Bike Paths, Pandemic Traffic, Chipmunks and Squirrels

Click for full-sized image.

August 16th, 2020, 9:30 a.m. local time

Haven’t done any real night sky viewing since the meteor shower last week.  The weather has been very pleasant and I’ve been exploring my local bike paths.  They are not too terribly exciting visually, but the paths make for relaxing treks through the Forest Preserves in the morning, before the August heat kicks in later in the day.

I biked four times this past week.  There was a very noticeable uptick today in path traffic, a combination of the nice weather and being a Sunday.  At times, it almost felt like a morning rush hour commute, with so many walkers, joggers, dogs, and cyclists to navigate around.  And it’s worth noting, vehicle traffic seems unabated by the pandemic, even more so on weekends.  Not sure where everyone goes.  Maybe business as usual?

Missing today on the paths that I saw many of mid-week: chipmunks.  I’m guessing they don’t like humans, and stay further in the forest when the paths are more heavily traveled.  Their larger cousins, squirrels, are always around, and for the most part, have a far better sense of when to get off the road.  Chipmunks are very fast by comparison, and just dart.  I almost ran over a few.  They don’t seem to know how to get out of the way.

When I lived in the city, there were squirrels everywhere, but no chipmunks.  I get the impression chipmunks need dense plant growth, so when urban development hits an area, they retreat to the forest.  Squirrels, however, can climb and burrow into buildings of any height, probably why they continue to thrive in cities.

Below is a typical Midwest marsh, as seen this morning.

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Pictures taken with my iPhone and briefly post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Perseid Meteor Captured on iPhone with NightCap

Taken with NightCap. Meteor mode, 5.06 second exposure, 1/1s shutter speed.

August 12th, 2020, 04:20 a.m. local time

Meteors!  They are today’s topic.  I got up very early this morning and saw six of them, likely from the Perseid Meteor Shower.  Although the sky was clear, that pesky Moon was still shining bright at 4am, even in its Waning Crescent phase.  Fortunately, my large tree to the East blocked its direct light.

Aside from visual observation, I also set up my iPhone on a tripod and ran the NightCap app in Meteor Mode.  It continually took several-second exposure images indefinitely.  I let it run from for about 40 minutes, until around 5am when the sky started to visibly lighten.

The image above was the most spectacular, captured very early in the session.  The other images mostly caught “space junk,” i.e. random satellites.  I didn’t see this specific meteor as, early on, I was more busy watching my phone and remote-control watch to ensure everything was in working order.

Where in the sky was this image taken?  Unless you’re familiar with the constellations, it will be hard to guess.  I had the phone on tripod pointed almost straight up.  Interestingly, I noticed while viewing this image in a dark room, you can see a dark aura emanating from the center top; that is the sky’s Zenith, and you can get a sense for how bad my light pollution is even around 4am.

Thanks to Roger Powell’s recent post on identifying photographic objects, I discovered, which can identify the place in the sky your image was taken.  It’s very neat.  I uploaded my meteor image and it identified the constellations captured.  I will call this the meteor of Pegasus-Equuleus of August the 12th, 2020:

Facing West, pointed towards Zenith.

Early Riser, Moon and Mars, June 2020

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August 9th, 2020, 4:35 a.m. local time

For the past couple of days, I have gotten up very early, either at or before Dawn.  The first case was for a terrestrial matter.  But for the second, today, it was for the view of the Moon and Mars.

This was the closest I’ve seen a planet to the Moon in the few years of this blog.  They seemed much closer than the image infers, when you factor in their placement in the huge, expansive dome of the sky.

I had toyed with the idea of pulling out the big telescope for a closeup of Mars, but I’m glad I deferred, as this Waning Gibbous phase was still very bright.

I am going to try for more early morning observations.  The world is far more…peaceful at 4am.  Light pollution is noticeably less.  I have noticed an uptick in both noise and light pollution within these past few months after Dusk, likely due to commercial venues being largely unavailable, so people are congregating more in the residential areas instead of going out, and more and more it seems lately as the lockdowns continue in their dysfunctional and disjoint forms.  At least in America, we’ve lost a lesson from our Prohibition era, that you can’t eliminate activity, only drive it out of sanctioned sight, either elsewhere or underground.

And what may be pertinent soon, meteor showers are normally at their best before dawn, since that is the time of day your section of the world is turning into the Earth’s orbital path.

This picture was difficult to frame.  Normally, I use a default of 4×6 inches.  But given the placement of the two objects in relation to each other, that frame didn’t feel right.  Finally I decided that a simple square looked best.

The image is a composite, based off of the Moon, with tiny Mars overlayed from a higher exposure and ISO.

Image settings (Moon):

  • Canon EOS SL3
  • f/5.6
  • 1/250 sec exposure
  • ISO 100
  • Exposure bias: 0
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • Minor editing and composite with Mars done in PaintShop Pro