Lightning at Sunset

It’s been a challenging season for storm photography. First was a late start to the North American Monsoon. And, then, just as it was finally ramping up it shut down quickly. Current model forecasts suggest at least another week until it ramps up again.

This storm eventually produced lightning after sunset.
This storm eventually produced lightning after sunset.
Sunset and lightning north of Sedona.
Sunset and lightning north of Sedona.
Evening twilight colors and lightning.
Evening twilight colors and lightning.

A bit of moisture managed to produce some thunderstorms right around sunset. And there was enough lightning to make it worthwhile to be there and get some photographs.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—IV

The comet continues to rise higher in the northwestern sky after sunset. It is now in a position so that I can get reflections of the comet in water at the same time that the comet is above the San Francisco Peaks. So I worked out the geometry and set up on Ashurst Lake, southeast of Flagstaff.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) over Ashurst Lake.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) over Ashurst Lake.

It didn’t work out for a couple of reasons. There was too much wind and the surface of the water remained ruffled rather than smooth. And then, as the comet was sinking lower in the sky and the winds began to diminsh clouds developed.

So, I’ll have to try this one again when I get better conditions.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—II

The comet is now visible in the evening sky but also remains visible in the morning sky. Evening twilight is bright enough to make it difficult to see the comet without binoculars or long exposures on a camera. That will change quickly as the comet moves higher in the northwestern sky in the coming days and weeks.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is visible in the evening twilight over Flagstaff, Arizona.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is visible in the evening twilight over Flagstaff, Arizona.

Above is an image of the comet in the evening sky. Layers of clouds and moisture threatened to interfere but actually made the photograph more interesting with saturated twilight colors.

This image is a stack of ten images each 4 secs exposure at ISO 1600, ƒ/1.8, and 85mm focal length. The individual images were stacked using Starry Landscape Stacker. 

 

Some Interesting Wave Clouds

For a few hours this morning (02 July 2020) the clouds were amazing. Laminar, wave-like clouds were visible across a portion of the sky and moving quickly to the north. Farther south, the sky remained clear. These clouds were apparently forming in a region of orographic uplift generated by the Mogollon Rim.

Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.
Wave clouds over Flagstaff.

But these clouds weren’t actually a surprise. Yesterdays models were forecasting a thin layer of moisture around 700 mb with much drier conditions both above and below that level.

Observed sounding from KFGZ at 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
Observed sounding from KFGZ at 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
24-hour forecast sounding for KFLG for 1200 UTC 02 July 2020
24-hour forecast sounding for KFLG for 1200 UTC 02 July 2020

The GFS did a good job of forecasting both the thin layer of moisture and the stronger winds embedded in that layer. But where did those stronger winds and moisture originate?

HYSPLIT backward trajectories.
HYSPLIT backward trajectories.

A look back using backward trajectories from the HYSPLIT model reveals some interesting origins. Higher-level air parcels originated over the northeast Pacific while low-level parcels originated over the eastern Pacific. The water vapor satellite images shows both of these source regions to be very dry.

Water vapor satellite image from 1200 UTC 29 June 2020.
Water vapor satellite image from 1200 UTC 29 June 2020.

The moist layer had its origins along the Mexico coast. The water vapor image shows substantial moisture associated with Tropical Depression FOUR-E.

Tropical depression FOUR-E.
Tropical depression FOUR-E.

So the shallow mid-level moist layer had its origins in the remnants of a tropical disturbance. Very interesting!

North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula

The North America Nebula is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus. It resembles the North America continent with both a Florida-like peninsula and a Gulf of Mexico. It’s a fairly bright object with a magnitude of +4.0 making it an easy object to photograph with a telephoto lens. This image was captured with a Nikon 180mm AIS ƒ/2.8 telephoto.

Adjacent to the North America Nebula is the Pelican Nebula separated by a molecular cloud filled with dark dust.

North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
Annotated image of North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
Annotated image of North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula

Images were stacked using Starry Sky Stacker. The stack was histogram stretched using rnc_color_stretch. The final bit of work was done using the Astronomy Tools actions for Photoshop.