Not a cloud in the sky…

The sky is absolutely clear right now. I’ve also finally got my cable issues straightened out, and my Gemini is updated to version 4.04. So why am I still inside?

Mainly, it’s muggy out there! I just took a step outside (it’s not particularly dark, thanks to my neighbour’s security lights) and it was like stepping into tepid water. Ugh! I looked for stars, and after a great deal of effort, found the Summer Triangle. With those conditions I figure it’s not worth trying anything. I’m just waiting for one of my fellow club members to tell everyone what a great night he had at his cottage….that’ll put the icing on the cake.

Bah! humbug! And Grump and Rassenfrassen too.

Mercury Rising

I woke up this morning to clear skies (I wasn’t sure why the ceiling outside was blue at first) after what seems like months of cloud. One of the things I hope to do is use the webcam which currently stares at the SkyShed to detect clear skies. That way I can set an alarm and get out whenever observing is possible. As I said, we’ve had months of cloudy skies, and I’m getting desperate. Anyway, because of that possible project I looked at the stored webcam images to see if it was possible to tell the difference between a cloudy sky and a clear sky in the image. The answer, at least at night, seems to be only a vague ‘maybe.’

What I did see was just before dawn the sky was a light shade of blue. Off to one side was a dot of light which seemed a little out of place – more than just noise. I fired up Starry Night to check, and for 6.30 am, Mercury was in the right position, just a few degrees above the horizon. I processed the image using the previous night images as a form of dark frame to reduce the noise, then ran the result through Noise Ninja with default settings, and this is the result:

Mercury this morning

Mercury was at -0.17 magnitude at the time, and is quite clear at the top right of the frame. The sensitivity is unknown (the camera has automatic gain control) but the image is probably based on a 4mm lens, 1/30 sec at f/2.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun….

Demonstrating a fine sense of timing, I bought a folding bike over the weekend. It was a bit of an impulse buy – Katherine is preparing for a move to California, and hopes to cycle to work, so when she bought a Lite Ride bike, so did I. The local weather gods promptly delivered searing temperatures – 34 and 35°C over the past couple of days. In the back garden with no wind it was even higher, up to 38°C in the shade, and under the hammerstrike of the sun, an incredible 45.3°C! That is no weather for old men, on bikes or shank’s mare.

Assembly of the bikes was a chore – I did it in the garage, with the sun for light, and only afterward gave a thought to the possibility that I might perhaps just maybe have considered thinking about building the damn things in my hallway, where it’s both light and cool. I waited until this evening for the temperatures to drop into the mid-twenties before riding around the block. Less than a kilometre, but I was huffing, puffing, and, er, glowing, when I got back to the house. It’s going to be a lonnng summer getting even marginally back in shape.

The bikes fold down to the point where they can be tossed in the back of a car, so I’m taking one along with me when I go to work. I’m hoping to ride at lunch time whenever the temperatures are reasonable. I’m also hoping that a little exercise will slow the progress of my diabetes and lymphedema, so any well-wishers out there may wish me luck [Evil lurkers will of course continue to send spam and comment-spam].

I’ve been slow to perceive a pattern

I have taken a while to notice a pattern in the weather station readings, namely that on several days the outside temperature reading is elevated over what one might expect from trend lines before and after. It happens around 6 pm at the moment, but looking back into March I can see the effect around 5 pm, so it seems to be linked to the actual time rather than to clock time (I mean by this that it happens at about the same time, 5 pm, if you measure entirely in Standard Time). It doesn’t happen every day, which has obscured the pattern somewhat, but it is consistent otherwise. It also didn’t happen (that I have been able to track) in early March, and seems to have appeared after the equinox. My supposition is that the temperature sensor is being exposed to sunlight and is heating up during the times when the reading is elevated. If true, then the days when it doesn’t happen will be cloudy days. Since I don’t track cloud cover, this is going to be hard to confirm except on weekends when I am in a position to check the sensor. If I do manage to confirm this as the cause I will have to either re-site the sensor or shield it from the sun (I thought I had shielded it in the current position on a north-facing wall, but I may be mistaken).

Later: I had someone check the sensor when the temperature began to rise, and as anticipated the sensor was in full sun, and when the shadows ultimately passed over the sensor the temperature began to fall. It seems I have some planning to do….

Fixing the weather….

OK, I’m not fixing the weather, just the weather page and the way the system connects to Weather Underground. A couple of days ago the Weather Underground updates stopped working. No warning. No messages. Just the icon started displaying ‘No data’ in the middle of the day. I modified the programs to capture the info in the format sent to Weather Underground and pasted it into Firefox. It worked, so there didn’t appear to be anything inherently wrong with the system on this end, and I sent off a long message to Shaun at I’m still waiting for an answer, but in the meantime a note on the Yahoo Open2300 mailing list pointed me to a page on Keith Lavrsen’s site which had a patch to fix the problem. It’s been a couple of hours so far, and seems to be working.

Another change to the program was to write just the data needed to a file which is opened for the write task and then immediately closed. This reduces the web page down time during an update from appreciable fractions of a minute to imperceptible fractions of a second.

Quick note – Weather Page

I’ve been offering the weather station observations at, but while I’ll continue to provide the data there and will do any necessary corrections to the station page there, the main page is now accessible directly from Starstruck under the WEATHER heading in the sidebar. Currently it’s a copy of the old page with some graphic elements removed. Over time I’ll clean it up further and remove some of the verbiage describing the measurements (I’ll move those to a separate page for anyone interested in details).

Bad data and timeouts

Over the past few hours the weather station has been reporting temperatures in excess of 80°C and extremely high winds. These values are clearly incorrect. At other times the station is failing to report anything at all – the web page times out. I’m not able to deal with this at the moment, but I will look into it as soon as I can. Nertz!

Not a faucet, but my nose!

My cold lingers – right now it’s in my ears, and I’m moderately deaf – so I can’t go out much. A quick dash to and from the office from the car is about my limit. I think the office building is sick, though, since when I enter the building I start to go through tissue after tissue keeping my nose in check. At home or on the road I barely need ’em.

Apparently last night was a really clear night but all I could do was look wistfully through the window at Mars, which is rapidly heading away from us. On the other hand my cloudy night routine now includes fiddling with the weather station software. I’ve gone completely over to Open2300 since WeatherTracker wasn’t doing it for me in its current state, and I’ve tweaked the cron jobs and the php programs to reduce the chances of having one cron job collide with another. Small pleasures.

Returning to the Cold Cold Blast

We’ve had some amazing weather for January, and I took advantage of it to set up the weather station. However, we now seem to be moving back to more normal conditions – it’s snowing as I look outside the kitchen door, and the rain sensor is on the ground (though apparently still working). We had gusting conditions – the weather station doesn’t record gusts – and the maximum recorded wind speed was 6.9 m/s (just under 25 kph).

Perhaps as a consequence of the weather and moving about in it – dressing for -5 only to find it’s +10 – I’ve wound up with a cold, sore throat, aching joints, headache, stuffed up nose – the whole works. Right now I’m up, but that won’t last long — I’m heading back to bed!