Sunday, 21 July 2024


In the western sky at dusk, bright Venus lights the way to faint little Mars and Saturn. Sky & Telescope illustration.



Step outside as evening twilight fades, and from now through the middle of August you’ll find three planets shining low in west – one much brighter than the other two. All you’ll need is a clear sky and an open westward view about an hour after sunset.

“Venus will leap out at you,” said Alan MacRobert, a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. “Saturn and Mars are fainter, so you may need to wait for the sky to darken a bit more before they glimmer into view.”

Venus is the famed “Evening Star,” the brightest celestial object in Earth’s sky after the Sun and Moon.

Saturn and Mars are only about 1 percent as bright. They form a more-or-less horizontal line above Venus, as wide as three or four fingers held together at arm’s length.

Saturn and Mars will spend the week sliding to the right with respect to Venus, creating a planetary triangle that changes shape from day to day.

Although the three planets look close together, they’re not. Venus is currently 6 light-minutes (73 million miles) from Earth, Mars is 17 light-minutes (190 million miles) distant and Saturn is far in the background 85 light-minutes (950 million miles) away.

Three reasons combine to make Venus shine so much brighter than the others. It’s the closest to us, it’s the closest to the Sun so it’s illuminated more intensely, and it’s covered with brilliantly reflective white clouds.

As for Mars and Saturn? They look similar in brightness for reasons that cancel out. Saturn is 35 times larger than Mars, but it’s much farther both from us and from the Sun.





In the western sky at dusk, bright Venus lights the way to faint little Mars and Saturn. The crescent Moon joins them on Aug. 12 and 13, 2010, and can you spot Mercury far to their lower right? Binoculars help. Sky & Telescope illustration.




The crescent Moon joins the twilight planet scene on Thursday, Aug. 12, when it’s below Venus, and on Friday, Aug. 13, when it’s left of Venus.


“Don’t miss this chance to do some easy astronomy from your backyard, balcony, or rooftop,” says Sky & Telescope editor in chief Robert Naeye. “It’s a big universe, and planets await!”

For more skywatching information and astronomy news, visit, the essential magazine of astronomy since 1941.

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In the wake of rising public concern about the salaries of public employees, on Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the launch of a new state Web page that will make salaries of top administration officials public and transparent.

The new Web page will be part of the Reporting Transparency Web site,, which Schwarzenegger launched in March 2009.

Last week at a budget discussion in San Diego Schwarzenegger called for greater transparency and accountability of public employee salaries by government at all levels.

When the Reporting Transparency site was launched last year, Schwarzenegger issued a memorandum to all governor's staff, all agency secretaries and all department directors directing them to make publicly available on the governor's Web site the statement of economic interests, Form 700, and the travel expense claims for the governor's office senior staff and deputies, agency secretaries, agency undersecretaries and department directors.

The site made information regarding statement of economic interests, Form 700 and travel expense claim forms readily available to the public. Now comes the addition of the salary information.

“Californians have the right to know what's happening with their money and how it's being spent,” Schwarzenegger said in a Friday statement. “Public employees and elected officials work for the citizens of this state and the salaries of public employees and elected officials should be easily accessible.”

In addition to Schwarzenegger's Friday announcement, earlier this week State Controller John Chiang reported that the state was implementing new compensation reporting requirements for all California cities and counties, with the information to be posted on the state controller’s Web site,, starting in November, as Lake County News has reported.

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SACRAMENTO – As the summer heat continues, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has a warning for the motoring public: Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

“Vehicles heat up quickly, even with a window rolled down a couple of inches,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Even on a seemingly cool summer day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels within minutes.”

This year in the United States, according to statistics from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, there have been more than two dozen incidents involving children left alone in vehicles resulting in at least 26 fatalities.

One of those deaths occurred in California in April involving a 7-month-old Antioch girl.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says heat stroke, a form of hyperthermia, is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of 14.

“It only takes a few minutes for tragedy to occur,” added Farrow. “If you see a child left unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately.”

California law prohibits anyone from leaving a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone who is at least 12 years old.

A violation of the “Unattended Child in a Motor Vehicle Act,” also known as “Kaitlyn’s Law,” will result in a fine but, more importantly, it could result in the permanent injury or death of a child.

“Kaitlyn’s Law” went into effect in California on Jan. 1, 2002.

The law is in memory of Kaitlyn Marie Russell, a 6-month-old baby, who died from hyperthermia after being left unattended in a parked vehicle 10 years ago.

In an effort to raise awareness for “Kaitlyn’s Law,” while remembering the children who have lost their lives as a result of being left unattended in a motor vehicle, “4 R Kids Sake,” a nationwide nonprofit organization designates August as “Purple Ribbon Month.”

In support of the campaign, a purple ribbon will fly from the antenna of all marked CHP patrol vehicles throughout the month of August.

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LAKE COUNTY – After months of effort by local and federal officials, new legislation signed last week restores geothermal royalty and lease revenues to counties across the western United States.

Last month the House of Representatives passed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, HR 4899, which President Barack Obama signed on July 29.

The legislation amends for the 2010 fiscal year provisions of the Department of the Interior Appropriations Bill, HR 2996, passed last fall, which deemed that there would be no geothermal revenues for counties in the current fiscal year, as Lake County News has reported.

It's an important development for Lake County, which – thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – has received several million dollars from leases and royalties based on the county's geothermal development.

“The geothermal royalties are a very important revenue source for Lake County,” said County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who led the charge locally to restore the funds after it was discovered last fall that they had been taken away.

Congressman Mike Thompson, who has worked since last year to restore the funding, told Lake County News in a Tuesday interview that the funding issue could have been fixed earlier had it been discovered, but he noted, “It wasn't found out until late in the game.”

He added, “It was a very, very sneaky move on somebody's part.”

Thompson, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he put restoration of the funding in four bills which passed the House of Representatives but which didn't make it through the Senate.

He also worked with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada on the issue, with Reid putting it in two previous Senate bills, Thompson said.

“I have literally worked on this every day since it was determined there was a problem,” Thompson said.

Cox said the payments are made in monthly increments.

For the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, Lake County received a total of $3.6 million, the most of any county in the United States, followed by Sonoma County, as Lake County News has reported.

According to Department of the Interior statistics, Lake County received $824,269.63 for 2009.

Those funds have been used locally for projects such as the Mt. Konocti land purchase, the county reported.

The Energy Policy Act gave geothermal energy-producing states 50 percent of geothermal sales, bonuses, rentals and royalties, with 25 percent to the counties where the resources are located, according to the legislation.

More than 30 counties in six states – California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico – have received benefit from the legislation, according to Department of the Interior records.

Despite the funds being taken away last year, the federal government made a mistake and sent out checks to counties anyway.

Lake County received a payment for just over $256,000, with Cox receiving a letter from a Department of the Interior official in May asking for the funds back, as Lake County News has reported.

The new legislation is retroactive so the county won't have to repay those mistakenly issued funds, said Cox.

While the problem is fixed for now, Cox is concerned about the future, noting that it's his understanding that the Obama administration is proposing to take the funds away again in 2011.

“So we'll need to continue working with Congress to make sure that proposal isn't approved,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

MENDOCINO COUNTY – State and county officials found firearms – including one that had been stolen – while eradicating marijuana gardens near Laytonville on Tuesday.

Teams consisting of the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies and the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET) responded to a call of marijuana being grown on a private ranch in the Laytonville area, according to a report from Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Noe said the teams walked into the remote site and discovered three marijuana gardens. While walking into the gardens deputies spotted two Hispanic males who fled from the area.

A camp was located with evidence the Hispanic males were living in the gardens while tending them, Noe said.

At the site Noe said the teams recovered three loaded firearms – an SKS assault-type rifle, a shotgun and a .44-caliber Ruger revolver, which later was found to have been stolen from Del Norte County.

He said 1,005 marijuana plants – all well into the growth stage – were seized with no arrests being made.

To date the Mendocino County COMMET team has seized 420,392 plants from 104 sites. Noe said the plants were estimated to be 56,610 pounds wet weight.

There have been 55 arrests and 59 firearms seized, he said, and 582 pounds of processed marijuana has been seized.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The community is being warned to be on the lookout for a fundraising scam using the name of a local group and a local business.

Mike Silva, president of the Lake County Correctional Officers Association, said Friday that he and other members of his group have received reports that the association's name is being used in connection to a scam.

Silva said a male subject reported to be based in Hidden Valley Lake was approaching people and asking for funds in connection with a golf shootout that he claimed was being held by the association and by Twin Pine Casino.

“We are not part of that and it is a scam at this point,” Silva said.

Belinda Young of Twin Pine Casino's marketing department also confirmed to Lake County News on Friday that the casino isn't involved in such a fundraiser.

Silva said the group is very concerned about protecting community members from being scammed.

He said the correctional officers association is working on a fundraiser magic show for early next year, which will benefit local nonprofits and other causes. Anyone interested in that legitimate fundraiser can call 800-370-8117.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Stimulus funds are being put to work locally to help people at risk of becoming homeless.

Over the past six months, Catholic Charities Lake County Programs has administered a $1.95 million financial assistance program funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The purpose of this program, called Housing Help Lake County (HHLC), is to help qualified local residents at risk of homelessness, the agency reported.

While local residents are aware of federal stimulus funds utilized to repair area highways, the HHLC program provides an economic boost to the county through direct payments to local landlords and by keeping local residents from becoming homeless, according to Catholic Charities. HHLC also has employed six local residents.

Currently, 48 local families are receiving assistance from this program, and 80 more recently requested assistance. Two community information meetings were held recently in Clearlake and Lakeport to explain the HHLC program. A third meeting is being scheduled for August in Lucerne.

HHLC assists renters at risk of homelessness, or those who have lost rental housing, due to the current economic crisis.

The majority of the funds are for short- or medium-term rental or utility assistance to either prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless or help those who are experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized.

Qualified residents must prove payments due in arrears, show need of assistance and prove legal residency in Lake County. Expenses such as moving costs, utilities, and rent are made to third party vendors.

To date, $124,000 has been distributed to date.

There is no mortgage assistance, Catholic Charities reported.

Not all who apply will qualify for HHLC assistance. Residents are being screened by Lake County Community Action Agency, Lake Family Resource Center, Community Care Management Corp. and Catholic Charities.

The award of this stimulus package grant was based on collaboration with and the support of Lake County.

Federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 were granted directly to Catholic Charities for use in Lake County.

For program requirements, go to or call 707-987-8139.

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KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – The Kelseyville Unified School District will host a special Aug. 10 meeting to take public input on ways to save money and configure the district's school sites.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Kelseyville High School Student Center, 5480 Main St.

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen said the meeting's focus is to come up with a plan for the 2011-12 fiscal year, with site configurations one of the considerations. He said public input will be a key component.

It's expected to be the first of several open discussions hosted by the board during the coming year, according to McQueen.

Because of declining enrollment, Kelseyville is looking at all of its facilities and how it can save money through possibly consolidating sites, McQueen said.

With a great deal of community concern arising over impacts to the district – McQueen said parents already have been worried about school closures, which aren't proposed currently – he said the goal is to have the process be as open and public as possible.

For the soon-to-begin 2010-11 fiscal year, “We're going to be OK,” said McQueen.

The district had to lay off 10 teachers last spring, but they've restored five positions, he said. “I venture to say we'll probably put back a couple more, so that's good news.”

Still, they have to start looking for ways to cut $900,000 out of the district budget for the 2011-12, he explained.

“It only makes sense to look at what we have and try to save some money,” he said.

McQueen estimated that the school district has seven different facilities – from the high school and middle schools to the elementary and continuation sites. No closures are proposed, and even after a study of the district's finances site closures may not be in order, he said.

The district's main challenge rests on declining enrollment, which is estimated to continue, McQueen said.

“That's the trend that is happening,” he noted.

This past school year's peak enrollment was 1,757, McQueen said, with 1,698 students set to start school this fall.

“People are moving,” a trend McQueen witnessed accelerating when the economy hit recession. He said another wave of foreclosures is anticipated, which will exacerbate the problem.

By 2014, McQueen said the district projects enrollment will bottom out at 1,611 students.

They've looked at options including cutting days from the school calendar, which McQueen said hasn't panned out as a viable solution.

“We're not doing it. You have to negotiate it” with the teachers' union, he said.

District Chief Financial Officer Tiffany Kemp will go through enrollment and financial data at the Aug. 10 meeting, he said.

For more information, call Kelseyville Unified School District Office at 707-279-1511 or visit the district online

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The 14th-annual food and wine event, A Taste of Lakeport, will once again pair Lake County wines with food from local purveyors at various locations along seven blocks of Main Street in downtown Lakeport on Friday, Aug. 20.

The event, which will take place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., encourages a leisurely stroll along Main Street with stops at shops for wine tasting, while enjoying live entertainment and the company of friends, neighbors and visitors.


Eventgoers can sip premium Lake County wines from more than 20 participating wineries and sample tasty bites of local food.

To keep the fun going, live music will play throughout the evening featuring three bands – the LC Diamonds, Austin & Owens and The Blind Monkeys.


Tickets for the event are $25 in advance and may be purchased at several locations in Lakeport including Shari’s Secret Garden, Hillside Honda, The Kitchen Gallery and the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Middletown Florist in Middletown, Perlz in Kelseyville and the Lake County Wine Studio in Upper Lake.

Tickets also may be purchased the day of the event for $30.

Ticket purchase includes a wine glass and a map showing all participating wineries and restaurants.

The map may be stamped at each location and guests who visit each stop throughout the course of the evening qualify to enter a drawing for prizes.


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COW MOUNTAIN, Calif. – State fire officials reported that a fire burning on North Cow Mountain since the weekend has been contained.

The Cow Fire, sparked Sunday afternoon, was fully contained on Wednesday, according to Cal Fire report.

In all, the fire burned 293 acres in steep terrain inside Mendocino County, eight miles east of Ukiah, according to Cal Fire.

Also contained Wednesday were the 371-acre Dutch Fire in Siskiyou County and Monterey County's Green fire, which burned 35 acres, Cal Fire said Wednesday.

Still burning in California are the Bar Fire, 992 acres, in the Plumas National Forest and the 16,442-acre Bull Fire in the Sequoia National Forest, according to InciWeb, which follows National Forest fires.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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