A Darker View


Impressive dry set stonework in the massive sanctuary wall at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau

Submillimeter Array

Two of the eight antennas of three Submillimeter Array

Today Jupiter passes through superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun as seen from our vantage point here on Earth. The planet is currently lost in the Sun’s glare and unobservable, it will reappear in the dawn sky during the first week of August.

Tomorrow morning, July 25th, will see a pretty display of planets low in the dawn. A thin crescent Moon, only 2% illuminated, will join both Mercury and Venus just before sunrise. The trio will be quite low, the Moon rising last, at 04:59, just one hour before the Sun. Mercury will be 5.5° north of the Moon shining at -1 magnitude. Venus will be highest, 9° above, shining brightly at -3.9 magnitude.

Despite the glow of dawn these three will be bright enough to be seen quite clearly against the glow, it should be a spectacular dawn.

Tomorrow morning, July 24th, will see a brilliant Venus paired with a crescent Moon. Look for the pair to rise about 04:06HST to be 23° above the horizon at sunrise. A 5% illuminated Moon will be a nice match for Venus shining brilliantly at -3.9 magnitude. Separation will be just over 4.5&deg.

Mercury has not quite slipped away and will still be visible 8° below Venus, rising about 4:44HST at 15° ahead of the Sun.

Up the Beach

A Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) pulled out on the beach to rest at ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay

Ten days on the boat out of Juneau, our annual family trip fishing in Alaska is complete. This summer it was an all family affair… My mother and father, my brother and his wife, and their grandson Andre. Add Deb and myself for a total of seven aboard the Nordic Quest for ten days of fishing and exploring. The plan was to head south of Juneau, down Stephen’s Passage for the Frederick Sound area.

First stop was Taku Harbor for the night with the following day spent attempting to fish salmon in Stephen’s Passage. A pretty day, but no fish. The only luck we had was a single crab in one of the pots left overnight in Taku.

Dawes Glacier

The towering wall of ice that is Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm

On to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. The weather was not great for visiting the ice, but we did arrive at low tide, the best time to see calving. We were rewarded by the sight of several ice-falls as the water level fell and the face of the glacier crumbled.

An afternoon spend fishing Halibut was rewarding as well, plenty of fish landed along with one hundred pound specimen caught by Andre. A halibut that big can not be gaffed and simply lifted into the cooler. Instead I harpooned the fish off the swim deck. My first harpoon shot was a bit off, hitting low, a second was much better, right through the spine behind the gills. Good this too, the fish promptly broke the steel leader. Two harpoon lines attached insured this fish was headed for the freezer.

Continue reading Nordic Voyage…

Bloody Hermit Crab

Bloody hermit crab (Dardanus sanguinocarpus) in a cave at 20ft depth

Well? Mice actually… A lot of them.

Continued wet weather has kept the landscape green and allowed the weeds in my yard to multiply. It has also permitted a population explosion in the local mouse community here in Waikoloa. Now they are getting into the house.


A mouse, caught by the cats and photographed by the humans

Fortunately, we have cats.

Our cats had never caught a mouse before, we were not really sure that they would hunt mice. They are a terror for the geckoes and cockroaches. This worry was quickly laid to rest when the first mouse was killed. Multiple mice later and it becomes apparent that the hunting instinct is strong.

The garage had been forbidden territory, the cats kept out to keep them from getting into trouble. With the mice appearing that decision has been rescinded. The current morning routine is feed the cats, then open the garage door. Both felines immediately disappear into the garage. They may appear briefly to be fed, then it is back on post monitoring the rich hunting grounds of the garage.

The cats have shown their hunting prowess by putting the human to shame. My traps have only led to the capture of a single mouse. Currently the score is cats five, human one. I expect the score to rise far higher in the coming month.

Our well fed cats do not typically eat the mouse, but rather play with it until dead. Only one mouse has been recovered from the cats in good shape. Time to take another walk to the field above the house for release, after a few portraits.

We are not alone in our mouse issue, the entire village is being invaded. Elsewhere along the Kona coast it is much the same. I heard from my boss, who’s wife works at the macadamia nut processing facility in Kawaihae, that the mouse catch has risen from the usual handful, to over a hundred mice caught each day.

I had hoped the weather was drying out, that hope has been dashed by the breakup of a tropical storm and another rainy weekend. The mice will keep coming for a while. The humans may not appreciate this, the cats however…

Update: Human 3 Cats 5!

Testing TBAD

The Keck 2 telescope open to a daytime sky while testing TBAD