Tag Archives: space

A Tail of Two Cetaceans

Just when you thought the NOVA implosion was history, along comes a new one, this time exploding right from the start. It’s a real blast from the past – perhaps a millenium ago – whose light was discovered less than a week ago by an astronomer in Yamagata.

Nominally visible to the naked eye, Nova Delphini, in the minor constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin, is the first such unaidedly eyeable cosmic event in six years. If you look toward the Summer Triangle, find the apex, the bright star Altair. Continue past the apex, and the Dolphin is basically swimming a short distance beyond (“above” the isosceles triangle vis-a-vis its short base between Vega and Deneb).

I harbor no illusions that the flecks in this iPhone photo are much of anything but “noise,” but the four-star diamond shape in the cloudy area does have a resemblance to the Dolphin. The nova itself probably isn’t visible here.


I used a delayed shutter release, long-exposure app called SlowShutter, mounting the phone on a stable surface before the shutter opened, then deliberately covering the lens before “releasing (not plunging) the plunger” (picking the phone up to tap the shutter closed; the longest automatic alternative to the open-ended “bulb” setting is only 15 seconds). This exposure was 102 seconds at ISO 3200 (also set in the app), edited again afterward in the iPhoto app for exposure, resulting in the purple hue.

This was a couple nights back. Now that the moon is rising later, Nova Delphini might be visible until midnight or beyond. If you’re really interested, getting out into the country where there’s less ambient light would be worthwhile.

Are We Having Fun?

Jumping from one dolphin dispatch to another, the caption/comment on this Facebook post resonated with me, though some subsequent commenters jumped to the conclusion it was anti-science in tone. It wasn’t necessarily. And though there is potentially great value in analyzing phenomena like fun and play, I think there is something to the comment. I don’t know about the actual porpoise of the writer, but there are a least two kinds of people who might say what the writer did: those who are indeed making a facile anthropomorphic assumption, and those, in all likelihood a little more educated, who with affected humbler-than-thou self-effacement tend to assume only humans are capable of whimsy, or for that matter, evil. And let’s face it: Fun is generally not so fun when you stop to over-analyze it, though the devil of “over-” may be in the d(olphins’) tails. For now, I do think one thing we can rest assured humans fortunately maintain a sovereign, inalienable right to is the bad pun. No other species would touch that.

How Shy the Moon

Tonight there was supposed to be a “super-moon,” a full moon occurring at the same time the moon is closest to Earth, but the clouds that kept today from getting too hot are now hiding the newly risen moon away. If it pokes out later, I’ll try to snap it, though it’ll be higher in the sky with few reference points.

For now, enjoy these backups I took yesterday evening near Kitaogi, Tajimi, just in case.


The sun was setting behind this pampas grass-type plant, while at the same moment on the opposite horizon the nearly full moon was an hour into its skyride.


Below, the moonchase scene a half hour earlier from Takaramachi in Tajimi, when clouds first parted to reveal the man/rabbit in the moon.


East of the Sun and West of the Moon

They Might Be Giants

Having been laid up for a bit, I decided to take a walk during the mild afternoon today in Toki. With the sun at my back, I sauntered eastward, hoping to find a bit to blog about as well.


By the time I reached the midpoint of my loop and turned back in the direction I came, the clouds had covered the sun, which was a relief since it would’ve been blinding. I snapped the shutter on this VW Bug that, like another I saw last year, still has a rare old Gifu license plate with only one kanji.


The Bug was a giant compared to what was down the road a bit. This Daihatsu Midget has been here ever since I can remember. It has its own little parking space under a corrugated roof in front of the owner’s house. It’s always spotless. And I don’t think it’s ever driven. A little research revealed it’s likely a first-year (1957) model. Subsequent models had such modern luxuries as steering wheels, doors and four wheels. This is in fact the well-known tuk-tuk that’s chugged and beeped through the traffic throngs of Southeast Asia for over half a century. It’s actually classified as an autorickshaw.


After I got back home, the clouds had floated to the eastern sky, bringing a cool rain, and with the sun back out in the west, this double rainbow.


That might be a heavy-duty ham’s antenna. I guess it’s still a relatively common hobby among older men here. Me, I’m just an amateur ham…


This is the building that used to house Sabbat Sabbat Jazz Bar. I hadn’t realized until now that it closed last summer until further notice, apparently. Not being Spiderman, and having to carefully use my left arm as a rain roof for the arm/hand/thumb-capturing lens-at-the-edge wide-angle iPhone, this was the best angle I could get to match the building’s distinctive arced roofline with the rainbow.


None of these rainbow images are enhanced. Only cropped. If I could get idyllic scenes with rolling hills and stately oaks and little lambs to adorn the lightshow, or even graphic urban blight, trust me, I would. The horizon-al reality of where I live is wires, antennas, corrugated tin and cramped, often uninspired architecture, not new enough to be a statement, not old enough to be antique, not Dickensian enough to be a player in its own right. For every borderline workable angle like this pair of rooves, there are a thousand useless ones. I just make what I can of it.

And the Moon Jumped Over the Cow


Finally, a little while ago, this. Behind those dark clouds and the rainbow had been this mooing mingling of multicolored light. In the constellation of Taurus, the Moon is right in the head of the bull, with Jupiter right in the, uh, bull’s eye. And I think, by Jove, to the lower right of the moon faintly in this picture, the other eye, the red giant Aldebaran.

A Trip to the Moon

From one Cucina (kitchen) to another: Yesterday I had lunch at Cucina Italiana Io in Tajimi across from Komeda Coffee near the Autobacks intersection.

Like nearby Hoshizumi Pasta, the newer Io seems to be run by a young married couple, and has a few cozy tables and one large one, this one in a mostly separate room. Setting this casual Italian apart is an urban-cool sort of atmosphere with somewhat minimalist trendy design details and upbeat house music. It looks more wine-lover-friendly, too. Lunch runs from 11:30 to 3:00 (last order is 2:00), and dinner is 6:00 to 9:00. Closed Mondays and the second Sunday.

There were several choices for lunch, the three least expensive of which were ¥1500 (others were closer to ¥2000). Among the cheaper ones, I narrowed it down to two: An acorn squash and meat (don’t know what kind) cream penne dish; and a stewed tomato and pork back rib meat risotto parmesano.


The delectable appetizers, above, were quite different from anything I normally have – very good. There are three kinds of bread – including a surprising pizza-flavored one – that seem to be whole bagels cut into quarters. The price also includes dessert and a drink. I was happy with my choice of the risotto, below.


Write This Down

By sheer coincidence, I read an article that came out today (yesterday US time) about the origin of the exclamation point. It turns out it comes from the Latin word io, which was an interjective expression of joy. “Io” was written vertically, and the I above the O came to be one symbol.

Actually, the stewed tomato and pork, besides looking a little like the sun on the Japanese flag, could be mistaken for a student’s science project attempt to depict Jupiter’s moon Io, or even the Great Red Spot itself.

Being a mound on the plate (baseball oxymoron, come to think of it), it was somehow more appetizing (and less mouth-scalding) than the usual mystery-ingredient homogeneous risotto sunken into a casserole dish. It was a kind of stylish home-style dish. I don’t normally eat risotto much, so it was a pleasant detour off the main road.

And speaking of moons, I’m saddened at the weekend loss of a childhood hero, Neil Armstrong. His roll-up-the-sleeves, get-it-done, workaday humility amid greatness was a living example for all.

Chase the Clouds Away

As we awake to Typhoon Number Four’s swift passing, I invoke a nostalgic song title from, for me, something of a local hero, Chuck Mangione, as the lead-in for this dubious subject:


If you have occasion to try these low-end pepperoni-type chasers, let me know if you don’t think they taste like the makers had exceptionally good access to and/or an extraordinary affinity, as sausage-making goes, for… nutmeg.

As for what the title has to do with the price of pepperoni in Chubu, well, the hard salami sausage is, you know, a Chaser.

Local long-time loyal Toyotans will fondly recall the long-running car model of the same name that was phased out around the turn of the century. But you younger car fans, knot yourself up not: You can take solace in my recent solar Corona pics. Tajimi.mobi is an equal opportunity groaner donor. Indeed, our very icon is modelled on a hunched-over mikan orange unable to contain its nauseation at our ad nauseum acerbity. Note subtle shifting of responsibility from individual to organization with the royal “we.”

Speaking of our icon, you can put a shiny new one on your smartphone or tablet’s homescreen just by pressing (on iPhone) the middle icon along the bottom bar of Safari and selecting “Add to Home Screen.”


It’s not an app; Just a shortcut to open a new tab in your browser. It’ll look like this:


The object of the chase was the gin and tonic below, almost a gin rickey though not a lime rickey. The lime is much more appreciative than the mandarin of the sense of limerickiness to which I’m a-panderin’. Hey, that’s a lime….

Gin Grin


Sorry, folks. This wordplay on the brain is adversely affected by the Coriolis effect and its spinoffs. Like all good storms, hangovers and kidney stones, it will pass.

Normally we get crisp, clear skies in the wake of a typhoon, but the forecast this time is showing clouds and, tomorrow night, even rain. I guess that’s typhoon no. 5, now off China. Talk about a storm chaser…

I’m adding this late afternoon shot as an update. The sunny skies finally came after the tail end of the typhoon passed. Might be a good sunset in an hour.


UFO Chaser

I do have to say, at about 11:40 last night, shortly after the calm of the typhoon’s center had passed and the rain started up again, I stepped outside and saw quite a strange sight. Through the clouds, a light moved fast, like that of a meteor, but with a definite curved motion, basically headed from northeast to south-southwest. As a matter of opinion, I don’t think it was a bird or insect below cloud level. But could there be a meteor that a) shines through clouds, and b) has a markedly curved motion?? It was far too fast to be a plane, especially with no sound. I don’t think it was some kind of reflection or illusion from the ground. That was weird. Not making this up. Some strange electrical charge? But why the curved motion? It appeared to be an object as opposed to just light. The whole event lasted maybe seven seconds or so, happening roughly overhead, not near the horizon. Anybody hear of this kind of thing? And no, I assure you it wasn’t the gin.

Encounter of the Third Kind

We’ve seen skybound spectacles in spades this spring. Monday there was a partial lunar eclipse as the moon swung opposite the position it had during the annular solar eclipse just two weeks before (not such a coincidence when you think about it). Our little astronomy club got clouded out of the lunar one.


For the third act of astral alignment in the past month, Wednesday morning started out cloudy as well, but we got what we were waiting for. Above, Venus is silhoutted as a black dot against the white disk of the sun as seen through an exceedingly cheap telescope fitted with high-grade solar viewing material. The photos here of the fling are all in chronological order, though the telescope and camera were turned at various angles.

Condensed Drink


From cosmic to comic, circles within circles abounded high and low this day. During a break for lunch, I noticed this smiling face when picking up my glass of water. Someone who saw this when I posted it on FaceBook thought I manipulated the water, but I didn’t do a thing. Looks kinda like the Kool-Aid guy.


The show continued after lunch. It was interesting to be able to directly compare the sizes of the two bodies, even if the distances weren’t easily perceived. Normally Venus by the naked eye is only a source of light perhaps seen somewhat near the sun, or in a telescope seen as a round disc or crescent, but without the sun in view.


Occasional clouds gave me a chance to get this neat effect, as well as get a short respite from the sun’s heat. This day, as Venus reached the zenith of its solar transit, the, uh, mercury reached 32.5 degrees to grab Tajimi hottest city in the country honors yet again. I got kissed with a mild sun-Venusburn on my neck.


Rim Shot

The moment of the planet’s just reaching the edge of the sun was supposed to be especially good. Having missed the complementary entry point in the morning, I made sure to be there for the egress. Below, an odd surface-tension sort of effect, probably just a photographic anomoly, seems to bend the light as the elusive goddess kisses the firey edge like a lover’s lips subtly caressing a tender ear.


Like the solar eclipse last month, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, truly ichigo ichie. As Earth’s sister slowly drifted off the sun’s rim not to be seen again like this for a hundred years, I said a silent goodbye.


Stellar Lineup


Armed with modest telescopes, high-grade sunspot-viewing film that looked like silver leaf, cheap solar filters, and one decent camera, our budding stargazers’ club set out yesterday morning to view the solar eclipse.


Fittingly, the “Ring of Fire” eclipse was visible over a wide swath of the Pacific Rim ring of volcanic activity, bridging continents and straddling the international dateline to occur at once on both Sun-day in the western US, and Moon-day in East Asia.

Still Life With Self-Portrait, Landscape …and Oh, the Moon Jumping Over the Sun Jumping Over My Head

Looking toward the sun through the solar filter sheet, I captured my own reflection, with a flower between me and the sheet. I ended up with the crescent on my forehead. I’m told this moonhead thing is an auspicious occurrence in the Sailor Moon manga world.


Solar Flare

Next is looking toward the ground away from the sun. It’s a reflection in the solar filter sheet. The sun is to the upper right, and the crescent by the utility pole was actually gotten by lens flare. Whatever works. Getting the scoop on an iPhone was a bit of a challenge.


The sun’s rays cast double shadows during the peak. Wildlife seemed to get a little wilder, with a darting pheasant, cawing crows and a couple of barking dogs acting up as the temperature cooled down. It never did get all that dark.


Trademark Infringement

Below, you might barely be able to make out the sideways, out-of-focus Apple logo on the back of my iPhone reflected backwards in the scratchy solar filter, mimicking the bite taken out of the sun. At one point, the crescent was actually pretty moonlike.


Below, totality as seen through the film-protected telescope.


A River Runs Through It

From our vantage point in Onadacho near Asahigaoka, we happened to have a good view of the Amazon.com distribution center (below) now being built north of Tajimi Country Club. The mammoth facility will eventually employ a thousand locals, helping boost the local economy, as the very construction of it probably is right now. I wonder, though, if anyone’s considered how it might affect the already turgid traffic predicament we have here, what with delivery vehicles constantly moving in and out.


Spotted Speeding By

Speaking of traffic, here’s your out-of-state license plate of the weekend: Miyagi (no photo). The metallic silver compact passed a slow-moving scooterist on a solid orange centerline on a bridge, no less. A surprising eclipse in itself. Though as I recall, it was a Toyota, not a Mitsubishi. Thank you, dear driver, for supporting the local economy.

Other Worlds

Did you know there’s an astronomical observatory operated by the City of Tajimi? Located beyond the u-pick blueberry and strawberry fields reached from the exit between the Utsutsu tunnels west of Tajimi, the Chikyuu Mura observatory is open for guided stargazing by appointment on selected evenings throughout the warmer months. It costs just ¥200 per person. As I recall from an abandoned plan a few years ago, there’s also cabin camping rental available at this city-run retreat.

The skies cooperated last night as my group and one other were shown the heavens by two affable men eager to share their enthusiasm, and a few oyaji gags (two older guys alone on top of a hill have a lot of free time), with anyone willing to turn their ear to them and their head to the sky.

First, the impressive computer-controlled telescope, featuring top quality lenses, was pointed at Mars. Although the Earth’s atmosphere made the view less than crystal clear, I was struck, just by seeing it “live” and directly rather than in an image, at the “worldliness,” if you will, of this other actual planet of sand whose surface we will likely walk on one day. This whole other unoccupied, un-human-historied world not so far away, seemed somehow real and accessible for the first time. More of a personal awareness/perception of presence thing than a magnification.

The next stop was Saturn. Taking thirty years to go around the sun, its motion through our sky is much slower than that of the red planet or, say, Venus, which had just dipped below the trees as we entered the red light-tinged dome. The rings were nicely tilted, and I saw, for the first time I think, its moons Titan and Rhea, quite separated from the home planet.

As meteors streaked overhead, we learned of gamma ray bursts at Betelgeuse, cosmic near-misses, and upcoming occultations and eclipses. Besides the solar eclipse everyone’s anticipating, Venus will make a rare pass in front of the sun the morning of June 6. For both of these events we’ll use solar viewing filters purchased at ¥100 shops (not for prolonged viewing, or much at all for children).

Although the lights of Nagoya and suburbs do bleed into the sky from around Chikyuu Mura, it’s still a hell of a good show. As it happened, my sullen mood provided more darkness than anyone could handle this night. For that I’m still in my own purgatory. Anyway, the show is different every time, and perhaps you can even pick your planets and some luscious berries on the same day. Be sure to book a time slot in advance.