When we were camping at the Grand Canyon last month, we witnessed a most unusual sight in the night sky. We saw a Starlink satellite train. Starlink is a satellite network that Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation is launching even now. When completed in a few years, it will be composed of thousands of satellites that will blanket the earth’s skies worldwide, bring the internet to every corner of the world. Eventually, each satellite has its own individual orbit, but immediately after launch, because of SpaceX’s unorthodox card-dealing technique for deploying the 60 Starlink broadband satellites that are boosted into space at the same time, they temporarily form a Starlink train.

The Grand Canyon is a dark sky park, the sky was perfectly clear and the timing of the event that we witnessed couldn’t have been better. It was dark, but it wasn’t that long after sundown, allowing the already set sun to illuminate the satellites that were 500 miles above us. I didn’t have the wherewithal to photograph the sight, but plenty of other people have. I chose this example from Twitter, because the scene includes a full moon, so you have an idea of how bright these satellites really are. For us, it was a moonless night and I swear, at the Grand Canyon they seemed even brighter then they appear in this video, brighter than any star in the sky.

As the train passed overhead the campground erupted with cries in the dark of, “Look at that!”, “What the hell?”, “What is it?” Fortunately, I did have the wherewithal to answer these cries in the dark and announced, ” They’re Elon Musk’s Starlink new satellite network.” I’m sure I headed off a UFO panic. Anne was angered by the sight. It is a dark sky park and these satellites are light pollution, but subsequent research has indicated that these train formations are only temporary. The individual satellites will still be bright, but no brighter than the jets flying in and out of the neighboring Albuquerque airport. 

Eye in the Sky

Jewel Box Water Lilies

“Let’s go surging now, everybody’s learning how, come on and Covid safari with me…”, this was Anne’s call and response to NPR’s latest pandemic news. We’ve been getting emails entitled, “Cooking Professionally.” Instead of a job offer, they turned out to be recipes, but this got me to thinking. I do most of the cooking around here and about the only reason that I’m not a professional chef is that I don’t get paid. I broached this topic to Anne. When I pressed further that I had made coffee this morning and that I should charge her 50¢ a cup, this elicited a face. She went to the coin jar and fetched two quarters and handed them to me. What, no tip? A hand gesture ensued.

Have you heard about the monolith? Found in the remote Utah desert. Could it be art? Could it be, shades of 2001, an alien artifact? We may never know, because as soon as it had appeared, it quickly disappeared. Not long afterwards though, a new artifact was announced. This one was in outer space and it was approaching the Earth. Last night it skimmed the Earth’s magnetosphere, before rocketing back into the void. First sighted in September, its trajectory marked it out as being not just your usual asteroid. Through clever sleuthing that involved tracing its orbit backwards in time, it was deduced that this artifact was not extraterrestrial, but is in fact terrestrial in origin. This object is believed to be the Centaur part of the Atlas-Centaur booster that way back in the sixties launched the moon lander Surveyor 2. It was lost in space. Hello world, I’m back!

Looking down from outer space or even just a hundred feet, often gives one a new perspective. Patterns appear that are invisible to the earthbound. The pictured water lilies were already past their prime when I overflew them. Even that was a while ago. When last we visited the Jewel Box, its reflecting ponds had been drained for the season. Next year, I’ll have to revisit this shot.

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Point Iroquois Lighthouse from Above

Dan and Britt got permission to fly their drone at the lighthouse, but photo aside, there were a lot of other people visiting the lighthouse and they didn’t want to fly over any of them. This and the wind limited their flying time on the grounds. Of particular concern was the pictured flagpole and some old guy driving around on his riding mower, for no apparent reason, since the grass didn’t need cutting.

I watched the first episode of the new HBO-TV Sci-Fi series, Raised By Wolves. It debuted last night, with its first three episodes. Directed by Ridley Scott, who directed the original Alien movie and its latest sequel Prometheus (Which also appeared on HBO this week). While Wolves is not per se part of this Alien universe, it sports a similar, gloomy look and feel. In this dystopian future humanity has divided into two factions, Atheists and people who believe in a vague Christian-like religion. Earth is dying under their war. A pair of androids rocket to a distant planet. On their tiny ship are a dozen human embryos. Dubbed Mother and Father, it is their mission to raise these children as atheists, making them the titular wolves. One-by-one though, the kids perish, either through disease or accident, until only one is left alive. Also, Mother and Father have almost reached their expiration dates, when another spaceship piloted by their religious rivals arrive. It really hits the fan then. This is a lot to pack into one episode and things really go off the rails by the end. I probably will watch some more of this series, but I think that I’ll wait until I’m back home again.

Politics, in particular the presidential race is driving me crazy these days. I careen between hopeful optimism and abject terror. These feelings are part of the reason that I have elected to put-off watching anymore of Wolves just now. There is enough dystopian in the here-and-now, without going looking for more in some alternative future. I pray that we, or at least enough of us will do the right thing and we are not left to casting our seed out upon the interstellar wind.


Neowise Over Canada 🇨🇦

After an exhausting all day drive, we followed it up with an equally exhausting all day cleaning spree. Jane and the kids had each done yeoman service during each of their brief stays, but the cabin still needed a thorough cleaning. Then there is this year’s rodent issue. So I cleaned the cabin’s downstairs, while Anne tackled the loft where red squirrel(s) had taken up residence this last winter.

My job really wasn’t so bad, just wet rag dusting, followed by sweeping. There was still a fair amount of powder-post beetle dust about. I’m not sure how recent it was, because I mostly found it in out-of-the-way spots, mainly on the windowsills. There was a thin layer of dust on some of the furniture, but not the little piles, suggesting that those surfaces had already been cleaned, but the beetles were still being active.

Anne worked a lot harder collecting a waste basket full of whole Pinecones (destined to become fire starters) and a shopping bag full of Pinecone debris mixed with pink insulation. Anyway she got the loft cleaned-up. This effort should help us figure out if the squirrel is still coming inside or not. No idea yet about how the squirrel is getting inside. The place where the boys spotted it earlier this year is so far inside the cable that I don’t think that it is really relevant. We’re going to checkout the trapdoor in the master bedroom and look for squirrel signs above the insulation.

And after all of that we managed to stay up late enough to see the comet Neowise. It was about eleven when the sky became dark enough to see it. At first you needed binoculars to see it, but eventually it became naked eye visible. Above is my first attempt at photographing it. The scene was shot out over the lake towards Canada. The red windmill and navigation lights are visible along the bottom. There is some light pollution in the lower right corner. The Big Dipper is in the upper center and below it is a short white streak that is the comet.

The Avrocar


Before 9/11, anyone could visit the Air Force Museum’s Annex. A special bus would transport you from the main museum to the annex, but after 9/11 this bus service was discontinued, yet the annex remained open. It has been a few years since I last visited the place and I don’t know if it was ever reopened to the public, but I suspect that like everything else these days, it is shutdown for the duration. At the time I last visited the place, I was at Wright-Pat on business and as luck would have it, I had a couple of hours to kill, before my meeting. Since, I was already on base, I could just drive to the annex and park.

While the main museum mostly has production aircraft, the annex specializes in prototypes. It also has a more modern bent than the main museum, which covers the entirety of the history of the Air Force. There were even a couple of things that came from projects that I had worked on. While the Avrocar certainly isn’t the strangest aircraft on display, it is on that far-out end of that spectrum.

Like the Avrocar, the annex is populated with what could be termed failures in aviation. The problem with the Avrocar was that its shape resulted in making the vehicle inherently unstable and impossible to control other than as a low-speed ground effects vehicle. Designed and built in Canada during the Cold War, the Avrocar was originally envisioned as a vertical takeoff short landing (VSTOL) supersonic fighter. Because its development was paid for by the US Air Force, when the Avrocar program was eventually cancelled, its test articles reverted to the US Government. That’s how the pictured prototype ended up in Dayton.

The whole flying car thing aside, it is undeniable that the Avrocar has an other-worldly appearance that shouts UFOs and space aliens. Since, it was developed in the fifties this aspect of the design had to have some play back then. I have better photos of this craft, but I chose this backlit one for effect, choosing to shroud it in darkness and lending it an air of mystery. I especially love its dual plexiglass canopies. You can easily image and almost see, the heads of two little green aliens sticking-up out in them. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Avrocar Schematic