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Anatomy of Error 12/01/2015

Posted by zoidion in forecast, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Sunset is only an hour away. Then it will be time for another short trek to the golf course and another chance to photograph Mercury, Venus and Mars as daylight fades. Mercury and Venus are now only about a half-degree (by longitude) apart, and about as little by declination–I’m not sure if my standard lens will be able to distinguish them. Mars is nineteen degrees away by longitude, and six by declination, and growing fainter as the Sun proceeds on its slow chase toward conjunction on 14 June.

So, without fancier equipment I may accomplish nothing more than getting chilled. (A conversation earlier with a friend who is one of the principals involved in Minnesota Wildflowers emphasized just how fancy photographic equipment can be.)

A similar attempt a couple of days ago yielded frustration, when the period after sundown featured a thin band of cloud in the southwestern quadrant of the sky.  

(Searching for an eyeball view of Mercury, especially from an urban location, is particularly challenging, as readers know from a previous post. Over all these years I’ve only had one experience of being pretty sure I’d seen Mercury–though I admit that I was seldom trying.)

But there have of late been other marvels hard to miss. For example, the annual flower stalk coming out of one of my aloe vera plants: It started emerging right around the winter solstice, and I’ve been photographing it about every other day.


And this morning, as the Sun rose above the white pine across the alley, the light shone on the bathroom window’s frost and revealed a wondrous pattern. How does the frost do that?


The past week’s cold spell has brought the urge to salivate (and plan) over the sumptuously colored photos of vegetables in the Seed Savers catalog, along with ample opportunity to note the success, or not, of recent years’ weatherization efforts. 

I’m more convinced than ever that the eleven insulating blinds were a smart investment; the pink insulation foam board that I cut to fit the double window in the living room that faces north still hasn’t been made pretty, but it’s doing the job. Since the house is at a bend in the street, it catches a lot of the north wind coming down the slope: an exposure that few other houses in the area have. But another spot calls for more attention–before next winter.

So the weather’s been cold, colder than average, but not at all unusual for early January in these parts. But not as expected, nor as forecast in these pages: “Significant snow but remaining relatively mild.”

After warming to slightly above freezing toward the end of First Quarter Moon week, the temperature plummeted on the 4th, remained very cold for the first half of Full Moon week before moderating somewhat. Several light snowfalls did not quite add up to “significant snowfall.”

What’s up with that?

I took too little significance from the fact that the Full Moon axis was across the horizon of the season chart. Plus, I put too much weight on the indications of the Full Moon chart itself:

Full Moon January 2015

I had noticed Mars (warming trends) at a sixty-degree angle to the lower meridian, the latter in the fire sign Sagittarius. But since the solstice Saturn (cold and persistent conditions) has moved into Sagittarius, reducing the warmth. In addition, Mars can’t add much heat to cold Aquarius, where Saturn is lord–as well as in Capricorn.

(The Saturn-exactly-on-the-lower-meridian line ran through the Los Angeles area, and while I wasn’t keeping track of weather there, I did note that Arizona had unusual cold and snow.)

Note something else: Mercury in the Full Moon chart is at zero degrees of Aquarius (the coldest of the signs: “fixed” or concentrated in addition to having Saturn as lord). Mercury had just changed signs, signaling a shift in the wind pattern.

(In this particular season, during which Mercury is lord of the zoidion Virgo on the lower meridian, the movement of Mercury has greater significance than in most seasons.)

By the 15th, both Mercury and Venus will have crossed the place of Mars in the season chart, signaling a bit of a warmup, the air capable of holding more moisture. Nothing spectacular, but still welcome to most.

Did I mention Mercury and Venus? Well, since I pounded most of the previous words into some semblance of appropriate shape, I’ve been to the sculpted ridges and valleys of the neighborhood golf course.

After sighting Venus, I waited for the solar glow to fade a bit, making exaggerated movements in the four-degree air and taking shelter from the slight breeze behind a mature oak. An added benefit was the clearing of my breath’s fog from my spectacles. I kept peering out one side of one lens, and then, there it was: another, fainter body close to Venus.

Then I was hopping with excitement, and beseeching Urania for success in photography. Evidently, she smiled on my effort and dedication:


At the moment I tripped the shutter, the representation of the sky was this:





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