Even the moon is red

Hi guys. Potassium here. We’re going to take a break from the gorgeous food photos and take a peek at (Potassium’s favorite photography subject) the moon!

So we are getting a lot of smoke in here in Washington right now. There are a bunch of major wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada. And because of the way the winds are blowing, all their smoke is coming here. If you are interested, here is a super helpful infographic from the Seattle Times that explains all the wind craziness.

Plus we have had an epic heatwave (in the 100s on this side of the state and in the 90s to the west). So basically, we now know how it feels to be a smoked ham (or cheddar, if you prefer cheese to ham like I do).

Annnnnyway, all the smoke in the air has made for some eerie days.

It seriously looks like a post-apocalyptic world out there. Who’s read The Road? Am I right?

But then when the moon comes up, it’s such a shocking shade of orange. Practicing for Halloween are we? I played around with settings on my DSLR to take a range of pumpkin-colored moon pictures, like the one featured at the top of this post.

Speaking of celestial objects, who’s getting excited about the eclipse? What percentage of totality will you have in your city? Is anyone driving anywhere?

That’s all for now. If you’re living in a smoke-covered zone, try not to go outside too much!

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A lunar grin

Hi team! How’s it going on this lovely first Friday of March? I’ve been super busy as usual with this program. Some of my recent activities include: eating peanut M&M’s on the air for my internship, photographing a science rally for Science, and combatting a vicious cold! Now we only have two weeks left in this quarter and everything is going nuts (like my M&M’s!). All four of our huge assignments this quarter are due back to back to back to back and then back to back to back to back again with revisions. Yikes!

But even with all of this craziness going on, I couldn’t help noticing the moon these past few nights. In case you were wondering, yes I’m still obsessed with the moon. Two nights ago, I caught it chilling with Venus when Cobalt and I went to run some errands. Then last night, I saw it grinning through our back door as I was getting ready for bed. “Oh I see what you’re doing there, moon,” I told it. Then I ran to get my camera. But by the time I came back, the moon was already hiding behind one of the apartment buildings in our complex. “Don’t think you’ve won,” I told its faint glow, all I could see from behind the building. “We’ll meet again tomorrow night…” So tonight I sat on the couch scritching a sleepy Tarantula and doing homework, just waiting for the sun to go down. Finally the moon appeared, smile and all. A HA! Caught ya, moon!

Telescope + Camera = new sky friends!

Hello everyone! How were your weekends?! I hope they were good. We are on spring break so Cobalt and I headed up to Steamboat Springs to hang out with our friends L and B and their kiddos. We had tons of fun eating, playing pool, skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, game-playing, hot springs-ing, etc! It was so awesome to get away from Boulder and relax a little in great company. Plus I think I am finally succeeding in teaching myself how to snowboard!

One night, B set up his telescope so that we could see Jupiter up close and personal. I have only seen Jupiter from earth without the aid of a telescope or in books that show it waaaaaaay up close with its huge spot that can fit 3 (!!!) earths in it. That night, I got to see a middle version – Jupiter with two rings around it! So cool. I tried to take some pictures with my cell phone camera but it was hard to point the tiny phone camera into the eyepiece of the telescope. I ran upstairs to grab my big DSLR so I could try that instead. It still turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Jupiter was moving around in the sky so B had to readjust the telescope frequently and I had to hover with my camera around the vicinity of the eyepiece to try to catch Jupiter in the eyepiece of my camera! Plus, autofocus was not working (it has a hard time in the dark) so I had to hover around the eyepiece while constantly fiddling with the focus to try to bring Jupiter’s cute little rings slightly more into focus. Whew… 50 pictures later, I think this picture (which is actually one of the first ones I took) takes the cake! Introducing my new friend: JUPITER!!

Soooo stripey. Jupiter kinda looks like a baseball… or a Mr. Stripey tomato…

After B and I had so much fun trying to get cool pictures of Jupiter, he decided to set up the telescope to look at the moon. It was REALLY bright and also REALLY COOL. I was completely floored by how much detail we could see! Again, I am used to looking at the moon without the aid of a telescope or seeing pictures of moon craters in a book. I couldn’t believe that all the rocks and crags that I was looking at through the telescope belonged to the same moon that I usually see outside my house! Photographing the moon through the telescope eyepiece had its own interesting set of challenges. First of all, it was much brighter than Jupiter so I could mess with some of my camera settings to decrease the chance that I would make the moon blurry by all my hovering around. I learned that I could change some camera settings but not others (e.g. the f stop, or how much light you let into the camera, had to stay the same). Second of all, the moon is BIG and my camera was limited to how much it could see through the eyepiece of the telescope. It was really hard to get the entire moon into frame with the lens I had chosen to use (a 50 mm prime lens). That was kind of okay with me though because I really liked focusing on various parts of the moon and didn’t really feel the need to have ALL MOON in my pictures. Finally, the focusing – still hard. Even with a bright moon, I was still messing with my focus to try to get the moon details as sharp as possible while hovering around the telescope eyepiece. None the less, I really like a lot of my pictures, including these awesome ones:

(my relationship with the moon is forever changed by this picture….)
Cheese, Gromit!

Another fun thing – we also looked at sunspots during the day (obviously not through the eyepiece). B held a piece of paper up by the eyepiece so that the BRIGHT light from the sun was projected onto it. There we could see tiny little sunspots hanging out with the sun. Before I got a chance to look, apparently a plane flew in front of the sun and Cobalt and B saw a tiny plane projected onto the sun on the paper. Jealous…

Anyway, that’s all for now too. Do you get a spring break? Are you doing anything fun? It seems that the most popular options for spring break are: a) go to the beach, b) go to the mountains, or c) staycation/sleep. What did you choose? Back to work for me today – technically postdocs don’t get spring breaks. :(

PS – If you remember me talking about the moon in my Top Books of 2015 post, yes I am still unhealthily obsessed with the moon (you try reading a book in which the moon blows up without warning and then having a normal relationship with the moon after that…).

Moon Fingers


Hi all, sorry for the short post today but I have been super stressed out working on essays and job applications (plus working in the lab). It’s been a bit crazy here. I’m still going to try to write a sweet science post for y’all next week though so stay tuned!

Today’s picture: moon fingers! So I am still obsessed with the moon after reading Seveneves last year. On Sunday night I was writing at my desk when I looked up and noticed the moon out my window. It looked particularly awesome hiding behind the branches of the tree by my house and I wanted to capture it. I know that the moon is a bit overexposed in this picture but 1) it was hidden in fog anyway so focusing on it wouldn’t be very exciting and 2) I like the bright backdrop it provides for the tree branches. Creeeeeeepyyyyy.

How are you guys? Anyone reading from the east coast? What did you think of the most recent storm? It was 56 degrees here in Boulder on Saturday but it snowed a tiny bit today. Boulder weather is weird… :-/

Potassium’s top books of 2015

So as some of you may know, I am a member of GoodReads, which is a website that allows you to review books that you’ve read or see reviews of books that you might be interested in reading. COOL! Anyway, every year, GoodReads allows you to make a reading challenge for that year, where you propose to read x number of books. I used to up my challenges every year by 10 but that started getting ridiculous because I generally go through at least one month where I don’t feel like reading and any challenge greater than 52 requires you to be reading (on average) at least a book a week! So anyway, I’ve been chillin’ at trying to read at least 50 books per year for the past few years. This year, a surprising number of them happened to be published in 2015 so I thought I would write a post about my favorites! Note: these reviews are similar to my reviews on GoodReads so if you follow me on GoodReads, don’t be surprised.

This list is not going to be into any apparent order and because it’s my list, I get to make up the categories. Yay!

SciFi/Epic Book – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
The first line of this book is “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” I think that is description enough. But if you really need more here it is – the first 2/3 of this book is about the immediate struggle to save humanity after the moon blows up (without warning) and the earth is deemed doomed. The last 1/3 of the book is 5000 years later when the human race returns to earth.

This book is really long but really good. I was totally absorbed in the first 2/3 of the book. I loved most of the characters (so many smart and awesome women!) and was really captivated by the struggle to save the human race under ridiculous circumstances (i.e. how do we survive in space?). I felt that Stephenson accurately captured the craziness of humans and the lengths we would go to survive. Also he very nicely summed up how helpful/hurtful social media and the internet can be. Plus now I understand so much more about orbits and other space things.

The last 1/3 of the book took some warming up for me. I almost wish it was a separate book but that wouldn’t have been true to Stephenson’s style. The first hundred or so pages of this section moved really slow as I, completely whiplashed from jumping 5000 years in the future, tried to get caught up with all the newness of this universe all while following an incredibly slow plot (the new main character does one thing, 10 pages of backstory, etc). I realize that it was kind of necessary to do that if he wanted to keep the book with both parts but I realllllllly missed my old main characters. Once I got caught up though, this last section got much more interesting and I was really sad when it ended. I want to see more from this universe!

One warning – if you have never read a Neal Stephenson book before, you should know that Neal Stephenson likes technical details. So there are a lot of pages describing how everything works. Sometimes I find it interesting and sometimes I want Neal to get back to the story. For the record, the descriptions seem to only exist to add to your experience in the world; you can easily skim them and not miss out on much plot.

One more thing – this book made me really notice the moon, especially because whenever I was reading the book, I was surprised to see the moon in the sky, since, at least in the book, there was no more moon. So I took a lot of moon pictures this year and I thought I would share some of them with you.

Some context for these moons! Leftmost orange moon: an orange moon from this summer. Middle tiny moon + Venus: Seen on the flight back from Hawaii while I was reading Seveneves. Rightmost moon: the nice big full moon on Christmas Day (first time since 1977!).

Young Adult book – I Crawl Through it by A.S. King
This book didn’t seem to make waves through the young adult community (judging by its absence as a GoodReads Choice Awards nominee) but I thought it was phenomenal. Also, it seems to be one of those books that grabs hold of you and never lets go – I still am thinking about it to this day. Anyway, this book is weird. I am going to warn you about that right now – it’s incredibly surreal and disconnected from reality. And yet at the same time, it’s very real.

In this book, we follow four teenagers through a few weeks of their high school careers. There are regular bomb threats and a lot of tests. Overall, I thought it was an excellent portrayal of smart teenagers and what our current educational system is doing to them. Being disconnected from reality really made all the thoughts and feelings the characters have so much more real – sometimes overwhelmingly so.

This book broke my heart in the same way that all the violence at various schools this year (and previous years) breaks my heart. I also really appreciate the discussion of how schools are ruining creativity in our kids and I applaud A.S. King for finding a way to stand up and say something about it.

American memoir – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book is a letter to Coates’ son about what it’s like growing up black in America. As I am an African American woman who grew up here in the US, I was interested in what he had to say about our potentially “shared” experience.

This book made me feel both heartbroken and relieved sort of for the same reason- that what I feel is a real and common. It is interesting to be younger than Ta-Nehisi and older than his son because I have my own social/political events that affected me in the same way that the deaths of Prince Jones and Michael Brown affected Ta-Nehisi and his son, respectively. Reading this book helped solidify my current thoughts about how I live my life too, which is neat but also still super heartbreaking…

This book is written in a way that will make many people uncomfortable or even angry but that doesn’t mean that what is said in here is not also true or at least worth pondering. Toni Morrison is right. This book is required reading. Please go and read it (and then tell me what you think)!

Foreign memoir – The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee
This is a powerful look at what it is like to grow up in North Korea and then lose your identity several times in order to be free. I found this book both eye-opening about a world I know nothing about and also interesting in that it really makes you ponder the concept of being ‘spoiled.’ Now I really want to help out! Warning – I read most of this book all in one sitting so be careful – it sucks you in!

Humor – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This is an amazing book about depression (yeah you read that right – I put it under the humor section). Jenny Lawson does a great job being brutally honest about what it’s like to live with depression and anxiety disorders while also being hilarious. They might not seem like they would go well together but I assure you, this book is incredible. If you have ever suffered from depression and/or anxiety OR if you know someone who has, please pick up this book and read it. You will not be disappointed.

Serious Comic – Bitch Planet Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson
Bitch Planet is about a society where women must conform to societal norms (i.e. whatever men want). If not, they are labeled “non-compliant” and shipped off to Bitch Planet. This is an amazingly smart comic with a unique perspective on modern feminism. If you consider yourself a feminist, read this. If you don’t, too bad- you still have to read this. It’s totally necessary for everyone. I can’t wait for more issues!

Fun note about being non-compliant: The women who are sent to Bitch Planet have NC (for non-compliant) tattooed onto them. This has inspired many “non-compliant” fans of the comic to also get NC tattooed on them! I think that’s really neat! I don’t have any tattoos so I had to get NC nail wraps so I could add my name to the list of non-compliant individuals out there (see below).

PS – The individual issues of this comic are really neat because each issue contains a feminist essay at the end. The essays didn’t end up in the trade paperback so it’s worth trying to get a hold of the issues (or finding the essays).

Sweet glow-in-the-dark NC Bitch Planet nail wraps from Espionage Cosmetics! Note: cats like to play with glow-in-the-dark nails at night… you were warned…

Fun Comic – Lumberjanes Volumes 1 and 2
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, and Maarta Laiho
This story is about 5 girls who attend “Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for Hardcore Lady-types” and have all sorts of adventures. It’s really fun, has great art, and how can you not like a book where someone shouts “Holy bell hooks!”?! Also if you were ever in Girl Scouts, this book is for you (though I think being a Lumberjane would have been waaaaaaay cooler than being a Girl Scout).

PS – My friend T did a really good job getting me obsessed with comic books this year so this category was really hard to do because I read some really fantastic ones. So here are some more great options:

  • If you like going on supernatural adventures with some really cool girls, you should read Rat Queens
  • If you like epic sci-fi stories with amazing art, you should read Saga
  • If you like awesome women superheroes, you should read Miss Marvel and Squirrel Girl
  • If you like really pretty art and creepy western-ish stories, you should read Pretty Deadly

Cobalt’s top choice – The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
He didn’t read a lot from 2015 this year (too busy reading for classes!), so he’s gonna go with this one. The novel is a great satire of young adult books for people who notice too many similarities in that market. Definitely worth your time.

I am super happy Cobalt picked this book because Patrick Ness is one of my favorite young adult authors!

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. What did you read this year? Did you read any of these books? Did you love them or hate them? Tell me everything! Also have a Happy New Year!!! Any traditions?! Any New Years resolutions? I am struggling with mine because I want to use the same one I used this year but I think that might be cheating…

Painting with the moon


Last night, Cobalt and I went out in search of auroras. We didn’t think CO would be cool enough to get auroras being pretty far south but we thought we would give it a try anyway. It turned out that even if there were auroras, the moon was soooooo bright that we probably wouldn’t have been able to see any anyway. Booo moon. But all hope was not lost! We hung out by moonlight and had ourselves a creepy (romantic?) hike above the town of Boulder. From that hike, I bring you our fun photography brainwave – moon painting! That’s right. This is the easiest kind of photography ever – You set your camera on a long exposure setting, point it at the moon and then run around! So what do you guys think? Awesome abstract art? Looks like a 3 year old did it? Reminds you of Ghostbusters? Let’s hear your comments! I kind of want to try it again and try to actually make shapes with the moon – like use your camera as a giant pencil? Hrmmm….

Below I used both the moon and Boulder for painting…

I hope you guys all have awesome weekends!

One fat moon, coming right up!


In case you didn’t know, the moon was HUGE last Saturday. The biggest it’s been in 18 years? Is that right, my astronomer friends? Anyway, obviously this calls for photographic evidence. On Saturday night, Cobalt and I grabbed our tripods and cable releases (best.invention.ever) before heading out to our favorite “take pictures of the moon” spot in Boulder and taking some moon pictures. I’d say this one turned out pretty good. :) I must say that with the lunar eclipse and now this giant moon, I have definitely gotten practice with my moon/night shots. Keep up the good work, moon! :D