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Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, moon.
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On Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter,  the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth’s shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 12:33 am CST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, will appear as a  bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the shadow  to expand and encompass the entire Moon. Totality commences at 01:41 am CST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

For the best time for a quick look on a cold night –  it is December, after all –  choose this moment: 01:17 am CST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That’s when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, with a deep red color.

Why the deep red color? If you were on the moon you’d see the Earth cover the Sun, but instead of seeing black, you’d see the remaining sunlight pass through the Earth’s atmosphere around the Earth’s rim. A world wide sunrise or sunset. The light passing through so much atmosphere causes Raleigh scattering. The blue light is scattered out, causing the blue skies we see on Earth. What is left over is the red. Red sunsets, and red light hitting the moon, causing it’s deep scarlet glow.

NEW PODCAST:Is There Cosmological Evidence for God? December 18, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Cosmology, Podcast.
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Fine tuning is one of the central topics in modern cosmology. In order to see what we see in the present epoch of the universe, especially life, what were the conditions in the past?. How finely tuned did the fundamental constants have to be. This has lead to many ideas like inflation and the anthropic principle


Description: Is the Universe finely tuned for human life? If so, is this cosmological evidence for God?

Bio: Dr Stuart Clark is an award-winning astronomy author and journalist. His books include The Sun Kings, and the highly illustrated Deep Space, and Galaxy. His next book is Big Questions: Universe, from which this podcast is adapted. Stuart is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Visiting Fellow of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and senior editor for space science at the European Space Agency. He is also a frequent contributor to newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes. His website is www.stuartclark.com and his Twitter account is @DrStuClark.

The Antikythera Mechanism, the oldest known scientific computer December 13, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Art, Astronomy.
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Rebuilt with LEGOS! Used to predict lunar and solar eclipses by the ancient Greeks!

Andrew Carol, software engineers at Apple has created fully functional replica of the Antikythera mechanism out of Lego. It’s made from the 1,500 Lego Technic parts and works with 110 gears. The two wings of Carol’s Antikythera consists four gearboxes that calculate as the original mechanism. Each gearbox makes one mathematical calculation. Andrew Carol project was sponsored by Digital Science and took 30 days to compile it. Click the video below for more details.

Geminid Meteor Shower December 12, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, meteor, Solar and Space weather.
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The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks this year on Dec. 13th and 14th, is the most intense meteor shower of the year. It lasts for days, is rich in fireballs, and can be seen from almost any point on Earth.

The Geminids is the final major meteor shower of the year; it’s also one of the most eye-catching! To observe the Geminids look anywhere from 50 degrees to 60 degrees above the horizon and about 20 degrees away from the constellation Gemini. The Geminids meteor shower can be seen all over the world, but the best viewing opportunities are for those in the Northern Hemisphere (above the equator). Those in the Southern Hemisphere will still have a worthwhile viewing experience.

For the best viewing experience, find an area unobstructed by structures and that is far away from city lights. Using binoculars or telescores is not recommended – you’ll be more likely to miss a hooting star whizzing by. Just gaze the skies with your eyes.

credit: Wally-Pacholka

A Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert in 2009. Credit: Wally Pacholka / AstroPics.com / TWAN.

Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of ‘shooting stars.’ The Geminids are different. The parent is not a comet but a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon that sheds very little dusty debris—not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.”Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids’ is by far the most massive,” says Cooke. “When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.”

This makes the Geminids the 900-lb gorilla of meteor showers. Yet 3200 Phaethon is more of a 98-lb weakling.

3200 Phaethon was discovered in 1983 by NASA’s IRAS satellite and promptly classified as an asteroid. What else could it be? It did not have a tail; its orbit intersected the main asteroid belt; and its colors strongly resembled that of other asteroids. Indeed, 3200 Phaethon resembles main belt asteroid Pallas so much, it might be a 5-kilometer chip off that 544 km block.

“If 3200 Phaethon broke apart from asteroid Pallas, as some researchers believe, then Geminid meteoroids might be debris from the breakup,” speculates Cooke. “But that doesn’t agree with other things we know.”

Researchers have looked carefully at the orbits of Geminid meteoroids and concluded that they were ejected from 3200 Phaethon when Phaethon was close to the sun—not when it was out in the asteroid belt breaking up with Pallas. The eccentric orbit of 3200 Phaethon brings it well inside the orbit of Mercury every 1.4 years. The rocky body thus receives a regular blast of solar heating that might boil jets of dust into the Geminid stream.

“We just don’t know,” says Cooke. “Every new thing we learn about the Geminids seems to deepen the mystery.”

This month Earth will pass through the Geminid debris stream, producing as many as 120 meteors per hour over dark-sky sites. The best time to look is probably between local midnight and sunrise on Tuesday, Dec. 14th, when the Moon is low and the constellation Gemini is high overhead, spitting bright Geminids across a sparkling starry sky.

Bundle up, go outside, and savor the mystery.

Credit: NASA Science, Dr. T. Phillips

Astronomy Club Movie and Pizza Tonight! December 1, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in General, moon.
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Hello all!  We will be having our annual Astronomy Club movie and pizza night this Wednesday 12/01/10 in room 2153 of the physical science building at 8:00pm.  We will be watching the movie “Moon” and eating pizza and having good times.  Bring friends if you like!  Hope to see you all there!