Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Centennial: Einstein's General Theory of Relativity

Leo with Einstein

















Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP) Co-Founder
Leo J. Scanlon (left), who would later become one of the first Buhl
Planetarium lecturers, thanks Albert Einstein (right) for visiting the
AAAP booth at the 1934 convention of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh.
More Information: Link >>> http://old.3ap.org/features/leo/leoScanlonBio6.shtml
(Sources: AAAP, Scanlon Family Collection; Photo Reproduction:
© Copyright David Smith)


By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

One hundred years ago today, Physicist Albert Einstein completely unveiled his General Theory of Relativity before the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. It was on 1915 November 25, the fourth of a series of lectures over four consecutive Thursdays, where he detailed the mathematical field equations that explained and supported his General Theory of Relativity.

Dr. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity continues today as the best explanation of gravity in modern Physics.

Interestingly, Dr. Einstein made revisions in his field equations, from one lecture to the next, during the four lectures in November of 1915. Throughout this month, he continued conferring with academic colleagues, regarding these equations.

Until this time, scientists had relied on Isaac Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, which said that gravity was a “force” that attracted two objects of mass to each other. Hence, by this theory, the “force” of gravity, caused by the large mass of the Planet Earth, strongly attracted all objects found on the Earth (including us) to the Earth.

In the General Theory, Dr. Einstein explained gravity as a warp in space-time, caused by the mass of matter. Hence, the large mass of the Planet Earth caused such a large warp in space-time that other objects near the Earth would simply follow the warp, “falling” toward the Earth. By this explanation, we (and every other object on the Earth) are simply following the warp toward the Earth.

In the General Theory of Relativity, no gravitational force deflects objects from their natural, straight pathways. Rather, gravity corresponds to changes in space and time, which changes the straightest-possible path of an object to a possibly curved path.

With the General Theory, Dr. Einstein also recognized that gravity and motion were equivalent. To an observer, the pull of gravity from a planet was no different than the pull felt by a moving rocket or a moving elevator.

The General Theory implies the existence of Black Holes, the end of life of some of the most massive stars. Black Holes are considered “black” because these are regions of space where space and time are distorted to such an extent that nothing, not even light, can escape.

The General Theory of Relativity predicts the existence of gravity waves, which have since been indirectly observed. As of mid-September, scientists are trying to directly detect gravity waves, using a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which uses a laser to detect the slight changes caused by gravity waves.

Also predicted by the General Theory, the path of light is bent, as it passes through a gravitational field from a body of great mass, known today as gravitational lensing. To test this prediction required great precision, as the deflection of light would be very slight. However, no experiment on Earth would provide the accuracy necessary to confirm the prediction.

Sir Frank Watson Dyson, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, proposed confirming this prediction by using a Total Eclipse of the Sun which would occur in 1919. The May 29 eclipse would allow the observation of stars from the bright Hyades Star Cluster, as the light from these stars passed close to the fully eclipsed Sun. With this star light passing so close to the Sun, the Sun's gravitational field would deflect the star light, and accurate measurements of this deflection could be performed.

English Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington agreed to make the observations necessary to confirm this prediction. He first measured the “true” positions of the stars in January and February of 1919. In May, he observed the eclipse from the remote island of Principe, in the Gulf of Guinea off of the west coast of Africa. He also sent a second expedition to observe the eclipse from Sobral, Brazil, in case the African site was clouded-out during the eclipse.

Good observations of the eclipse were made from both locations. Sir Eddington announced his findings, confirming Dr. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, on 1919 November 6. Until then, a young, fairly unknown physicist, the next day Albert Einstein was on the front page of newspapers around the world!

An often told story is when a student of Dr. Einstein asked about the possibility the solar eclipse would not confirm the General Theory. Dr. Einstein, who often was convinced of a theory without experimental evidence, was reported by the student to have said, “Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct.”

However, University of Winnipeg History Professor David R. Topper, in his 2007 book, Quirky Sides of Scientists, reports that this quote is probably a myth. Dr. Topper writes, “In a meticulously researched study of the story, Klaus Hentschel has convinced me the event never happened, and that it was a reconstruction by the student much later than the event (in the 1950s) to support her view that Einstein shared her philosophical (neo-Kantian) viewpoint (which he did not).” Klaus Hentschel is a German physicist and the head of the History of Science and Technology section of the History Department of the University of Stuttgart.

Just ten years before the presentation of the General Theory, Albert Einstein had unveiled his Special Theory of Relativity, which is now an experimentally well-confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. The two postulates of the Special Theory of Relativity are:

  1. The laws of physics are invariant in all inertial systems;
  2. The speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, no matter the motion of the light source.

Even today, the Special Theory of Relativity is the most accurate model of motion at any speed. And, from the Special Theory arose the idea of mass—energy equivalence, better known by the general public as the famous equation E = mc2.

More on the General Theory of Relativity: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_relativity

More on the Special Theory of Relativity: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity

More about Albert Einstein: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein

More on Albert Einstein's speaking engagement at the 1934 convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh and his meeting with the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh: Link >>> http://old.3ap.org/features/leo/leoScanlonBio6.shtml

Photograph of Albert Einstein's desk the day before he passed-away:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/bio/einstein/pix/Einsteindesk.jpg

Related Blog Post ---

"Laser Observatory May Directly Detect Gravity Waves." 2015 Oct. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/10/laser-observatory-may-directly-detect.html 


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NASA Orders SpaceX Astronaut Launches


Photograph of the SpaceX Dragon vehicle for sending astronauts to the International
Space Station, as unveiled by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk at a news conference in
Hawthorne, California on 2014 May 29 (Image Sources: Getty, Florida Today).

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

On Friday (November 20), NASA issued the first official order for a SpaceX mission to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), perhaps as early as late 2017. The very first such crew-mission order was placed with the Boeing Company in May.

This is the first two of four “guaranteed orders” NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Once these launches begin, in 2017 or 2018, the United State will once again have the capability of sending astronauts into orbit from American soil. Ever since the Space Shuttle fleet was retired four years ago, American astronauts have had to use Russian Soyuz space capsules to reach the ISS and return to Earth, at a cost of $70 million per seat.

Final NASA certification will occur prior to each launch. It has yet to be determined whether Boeing or SpaceX will be the first to launch astronauts to the ISS.

However, this does depend on NASA receiving the full requested funding for CCtCap contracts in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. Without full Congressional funding, these commercial crew launches may be delayed.

"It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan."

SpaceX will use their “Crew Dragon” space capsule, launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. SpaceX will use the historic Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for these launches. Launch Pad 39A was used for launching men to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as Space Shuttle flights in later years.

These commercial crew launches will carry as many as four astronauts (NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members), along with about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. These space capsules can stay at the ISS for as long as 210 days, and they can be used as “lifeboats” for emergency evacuations.

“Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low-Earth orbit.”

NASA News Release: Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-orders-spacex-crew-mission-to-international-space-station

NASA Commercial Crew Program web page:
Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/crew/index.html

More on SpaceX: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Tue. PM / Wed. AM w/ Web-Cast


Photograph of a meteor during the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower. (Image Source: Wikipedia.org )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The annual Leonid Meteor Shower peaks tonight / Wednesday morning, and sky-watchers could be treated to 10 to 15 meteors per hour, weather permitting. An Internet web-cast of this meteor shower will be available tonight, if clouds preclude direct viewing of the event. A link to this Internet web-cast is at the end of this blog post.

The peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower actually occurs on Wednesday Morning, 2015 November 18 at 12:00 Midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 5:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). As with most meteor showers, the best time to view the shower is between local midnight and dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the shower.

A meteor shower normally consists of dust particles related to a comet. Each time a comet approaches the Sun, the comet loses dust particles following the melting or sublimating of ice on the comet. These dust particles, called meteoroids, continue to follow the same celestial path as the comet and form a meteoroid stream. Each year, as the Earth orbits the Sun, the Earth passes through several of these meteoroid streams, becoming Earth's meteor showers.

While passing through one of these meteoroid streams, Earth's gravity attracts many of these meteoroids and they fall to Earth; then, they are viewed by people as meteors as they burn-up in the atmosphere. Most are extremely small and burn-up completely. From time-to-time, larger particles enter the atmosphere and create brilliant displays known as fireballs or bolides. If these particles are large enough, they may not completely burn-up and land on Earth as a meteorite.

Meteors from the Leonid Meteor Shower emanate from remnants of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Not named after the parent comet, the Leonids are so named because most meteors appear to radiate from the Constellation Leo the Lion, known as the meteor shower radiant point. However, you should not, necessarily, be looking only at Leo, when looking for meteors in this shower. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time (although a meteor's trail may tend to point back toward the radiant).

The Leonid Meteor Shower in 1833, which was actually a huge Meteor Storm (when tens-of-thousands of meteors were seen in just a few hours of time), started serious scientific investigation of meteor showers. Yale University Professor Denison Olmsted, after observing the Meteor Storm in November of 1833, studied the meteor shower phenomena and was able to determine the actual origin of the meteors (previously, it had been thought that meteor showers were atmospheric phenomena). Two years later he and a colleague, Elias Loomis, were the first two American astronomers to observe Halley's Comet.

Leonid Meteor Storms occur once every 33 years (most recently, they have occurred in 1966 and 1999), when many meteors are visible. Other years, such as this year, the peak rate of meteors would be about 10 (to possibly 15) meteors per hour, under ideal conditions.

To more easily see the Leonid Meteor Shower, it is better to be away from city lights, as artificial lighting can drown-out the dimmer meteors. Binoculars and telescopes are not very useful for finding meteors. Meteors streak across the sky in a very short period of time, far too short to aim binoculars or a telescope. So, the best way to view a meteor shower is to lie on a blanket or beach towel on the ground, or use a reclining chair, in an area with a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees, or hills), and keep scanning the entire sky.

Bright moonlight can also drown-out some of the dimmer meteors, so monitor the Moon Phase on the monthly SpaceWatchtower Astronomical Calendar. However, bright moonlight should not be too much of a problem this year.

The Moon is currently a waxing crescent and reaches the First Quarter Phase early Thursday Morning, 2015 November 19 at 1:27 a.m. EST / 6:27 UTC. So, only about half of the lunar disk is lit early in the evening, and the Moon sets before, or just a little after, local midnight over the next few days. Again, the best time to view a meteor shower is between local midnight and dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the meteor shower.

So, if you go out to see the Leonid Meteor Shower, start looking for meteors around local midnight, or perhaps a little later. Make sure you have a good site where you can see most of the sky, and that sky is relatively clear. Be sure to dress properly for the Autumn, early morning temperatures.

And, you want to go out ahead of time, before you actually start looking for meteors, to get your eyes accustomed to the dark sky. Dark-adapting your eyes for meteor-watching could take up to a half-hour.

Of course, viewing meteor showers, like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If there are more than a very few clouds in the sky, meteors will be much more difficult to find. If the weather in your area does not permit direct viewing outdoors of this meteor shower, it can be viewed during a special web-cast on the Internet.

A cautionary note for those who find it necessary to watch the Leonid Meteor Shower on the Internet. The video camera, used for each web-cast, can only aim at one part of the sky at a time. Hence, do not expect to see as many meteors as you might see with your own eyes outside. Outdoors, you can easily scan the entire sky for meteors, while a camera aimed at one area of the sky will only be able to see the meteors that enter that particular part of the sky

Internet Web Site for Free-of-Charge Viewing of the Leonid Meteor Shower Near the Peak ---

Slooh Community Observatory – Wednesday Evening, 2015 November 17 beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST / November 18 at 1:00 UTC (observations from telescope in the Canary Islands of Spain, where the local time is after midnight):

More on the Leonid Meteor Shower:
Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_meteor_shower

More on Meteor Showers: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_shower

More from NASA on Meteors, Meteor Showers, and the Leonid Meteor Shower: 
More on Comet Tempel-Tuttle:
Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/55P/Tempel-Tuttle

More on Yale University Professor Denison Olmsted:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denison_Olmsted

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, November 13, 2015

13th of Month Occurs on Friday More Than Any Other Day of Week


This photograph shows the late children's television host, Fred Rogers, with the
hand-puppet King Friday the 13th, used to prevent children's superstitions. Today
(and every Friday the 13th) is the birthday of King Friday the 13th, the monarch
of the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" since 1966 on the popular, national children's
television program, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," produced by WQED-TV channel 13 
in Pittsburgh. Originally, when WQED-TV premiered in 1954 as the nation's first
community-sponsored, educational television station, King Friday the 13th had been
the king of time on the "Children's Corner" television program's "Calendarland" (hence,
why all royal family names are days-of-the-week !).
(Image Source: The Fred Rogers Company)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Despite the superstition that revolves around the date of Friday the 13th, it is true that the 13th day of the month occurs slightly more often on a Friday, than any other day of the week in the Gregorian Calendar.

Today, 2015 November 13, is the third of three occurrences of Friday the 13th in 2015—the most number of such occurrences possible in one calendar year. Of course, the reason there are three such occurrences this year is because the first occurred in February. And, during a non-leap year, the February calendar of days-of-the-week is always repeated in March, and then again in November, due to the fact that February has precisely four weeks in non-leaps years.

On average, Friday the 13th occurs once every 212.35 days. Any month that begins on a Sunday includes a Friday the 13th. Every calendar year includes at least one Friday the 13th. And, the longest period that can occur without a Friday the 13th is fourteen months: from July to September of the following year which is a non-leap year or from August to October of the following year which is a leap year.

Over the 400-year recurring cycle of the Gregorian Calendar (which contains 146,000 normal days, 97 leap days, 20,871 weeks, and 4,800 months), the number of occurrences of the 13th day of the month on each of the seven days of the week is the following:

Friday – 688
Sunday – 687
Wednesday – 687
Monday – 685
Tuesday – 685
Thursday – 684
Saturday – 684

The superstition surrounding Friday the 13th may have originated in the Middle Ages, with the Biblical story of Jesus' Last Supper where 13 individuals were present, and his Crucifixion the next day, a Friday. Friday, 1307 October 13, the date King Philip IV of France supposedly arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar, may have also contributed to the superstition, but not until the 20th century (although the documentation of this story is quite limited).

The publication of a novel in 1907, Friday the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson, may have popularized the superstition. The novel depicts a Wall Street broker using the superstition to create a financial panic on a Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th is not the unlucky day in other cultures. In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is unlucky, partly due to the fall of Constantinople occurring on Tuesday, 1204 April 13. In Italy, Friday the 17th is the unlucky day, with Italians actually considering the number 13 as lucky; more recently, with American and European influences, some Italians now also consider Friday the 13th as unlucky.

However, confirmation bias is considered by psychologists as the reason the Friday the 13th superstition has lasted so long. People remember bad things that happen on a Friday the 13th, while forgetting the other occurrences of Friday the 13th when nothing spectacular happens.

More on Friday the 13th ---
Mathematics: Link >>> http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/FridaytheThirteenth.html
General: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th
History -
   Link 1 >>> http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/09/the-origin-of-friday-the-13th-as-an-unlucky-day/
   Link 2 >>> http://www.snopes.com/luck/friday13.asp
   Link 3 >>> http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0212_040212_friday13.html

How Mister Rogers Made Friday the 13th Less Scary:
Link >>> http://nowiknow.com/how-mr-rogers-made-friday-the-13th-less-scary/

More on King Friday XIII:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_of_Make-Believe#Regular_puppets

More on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" & the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe":
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mister_Rogers'_Neighborhood

"The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," a planetarium show produced by Family Communications, Inc. (now The Fred Rogers Company) and the Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center:
Link >>> http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/about/exhibit-rentals-sales-planetarium/

More about WQED-TV channel 13, the nation's 1st community-sponsored TV station:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WQED_%28TV%29

More on November 13: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/November_13

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fireballs Possible As Meteor Shower Peaks Wed. & Thur. Nights

Taurid fireball seen on November 9, 2015 by Steve Shubert in St. Louis, Missouri.
A Taurid fireball photographed on Monday, 2015 November 9 by Steve Shubert in St. Louis
(Image Source: EarthSky.org ).

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Large and bright meteors known as fireballs may be visible this week, weather-permitting, as the North Taurid Meteor Shower peaks Wednesday and Thursday nights. Several fireballs have been observed this-past week, following the November 5 peak of the South Taurid Meteor Shower, and the north stream of the Taurids may be just as eventful.

The North Taurid Meteor Shower will actually peak on Thursday Evening, 2015 November 12 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 23:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Of course, as with most meteor showers, the best time for viewing is between local midnight and dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the meteor shower. Both Wednesday night / early Thursday morning and Thursday night / early Friday morning should be good for viewing this meteor shower.

According to the American Meteor Society, fireballs seem to, particularly, come with the South and North Taurid Meteor Showers every seven years. It seems that every seven years the Earth encounters a stream of larger-than-usual particles from the parent comet. The last good year to observe fireballs with these meteor showers was in 2008. So, although the Taurids are only known for displaying about 5 to 10 (in a good year, perhaps as many as 15) meteors per hour near the peak, 2015 could be another good year for fireballs from this meteor shower.

A meteor shower normally consists of dust particles related to a comet. Each time a comet approaches the Sun, the comet loses dust particles following the melting or sublimating of ice on the comet. These dust particles, called meteoroids, continue to follow the same orbit as the comet and form a meteoroid stream. Each year, as the Earth orbits the Sun, the Earth passes through several of these meteoroid streams, becoming Earth's meteor showers.

The Earth's gravity then attracts many of these meteoroids and they fall to Earth; then, they are viewed by people as meteors as they burn-up in the atmosphere. Most are extremely small and burn-up completely. From time-to-time, larger particles enter the atmosphere and create brilliant displays known as fireballs or bolides. If these particles are large enough, they may not completely burn-up and land on Earth as a meteorite.

Comet Enke is the parent comet of the South and North Taurid Meteor Showers. This comet has the shortest orbit around the Sun (3.3 years) of all of the reasonably bright comets. The faint Comet 311P/PANSTARRS does have a slightly shorter orbital period of 3.2 years. Meteor showers are not normally named after the parent comet.

These meteors are known as Taurids, as they appear to emanate from the Constellation Taurus the Bull. Hence, Taurus is known as the radiant point of this meteor shower. However, you should not, necessarily, be looking only at Taurus, when looking for meteors in this shower. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time (although a meteor's trail may tend to point back toward the radiant).

Actually, there are two or three meteor showers, that seem to appear from the same general area of the sky. As mentioned, there is the South Taurid Meteor Shower (which peaks close to November 5) and there is the North Taurid Meteor Shower (which peaks close to November 12)---some consider these two part of the same, extended, meteor shower. Additionally, there is a Beta Taurid Meteor Shower (which peaks close to June 26). The Beta Taurids is, primarily, a daytime meteor shower, which is mainly observed as special electro-magnetic interference on radio frequencies. All three meteor showers come from the same stream of meteoroids, with the same parent comet, which the Earth encounters each year in June and again in October / November.

To more easily see the North Taurid Meteor Shower, it is better to be away from city lights, as artificial lighting can drown-out the dimmer meteors. The best time to see any meteor shower is between local midnight and morning twilight, when the Earth is actually rotating-into the meteor shower.

Binoculars and telescopes are not very useful for finding meteors. Meteors streak across the sky in a very short period of time, far too short to aim binoculars or a telescope. So, the best way to view a meteor shower is to lie on a blanket or beach towel on the ground, or use a reclining chair, in an area with a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees, or hills), and keep scanning the entire sky.

The day before this meteor shower peaks, the Moon reaches the New Moon Phase (Lunation # 1149): 2015 November 11 at 12:47 p.m. EST / 17:47 UTC. Hence, no bright Moon will be visible after midnight, during the peak of this meteor shower. This is good because bright moonlight will not interfere with viewing the dimmer meteors in the early morning hours, when it is best to view this meteor shower.

Of course, meteor showers. like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If there are more than a very few clouds in the sky, meteors will be much more difficult to find.

So, if you go out to see the North Taurid Meteor Shower, start looking for meteors around local midnight, or perhaps a little later. Make sure you have a good site where you can see most of the sky, and that sky is relatively clear. Be sure to dress properly for the Autumn, early morning temperatures.

And, you want to go out ahead of time, before you actually start looking for meteors, to get your eyes accustomed to the dark sky. Dark-adapting your eyes for meteor-watching could take up to a half-hour.

More on the North and South Taurid Meteor Showers:
Link 1 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids
Link 2 >>> http://earthsky.org/space/south-north-taurid-fireballs-how-to-watch
Link 3 >>> http://earthsky.org/tonight/peak-night-for-n-taurid-meteor-shower-on-november-1112
Link 4 >>> http://earthsky.org/todays-image/see-it-best-photos-of-taurid-fireballs-november-2015

More on the Beta Taurid Meteor Shower:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Taurids

More on the Constellation Taurus the Bull:
Link 1 >>> http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations/Taurus.html
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurus_%28constellation%29

More on Comet Encke: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Encke

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, November 6, 2015

Early Sat. Morning Marks Mid-Autumn

Mid-Autumn Festival-beijing.jpg
Mid-Autumn Festival in Beijing, 2006 October 21. The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival held each year in China and Vietnam, within 15 days of the Autumnal Equinox on the night of the Full Moon from early September to early October. In Europe, Mid-Autumn was observed on October 31, what we now call Halloween. However, on today's calendar, the Astronomical Mid-Autumn comes a week later.
(Sources: Wikipedia. org , "Mid-Autumn Festival-beijing" by Shizhao - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mid-Autumn_Festival-beijing.jpg#/media/File:Mid-Autumn_Festival-beijing.jpg )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Early Saturday morning will mark the precise mid-point in the season of Autumn in Earth's Northern Hemisphere (mid-point in the season of Spring in the Southern Hemisphere); Saturday is known as the Cross-Quarter Day of Samhain. While tradition may consider the time around Halloween the middle of the season, with modern calendars the actual mid-point date has slipped about a week.

Astronomical mid-Autumn occurs early Saturday Morning, 2015 November 7 at 1:34 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 6:34 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This moment is the exact mid-point between the Autumnal Equinox, observed on 2015 September 23 at 4:20 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 8:20 UTC, and the Winter Solstice, which will occur on 2015 December 21 at 11:48 p.m. EST / Dec. 22 at 4:48 UTC.

Each year is divided into four seasons, with the start of each season known as a “Quarter Day” (either an Equinox or a Solstice). Each season is divided into two parts, with the mid-point of the season known as a “Cross-Quarter Day.”

While, in today's world, this time of year is considered the middle of the season of Autumn, in ancient Celtic and Germanic societies the Cross-Quarter Day of Samhain was actually considered the beginning of Winter. Hence, the Winter Solstice would, then, be considered mid-Winter. And, Winter would end on another Cross-Quarter Day, known as Imbolc, Brigid, or Brigantia, better known today as Groundhog Day.

In ancient times, the Cross-Quarter Day of Samhain was observed on October 31. Samhain actually means “Summer's End” and was also considered New Year's Eve by the Celtic peoples. This holiday was a great festival where bonfires were lit to encourage the dimming Sun not to completely vanish and to keep evil spirits away.

In A.D. 835, the Roman Catholic Church established November 1 as “All Saints' Day,” while in the eleventh century “All Souls' Day,” commemorating the faithfully departed, became a companion observance on November 2. The pagan and Christian traditions then merged, with October 31 becoming the “Eve of All Hallows' ” or Halloween.

The tradition of “trick or treating” on Halloween was derived from the ancient traditions of mumming and guising in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Wales, where people would go house-to-house reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. Some historians believe this was done to personify the old spirits of the Winter, who demanded a reward in exchange for the return of warm weather in the Summer months. 

Special Thanks: Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club.

More on Quarter Days and Cross-Quarter Days:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_the_Year

More about the Equinox: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox

More about the Solstice: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice 

More on Samhain: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

More on Halloween: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

More on All Saints' Day: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints'_Day

More on All Souls' Day: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Souls'_Day

Related Blog Posts ---

"Autumn Begins Early Wed. Morning." 2015 Sept. 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/09/autumn-begins-early-wed-morning.html

 

"Astronomical Middle of Summer." 2015 Aug. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/08/astronomical-middle-of-summer.html

 

"Winter: Sun. 6:03 p.m. EST; Ursid Meteor Shower w/Web-Cast Peaks Monday. 2014 Dec. 21.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/winter-solstice-winter-begins-sun-603.html

 

"Summer Begins Saturday Morning at 6:51 a.m. EDT." 2014 June 19.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/06/summer-begins-saturday-morning-at-651.html

 

"Winter Begins Sat.; Ursid Meteor Shower Peaks Sun. w/ Web-Cast." 2013 Dec. 21.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/12/winter-begins-sat-ursid-meteor-shower.html

 

"Astronomical Mid-Point of Summer." 2013 July 30.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/07/astronomical-mid-point-of-summer.html

 

"Sunday: Winter's True Mid-Point." 2013 Feb. 3.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/02/sunday-winters-true-mid-point.html


"Winter Begins: Dec. 22, 12:30 a.m. EST." 2011 Dec. 21.
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2011/12/winter-begins-dec.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Astronomical Calendar: 2015 November

First Broadcast
On November 2, 95 years ago, the broadcasting industry began with the first commercial
radio broadcast from KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh (the very first broadcast was from the 
Westinghouse plant in the suburb of East Pittsburgh). That evening, with telegraph ticker
results from the Pittsburgh Post, KDKA broadcast election returns for the U.S. Presidential
Election of 1920, when Republican Warren G. Harding won a landslide victory over
Democrat James M. Cox (Image Source: KDKA). More information:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2015.html#kdka1920

Astronomical Calendar for 2015 November: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2015.html#nov

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >