Incredible Engineering: Rosetta Wakes Up

Comet_approach_node_full_imageNothing is impossible. I say that without fear of contradiction because of what the European Space Agency and NASA have been doing for the last decade. It’s the Rosetta mission.

Rosetta’s job is to monitor a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, by placing an orbiter around it and a lander on it! It will do this as the comet races toward the inner Solar System.

Rosetta_trajectory_English[1]As you might imagine, catching a comet isn’t easy. Rosetta was launched in 2004 and has made three Earth passes, plus one trip around Mars, all to gain speed and set-up its rendezvous.

To conserve power while coasting through space, Rosetta’s been ‘sleeping.’ Here’s how they list it on the mission timeline.

July 2011 Aphelion/Enter Hibernation

Rosetta_approaching_its_ultimate_destination_Comet_67P_Churyumov-Gerasimenko_node_full_imageAphelion means its furthest point from the Sun. Hibernation… you get that.

Today Rosetta gets its wake-up call! It needs to start processing data. It needs to prepare for its May meet-up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

This is another unbelievably complex and intricate engineering challenge that should be impossible. What could possibly be more difficult than this?

Surf City Sunset


Until I moved here I had no idea Huntington Beach was Surf City. It is. I’ve been to HB a few times already, always with my camera. This afternoon it was me, “Clicky” and a bag full of lenses.

Over the past few days the forecast has pointed toward swells from a mid-Pacific storm hitting the coast. They wouldn’t be giants, but this winter has been disappointing to SoCal surfers.

“Isn’t it a little late,” Helaine asked? I was leaving around 4:00 PM.

IMG_1878The idea was to combine a little surf photography with sunset and whatever else I could find. I went to the beach unprepared! I was wearing jeans and sneakers. Somehow, the walking across the sand and into the ocean part hadn’t clicked. I ended up barefoot with my cuffs rolled up.

I like the vibe at HB. The whole beach area has a friendly feel with people of every shape, size and color.

The photo at the top of this entry is a 14 shot panorama. It was stitched together in the computer. Panoramas are very wide angle shots.

IMG_2019As I was repositioning myself near the base of the pier I walked by two girls. One was jumping while the other was trying to take a cellphone shot. I asked if I could give it a try.

I tried first without a light, but the contrast between the sky and her was too much. The finished photo uses the flash on the camera. I can’t remember the last time it was used.

Click the photo to see a larger version.

The temperature was mild and the beach stayed crowded as the Sun dipped behind Santa Catalina Island. The real show begins after sunset as the sky cycles through its colors until the clouds turn a fiery red.

And it’s January.


Canyon Climbing


Last Sunday’s hike was a wake-up call. It was strenuous, but I wilted much too quickly all things considered. Disappointing.

Helaine and I have been on two long walks since. Today I went with Cousin Melissa to hike Bommer Canyon.

Taxing! I held up a little better, but still needed to stop a bunch of times.

Bommer Canyon was used for cattle ranching for over a century. It was acquired by the City of Irvine in 1981. The whole Bommer Canyon Park is 16,000 acres.

I made a Central Park comparison a few days ago. Here’s another. Bommer Canyon is twenty times the size of Central Park, or a little larger than ALL of Manhattan! Bommer is just one of many publicly owned large wilderness areas in the region.

Because the canyon area is so precious and fragile it’s mostly off limits to pepole. The third Saturday of each month the park and its trails are open. Even then it’s just for a few hours.

bommer-canyon-hikeMelissa and I set out from the Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp site and took the Ridge Route climbing around 600 feet in 1.7 miles. The path is well maintained and easy to follow. There is little shade. Even on this January day the sun was strong.

We passed families, other individual hikers and a lot of mountain bikers. Everyone was friendly and shared the trail. No dogs allowed, which is common in wilderness areas.

On the way down we took the East Fork. This 1.3 mile trail drops very steeply in the first 3/4 mile then levels out. I’m not sure I would have been able to reverse the route, climbing East Fork first. We took a lucky guess and won.

Because of my exhaustion the last time, I left “Clicky” home. The camera was cumbersome and added to my difficulties. All these shots were taken with my cellphone’s camera.

There’s a lot more to explore.

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Disney Does Fireworks

disney fireworks

Even before I woke up today, Helaine was plotting. She was on the phone with Cousin Melissa planning our evening.

“Would you be interested in dinner at Disney, then fireworks,” H asked as I degroggied myself.

Disneyland is in the neighborhood. It’s only 25 minutes away.

Dinner was very nice. The fireworks, even nicer!

I don’t want to take anything away from Disneyland, but if you’ve been to Disneyworld you’ll wonder who shrunk the castle! It’s much smaller here than in Florida.

The fireworks, however, are another story. They are big and perfectly choreographed. We were centered in front of the castle. It was the perfect vantage point.

Here’s the last 45 seconds of tonight’s show. It was shot on my cellphone, handheld. You’ll get a very good idea what the show’s like. It’s Disney. You expect a certain level of ‘special.’

Fire: Comes With The Territory


SoCal is dry. It’s like living in a match factory. Everything is in place for major fires. One spark.

We got one this morning.

Dubbed the “Colby Fire,” the blaze started at around 5:50 a.m. Thursday morning and may have been started by people.

Glendora police arrested and charged three people with recklessly starting a fire. – Huffington Post

In other words, criminal stupidity!

Glendora, like Pasadena a few miles west, sits at the south end of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

Within a few hours the fire grew from campfire to 1,700 acres–twice the size of New York’s Central Park! Around a half dozen very expensive homes quickly burned to the ground.

You get your family and pets and you get out!

As spread out as SoCal is, there are huge chunks of land owned by the government. Lots of wilderness, the way it was when settlers first arrived. These are immense tracts in remote locations with steep canyon walls. Very difficult to reach, especially when on fire!

colby-fire-live-shotThis afternoon on TV it was plane after copter after copter after plane dropping water and chemicals on the blaze. Each individual bucketful, ineffectual. It will take dozens and dozens of drops to tame this fire.

This sort of thing can happen anywhere. Obviously, the more buried in the woods you are, the more likely you are to fall victim. From my minimal knowledge of that area, the homes that burned today had spectacular views and lots of privacy. They will be rebuilt.

Driving over the 405 this afternoon, the smoke layer trapped in the mid regions of the atmosphere was quite visible, though 25 miles north.

This is part of SoCal life. It comes with the territory.

I Did The Math. It’s Close.

There was a minor earthquake tonight. It was magnitude 3.8, between Villa Park, CA and Corona. I did the math. That’s 9.6 miles away. I didn’t feel a thing. Zip. Weak earthquake. Five miles deep. I’m not sure they felt it at the epicenter. Stef has been here four years. She’s yet to feel her […]

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Doppler: Victim Of SoCal Weather

Ask me what color is Doppler? “Geoff, what color is Doppler?” White. Oh. Except now. Gray! It’s been two months since Doppler last saw Maddie, who clips her hair. I like Dopp’s look when she’s scruffy, but it’s time. We’ve never seen her so dirty. Tiny impact from our dry weather? Probably. Doppler doesn’t walk […]

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Is It Ever Not Perfect Out?

I’m not going to lie. It’s January 14th. It’s sunny. It’s 87&#176! Are you kidding me? We’ve already blown through the forecast high. I have one of my office windows open. There’s a cool breeze. No need for a/c. It doesn’t seem logical. 87&#176 and a cool breeze simultaneously. This is where the dew point […]

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Dear Weather Channel

Dear Weather Channel, I heard the news. DirecTV is playing hardball. They’ve pulled the plug and covered your old channel with WeatherNation. Harsh. Here’s the problem. No one will show you sympathy while you make claims that are over-the-top. The consequences of removing it from 20 million households are detrimental to public safety. That’s why […]

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One Last Thing About Holy Jim

Yesterday, I wrote about and posted pictures from the Holy Jim Trail inside Cleveland National Forest. It’s not far from here. I took another look at the pictures tonight and remembered, these tiny flowers are blooming in the middle of January! It just seems crazy after a lifetime full of winters.

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