Storm Chasing and Photography—Spring 2017

We spent about a week doing storm photography across the central and High Plains in mid May. Below are summaries with photographs.

May 15, 2017

A strong southwesterly flow aloft continues across the midsections of the country so that adequate wind shear is present across large areas. The best shear, however, is across the northern High Plains and upper midwest, with less shear across the central Plains. A dryline is present across western Kansas and southward with adequate moisture to the east and a plume of moisture has moved northwestward into western Nebraska, western South Dakota, and northeastern Wyoming.

After looking at too much model data, we decided to head to eastern Wyoming with hopes of storms developing over the Laramie Range and then moving to the northeast. Finding ourselves in Lusk, Wyoming, in mid afternoon, it became clear that the northern storms were too far away to reach. A storm we had passed earlier near Chugwater continued to develop so we backtracked south from Lusk to Lingle, then southeastward. We ended up in endless light rain and some small hail until we reached Mitchell, Nebraska. I took a few photos here of a weakly rotating updraft then headed east and north to watch the storm.

It wasn’t very impressive. We headed back to Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, for a hotel and dinner. As we left the hotel, new storms to the west were producing continuous in-cloud lightning and occasional cloud-to-ground lightning. We went north of town and spent about 15 minutes photographing the storm and lightning.

Two-image panorama of a weakly rotating storm updraft.
Two-image panorama of a weakly rotating storm updraft.
Laminar bands preceed the main storm while continuous in-cloud lightning lights up the storm.
Laminar bands preceed the main storm while continuous in-cloud lightning lights up the storm.

We left the storms and headed back into town for dinner. While eating, we got to enjoy the storm as it moved across town with heavy rain, small hail, and gusty winds.

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Moon Rise and Cathedral Rock

The June full moon is known as the “Strawberry Moon” and will occur on June 9, 2017 this year. I enjoy photographing the moon the day (or two) before the full moon. With the moon rising before sunset, Cathedral Rock is still sunlit and provides a striking contrast with the moon.

Moon rise behind Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona.
Moon rise behind Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona.

The photograph was taken at Crescent Moon Picnic Area on the banks of Oak Creek. The full moon this month is a MiniMoon, the opposite of the so-called SuperMoon. This means that the disk of the moon is smaller than average as the moon is at apogee, or its farthest distance from the Earth. If it had been at perigee (closest distance), the disk of the moon might have been larger than the gap.

Or I could have just shot the photograph from farther away.

Crescent Moon and Lake Mary

We’ve all heard of the “supermoon” in recent years. It usually refers to a full or new moon occurring at the same time as when the moon is closest to earth or at perigee. Yesterday’s cresent moon was at perigee so perhaps we can call it a supermoon cresent. Actually, it has an even more interesting name: proxigee moon. The proxigee moon is the year’s nearest perigee moon. Got all that? Here’s an interesting article that appeared at EarthSky.org describing supermoons, perigee moon, and proxigee moons.

And here is what it looked like in the western twilight sky.

Proxigee moon.
Proxigee moon.
Proxigee moon.
Proxigee moon.

Call it what you want but I call it beautiful.

Milky Way and a moonlit Cathedral Rock

The Milky Way rises above Cathedral Rock which is lit by the setting crescent moon.

Milky Way and Cathedral Rock.
Milky Way and Cathedral Rock.

This is similar to an image taken last year in the same location and about the same date. As with that image, this is also a composite of two images. The first was taken of Cathedral Rock as the moon was setting in the west. An exposure of 120 seconds at ISO 400 and an aperture of f/4 was used. The second image was taken a short time later after the moon had set allowing the fainter stars in the night sky to appear. This image was 5 minutes at ISO 400 and an aperture of f/4. To prevent streaking of the stars an iOptron Sky Tracker was used. The two images were then blended together.

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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