The Green Flash, revisited

IMG_7873Photo taken with D-810 with a 5ms shutter speed.  I always thought the green flash at sunrise or sunset just involved the Sun’s disk. Not so.  It makes sense the green light is seen with more sensitivity.  But more.  It acts like all light. It reflects, radiates, and diffuses.  This is the Green Flash at Cocoa Beach, FL at the Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 Gala for last year.

The third largest optical telescope I have ever used: 14″ OTA with Solar filter.

It 4:51 AM PST. This is a snow day in West Seattle.  White stuff litters all the streets and the construction sites nearby.  Schools are out for mid-Winter break until Monday. All quiet on the Western front here, as students remember their own (R.I.P.)


So, as clouds blot the sky over the 6th floor observatory at The “Jim” Whittaker like a giant eraser, I have some time to write about…


The Third Largest Optical TelescopeIMG_2107.jpgA photo of the telescope setup, as I was volunteering at the Visitors’ Centre (~9000 feet / 2770 metre) on Mauna Kea 5-6 years ago, a couple of years before OCT2014 and the most recent Hawai`ian ​protests over building the thirty metre telescope on sacred ground.  This was still when a native Hawai`ian astronomer worked on Mauna Kea. It was the last time I ever visited Mauna Kea.

Volunteers were trained in Hilo at the W.M. Keck facility, and then driven to setup telescopes and prepare for 10,000 visitors they may interact with each season.  The Visitors Centre is ~4800 feet below the summit at ~13800 feet / 4200 meters, and on the southerly side facing Mauna Loa, as the Winter shadows show.  It is as high as the vast majority of visitors can drive.  The gift shop is behind me with other volunteers.

The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) are a number of independent astronomical research facilities and large telescope observatories that are located at the summit.  The facilities are located in a 525-acre (212 ha) special land-use zone known as the “Astronomy Precinct“, which is located within the 11228-acre (4544 ha) Mauna Kea Science Reserve. The Astronomy Precinct was established in 1967 and is located on land protected by the Historical Preservation Act for its significance to Hawaiian culture.” – Wikipedia (2018)


Some insight into colonial culture…

`Imiloa – Astronomy and Hawai`i Culture today

Early Hawai`ian Astronomy


and into Hawai`i nei…

How Lanakila Mangauil came to his decision


The second largest optical telescope I ever used, and for my undergraduate thesis on intergalactic gas exchange was the 16″ Schmidt-Cassegrain undergrad scope in the small dome at LARC-NU.  The largest optical telescope was the 40″ Schmidt-Cassegrain in the large dome at LARC-NU.Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 5.57.38 AMThe second largest optical telescope I ever used (and for my undergraduate thesis on intergalactic gas exchange) was the 16″ Schmidt-Cassegrain undergrad scope in the small dome at LARC-NU.  The largest optical telescope was the 40″ Schmidt-Cassegrain in the large dome at LARC-NU (early 1970’s).

I will tell you this, when you took the elevator or stairs up and crossed over to the small dome, then decended into the working studios and observing chair, it was the closest I  felt to being Jodie Foster, spacetime traveller, as in the movie Contact .  Thank goodness for bitting spiders in the flight suits, bringing one back instantly, to bloody reality 😉

Wait, I see dark blue sky out the observatory window. Back to work…


Readers’ Appreciation Day – Gilles and Lyman (first name only) 19FEB18

Two earliest followers of the articles in I Really Appreciate Science and those specifically related to Women in Science (the book I reviewed).  Thank You for your wit, ideas, and “Likes”. If there is a topic I have not covered please comment? How about more about the  European Women in Science?  Or those inspire by their families or faiths towards science?

Next Month I Really Appreciate Science’s primary representative will be in Los Angeles at the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting:

I will try to give some important; some trivial highlights. I will also be at a FOTO Griffith Observatory meeting.  Finally, I will be at Caltech at some point in a rapidly organized LIGO Open Data Workshop.




Parallel Simulations play a vital role between observation and understanding: N-body Shop at University of Washington

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 9.57.14 PM“A 25x25x2 Mpc slice through a multi billion numerical simulation of cosmic structure formation. Brighter colors mark denser regions.” => N-body shop, 17FEB18

The N-Body shop

Metallicity Evolution by Supernovae (UW Astro, Nbody Shop)

“…An n-body simulation calculates the time and spatial evolution of a system modeled by a large number of mass elements* and subject to many different physical processes, such as gravity, hydrodynamical forces, gas cooling, star formation and energy injection from supernovae and black holes. N-Body Shop students are able to pursue different aspects of this broad approach: developing theoretical models, computer science, analysis of simulations, and outreach.

“Over the years we have developed two of the best parallel tree+SPH codes: GASOLINE and its evolution: CHaNGa. As of Fall 2015 ChaNGa scales up to half a million cores when used for simulations of large cosmological volumes. Our focused approach on developing a small set of versatile computational and analysis tools allows our relatively small group to pursue competitive research spanning a wide range in spatial and time scales…” => N-body shop 17FEB18


* N number of mass elements, where N is arbitrarily “gigantimoose” 😉

UW Astronomy Prof Dr Jessica K Werk receives prestigious Sloan Award

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 9.12.26 PM“When I look at the sky I see lots of different atomic transitions that I’m trying to piece together into a coherent picture,” – Jessica K Werk, Alfred P Sloan Fellow in Astronomy

‘Assistant Professor Jessica Werk studies the extended gaseous components of galaxies and the role they play in galaxy formation and evolution. She is primarily an observational astronomer with expertise in optical and ultraviolet spectroscopy, and uses both ground and space-based telescopes to carry out her research. She works closely with theorists in defining observational constraints for cosmological simulations (such as those generated in the UW N-Body shop), and in physically interpreting her own observations.

‘Professor Werk’s current research focuses on the “invisible” ionized gas* of galaxies in two largely unexplored regimes: (1) the dark matter halo and (2) the disk-halo interface. Ultimately, she would like to understand the complex galactic ecosystems in which baryons cycle through many physical phases over hundreds of kiloparsecs, from the interiors of stars to the intergalactic medium..’ – relevant excerpts from the UW News 15FEB18

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 10.56.33 PMA snapshot of parallel simulations by Prof Werk on The Dark Matter Halo


Key publications in her research:
(1) “The Large, Oxygen-Rich Halos of Star-Forming Galaxies Are a Major Reservoir of Galactic Metals”, J. Tumlinson, C. Thom1, J. K. Werk, J. X. Prochaska, T. M. Tripp, D. H. Weinberg, M. S. Peeples, J. M. O’Mear6, B. D. Oppenheimer, J. D. Meiring, N. S. Katz, R. Davé, A. B. Ford, K. R. Sembach, SCIENCE, 18 Nov11, 334:6058.

(2) “The COS-Halos Survey: Physical Conditions and Baryonic Mass in the Low-Redshift Circumgalatic Medium”, Jessica K. WerkJ. Xavier ProchaskaJason TumlinsonMolly S. PeeplesTodd M. TrippAndrew J. FoxNicolas LehnerChristopher ThomJohn M. O’MearaAmanda Brady Ford, et. al. The Astrophysical Journal, 01SEP14, 792:8.



*[One can spend many precious, freezing cold nights nursing 16″ and 40″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes at LARC-Northwestern University in surplus USAF flight suits pumped with warm air and biting spiders (if you were a spider where would you hide on a cold, clear Chicago winter’s night?) producing your undergraduate thesis in Astronomy/Physics on intergalactic H II regions (ionized hydrogen gas) that flow from one galaxy to another.  Trust me on this.  Anyone as Prof Werk, who leads such research as an observational astronomer deserves our immense respect and thanks].

Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn at Sunrise, 13FEB18 The Precipice Club Whittaker

Substantial thermal activity near sunrise and the horizon made filming tenuous.  Nikon D-810 on the Celestron 203mm / 8″ HD Edge w/o wedge. All videos, except Ga3, were cropped with iMovie editor and converted to mp4.  No improvement with wedge was discovered.  As Jupiter moved away from the horizon, a moderate improvement in stability can be noted (Ga3 versus Ga4), as well as, the appearance of Jupiter I (Io) with an orbital period of ~42.46 hours.  Jupiter I is ~3,600 km in diameter.

The first four discovered satellites of Jupiter were numerically named by Galileo, and until the mid-20th Century were simply known as Jupiter I-IV.  This simplified time-keeping records for which the orbital periods of the satellites were accurately known to the time-second for navigation and for the determination of Longitude from Greenwich.  Along with the apparent rotation of the Moon’s surface over the course of a night with reference to the observer, these were the most accurate means to determine time or longitude.  Both systems (Jupiter’s satellites and the lunar surface) were used independently to determine the accuracy and validity of General Relativity in the early 20th Century – a great leap forward for scientific experimentation and human knowledge.

During the mid- to late-20th Century with the advent of atomic clock technology and the decay of seafaring human civilization, the importance of both Moon sightings and Jupiter I-IV, as navigational aids diminished.  At the same time both religious fervor and superstition combined (e.g., in the USA, the addition of “under God” into the national anthem and “In God We Trust” as a formal motto equal to “E Pluribus Unum”) to replace solid scientific inquiry with the promotion of a ‘personification of deities’.  As if all ancient astronomers were astrologers and had named everything observed after a god or ‘lover of the gods’.






Jupiter  Ga3






Jupiter Ga4


Purple | Yellow | Red videos of the Sun

Ca II (Ca+) Calcium line Sun – Lower and cooler.  The source for us of the magnetic holes and fluxes visible at the Sun’s surface.


The Hydrogen-alpha Red Sun, with etalons set at ~0.7 Angstroms:  The photosphere, The Chromosphere, The Corona


The Yellow Sun, for us the super wide hydrogen-alpha etalons 2-4 Angstroms. 


This is our first published videos taken simultaneously of the Full-Spectrum Sun today.  Lower to Upper Level.


How to view:

Make these type Purple|Red glasses, as demonstrated on the website logo (below).  All videos should have the Sun moving from the upper left corner to the lower right corner on your screen and be equally sized.  If you try this for 3D effects, put the “Yellow Sun” video in the middle as it can act to help adjust for the appropriate spacing in this order:      393nm [Ca II]- 590nm -633nm [H-alpha]