Category Archives: Things I Think Are Awesome

There’s a halo in the sky!

Every so often, southern Arizona is treated to a huge ring surrounding the sun or moon.

Courtesy: Mark Blomquist

So what causes it? Let’s explore the world of optics. (I promise to keep it simple)

Courtesy: Univ. of Illinois
Courtesy: Univ. of Illinois

Hexagonal ice crystals are typically found in high level clouds like cirrus. These ice crystals refract sunlight or moonlight twice, netting a 22° shift from its original path. The net result is the brilliant 22° halo that catches the eye.

Courtesy: Georgia State University
Courtesy: Georgia State University

When the sun is out, the 22° halo can create an added bonus: sun dogs. When the hexagonal ice crystals line up horizontally with the sun, one to two bright beams develop on each side. Known technically as parhelions, these beams point vertically due to the sunlight passing through the flat-falling ice crystals. It’s typical to see a slight rainbow within the sun dogs due to the prism effect from the ice crystals.

Told you I’d keep it simple!


Why the Catalinas glow pink at sunset

Amazing atmospheric optics in action.

Often times during the year, the peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains glow during dusk and dawn. It’s a phenomenon known as “alpenglow”. Here’s how it works.

Continue reading Why the Catalinas glow pink at sunset

It’s my birthday! (and it’s significant)

My mother sure wanted to make a statement with her only son.

Yes indeed, yours truly was born on Leap Day. Having a birthday every four years ensures not only that I stay forever young, but also the Gregorian calendar we use stays on track. So what’s up with the extra day this year?

We are led to believe that it takes exactly 365 days (1 year) for the Earth to revolve around the Sun. The reality is that one full Earth revolution around the Sun is approximately 365.24 days. Quick math says we tack on day 366 every four years.

What if we ignored February 29th? For starters, Leap Day babies like me would have been born on March 1st. Also, the Gregorian calendar would be off by 24 days every 100 years. Nearly a month!

Arizona Fall Foliage Report: November dazzles in the Southern Sky Islands

If you’re late to the leaf peeping party, you may want to head south. Officials at Fort Huachuca captured some of the changeover in Huachuca Canyon last week. Meanwhile, Bryan and Wendy were able to capture the last of the peak foliage atop Mount Lemmon.


Peak colors have come and gone for Mount Lemmon, Mount Graham and the White Mountains, which is typical for early November. Foliage is starting to max out in the Santa Rita & Huachuca Mountains. Madera Canyon will likely have peak colors for the next few weeks, with the Huachucas possibly lasting into Thanksgiving. A few places that should be spectacular include Ramsey Canyon Preserve and Huachuca Canyon.

This serves as the final Fall colors report for 2015. As always, props to all of you for sharing your Fall color photos & logging on the last several weeks!

Arizona Fall Foliage Report: Last call for colors in the Catalinas

Many of you made the trek up to Mount Lemmon over the last week. A huge thanks to everyone for sharing your photos with us! Fall colors put on quite a show, from Bear Wallow to Marshall Gulch. Time’s running out to see Autumn in all its beauty. Click here to see my “Hittin’ the Trails” report on the three Fall color hot spots in the Catalinas.


For Mount Graham & the Whites, colors are coming to a close. Foliage is at peak around Summerhaven right now, but heads toward past peak territory by Halloween weekend. Now the focus of attention turns to the southern Sky Islands, specifically Madera Canyon and Ramsey Canyon. The latter’s one of my favorites & usually peaks in early to mid November.

Keep the Fall color pics coming! Upload them to my Facebook page, tweet me or email me.

Arizona Fall Foliage Report: Mount Lemmon colors near peak

During my time off late last week, the Beamish family made the annual pilgrimage to Mount Lemmon in search of Fall colors. We were not disappointed! Best colors I found were in the Bear Wallow area & Mount Lemmon trailhead by UA SkyCenter (past Ski Valley).


Safe to say we’re near peak atop Mount Lemmon & likely reaching max colors as early as this weekend. Patchy colors are trickling into the foliage on the Santa Ritas, Huachucas and Chiricahuas. After this weekend, the White Mountains probably start to head into past peak territory.

Keep the Fall color pics coming! Upload them to my Facebook page, tweet me or email me.