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The Sciences

Wildfire west of Boulder

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitSeptember 6, 2010 9:15 PM

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[Update 20:20 MDT: My brother-in-law took some amazing pictures of the fire, including this one of the reddened sunset, and this one after dark.]

Right now as I write this there is a pretty big wildfire in Gold Hill, Colorado, about 15 kilometers west of where I live. There's a thick pall of orange-brown smoke going straight over us. This is the view to the west a little while ago, toward the foothills of the Rocky Mountains:

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You can see the Flatirons to the left. The smoke totally blocks the hills north of there though. The smoke is much wider now from my view, covering almost 90° of the horizon, and the plume is clearly several kilometers across. The Sun is shining through, but it's dulled to an orange ember:

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Ironically, the morning started off cool and breezy, the first autumn-like day we've had. I went upstairs to tell The Little Astronomer to open her windows to let in fresh air... and when I opened her shade I saw the plume. [Update: I just walked outside (12:30 MDT) and there's ash falling all around us. It's very light, but holy crap.] We're safe here, I'm sure, but we can certainly smell the smoke, and the sky has an eerie cast to it. It's been dry this year and the fire danger is pretty high. I hope they can contain this quickly, and that everyone involved is safe.

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