Monday, December 31, 2012

Standing Guard

Pedro Glyph stands guard.
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Click on the pic and you can see Venus. Pedro's spear points the way.

Posted by Dave.

Underground Temperatures

Record cold temps. In the 6 years we've been here in this God-forsaken Hellhole, this is the lowest I've seen temps go, both inside and out.

Mrs. UC: "I'm cold."

UC: "Put on a sweater."
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Math time. Lowest temp: 32 degrees, Highest temp: 128 degrees. 128-32=96. 96/2=48. 32+48=80. So it stands to reason, even though I haven't measured, that the mean temperature of the dirt is 80 degrees. I have measured the temperature of our well water, which comes from a depth of 547 feet. It's 92 degrees.

Quick stats on the UC Mega-Complex:

  • Roof: 12" thick concrete, 6" styrofoam insulation, 3' dirt.
  • Back Walls: 12" thick concrete, 3" styrofoam insulation, dirt-bermed.
  • Front Walls: 12" thick concrete, inside 3-5/8" steel studs/fiberglass insulation, outside 6" steel studs/fiberglass insulation under Densglass/1-1/2" stryrofoam insulation/stucco.
  • Floor: 5" thick concrete poured over 1-1/2" styrofoam insulation.


In 5 years of living underground, we've never used the heat. 74 degrees is as low as I've seen the inside temp go. In the summer we use air-conditioning, of course, because the flywheel slowly creeps up from the mean temp of 80 without it.

Two things affect comfort in a home, air temp and structure temp. If the air temp is just right but the walls are cold, you will feel cold. If the air temp is just right but the walls are hot, you feel hot. So most people crank the A/C one way or another to feel comfortable. Here, we keep the A/C set to 78 degrees in the hot months. Trying to chase the perfect air temp is futile in an underground home. I can open the windows at night and drop the air temperature a few degrees, but the second I close the windows the temperature goes back to what it was. The flywheel just won't budge easily.

Posted by Dave.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset, And Security

Yup, I've got too much time on my hands when all I seem to do is look at pretty sunrises and sunsets.
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Above pic is photo-bombed by a Raven.
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Sunrise, after the color. It was probably gorgeous and red while I was brushing my teeth.
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Charlie, our director of security. He's telling me that he needs to check the perimeter for boogers and would I please come with him.
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One of these days the clouds will leave the sky long enough for me to take pictures of the stars again.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Reason To Wake Up

This:

Morphed into this:

Almost makes up for trashing my view of the stars last night.

Posted by Dave

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Waning Crescent Conjunction With Venus

The moon was just coming up. I had a quick bowl of oats, mounted my camera on a tripod, changed all the settings to manual, and went to the AstroSlab. Here's a 5% waning crescent moon and Venus:
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I took over 70 pictures, playing with a large range of exposures and futzing constantly with the focus. When the clouds rolled in, I had to stop.

This pic was taken with a Nikon D5100, a 55-300mm lens maxed out to 300mm at f/5.6, ISO at 1600, 1-second exposure.

Posted by Dave

Just Another Pretty Sunset

It was time to check the perimeter. I started out the door with Charlie, our director of security here at the Underground Carpenter Mega-Complex, when BAM! SUNSET! hit me. There was no time to lose. Mrs. UC, as always, was ready with her pocket snappy.
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This sunset took up more than half the sky. This is just the most intense part of it.

Photo by Deanne.
Posted by Dave.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Silver Creek Road

Thursday, my next-door neighbor took me on his 4-wheely to the nearby hills. We crawled around some mines and gawked at the scenery.
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This mine shaft goes down at least a hundred feet, at an angle. We determined this by dropping rocks in and listening to them bounce and echo back.
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Saturday, Mrs. UC and I took a drive on Silver Creek Road, which goes from Bullhead City to Oatman. It was freshly graded, so even with the dust it was a nice drive.
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Lots of out-the-window shots. Photo by Deanne.
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Every hill and mountain around here has a name. I don't know what this one's name is, but I'm going to call it Can Opener Hill.
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I wish I had some of these rocks in my front yard.
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Rest in peace, Thumper.
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Thumper probably died working one of these mines.
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This one is for my sister who takes the coolest foreground/background pictures. 
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These guys are wild. They were very wary of me, so this is a long-range, tele-photo shot.
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This is the quaint little town of Oatman, and these guys are very tame. They beg for handouts.
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When Mrs UC didn't roll down her window, this guy tried to, I swear, open the door. Photo by Deanne.
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Cute little burros.
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Obligatory shot of dilapidated shack. It was either this or the restored conestoga wagon. The shack won.
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Shark's Tooth in Oatman.


Posted by Dave

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sunsets

Just some interesting sunset shots taken on three different evenings.
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I spend a lot of time these days admiring sunrises and sunsets.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sunshine And Daisies

It's hot where I live. Satan lives over on the next block. So wintertime, roughly from December to April, is the nicest time of the year, and lots of desert trees bloom in this lovely time.
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This is a Shoestring Acacia. I think. The nursery that sold it to me said so. But it doesn't "weep" like most Shoestrings. Nevertheless, it thrives, and this beautiful tree is always the earliest and most profuse bloomer of our four Shoestrings.
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Closeup. These fuzzy flowers will become long green pods filled with seeds. When they drop from the tree, the pods will cover the ground and be eagerly devoured by various critters.
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But wait! Is this a predator, lurking in the greenery?
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Nope. It's just Burt the Buzzard, who sticks with us through thick and thin, and has survived a couple of moves.

Posted by Dave

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Astrophotography

All of these are 30 second shots taken through a 6" refractor telescope. I knock down the resolution a bit so that they don't take forever to load. The only editing I do is to remove an annoying blue halo that I get on the brightest stars. I don't do any sharpening or stacking or cropping, so these pictures are pretty much right out of the box. As always, clicking causes embignification.
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This is M79, a nice globular cluster in Lepus.
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M50 is a lovely open cluster in Monoceros, which is in the Milky Way.
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M41, a bright, open cluster in Canis Major, The Big Dog, which is also in the Milky Way.
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This is a two-fer, M81 and M82, galaxies in Ursa Major, The Great Bear. The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major. The really cool thing about taking a long-exposure picture is that it brings out details that the eye can't see otherwise. In the telescope, these two galaxies are faint smudges.
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M35, an open cluster in Gemini, considered to be one of the most beautiful in the sky.

I want you to know that I suffer for my art. Staying up all night is tough, the bug bites are irritating as hell, and I'm constantly shooing away rattlesnakes and scorpions. The damn howling coyotes break my concentration, and I've been dive-bombed by owls.

Posted by Dave

Friday, November 16, 2012

Looking At The Stars

It's been either cloudy or windy here, so scoping has been light. Here's some shots that Mrs. UC took a couple of nights ago. As always, click to embignify.
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Andromeda Galaxy. All of these pics are 30 second exposures from a Nikon D5100, using an Orion 80mm refractor as a prime-focus lens.
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M35 in Gemini. Considered to be the prettiest open cluster in the sky.
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The Orion Nebula, always a delight!
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NGC 869 and NGC 884 in Perseus. Two nice open clusters.


Posted by Dave

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lessons Of Sandy

The what is more important than the where.
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Notice in this picture what is standing and what is not standing. Don't build your structure with wood. Wood sucks.
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Consider where stormwater will flow before you set up a US Aid tent. If you can't build on high ground, then at least pitch your tent over a boat.
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If you're going to build next to a river, don't cry when this happens.

Posted by Dave

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quarter Moon Over Arizona

A nice quarter-moon last night, casting shadows and demanding attention.
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Still high in the sky, shots are fairly crisp. Above is a 1/30-second shot at ISO 100 using a Celestron 6" refractor as a prime-focus lens for my Nikon D5100 DSLR.
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As the moon sinks, it gets oranger and sharp focus is impossible. This is a 1/5-second shot.

Posted by Dave

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Orion Nebula, Autoguided

Playing here with a Celestron autoguider. I've got a lot to learn, but this shot is already better than any unguided pic I've done. I use a piggybacked Orion 80mm scope to guide a Celestron C6R, which I use as a prime-focus lens for a Nikon D5100.
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This is a 6-minute shot of the Orion Nebula. ISO is 800. The only thing I did to this photo is knock down the resolution to make a more manageable file size. I used no noise reduction or sharpening. Not bad, eh?

Posted by Dave

Pocket Snappy Sunset

Clouds change. Fast. If they changed slowly, you could easily predict breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. I was checking the perimeter with Charlie, our director of security, when this scene suddenly presented itself. My camera was set up for an astro shoot. There was no time to lose. I grabbed Mrs. UC's pocket camera, which she keeps charged and ready.
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The automatic settings on cameras take lousy sunset pics. They don't capture the rich colors unless you change the exposure compensation. I didn't have time to try different settings, so I guessed and set these at -0.7. Did you know that you can change the exposure compensation on your bonehead cell phone camera? Even in video mode.
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The only tough part is holding the camera steady. When you go in the negative numbers, the camera compensates by increasing the shutter time. Anything past -1.0 requires a tripod.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

M31 and NGC869

I used a little bit bigger scope last night, the Celestron C6R refractor. Would you like to know what I think of the C6R? Celestron has good optics, but everything else about their scopes is crap. They force you to buy an undersized, totally inadequate mount in order to get the C6R. That's the first thing I tossed. I replaced it with an Orion Atlas Mount. The Orion mount is heavy--even with the scope and counterweights off, it's all I can do to carry the mount to the astroslab. I have to reassemble everything outside. (Not hard.) The scope itself? Optics good, but the focuser is Chinese crap, useless for focusing. I replaced the Celestron focuser with a Starlight Instruments FeatherTouch focuser, the best goddam focuser money can buy. So now my C6R is a delight to use.
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Andromeda Galaxy, M31, up closer than last post. More detail. I'm really pushing a 30-second exposure with an ISO of 6400. A bit of noise reduction makes a pretty fair shot. Blue colorcast on the brighter stars.
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NGC869, an open cluster in Perseus. 30-seconds at ISO 6400. Mrs. UC took out the blue colorcast to the stars that is pronounced in the Andromeda pic above. I've already forgotten how she did it. Next time I'll write it down.

Posted by Dave