For the last two weeks or so we’ve been treated to a nice grouping of planets rising in the northeast each morning around dawn. Here’s a few photos I took on my little Canon IXUS with exposures in the 5-15sec range. Be sure to click through to the Picasa album for full size images…

Jupiter, Mercury, Venus (brightest) and Mars, 6:21am 13 May 2011:


Jupiter, Venus and Mercury, 6:16am 19 May 2011:


Jupiter, Mars, Moon, Venus and Mercury (low on the horizon between Petone and Somes Island), 6:43am 31 May 2011:


Mars, Moon, Venus and Mercury, 6:44am 31 May 2011:


To help identify the stars and/or planets, I use and recommend Your Sky – a fantastic site/tool to make a sky map for any location and time. To get started, look for the links to select a nearby city – for example, here’s the current sky map and horizon view for Wellington. On a related note, if you want to track satellites in real time, try this website which lets you track all sorts of satellites overlayed on a Google map, as well as the International Space Station.

Boeing 777 at Wellington Airport

A quick post to share some links following Air NZ’s Boeing 777 visit to Wellington today. The kids and I spotted it sitting at one of the gates this afternoon, and I saw it climb out of the airport this evening when it blasted off – empty bar essential crew so it performed rather well!

To highlight just how big the 777 is, check out Rodney’s Aviation Ramblings Blog where he posted some pics showing a Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 taxiing past…

As for the incredible rate of climb on take-off, take a look at this short vid:

Wow! 😀

Christchurch Earthquake Online Resources

As everyone will know by now, a magnitude 6.3 earthqauke occurred at 12.51pm on February 22 2011, 10km southeast of Christchurch at a depth of just 5km. As someone from the city with many friends and family there, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone down in Christchurch. I am happy to say that my immediate family are safe and have heard from many friends that are ok also.

This quake is the largest in a vast number of earthquakes since the magnitude 7.1 at 4:35am on September 4 2010 that occurred west of the city near Darfield.

News has been flowing fast and raw in many cases, sadly with some mis-information and rumor mixed in. I’m not going to repeat news details here, but I will list some online resources that I’ve been using t get news.

First up twitter.
Many use it, yet many have never seen/understand it. Touted as a micro-blogging service, I like to think of it as a public SMS or TXT service were anyone can broadcast a short message to anyone in the world who cares to listen. These short messages are called “tweets” and you receive them by “following” people or organisations you care about. The beauty here is you can get messages in real-time, direct from the source and unfiltered, sometimes containing links to photos or videos. As such, Twitter is extremely powerful in a disaster situation since messages can be posted either online or via a mobile phone. Here’s some accounts and searches to check out:

Twitter Searches:
A search listing is the fastest way to see new and varied information – but remember to take care with sources. Tweets relating to the earthquake are being tagged with the primary hashtag #eqnz. Other tags also being used are #chch and #christchurch. A stream of tweets with these hashtags can be seen via a Twitter search but also via Google search where the page auto-updates:

Twitter Accounts:
Many individuals in Christchurch are tweeting, as are authorities and organisations. Here’s a few organisations that have been and continue to post relevant news:

Twitter aside, there are also many other websites providing information and advice to both those in need and those wanting to help. Here’s a selection…

Official emergency info:


Response and help info:


Local news:


Other sites:

  • – a good place to keep in touch with friends/family, or post info about your friends if you know they are safe


So, there’s a start for some local online info and more links may be added in time.

You can link to this page via with the URL:


Donate to the NZ Red Cross
Donate to the NZ Red Cross at:


Silver Stream Railway

Matt and I visited the Silver Stream Railway yesterday and had several(!) rides on this little beauty:

That’s a New Zealand Railways L Class locomotive built in 1877 by the Avonside Engine Co Ltd, Bristol, England. My little cheat sheet also tells me the engine weight is 20.3 tonnes, has 2 cylinders (diameter 267mm, stroke 457mm), operated at 160psi and has the road number PWD 509 (NZR 219). It’s pulling a pair of NZ Railways Aa Class carriages, one built in 1925 in Newmarket and the other in 1912 in Petone, which are still in very good condition:

Also at the railway are a bunch of old engines and carriages being lovingly restored in the workshops where you can get a tour on request, along with some memorabilia in the station buildings.

For more of my photos click through to this album, and if you want more info about the Silver Stream Railway see their website at: They’re open Sundays 11am-4pm at a cost of $12 for adults, $6 for children and free for under 5’s which gives an all day ticket for short train rides (the track is 1.5km long). Oh, and if you’ve got a train/Thomas enthusiast with you then you’ll probably need to budget a little extra for spending in the shop! 😉

Family update

And since I’ve rediscovered by blog today(!), I might as well post again to complete the trifecta for the evening.

Here’s a couple of recent photos of the kids and the vid we grabbed of some of Amy’s earliest steps…

Riding hippo at the zoo – shortly after her new hair style thanks to Mum and Aunty Jen,

Next up, the video of Amy starting her walking. Soon after this she reverted back to “knee-walking” with only the occasional steps. Now however, she chooses to walk whenever she can and delights in pushing her little prams around the house – very cute!

Early steps,

And along with her early steps, her first words are taking off – many related to food (that’s my girl!) including “more”, “milk” and “custard”. Her first word was of course “Dad”, although I believe Lou will say it was “Mum”… and rather than call the cats by name she delights in squealing at them! 🙂

Finally, here’s a recent pic of Matt – also at the zoo where he loves to drive the jeep!

Matt has taken great joy in Amy’s walking and delights in pointing out every time she walks across the room. He’s also super at entertaining his little sister, and I think between the rough and tumble he’s actually getting protective of her! As for entertaining us, Matt (like all toddlers no doubt) comes out with some funny things at times, but it’s the way kids approach language that fascinates me and makes you realise how silly some expressions are. One quirky statement of late is “I did that last day” – meaning yesterday – which actually makes perfect sense! 🙂

Ah the joy of kids – just as long as Amy grows out of her obsession with the Hi-5 Dance Hits DVD… 😛

Life Flight Open Day

Props to the folks at Life Flight – they certainly put on a good Open Day.

Matt and I headed down to the airport yesterday to see the aircraft and emergency vehicles on display. As well as the Rescue Helicopter and Life Flight Metroliner, the airport fire trucks put on a display, and the Police, Ambulance Service, Army Bomb Squad, and Customs Service dogs were all in attendance. Also for the kids was face painting, bouncy castles and hot dogs (applies to adults too!). Needless to say Matt had a great time and it was well worth the $5 donation – especially given the cause. Here’s a few pics from my Life Flight Open Day album,

Matt in the rescue chopper,

Controlling the bomb squad robot,

Driving the Police car,

Aero Club Open Day

The Wellington Aero Club hosted their Aviation Open Day last weekend, and here’s a few pics…

A few more of my photos can be found in my Aero Club Open Day, 2010 album. And if you want more pics, check out Rodney’s Aviation Ramblings – a Wellington focused aviation blog that’s well worth checking out!