Autumn is just around the corner: Autumn will arrive on Sept. 22nd, at 10:49 pm. In our neck of the woods, the outdoor temperatures are already giving us a preview of the season. You might consider bundling up, because the Friday morning low temp. is predicted to be a chilly 38F, and the high for the day will be 59F!

Maine Foliage Reports will begin soon: Check the Current Foliage Reports, on a weekly basis, as leaf peeping season will be in full swing soon.

Cassiopeia: I may not have gotten any aurora photos, but at least I was able to capture the beautiful Cassiopeia constellation. The constellation is named after a queen, in Greek mythology, who was very vain. I photographed it in the north/northeast sky. 
Photo - ISO 1600, f/5.0, 8 second exposure.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiopeia_%28constellation%29)As far as the constellation is concerned, it has a characteristic “W” shape, containing five bright stars. Each star has its own unique characteristics:Beta Cassiopeiae - is a white-hued binary star (with a faint companion) located 54 light-years from Earth. It is a subgiant or giant star with a surface temperature of 6700 Kelvin (11,600F.) It is in the process of cooling and expanding to become a red giant. Its core has likely used up its hydrogen and is shrinking and heating, while its outer envelope of hydrogen is expanding and cooling. Stars do not spend much time in this state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Cassiopeiae)Alpha Cassiopeiae - is a giant star with an orange hue, and is the brightest star in the constellation. It is nearing the final stages of its evolution. The surface temperature is 4530 Kelvin (7,694F.) It is located at 228 light-years from Earth. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Cassiopeiae)Gamma Cassiopeiae - is a shell star (having a variable spectrum indicating a circumstellar disc of gas surrounding the equator.) Shell stars are fast rotators and periodically eject rings of material due to their instability. Gamma Cassiopeiae is located at a distance of 550 light-years (170 parsecs) from Earth. It is a subgiant star that is exhausting its supply of hydrogen and is transforming into a giant star. It is a source of x-ray radiation that might be emitted from plasmas of temperatures up to at least 10 million kelvins (tens of thousands of degrees hotter than the surface of our Sun.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_Cassiopeiae) and (http://stardate.org/radio/program/gamma-cassiopeia)Delta Cassiopeiae - is an Algol-type eclipsing variable binary star system that is measured at  99.4 light-years (30.5 parsecs) from Earth. It contains two stars that eclipse each other thus causing the star system to be of variable brightness as one star moves in front of the other.  An excess infrared emission has been observed, which indicates that this star system is young and has dust debris that is emitting heat around the outside of the star. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Cassiopeiae)Epsilon Cassiopeiae - is a dimmer star in the contellation. It is a blue-white hued star that is 390-430 light-years (120-130 parsecs) from Earth. It is a giant star that has exhausted the hydrogen in its core. Its outer atmosphere has a temperature of approximately 15,174 Kelvin (26,854F.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_Cassiopeiae)

Cassiopeia: I may not have gotten any aurora photos, but at least I was able to capture the beautiful Cassiopeia constellation. The constellation is named after a queen, in Greek mythology, who was very vain. I photographed it in the north/northeast sky. 

Photo - ISO 1600, f/5.0, 8 second exposure.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiopeia_%28constellation%29)

As far as the constellation is concerned, it has a characteristic “W” shape, containing five bright stars. Each star has its own unique characteristics:

Beta Cassiopeiae - is a white-hued binary star (with a faint companion) located 54 light-years from Earth. It is a subgiant or giant star with a surface temperature of 6700 Kelvin (11,600F.) It is in the process of cooling and expanding to become a red giant. Its core has likely used up its hydrogen and is shrinking and heating, while its outer envelope of hydrogen is expanding and cooling. Stars do not spend much time in this state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Cassiopeiae)

Alpha Cassiopeiae - is a giant star with an orange hue, and is the brightest star in the constellation. It is nearing the final stages of its evolution. The surface temperature is 4530 Kelvin (7,694F.) It is located at 228 light-years from Earth. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Cassiopeiae)

Gamma Cassiopeiae - is a shell star (having a variable spectrum indicating a circumstellar disc of gas surrounding the equator.) Shell stars are fast rotators and periodically eject rings of material due to their instability. Gamma Cassiopeiae is located at a distance of 550 light-years (170 parsecs) from Earth. It is a subgiant star that is exhausting its supply of hydrogen and is transforming into a giant star. It is a source of x-ray radiation that might be emitted from plasmas of temperatures up to at least 10 million kelvins (tens of thousands of degrees hotter than the surface of our Sun.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_Cassiopeiae) and (http://stardate.org/radio/program/gamma-cassiopeia)

Delta Cassiopeiae - is an Algol-type eclipsing variable binary star system that is measured at  99.4 light-years (30.5 parsecs) from Earth. It contains two stars that eclipse each other thus causing the star system to be of variable brightness as one star moves in front of the other.  An excess infrared emission has been observed, which indicates that this star system is young and has dust debris that is emitting heat around the outside of the star. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Cassiopeiae)

Epsilon Cassiopeiae - is a dimmer star in the contellation. It is a blue-white hued star that is 390-430 light-years (120-130 parsecs) from Earth. It is a giant star that has exhausted the hydrogen in its core. Its outer atmosphere has a temperature of approximately 15,174 Kelvin (26,854F.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_Cassiopeiae)

No aurora photos for me: I had severe quad and knee weakness yesterday afternoon and evening, after some physical therapy on Thursday, as my body tried to cope with atrophied muscle awakening. I could barely support myself, yet alone try to walk down to the pond for aurora photography. I was finally able to hobble out onto the front deck and set up the tripod, but to no avail. There were too many trees between me and the northern sky. Ah well, there is always next time;-) At least I got to spend some quality quiet time observing the night sky.

'Shroom season is upon us: ‘Tis the season of the mushroom. As I was walking down the path to Caesar Pond, I happened upon some tiny, 3/4 inch tall, brilliantly red mushrooms. I think their common name is Scarlet Hood, and I must say that they are appropriately named. If this is the mushroom that I think it is, then the scientific name is Hygrocybe coccinea. These little mushrooms grow in grasslands, and here you can see them growing amidst the moss and grasses. They are nonpoisonus and common, but I don’t mess around with wild mushrooms as there are so many ‘shrooms that look alike yet have different levels of downright deadliness. (Click on any photo for a larger view.) (NOTE: I used a 100 mm lens along with a 20mm extension tube, as well as a ring light.)

Russula emetica or Boletus edulis?: I’m not sure which mushroom this is. I am inclined to think that is is Russula emitica due to the pure white stem. If it is Russula, then it is highly poisonous. If it is Boletus, then it is edible. You really need to do a spore test. Me…I’m just admiring it. By the way, this ‘shroom was just a few feet from the cute little Scarlet Hood ‘shrooms.

Purple Beauty Toad Lily: I was watering the hyssop plants this afternoon and noticed this Purple Beauty Toad Lily in bloom. I was so excited because I had forgotten that I had planted it last spring. The last time I tried to grow toad lilies, I had planted them in too much shade (although they are generally grown in full to part shade.) This time, I decided to put them in the main stump garden, and they are thriving! I personally think that these plants prefer partial shade over full shade. I like them because they add a bit of color to the garden in late summer to early fall. I’ll take more photos in the days to come as the plant comes into full bloom. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Purple Beauty Toad Lily: I was watering the hyssop plants this afternoon and noticed this Purple Beauty Toad Lily in bloom. I was so excited because I had forgotten that I had planted it last spring. The last time I tried to grow toad lilies, I had planted them in too much shade (although they are generally grown in full to part shade.) This time, I decided to put them in the main stump garden, and they are thriving! I personally think that these plants prefer partial shade over full shade. I like them because they add a bit of color to the garden in late summer to early fall. I’ll take more photos in the days to come as the plant comes into full bloom. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

White Admiral Butterfly: Yahoo! We finally have a different species of butterfly pollinating our flowers besides the Great Spangled Fritillary! This White Admiral Butterfly was thoroughly enjoying the Joe Pye Weed that has just begun to bloom in the backyard. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Great Spangled Fritillary: I enjoy these butterflies so much, and this one spent a lot of time on the hyssop and the swamp milkweed flowers today. (Click on a photo for a larger view.)

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth: I was so excited to see a hummingbird moth flying around the yard today. I tracked him from the butterfly bush in one garden to the phlox in another. My favorite feature of this moth is its lobster-like tail! (Click on a photo for a larger view.)

Bees of the garden: The most prolific bees at the moment are the bald-faced hornets, yellow jacket wasps, and mining bees. You see them here on a variety of flowers in the gardens. The bald-faced hornets are enjoying the goldenrod and swamp milkweed. The yellow jacket wasps are enjoying the goldenrod, and the mining bees are all over the sedum.