Imbolog 2018

   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.

   
   
   

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.

Stretching the Sunlight

lion2lamb   The skies of March reflect the transition from winter to spring in the northern hemisphere, and is also the time when some say that “spring comes in like a lion and goes out lamb”. This has to do with the placement of the constellations Leo the Lion and Aries the Ram (not a lamb), as this graphic below is showing.
   This time change coincides with the season change and is seen in the sky with Leo rising in the east while Aries sets in the west. Between these two are the easily recognized stars belonging to Taurus the Bull, Orion the Hunter,and others that are associated with northern hemisphere winter night skies.
springforward   Time also shifts as we gradually transit seasons. The United States as well as other countries will make the shift from Local Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday March 8th by setting clocks forward one hour. Hence we “spring forward” one hour.
   This adjustment was first proposed by an Englishman, William Willett, in his pamphlet Waste of Daylight, published in 1907. It took nearly ten years for the idea to catch on before it was passed into law by the United States Congress as the Standard Time Act in 1917. The entire country, U.S.A., was placed under Daylight Saving Time starting on March 30, 1918. This occurred during our involvement in World War I and the act was adopted in part to help the war effort by increasing the number of usable daylight hours and saving energy. At the close of the war, the act was repealed and was not reinstated on a permanent basis until the start of World War II.
   Over the years, the dates for the two time shifts has fluctuated but now due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Daylight Saving Time, in the U.S.A., begins on the first Sunday in March and ends with the return to Standard Time on the first Sunday in November.

   It is Saving time, not Savings Time. Savings are what you do with money in a bank.

   
   
   
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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.

Imbolog 2014

shadowsGroundhog Day
   It has become a tradition in the United States to watch for a ground hog to emerge on the 2nd of February. We know this as Groundhog Day, an event that originates from ancient Celtic tradition. Groundhog Day was known as Imbolog, or sheep’s milk, a time for nurturing young sheep and planting spring crops. The belief arose that if Imbolog 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.

   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 ground hog, 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 overcast then no shadow would appear, and an early warm spring would be expected.

   So year after year, since 1898, crowds have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 to wait for a certain ground hog 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 the 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. When skies are overcast, temperatures tend to moderate as clouds trap heat nearer the ground.

   
   
   
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.

Mid-West Snow Storm- part 2

ruler   Once again our part of the world is getting a smack down from ‘mother nature’. As of around 8:30 a.m. CST there was a total of 15 inches on the ground in most places in my backyard although there are some places where it is deeper. This means about 12 inches of fresh snow since around 3 this morning. It is a heavy wet type of snow and is weighing heavily on tree branches, power lines, clothes lines, and so on.
   A friend from the northeast sent me this, “oh you poor flat landers… lol got 28, 15, and another 12 to come.. Snows almost to the window sill.

From a Facebook posting:

I think its time for Old Man Winter to get Mother Nature drunk, and have a little fun making spring.

            
   Some pictures from the storm.

   A short video from the backyard at around 8:30 a.m.

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