The sunrise comes late this time of year, especially for those who like me wake at 5 a.m. But on November 4, the man on the morning radio show announced, along with the standard traffic and weather reports, that a brilliant display of aurora borealis was underway and was visible from nearly anywhere in the city. So, despite a temperature well below freezing, I grabbed camera and tripod to head behind the house to see what all the fuss was about [Read more…] about Auroral Activity Kicks Into High GearShare This:
General articles and links about astronomy and the night sky.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great and good American poet, essayist, and humanist Walt Whitman. Sometimes called the ‘father of free verse’, Whitman was often beheld as the key to understanding America as it was in the promising days of late 19th century, after the Civil War. He was also, in my view, the poet laureate of stargazers everywhere, especially on account of two of his poems ‘When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer’ and ‘A Clear Midnight’, reproduced below for your reading pleasure.
“A Clear Midnight”
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes
thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Or enjoy the latter poem in the video format below (which is likely the only time you will ever see a video from ‘Breaking Bad’ on this website):Share This:
In May of 1990, an Arizona couple were honeymooning at the Grand Canyon. One of them, Dean Ketelsen, set up a huge pair of WWII-era Japanese battleship binoculars on the rim, sometimes looking down into the Canyon, sometimes up at the stars. He and his wife Vicki soon found themselves a center of attention, with lines of tourists forming at the binoculars for a peek at whatever they had to show.
Dean, an optician at the University of Arizona Mirror Lab, now known as the Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, the birthplace of the world’s largest monolithic telescope mirrors, was also a tour guide at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and an ardent amateur astronomer. He and Vicki saw an opportunity for sharing the night sky at one of the world’s finest natural attractions. They decided to try a more formal outreach event at the Canyon, and, with the cooperation and approval of the park itself, called it the Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) [Read more…] about The Grand Canyon Star PartyShare This:
Take any three stars and they’ll form some kind of triangle. But there is only one constellation Triangulum. It’s a small but ancient star group surrounded by the larger constellations Andromeda to the north and west, Pisces to the southwest, Aries to the south, and Perseus to the northeast. While modest, Triangulum hosts many fine sights for stargazers on a northern autumn (or southern spring) evening. Look for it about 10º due south of the star Almaak (γ Andromedae) and just northeast of Aries [Read more…] about A Trek Through TriangulumShare This:
As a reader of Cosmic Pursuits, you no doubt believe that all stars are wonderful. But one star, it turns out, is more wonderful than most. The star Mira, or Omicron Ceti, in the constellation Cetus, has been known since ancient times, but its nature began to emerge in the 16th century when a German pastor and amateur astronomer discovered the star’s brightness changed periodically, by a huge amount, every eleven months. And it was but the first discovered of many such stars. [Read more…] about The Wonderful StarShare This: