Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Super-Duper Moon" Next Week...

Morning, Kids. There's another "Super Moon" coming next week. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of misinformation and utter stupidity about this relatively common occurrence.

No, it won't cause the Earth to shift in orbit and kill us all Hollywood-style.

No, it doesn't signal the end of mankind as we know it; the current presidential election is doing that just fine, thank you...

No, these are not that rare; we have six of these in 2016. We had Super Moons in March, April, and May. Now, we have them in October, November, and December.

Sunday and Monday (10/13 & 10/14) will be, if the darn weather cooperates, an unusually bright full moon referred to as a "Super Moon." Coincidentally, this November full moon is called the "Beaver Moon" since it was time to set the beaver traps before the swamps and lakes froze over. So, why "Super?" This is because the Moon is not only at perigee, point of closest approach in its orbit around Earth, but this perigee coincides with the timing of a full Moon. This Perigee hasn't occurred within an hour of full Moon since 1948; the last time Cleveland Indians won the World Series! Also, the next time for this Super-Duper-Moon is 2034; the next time the Indians win the World Series...

So, just what makes a Moon "Super" and/or this "Super-Duper" one? Take a look at the following image of our Moon orbit.

Notice the Moon orbits earth in an elliptical orbit, NOT a circular one. This means our Moon is closer sometimes and further away sometimes. When it is the closest, we call it "at perihelion"; Perigee on above image. Conversely, when it is furthest away, it is "at Aphelion"; Apogee. A "Super Moon" is nothing more than a full moon that happens to occur at Perigee when the Moon is closest to us. This gives the full moon a slightly bigger appearance, by about 14% bigger, and brighter look, by about 30%, than a typical full moon.

So head on out Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday after sunset. You can't miss unless you are under thick clouds. this Super-Duper-Moon. It rises right at local sunset and lasts through the entire night.

"Super-Duper Moon" Next Week...

Morning, Kids. There's another "Super Moon" coming next week. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of misinformation and utter stupidity about this relatively common occurrence.

No, it won't cause the Earth to shift in orbit and kill us all Hollywood-style.

No, it doesn't signal the end of mankind as we know it; the current presidential election is doing that just fine, thank you...

No, these are not that rare; we have six of these in 2016. We had Super Moons in March, April, and May. Now, we have them in October, November, and December.

Sunday and Monday (10/13 & 10/14) will be, if the darn weather cooperates, an unusually bright full moon referred to as a "Super Moon." Coincidentally, this November full moon is called the "Beaver Moon" since it was time to set the beaver traps before the swamps and lakes froze over. So, why "Super?" This is because the Moon is not only at perigee, point of closest approach in its orbit around Earth, but this perigee coincides with the timing of a full Moon. This Perigee hasn't occurred within an hour of full Moon since 1948; the last time Cleveland Indians won the World Series! Also, the next time for this Super-Duper-Moon is 2034; the next time the Indians win the World Series...

So, just what makes a Moon "Super" and/or this "Super-Duper" one? Take a look at the following image of our Moon orbit.

Notice the Moon orbits earth in an elliptical orbit, NOT a circular one. This means our Moon is closer sometimes and further away sometimes. When it is the closest, we call it "at perihelion"; Perigee on above image. Conversely, when it is furthest away, it is "at Aphelion"; Apogee. A "Super Moon" is nothing more than a full moon that happens to occur at Perigee when the Moon is closest to us. This gives the full moon a slightly bigger appearance, by about 14% bigger, and brighter look, by about 30%, than a typical full moon.

So head on out Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday after sunset. You can't miss unless you are under thick clouds. this Super-Duper-Moon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017! Get Your Sacrificial Chickens Ready!

Hey There! Hi There! Ho There! It's been well over a year since I've posted anything. I decided to concentrate on my last year of teaching and not have all these side things going on. So, just in case you are interested in the petty little thing I call my life, I retired for a 2nd time in June of this year and am now happily ensconced in New Hampshire with my lovely bride of a dozen years looking for a few canine buddies to rescue.

So, anyway, just a quick blast to let you know of the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE happening next year!

334 days 22 hours 19 minutes 33 seconds to go! 32 seconds... 31 seconds.... 30 seconds...

Yes, it's never to early to plan for something like this. August 21 2017 will see the first total solar eclipse sweeping across the entire continental US since 1918! The last total eclipse to hit the US at all was in 1978, but it only clipped 5 states in the Northwest and it was cloudy & raining...

For starters, below is a map showing the progression and local times from Newport OR @ 10:15 AM MT to Charlotte SC @ 2:46 PM EDT.


(Image stolen from GreatAmericanEclipse.com )

I'll be in Kansas with my lovely wife for the viewing with a real astronomer buddy of mine, Mike Ford, a real honest-ta-goodness observatory director (Banner Creek Observatory, KS) and past NASA co-worker.

You may notice from the above map that CT, Corrupticut, where most of the recipients of this incomparable newsletter reside and the state of my most recent happy departure, will be at about 75% total. It'll look sorta kinda like this image:


Image Stolen From Wiki

SOME DETAILS:

DETAIL #1: Totality, occurring within the yellow strip in the map above, means the Moon will totally block out the Sun. Totally, Dude. Everywhere else in the continental US, Canadia, and Mexico will witness various degrees of partial blockage. The following image is totality from 2015 taken in Norway. Notice the prominent Corona I warn you about later. Yikes and GadZooks.


(Images: NASA 2015 over Svalbard, Norway; Astronomy Picture of the Day )

DETAIL #2: The other two types of solar eclipse are Annular and partial. Annular is when the Moon is, indeed, directly in the path of the Sun, but is too far from Earth in its elliptical path to block it all. It's sometimes referred to as the "Ring Eclipse". Partials, right image, will be seen everywhere in North America on 08/21/2017 away from the totality path.


(Images stolen from WikiPedia...)

DETAIL #3: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE AT ANY TIME! NOOOOOO! That is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Not even if someone gives you the dreaded TRIPLE DOG DARE YA! Even though it will seem like it's nighttime during totality, there is so much pure EM radiation in several forms of high-energy photons coming from the Sun's invisible atmosphere, the Corona, and surface, the Photosphere, that you would cause irreparable harm to your poor little melting retinas. In fact, if you look long enough, your head would explode. Well, maybe not really explode, but...
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH! After every solar eclipse, there are plenty of stories of stupid people blinding themselves because, "All I did was look. How was I supposed to know?" These miscreants belong in the same category as the idiots who blow off their hands playing with a "harmless" firecracker in front of their kids. Idiots... But, I digress...
THIS website offers the cheapest Eclipse Viewing Glasses I've found. Coincidentally, that website is Eclipse2017.org... As cheap as $1.50 each when ordering a dozen or more... Other sites I've found are running $8 or more per pair. Buy a batch of them and protect your loved ones! The idiots are on their own...

So, start planning your trip now! This would make a great Pre-School event before heading back to the trenches of Academia. To help in planning, here are some cool websites to head to:

1. WEBSITE #1 : Full graphical description of where and when totality occurs all the way from Oregon to S Carolina. Examples of TN and SC below.

2. WEBSITE #2 : Astronomy Magazine's "25 Things You Should Know" about this eclipse.

3. WEBSITE #3 : The Great American Eclipse 2017 full scale hard-core science knowledge. More here than anyone would ever need.

4. WEBSITE #4 : Sky & Telescope magazine sponsors a 5-Night tour centered in Nashville with plenty of side travel and experts. At $2999, I find it a little pricey, but who am I to deprive wealthy teachers and students from an educational event...

I will send out more at a much later date, but NOW is not a bad time to plan a family trip of a lifetime! Head to Oregon! Head to Wyoming! Head to any of the 14 states this monster will be hitting! Except Montana... Poor Montana... The eclipse does hit Montana, but the entire path of darkness is in an area where there are no roads, no towns, no people that anyone else cares to know; only critters that would kill you and sage brush that scares me...

Cheers.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Apparently NSTA Espouses ANTI-Science! Enough is ENOUGH!

Well, it's taken something as stupid as this to get me off my widening retired ass and back on the blog-O-sphere.

Next week (04/02 - 04/05/2014), the NSTA is hosting the annual Science Teacher Conference in Boston, MA. Cool. Right up the proverbial road for me. I'll be there.


[Image Source: NSTA.org]

Oh, wait! No I won't. The keynote speaker this year is Mayim Bialik. Yes, she's a real honest-ta-goodness neuroscientist with a real PhD and everything. However, and this is a huge HOWEVER, she's an anti-vaccine proponent! Yes, you heard right, the largest gathering of science teachers in the world, some 14,000 of them, will be learning about the controversial Common Core, how to teach better, how to grade better, how to learn all the new glitzy technology vendors have to offer, and then pay big bucks to listen to an anti-vaxxer!

What does NSTA have to say? According to NSTA's Facebook page,

NSTA members have asked us some thoughtful questions recently about Mayim Bialik speaking at our national conference. In response, NSTA Executive Director David Evans has made the following statement: “Mayim Bialik holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She is also an enthusiastic advocate and passionate ambassador for science education who encourages students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. These are the reasons we invited her to speak on the topic of ‘The Power of One Teacher.’ Bialik’s personal views, including those regarding vaccinations, are just that—personal. We appreciate her dedication to science and her ability to inspire and motivate teachers. We look forward to hearing about her unique experiences as both a scientist and TV actress.”

To paraphrase George Takei, Oh MY! What the WHAT? I've been a physics and astronomy teacher for 40 frikkin' years and this really has my panties in a bind! How... Why... What... ??? AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Let's take a look at this in detail and perspective.

1. Mayim Bialik is a real science-trained human. I never even knew who she was till I started watching the Big Bang Theory TV show; she plays my alter-ego's girlfriend. According to Wiki, she obtained her PhD in 2007 from UCLA; congratulations. Her dissertation was an investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader–Willi syndrome. I have better things to do with my life than argue or even pretend to know what that is. She is an advocate for science education, congratulations and thank you.

2. She is probably best known as "Blossom" from an earlier, late '80s, TV show that I never saw. She is currently playing Dr. Sheldon Cooper's somewhat amorphic girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, on CBS's Big Bang Theory; a show worth watching for us geeks.

3. She is an anti-vaccine practitioner.

4. The NSTA, National Science Teachers Association, has hired her as the keynote speaker for the 2014 National Conference in Boston next week.

If you care about #1 and/or #2 above, I don't. Big Deal. She's an actress and a neuroscientist. Like I said, congratulations on the PhD. However, if you don't care about #3 above, then just stop reading this now and go spend some quality time with your doomed non-vaccinated children who will soon be gasping for breath and coughing so violently from pertussis that you will wonder how that small human isn't gone already. If you don't care about #4 above, then let's just agree that you are dumb and leave it at that.

FACT: Vaccines work. Period. I remember several of my elementary classmates walking around with heavy metal-laden leg braces. Suffering from polio. A few sugar cubes later, polio was all but eradicated from the world. Jonas Salk developed that vaccine in 1955. By 1965, polio was a memory. Measles, mumps, rubella (nasty German measles), chickenpox, all memories. However, vaccines work by a process called herd immunity. You must first understand that a vaccine is NOT a cure, it's a preventative. If a vast majority of the population is vaccinated, the general population is protected. Yes, a few slip through the "cracks" and still get sick. However, as Spock said, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

A great discussion of this can be found at Dr. Phil Plait's BadAstro blog on Slate here and here. Not only is he a personal friend and hero, but pretty close to the smartest person I've ever met. Quoting Dr. Phil P:

We need people talking about the need for vaccines more than ever right now. Measles cases have nearly doubled over last year in the UK. My hometown of Boulder is suffering through an outbreak of pertussis. California is on its way to having serious epidemics due to lower vaccination rates. In North Carolina just a few days ago, a two month old infant died from pertussis. Let me repeat that: babies die because of diseases that can be prevented by a simple vaccination. Factually-bereft antivaxxers - cough cough Meryl Dorey cough - claim that no one dies from these diseases any more. They are wrong. Antivaccination beliefs are bad science, pure and simple. Vaccines don't cause autism. They don't have toxins in them that can hurt you in the doses given. They don't overtax the immune system.What vaccines do is save millions, hundreds of millions, of lives. They protect us from diseases that used to ravage entire populations. And they save babies' lives. We need to keep up our herd immunity if we are to keep ourselves healthy, and that includes adults. Talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need a booster. Please.

Bottom line? I am very upset that my NSTA is either directly or indirectly endorsing such an anti-science stance. Will the NSTA approve my next workshop application titled, "Global Warming: It's a Joke!"? Nope, but it's my personal view; just as valid as Bialik's anti-vax personal view. Only problem is, once you become a "celebrity" in today's society, you are looked up to and can do much good or much harm. How many needless deaths have been caused by the likes of Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vax / autism bullshit links? At last count, 1375! McCarthy is the deadliest of all; a nude model, an actress, and now a talk-show host. Yeah, real science credentials there. Granted, Mialik has a PhD, but it's in neuroscience, not immunology.

NSTA, wake the hell up!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

ISON: Dead, Alive, or Faking It?

ISON update 11/28/13 6:30PM EST.

Well, well, well. After making about a bajillion posts on Facebook about ISON, the long 50 million year journey from Mr. Oort'd Cloud, its perilous and much watched advance toward the Sun, its perihelion journey, and its apparent death, it now looks like some of it may have lived! Damn comets!

Above image is compliments of SolarHam.com. It shows what MIGHT be a small bit of ISON still traveling in the trajectory it was heading in hours ago. Reports from ESA, European Space Agancy, via CNN claim this is nothing more than some of the original tail of ISON, but the nucleus (solid part) is gone.

Stay tuned, this may be the Little Comet That Could.

Comet ISON Updates 11/28/2013

I've been busy running a few online things about ISON, including a TV appearance on WTNH Ch8 show called CT Style, and have neglected my own blog... A few online updates at WXEdge.com:

1. 09/16 Tracking Comet ISON (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
2. 10/18 ISON Coming Into View (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
3. 11/20/ ISON Comes Alive

4. My TV appearance on CT Style show chatting about ISON. Here's a few updates on ISON! It's looking GOOD!

Both above images compliments of NASA's SOHO.

In the last few days, NASA and the proverbial ton of amateur astronomers have been keeping their collective eyes on ISON as it makes its “death” plunge toward the Sun. The above images are stills from a sequence of 97 shots taken by NASA’s SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) yesterday and today (Wed & Thurs). Note a few things:

1. ISON brightens drastically overnight! This is great news! It means the Sun is blowing off gases by sublimating ice and not just making ISON fall apart by shedding dirt and rocks. The indication here is that ISON is still intact and MAY make it all the way. He says with fingers crossed…
2. ISON’s double tail is evident! The brighter “upper” tail is dirt & dust falling off after the ice holding it in place is gone. The longer fainter tail is the ion tail caused by solar winds (high energy protons & electrons) smacking into the gases surrounding the comet, knocking electrons off these atoms, then as the electrons scramble to reform with these now positively charged gas molecules, they emit light by dropping back to their ground state.
3. In both images, solar CME’s are evident. In the first image, you can clearly see a Coronal Mass Ejection expanding downward. In the 2nd image, one is seen heading toward the seven o’clock position. Had one of these smacked ISON directly, it may have spelled an early doom.

This image is a composite of three observatories.

According to Dr. Phil Plait at BadAstronomy.com (personal friend and hero):

The picture above is a combination of three different views from space-based solar observatories taken at 16:45 UTC (11:45 EST) today [Wednesday 11/27/2013]. I’ll explain, but the important thing to note is that ISON looks intact, despite earlier worries, and is poised to put on quite a show. In the picture, the inner (orangish) circle is the disk of the Sun seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, observed in the far ultraviolet. It’s there to give you a sense of scale; mind you, the Sun is about 1.4 million km (860,000 miles) across. The red ring is from the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, showing the space directly around the Sun. The streamers are from the solar wind, subatomic particles flung out by the Sun’s fierce magnetic field. The blue is also from SOHO, but shows a much larger area around the Sun (the black line to the upper right is an arm that holds a disk of metal used to block out the direct light from the Sun, allowing fainter objects to be seen).
Above image compliments of Damian Peach (UK Astrophotographer) & SpaceWeather.com

Want to watch ISON live today as it makes the perihelion trip? NASA is running a live Google+ hangout with real honest-ta-goodness scientists and live telescope views from around the world and space. Again, according to Phil Plait:

But you can watch the whole thing live, with me, and a pile of NASA scientists on Google+! NASA is holding a live video Hangout on G+ during ISON’s perihelion passage (peri = close, helion = Sun, so perihelion is the closest point in an object’s orbit to the Sun). The event is from 18:00 – 20:30 UTC (1:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST). There will be live feed from NASA’s SOHO Sun-observing satellite (that should be spectacular) and from the Kitt Peak Observatory solar telescope. Guests include astronomers C. Alex Young, W. Dean Pesnell, Karl Battams (who runs theSunGrazingComets feed on Twitter), and me! I’ll be on from 1:30 – 2:30 EST to talk about the comet, the Sun, and what we’ll be seeing on the screen. We’ll also be answering questions live from Twitter; ask away using the hashtags#ISON and #askNASA.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Absolutely Incredible Video of a Perseid Meteor EXPLODING!

Via Universe Today,
Personally, I’ve never seen anything like this, and photographer and digital artist Michael K. Chung said he couldn’t believe what he saw when he was processing images he took for a timelapse of the Perseid meteor shower. It appears he captured a meteor explosion and the resulting expansion of a shock wave or debris ring. “It was taken early in the morning on August 12, 2013 from my backyard in Victorville, CA,” Michael told Universe Today via email. “The fade to white is NOT an edit- it is overexposure due to the sun coming up. From what I can tell, the timelapse sequence of the explosion and expanding debris span an actual time of approximately 20 minutes.”
Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/104149/incredible-footage-shows-a-perseid-meteor-exploding/#ixzz2cJjb6qkc