July 15 Venus/Moon Conjunction

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


A first, clouds low in the western sky threatened to obscure the close Venus-crescent moon conjunction show from this Cedar Rapids, Iowa location in Bowman Woods Park on the evening of Sunday, July 15, 2018. Instead, the clouds mixed with the setting sun provided for a beautiful sunset and a good warm-up for the celestial event. This image was captured at 8:38 pm CDT. Official sunset was at 8:40 pm.


By 8:53 pm (above) the clouds had begun to dissipate and the crescent moon and planet Venus revealed themselves brilliantly in open sky. This image looks southwest and is a 1/50 second exposure at f/11, ISO 500 and 55mm focal length.


9:07 pm. In the foreground is Bowman Woods Elementary School. Venus glittered at magnitude -4.12 and was within 2 degrees of the moon. This image is a 1/30 second exposure at f/6.3, 500 ISO and 46mm focal length. Air temperature was 79 degrees. Mosquitos were beginning to bite vigorously, so it was time to retire from the field! Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Classic Summer Evening Storm

Saturday, July 14, 2018


The summer setup for a storm in eastern Iowa on Friday, July 13, 2018 was a classic one. At 4:30 pm CDT weather conditions in Cedar Rapids were: 93 degree F temperatures, 75 degree dew points, 56% humidity and winds out of the south at 9 mph. Despite a previous dinner engagement for my wife and me to attend at 6:00 pm (which prevented me from spotting out in the field), storm cells were popping up north, south, east and west of the city. One of the cells exhibiting a strong mushroom-like updraft was this one (above), shown at 5:00 pm, looking southeast. It was located about 15 miles distant over Lisbon, in SE Linn County. All images posted today were captured from our back deck.


The same storm cell five minutes later. All cluster of storms were moving ENE. By this time Cedar Rapids was included in a severe thunderstorm warning.


A zoomed in shot of the storm cell at 5:08 pm, showing some of its texture.


Radar frame capture for 5:21 pm, showing my position (target icon), surrounding storms and the severe thunderstorm warning boxes.


5:38 pm. Ominous stormy area in the northeast sky behind treetops in the eastern part of Bowman Woods Park. Minutes later as straight-line winds blew through, leaves from trees fluttered high above after being torn from branches, and some small branches fell to the ground. I estimate wind speeds here reached from 55-60 mph.  Getting to dinner was a wet one! Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Lakeside Seats for the Cedar Rapids Fireworks

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Our viewing group set up plenty early this year for the annual downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa Fourth of July fireworks show. This year we selected a location farther away than past years--across Cedar Lake and 1.2 miles from the fireworks' launch point. The wide expanse of water as a foreground element would give us a highly reflective view of the bursts of colorful light. We set up our chairs along the trail that edges the lake, but at 7:33 pm CDT (just over two hours until showtime), Wednesday, July 4, 2018, a small rain shower passed overhead creating the rainbow in the image above--a natural light show. The rain at this time appeared to be falling from a clear blue sky! St. Luke's Hospital can be seen at background right.


9:47 pm. Fireworks show is under way! Looking SSW across Cedar Lake toward the downtown buildings. The -2.28 magnitude planet Jupiter can be seen in the sky at left center. Image is a 3-second exposure at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length. Air temperature was a pleasant 82 degrees F.


9:51 pm. Image is a 2-photo stack, each a 4-second exposure at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length.


9:52 pm. 8-second exposure at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length. Jupiter can be seen in this image as well.


9:53 pm. Image is a 2-photo stack, each a 6-second exposure at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length.


9:58 pm. 6-second exposure at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length.


10:04 pm. Image is a 3-photo stack. Each photo's exposure ranged from 6-8 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 160, 55mm focal length.


10:05-10:06 pm. Image is a 3-photo stack. Each photo's exposure ranged from 6-10 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 160 and 55mm focal length. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera, AF-S Nikkor 18-55 1:3.5-5.6 lens, Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT tripod.

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The Hot and Cold of It

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Heat advisories were issued in Eastern Iowa for two straight days--June 29 and 30, 2018--where a combination of high temperature, dew point and humidity created dangerous situations for many. Looking for an ideal location to capture this photographically, I chose the grounds at Echo Hill Presbyterian Church in north Marion, Iowa, with its abundance of wildflowers and corn fields. Water vapor from the corn was contributing to the sultry conditions seen in the image above, looking west from the north border of the property at 3:44 pm CDT. Air temperature was 93 degrees, dew point 78 degrees and humidity 62%, creating a heat index of 106 degrees. The previous day's heat index topped out at 110 degrees.



I could just feel this cornfield aspirating humidity! The image looks north from the church grounds at 3:46 pm. The elevated view seen here was achieved by setting the camera's timer to a two second delay, pressing the shutter button, then quickly raising the camera-on-tripod as high as I could before it took the picture.


With the hot, many times comes the cold. This College of DuPage GOES16 satellite image shows high cloud tops (circled) at 6:36 pm in Marshall County--storm initiation fed by an approaching cold front.


6:55 pm. I began monitoring the storm's progress as it moved eastward and selected this vantage point in Bowman Woods Park in Cedar Rapids to view it. The anvil of the now-severe storm--located some 65 miles distant near Marshalltown--has nearly obscured the sun. In the foreground is Bowman Woods Elementary School.


Radar frame capture of the event, corresponding to the time of the image above it. My location is marked by the target icon at right, with the arrow pointing to the area of the storm.


7:09 pm. Now in my backyard and looking west over the park. The anvil is so large it required me to shoot a five image panorama to include its entire structure.


8:32 pm. I had in the last half-hour repositioned myself to a new open spotting location on the grounds of Noelridge Christian Church in Cedar Rapids. The cold front churned on. Despite the storm due west of here losing its severe warning, it sported a very impressive shelf cloud which dominated its leading edge. This panoramic image captured the incoming storm when it was about 11 miles distant, near the town of Shellsburg.


Looking northwest at a smaller visual slice of the shelf cloud at the same time.


Radar frame capture of the storm's appearance at nearly the same moment as the photograph above it. Again, my location is shown as a target icon. The arrow points to the leading edge of the gust front.


8:55 pm. The leading edge of the storm has passed through in this image looking southwest. Surprisingly, winds were less than 50 mph here, and lightning and rain were minimal. A much different situation than what the city of Des Moines found themselves in--10 inches of rain in some places--causing massive flash-flooding!


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Most Impressive Non-Impressive Storm

Thursday, June 28, 2018



A severe storm cell moving east in Franklin County in north central Iowa late in the afternoon on Monday, June 18, 2018 lost that designation just before 5:00 pm CDT. Because of that, it went largely unnoticed by me while at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids until around 6:40 pm, when I turned around and beheld the beautiful anvil cloud vista seen in the panoramic image above at 6:44 pm. Despite its impressive structure, the cell--now located 28 miles to the northeast in Delaware County--remained non-severe. Collins Road NE is seen in the foreground.


A zoomed-in view at 6:46 pm. iPhone 6-Plus camera.


Radar screen capture of my position in Cedar Rapids and that of the storm (arrow).

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No Opposition To Saturn Opposition

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


...well, maybe just a little one: A nearly full moon shone just right of it, stealing a bit of its 0.02 magnitude thunder, the brightest Saturn will be all year. Time and date was 3:07 am CDT, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. This day was Saturn in opposition--when the Earth is directly between it and the sun--officially occurring at 8:00 am CDT. This moon, just hours shy of being full, is known as a "strawberry moon." Native American Algonquin tribes gave it this name as it coincided with their harvesting of strawberries. Not to be outdone in the image is the -2.04 magnitude planet Mars (left), moving toward its own opposition next month. Image is a 15 second exposure at f/4.5, ISO 125 and 18mm focal length, and looks southwest from Bowman Woods Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Air temperature was 64 degrees F.

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Morning Mammatus

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Eerie amber sky casts in the morning usually spell impending rain and Thursday, June 14, 2018 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was no exception. Before the rains came on that morning, a beautiful sunlit mammatus display occurred, residing under the anvil of an approaching storm cloud. Above, the mammatus are seen in the northwest sky, overlooking Bowman Woods Park at 5:45 am CDT. About a half-inch of rain would fall from the thundershower that moved through the area.

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