The Monsoon Begins

After a long, dry, and recently HOT year, it appears that the monsoon has begun!

Today felt like the first snow used to feel when I lived somewhere more North.

The only downside to the monsoon is that the storms often keep us from operating our sensitive equipment. Here’s a real-time lightning map from this afternoon, showing the storms advancing on Tucson from the South.

Lightning strikes shown as the colored dots, white most recent, getting dark with age. That’s Tucson in the middle of the image.

Thanks to Joseph’s hacking kills, our friendly lab-assistant Vizzy keeps us informed if there is lightning nearby.

We had to shutdown our fancy deformable mirrors and sensitive cameras this afternoon, but there’s always software to debug and documentation to update and tests to study for and referee comments to answer. So we enjoyed the thunder and were happy for the rain.

The Sabino Rainbow made an appearance. I went for a blessedly cool run into the canyon, but didn’t find the end.

The song of the day is about the monsoon rains, and it also needs to be turned into a movie. It sounds like an intense adventure.

Sunset Here But Not There

The sun has just set here in Tucson. But we were supposed to be watching the sunset at LCO tonight, taking our usual break from preparing our instrument for a night of observing. On the schedule, this was to be our first of eleven nights exploring the sky with MagAO-X.

An LCO sunset taken from the Clay catwalk, from what seems like forever ago:

Spoon – “Got Nuffin”

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 45: Telling Stories

This is, officially, the highest numbered “run” post achieved (so far) on this blog. Jhen’s post yesterday tied with the previous record holder, Day 44 from 2015A, what we fondly refer to as The Death Run.

Arizona is opening back up. So, to some extent, is UofA research. Our lab, The XWCL, has been open because of an important project, but only for limited work on one or two things. But starting next week we’ll be able to start paying attention to our other projects, which includes MagAO-X. Still not supposed to meet in person, go to our offices, etc.

However, since we aren’t technically in a “Stay At Home”, I guess this “run” is over. It’s like when we are in the air form SCL to DFW, the telescope time is done, but we still have to clear customs and stay awake long enough to catch the 9:10 flight to TUS. You can still post if you want to, but all of our subscribers should stop expecting daily content.

So we watched “The Rise of Skywalker” tonight. Hadn’t seen it yet — after “The Last Jedi” I just wasn’t motivated enough to go see it in the theater. “Rise” was better than I expected, but still a cluttered mess as far as story telling goes. Too much happens in too many places, with not enough time in between. Remember in “A New Hope” how they actually travel? And the kids play games in the back seat to keep them occupied (there’s even home schooling). Remember how Jedi training was a thing in “Empire”, worthy of half a movie? The conflict scene between Luke and Vader and the Emperor in “Jedi” (the only movie referred to with that single word) was epic, and again was something like half the movie. The sequels just bounce around and try to show us too much with too many subplots. The middle one was especially egregious — the time between events wouldn’t work in even a small U.S. city, let alone a galaxy-scale ecosystem.

Please note: the sequels are at least watchable more than once. Let’s not drag the prequels into this.

The main thing about the sequels that drives me nuts is that they don’t make any sense from a high-level galacto-political sense. I don’t understand why there is a “resistance”. What are they resisting? They won the rebellion, so aren’t they the government now? Sure, sure, you can say they are resisting the First Order. But that’s just it — doesn’t that just make the resistance the military of The New Republic? Why do they never have help? Where’s the actual regular Republic Navy? This is a whole thing that is never explained to any level. Part of my complaint derives from having read Zahn’s “Thrawn” novels when they first came out, and were supposed to be canon. The takeover of The New Republic was part of the story, and well told. The whole expanded universe included this. Characters we know, like Wedge Antilles, are big shot Admirals — not gunners that Lando digs up somewhere. Leia is occupied with politics and governing a galaxy, as you’d expect.

I’m not all complaints though. I think Rey is the best character* of the entire Star Wars universe. Her story is incredibly compelling, and Ridley is fantastic at being the naive reluctant Jedi, and then better at being the badass when her time comes. No spoilers here, but I’ll just say that “Rise” brings the 9 part Skywalker saga to a fitting conclusion, true to its real beginnings in IV. (*Mando is shaping up to be pretty amazing too, from a different point of view).

And, the music is as good as always. Here’s “Rey’s Theme”, by John Williams:

P.S. For future historians, yes, our count is low by one day by the usual rules of run-post-counting on our blog.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 38: Javie Zoomies

I give you a baby Javelina with the zoomies. You’re welcome.

Admittedly, it’s a mild case. But also the itchies. Wikipedia claims that the collective noun for Peccaries is “Squadron”. I’m going with it.

Inspired by the grace and majesty of the Javelina, I give you Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Band”, performed by the U.S. Marine Band.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 25: Hot Enough Yet?

External Temperature and Dew Point vs day in April 2020. Less than a month ago, it was below freezing in our back yard. Today we cracked 100 for the first time.
Our weather station. It’s not high enough to give NWS quality reports. I’d tell you my Weather Underground station i.d. but apparently that’s broken.

Most places, 100F means the dog-days have started. Here, ’tis but a hint of spring. In fact, our gorgeous desert flower show is just getting started. The Saguaros in Sabino have just budded, might be a week or two until they really go.

Our prickly pear have started to flower. The big one in the back of this frame hasn’t yet, but it can be really spectacular when it goes.
Closeup of some old-ish flowers. I plan to make prickly pear ice cream one of these days.
Here you can see two agave flower stalks reaching for the sky. It’s bittersweet when an agave flowers, since it’s the end for that plant. These smaller agave are impressive, but you should see what the big ones do!

That’s a baby Saguaro in the foreground. We just put it in this year — check this blog in about 4 decades and I’ll show you some flowers on it.
Our big Palo Verde bloomed. We gave it a good haircut last fall, so it’s not quite as impressive as before, but it will be back.
My favorite tree is the Cat’s Claw Acacia (reason below). They have just started to bloom, but so far only in parts of our yard.
This shows why they are so-named, you can see the cat-like claws. This particular tree likes to grab the hat off my head when I walk by.
A baby grapefruit, which appears to have survived the freeze back in early April. Looks like we’ll have a good citrus crop this year.
Another sign of spring is these little buggers, the Canyon Tree Frog, congregating in our pool. They are LOUD.

I looked at our weather station logs for last year. Amusingly, we actually hit 100 for the second time on 26 April, 2019 — so this year we’re behind. Not to worry though, we were in the 80s still for most of May, with occasional days in the high 90s. It probably won’t be until June when it really kicks in.

Our weather in April, 2019. Stop panicking, the end times (a.k.a. June) aren’t here yet.
Today’s song is “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey