7/3/2017 Rainy Day Project

I’ve been thinking of a way to mount one or two cameras to my Nexstar SLT mount so they can track the sky. Hopefully here it is. I’ll remove the straps when the time comes to reduce weight. The plan is to have the larger camera (EOS T5)  zoomed to 300mm for the eclipse which should be enough to capture all of the corona. The other, an SX50 HS, can zoom much farther to close in on the disk. A third camera will be set up stationary separately and wide angle to capture the entire 3 hour event with the Sun moving across the field of view. There is a third 1/4-20 post near the centerline for when I’m using one camera.

Visible in the second picture is a mini-ball mount to give me greater control over the direction and tilt of the cameras.  I’m already thinking about drilling holes in the disk closer to the edge to give me room to tilt. Determining the relative direction of the Sun’s axis on game day would let me orient the cameras to match.

I’m hoping for clear skies soon to test the rig.

7/2/2017 Day 30 of the New Knee Project

I haven’t posted anything in a while.  In the last post, I had driven a little. Now, like Toonses the Driving Cat, I drive all over the town. Only without the carnage. I’m also walking without the walker though I try to keep it handy just in case.  I favor the leg but its getting stronger every day. I’m also mowing the yard again.

6/18/2017 It’s Day 16 of the New Knee.

This morning, I drove a little. Angie took me to the old Sears store parking lot to get a feel for it. Then I drove from there to Kroger for groceries and then home. Then I took her car solo to gas it up. Probably about 10 miles total. I’m not ready for a long trip but that will come and now I can start thinking about driving myself to work and physical therapy.

6/16/2017 It’s Day 14 of Jim’s New Knee Project.

Starting yesterday or the day before, I think I turned a corner. I’m walking better, still with a walker of course but my leg is straighter and more confident with less of a limp.
I saw the surgeon today and the staples were removed as well as the waterproof bandage.
My pain Rx allowed for as many as 8 Hydrocodone per day but I’ve only once needed more than one per day since discharge. I’ve been using Tylenol except at bedtime to help with sleep. I’m going to try to skip that tonight and then test my driving skills on Sunday.

6/10/2017 Total Knee Replacement

On June 2, 2017 I had a total knee replacement on my right knee. I had originally damaged it 34 years ago tearing ligaments and requiring arthroscopic surgery for repair. For the last 34 years I’ve occasionally had to wear a knee brace.

In November 2016, I wrenched it very badly and saw a specialist who gave it cortisone but warned me that the cartilage was thinning, a condition known as osteoarthritis,  and I would need a replacement before too many years. The shot itself was excruciating, like a needle in my knee, but the cortisone worked in a couple days.

In late March, 2017 I had another flare-up of arthritic pain for no apparent reason. Enough pain to to interfere with sleep, I hoped it would go away for a week before making an appointment and then it was almost another week before he could see me. Then another cortisone shot.  This time the shot was painless but about 36 hours later the cortisone started making its way through the joint and I felt the worst pain of the entire episode. Once past though, it was under control and got better quickly.

A week after that injection, I was back to normal but realized that if this episode had just happened with no visible trigger it could happen again for no obvious reason. And since it had flared up 4 to 5 months after the last injection, a new flare up in the same time frame would interfere with me seeing the upcoming solar eclipse. So I called and arranged for the knee replacement. On June 2nd to give me time after to heal before the eclipse and time before to complete some obligations, namely some spot bird surveys I was subcontracting for the US Forest Service.

As I write this, it is 8 days since the surgery. Pain level is far better than expected. I had a good night’s sleep last night.

6/9/2017 Spot Bird Surveys in the Caddo Region of the Ouachita National Forest

I’m writing this late, after the completion of the project.  I’ve had the opportunity to perform some bird surveys as a subcontractor for the forest service. 25 spot surveys at specific locations in the Caddo River region of the Ouachita Forest between US 70 and US 270 near Glenwood.  Each survey was 10 minutes long broken down into first 3, first 5, and 10. All surveys had to be completed after sunrise and before 11 AM.

There was a cap on hours and mileage so it was in everyone’s interest that I complete as many per day as possible. As it turns out, the average drive time to the first sport was 2 hours. When I started, in early May, the Sun rose at about 6:30 but was just before 6 by the time I finished.

The hardest part was getting from point to point.  I’m pretty good with my bird calls and ID was not an issue. However, the most detailed map I had was poorly marked showing mostly lines. Better marked maps tended to show numbers while the roads themselves showed names. Garmin was invaluable but didn’t always know that a forest road had been built or had been “retired”. Sometimes it would take only a half hour from point A to B, others it took more than an hour.

In all it took 5 trips, which was about what I originally expected but I made some mistakes and if I had to do it over I could probably do it in 4. Also it took over 1300 miles of driving (starting from Little Rock) which is way more than I expected. However it was completed.

Whooping Cranes

I had to keep quiet about this for a couple months because these birds are very at risk but there were a couple Whooping Cranes in NE Arkansas over the winter. I got to see them. Sadly the younger one on the right died after being hit by a truck.

3/31/2017 Friday Night at the River Ridge Observatory

I wanted to shoot the planet Mercury so I went to the RRO before sunset to set up. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is having its best apparition of the year right now. Saturday is technically the peak but tonight is just shy of that. What this all means is the Sun sets at 7:30, I was able to find Mercury by 7:50, and the little guy was in the trees by 8:05. I had to scramble to take several short videos at different exposures and focus points and the last was the best. Here we have the best 20% of 1000 one millisecond exposures through a 9.25″ SCT (focal length 2340mm) at Optimus Prime focus. Not going to win any awards with this but its off this year’s bucket list.

Here’s an image taken of the planet Jupiter later that evening. I didn’t wait until it was high in the sky but it turned out okay. If I had waited the Great Red Spot might have rotated away. On the left and right are the moons Io and Ganymede respectively. Best 25% of 5000 10 ms images through a 9.25″ SCT at prime focus.

Last but not least from last night, the Moon. This was taken with my simple Canon SX50 HS maximum zoom, slightly cropped, at I think 1/400 second ISO automatic. I’m starting to re-appreciate that camera. It has a smaller chip than my Canon Rebel but that means a larger effective zoom (50x ~ 1200mm lens). Not as good in low light and can only take a maximum of 15 second exposure but it shoots in raw format and excels at this kind of stuff (and birds).


One more thing about last night, Chris Lasley and I looked for the new Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak (aka T-G-K). He gets the credit for actually tracking down this comet now between the Big and Little Dippers. This is and will be in our evening skies for a few weeks. I tried my hand at finding it but walked away to shoot Jupiter. Chris persisted and found it and then later confirmed that this was it. We couldn’t see much other that a fuzzy patch that didn’t appear to correspond to something else.

The Molly Project continues …

Last night, Molly the 16-inch f/4.5 Dobsonian telescope had her public debut at the River Ridge Observatory. It was mostly a successful debut. The images were bright and clear. We looked at the Orion Nebula (M42), Bode’s Nebula (M81), the Cigar Galaxy (M82), M79 in Lepus (one of the few globular clusters in the winter sky). I even chased the International Space Station for a bit until I lost it. I could see that it was oblong instead of a point or circle but I was so busy trying to keep it in view I couldn’t really observe it.
The elastic variable counterweight system worked at first at all angles but later had trouble. I’m not sure what to make of that, maybe temperature. I need to see what weight I can reduce from the top or transfer to the bottom. Also, I brought a light shield for the upper assembly but forgot a way to attach it. That said, I think we just need tweaks now.