I ran home after work, grabbed my gear, changed, picked a general location and headed South on I-35, crossing the Minnesota river around 5:13 attempting to exit the metro before traffic stopped entirely. I re-fulled around Lakeville briefly, my car was on E from last night. Around Fairbuilt, MN I started seeing the cell in the SE Metro suddenly look alot more attractive versus a more MCS apperance along with the more interesting section passing into SE MN Bluff country. I decided to take a moment and reflect on the situation at the Medford McDonald’s DriveThru. Medford had a really cool traffic circle exit, if you have never tried it, take the exit and go around the circle once or twice before continuing on. Ordered a #3 with Coke. The fry’s allowed me focus and I made up my mind to go after the cell to the North East and initially plotted a course for Mankato after looking at a couple of nexrad loops, I had actually wasted alot of time by not going after it in the first place but, at least I would not have to deal with a possibly less than optimal river crossing had I been on it sooner.
I saw a nice strong/healthy cell from afar, I made a close approch just SW of Mankato making the first pass just in front of the cell. A couple people found a hail shelter from which to tape from. I then went South and stopped for a while to observe and take some more pics/video, I travelled further South then made another close pass heading East, South, West then it just kind of fell apart in the matter of minutes. From my position I was unable to report on hail sizes (unless I stopped moving). The storms movement was SE at 25.
I found some ‘seemingly’ old structures and was taking some photos of some Mammatus in the background. Bill Doms briefly stopped to say hi, while taking the photos of the Mamatus. I was looking at all the powerlines and antenna’s protruding from this old place. Each structure had a powerline running to it and each building had no less than 3 low profile antenna’s projecting from it. I ended up with a shot of a side of one structure with some old fashioned looking barrels next to it. I took some more shots up the road as the sun was going down and the Mammatus was casting more shadows and had more of a redish/orange apperance.
I left work and took Hwy 100 N then headed West on 12 (well I tried to it was after 5pm, I did not understand the pay lane on 394, what’s up with that? Do I owe money? I figured their would be a booth somewhere or something.). I did not have any gear with me, just a Delorme Gazetteer(a road atlas), a cell phone, and a Casio EX-Z70 (tiny point and shoot for both photos and videos, it’s tiny, about half as think as a pack of cigarettes and 3oz or so? It’s not what I normally use but, I always keep it with me).
I made it to Montrose (I am not clear on this, I had to go further West to avoid hail), then here was my route as I best recall, Watertown, St. Bonifacious, Waconia (more hail), Chaska, Jordan, New Prague, Montgomary, and between New Prague, and Montgomary I must have had a few cells go by, I made it SE of Montgomary but, I did spend alot of time just S/SE of Montgomary. (Work in Progress, need to review map)
I try to keep low key by driving out on dirt roads a ways before pulling over, parking lots, away from main highways but, alot of people stopped to make sure I did’nt need help (that happened to be going down the dirt road, parking lot, etc), or to ask if I knew the sirens went off, and to ask what direction I think they needed to go in order to stay safe (‘you can look at my map but, I don’t actually live around here’, ‘the storm is moving ESE @ 30′, ‘oh and avoid the white precipitation, and ah, the white precipitation is often just behind the dark precipitation so try and avoid that too’). Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the company, and it’s nice to see that people care. The storms were moving at a manageable pace so I was able to avoid most of the hail (and it was falling everywhere).
I do a lot of astronomy including public events where we point out cool stuff that happens all the time and you don’t need a telescope for it. One thing that always get’s people is Space Station Passes, many people don’t realize how bright the Space Station is on a good pass (a good pass would be being very brightly illuminated pass during the dark, high above horizon), you don’t need a telescope or any special equipment, just your eyes. You might mistake it for a low altitude small plane going from horizon to horizon in a space of 5 minutes if you don’t look at it very closely. I stepped outside this evening with my daughter and Venus was easily the brightest thing in the sky just setting to the North-East. Beyond that, the space station at around magnitude -1 was one of the brightest objects in the sky, zipping across the sky it’s quite cool when you point and tell someone…’that’s the space station’. We live in a fairly light polluted area of the city where when you step outside you might see 20 stars max after a couple minutes. In a dark spot outside the metro, when your eyes are dark adopted and you can see the Milky Way it’s actually pretty spectacular. The Space Station has been flaring recently with the addition of additional solar panels that has reached the levels of near iridium flare brightness (a whole other story but, hands down much more impressive). The Space Station passes vary on a regular basis over a couple week at a time due over a month or two due to orbit and illumination from the sun (while it’s dark out), two good free websites to see when the Space Station will pass over your house are Calsky.com and Heavens-Above.com. Also, a good free satellite prediction program for the PC is Orbitron. For either the websites you will have to enter your viewing location and your looking for several things, the period during the time it will be visible (say from 10:56 to 11:01 pm), and where it’s going to be. They generally give you the time and position it’s first visible, the time and position when it’s brightest, and the time and position where it disappears. The position is given as degrees above horizon (0-90 degrees but, generally anything below 10 is not going to be visible), and the Azimuth (compass direction 0-360 degrees). From the entry, maximum, and exit points you can kind of get a feel for the path it’s going to be flying if you want to setup a camera or just to look for it in general. The timing is not as critical as an iridium flare where it might flare for 10-20 seconds max. Just look for a bright light floating from horizon to horizon over the course of a few minutes.
For a good discussion of the recent ISS flares and Space Weather topics my favorite site is SpaceWeather.com .
I was looking at South Dakota pretty seriously yesterday(6/9), and this morning(6/10) but, I could not quite do it. I watched a supercell near Sioux Falls on NexRad for a few minutes at a time over a several hour period from early morning. Around 2pm I decided to go after some of the cells forming from Western Minnesota along a line of about Renville, MN to Milbank, SD as I arrived the cells were training over the area from about Milan to Madison. The main threat was hail, high winds, flooding (and of course lightning) with most hail reports ranging in the .75 to 1.25 range with the odd 2.75 report, wind reports ranged in the 60-70mph range with other reports of trees down as well as some flooding. I took 212 West and started running into smaller non-severe cells in Renville County, and headed towards a couple of large cells crossing the river at Milan North of Montevideo, I then proceeded to Madison, making my way back to 212 staying in front of the nice shelf clouds the whole time. I toyed with the idea of some lightning shots but, most of the lightning was occuring within the widespread precipitation areas. Once I hit Renville I started making my way South as the line split and the Southern Cell appeared to be reving up but, gave that up SW of Olivia and started to make my way home once I could no longer see sunlight over the horizon.
Earth Science Picture of the Day (USRA, ESSE, & NASA Goddard) selected my Iridium Flare photo for the June 1oth, 2007 Picture of the day. Previously featured on SpaceWeather.com, StarTribune.com, Astronomy.com Picture of the Day, and SkyandTelescope.com Editors Choice.