Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Moon and Venus

The Moon and Venus over my house!

Happy New Year! But don't forget your leap second!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Thin Crescent Moon

Crescent Moon taken on August 26, 2008

I took advantage of the clear skies and went observing on Monday night. I arrived at LVAAS at sunset and had about half an hour of viewing a thin crescent Moon. It was the thinnest crescent I've viewed through a telescope - thinner than the image above. I managed to identify a small piece of Mare Crisium and a few other craters but it was difficult. I was viewing through some tree branches - so the image was fading in and out - and the view was so limited that I couldn't find the usual landmarks (moonmarks?). 

Once I figured out what I was looking at I put away the lunar map and just enjoyed the view until it disappeared.

I then moved on to Venus. It was in a first-quarter phase which I had never seen before. That was cool, too. 

I moved around the sky a bit: the Pleiades, Aldeberan, Capella. Then I found M42, the Orion Nebula. This was my first time viewing this great sight. While it didn't look like the Hubble images (which are in color), it was still impressive. It took up the whole field-of-view in the eyepiece and I could easily recognize the shape. It is so hard to imagine just how big this thing is!

So I had another great time looking at the night sky. Let me know if you'd like to join me sometime.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Moon Course

Image: Mark Tillotson

Instructor: Mark Tillotson
12 weeks, Wednesday nights at 7 - 8 pm, Emmaus High School
Begins on February 4, 2009

NASA is currently planning a return to the Moon and many of it's scientists, engineers and contractors need to learn about the Moon. The Johnson Space Center sponsored Moon 101 - A Course in Lunar Science for Non-Specialists

Using the information from Moon 101, this course will present the basics of Lunar science that NASA is using to plan future missions to the Moon to set up a permanent base. The course will cover topics such as geology and the physical characteristics of the soil and surface material that will effect living and working there, the crust and interior, environment, poles, and the lessons learned from Apollo. We will also learn about viewing Lunar features from Earth, meteorites, mapping and the search for water.

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in the Moon and astronomy. It will focus on the overview of Lunar science and will not require any special math skills.

The registration form is here. I hope you will join me on this exploration of the Moon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Moon and a Crow

The Moon Poster by John Moore

I've been wanting this Moon poster for a long time and I finally have it! It's one of those 'early Christmas presents' that are the perfect excuse for spending money on yourself. It was created by my new friend, John Moore, from Ireland.

John Moore currently works as a freelance science and astronomy writer. He maintains a website about the Moon – unpaid and all done on a shoestring.

We 'met' through LPOD and the Moon Wiki. We have been e-mailing back and forth and this morning he sent me a picture he had taken. He saw in my blog that I also like birds and nature.

I see that you're into nature as well as being a lunartic like myself. I'm in the middle of nowhere over here and have loads of pics on nature -- from fungi, to trees, to animals, to birds..etc. Have included a small pic of a common crow I took the other day through my window as he posed for me -- I call it "Woaaaa dude, where's my bread?" :-)))

It's a great picture of an agitated crow! I think I've seen the same bird in my yard looking for sunflower seed...

"Woaaaa dude, where's my bread?

So here's to the Moon, a crow and the magic of the internet!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moon 101

This is from the 11/11/2008 LPOD by Chuck Wood:

A few years ago I taught online courses about lunar geology. Now NASA is actively working to return to the Moon and finds that many of its engineers and others need to learn about the Moon. Not just geology, but especially information about the physical characteristics of the soil and near surface material that will effect living and working there. So this year Johnson Space Center sponsored Moon 101 - A Course in Lunar Science for Non-Specialists, ten lectures apparently organized by Paul Spudis. The wonderful thing is that the Powerpoints - all 80 MB of them - are online for download and study by anyone interested. I printed them all out and spiral bound them, adding another significant reference to my lunar library collection. The presentations include basic geologic topics such as the surface, crust, and interior, and also more practical matters such as the environment, poles and lessons learned from the Apollo missions and where future bases should be sited. The last talk is on lunar meteorites, a wonderful source of free samples of the Moon (although you have to pay to go to Antarctica, the Sahara or Australia to find many), but their origin locations are unknown. Many LPOD readers will find some of this material familiar, but other parts, especially the geochemistry and petrology of lunar samples, will be new and somewhat complex. But download it, and as you read through remember that you are getting the same information as the NASA scientists and engineers who will take us back to the Moon. Thanks, Paul, for sharing these Powerpoints!

I'm downloading the files now. I've looked at some of the pages and they are great - if you're a lunatic like me!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today in Astronomy: Vesto Slipher

Vesto Melvin Slipher, born on November 11, 1875 (d. November 8, 1969), was an American astronomer. He spent his entire career at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was director from 1916 to 1952. He used spectroscopy to investigate the rotation periods of planets and the composition of planetary atmospheres. In 1912, he was the first to observe the shift of spectral lines of galaxies, so he was the discoverer of galactic redshifts.

John Peacock,
head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, states:

a very large share of the credit for the discovery of the expanding universe is due to Slipher, and yet he tends to take very much second place to Hubble in most accounts.

While it was Edwin Hubble who received all the publicity, Vesto Slipher actually made the discovery that galaxies are moving away from us. He also determined that the Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards the Milky Way!

Slipher was also responsible for hiring Clyde Tombaugh and supervised the work that led to the discovery of Pluto. His brother Earl C. Slipher was also an astronomer. The Moon crater Slipher and a crater on Mars are named in his honor.

Vesto Slipher died in Flagstaff, AZ on November 8, 1969 at the age of 93. He was one of the giants of astronomy and deserves greater recognition.


Notes from the Blogosphere: Stealth and Attitude

One of the coolest birds in the park was a roosting eastern screech owl. The bird is perched on the edge of a cavity in the tree trunk. Check out how well the bird's feathers blend in with the bark--incredible. This was a particularly exciting eastern screech owl, park staff told our group that it was amccallii, and it's quite possible that the American Ornithologists' Union will make it a separate species from eastern screech owl. So, I kind of banked a life bird for another day.

No wonder I've never seen a screech owl in the woods! From

[Mystery bird] endemic to thornbush and acacia country in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and East Africa. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image:GrrlScientist, 2 September 2008 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Now, here's a bird with an attitude! Notice the 'band' on the left leg. These bands help scientists follow the migration and territories of birds. From: Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hawk Mountain Hike

Lee, Katie, Jill and I took a hike up Hawk Mountain today. It was a beautiful day; sunny, not too cold and there was still some color in the trees. 

We went up to North Lookout and there was a large crowd. We even saw a bunch of Hawks - Red-tailed Hawks. There were probably 20 that flew past in the 2 hours we were at the lookout.

They also had a live display of a Broad-winged Hawk and a Barred Owl. It is fascinating to see them up close.

See all the photos from today here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chandrayaan-1 enters Moon orbit!

NDTV Correspondent
Saturday, November 08, 2008 5:25 PM(New Delhi)

India's first unmanned lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 successfully entered moon orbit on Saturday. With this development, India's moon mission has been declared successful.

When India's first mission to the moon took off nearly a fortnight ago, there was both joy and anxiety. There was joy because the mission put India in an exclusive club of countries.

Though scientists rejoiced as the Chandrayaan blasted off, they knew they had a tougher job at hand, to put the satellite in moon's orbit. That happened on Saturday evening and the mission was declared a success.

Indian scientists were worried because the last part of Chandrayaan's journey was dangerous, as it had to go through an area in which the gravitational forces of the earth and moon nearly cancel each other out. Even a small deviation could have sent the spacecraft into a crash course towards the earth or on a path leading into deep space, but everything went according to plan.

When the spacecraft was about 500 km short of the moon, it was to be slowed down. The moon's gravity would then pull the craft into its orbit. Later, it would be stabilised in a 100 km circular orbit.

This is great! I can't wait for the new images and the science reports to start coming out. With Selene in orbit as well, we have a new era of Lunar exploration.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Math and the Mona Lisa

"No human inquiry can be a science unless it pursues its path through mathematical exposition and demonstration."
   - Leonardo da Vinci

I just finished this excellent book. There are many quotable passages but the above quote struck me. This is what comes to mind when I hear about the push to teach "Intelligent Design" in science classrooms. ID is not science. Leonardo knew the distinction 500 years ago. Teach science at school and religion at church.

OK, my rant is over. I highly recommend this book - the story of the intersection of art and science.

Thanks to Chris for loaning this book to me.

Math and the Mona Lisa ; The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci
Bulent Atalay
p. 245

Amazon review:
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and Science Synthesized in Leonardo's Mind and Method, April 23, 2004
By Nicholas Murray (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This is a genuinely astonishing book. Its essential idea is that the dichotomy between art and science is a relatively modern idea, that the distinction is not present in Leonardo's method of looking at the world. I've read a lot of good histories of art, and even a good history of science or two, but I've never seen an organic history of both, and that's Atalay's achievement. The illustrations alone -- showing the art in science and the science in art -- are a wonder, and well worth the price of the book. A very elegant entertainment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

November Lunar Calendar

This is my list of important events for November.

New Moon

“When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly”

So I guess when the Moon is new, the stars shine the brightest. The cloud cover has broken and Orion is bright.

What a beautiful sight...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Darth Raker Invasion

I spent most of the evening with Professor Darth Raker's Astronomy Class, which was visiting LVAAS to do some hands-on learning. It was a fun group, although Aimee 'White-Light' did cause some trouble in the beginning...

We looked at Jupiter through several different scopes and Bill showed us the 'Ring Nebula'. Will had fun showing off his 4.5" Celestron while I fiddled with both the 12" reflector (Roll-Off) and the 6" refractor (upstairs dome). Io went behind Jupiter at 7:19 pm. We had been watching it get closer and closer, wondering if it would cross in front or behind the giant planet. Ganymede, Europa and Calisto were also visible.

Fred gave them a Planetarium show and while the Prof was trying to take pictures I was nominated to lead the Library tour. Dave is the current club librarian and he said that it contains over 1,000 astronomy-related books, magazines, videos and DVD's. Quite a collection!!

The crowd departed with their notebooks - apparently a 4-page paper on Astronomy is due next week. They had fun and asked a lot of questions - which I was glad to answer. Good luck to all!

I then spent some quiet time with the Moon. The fast-moving clouds made for some interesting lighting on - and around - the Moon.

The rest of today's images are in my Picasa Web Album.

Thought for today:
“The moon, like a flower
In heaven's high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.”
- William Blake (English Poet, Painter and Engraver. 1757-1827)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Bunch of Grapes

"The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."

- Galileo

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Today in Astronomy

Giovanni Domenico Cassini died on this day in 1712 in Paris. He was an Italian mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer. Cassini, also known as Giandomenico Cassini, was born on June 8, 1625 in Perinaldo, near Sanremo, at that time in the Republic of Genoa.

Cassini was an astronomer at the Panzano Observatory, from 1648 to 1669. He was a professor of astronomy at the University of Bologna and became, in 1671, director of the Paris Observatory. He thoroughly adopted his new country, to the extent that he became interchangeably known as Jean-Dominique Cassini —although that is also the name of his great-grand-son.

Along with Robert Hooke, Cassini is given credit for the discovery of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter (ca. 1665). Cassini was the first to observe four of Saturn's moons, which he called Sidera Lodoicea; he also discovered the Cassini Division (1675). Around 1690, Cassini was the first to observe differential rotation within Jupiter's atmosphere.

In 1672 he sent his colleague Jean Richer to Cayenne, French Guiana, while he himself stayed in Paris. The two made simultaneous observations of Mars and thus found its parallax to determine its distance, thus measuring for the first time the true dimensions of the solar system.

Cassini was the first to make successful measurements of longitude by the method suggested by Galileo, using eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter as a clock.

Named after Cassini

For more information visit the Astronomy Compendium.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Moon became Mind, and Entered the Heart.

Atman, the Creator, made Fire, Wind, Sun, Moon, and other divinities.

They said to him: ‘Find out for us an abode wherein we may be established and may eat food.’ He led up a bull to them. They said: ‘Verily, this is not sufficient for us.’ He led up a horse to them. They said: ‘Verily, this is not sufficient for us.’ He led up a person to them. They said: ‘Oh! well done!’—Verily, a person is a thing well done.— He said to them: ‘Enter into your respective abodes.’

Fire became speech, and entered the mouth.

Wind became breath, and entered the nostrils.

The Sun became sight, and entered the eyes.

The Moon became mind, and entered the heart.

The Moon: Myth and Image

By Jules Cashford, p. 118

Hindu myth circa eighth to sixth century BCE.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Irish Blessing

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.”

- Irish Blessing

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A&E Entertainment Presents...

The Annual Parkway Square-Dance
and Pig-Holler Hoe-Down!

Here we have the M.C. and his beautiful co-host, Sweetie!
This is a couple that likes both kinds of music - Country and Western.

The crowd get excited waiting for the festivities to begin...

The couples prepare for the grueling competition.

And the show begins!!

And it's at this point that things begin to go sadly awry...

The performances just weren't up to last years' standards.

The crowd turns hostile...

People begin leave...

And let's not even mention the pig holler...

Yet, despite all this, the day was not a complete loss.

The food, the games and the friendship was top notch!!

If you want to see more highlights -

and instructions on how to wear a hat properly -

Step on over to Lunar Mark's Picasa Web Albums.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Day

“The day, water, sun, moon, night - I do not have to purchase
these things with money.”

- Titus Maccius Plautus

Friday, August 29, 2008

LVAAS Star Party - September 6, 2008

The Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society - LVAAS - is holding its monthly Star Party on Saturday, September 6, 2008. 

This event is free and open to the public. If you would like to learn more about the night sky or take a look through a telescope, please join us!

7 pm: Feature Program - “A Trip to the Moon ”
Club member Mark Tillotson will take us on a journey to our nearest neighbor, the Moon.  You will explore craters that are visible from Earth and see stunning new images of Tycho, taken by the Japanese lunar probe Selene. Learn about Tycho’s fascinating system of rays and the size of some of the incredible impact craters.

8 pm and again at 9 pm: Planetarium Show of the Night Sky
Assistant planetarium director Peter Detterliner will guide us through the September night sky this month. Please note: Planetarium seating is limited. Because the dome is lowered, visitors
must be seated under the dome to see the planetarium show.

7 pm – 10 pm: Telescope viewing of the Night Sky
Weather permitting, our observatory telescopes, plus individual club member telescopes, will be available for you to look through at various night sky objects. Feel free to ask questions about the objects you see or the telescopes you are looking through.

You can learn more about LVAAS and the Star Party at

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lunar Geese

Image by Walter Siegmund, Fir Island, Washington.

What a beautiful image! It combines my two favorite hobbies: astronomy and birding. Click the image to see a larger version.

This was the August 28th post from LPOD - Lunar Photo of the Day.

Happy Birthday

Happy Bird day to Lee
Happy Bird day to Lee
Happy Bird day dear Lee
Happy Bird day to Lee

He claims to be 32 but that may simply be a consequence of short-term memory loss. I remember that he was 32 last year...

That means he's 33!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Truth

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

- Buddha (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

The 4 am Moon

Music Mike and I went to the LVAAS site at South Mtn at 4am today to do some observing. By coincidence - the Moon had just risen...

While I was still talking about craters Mike found the Orion Nebula. It was great. Picasa has more photos from our little adventure - including some cool colors from the star 'Rigel' in Orion.

And if you want to know more about lunar craters - just ask! Sometimes I'm willing to talk about it...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Faded Letters

Across the street from the PPL Plaza is a building with an old advertisement painted on the bricks. We spend some time trying to figure out what it says. Can anyone offer a guess or an answer?

Click on the image to enlarge it. You can post your thoughts by clicking the comment button below.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sold Out

What would you do if you arrived at the baseball stadium only to find the game is sold out?

Our next obvious choice involved food. After a brief discussion (it really was fairly brief) we decided on Johnny Manana's in Center City. So off we went for Mexican food.

And fun...

We all enjoyed the meal and then hung out in the plaza for a while.

Even though we were all up for eating peanuts and watching baseball it was a nice evening with family and friends. We saw a Peregrine Falcon and some bats. When it started to get dark we headed home.

View all of today's photos on Picasa.