Somewhere In America…

Somewhere in America, there’s a town where the trains roll down the main street every day.

CSX train passes through La Grange, KY

CSX AC4400CW engine 36 pulls a manifest train through La Grange, KY, July 13, 2013

Happy Birthday to the person who showed me this marvelous sight.

Afterword: No, I don’t know railroad locomotives that well. This site provides information on CSX General Electric locomotives based on their number. A manifest train, according to Yahoo answers, is a mixed-use train. They’re easy to identify, because they’ll usually have different kinds of cars.


Earth Day, 2014

As part of its Earth Day activities this year, NASA is asking poeple to submit “selfies” of themselves wherever they happen to be today. You know, this sort of thing:

Le BPA Trail et mois

Me on the BPA trail last year on Earth Day.

That’s me at one of my favorite places in my neck of the woods, the BPA Trail. Sadly, this photo doesn’t qualify for NASA’s campaign, since I took it last year. Unfortunately, my photos often require, ahem, post-processing before I can publish them. But if your self-portrait photo skills are more timely than mine, feel free to submit something at the link.

Meanwhile, happy Earth Day.

The Mythical Mountain

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a co-worker who called Mt. Rainier the mythical mountain. He called it that because for the first few months he was here, he never saw it. That was during the winter, when the days are short and the clouds are usually low. It’s rare to see it like this, as I did today:

Mt. Rainier, partially obscured by clouds

Mt. Rainier, partially obscured by clouds, as seen over the Federal Way School District’s maintenance facility. Dec. 11, 2013. Image credit: Taken and processed by Cujo359

As someone once said about his nephew’s head, the thing is big enough to have its own weather system.

Dana Hunter wrote recently that in this part of the world we live with the reality of active volcanos all the time. We get to know their moods and try to live with their occasional outbursts. I’m sure Dana would explain that Mt. Rainier is a stratovolcano, which gets its lovely pointy peak from various violent eruptions that were recent enough that the peak hasn’t been eroded away. As with nearby Mt. St. Helens, it could one day erupt catastrophically, and if the eruption is in the wrong direction, it could devastate a good deal of the southern part of Puget Sound.

Like many beautiful things, it’s also very dangerous. Still, on days like today, it’s hard to think about the danger when you see that big mountain wrapped in its own clouds.

Shine On, Harvest Moon

For once, there was an astronomical event that I could see from my home in the Pacific NW. Tonight’s harvest moon came out looking OK:

Harvest Moon, 2013

The Harvest Moon as seen from Federal Way, WA, Sept. 18, 2013. Image credit: Photo taken and processed by Cujo359

I couldn’t figure out how to get a sharp picture of the Moon with the horizon in view, unfortunately. There was just enough haze to make that too difficult for me.

It could have been worse, though. It could have been raining.

Video Montage Of The Day

Something fun and exciting happened yesterday. Needless to say, it wasn’t anything to do with American politics.

What might surprise you is that this event was a one-minute long rocket flight. To quote MSNBC:

SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket demonstrates in a new video how future launch vehicles may well lift off, do their job and then maneuver themselves for a precision landing.

During Tuesday’s test, the modified Falcon 9 test rig blasted off from its Texas launch pad and rose to a height of 250 meters (820 feet) with a 100-meter (330-foot) lateral maneuver.

The rocket hovered for some moments, then swung back and made a rapid, controlled descent onto the pad.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper test rocket flies sideways successfully

Rockets don’t hover, nor do they land back on their launch pads. Yet the Grasshopper did both. Here’s a montage I made of the video at that MSNBC link:
Screenshot montage of SpaceX Grasshopper test flight. 2013/01/14

Test flight of SpaceX Grasshopper rocket featuring lateral movement. Image credit: Screenshots of this SpaceX video taken and processed by Cujo359

Click on the image to see it full size. Flight time is an estimate based on the frame rate of the video. The flight lasted just over a minute.

As I wrote a couple of years ago, a single stage to orbit vehicle of any sort would be a giant leap forward in space travel. It would make flying into orbit more like taking an airliner than the adventure it is now. Being able to land that rocket on a pad would be even more convenient.