Objects in the Night Sky 2017 — II

The past few weeks have offered a few interesting objects in the night sky + one daytime event.

Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák has been an easily photographed comet—albeit not a very bright one—in the northern sky. The first image below was taken during the interval 2103–2153 MST 15 April 2017 and is comet-centric which shows its motion amongst the stars over that period. The second image was captured during the interval 2117–2221 MST 16 April 2017.

Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák.
Comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák.

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CB Mammatus and Snow

Last week we had a cold front race across the state that was generating showers and a few thunderstorms along the leading edge of the frontal boundary. As this front passed through Flagstaff we had some thunder and lightning while it was snowing. Thundersnow is not uncommon around here and we typically see a couple occurrences each year.

KFSX radar image.
KFSX radar image.

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Objects in the Night Sky—2017

The past week has been bountiful for photographing objects in the night sky. These objects include Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Moon, and the Zodiacal Light.

In mid-March the planet Venus was an evening object but was dropping closer to the horizon each evening. At the same time, Mercury was rising higher each day. On 18 March 2017, they were roughly side by side and presented an interesting spectacle in the evening twilight.

Venus and Mercury in the evening twilight above the Kachina Wetlands. Venus can be seen just to the right of center of the image; Mercury is left of center.
Venus and Mercury in the evening twilight above the Kachina Wetlands. Venus can be seen just to the right of center of the image; Mercury is left of center.

The following night I returned to Kachina Wetlands but later in the evening to capture the Zodiacal Light. The Zodiacal Light is a faint, roughly triangular, diffuse white glow seen in the night sky that appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic or zodiac.

Zodiacal Light (28mm focal length).
Zodiacal Light (28mm focal length).

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A Return to Death Valley National Park

My first visit to Death Valley National Park was in January 2014. At that time, I noted that “…I would like to return—soon—and visit many of the other wonderful locations in Death Valley National Park…” Well, it turned out “soon” was more than three years later but we finally made a return visit.

With the significant amount of rain that has occurred across the American Southwest this winter I was hopeful that there would be another wildflower “super bloom” comparable to that which occurred in 2016. But either we were too early or it just doesn’t happen two years in a row. So we were disappointed with the scarcity of wildflowers.

Dante's View of Panamint Range and Badwater Basin.
Dante’s View of Panamint Range and Badwater Basin.

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Powder skiing in the Kachina Peaks—Part II

The last major snow event around here was a multi-day storm from January 19–25 that put down about 36″ of snow in town. The Kachina Peaks received anywhere from 5 to 7 FEET of snow. Since then, the weather has been pretty quiet with no storms. The snow in town had melted away and the snowpack in the mountains had melted/sublimated substantially.

Finally, however, another snow storm moved across the area earlier this week bringing about 16″ in two days to Flagstaff and about 18–24″ across the peaks. Time to hit the slopes.

New snow on a toppled aspen tree.
New snow on a toppled aspen tree.

Our original destination was the area known as Allison Clay but that idea was abandoned because of the amount of trail breaking required to get there. Instead, we went for the nearer destination known as Flying Dutchman. A few skiers had already broken a trail to the top of the area so we had an easy climb. Thanks, guys!

Here are a few images from the downhill runs.

At the top of Flying Dutchman.
At the top of Flying Dutchman.
Lower glades before hitting the Humphreys Trail.
Lower glades before hitting the Humphreys Trail.

Will this be the last chance for good skiing? Or will we see another big event in March?