Thursday, February 16, 2012

Clouds of Stellar Gas and Dust, Gay Ego, and Rain or Snow

**Updated 9:20PM 7/3/2014: See below.**

Behold, the Horsehead Nebula ...

The Horsehead Nebula is a molecular cloud -- also known as a stellar nursery and a type of dense interstellar cloud -- of molecular hydrogen (H2) gas about 1,500 light years away in the constellation Orion. This image was taken by the 0.9-meter (36") telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and was the July 21, 2009 APOD.

Here is another image of the Horsehead Nebula taken by the 0.6-meter Mount Lemmon SkyCenter telescope. The reddish glow is created by H2 gas ionized by nearby Sigma Orionis. The bright spots in the Horsehead are newborn stars. This was the Nov. 26, 2008 APOD (my 39th birthday).

The Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33, gets its name from its distinct horse head-like shape.  Above is an image of the Horsehead Nebula in relation to the "easternmost" Belt star, Alnitak, and the Flame Nebula.

Here is the Horsehead Nebula in relation to all three of Orion's Belt stars, which in ascending order from "east" to "west" are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, although here they appear from "bottom" to "top" with the Horsehead Nebula visually closest to Alnitak.

All three are blue giant or supergiant stars, and two of them are part of multiple star systems.

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Here are some other "heady" nebulae of note  ...


**Updated 9:20PM 7/3/2014: Content removed.**

Some Blog Housekeeping ...

I've been having an odd problem with my StatCounter site meter that I simply cannot resolve: it won't STOP counting my own visits even though I've repeatedly tried to block my own IP address (which StatCounter makes it easy to do on the configuration page).

The issue started two days ago for the exact OPPOSITE reason as this when I discovered that even if I unblocked my own IP address, I could NOT track / count my own blog visits (I blocked my own IP address long ago since I do not want to count those visits). 

I even submitted a ticket to StatCounter -- which I've used now for 5+ years through multiple blogs, including this one from the beginning -- explaining this and speculating on a possible cause. I received an answer saying it was most likely a cookie issue.

But then I checked my blog this morning and -- voila -- it registered the visit. It then registered again. And again. And even after I "reblocked" the IP address. And now, 14 hours later, it is STILL registering my visits even with the address blocked. It is even recording my blog previews -- which means I'll have an extra 50 superfluous hits per day on certain days when I update it.

'Tis a puzzlement.

I've no idea the issue. I have submitted a reply to the reply but I really don't think this is a problem that can be resolved. It pretty much has to resolve itself. Or not.

If it does not, I may have to delete the project outright and reinstall it -- or use another site meter.

Updated: As of the last two hours, the problem SEEMS to have resolved itself. 

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Weekend East Coast Nor'easter?

Turning to the weather, we may have a significant event here Saturday night into Sunday. It may be a full-fledged coastal nor'easter that brings to the D.C. area either rain and gusty winds, possibly changing to snow before ending, or an outright snowstorm, or alternatively, nothing, all depending on the track.

Here is an image from the 18Z GFS 15 Feb 2012 run:

This shows the surface low pressure, 850mb temperatures, and 6-hour precipitation centered on / valid 18Z (2PM EST) 19 Feb. 2012. It features a 984mb low right over Delaware with squally rain showers and temps around 40F in D.C.

And here is the 0Z 16 Feb. 2012 NAM run showing the same parameters at 84 hours (the farthest it runs), valid 12Z (7AM EST) 19 Feb. 2012.

This shows a much weather storm with a series of lows riding along a front much farther to the south -- and heavy snow either in the D.C. area or just south of it.

Take your pick of which model and / or model run you prefer as being accurate. There's no end to these. I call it smokin' meteorological crack -- one model hit is never enough. 

As an update, while I've been trying to post this entry, the 0Z GFS 16 Feb. 2012 came out.

Here is the image showing the same parameters valid at 18Z (1PM EST) 19 Feb. 2012. This model run is more similar to the 0Z NAM run directly above but with a more expansive precipitation shield. 

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OK, that's all for now. My next planned update of this blog until Friday or more likely Saturday. Tomorrow night, I plan to do my Thursday night jaunt to some restaurant bar after work and then to Larry's Lounge. Oh, yes, my friend Brian from NYC is in town this weekend and we may go out. 

--Regulus

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