Category: Winter


Thin Air

 

When making images I may use something I draw/paint from scratch, objects and landscape modeled and rendered with 3D software, or photographs I have taken – sometimes I make use of all three in one image – whatever works. I do a lot of experimentation. In this doodle of stark, high mountains I am trying to “automate” the irregular presence of snow rendered in 3D; so that the snow line is not just that, a line. I haven’t perfected the process, but I think I am on the right track.

In this case I applied a terrain image map which I made in the PD Artist version of Project Dogwaffle (which, by the way, has a very useful 3D terrain modeling filter) to mountainous terrain in Daz Bryce. I duplicated the terrain with a snow material. Repeatedly applying a variety of random variations (noise) in the geometry of the two terrains gave the effect I was looking for. A bit of post-processing produced a rather nice result.

thin air - snow on the mountains

Thin Air

Moroz

A dark night in Siberia – bringing in a bit of wood for the fire, conifer needles are covered in frost. Moroz (мороз) is the Russian word for frost.

Click on image for full-size view.

frost siberian night

Mороз

Mushing Down Under

Instituting the Far South Files:

Who would have thunk it? Mushing upside down in Oz. Dog sledding is quite popular in Australia in areas where there is sufficient snow. At Mount Hotham in Victoria there is a big race every year and there are several others. Several outfitters offer rides for tourists.

Dog Sleds Down Under

Dog Sleds Down Under

Tuvaaq

As I have noted before; sometimes you just get lucky. I came up with a random, sort of, fractal the other day resembling a highly-stylized human wearing fur clothing. It even appears that there is a wind-blown fur ruff around the parka hood. I thought it would make a nice addition to my series of postage stamps for an independent Alaska; all I needed to do was drop into an appropriate polar background an add a harpoon based on an actual Inuit weapon. The result is below. I hope you like it. “Tuvaaq” is the word for hunter in Inuktitut, the Inuit language.

Click on image for a full-size view.

Tuvaaq - Hunter

Tuvaaq

Here’s the fractal without the fancy background.

Tuvaaq Fractal

Fractal Hunter

Both versions of the image are available on a number of items at my Zazzle store.

Hunting Under The Lights

I’ve had this picture on my computer for some time. After a bit of software tweaking it looks fairly nice.

Click on image for full-size view.

A Polar Bear hunts on the Arctic ice during the long, dark polar winter

On The Prowl

It is amazing that Polar Bears manage to survive. Think about it. Wandering on floating, drifting ice through the long, polar winter; in total darkness for much of the time.. Totally dependent on finding the breathing holes of seals hiding under the ice to stay alive. When winter ends they come ashore and generally eat nothing until the ocean freezes up again.

Due to climate change they are forced to go for ever longer periods without food. Their future looks bleak.

Please think about them, all the pother endangered species, and the furute for humans as well. Do what you can to avoid contributing to climate change.

The 13th Day

Today’s entry is from a fractured version of a well-known seasonal song.

...and a porcupine in a pine tree

The 13th Day

Available on cards and other items at my Zazzle store.

Update – July 6, 2012.

This image received a “Today’s Best Award” from Zazzle.com.

Zazzle Award

**********************************************************************

I have a software application which generates fractal images. Every so often I set everything to “random” just to see what will happen. Lo and behold, I got an image looking much like the Northern Lights. After adding it to a night scene it looks even better.

Click on image for full-size view.

Fractal rendering of the "Northern Lights"

The aurora borealis shimmers in the northern sky

The aurora borealis (or Northern Lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. Many cultural groups have legends about the lights. In medieval times, the occurrences of auroral displays were seen as harbingers of war or famine. The Maori of New Zealand shared a belief with many northern people of Europe and North America that the lights were reflections from torches or campfires.

The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed that the lights indicated the location of manabai’wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen. The Inuit of Alaska believed that the lights were the spirits of the animals they hunted: the seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales. Other aboriginal peoples believed that the lights were the spirits of their people.

The connection between the Northern Lights and sunspot activity was suspected as far back as 1880. Thanks to research conducted since the 1950’s, we now know that electrons and protons from the sun are blown towards the earth on the ‘solar wind’. (Note: 1957-58 was International Geophysical Year and the atmosphere was studied extensively with balloons, radar, rockets and satellites. Rocket research is still conducted by scientists at Poker Flats, a facility under the direction of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

The temperature of the sun’s atmosphere is millions of degrees. At this temperature, collisions between gas molecules are frequent and explosive. Free electrons and protons are thrown from the sun’s atmosphere by the rotation of the sun and escape through holes in the magnetic field. carried eartward in the solar wind, the charged particles are largely deflected by the earth’s magnetic field. However, the earth’s magnetic field is weaker at either pole and therefore some particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gas particles in the higher layers (thermosphere). These collisions emit light that we perceive as the dancing lights of the north (and the south).

Most aurorae occur in a band known as the auroral zone,which is typically 3° to 6° in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitudes. The auroral zone is typically 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth’s magnetic dipole. During a geomagnetic storm, the auroral zone will expand to lower latitudes. The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky which may not be visible to the naked eye even on a dark night and defines the extent of the auroral zone. The discrete aurora are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora which vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye to bright enough to read a newspaper at night. Discrete aurorae are usually observed only in the night sky because they are as bright as the sunlit sky. Aurorae occasionally occur poleward of the auroral zone as diffuse patches or arcs (polar cap arcs, which are generally invisible to the naked eye.

Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, northern lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere, while similar locations in the east never experience the mysterious lights. However the best places to watch the lights (in North America) are in the northwestern parts of Canada, particularly the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Siberia. Southern auroras are not often seen as they are concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean.

Auroral displays appear in many colors. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow. Curtain-like structures show field lines in the Earth’s magnetic field .

The auroras that resulted from the “great geomagnetic storm” on both 28 August and 2 September 1859 are thought the most spectacular in recent recorded history. It was reported by the New York Times that in Boston on Friday 2 September 1859 the aurora was “so brilliant that at about one o’clock ordinary print could be read by the light”.

The aurora is thought to have been produced by one of the most intense coronal mass ejections in history, very near the maximum intensity that the Sun is thought to be capable of producing. It is also notable for the fact that it is the first time where the phenomena of auroral activity and electricity were unambiguously linked. This insight was made possible not only due to scientific magnetometer measurements of the era, but also as a result of a significant portion of the 125,000 miles (201,000 km) of telegraph lines then in service being significantly disrupted for many hours throughout the storm. Some telegraph lines, however, seem to have been of the appropriate length and orientation to produce a sufficient geomagnetically induced current from the electromagnetic field to allow for continued communication with the telegraph operator power supplies switched off.

Both Jupiter and Saturn have magnetic fields much stronger than Earth’s (Jupiter’s equatorial field strength is 4.3 gauss, compared to 0.3 gauss for Earth), and both have large radiation belts. Auroras have been observed on both, most clearly with the Hubble Space Telescope. Uranus and Neptune have also been observed to have auroras.

While it is cold and dark here in Alaska during the winter, there are compensations. One is the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Most often they are green, but you can also see reds and blues on occasion.

In the fall of 2001, just before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, we saw very impressive all-red Northern Lights at our place in the mountains of northern Idaho. We often saw auroras there, but these filled the entire sky. I understand that event was seen as far south as Texas.

The lore of some native Alaskans say that out-of-the-ordinary auroral displays, especially red events, foretell bad times. Auroras just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were said to be spectacular.

Also, some people claims that they can hear the lights; reporting that it resembles the rustling of chiffon or nylon cloth. There are a number of explanations; perhaps electrical discharges from ionized particles responsible for auroral displays are somehow detected by the ear.

In the image below everything looks as if electricity is causing the phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s Fire. (Or should that be St. Elmoose’s Fire?)

Multiple versions of this image, not all of them Alaska postage stamps, are available at my Zazzle store.

Click on image for full-size view.

A moose silhouetted against the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Hours have passed; it is now dark dark and the wolverine (see previous post) has moved on. Rodents in the area are still not safe as a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) sits in a dead spruce tree – death from above.

The Boreal Owl, which generally remains in the north throughout winter, is cute and would be a fine subject for a future post.

Click on image for full-size view.

A Boreal Owl sits in a dead spruce tree listening for the movement of small rodents beneath the snow,

Silent Night

Cold War

And now for something completely different. Sometimes I make pictures of things other than wildlife just to do something different. This is one of those times; and I wanted to try something new with one of my 3D graphics applications.

A Soviet airfield early on a late winter morning early in the Cold War, the mid 1950’s. There is ice on the ramp as the crew and passengers of an Antonov AN-2 prepare for takeoff. Three MiG-17s are parked near a hangar; two more fly overhead. If you look closely you may be able to see a second AN-2 in the hangar.

Click on image for full-size view.

An Antonov AN-2 Colt and Mig-17s on a Soviet airfield in the mid 1950s.

An Early Flight

The AN-2 (Russian nickname: кукурузник [kukuruznik or “maize farmworker”] and referred to by NATO as COLT) is the world’s largest single-engine biplane. Its extraordinary slow-flight capabilities make it supremely suited for short, unimproved fields, and some specialized variants have also been built for cold weather and other extreme environments. It fills the same niche in Russia and parts of East Asia as does the venerable Douglas DC-3/C-47 in the West.

Since its first appearance in 1947, the AN-2 has been produced in great numbers; over 5,000 were built in the USSR. Since 1960, most AN-2’s have been built at in Poland, with over 12,000 made before full production ended in 1992. Limited production from part stocks continues. The AN-2 is also built under license in China as the Shijiazhuang Y-5. North Korea operates several AN-2s for use by special forces units. Save for the Lockheed C-130, the AN-2 has been in, more or less, continuous production for longer than any other aircraft.

The AN-2 was designed as a utility aircraft for use in government-owned forestry and agriculture. However, the basic airframe is highly adaptable and numerous variants have been developed. These include hopper-equipped versions for crop-dusting, scientific versions for atmospheric sampling, water-bombers for fighting forest-fires, flying ambulances, float-equipped seaplane versions, lightly armed combat versions for dropping paratroopers, and of course the most common AN-2T version, which is the 12-seater passenger aircraft.

The AN-2 has design features which make it suitable for operation in remote areas with unsurfaced airstrips:

-It has a pneumatic brake system (similar to those used on heavy road vehicles) allowing it to stop on short runways.
-It has an air line fitted to the compressor, so the pressure in the tires and shock absorbers can be adjusted ‘in the field’.
-The batteries are large and easy to remove, meaning that the aircraft does not need a ground power unit to supply power.
-It has it has an onboard fuel pump that allows the fuel tanks to be filled from simple fuel drums on the ground.
-It has the minimum of complex systems. For example, the crucial wing leading edge slats that give the An-2 its slow flight ability are automatic, being held closed by airflow over the wings. Below 40 mph (64 km/h), they extend as they are on elastic rubber springs.

An interesting note from the pilot’s handbook reads: “If the engine quits in instrument conditions (blind flying when you can’t see the ground) or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft (it won’t stall) and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 40 mph (64 km/h), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 25 mph [40 km/h], the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”

The AN-2 has no stall speed quoted in the operating handbooks (the stall speed being the speed at which the aircraft is traveling too slowly for the airflow over the wings to keep it aloft). Pilots of the An-2 say the aircraft can be flown in full control at 30 mph (as a contrast, a modern Cessna 4-seater light aircraft has a stall speed of around 55 mph). This slow stall speed makes it possible for the aircraft to fly backwards (if the aircraft is pointed into a headwind of, say, 35 mph, it will travel backwards at 5 mph whilst under full control). This is a rare ability, even amongst other Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. Only the German Fieseler Fi-156 “Stork” of World War II has better slow-speed ability.