright blue skies with no stormy weather in sight, often to our dismay.

I love to watch the sun rise over the hills behind our house. On a clear sky morning, the colors are amazing and the presence of high thin clouds adds to the magic. 

Sunrise here is also later than on the East Coast, mostly, I think, due to the change in latitude. The closer you are to the Equator, the later the sun rises and the earlier it sets. 

Today, for example, the sun rose at 7:19 AM and will set here at 6:17 PM.  And the sky doesn't begin to brighten well before sunrise the way it does in New England. The sky is dark almost until the sun starts to edge over the horizon and likewise in the evening, when the sun goes down, we don't have the kind of "dusk" that we have in New England. This has taken some getting used to for me.

In contrast, in Boston today, the sun rose at 7:10 AM and will set at 5:46 PM, but both morning twilight and evening dusk are much longer in the northern, eastern city of Boston where the skies were beginning to lighten before 6:30 and will still be light enough for sailors to see the horizon at almost 7 PM.

This morning, the skies are overcast and we had dense fog, although there is no precipitation in the forecast. It was such a contrast to the glorious sunrise I photographed three days ago, which is our "norm". The sky was so grey and the fog was so thick, you couldn't see the hills behind the house.

Now that fall is here, we see more radiation fog,.  As the days shorten and the nights get longer, the air is much cooler for a greater part of the day/night cycle. The land and water surfaces are still warm, much warmer than the air, as they retain the heat from the summer and from the sun. The cool, night time air passing over the warm land and water (we border the Napa RIver delta where it empties into San Pablo Bay) results in fog.

The fog usually burns off by late morning and then the sky is brilliant blue and the temperature rises rapidly.  Currently, it's a cool and somewhat damp 55 degrees but by 3 PM the temperature will have climbed to at least 75 degrees, possibly a bit higher.
Brilliant colors across the eastern sky as the sun rises over the horizon.
Taken two days ago, there was fog hovering over the hills and clouds low in the sky.  When the sun came up over the fog line, it cast a glorious glow on the clouds and the hills.
Sunset, looking west over the Napa River delta at Waters Edge Drive, our favorite place to watch the sun set here in town.
As the sun sinks below the horizon, the colors of the sky become more vivid.
Above and Below:  Looking east during sunset, although the setting sun is not visible from our apartment, the brilliant red of the setting sun is reflected in the clouds all over the sky.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

For those of you who enjoy spotting planets in the sky, the next several days will provide a great opportunity to see Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter which will all dot the eastern sky before dawn for the next few days.

Venus, Mars, and Jupiter form a tight grouping in the sky known as a planetary trio. They won't be visible in such close proximity in the sky again until 2016.

The planets are best seen about an hour before sunrise... another "bennie", since you don't have to stay up late or get up in the middle of the night to see them.

Earthsky.org reports that Venus will be at it's highest point in the sky tomorrow morning, but the planets should all be visible through the morning of October 29th.

And don't let the presence of high thin clouds deter you. The stars might not be clearly visible but the brightly shining planets may still peak through breaks in the clouds.

Mercury will be rising just over the horizon. If you face tall trees or hills in the east, it might not be visible, but if you drive a short distance to an area where the horizon is low, you can probably spot this elusive planet.

Here are some links to more information about this. Photos are credited to Earthsky.org.

You can read articles about viewing these planets HERE and HERE.   
Photographer Ken Christison captured the image below of the planetary trio despite the presence of clouds in the sky. The photo gives you a good sense of the brightness and size of each planet, helpful for separating them out from everything else in the nighttime sky.

Note that the positions of the planets will change somewhat during the night and from night to night.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Orionid Meteor Shower - October 21-22

Early to bed, early to rise, there will be meteors again in the early morning skies!!

Tomorrow morning, and possibly to a somewhat greater extent, on Thursday morning as well, we'll be treated to another meteor show, this time courtesy of the debris from Comet Halley.
Photo Credit:  NASA Image of Halley's Comet from Earthsky.org
Halley's Comet might be the most famous of all comets but we usually only see it once or at most twice in our lifetime since it takes takes 76 years to complete it's orbit around the Sun. While it won't pass this way again until the year 2061, twice a year we are treated to a light show courtesy of debris from Halley's tail, first in May (the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower) and then again in October (the Orion Meteor Shower).

The Orionid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Orion where the bulk of the meteors seem to emanate. Orion is a particularly easy constellation to locate because it contains some of the brightest stars that we can see even in areas with a fair amount of light pollution.

To locate Orion in the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, look to the East - Southeast and locate Orion's belt, which is formed by three bright stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. These three very large and bright stars are aligned very close together, angling up. From there you can look higher and to the left in the sky for his shoulders which are formed by Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, and his head, marked by Meissa. Look down and to the right to find his knees, Saiph and Rigel, and if you look between his knees and his belt you'll find the spectacular Orion Nebulae. 

As your eyes acclimate to the night sky and travel from landmark to landmark in that famous constellation, you should start to see shooting stars emanating from the radiant, which is at positioned just about at the club he holds in his outstretched right arm. (Remember, his right arm is on the left as you look at him... .) It's almost as though he is throwing pixie dust -- okay, star dust - at us.

Photo Credit:  SouledOut.org ~ Navigating with Orion
Note: This early in the fall, Orion is mostly below the horizon in the evening sky. It does not rise high enough above the horizon to be fully visible until midnight or so, and when he first clears the horizon he will look as though he is lying somewhat horizontally. tilted toward his back (to the left). As he rises in the sky and travels along the equator of the sky, he will straighten up. But locating the famous belt first helps to identify the other major stars in the constellation.

If you are too tired to stay up past midnight, try catching a glimpse of some shooting stars in the early morning before dawn.  Here in California it's completely dark until nearly 7 AM when the sky is just starting to lighten for a 7:20 AM sunrise. 
Try looking out at 5:30 - 6 AM. You should still be able to see it, but follow the path of Orion across the sky's equator as it rises. It will move across the sky during the night as the Earth rotates, so look to the south west.

One other famous star that is also visible once Orion is well above the horizon and completely visible in the night sky is Sirius, the brightest star we can see. Follow the angle of Orion's belt downward and Sirius will be in an almost straight line below Alnitak.

Photo Credit:  SouledOut.org ~ Navigating with Orion
Click on THIS LINK for a map that will show the location of Orion from anywhere int he world.  

EarthSky.org has excellent information about the Orionids HERE and HERE.   

Check for moon rise and set times HERE.
And for those who want to locate the constellations that are in the evening sky, THIS is one of the best on-line star charts I've seen.  Note, however, that Orion is sitting just at the horizon and pretty much out of view during much of the evening. 

Comparing the photo (left) and the diagram below, note the change in the angle of the belt stars, which you might confuse with the nebulae that makes up the dagger.  I always orient the belt first and then it's easy to identify the other prominent stars of the constellation.
Photo Credit:  SouledOut.org ~ Navigating with Orion

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Five Planets Visible in the Sky

Illustration Credit:  Earthsky.com
Tonight and tomorrow, the evening sky presents an excellent opportunity to see Saturn. Tonight, you can look for it low in the southwest sky, just to the left of the moon. You should be able to see it without any optics, but a good pair of binoculars or even a modest telescope will provide a feast for the eyes as you should be able to see Saturn's rings!

The Earthsky.org article linked HERE gives instructions for locating Mercury, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter as well. Since the moon is a very small waxing crescent, visibility will be best tonight, good the next two nights as the crescent gets larger and brightens the adjacent sky.

Illustration Credit:  Earthsky.com
Planets like Saturn shine steadily;  they don't twinkle the way stars do.  The other bright object that you are likely to encounter in this area of the sky is a reddish star, Anatares, the heart of Scorpius.

Antares should definitely appear reddish in your telescope and it twinkles enthusiastically.  It will be to the left of Saturn, with Saturn almost at the mid-point between Antares and the Moon.  If you don't get to view the night sky before the weekend, on Saturday you'll find Antares directly below the moon and Saturn way to the right, forming a triangle.

Four other planets brighten the pre-dawn sky.  The Earthsky.com article gives excellent tips for locating Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus HERE.  Mars and Jupiter will be next door sky-neighbors this weekend.  They will be the closest they'll be for our viewing for the next three years on Sunday just before dawn.

Jupiter will appear to continue to slide under Mars in the night sky over the weekend.  It will be worth getting up early to see...  they won't be this close again until 2018.
Credit: Earthsky.org    Mars and Jupiter as they will appear early Sunday morning