Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 15 - Cloudcroft NM area

That's me standing next to the rolloff housing for the Apache Point 2.5 meter Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope.

Aiden stands next to a National Solar Observatory (NSO) display of the sun. There are some earths next to the sun. The idea is to guess which earth is proper scale next to the sun.

First observatory dome on the NSO grounds. It was made from a grain bin.

Hiking the NSO grounds.

We saw a timber wolf and some deer. I was too slow on the camera and the car brakes to get a pic of the wolf.

This houses a 3.5 meter telescope on Apache Point.

The view from up here is incredible.

Conner enjoyed the infrared interactive display at the NSO museum.

This is a coronagraph at the NSO. By blocking out the solar disc, images of the edge prominences can be obtained in great detail.

Housing for the big solar telescope.

This large solar telescope goes deep into the ground. They use this for a number of activities, including granular detail of the solar surface.

Next to the big solar telescope is light path instrumentation.

No solar observing today.

NSO has a nice visitor center.

I like the street names.

This site was incredible. We saw about half of the main petroglyphs along the trail. A storm caused us to head for safety.

Heading back because of lightning.

Cynde and the kids enjoying the fire in the cabin. We're at 9000 ft and it is cold up here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 14 - no internet in the woods

We are in a cabin in Cloudcroft, NM. Am posting from my phone. Sign on kitchen wall says "do not let children play outside unattended due to bears.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 13 - Tucson, AZ - PIMA and Kitt Peak

View from Kitt Peak

This is the 2.1 meter of many telescopes on the peak.

We spent a wondeful morning at PIMA Air Museum learning a lot of history and viewing an excellent military aircraft collection. We were occasionally treated to the a pair of A-10 War Hogs and British Tornado fighters doing maneuvers overhead. At 7000 ft elevation, Kitt Peak was about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. Since the grounds closed at 4:00pm, we didn't get to see as much as we had hoped, but what we did see was educational and the landscape views were fantastic.

Glad the weather cooperated for the views. Too bad the clouds kept the domes shut that night.

Family outside the dome housing the 2.1 meter telescope.

Conner, the presidential history buff, stands near the presidential seal on the plane utilized by Kennedy and Johnson.

Conner stands near a historically significant plane. This plane transported home, upon their release, the Americans held hostage in Iran.

Aiden is like his big brother, Conner, in that he wants to be a pilot.

My little astronaut.

The PIMA museum has a large amount of historical displays, including this one devoted to Gen. Doolittle of Pearl Harbor fame.

The family stands next to a B25. Doolittle architected the Pearl Harbor reactionary plan to get B25 bombers to launch from an aircraft carrier for a bombing run on Japan.

Conner being Conner.

Flag from D-Day. Sign says it was the first flag on Utah Beach on D-Day.

Conner wasn't thrilled about the hike to the 2.1 meter telescope after reading this sign.

The Embassy Suites hotel provides a scenic view of the mountains. We really liked staying here while in Tucson.

Kitt Peak

Conner really wants to be a pilot. He brought up the fact that flying lessons can start in the teenage years.

Aliens were recently discovered on the moon.

Kitt Peak

MiG 29: what an awesome aircraft. Very fast, can hit some seriously high altitude, and very agile. Bet Russia would like to get this one back.

A slice of the moon brought back by lunar astronauts. Sure would like to add that to my meteorite collection. The guy watching over this said it is worth about $10 million, mostly because of shipping & handling.

British Tornado jet coming in for a landing. Tour guide explained that the Brits like to practice maneuvers in Tucson and come out every year.

This solar scope extends deep into the ground to create a 500 ft light path for the solar light.

The Vomit Comet: NASA's weightlessness plane for training astronauts. It would fly in a roller coaster pattern to create the weightless feel.

We love Swensons sticky chewy chocolate. This is one of the things we miss about our hometown of Springfield, MO. Wish we had these in the Dallas area.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nikon guy goes Canon for vacation

(My Vac Day 12 blog post is below this one.) I love my Nikon lenses. I've been a Nikon guy for 22 years. So what was I thinking when I bought a Canon XSi 450D last year? I bought it for astrophotography. When we were preparing for this 2 week vacation, I originally planned to take my Nikon D90 and an array of lenses. When I envisioned myself lugging around the D90 and 3 or 4 lenses at the various theme parks, I cringed. Decided to take the XSi instead since the body is smaller and lighter, and I only own 2 lenses for it. What could go wrong?

The XSi has done fine...until today. The main dial stopped working. It temporarily stopped working a few days ago, but later it worked. Today, however, it died. Rotating the dial does nothing to change the aperture and/or shutter speed. Back when I realized I was going to take the XSi on this trip, I ordered the battery grip. Thank goodness I did. The grip comes with a dial for vertical use, so I can use that to change the settings.

The lens in the picture above is the wonderful Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 super wide-angle lens. The lens hood you see pictured didn't come with it. That's a replacement. You see...the one time I let someone else (Cynde) carry the camera, the Tokina lens hood vanished...somewhere between the 10th and 1st floors of the Disneyland Hotel on the day of our checkout. I've hauled that camera all over Arizona and southern California and not once did I knock the hood off. Cynde has the camera for 5 minutes and *poof* the lens hood vanishes. You'd think we could just retrace her steps and find it, right? We tried, and no luck. So when I visited OPT, I was glad they had this hood. Problem is this hood threads on, which means I can't use the UV filter in conjunction with it unless I want severe vignetting. The other lens I have is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. It includes a nice 1:2 macro feature at 75mm f.l.

Day 12 - Border Patrol Day

Border Patrol checkpoint. The dog didn't detect anything, so they waved us through.
It was a long drive from San Diego to Tucson. Interstate 8 dips down to the U.S./Mexican border several times. The Border Patrol presence was thick. We saw several roadside busts going down, including a van full of people. The border wall/fence was interesting to see. Much of the drive is very scenic with the multiple mountain regions on both sides of the road. At one point, we dropped in elevation from 4100 ft to 2000 ft within about 5 miles. The temperature increased 7 degrees in that short duration. Tomorrow we will try to hit Kitt Peak visitor's center and Pima Air Museum all in one day.

The fence/wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Border Patrol chopper patrolling the border.

Closer view of the wall with the American and California flags. Cynde was too scared to let me drive across the bridge. There were two Border Patrol trucks parked in position to monitor the bridge.

The West Inn is the hotel we stayed in for 5 nights in Carlsbad just north of San Diego. We picked this hotel because of the close proximity to Legoland and the beach. The hotel was wonderful. All of the staff were very friendly. The hotel is privately owned and they thought of everything. Every night the hotel provided fresh baked cookies and milk. Our evening schedules centered around this snack event. The morning breakfast buffet was well done (much better than most hotels), and the large lodge area allowed for plenty of room to relax.