August in the Desert

At summer’s midpoint, it seems appropriate to post a couple of images representative of the environment of the Big Bend region of Texas at this time of year.

First, an iconic critter with a badly maligned nickname of “horny toad.” Another name for his animal, taken from the 1887 yearbook of Texas Christian University and later adopted as the athletic mascot, “Hornfrogs” has stuck as another piece of misinformation. This wonderful little critter is neither a toad nor a frog, but is in fact a lizard, known officially as the Texas Horned Lizard, or (Phrynosoma cornutum).

The Texas Horned Lizard is listed as a threatened species in Texas, and its numbers were declining so fast in Oklahoma that the legislature tried unsuccessfully to have it listed as an endangered species. When threatened, it freezes perfectly still and does an amazing job of blending into its surroundings. Like all lizards, it’s a welcome addition to our yard, due to its ability to gobble up insects at an amazing rate. The biggest problem is that it tends to freeze motionless and blend into its surroundings, and is therefore difficult to see and avoid when walking around its territory.

Another summer icon of the desert is the rising full moon over Tabletop Mountain east of Marathon.

In addition to the full moon, late July and early August is a fantastic period of summer for stargazing. We were visited by the comet Neowise for several weeks, and one of the best meteor showers of the year is beginning now and increasing to its peak in the early morning hours of August 12-13. Also, Jupiter and Saturn are putting on a great show in the southeast, and the Milky Way is reaching its peak show for the summer during August and September. So, get outside after dark and KEEP LOOKING UP!

Comet Neowise Has Returned

After making its debut in the morning sky, as noted in my previous post, Comet Neowise disappeared for a couple of days, only to reappear in the evening sky, now in the northwest, if you’re in the northern hemisphere. Here are a few images taken Saturday night around 10:30, looking northwest from Marathon, TX, over the Glass Mountains.

Neowise will be with us through the end of the month, moving a little farther west each evening. Go outside and look just above the horizon. It’s the best show since Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995.

Comet Neowise

Comet Neowise is paying us a visit. If you’re up before sunrise (about 6-6:30 a.m.) and look to the northeast, just above the horizon, you just might be able to see a real rare treat…a comet. Information about comet Neowise can be found at this link: https://earthsky.org/space/how-to-see-comet-c2020-f3-neowise. Here are a few pics I took this morning using a 600mm telephoto lens. It will take a pretty strong pair of binoculars to see it, so happy comet watching.