Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's Meteor Shower Time! Several meteor showers combine to produce some of the best opportunities to see the celestial fireworks!

I wrote this for the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver's blog (http://www.oregonobservatory.org) a couple of days ago.  It was specific for Central Oregon only by the few references to the location.  This is applicable to the entire US!  I hope you enjoy METEOR SEASON!



Summer is over (except on the calendar) and this year's Perseid Meteor shower is history.  In Central Oregon, we were clouded out for the Perseids during the peak nights but we did see some spectacular random meteors from that shower.

Fall is here and some of the best meteor showers of the year are ahead of us (actually one is already occurring).  We've seen a number of meteors and fireballs at the Observatory over the past week or so. Of course, in many cases, I was looking the wrong way when I heard the oohs and ahhs!  These seemingly random meteors all come from Southern Taurids Meteor Shower, a cycle that began on September 7 and continues through mid-November. The Taurids' peak is October 7 and 8 although normally the maximum number at that time is about 5 meteors per hour.  This meteor shower is rich in fireballs and worth checking out, if only for the fireball activity.  Last Friday night (September 12) three were seen during our public program. This meteor shower is associated with the comet Enke.

Next up is a biggie!  The Orionids Meteor Shower which are active from early October through November.  The Orionids peak during the third week of October and 20 meteors per hour (or more, sometimes MANY more) is predicted.  In the early hours of 21 October, the listed "peak", there will be no full moon to interfere with viewing and it should be no trouble seeing quite a number of meteors and predictions are that this year there should be quite a display. The Orionids come from dust from Halley's Comet. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Early in November, part 2 of the Taurids occurs to entertain us.  The Northern Taurids Meteor Shower. Like its southern brother, this is a long term meteor shower that chiefly is known for the number of fireballs it produces.  Some of them are flamboyant and all are fantastic.   The Northern Taurids occur from about October 30 to November 30 and like the Southern Taurids, appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus.

The Leonid Meteor Shower is active from November 5 to November 30.  The peak is around November 16 and 17.  In 2001, the Leonids produced a meteor storm visible to all of us in Central Oregon with sightings in excess of 100 meteors per hour! Unfortunately, the peak of this meteor shower is only expected to produce about 20 meteors per hour this year. The Leonids are a result of multiple passages of Comet Tuttle and the radiant appears to be the constellation Leo.

The Geminids Meteor Shower is generally the strongest of all the meteor showers of the year.  The shower is visible through the first half of December and sometimes through the third week of the month. Predictions for 2014 show that 120 PLUS meteors per hour may be seen during the peak evening of December 14.   The Geminids are the result of pieces of the comet 3200 Phaeton and the radiant is Gemini. With a near moonless sky, this just might be quite a show!

Finally, in 2014 the Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids meteor shower's peak coincided with the Winter Solstice in 2014.  What a better way to celebrate winter's arrival with a display of celestial fireworks.  Predicted are as many as 10 meteors per hour in a NEw Moon sky. The Ursids appear to radiate from Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper.

As always, the best way to view meteors in the night sky is in a dark sky location.  Dress warmly and in layers.  A telescope or binocular is not needed for most of the brighter "shooting stars".  Of course, cooperating weather is always a plus!  With some luck we'll be treated to some great shows this fall.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Manic depression: Robin Williams and me



The death of Robin Williams is heart breaking.  He was a mega-talent who made many people laugh, cry and just plain feel good about the man.  I was one of them.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Williams in all his roles. The fact that his death was self-imposed is sad, very sad.


Just some thoughts about Robin Williams' death...I have battled manic depression (bi-polar)  through much of my life. I don't follow celebrities but wasn't surprised to find that Robin was bipolar.  His performances were often manic and crazy.  His dramatic performances were sensational; giving the audience an intense reaction to the characters he played. Manic Depression is a disease and can be relatively easy to control with medication.  However that medication levels out the highs and the lows to the point that the person is just numb.  Robin Williams would likely have none of that...it would have affected his creative genius.

"Depression steals reality", to quote Doctor Keith Ablow ( a psychiatrist who treats bipolar disease). It is a real disease that causes the sufferer to turn his or her back on life and doubt, doom, and worthlessness become paramount. The sufferer feels they are living in a black hole from which there is no escape. Emptiness, lack of life, love and joy are all part of the effects of this disease.  It doesn't matter, at least initially, the support and love the sufferer is given, he or she just doesn't care and has no desire to act upon the the loathsomeness that accompanies deep depression.  Feelings of guilt and ruin in all things touched (whether true or not)  are common in the severe lows experienced. Often, giving up and leaving this world behind is an option considered and sadly, this is what Robin Williams acted upon.

The manic side of manic depression feels ohhh so good.  The elation, the energy, the "upness" all peak and so much can be accomplished (or appear to be so) during an episode.  Extreme manicness (or mania) can and does include psychotic symptoms that are like hallucinations or delusions.  I certainly suffered from the latter and acted on some things that in a "normal" frame of mind I would never have considered.  Yet the "high" from the mania was so good that most around me thought I was a near superman...little sleep, lots of work done, always positive state of mind were experienced.  I could do no wrong and could achieve whatever I could try.

I was treated for manic depression in the 1980's and early 1990's.  After about ten years of medication, I learned to control my bi-polar issues but am still visited on occasion by it.  Through meditation and mental exercises, I am okay and am relatively stable.  However, my life is something of a cocoon and I'm not exposed (partly by choice) to the stimuli that would set me off.  Drugs aren't a factor - especially mood altering drugs like meth and cocaine and my support is rock solid.  But if I followed some of my dreams and entered the topsy world of drama and education again, full time, things wouldn't be so easy. There were people in my life back then that said that "[Larry] was one of those" while twirling their finger near their temple.  I left those folks behind for sure.  I was sick and I knew it. I was bound and determined to beat it and so far, I have.

Robin Williams lived a life of a comic and acting genius. He was brilliant, energized, soulful and suffered from bipolar disorder.  He plunged into a darkness and he couldn't see a way out. To quote Dr Keith Ablow again, " [He] apparently chose to end his life because he could not see the next chapter of his own story as containing anything other than unbearable psychological pain.Such is the power of depression – an affliction which is almost unimaginable to those who have not suffered with it -- to twist the truth into something unrecognizable. For the truth is that there were many new and wonderful pages awaiting Robin Williams; he just couldn't imagine them. He couldn't believe the darkness would ever end."

There are something like 20 million adults who suffer from bipolar disorder. If you know one of them, reach out to them and let them know it isn't real...neither side of it...and that there are ways to battle it.  You may save their life.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

MAY and METEOR SHOWERS



May has two meteor events well worth checking out. 


 Early in the month, May 5-7, 2014 the Eta Aquarids come to the forefront.  The predicted peak for this shower is May 6, 2014 but this meteor shower's maximum is one that actually spans over several nights.  Expect to see ten to twenty bright meteors per hour from this event (likely on the lower end).   

The best time to view the Eta Aquarids is in the predawn hours around 4 am and the moon is going to cooperate this time around with a first quarter moon setting prior to the peak hour. This will set up potentially an amazing light show of meteors for those who care to (or need to) rise at such an early hour.  The radiant (apparent area where a meteor shower appears to originate) for this shower is around the star Eta in the constellation Aquarius.



Late in May, there is a real possibility for a brand new meteor show for all of us on Earth. 

In 2009, Comet Linear passed near theSun and will pass near it again in early May, 2014.  Later in May, as the Earth passes through Linear's debris field there is a potential of a fine,very VERY FINE and new meteor shower.  The date predicted is May 24, 2014 and this was registered in 2012 by astronomers and meteor experts Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Peter Jenniskens at NASA Ames Research Center.  Some researchers and scientists have used the term, "meteor storm" while others have been more conservative and have predicted "strong meteor showers."  

Jeremie Vaubaillon of The Institut de Mecanique Celeste et de Calcul des Ephemerides in France told space.com: 

So far, given the observations, we estimate a ZHR (zenithal hourly rate) of 100/hr to 400/hr, which is an excellent outburst! But this shower can become an exceptional one. Indeed, given the current orbit of the comet, all the trails ejected between 1803 and 1924 do fall in the Earth’s path in May 2014! As a consequence, this shower might as well be a storm

The more recent, less optimistic calculations come from Quanzhi Ye and Paul A. Wiegert, both at University of Western Ontario. Their work was published online in November 2013. In a report on their work at skyandtelescope.com, John Bochanski wrote that Ye and Wiegert’s work suggests a rate of 200 meteors per hour under ideal conditions.

 Bochanski wrote:


 But Ye and Wiegert warn that, given the current relatively weak dust production of the comet, rates could be much lower. With the low dust production, as well as the team’s lower estimate of how many debris streams from the comet’s previous passes are hanging around in this region of space, it’s highly unlikely that we’re in for a meteor storm (1,000 per hour) — although the team couldn’t quite rule it out.

Whichever theory is right, it sounds like Comet Linear's meteor shower on the night of May 24, 2014 will be something that shouldn't be missed.  200 meteors per hour is an amazing sight; 500 meteors per hour will be absolutely incredible.  There's no way to know for sure.  As with ANY meteor shower, the only real way to tell is to go out on the night of the peak of the shower, preferably after midnight and look up!  Fingers crossed!!!!

portions of this are excerpted from EarhSkyNews

Friday, April 25, 2014

You Don't Need A Telescope

THIS was originally written for the Oregon Observatory Night Sky News.  Since very few people receiving the newsletter (there are only 700 subscribers) will see this blog but so many more of you faithful readers follow me, I decided to put it here as well.  This is for new astronomers or old ones who've forgotten.




You Don’t Need a Telescope
Prior to the early 17th century when Galileo first turned a telescope to the night sky, man had been looking up in the darkness and observing the heavens.  Indeed, many of the early astronomers were astrologers and priests who were well respected in their cultures and counted on to make predictions about times to plant or harvest, the health of a person, or the time to hunt all based on what was going on in the heavens.

The beauty of Astronomy is its simplicity.  With nothing more than a dark sky (or one not so dark but the darker the better) a great deal of pleasure may be derived from viewing the cosmos with only our eyes.  There is much to see and with the help of a simple star map or a planisphere, a connection with those priests and priestesses from ancient times can easily be made. A binocular, and not necessarily an expensive one – just the one that is in that back closet or under the bed, will definitely enhance what you can see.

To begin, there is the Moon, of course, to look at.  Many of the Moon’s most prominent features can be seen easily with the naked eye.  There is the “Man in the Moon” to see but that gets a little old.  Try finding the “Rabbit in the Moon”, the “Yelling Grandma”, the Pirate, or the “Young Girl”. These are all patterns that we can see on a full Moon using the naked eye but only if we stretch our imagination a little bit.  In a binocular, the Moon gives us breathtaking views of craters, mountains, and mare depending on what phase the Moon is in.

The many constellations (88 official ones) are best looked at with the naked eye.  That’s how they were looked at by humans from the distant past and how they became “the pictures in the sky” that astronomers use today as guideposts for events and locations in the night sky.  This is where a planisphere comes in handy.  Sitting on a chair or lying on a blanket with the planisphere held above you, the sky will begin to make sense…the star patterns labeled on the planisphere can be seen and once you learn where the constellations are you can begin to identify some of the naked eye objects and smudges that have always been up there but most you’ve never seen.

For example, in the eastern sky in mid to late spring, Orion is visible.  Orion’s three belt stars are immediately apparent…three relatively bright stars in a row and just about evenly spaced. Once you find those three belt stars you should be able to make out the sword, three “stars” hanging down off the belt.  Look at the middle star closely… it’s fuzzy and that’s because it’s NOT a star but the Great Orion Nebula where baby stars are being formed!  Also in Orion look at the stars that outline Orion’s body; it’s plainly evident that the bottom right star, Rigel, is blue and the one marking Orion’s left shoulder, Betelgeuse, is red.  Colors indicate the temperatures of the stars.

There’s another fuzzy spot below and slightly to the right of Cassiopeia that shows up best in late summer and autumn.   That is the closest galaxy to our Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy.  It is nearly 2.5 million light years away from us!  Did you think you could see that far?

Our naked eyes can see about 2500 individual stars on any given night in a dark place. Light pollution, especially in cities, reduces that number dramatically.  When we see a stream or band of light arching through the heavens that appears to be a little like bright clouds with a sort of structure to them, well that’s a part of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.  All those “clouds” of light are actually the light from millions of stars.  If you have a binocular try aiming it toward the Milky Way and prepare to be astounded!  And remember, those stars in the “cloud” are millions of light years away...some are many millions of  light years away and the light has been in transit ever since.

By adding a binocular to your night sky viewing, you are opening up horizons that were unheard of before Galileo. Using a binocular, it’s easy to see the four Galilean moons around Jupiter. In good seeing conditions the rings around Saturn may be seen; the phases that the planet Venus goes through are readily available; and many double stars become visible and show off their colors.  With a binocular, some nebula begin to take shape, many open star clusters become vividly beautiful, the Moon becomes a startling contrast of flat areas (mare),  craters, and the shadows of mountains as well as the crater rays (material ejected after a meteor or asteroid struck the moon) begin to become visible. The binocular is a wonderful tool and some objects, such as the North American Nebula, look better than through a telescope!

Binocular viewing is easy to learn and do.  As mentioned earlier, any binocular will work for astronomical viewing and are often recommended for a beginning star gazer.  As with most things, comfort is most important when you choose a binocular to buy.  Unless you have a tripod, remember that you will be holding a binocular (with two hands) for what could be long periods of time, smaller binoculars are easier to hold steady and are excellent for long sessions.  A chair (or even better a lounge chair or a cushioned blanket on the ground) is an excellent choice for viewing the cosmos with binoculars.  Add a thermos full of a warm drink and some sort of guide book (see short list at bottom of this article) as well as a red light and you are all set for many comfortable and fascinating hours!
If you are in the market for a good quality binocular, they are relatively inexpensive. Our astronomy store has a number on hand most of the time with a price range of about $50 to $100.  Often we get deals and we’ve had superb instruments that we have sold for $30! The beauty of a binocular is that they are multi-use instruments – they can be used for bird and wildlife watching, sporting events, theater, and even whale watching!  Everyone should own at least one.  It is important to buy a binocular from a reputable seller since there are issues with some less expensive instruments.  Our astronomers check each binocular for collimation and other quirks before they are sold. Our staff can show you how to correctly hold and focus a binocular as well.

People “do” astronomy for a lot of reasons.  For many, the whole exercise of viewing the night sky allows the day’s stress and anxieties to fade away.  Many new astronomers rush out and buy the latest and greatest instruments available and sometimes those just sit, covered, in a garage or living room.  If you’re relatively new to astronomy, don’t get caught in that trap. Learning the night sky with the naked eye or with a binocular will enhance the hobby tremendously.  For some of us, just staring skyward in the dark is more satisfying than anything else.  The night sky is full of wonders.  Keep looking up!
Throughout this article, I’ve mentioned “guide books.”  Below is a VERY short list of a few we have available in our store.  We can order just about any you might want or find online.

·         365 Starry Nights: An Introduction to Astronomy for Every Night of the Year - Chet Ramos
·         The Stars: A New Way to See Them – H.A. Rey
·         Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope  -and- How to Find Them – Guy Consolmagno
·         Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to Find, Observing, and Learning About over 125 Celestial Objects – Phillip Harrington
·         The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide – Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer
·         Touring the Universe with Binoculars – Phillip Harrington
·         Binocular  Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users – Gary Seronik
·         Sky & Telescope’s  Pocket Sky Atlas Roger Sinnott
·         Sky & Telescope Binocular Highlights – Gary Seronik
 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You look beautiful just the way you are!

I was typing away on my keyboard and the nineteen year "foster" child came out of her room with a loud query, "do I look fat?"  She was wearing a new bathing suit that did nothing to hide her curves.  I told her that she looked great and didn't have hardly an ounce of fat on her body...which is long, lean and lithe.  Then she came up to my desk and said, "I'm probably going to wear my other bathing suit tomorrow (she's going to a local warm springs on an Indian reservation with a friend) which makes my boobs look bigger.  Dirty old man that I am, I looked straight at her chest (which I think has a 34 A measurement) and said "your boobs are perfect for your body. You need to look at photos of models and other HEALTHY young women.  You look great!"
The FAT 19 year old

Sigh...with two teenage females living here (ages 16 and 19) I get to see a lot of young women come through the house.  Typical teens, they are all agog and aware of the latest trends in fashion...many will show up in leggings ("THOSE AREN'T PANTS, girls!") and t-shirts or tank tops.  Those leggings don't hide a whole lot (often the young guys who visit are caught "admiring the view" and many are outspoken -- sometimes crudely, sometimes flatteringly).  We live in a rural community which is replete with opportunities for these kids to be involved in physical activities including skiing, swimming, horseback riding, golf as well as specialized gym programs in school such as volleyball, weight lifting, and yoga. Most of the  young people who come here are in extremely good shape in spite of the hours spent on tablets, cell phones and computers. Of course most are not "model pretty" but that's not an issue to them.  They "glow" with health and that's how it should be when you are a teenager. One of Bri's friends said it best, "I feel happy with the way I look."  And Bri says, "I love how I look."



Bri and friend who made above remarks.

I'm not the first "oldster" and I know I won't be the last who bemoans the fashion industry and the anorexic models and movie stars that many of the young people want to emulate.  In spite of the many YouTube videos that show how Photoshop "creates" the look in many of the ads or the pasty looking near skeletons that sashay (when was the last time you read that word?) down the runways, young people and especially girls just light up when they see them.  This isn't doing our young people any good at all.
Model Eliana Ramos ate only apples and tomatoes.  She died at age 21

God/Mother Nature/the Universe or whatever created all sorts of people and in all shapes and sizes.  I grew up standing at a startling 5' 6" !  I always wondered what it would be like to be taller but when young, I played hockey, some baseball, skied, rowed, sailed and never did my height affect my performance.  Now that I have some years on me, I only wish for more height when I'm working on my pickup or changing a light bulb--in both cases standing on a bucket or a short ladder suits me fine. So...I'm short.  So is Tom Cruise! Many successful people aren't petite in size nor are they muscle-bound, either.  Some of the most attractive and successful people in Hollywood are beginning to speak out about being "normal" instead of scary skinny...folks like Jennifer Lawrence (who earned I think 8 million dollars for her last film), Kate Upton (who earns a gazillion dollars for each photo shoot), Valerie Bertinelli, Julie Delpy and so many more.  We and especially the young folk who are around us need to hear this message over and over. The young people
Jennifer Lawrence
should ask models like Kate Upton if they think they are fat! Jennifer Lawrence said something like:

In Hollywood, I'm obese, I'm considered a "fat" actress.  I eat like a Californian, I'll be the only actress who doesn't have anorexia rumors.  I'm never going to starve myself for a part. I don't want little girls to be like 'oh I want to look like Katniss so I'm not going to eat dinner'.

Brava for Lawrence!

I guess this all boils down to a message to my young friends and the young people other adults in my circle touch.  BE YOURSELF!  Don't try to look or be someone else.  The attributes you were born with are what make you beautiful!


Monday, April 7, 2014

A ROMANTIC Trilogy Review

A Trilogy Review
Before Sunrise
Before Sunset
Before Midnight



I'm not a film reviewer but I know what I like.  Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight are three films I like -- A LOT!  

This trilogy (which I watched on http://www.solarmovie.me) are set nine years apart with the first, Before Sunrise,  taking place in 1995 (the other two in 2004 and 2013), stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  Both sequels also star the same two actors.  All scenes are filmed in Europe and in spite of being low budget films ($3 million or less) feature luscious cinematography and amazingly talented acting.

Unlike most "sequels", these three movies are true sequels in that are all part of the same story.  The films follow the relationship between the two characters, Jessie and Celine, who meet unexpectantly on a train and spend an evening together in Vienna before Jesse needs to leave Europe to return to the US.  Each film is a "slice of life" for these two -- all are unabashably romantic and feature a modern look at "love".  There is little action in any of the films other than walking and the dialogue.  And it's in the dialogue the genius of these films is shown.  The audience is sucked into the heads of Jessie and Celine and becomes a part of the world they create.  The scenery, the music, the discourse all blend together into some of the most intense film making I have ever seen.

Rotten Tomatoes, the well-known film review aggregator, has rated these three films at 100%, 95% and 98% respectively, indicating universal acclaim for these low budget, amazingly effective movies.  Several reviewers have rated Before Midnight as the second best film in 2013 with Gravity taking the top spot.  Like Sandra Bullock's performance in Gravity, the intensity of the characters here is what carries these films sans the physical drama and special effects Bullock experienced in Gravity. Indeed, Before Midnight was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013.

The three films are intelligent, witty and poignant.  At times they are melancholic.  At no time is there a "he-man" or a submissive woman.  There is a natural chemistry between Hawke and Delpy and the storyline is nothing less than genius. Other than a few "f-bombs", mild cussing, and one sequence showing Delpy's breasts, there is none of the stark and vivid sexual or violent scenes so often seen in modern cinema.  For older teens or adults, these three films will work for most.  I watched them back to back and the about 5 total hours was unnoticed and I left the films with a definite desire to see them again.  

For anyone looking to see film making at its finest and willing to invest the time to become a part of Jessie's and Celine's world, I highly HIGHLY recommend these three. AND, I suppose I am willing to wait ANOTHER nine years to see what happens to these two characters (but I wish it would happen a whole lot sooner).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I'm bitter and I'm venting

Sorry guys, I'm bitter and I have to vent.

After about eight years, I have been replaced in a position that was frustrating, aggravating, nail chewing but one I really enjoyed.  Through that eight years, I spend about three of them as a volunteer.  The position was newsletter editor for the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory.

My responsibilities were to supposed to be just the editor of the little twelve page newsletter - proofing articles and fitting them into a pre-my tenure format and making sure that "it was pretty." Of course, that morphed into something much more including tail twisting the many contributors to send me articles reasonably on time, writing much copy to fill holes because managers didn't want to do it, writing ads, chasing down illustrations for articles and so on. I worked hard to make it relevant and up-to-date.

My position was taken over by a lady I haven't met but who has been a thorn in my side for a couple of years - she didn't like the way I placed articles, she didn't like some of my illustrations, she just didn't like what I was doing, apparently.  THAT, coupled with the office administrator who didn't particularly like my format either, I guess, provided a death knell to that position. Rarely, did I see a published newsletter in the form that I presented.  Over the past two plus years, I NEVER received a final copy to proof before it was printed for the members and I believe I WAS THE EDITOR! Nor, in the past two years has an issue been published even reasonably on time - because of the above mentioned folks.

The pay for doing this newsletter was a pittance compared to other newsletter editors out there - especially ones who created as much copy as I.  They are supposed to be sending me one issue worth of pay as severance (which I expect they will).  This is a good thing because I was already working on the next issue. I am led to believe that my replacement is going to do this as a volunteer.

This firing (what else can I call it?) was done entirely without my knowledge.  The board/administration had one of my best friends call to tell me that I was being replaced.  I had no input, no way to attempt to salvage the job, no option to counter any criticism that might have been made. In fact, I never heard any criticism at all and I worked with the office administrator closely to correct the things she didn't like. I never had a review, ever - just here's your check, take your hat and good-bye. There was not even a thank you.  I was blind-sided.

This organization is a non profit one. However, they spend an incredible amount of money on absolutely stupid stuff.   As many of you who know me are aware, I contribute hundred of hours a year to the astronomy side of the organization as a volunteer.  The observatory is world class and one of the largest public ones in the United States.  Most of the dollars spent on the observatory side are carefully weighed for the cost benefit of the operation. The other side, the Nature Center, looks little different than it looked nearly 20 years ago when I first became involved and they spend a fortune on help and who knows what else.  A marketing company a couple of years ago suggested the observatory name be changed to separate it from the nature center. This was done ostensibly for marketing but in truth it was done to propel the observatory to the world class stage that it was while letting the Nature Center languish.  In fact, the then manager of the Nature Center chose to not follow their recommendations - those to slightly change their mission to improve it. The current manager is following in his footsteps.

I will continue working with the observatory because it is something I love. My feelings for the administration of the organization and most of the board have never been all that positive but the man who runs the observatory has a vision and the people who work with him share that vision for the most part. That sort of person I easily can work with.  I do a twice monthly blog for the observatory which is published on the website http://www.oregonobservatory.org . That will satisfy the writing craving, I suppose.  And I guess the observatory manager will likely ask me to contribute some to the observatory side of the newsletter on occasion. If that happens, I'll definitely insist on a by-line (something I rarely did). 

Several people who are close to me have congratulated me for losing this position.  They have been aware of the trials I have gone through over the years to create this newsletter.  I'm not happy at all but I think as deadlines approach (what deadlines, they ignored those, too),  I'll be happy not to sweat tears trying to chase down relevant stuff to include in the pages. I wish the new editor luck.

So yes, I'm a little bit bitter...mostly for the crap way that this was handled.  Someday, perhaps, the organization will become professional.  Someday.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

"Bright" Super Nova excites astronomers.



Messier object 82 or M82 is a spiral galaxy about 11.5 million light years away from us.  If you do the math (a light year is approximately 6 trillion miles) it's pretty far away but as galaxies go, it's a veritable neighbor to our Milky Way.    For amateur astronomers, it's an easy target and at our Oregon Observatory at Sunriver, it's a popular object which we look at frequently along with its companion, M81.

This month, it was discovered that a star went super nova in M82.  A super nova is a star that violently explodes in its death throes. For a short while, the super nova can outshine even the entire galaxy it dwells in and radiates more energy than our Sun will in its entire lifetime.



Named SN (super nova) 2014J, it has been designated as a Type Ia super nova (an exploded white dwarf) with debris that is moving away from the site of the explosion at up to 20,000 miles per second! Prior to going nova, this star was likely about the size of the earth but because of its super density, it had the gravitational power of a sun-sized star.  White dwarf stars that super nova are generally thought to be a part of a binary star system.  The white dwarf pulls hydrogen gas from its companion.  That gas settles on the surface of the white dwarf and compresses it even more.  When the star packs on enough mass to be the equivalent of about 1.4 times our star's mass, it can no longer support itself, collapses, heats up to incredibly high temperatures and then explosively burns up in a cataclysmic and runaway fusion reaction.

According to spectral analysis, by Yi Cao and associates at CalTech, on January 22, SN2014J is still about two weeks from its brightest.  At the moment, the super nova has been measured at approximately 10.4 magnitude, too dim to see with the naked eye but in reach of most back yard telescopes.  There is definitely a possibility that it will become bright enough to see with a common binocular.

Now is the time to view this incredible event and viewing it is most dramatic if viewed on subsequent nights so that the actual brightening of the super nova is apparent.  The moon will cooperate until about February 2nd or 3rd.

M82 is relatively easy to find. Using the star map below, locate the two stars in the Big Dipper Phecda and Dubhe, two of the bowl stars.  M82 is about 1 degree off the line that you would follow using those two stars.  In a binocular, you'll likely see the two smudges formed by M81/M82 at the corner of your field of view.  The second map below gives a more detailed "star hopping" route to the two galaxies.

Just a note for non-seasoned stargazers.   The images here are photographic images.  The pair of black and white images above are not quite what you will see through a telescope unless you have very clear and steady skies and high magnification.  The first image was taken by the Hubble telescope and one we will never see using any sort of amateur telescope (or professional one for that matter)  Cameras are far more sensitive to colors than our eyes are.  


Throw away dog

REST IN PEACE, STETSON  You were loved for most of your life.
Stetson was conveniently diagnosed with Cushings Disease and euthanized on January 27.  IF indeed he had Cushings, it is a disease that is definitely treatable but the rather affluent family that owned him chose not to.

The nineteen year old just came by the house all a dither because her mom was making her feel badly.  There's a Boston Terrier that lives in her mother's household, Stetson.   The dog has been in that family for eight years.  Over the past two months, the terrier has been acting in an unusual way...defecating, urinating, vomiting all in the wrong places and eating things it shouldn't.   The nineteen year old's mother has blamed it on Kait because she moved out.  She moved out of that house nearly 7 months ago.  This behavior began a couple of months ago, as I already said. The mom says if this behavior doesn't stop, she was going to have the dog put down.

In that two months, Kait's step dad and brother were in a serious accident (head on crash by someone who was texting and driving).  There was an extensive hospital stay by both--one of them 150 miles away in Portland.  That necessitated the dog being left alone for a long period.  There have been multiple doctor visits since the wreck and hospitalization.  Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went during that time.  I don't know how it was celebrated but that's always an uproar for a pet.  The son was given a brand new puppy after Christmas--chocolate lab--which more than likely took a LOT of attention away from the already confused and befuddled animal.  Is there any wonder why Stetson is having behavior issues?

Kait works for the local humane society.   She has her own dog (a rescue) who absolutely adores her and the feeling is mutual. Kait's mother wanted her to get rid of Bindy so she could take the terrier.  Fortunately for Bindy, she is Kait's forever dog.  There's no way she'll go anywhere without her owner. Her mother has sold off most of the animals that Kait has had since childhood for one reason or another - leaving Kait without a forever pet that was HERS. Her mother wants her to treat her Bindy the same way.  I think her work and her future vocation as a veterinary assistant has a lot to do with this mindset that her mother has. 

Kait has offered to foster the terrier until a new home can be found.  The mother told her she doesn't want the dog "to go to just anyone."   BUT she's willing to euthanize it?   Go figure.

I work with the humane society on the periphery.  I hear lots of stories like this.  Those of you who are friends of Maryann's on Facebook have seen many, MANY posts about abandoned animals.  This is a story too often told.   Stetson hasn't ever been in another house other than the one he grew up in.  He hasn't been around many other dogs.  He has been around horses because that's what that family does.

I can't imagine giving an animal a home and deciding on a whim that it has to go because of problems without trying to find the reason for its issues -- especially after eight years AND especially when the reasons for its problems are so obvious.  He was taken to the local vet and after a series of tests was declared healthy.  What sort of vet wouldn't question the issues behind the behavior?  AND this particular vet has an assistant who specializes in behavior problems.  Sigh.

As many of my readers know, any animal here becomes a part of the family.   Most of my readers feel that way about their dogs, cats, horses and so on or would if they had them. I have to question the mentality of any person who is willing to throw away a friend that has devoted its life to them with love that is totally unconditional (other than the care and attention it needs). We would go without to make sure the animal is comfortable and happy.  We have.

I realize there are times when the fit isn't right between the pet and the owner.  I know that sometimes circumstances dictate that an animal needs to be rehomed.  There's many reasons but one of them isn't because of inattention and especially after 8 years which is a lifetime for some animals.

I'm saddened for this little dog.  I hope he finds a fantastic forever home...one that deserves him and will give to him the love and attention he merits and needs.  Good luck, Stetson.