Category: Celestial

Recipe for a Dramatic Sunrise or Sunset

Are the sunrises and sunsets in your part of the world ho-hum?
If they are, then you could follow this recipe to make them spectacular!
– start with clean air, preferably in the fall or winter season. (You might have to travel somewhere to find these conditions.)
– marvel at the blue of the daytime sky, which is caused by the selective scattering of sunlight by air molecules. This scattering favours the shorter wavelengths of violet to blue.
– consider the much longer path through the atmosphere that sunlight has to travel in the morning and evening. It scatters more violet and blue, which creates the opportunity for reds and oranges to reach our eyes.
– finally, add some clouds to catch the red-orange rays and reflect this light to the ground.

It wasn’t until I investigated the science of the colour of sunrises that I realized that not everyone gets to see such a thing regularly! Now I know how fortunate I am to live in two parts of the world where this frequently occurs.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Rise/Set

For a good explanation of scattering, see The Colors of Sunset and Twilight.

Question of the day – do you have dramatic sunrises and sunsets where you live? If so, how much thousands of photos have you taken of them?

Moon Shots

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
– The Highwayman, Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) –

If I was going to choose an illustration for ‘The Highwayman”, I’d choose this photo…

On a Scale of Carousel to Roller Coaster, How Scary is this?

HDR filter Topaz Studio

Winged Creature

Sunrise this morning. It was quite spectacular and changing rapidly. I quickly took a picture, then retreated back into the warmth of my house. When I uploaded the photo and enhanced it with a light touch of HDR in Topaz Studio, I realized that I had captured something much more sinister than a typical Alberta sunrise.

It was a winged creature, with a skull like head and sunken eye sockets. It was covered with woolly dreads. It rode on bolts of fire…

Alberta orange yellow


Without HDR, it looked more like a poodle, I suppose…

Do you see a safe ‘carousel’ sky, or a scary ‘roller coaster’ sky?

‘On a scale of’ usually has a range of one to ten – but here are some other ‘Scales’ to think about:
On a scale of Voldemort to Pinocchio, how Nosy are you?
On a scale of Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler, how evil is your President?
On a scale of Under the Porch Mat to Osama Bin Laden how good was my hiding spot?
On a scale of Pennies to a Pool Filled With $1000 Bills, how much does this house cost?
On a scale of Sitting on a Stuffed Toy to Stepping on a LEGO, how much pain are you in?
On a scale of Qatar to Greece, how broke are we?
On a scale of Winter in Florida to Winter in Siberia how bad is your idea?

Can you think of some other non-traditional scales?

This week’s Photo Challenge is Scale.

The Ambience of the Moon – Setting the Mood


A perfect moon for a Halloween night


The magic of a moon lit night

moon Mar 31 2016

Perfect conditions for a quiet night of moon watching


Calm and Peace on Christmas Eve

In awe, I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this I thought… I must put a roof on this toilet.
– Les Dawson –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Ambience.

How has the moon affected the ambience of a memorable occasion for you? Did you know that ambience can also be spelled ambiance?

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Photographs of a Half Moon and Sunrises

moon Mar 31 2016
The photo challenge this week is Half-Light. At sunrise this morning, the moon appeared to be Half too!

The sun does not abandon the moon to darkness.
― Brian A. McBride, Dominion –

sunrise moon Arizona

Same time, same sunrise, same moon (that tiny white dot near the top right of the photo.

The sky is that beautiful old parchment in which the sun and the moon keep their diary.
– Alfred Kreymborg –

sunrise clouds Arizona

In Alberta, these clouds would probably mean rain. Here in Arizona, at this time of the year, dark clouds are just dark clouds.

The latest authority among men of science says that little is known of the causes which balance the clouds in the air. They are formed of water, and water, however minutely divided or blown into bubbles, is always heavier than the air. And yet these flying fountains of all the rivers of earth, these armed and thundering legions of the storm, that beat down the forests with hail and bury the mountains in snow, and flood the plains with water, go floating over us at vast heights with all their mighty magazines when all our philosophy would require them to sink to the earth.
– Daniel March, “The Balancings of the Clouds,” Our Father’s House, or the Unwritten Word, 1869 –

sunrise Arizona

Without clouds, sunrises aren’t nearly so dramatic!

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.
– G.K. Chesterton –

What common phrases do you think of when you hear the word ‘Half’?

This weeks WordPress Photo Challenge is Half-Light.

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Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

NASA can explain the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse much better than I can – but I took the photos to show the Moon changing! (Location: near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.)

The Car Guy had been talking about this event for days, so he was quite disappointed when the clouds covered the beginning of the eclipse on Sunday, September 27, 2015. Fortunately, the clouds parted shortly after 9 PM!

lunar eclipse calgaryLunar Eclipse at 9:14 PM – A Blood Moon

lunar eclipse calgaryLunar Eclipse 9:29 PM

lunar eclipse calgaryLunar Eclipse 9:45 PM

lunar eclipse calgaryLunar Eclipse 10:07 PM

lunar eclipse calgaryAfter the Eclipse – the moon at 6:17 AM on Monday, September 28

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is: Change

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Ghosting Orb – A Rainbow Lens Flare

In this sunrise photo, a small rainbow like orb popped up below and left of the sun. It was caused by lens flare. The light source, the sun, was much brighter than the rest of the scene and this caused reflections inside the camera. This particular lens flare is called a ‘Ghosting Orb’.

Though a rainbow is actually a continuous spectrum of colours, we see seven of them: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The  mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In VainROYGBIV – might help some people remember the order of these colours…

At this point, I usually insert a funny quote or pun about a rainbow. There doesn’t seem to be one – and I’ve already forgotten the mnemonic…

The border for this photo was done in GIMP.


To see how other photos from this WordPress Photo Challenge, click this link: Photo Challenge ROYGBIV

What is a Blue Moon?

From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.
-Tom Hanks-

Every two or three years, there are two full moons in one month. The second full moon is called a Blue Moon. A Blue Moon can also occur when the moon is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. Confused? So am I.

The term  ‘blue moon’ has nothing to do with colour.  It is more likely that the word ‘blue’ actually came from the word belewe, which meant ‘to betray’.

Last night, according to the news, there was a Blue Moon.  It was still there this morning (only in a different location in the sky, of course.)  I took photos at 9:20 PM and 6:20 AM (9 hours apart) which means the moon had traveled 20592 miles (33147 km) while I had been mostly sleeping!

spruce bough

Did you know: a day on the Moon is about 27.3 days long or maybe 29.5 days – I found several different numbers for this rotational period.  The Moon’s rotation and other complicated things explain why we always  see the same side of the Moon.

How often have you looked at the moon and were sure you could see a face? Oddly enough, I don’t see one in this photo, do you?

You moon the wrong person at an office party and suddenly you’re not ‘professional’ any more.
– Jeff Foxworthy –

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Which Way do you Look When the Sun Sets?

Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn’t look up. Well, maybe once.
– Isaac Asimov –

National Geographic is running a Series called Test Your Brain. The episode I recently watched demonstrated how adept our brains are at focusing on the task at hand, and how dismal we actually are at multitasking. By multitasking, I mean doing two tasks at the same time, both requiring complete attention.

This isn’t the same as ‘background tasking‘, where we are doing one thing mindlessly while doing another thing that requires attention (like eating dinner while talking to our spouse or cleaning the house while listening to music.) It also isn’t the same as ‘task switching’ where we are alternately doing several things (like typing a blog post and talking on the phone.)

This amazing ability to focus is why we accomplish the things we set out to do! We achieve our best work when we tune out distractions and concentrate on one thing.

There are times, however, when it is a good idea to check to see if the distractions might be of value to us. If we paid more attention to diversions, we would know how magicians do their tricks. We would be able to stop a pick pocket before they took our wallet. We would be good witnesses to what happened at an accident. And we would look both east and west when the sun is going down!

A Sunset – looking West

The same sunset – looking East

I suppose I could write more about multitasking, but my brain has headed off on the topic of diversionary tactics, and I fear it won’t be back before lunch time…

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Sunsets Around the World

The word Sunset has a few meanings that describe man’s vision of endings, but there is only one Sunset that is fairly easy to photograph! Fortunately, it happens at a predictable time every day, it occurs everywhere in the world, and it is free! Of course, some sunsets are more spectacular than others, but that has a lot to do with the clouds, not the sun.

Here are five sunset photos, all taken at different locations. Two were in Canada – at my house and my cabin. Two were in England – one in Brighton and one in Lechlade. One was in Europe – on a boat on the Danube River. If you like, you can try and guess which photo was taken in which place! For the answer, hover your mouse over the photo until the photo name appears.


Alberta Hidden Valley


EnglandWhere I live, the number of hours between sunrise and sunset varies from season to season. On the longest day it is about 17 hours, while on the shortest day it is only about 7.5 hours.

How much variance do you have in daylight hours where you live?

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Seeing Shapes in Clouds – Tornadoes and Pterodactyls

Massive collections of tiny water droplets. This is what clouds are. I can’t say I understand the mechanics of why they stay up in the air any better than I understand why an airplane stays aloft. But let’s just say they do, and I’ll show you some of the clouds that have passed over my house.

In my part of the world, the weather usually arrives from the West, blown in by the winds that are almost always present to some degree. Now and then an East Wind will blow and it will bring in the smell of the nearby Feed Lot. Or a South East Wind will blow from, I don’t know, maybe the United States, and we will feel quite unsettled and threatened until the wind shifts and comes from the West again. Shifting winds blowing ever changing clouds across the sky.

When I was a kid, I liked to watch clouds like this drift overhead. I liked to imagine they were a particular object or animal. This group of clouds didn’t bring to mind anything recognizable, but they are what I call Safe Clouds. They don’t forecast any particularly disagreeable weather event.

This group of Safe Clouds were casually passing over when a group of darker, Angry Clouds appeared. Now, instead of looking for shapes in clouds, I looked for shapes in the remaining blue sky.

These were Popcorn Clouds. They formed quickly and were fascinating to watch, but they also told me it was time to pack up the gardening tools because a thunderstorm was on the way.

A few Wispy Clouds were being crowded out by Safe Clouds, Angry Clouds and Popcorn Clouds. This was a very busy cloud day.

Angry Clouds and Popcorn Clouds dominated this sky. The Angry Clouds were scooting over at a much lower elevation than the others, and were forming all sorts of interesting shapes, like whales and pterodactyls. These were once Safe clouds but they had crossed over to the Dark Side.

tornado funnel cloudThis was a Funnel Cloud. On a scale of 1 to 10, this cloud was at the high end of interesting, but not one I wanted to have pass over the top of my house. It was a very noisy cloud, and for a few long seconds it sounded like a train was passing right over head.

Today, well, today the clouds are a dull blanket of grey. A light rain is falling, and they say this will continue for days. Today’s clouds aren’t very photogenic.

Every cloud has its silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint.
– Don Marquis –

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