Sunday, November 27, 2011

'Earthshine' sheds light on the moon's night side during conjunction

I went outside my friends' house Saturday night and saw these two celestial objects setting in the western sky. Jupiter and the moon came close together for a conjunction. Only a crescent of the moon was illuminated by the sun's direct light. The rest of the natural satellite, however, was lit by "earthshine," or sunlight that bounces off Earth, then hits the moon.

A lucky rainbow

I'm clearly getting behind on posting, so I'm just going throw things out there. This was a rainbow that formed around 6 p.m. one recent day. I had been inside all day up until that point because I had been sick and home from work. It was pure coincidence that I left my apartment for the first time just as the full rainbow formed. Luck helps in photography sometimes. ... Too bad there's an ugly apartment complex in the foreground.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anvils and crescents

On the evening of Sept. 29, several large thunderstorms popped up over the center of Florida. Their anvil clouds combined with a sunset and a setting moon to make for a colorful spectacle. The above photo shows the crescent moon and the edge of an anvil.

I've been lazy in the photo-taking department recently, so all of these ones were taken without the aid of a tripod. So they might be grainy and blurry. Sorry.

Here's a better view of an anvil, with my lovely apartment complex in the foreground. These clouds are especially ominous when there are few other random clouds floating around in the sky, which was the case on this evening. It's a stark contrast.

This shows the meeting point of two anvils.

I also drove briefly to the east, where a separate phenomenon was created by the anvils in the west. When such large clouds break up the rays from a setting sun, anticrepuscular rays tend to appear off to the east. These rays appear to be emanating from the eastern horizon, but they're actually coming from the setting sun in the west (of course) and are being bent by Earth's curvature.

Friday, October 7, 2011

You gonna recycle that water?

Central Florida's rainy season is coming to a close, which reminded me of a photo I neglected to share when I took it. This shows my workplace, Florida Today in northern Melbourne. I swear, the building is 90 percent glass, which is downright birdbrained in Florida. Pretty much every window, especially the skylights above the building's longest hallway, leaks. That's why these recycling bins are set up along the entire span: to catch the invading droplets. This sight provides a chuckle every wet season.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finally, a decent lightning storm while I'm not at work

I walked out of work Friday evening and checked the radar on my iPhone. It showed a big, almost stationary blob of red just to the west of Cocoa. Seemed like a good photo op for stormy clouds and lightning. The above is a composite of a few lightning photos I took over a 15-minute period at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp on the St. Johns River.

I started the evening at a park on the north side of State Road 520, which runs westward into a remote, swampy area. It had a good view of this gust front, with a somewhat red post-sunset sky in the background.

I switched to a park on the south side of State Road 520 so I could get a better view of the storm's structure. The lightning was flashing frequently, highlighting the striations in this shelf cloud. Visible bolts, however, were few and far between until the storm got closer.

This shot shows a lightning strike, but the area of the bolt is overexposed, so you can't make it out.

The green, white and red lights on an airboat that went by oddly made an Italian flag over the river's surface. Weird, huh?

I went back over to the north side of the roadway, where there seemed to be a better view of the lightning bolts.

The storm was painfully slow in moving eastward toward my location. I'm betting its clip was less than 5 mph.

I always try to focus on power towers, since they're tall, and lightning loves tall things. This was never struck, however.

It eventually started sprinkling, and since I was exhausted from a long workweek, I called it an evening.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Delicate storms, beautiful sights

Saturday provided some pretty albeit tame weather. I started and ended by chasing some lightning in two separate storms, the results of which are below. For the late-afternoon storm, I waited on the beach for the rain to go out to sea. I was anticipating perfect conditions for a full rainbow: The storm was small and clearly defined, so once the system went over the ocean, the setting sun would break through in the west and make for a nice bow over water in the east. And that's precisely what happened. I shot this double rainbow at Patrick Air Force Base (my lens wasn't wide enough to pick up the second bow).

I started Saturday afternoon at Lake Washington, which is just west of Melbourne proper. The west and east coast seabreezes collided here and a storm quickly formed. When I snapped this shot, lightning was striking every 10 seconds, signaled by loud thunder each time -- an amazing site and sound that I did not catch on film.

I drove to the Indian River and stopped on the Eau Gallie Causeway, just to get out of the rain. I tried to shoot the lightning from afar. There was a decent amount of bolts on the storm's leading edge. Many traveled into the clear blue sky in front of the storm. This was the only bolt I caught.

After the rainbow, I picked up some groceries. When I emerged from the store after sunset, some mammatus clouds were drooping toward the ground.

Around 10 p.m., another storm formed well south of my apartment. I didn't chase it, and by the time the northbound storm reached me, it contained only intracloud lightning. Few of the bolts were actually visible.

The lightning nicely illuminated the clouds and the heavy rain core beneath them. There's nothing spectacular with any of these shots, but they do go to show that every storm has a unique look.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NASA's GRAIL Delta II rocket launch, on the rocks

United Launch Alliance sent NASA's GRAIL spacecraft toward the moon, where it will map the natural satellite's gravitational field. These spectators watching the Delta II Heavy rocket lift off apparently didn't read the sign.

The Delta II has long been my favorite rocket to watch lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its pad, 17B, is the closest the general public can get to a launch: 2.9 miles from Jetty Park in Port Canaveral.

But Saturday morning's launch, at 9:08 a.m., was the last for a Delta II in Florida. Without the Delta II and the shuttle, I'm losing interest in the space program.

I briefly stepped into the water for a few shots.

The rocket started approaching the sun.

The rocket shed its solid-fuel boosters and cast a shadow on the mackerel sky.

People on the rocks shielded their eyes from the sun as they continued watching the flight.

Here's a video taken on my iPhone. I set it on my tripod and let it run while I took photos.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hurricane Irene's brush with the Space Coast

Irene's waves covered a wide swath of Cocoa Beach, causing some erosion but no serious damage.

Five days before its projected landfall, Hurricane Irene appeared to be heading directly toward Brevard County. But I remember someone in the Florida Today newsroom saying that if we're in the bull's-eye five days prior to a storm's estimated time of arrival, chances are good that we won't get hit at all.

That proved accurate.

The storm turned to the northeast, and its center passed about 200 miles east of the Space Coast. At the time, though, Irene was about 400 miles wide, so we did feel some limited effects of the Category 3 hurricane.

We had two bands of heavy rainfall that Thursday afternoon, but accumulations were no more significant than in typical summertime thunderstorms.

I drove to the beach, however, where the storm surge was more than I was expecting.

The waves washed over the grassy dunes and lapped at the steps of the boardwalk in southern Cocoa Beach. Ocean water covered an approximately 100-yard-wide beach. For a storm that was 200 miles out to sea, I thought that was pretty impressive, and it left me curious as to what the conditions would be like if such a storm actually made landfall here. I have not yet experienced that.

Maybe someday.

I had actually stashed my sandals behind the sea oats, pictured here, thinking they would be safe from the surf. The waves ended up reaching my footwear, however. Fortunately, they were not swept out to sea, and I recovered them.

A very angry Atlantic Ocean just after sunset.

Earlier, this was the sunset over the Banana River, just west of where I was snapping the surf photos on the barrier island of Cocoa Beach.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some of the news I've covered, in photographs

A firefighter scurried to prepare hose lines as a house fire raged in Suntree, an unincorporated area north of Melbourne.

The following are images from some of the stories I've covered recently in my job as a breaking news reporter for Florida Today.

I've been trying to get to a good structure fire, and this was my first in about 15 months on the job.

The homeowners went to New York and left hurricane shutters on their house. That slowed the firefighters trying to access the home.

The fire was contained mostly to the garage, but the rest of the home received smoke and water damage.

A shelf cloud moved over the scene of the Suntree fire.

This crash, near Pineda Causeway and U.S. 1 in the Palm Shores area, happened during one of the first rainstorms of the summer season. People just can't drive in rain here.

There were reports of a gunman at Melbourne City Hall, prompting the police to set up a perimeter of assault rifle- and Glock-toting officers.

Two people had exchanged a pellet gun in the lobby of city hall. Above is one of them. They were not charged with a crime, since the weapon wasn't a firearm. The police, however, think they planned to rob the joint.

An elderly main lost control of his pickup and slammed into an oak tree in Grant-Valkaria. This was one of the many, tragic fatal crashes I've covered.

This was one car crash in which no one died. Nor was the driver even injured. But she did take down some power lines.

I actually had just been assigned a story about the power company. So this incident was pretty convenient.

The cops said this guy was texting and not paying attention when he drove his pickup into the back of a bunch of cars waiting at a stop light in West Melbourne. One woman died. He kept texting on the back of his Ford.

Some residents staged a counterprotest to a rally against Republican Gov. Rick Scott's budget cuts. The sprinklers came on, and counterprotesters figured it was a conspiracy.

This woman in Melbourne Beach lost the roof to her patio during a severe thunderstorm.

The roof ended up in the street.

I cover many shootings. The victim in this one drove himself to the hospital, where I snapped this.

In one Melbourne shooting, the victim was loaded into a car, then a driver tried to take him to the hospital. The driver stopped in the middle of U.S. 1 when the victim lost consciousness. The victim was pulled onto the pavement, where passing nurses stopped and performed CPR in the middle of the roadway. But he died.

This SUV, which was stopped at a red light, was hit from behind by a truck owned by a pest-control company. The driver wasn't paying attention.

Someone torched this West Melbourne home. I got there just after the flames had been extinguished. Unfortunately.

This bad motorcycle wreck occurred late one evening on my route back home. A car cut the motorcycle off, and the Harley ran into the car. The rider apparently survived the initial crash but was in rough shape.

Another motorcycle wreck in Melbourne. In this one, the police said a rider was speeding when he ran into the back of a mowing tractor that had just pulled onto U.S. 1.

Two people died in this plane crash in Palm Bay. A back-seat passenger suffered only minor injuries. It was some sort of mechanical failure.