Archive for the ‘star gazing’ Tag

The Real Event of the Week   Leave a comment

While all eyes were on the nonevent taking place in the Hudson Valley of New York (and elsewhere), there was quite the show taking place above that taunting canopy of clouds.

That’s right, I’m talking about the flyby of Asteroid 2004 BL86.

This little world blasted past our very own Earth and if you were lucky and had the right viewing opportunities, you could see it.  I’d been hoping for a clear sky, as I’d been itching to take the new Celestron out behind the garage and see what I could see.  Alas, it wasn’t to be – clouds with a tiny sprinkling of snow dropping from them – but that hasn’t stopped my fascination with BL86.

Take a look at the NASA/JPL film I’ve enclosed with this blog, as well as this excellent link from the same source.  BL86 is a round asteroid with its own munchkin moon, which I find utterly charming.   That moon isn’t much larger than our back yard, and here it is, making a name for itself while partnering with BL86 as it graces our solar system.  True, it came within 745,000 miles/1.2 million kilometers of the Earth.  That only means it stayed far away enough to mind its own business yet close enough to give us a good flirt and a wink.

Can you imagine if you were one of the inhabitants of that tiny world?  How your view changes as the days whirr past while zipping through the solar system.  It’s almost as if it’s shouting “wheee!” as it goes on its tilted orbit around the sun, waving hello every now and again.

If you have enough patience to wait until 2027, there might be a second opportunity to see yet another asteroid, 1999 AN10, grace our planet with its near presence.  It, too, is expected to pass rather close…and raising the inevitable alarms that it has the potential to blast us out of existence.

Ah well.

Until then, keep your eyes to the skies, and always continue to be surprised!


Posted January 29, 2015 by seleneymoon in Nature, Planets, The Universe

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The Future of our Past   2 comments


Every night, when I look up at my familiar winter friends, I have to remind myself they’re long gone.

At least from my perspective, anyway.

Here’s what I see:  Orion charges in a dark field with his faithful dog.  Is he hunting the hare or the bull? Do his friends, the Gemini Twins, help him catch his prey?  Or is he on the banks of Eridanus, awaiting an enemy?

Here’s what is:  The light that shines from those stars has left so many years ago, one can only make predictions where they’re located today.  Based on red shifts and calculations, it’s not too difficult to determine where the stars in the above constellations have shifted.

Here’s what makes me wonder:  What was the world like when the light from Rigel (the right foot of Orion)?

In order to consider this, one has to realize that the light from Rigel left 500 years ago (it’s 500 light years away).  That would mean in the year 1514, light particles separated themselves from this bluish-white supergiant, hurtled through the void of space, penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere and landed in an observer’s field of vision.

Copernicus, in 1514, had his own questions regarding the sky above him.  During that year, he made his first observations of Saturn.  Data gathered from this and other observations of Mars and the Sun led him to discover the earth’s orbital eccentricity, or deviation from a perfect circle.  He  also was of the radical opinion at the time that the Earth was not in the center of the solar system.  Ptolomeic theory, officially approved by the Catholic Church and accepted as the only explanation for things planetary and universal, also decreed that orbits were perfect circles, and, as an added bonus, the Earth was indeed the center of the universe.

All this must have seemed like great science fiction to the ever wise fathers and hierarchy in Rome.  Though Copernicus took minor orders in the Catholic church, his faith in God must have been piqued when he made his discoveries.  Imagine that all he ever believed was suddenly called into question because of the methodical works and meticulous observations of the nighttime sky.  What to do?  Believe what nature tells you?  Or what the Catholic Church orders you to believe?

Imagine the conversation Copernicus held with colleagues, who presumably believed he might be onto something.  Now try telling that to the village priest, who might have considered him to be the village idiot or instrument of the devil.  “Say, guess what?” Copernicus’ conversation might have began.  “I found out we’re not in the center of the universe any more!  And guess what else?  Earth rotates around the sun, not the other way around!  How about that?  Like, OMG, that’s a BFD!”

For the average citizen in 1514, who might not have had a grasp of scientific principles, this was blasphemy, pure and simple.  But the thing was, Copernicus only shared this info with a handful of people.  It wasn’t until years later, as he neared death, that his work on his findings was published.  Others, such as Galileo, took the heat for this and other discoveries until science finally raised his heavy hoof and triumphed.

There’s parallels here.  What seemed so absolutely wild, even one hundred years ago, is feasible now.  All because a person woke up one morning and said, “Now, what will I find out there among the stars?”  It didn’t matter that the light shining on them was from 1514, or 240 BCE.  Or visible from earth.  That person knew the stars held secrets worth sharing, and he/she set out to tap into them.

So.  Go out and observe Orion.  Say hi to Rigel.  Ponder all that happened in the time that passed during those 500 years of light travel.  Tap into it.  Take a piece with you. Take a chance.  Make a change.

After all, our future shoots right out of our past.

Posted February 24, 2014 by seleneymoon in Uncategorized

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