Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weedon Island Preserve Observation Tower

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

We walked across boardwalks over a mangrove marsh to get to the Observation Tower at Weedon Island Preserve.

Here's a view of the boardwalk from the top of the Observation Tower. You can see the roof of the Natural History Center and the Progress Energy Plant at the horizon.

The fishing pier seen from the Observation Tower.

Take the time to stop, look, and listen as you walk along the boardwalks. You're bound to discover some wildlife, like this crab.

Ibises in the salt water marsh. They are funny looking birds with long, curved beaks.

These fruits are actually miniature mangrove plants in the making called propagules. They will continue to grow longer to look like giant string beans. Eventually the propagules fall into the water and are carried away by the tide. Those that land in a place to take hold and root become trees. The roots capture more silt and debris to form islands.

Fortunately for me, there are signs along the trails to explain such details. Now I know what those big string beans are that we find at the beach in the summer.

There is always something new to discover here.

More photos of Weeden Island Preserve.


Directions from Tampa
Drive across the Gandy Bridge and turn left at San Martin Blvd. Keep a close eye out for it as soon as you're on the St. Petersburg side of the bridge.

Preserve Hours: Daily, 7am - Sunset
Natural History Center Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 10am-4pm (closed Monday, Tuesday, and holidays)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Night Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery STS-119

(Click on photos for larger images.)

Here's a view of Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad shortly before lift-off. Alfonse took photos from across the Banana River on the NASA Causeway about 6 miles away.

The space shuttle launch lights up the evening sky. Nothing can prepare you for how bright the light gets. Night turns into day.

Here you see the space shuttle doing the roll maneuver that inserts it into low Earth orbit. The contrail reflected the colors of the sunset. The colored area of the cloud looked like a rainbow.

The white dots are the solid rocket boosters dropping.

The glowing sunset colors in the contrail was very unusual. It was one of the most visually spectacular launches ever. The launch was visible hundreds of miles away in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami.

More photos of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery STS-119.

Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery Seen in Tampa

(Click on photos for larger images.)

It was a very quiet Sunday evening in our neighborhood, except for me, hooping and hollering in the backyard with my camera. The space shuttle first appeared as a glowing red point of light going straight up. The contrail behind it glowed with bands of sunset colors. It looked amazing, even from 130 miles away!

The wind started tearing the contrail apart right away.

The white cloud is what was left from the space shuttle roll maneuver that puts it into orbit.