A Photo Review of 2015

Old boots and an older sewing machine in a cobbler’s shop

A review of my favorite photographs of 2015. So many wonderful images, so many memories! It was a very good year for photography with a number of excellent photo opportunities. Opportunities I did not waste. of course living in Hawaiʻi and working atop Mauna Kea often provide a photo or two. Add a trip to Nicaragua allowed a whole new range of photos.

In past eras it was popular to keep a detailed diary of one’s life. While real diaries are rarely kept anymore, blogs and photographs serve much the same purpose. As I have often stated, Darker View is a blog in the original sense, a personal diary of my life. To look back through these photos I relive much of the past year, the good parts anyway.

Click through for the full gallery and click on any photo for a slideshow.

Continue reading “A Photo Review of 2015”

The 2014 DarkerView Review

In reading my friend Dean Ketelsen’s blog he reminded me that I have not yet assembled my usual year in review blog entry. Darker View is a blog, a web log of my life as blogs were originally invented.

As it is customary to use the new year’s holiday as a reason look back on the previous year I shall do just that. A chance to recall what adventures life has brought us, to remember the little victories, and hopefully not too many failures.

There were 434 blog entries for 2014 detailing a busy year. At least a few folks actually come by to read all of those posts, DarkerView had 69,694 view from 31,607 unique visitors. Looking through the top read posts of 2013 reveals some interesting points…

  1. Astrophotography with the EOS-M
  2. The iOptron ZEQ25
  3. Repairing a Wii Balance Board
  4. A Backyard Telescope Pier
  5. Autoguiding the iOptron ZEQ25 with an SBIG STi
  6. Starscape Photography
  7. Degrees, Arc-Minutes and Arc-Seconds
  8. SBIG ST-i Autoguider
  9. Mauna Kea Claims Another…
  10. Deep Violet, an 18″ f/4.5 Dobsonian
  11. Total Lunar Eclipse 14 April 2014
  12. Rebuilding a 12.5″ f/5 Truss Tube Dobsonian
  13. USB to ST-4 Autoguiding Adapter
  14. Canon EOS-M
  15. Rewiring a Celestron NexStar Telescope
  16. The Hotech CT Laser Collimator
  17. A Red LED Desk Lamp
  18. Shoveling Snow in a Tropical Paradise
  19. Visiting the Summit of Mauna Kea
  20. Elongations, Conjunctions and Oppositions
  21. A Second Try for the EOS-M
  22. Getting Focus Right

It is a surprise just how many of these articles were written before 2014, at least two of these articles are from the old Whitethorn House website, well over a decade old! The telescope making posts make up most of these older, well read articles. It is clear that folks are using DarkerView for reference, finding these old articles in the search engines. Hopefully they are still useful.

Removing the pre-2014 posts from the list dramatically shortens it…

  1. Starscape Photography
  2. Total Lunar Eclipse 14 April 2014
  3. The Hotech CT Laser Collimator
  4. Shoveling Snow in a Tropical Paradise
  5. Visiting the Summit of Mauna Kea
  6. Getting Focus Right

I am not sure that this is good. Is my writing falling off? Or does my older work just have staying power that it continues to serve a use for readers. This will be interesting to watch as I start another year of blogging. DarkerView is here to stay.

Another Milestone

You do not see milestones on modern highways. In the US they have been replaced by green, metal markers that number the miles you have traveled. Of course modern vehicles have odometers counting away those miles, distance and years put behind us in the many little journeys of life. Back and forth to work, around the island, daily routine and explorations. In a good life those miles represent both the mundane and little adventures.

I put well over 200,000 miles on my last vehicle. The new vehicle? Purchased with 78,000 miles already on the odometer, thus I can only claim the last 22,000 as mine alone. But this was a Keck fleet vehicle, I put a smattering of the previous 78,000 miles on this truck, either driving or riding up and down the mountain.

Odometer at 100,000
The odometer of the 2006 Ford Explorer at 100,000 miles

Back Home

It is pretty. It is a view I have spent all too much time staring at lately. Four times from the islands to the mainland in a bit over a month. Four times I have run the route from Kona, to Seattle, to Portland. Six times I have bounced through SeaTac airport when I add the run from Portland to Juneau and back.

I am back home for a while. Still dealing with the slightly disconnected feeling I often get after a long vacation. Living in a totally different world for a few weeks changes the definition of normal. It is back to work tomorrow and a resumption of the normal routine of life.

Pacific Wing
Looking out from the window of Alaska flight 843 from Seattle to Kona, 8Sep2013

NASA and Caltech Astronomers Find Potential Energy Supply For Life on Europa

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

Observations of Europa from the W. M. Keck Observatory help NASA and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomers go one step further in demonstrating life may be possible in the ocean of one of Jupiter’s moons. In addition to the known existence of water, a paper published today shows hydrogen peroxide is abundant across much of the surface of the smallest of the Galilean Moons. The paper argues that if the peroxide on the surface of Europa mixes into the ocean below, it could be an important energy supply for simple forms of life. The paper was published online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

(On March 14, a separate paper was published by the same team in Astronomical Journal, demonstrating the salty ocean of Europa makes its way through the frozen surface, introducing the possibility the ocean is habitable. Click here for that news release.)

“Life as we know it needs liquid water, elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, and it needs some form of chemical or light energy to get the business of life done,” said Kevin Hand, the paper’s lead author, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement. The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life.”

This color composite view combines violet, green, and infrared images of Jupiter’s intriguing moon, Europa, image credit NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The scientists think hydrogen peroxide is an important factor for the habitability of the global liquid water ocean under Europa’s icy crust because hydrogen peroxide decays to oxygen when mixed into liquid water. “At Europa, abundant compounds like peroxide could help to satisfy the chemical energy requirement needed for life within the ocean, if the peroxide is mixed into the ocean,” said Hand.

Co-author Mike Brown of Caltech in Pasadena, analyzed data collected from the Near-Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (NIRSPEC) and OH Suppressing Infra-Red Imaging Spectrograph (OSIRIS) instruments on the mighty Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, over four nights in September 2011. The highest concentration of peroxide found was on the side of Europa that always leads in its orbit around Jupiter, with a peroxide abundance of 0.12 percent relative to water. (This is roughly 20 times more diluted than the hydrogen peroxide mixture available at drug stores.) The concentration of peroxide in Europa’s ice then drops off to nearly zero on the hemisphere of Europa that faces backward in its orbit.

Hydrogen peroxide was first detected on Europa by NASA’s Galileo mission, which explored the Jupiter system from 1995 to 2003, but Galileo observations were of a limited region. The data from Keck Observatory shows that peroxide is widespread across much of the surface of Europa, and the highest concentrations are reached in regions where Europa’s ice is nearly pure water with very little sulfur contamination. The peroxide is created by the intense radiation processing of Europa’s surface ice that comes from the moon’s location within Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.

“The Galileo measurements gave us tantalizing hints of what might be happening all over the surface of Europa, and we’ve now been able to quantify that with our Keck telescope observations,” Brown said. “What we still don’t know is how the surface and the ocean mix, which would provide a mechanism for any life to use the peroxide.”

Laundry and Cat

Basic household tasks require some re-engineering when performed in the presence of a feline. Making the bed, vacuuming, loading the dishwasher, all tasks must take into account the needs of the cat. This includes doing laundry. While the task seems straightforward, it is usually more complicated than a simple evaluation would suggest. For example, with a feline present the actual procedure for changing loads in the clothes dryer runs something like this…

Ras in the Dryer
Rasalhague inspecting the laundry
  1. Check that load is dry
  2. Remove cat from dryer
  3. Remove dry laundry from dryer
  4. Remove cat from dryer
  5. Load wet laundry into the dryer
  6. Remove cat from dryer
  7. Clean lint filter
  8. Remove cat from dryer
  9. Visually insure cat is not in dryer
  10. Close and start clothes dryer
  11. Where is the other cat?

I sometimes chose to skip step #4.

In the photo you might note the large bell on Ras’ collar, this has repeatedly been a useful item, saving both us and Ras from much trouble. It has also taken a couple experiments to locate a suitably Ras resistant bell that he is unable to quickly destroy.

Considering Another World

This small boat is no cruise ship, there is no insulation from the world we travel. We shop for supplies in the same stores as local folks, use the same harbors, tie up for the night next to the working boats. We are provided a view into a different world and the lives of people who live there.

Tenakee Harbor
Fishing boats on the wharf at Tenakee Harbor
My father worked the salmon boats when he was a teenager, then left to find a another path. I may have had some odd jobs in my teen years, but never anything quite like that. I wonder what it is really like to live there, in a world that is more than a few steps removed from our tamed and civilized towns and cities found in most of the country. A place where most folks still wrest a living from what the natural world provides. A place where the vagaries of nature have such an immediate impact on everyday life.

I chat with a lady working on a gill net strung along the dock, performing the age old fisherman’s ritual of mending the net and lines. I see another life, of fish and water, where regulations and luck determine the results of the fishing season, whether the bills get paid and if the boat gets fixed.

I meet folks who have lived in remote communities much of their lives, places where they would like to spend the remainder of their days if economics and luck permits. A struggle made more precarious when a cannery closes, or a soft economy allows fewer sportsman to come fish local waters and spend money earned in the cities far to the south.

I see a fishing community remaking itself to provide a place interesting enough that the cruise ships will stop for a day. Floating cities with thousands of people and thousands of wallets full of dollars that can provide a better life for local residents. That money could create a future here for children that may not have to leave and seek a living elsewhere. There is a once closed cannery complex remodeled into a large visitor center, dozens of boats in the harbor for charter fisherman, whale watching excursions and eco-tours.

I spend a moment talking with a young woman, who has bet on the local economy and started a small cafe. Behind me are tables full of cruise ship passengers, watching eagles and ravens squabble overhead as they munch on salmon tacos. The character of the town has changed, will continue to change. I see that there will be both good and unfortunate aspects of what is happening. I wonder what I will find when or if I visit again in a few years.

Traveling the world with open eyes gives one a perspective into other lives. So often when I meet someone who displays intolerance or even bigotry towards other nationalities, I find they have never traveled or seen much of the world. Experiencing the world is an important part of any life. To travel, to see, to consider what it means to live somewhere else.