It’s Our Home

   “It’s our home, our only home” is a quote I came across and copied into my collection. It is from a video I used in my classroom many years ago. Can’t remember the video name nor find it but nonetheless it makes a powerful statement about our home planet. So this posting is in the spirit of celebrating our home planet.
   Monday the 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event sponsored by individuals, groups, and organizations who are activists (this is a positive use of the word), or stewards striving to create a more healthy environment for all. This is accomplished through education as well as events such as Earth Day.
group-large   Two years ago I joined with a group of musicians to form Dark Matter, a group of educators, scientists, musicians, and artists with the initial purpose of producing a series of Astronomically-based videos that would accompany a live musical performance. The videos were originally developed for use in the full dome video system at the Gottleib Planetarium at Union Station in Kansas City. The dome was approximately 60 feet in diameter and could seat around 150. The original videos were warped to suit the projection system however the two below are flat screen versions of the videos.
   The performance was called Orbit and with that as a theme I developed the videos with the compositions the composers provided. The style of music is described as electro-acoustical and was a combination of live combined with digitized sound samples and real-time sound sampling as the musicians played. The videos below were the opening and closing compositions and both were called Water Meditation. In the first piece the flute is played by Rebecca Ashe, and the second piece has a clarinet played by Cheryl Melfi. Music is composed by Daniel Eichenbaum and Richard Johnson with Richard also doing the real-time sampling during the performance.

The Banner graphic is from a high altitude balloon launched as part of the production for another full dome video and live performance called Ascent. This was during the fall of 2011 and is a view from 95,000 feet of the two neighboring cities of Kansas City Missouri and Kansas Kansas City Kansas.

   Click here to go to the Dark Matter web site.

   Water Meditation – Flute by Richard Johnson: Earth is a water world with more than 70% of its surface covered with water. Gain a different perspective of the planet as you orbit the Earth with a satellite. Flute is played by Rebecca Ashe.

   Water Meditation – Clarinet by Daniel Eichenbaum: As the closing composition I wanted to leave the audience with a sense of what it would be like to orbit the Earth with the International Space Station. So from that perspective we see a sunrise from orbit and our home planet as the rising Sun brightens the daylight side of the Earth. Clarinet is played by Cheryl Melfi.

ed   Click here to go to the Earth Day web site.

epa   Click here to go to the Environmental Protection Agency web site for Earth Day information.

      Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Explore Icy Worlds Contest

   “NASA Essay Contest Examines Missions to Icy Worlds
   NASA is inviting U.S. students in grades 5-12 to participate in an essay contest about proposed missions to explore Saturn’s moon Titan and Jupiter’s moon Europa.
   To enter, students must describe in 500 words or fewer why one of the proposed missions to these icy worlds is the most interesting of the bunch. Winning essays will be posted on a NASA website, and winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a video conference or teleconference with NASA scientists.
   The proposed missions include exploring Titan with an orbiter and balloon and investigating Europa with a lander. Both missions would have science instruments to study their subjects — an exciting prospect for astrobiologists. Students are encouraged to include details of the science instruments they might include on these spacecraft to help with key investigations.” (web links added by me)

   Contest Entry Deadline is 28 February 2013
   This contest is open to all students in the United States who are in grades 5 to 12.

   Click here to go to the NASA contest web site to watch videos about the proposed missions.
   Click here to go to the NASA web site for information about the contest.

   Take a short tour of Jupiter, Saturn, and some of their moons by way of a video I produced as part of a live performance at a local Planetarium. This is a 6-minute cut from a longer video that has an original music score written by Daniel Eichenbaum. Flute is by Rebecca Ashe and Clarinet by Cheryl Melfi. Electronics by Richard Johnson. We performed under the group name Dark Matter.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Saturn Rising

Saturn Meets Venus

   Following its solar conjunction during October the planet Saturn now moves into the pre-dawn morning skies on the western side of the Sun. As the Earth moves along its orbital path around the Sun, the Sun with its apparent motion along the ecliptic toward the east gives the appearance of moving away from Saturn. Gradually the distance between the Sun and Saturn increases resulting in Saturn rising earlier each day.
Try this: Observe Saturn at the same time each morning and you will notice that Saturn is appearing higher above the horizon at the same time.
   Venus is also on the move eastward and since its orbital speed is greater than the Earth and the Sun’s apparent speed it (Venus) will catch up with the Sun in the next month or so. Along the way Venus will pass by Saturn, coming within 1-degree, on the mornings of November 26th and 27th as this animated graphic shows. The graphic is set at 1 frame per day and shows the sky at 6:40 a.m. CST.

   The video below is a clip from a longer one I developed for a Planetarium performance last year. The longer video, Orbit, was part of a series of full-dome videos that were developed to be accompanied by original musical scores written by Daniel Eichenbaum, and performed live by Dark Matter under the 60-foot dome at the Arvin Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City, MO.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Jupiter Rising

Jupiter Rising

   This month brings the largest planet, Jupiter, into view as it is now rising in the east at around 9 p.m. local time and remains visible above the horizon throughout the remainder of the night. If you somehow miss Jupiter in the evening and are up and out before sunrise look west for Jupiter. On the other hand, if you are still outside facing east at sunrise check out Venus shining even brighter than Jupiter.

Daily Position of the Galilean Satellites

   Jupiter’s Moons
   One enjoyable pasttime is to observe the constantly changing four largest moons orbiting Jupiter. Sometimes known as the Galilean Satellites, they are: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Named after Galileo who made many observations of the moons and from these observations and others led him to question the Geocentric model of the solar system. These four planet-sized moons are visible as small bright stars on either side of Jupiter and depending on the time and date of viewing their arrangement around Jupiter is never the same as this animated graphic is showing. Each change is one day and this graphic shows the Moons at 9 p.m. from today through the end of this month.

   Recreate Galileo’s observations of the Galilean satellites through the use of an online simulation, the Java applet, Juplet. Input dates or times to see the position of the four Galilean satellites. The Juplet will display the planet and the satellite configuration for the date and time on the computer, or you could easily edit the date and time, and after pressing the Enter key see a different configuration. To keep track of these changes the position of each satellite relative to Jupiter could be drawn on a data table similar to Galileo’s data table.

   This video, ‘Orbs of Jupiter’, was one of the videos I made for a live musical performance at the Gottleib Planetarium at Science City in Kansas City MO. The original videos were made for full-dome projection – this one has been flattened. Music was written by Richard Johnson and performed by Rebecca Ashe (Flute) and Cheryl Melfi (Clarinet). Live and pre-recorded Electro-acoustical sampling by Richard Johnson and Daniel Eichenbaum. The soundtrack for the video is from the live performance by Dark Matter.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.