Archive for September 2015

All Things Being Equal   Leave a comment

Autumn Picture


Autumn, fall, change of the seasons, whatever you call it, occurs in the northern hemisphere on September 23 at 8:20 UTC.  It’s a time when things start winding down in gardens, the kids are probably already back in school and you’re looking at your heating bill with a bit of trepidation, knowing that winter’s beating a steady path to your door.

But let’s stick with autumn for now.

Autumn occurs when the sun hits a point in the sky called the autumnal equinox, or here:


Credit:  H.A. Rey, “The Stars”

It’s the little “V” you see underneath Virgo’s head, as if she fell down and tripped on the ecliptic (the path in the sky where the sun, moon and stars “travel” along the zodiac).  The sun hits this spot on or about 21 September each year, but as noted above, this year it falls on the 23 September.  But if you look in the newspaper or even on many weather web sites, you’ll notice that the times of sunrise and sunset are anything but equal.  It’s close, but not exactly 12 hours of day and dark.  A lot of that depends upon your latitude.  The further south you go, that date creeps into October.

Here’s a handy chart to show sunrise and sunset times for New York  You’ll see day and night aren’t equal until September 26.  Why?  You’ll find an explanation here.

This National Geographic video explains not only the autumnal equinox, but also nifty cultural practices that go along with it.

(You might want to watch it before Rupert Murdoch gets ahold of it and turns it into an exploitive clip about the sun ripping off the nighttime sky by getting dark earlier and earlier).

Perhaps it’s a good time to sit and read a sci-fi novel about autumn.  Why not try “Autumn in Carthage”? or “Runes of Autumn? Or learn the meaning behind The Pillar of Autumn in Halo, a video game.

Want to hear the definitive theme song of autumn?  Here’s a short, catchy tune by the band Screeching Weasel called  “First Day of Autumn”:

Most important of all, nighttime sky watches CAN’T MISS the total eclipse of the moon!  It takes place on September 27/28, 2015.  Click here for details to look out for it in your neck of the woods.  In New York, it actually begins at a decent time, starting at 8:11 pm, with the full eclipse occurring at 10:11 and lasting until 10:47.  If you haven’t seen a total lunar eclipse, it’s worth watching.  It’s a slow process, but you’ll have time to truly enjoy it.  Don’t take your eyes off of it between 9:50 and 10:15 – watching the moon turn red is the coolest thing ever.  Break out your binoculars!

Have a great fall and see you next trip!


Space Objects   Leave a comment

Credit: Project Helium Tears

A few weeks ago I wrote about space junk.  This entry’s a bit different.  And yes, while this stuff was deliberately placed there, it’s not your garden-variety space program detritus.  It’s all simply for fun.

My first entry has an awful lot to do with “Star Wars,” which, thanks to Disney utterly saturating the market without mercy, hasn’t quite gone this far to promote their film.  In fact, the producers of this little clever snippet are garnering worldwide attention just to snatch a couple of opening night tickets.  Hey, for what it’s worth, I say these guys deserve it!  Attaching an X-wing fighter to a weather balloon’s a pretty nifty idea and puts a bit of a scientific spin on a sci-fi icon.

But why stop at an X-wing fighter?  Haven’t you ever wondered what would happen if a pink glazed doughnut took a updraft hike?

Credit: Stratolys

Curiosity knows no bounds as a small team of Swedes gather in what appears to be a running track and launched the first doughnut into space.  There’s little fanfare, but it seems the Coast Guard comes to the rescue.

Now that you fought a war and ate a doughnut because you’re starved, how about celebrating your achievements with some space whisky?  Ria Misra from i09 writes about gross-tasting, overpriced whisky that Ardbeg, a single malt Islay Scotch whisky company tested, was sent in space to the ISS in 2011 and returned to earth in 2014.  Hey, it was worth a try, eh?


Credit: Ardbeg

Clearly, those with enough money and resources know what’s going to capture attention.  Sure, doughnuts and X-wing fighters are great do-it-yourself projects.  But we’re talking classy booze here!  Discriminating palates await!  After a hard day’s walk out into the Great Vacuum, you’re going to relax and take a nip or two.

But for those of us stuck here on the ground, there’s always this:



2015 New York Air Show!   Leave a comment

NY Air Show 2015


I’ll admit I’m the first person who hates flying, but I do it anyway.  That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the vessels that transport people from A to B.  However, the winged method of transportation I’m talking about here are joyrides of a different kind – military style.

Yes, this past weekend Stewart Airport hosted the New York Air Show, a parade of the latest and vintage military aerial vehicles dating back to World War II.  My husband, Andrew Chattaway, a photographer, shot all of the pictures you will see (except the one above – I did that).  Andrew, me and our son Matt braved the heat and crowds of 15,000 people to get up close to classic planes and helicopters.  I even had the chance to go inside a Chinook and sit in the pilot’s seat.  Despite $3.00 bottles of water, parking about a two days’ journey away and standing the entire four hours we were there, we had a magnificent time.

Here, let me show you some of the sights of this fantastic show.  And if anyone’s looking to do research for space vehicles, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here!

DSC_4198 copy copyDSC_4218 copyDSC_4922 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

DSC_4253 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

This is a beautiful example of a B-Class Bomber from World War II with its payload doors open.

DSC_4346 copy copyDSC_4359 copy copyDSC_4391 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Here’s a U.S. Marine Corps AV-88 Harrier.  This bad boy’s totally cool feature is that it hovered over the runway for what seemed like ever, much to the crowd’s appreciation.

DSC_4469 copy copyDSC_4474 copy copy DSC_4478 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

U.S. Army helicopter rescue demonstration, achieved in mere moments.

DSC_4527 copy copy DSC_4559 copy copy DSC_4562 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Geico Skytypers do an amazing job of scrolling trails and daredevil stunts

DSC_4604 copy copy DSC_4598 copy copy DSC_4633 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Old-fashioned stunt flying that made everyone, us included, hold our breath.

DSC_4664 copy copy DSC_4731 copy copy DSC_4832 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

The U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet flies gracefully in just about any direction – straight, sideways or upside down.

DSC_4941 copy copy DSC_5019 copy copy DSC_5042 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Here’s a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor really showed everyone that it pretty much could do anything, including blast out our eardrums.  It went past us at 700 miles per hour and left such a retort that my ear, blocked by my hands, banged anyway.  Take a look at this thing – it really seems like some kind of alien attack vessel, you know, the kind that comes down by the millions from the mother ship hovering just above our atmosphere.

DSC_5161 copy copy DSC_5234 copy copy DSC_5202 copy copy

Credit: Andrew Chattaway

At the end of the show flew a top-of-the-line WWII fighter plane next to the F-22 Raptor.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much of a comparison.  Yet both flew proudly and with such grace, it really was a marvel to watch.  The F-22 slowed to keep in time with its much older companion, but it didn’t take away from the fact that both protected our nation and allies.

Well, I hope  Andrew’s photos  inspire you to write some really good speculative sci-fi, military sci-fi, what your father did during the war (any) or present you with the opportunity just to marvel at some really incredible feats of aviation engineering.  Enjoy!







%d bloggers like this: