3 Days – 3 Trails

   This past week I was in the Phoenix Arizona area enjoying some unusually cooler weather and the mountain and desert scenery. My goal was to hike as many days as possible until the weather got too hot – which was by Thursday. Morning temperatures were in the upper 60sF low 70sF but by around 9:00 am the temperature was in the upper 80sF heading for 100oF or higher.
   Nonetheless I got in two warm up morning hikes on Sunrise Mountain and Calderwood Butte. Both were typical of what I call City Mountains. They are largely igneous masses with considerable rocky rubble on most of the trails. Locally the trails are described as ‘ankle busters’ as it is easy to step incorrectly and injure yourself. What is neat about these ‘city mountains’ is that they are very easy to get to – many of which are parts of city park systems. Trails are fairly well marked although I use the AllTrails App to keep me on the right path.
   The 3rd day I spent several hours wandering around the Phoenix Mountain Preserve That morning I pushed it and completed 3 different but connected trails. Trail 1Trail 2Trail 3. This was an incredible area with trails every which way with many taking you away from the city sounds but nearly all required some uphill and downhill navigating. I encountered a few trails that going up or down were very steep but well worth the effort. Lots of interesting rock formations along the way.
   The geology of the area is a fantastic combination of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Much of the level ground is outwash deposits from the surrounding mountains while the mountains are a mixture of igneous and metamorphic rocks. I saw what looked like either marble or chert, schist, and outcrops of slate among the types I recognized. There was a very obvious lean to many rock exposures and according to the geology of the area the rocks have a northeast strike.

   The video below shows some of the geology I encountered on these hikes.

   
   
   

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A Trail of 2 Geologies

   The Desert Is Calling!
   All trails lead west, or south, or anywhere but here. I am heading to Arizona for some latitude adjustment. Hiking, bouldering, and enjoying the desert/mountain Geology of Arizona as compared to the Geology of west central Missouri. So the next several posts will be from a desert perspective, looking Earthward as well as skyward.

   This map was made using Google Earth and a Geologic map made for each state. They are prepared as a KMZ file which may be loaded into Google Earth. Download the files by state from the USGS Geologic maps of US states web site.

   Yeah I know it is very hot there but, like a Pizza oven, it’s a dry heat!

   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Earth Day – 2020

   It is the annual Earth Day this year on Wednesday April 22nd.
   What exactly is Earth Day?

“It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.”(https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/)


   The theme for Earth Day 2020 is Climate Action
   
   Download the 2019 edition of NASA’s photo book, Earth (PDF).
 
Go to NASA’s Earth Day Toolkit web site for ideas and activities for parents and educators (which by the way, are one and the same. “Parents are Teachers!”


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

A Tail of Two Comets

   April 1990 Comet Austin (1989c1) now getting brighter approaching naked-eye visibility.
   April 2020 Comet ATLAS (2019c1) predicted to brighten to naked eye visibility has now apparently broken apart.

   30 years ago, April 1990, I wrote the first of what was to become a continuing column about Earth and Space called Scope on the Skies for Science Scope Magazine. This is the Professional Journal for Middle School Science Teachers and is published by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA)

   That April 1990 column, Comet Watch – “Comet Austin”, was about a potential naked-eye visible comet discovered by New Zealand Astronomer Rod Austin during December 1989. The comet was appropriately named Comet Austin 1989c1. The comet increased in brightness over the months following its discovery reaching around 4th magnitude and naked-eye visibility the following May of 1990.

   This month as Comet ATLAS (2019c1) was showing signs of becoming a bright comet it broke apart. This was reported a few days ago and the break-up has since been tentatively confirmed.

   
   
   

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Imbolog 2020

   Watch That WoodChuck!
groundhog newspaper   On February 2, we watch for the groundhog to emerge for reasons that originate from ancient Celtic tradition. Groundhog Day was known as lmbolog, or sheep’s milk, a time for nurturing young sheep and planting spring crops. The belief arose that if lmbolog were to be sunny and clear, then winter’s effects would endure, foreshadowing a long winter. How­ever, if skies were overcast, then the warmer days of spring would arrive early. To farmers then and today, an early spring means early spring plant­ing and a subsequent early harvest. Often fires were lit to commemorate the event as fires were a sign of warmth and light, both of which increased as days lengthened.
not a meteorologist   German immigrant farmers are credited with bringing Groundhog Day with them to the United States as they settled in Pennsylvania. To them, February 2 was called Candlemas Day, because of the practice of lighting candles on this day in celebration of early planting. The Germans believed that the badger was able to predict the weather on the basis of whether or not its shadow appeared. If the badger, or groundhog, saw its shadow on Candlemas, it would be scared and return to its burrow for another six weeks to sleep through the long winter. However, if the skies were cloudy then no shadows would appear, and an early and warm spring would be expected. The importance of this day to German immigrants, and its impact on their farming gave rise to the couplet:
         A farmer would rather see his wife upon a bier,
         than that Candlemas Day should be sunny and clear.

puxs-phil-lied   Year after year, since 1898, crowds have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on February 2 to wait for a certain groundhog to emerge from its burrow. Today the belief in this as a predictor of weather is not nearly as consequential as it appears despite all the hoopla created by the news media. Yet, there is some scientific rationale to this ritual, albeit not in the accuracy of the forecast. When the skies are clear, temperatures tend to be cold as the ground radiates heat absorbed during the day back into the atmosphere; and when skies are over­cast temperatures tend to moderate as clouds trap heat nearer the ground.
Midpoints
Groundhog-Standing2   To other cultures in the Northern Hemisphere Candlemas Day was celebrated as the midpoint, or cross­ quarter day, between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Cross-quarter days occur midway between the astronomical events that mark the beginning of each of the four seasons, the solstices and the equinoxes. The second cross-quarter day of the year, as it is calculated mathematically, occurs on May 6, although it is often associated with May Day, on May 1. The third cross­ quarter day of the year is August 7, the only one of the four without a significant event associated with it. Mid-autumn, the fourth cross-quarter day, occurs on the last day of October, Hallowmas Eve, or as we now know it, Halloween.
   Interestingly this system of equinox, solstice, and cross-quarter days has led to some confusion as to when the seasonal midpoints and endpoints occur. For example, June 21-22 is the official date for the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but it is sometimes referred to as midsummer’s day. This would suggest that summer actually begins on May Day and ends in early August. In a similar manner, December 21, the start of winter for the Northern Hemisphere, is some­times referred to as midwinter’s day. This would imply winter actually begins at the end of October, and concludes (assuming no shadow is seen) on Groundhog Day.
groundhog   So will we have a long winter, or will it be short, and our spring be an early spring? No one can predict this, at least not based on seeing one’s shadow. However, come this February 2, rest assured that crowds will once again gather to watch Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his hole.
   Adapted from “Watch that Woodchuck” Scope on the Skies. Science Scope Magazine. February 1993.

   
   
   

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Climate Change and Bees


   
So why the bee pictures? It’s all about climate change and the significance of these little residents that we share our planet with. A point is that climate change will certainly have an impact on the human population but perhaps even more serious will be the harm it does to Earth inhabitants like the Bee and its important work of pollinating plants.

   Here is an interesting an informative video from NASA about Bees, pollination, and how the Bees are used in a study about climate change effects..

   Keep informed about climate change with these smartphone apps from NASA.

Some of my Bee Pictures:

Remember: Earth is our home, our only home.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

It’s Earthkam Week!

   Several times each year there is an opportunity to request pictures of the Earth to be taken by a camera on the ISS (International Space Station). This is one of those weeks, which actually started last Friday and ends this coming Saturday April 8th. Earthkam is open to educators (parents, teachers, scouts, etc.). On the mission web site there is an application form and there are lessons and activities as well as an archive of the many pictures taken by participants.
   This week I am working with students in several classes at Lee’s Summit High School, and a group of 5th grade students at Westview Elementary School tomorrow afternoon.

   Here are some of the pictures so far.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Enters Scorpius-2016

   Tuesday November 22nd the Sun, in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Libra the Scales and into the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

It Was An EarthKam Week

   This past week was an EarthKam week. During the week participants are able to view the daytime orbital path for the International Space Station and request a picture to be taken of whatever the ISS happens to be passing over. This could be your hometown if the ISS happens to have an orbit that passes over where you live. The one time, so far, that there was an orbit over where I live we had completely overcast skies and rain. Nonetheless as you can see from these pictures, there is a lot of the Earth to see from the perspective of the International Space Station.
    Click on any picture to see it, or any of the rest of the pictures larger. The picture may also be viewed at its full size, which for some pictures will show an amazing amount of detail. If you are familiar with Tucson Arizona look at the picture labeled tanque verde and speedway.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

NSTA @ Nashville


   I’m in Nashville Tennessee for the next several days at the NSTA national conference. Planets and stars will still be in the skies but not as easy to see from downtown Nashville as it is where I live. On the morning of April 1st the waning waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Too dim to be seen without a large telescope it is, nonetheless, a neat idea that when you look toward the Moon you are also looking in the direction of Pluto. It’s out there!
   And here is a sequence of graphics showing the pre-sunrise morning sky at 5:30 am EDT for each day during the conference, and one night view on April 1st showing Jupiter. Both Pluto and the Moon are located just above and to the left from the handle of the teapot asterism for Sagittarius the Archer.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.