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Monday, January 23, 2006


Feeling the heat

In my last post I mentioned that I was plagued by "hot" pixels, probably due to the warm weather keeping the CCD chip too hot. To put this in perspective, the minimum temperature two nights ago was 33 degrees C, at the time I took my Orion shot it was probably around 35 degrees or so (at 7:30 pm it was still 41 degrees C). South Australia had 4 days over 40 degrees in a row, our hottest for over 80 years, night time temperatures have keep in pace, with most nights hovering around the 30's.

As you can guess this has had a damping affect on my astronomy, even tonight now that the cool change has come through (it only got up to 29 today, cool and refreshing), the stars are jittering around like crazy, it's not worth taking the scope out, Saturn would be just recognizable though the jitter, a pretzel on acid. I've been content to go swimming in the evenings and stare at the stars while floating in the lukewarm water (still cooler than the air).

Even writing about astronomy, and telling you folks about the latest amazing results from Mars and so on has been impossible, the study with the computer in is the hottest part of the house, even if I did have the will to move from the coolest part of the house (the living room, where the entire family has been sleeping during the heat), slowly cooking in front of a computer is not my idea of fun. Tonight is the first night I'm not in danger of short circuiting the computer through my sweat.

Of course, with the heat, bushfires have broken out all over, there are massive fires in Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Just to the north-east 80,000 hectares have been burnt out in Ngarkat conservation park, over in Victoria a similar number of hectares has been burnt out in the Grampians, which was where we were going to be camping this weekend. With near 40 degree temperatures predicted, we are not going anywhere near there (sadly, this is one of our favorite spots). It's hard to convey the scope of fires that are bigger than some (very small) European countries (The Ngarkat fire is about the size of Luxembourg, the Grampians fire is about 1/20th the size of Wales). Three people are dead and over 20 homes lost.

On Sunday, after the obligatory swim, we hid out in an air-conditioned cinema for a freinds child's birthday party, hoping the cool change would have arrived by the time we came out. It had, but so had a huge plume of smoke form the Kangaroo Island fires (a mere 20,000 hectares burning), the entire street (heck the entire city) was shrouded in smoke, the semaphore tower rising erirly from the gloom, and the air smelt of acrid, well, smoke, as it would. Not a vast improvement over baking heat, I felt.

So, not much astronomy, either real or virtual and not many posts from me.

Holy smokes! No pun intended. That's pretty darned warm! I can just imagine the stars dancing around because of it. We've got a bit of coverage on the fires on the news. Hope they stay away from you!
We've got rain and cloud over here in New Zealand at the moment, rather putting a dampener on my sight-seeing. I hope it heads your way Ian.

Perhaps I'll bring it with me to Australia, as I've been accused of bringing it from the UK.
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