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Possible Future Topics

(Pawling Public Radio 103.7 FM)

Show Format (Sections)

1. Show Outline

  1. Old Business - devoted to answering any questions from the previous episodes or to correct anything I may have said in error.
  2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary - devoted to defining astronomical terms.
  3. What's Up in the Sky This Week? - from planets to meteor showers to the space station and more!
  4. Astronomical Curiosities - exploring unique aspects of the world of astronomy.
  5. Did You Know? - a fun-filled trivia section.
  6. The Buffer Zone - personal recollections from my life as an amateur astronomer.

2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary

  • Magnitude, Absolute Magnitude, Apparent Magnitude (Episode 1)
  • Celestial Coordinates (Right Ascension, Declination) (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Unit (AU), Parsec (Episode 3)
  • Bayer Designations (Episode 4)
  • Positional Astronomy [Conjunction (Inferior, Superior), Opposition] (Episode 5)
  • Transit (Episode 6)
  • Earthshine (Da Vinci Glow) (Episode 7)
  • Aphelion, Perihelion, Apogee, Perigee (Episode 8)
  • Libration (Episode 9)
  • Synodic, Sidereal Rotation (Episode 10)
  • Revolution, Rotation (Episode 11)
  • Phase (Episode 12)
  • Retrograde Motion (Episode 13)
  • Ecliptic (Episode 14)
  • Twilight (Astronomical, Civil, Nautical) (Episode 15)
  • Meteoroid (Meteor, Bolide, Meteorite) (Episode 16)
  • Parallax (Episode 17)
  • What Defines a Planet? (Episode 18)
  • Albedo (Episode 19)
  • Lunation (Episode 20)
  • Occultation (Episode 21)
  • Asterisms (Episode 22)
  • Binary Stars, Double Stars (Episode 23)
  • Evolutionary Stages of Stars (Episode 24)
  • Polar Alignment (Episode 25)
  • Variable Stars (Episode 26)
  • Comets (Episode 27)
  • Sidereal Day (Episode 28)
  • The Year (Episode 29)
  • Aperture (Episode 30)
  • Shadows (Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra) (Episode 31)
  • SETI (Episode 32)
  • Ptolemaic Theory (Episode 33)
  • The Local Group (Episode 34)
  • Black Holes (Episode 35)
  • Supernovas (Episode 36)
  • Reflection and Refraction (Episode 37)
  • The Mars Hoax (Episode 38)
  • CCD (Episode 39)
  • NASA (Episode 40)
  • Little Joe (Episode 41)
  • CM, SM, and LEM (Episode 42)
  • SRB and MECO (Episode 43)
  • No Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary (Episode 44)
  • The Golden Record (Episode 45)
  • Second Lagrange Point (Episode 46)
  • Northern Autumn Constellations (Episode 47)
  • How to Tell Time With Stars (Episode 48)
  • Asterisms and Boundaries for Constellations (Episode 49)
  • Patterns Among the Stars (Episode 50)
  • The Golden Hour (or When Sunlight Turns Magical) (Episode 51)
  • Northern and Southern Lights (Episode 52)
  • Northern Winter Constellations (Episode 53)
  • Equation of Time (or Why Isn't the Year's Earliest Sunset on the Winter Solstice?) (Episode 54)
  • The Midnight Sun (Episode 55)
  • Polar Nights (Episode 56)
  • Lunar Topography (Founder Johannes Hevelius) (Episode 57)
  • Meteorological and Astronomical Seasons (Episode 58)
  • The Month of February (Episode 59)
  • Sunday is Sun's Day (Episode 60)
  • The Doomsday Algorithm (Episode 61)
  • Monday is Moon's Day (Episode 62)
  • The Month of March (Episode 63)
  • Tuesday is Tiu's Day (Episode 64)
  • Northern Spring Constellations (Episode 65)
  • Wednesday is Odin's Day (Episode 66)
  • The Month of April (Episode 67)
  • Geographic versus Geomagnetic (Episode 68)
  • Thursday is Thor's Day (Episode 69)
  • The Month of May (Episode 70)
  • Friday is Frigg's and Freya's Day (Episode 71)
  • Saturday is Saturn's Day (Episode 72)
  • Saturn 1B (Episode 73)
  • Saturn V (Episode 74)
  • TLI (Episode 75)
  • PLSS (Episode 76)
  • Dress Rehearsal (Episode 77)
  • Sea of Tranquility (Episode 78)
  • Ocean of Storms (Episode 79)
  • Abort (Episode 80)
  • Sea of Storms (Episode 81)
  • Hadley-Apennine (Episode 82)
  • Plain of Descartes (Episode 83)
  • Taurus-Littrow (Episode 84)

  • Elements (Besselian, Keplerian, mean, orbiting, osculating, rotational)
  • Gibbous

3. What's Up in the Sky This Week?

  • Full Moon information

  • Evening sky highlights
    N/A No evening highlights
    12 Feb 2019 Uranus is 1.0 degrees southeast of Mars
    26 Feb 2019 Mercury attains greatest elongation, 18 degrees east of the Sun
    20 Mar 2019 Spring begins at the equinox, 5:58 PM EDT
    9 Jun 2019 Jupiter is at opposition
    18 Jun 2019 Mars is 0.3 degrees below Mercury
    21 Jun 2019 Longest day, 15 hrs 01 min at latitude 40 degrees north
    23 Jun 2019 Mercury is 25 degrees from the Sun
    24 Jun 2019 Latest twilight
    27 Jun 2019 Latest sunset
    2 Jul 2019 Total eclipse of the Sun in a path across the South Pacific Ocean, Chile and Argentina
    4 Jul 2019 Earth is 94,513,221 miles from the Sun (aphelion), at 6:11 PM EDT
    8 Jul 2019 Saturn is at opposition
    16 Jul 2019 Partial lunar eclipse for Europe and Asia (but not North America)
    13 Aug 2019 Venus reaches superior conjunction
    9 Sep 2019 Neptune is at opposition
    19 Oct 2019 Mercury is 25 degrees east of the Sun
    27 Oct 2019 Uranus reaches opposition
    23 Nov 2019 Jupiter is 1.5 degrees above and right of Venus tonight and tomorrow
    4 Dec 2019 Earliest end of twilight
    8 Dec 2019 Earliest sunset
    10 Dec 2019 Saturn is 1.8 degrees above and right of Venus
    21 Dec 2019 Shortest day, 9 hrs 20 mins at latitude 40 degrees north
    Winter begins at the solstice, 11:19 PM EST

  • Morning sky highlights
    N/A No morning highlights
    18 Feb 2019 Saturn is 1.1 degrees below right of Venus
    10 Apr 2019 Neptune is 0.4 degrees northwest of Venus
    11 Apr 2019 Mercury stands at greatest elongation, 28 degrees west of the Sun
    14 Jun 2019 Earliest sunrise
    17 Jun 2019 Earliest morning twilight
    21 Jun 2019 Summer begins at the solstice, 11:54 AM EDT
    10 Aug 2019 Mercury reaches greatest elongation, 19 degrees west of the Sun
    23 Sep 2019 Autumn begins at the equinox, 3:50 AM EDT
    10 Nov 2019 Spica is 2.8 degrees right and down from Mars
    11 Nov 2019 Mercury transits the Sun from dawn until about Noon
    28 Nov 2019 Mercury is at greatest elongation, 20 degrees west of the Sun
    26 Dec 2019 An annular solar eclipse may be seen in a path crossing parts of Saudi Arabia, southern India and Borneo

  • Upcoming meteor showers
    4 Jan      Quadrantid meteor shower
    22 Apr Lyrid meteor shower
    5 May Eta-Aquarid meteor shower
    29 Jul S Delta-Aquarid meteor shower
    12 Aug Perseid meteor shower
    9 Oct Draconid meteor shower
    22 Oct Orionid meteor shower
    4 Nov S Taurid meteor shower
    13 Nov N Taurid meteor shower
    17 Nov Leonid meteor shower
    14 Dec Geminid meteor shower
    23 Dec Ursid meteor shower

4. Astronomical Curiosities

  • The Painted Globe (Episode 1)
  • Different Types of Telescopes (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Apps (Episode 3 & Episode 4)
  • Messier Objects (Episode 5)
  • Caldwell Objects (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (Episode 7)
  • The Supermoon (Episode 8)
  • The Lunar Terminator (Episode 9)
  • The Sun (Episode 10)
  • The Planet Mercury (Episode 11)
  • The Planet Venus (Episode 12)
  • The Planet Mars (Episode 13)
  • The Planet Jupiter (Episode 14)
  • The Planet Saturn (Episode 15)
  • The Planet Uranus (Episode 16)
  • The Planet Neptune (Episode 17)
  • The Dwarf Planet Pluto (Episode 18)
  • The Asteroid Belt (Episode 19)
  • The Kuiper Belt (Episode 20)
  • The Oort Cloud (Episode 21)
  • The Constellation Orion (Episode 22)
  • The Northern Constellation Group (Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia) (Episode 23)
  • Why Does a Star Twinkle? (Episode 24)
  • Observatories (Episode 25)
  • Navigating the Sky (by Fists and Fingers) (Episode 26)
  • The Number of Stars in the Sky (Episode 27)
  • Using a Planisphere (Episode 28)
  • Using Star Charts (Episode 29)
  • Deep Sky Objects (Episode 30)
  • Backyard Astronomy (Episode 31)
  • Are UFOs Real and Is There Life Out There? (Episode 32)
  • The First Skywatchers (Episode 33)
  • The Emptiness of Space (Episode 34)
  • The Big Bang (Episode 35)
  • The Evolution of Stars (Episode 36)
  • Atmospheric Phenomenon (Halos, Sun Dogs, Light Pillars, Parhellic Circles) (Episode 37)
  • The Mars Opposition of 2018 (Episode 38)
  • Becoming an Astrophotographer (Episode 39)
  • Space Travelers (Episode 40)
  • The Mercury and Gemini Programs (Episode 41)
  • The Apollo Program (Episode 42)
  • Shuttles and Stations (Episode 43)
  • A Retrospective (A Year of The Astronomical Almanac) (Episode 44)
  • Voyages to the Planets (Episode 45)
  • Where to from Here (Episode 46)
  • Andromeda (Episode 47)
  • Pegasus (Episode 48)
  • Perseus (Episode 49)
  • Pisces (Episode 50)
  • Aquarius (Episode 51)
  • Capricornus (Episode 52)
  • Orion (Episode 53)
  • Taurus (Episode 54)
  • Canis Major (Episode 55)
  • Gemini (Episode 56)
  • Canis Minor (Episode 57)
  • Cancer (Episode 58)
  • Leo (Episode 59)
  • Coma Berenices (Episode 60)
  • Copernican versus Ptolemaic System of Astronomy (Episode 61)
  • Planetary Ring Systems (Episode 62)
  • Mercator Projection (Episode 63)
  • Sir William Herschel's Sidereal Astronomy (Episode 64)
  • Boötes (Episode 65)
  • Virgo (Episode 66)
  • Hydra (Episode 67)
  • The North Pole (Episode 68)
  • Centaurus (Episode 69)
  • Planetariums (Episode 70)
  • Geostationary Orbits (Episode 71)
  • JFK "Moon Landing" Speech (Episode 72)
  • Apollo 1 (Episode 73)
  • Apollo 7 (Episode 74)
  • Apollo 8 (Episode 75)
  • Apollo 9 (Episode 76)
  • Apollo 10 (Episode 77)
  • Apollo 11 (Episode 78)
  • Apollo 12 (Episode 79)
  • Apollo 13 (Episode 80)
  • Apollo 14 (Episode 81)
  • Apollo 15 (Episode 82)
  • Apollo 16 (Episode 83)
  • Apollo 17 (Episode 84)

  • Calendar (Anomalistic, Besselian, Calendar, Eclipse, Julian, Sidereal, Tropical)

5. Did You Know?

  • Light from distant stars and galaxies takes so long to reach us that we are actually seeing these objects as they appeared in the past. As we look up at the sky, we are really looking back in time. For example, the Sun's light takes almost 8.5 minutes to travel to Earth, so we see the Sun as it looked 8.5 minutes ago. The nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away, so it appears as it was 4.2 years ago. The nearest galaxy is 2.5 million light-years away, and it looks as it did when our australopithecus hominid ancestors walked the planet. The farther away something is, the further back in time it appears. (Episode 1)
  • Galileo Galilei is often incorrectly credited with the invention of the telescope. Historians now think the Dutch eyeglass maker Johannes Lippershey was its creator. Galileo was probably the first to use the device to study the heavens to make his discoveries. (Episode 2)
  • Uranian Axis of Rotation: The Uranian system has a unique configuration among those of the planets because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its solar orbit. (Episode 3)
  • Earth's Shadow at Sunset / Sunrise: At sunset the Earth's shadow is visible opposite the sunset in the eastern sky, just above the horizon. The shadow shows as a dark blue band that stretches over 180° of the horizon. At sunrise, the Earth's shadow can be seen to set as the sun itself rises, and at sunset, the Earth's shadow rises as the sun sets. (Episode 4)
  • The Crab Nebula was produced by a supernova explosion that appeared in our skies in the year 1054 A.D. The Chinese and Arab astronomers at the time noted that the explosion was so bright that it was visible during the day, and it lit up the night sky for months. It was likely also observed by the Anasazi people of the U.S. southwest. (Episode 5)
  • Belt of Venus: Also known as Venus's Girdle, twilight wedge, or antitwilight arch is an atmospheric phenomenon visible shortly before sunrise or after sunset, during civil twilight, when a pinkish glow extending roughly 10 - 20 degrees above the horizon surrounds the observer. (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (or Luna) is the Earth's only natural satellite and was formed 4.6 billion years ago around some 30 - 50 million years after the formation of the solar system. The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth meaning the same side is always facing the Earth. (Episode 7)
  • The technical term for a Supermoon is perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. In astronomy, the term syzygy refers to the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies. When the Moon is close to the lunar nodes of its path during syzygy, it causes a total solar eclipse or a total lunar eclipse. (Episode 8)
  • The Apollo crews landed when the Sun was low in the eastern sky, a configuration that gave good shadow definition of the landing site terrain. Solar phase angles (0 degrees at local sunrise, 90 degrees at noon) at landing ranged from 4.7 degrees (Apollo 12) to 14.7 (Apollo 16). (Episode 9)
  • The Sun's core releases the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second. All that energy works its way out through the various layers of the Sun, taking thousands of years to make the trip. The Sun's energy is emitted as heat and light and it powers the solar system. The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon but is 400 times further away from Earth making them appear the same size. (Episode 10)
  • Even though Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, temperatures there can range from -173 to 427°C (-279.4 to 800.6°F) on its surface. How can this happen? Since Mercury has almost no atmosphere, there is nothing to trap heat near the surface. So, the dark side of Mercury (the side facing away from the Sun) gets very cold. (Episode 11)
  • Thomas Mantell was a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard and he would become the first pilot to lose his life while pursuing an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). The pilot was chasing the planet Venus. Venus is considerably hotter than Mercury, even though it is farther away from the Sun. The thickness of Venus's atmosphere traps heat near the surface of the planet. Venus also spins very slowly on its axis. A day on Venus is 243 Earth-days long, while Venus's year is only 224.7 days. Even weirder, Venus spins backwards on its axis compared to the other planets in the solar system. (Episode 12)
  • The temperature on Mars can be as high as 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or as low as about -225 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius). How hot or cold the surface varies between day and night and among seasons. Mars is colder than Earth because it is farther from the sun. (Episode 13)
  • After the Juno spacecraft takes an image, the download of just six megabytes of data collected (during the two-hour transit) can take one-and-a-half days! Jupiter is also wide enough to fit 11 Earths across its disk. (Episode 14)
  • Hexagonal Storm at Saturn's North Pole: Saturn's hexagon is a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the north pole of Saturn, located at about 78°N. The sides of the hexagon are about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is more than the diameter of Earth (about 12,700 km (7,900 mi)). Saturn would float if you would put it in water. (Episode 15)
  • A scale solar system based on the human body as a scale. If the Sun is the size of a small piece of dandruff on the top of your head (0.4 mm), and Pluto is on the bottom of your foot (assume 6 feet tall) the entire inner solar system would be within your head, Jupiter at your chin, Saturn in the middle of your chest, Neptune at the top of your shin, and Uranus ... well ... where you would expect it ... really. (Episode 16)
  • When the Moon is at apogee, you could stack all of the planets between the Earth and the Moon. (Episode 17)
  • A person who weighs 100 lbs. on Earth would weigh the least on Pluto than on any other planet, at 6.7 lbs. on Pluto. The sky is so dark on Pluto that a person would be able to see stars during the day. Because Pluto's moon Charon and Pluto orbit each other, Charon appears to stand still in Pluto's sky. Additionally, the same sides of Pluto and Charon always face each other.
    Haumea of the Outer Solar System. One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. The object, named Haumea, is the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's oblong shape makes it quite unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Haumea is a cratered ellipsoid surrounded by a uniform ring. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was renamed in 2008 by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Besides the ring discovered this year (2017), Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, named Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess. (Episode 18)
  • An astrobleme is a scar on the Earth's surface produced by the impact of a meteorite or asteroid. Lake Manicouagan in northern Quebec, Canada, lies in one of the largest impact craters still preserved on Earth's surface. The lake itself surrounds a central uplift of the impact structure, which is about 70 kilometers in diameter and composed of broken fragments of minerals and rock. Overtime glaciation and other erosional processes have reduced the size of the crater. The impact that formed Manicouagan is thought to have occurred about 212 million years ago, and some scientists believe it may have been responsible for a mass extinction that wiped out more than half of all living species. Today, Lake Manicouagan serves as a reservoir and is one of Quebec's most important regions for Atlantic salmon fishing. (Episode 19)
  • Only 55% of all Americans knows that the Sun is a star.
    Because of the speed the Sun moves at, solar eclipses can last at most 7 minutes and 58 seconds.
    Lunar eclipses, however, can last 1 hour and 40 minutes. (Episode 20)
  • The United States has approximately 3,500 astronomers, but over 15,000 astrologers.
    The odds of being killed by falling space debris is 1 in 5 billion.
    Neutron stars are so dense that a single teaspoon of a neutron star would be equal to the weight of the entire Earth's population. (Episode 21)
  • The stars in Orion are gradually moving apart, but they are located at such great distances from us that the constellation will remain recognizable a long time after most of the other constellations, whose stars are closer to earth, have morphed into new shapes. One event which could cause a dramatic image change, however, would be Betelgeuse going supernova, which is predicted to happen sometime in the next million years. This will initially cause a light to shine as bright as the full moon in Orion, but a few weeks later that will fade, leaving a dark place where Orion's shoulder once lay. (Episode 22)
  • For anyone staring at the heavens 100,000 years from now, the constellations will look very different. The Big Dipper will change its shape from looking like a plough to something that looks more like duck. (Episode 23)
  • The Pistol Star is the most luminous star known 10 million times the brightness of the Sun. (Episode 24)
  • A full Moon is nine times brighter than a half Moon. When the Moon is directly above your head or if you stand at the equator, your weight is slightly less. (Episode 25)
  • Only half a billionth of the energy released by the Sun reaches Earth. (Episode 26)
  • The average galaxy contains only 40 billion stars; and depending on where you are, you can see anywhere between 35 to 4,548 to 190 million stars. (Episode 27)
  • Neutron stars can rotate up to 500 times in 1 second. (Episode 28)
  • Seasons last 21 years on Uranus while each pole has 42 years of sunlight followed by 42 years of darkness. (Episode 29)
  • The largest structure found in the universe is the Sloan Great Wall, a super cluster of galaxies 1.37 billion light-years wide. (Episode 30)
  • Did you know there is a website and book about Backyard Astronomy? Here you will find lots of up-to-date information and advice about all aspects of the astronomy hobby. Check it out here: http://www.backyardastronomy.com/ (Episode 31)
  • Barney and Betty Hill were an American couple who claimed they were abducted by extraterrestrials in a rural portion of New Hampshire from September 19 to September 20, 1961. It was the first widely publicized report of an alien abduction in the United States. The incident came to be called the "Hill Abduction" and the "Zeta Reticuli Incident" because the couple stated they had been kidnapped by aliens who claimed to be from the Zeta Reticuli system. Their story was adapted into the best-selling 1966 book The Interrupted Journey and the 1975 television movie The UFO Incident. In September 2016, plans were announced to make a film based on the events, with an unknown release date. (Episode 32)
  • Galileo's first telescopes were not as effective as an inexpensive telescope of today, but they changed our view of the universe. (Episode 33)
  • Space is not a complete vacuum, there are about 3 atoms per cubic meter of space. (Episode 34)
    1. The two main characters of The Big Bang Theory (Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki)) are named after late television producer Sheldon Leonard.
    2. Sheldon (Jim Parsons)'s soothing song, "Soft Kitty", is based on an Australian children's song from Executive Producer Bill Prady's daughter's pre school. The song has been featured on Australian children's television show Play School (1966).
    3. On January 3, 2013, a team of Brazilian biologists announced their name for a newly-discovered species of orchid bee: Euglossa bazinga. This was to honor the show, and specifically Sheldon (Jim Parsons)'s mocking catchphrase "bazinga". Long mistaken for another bee, Euglossa ignita, the new species was deliberately tagged "bazinga" for its history of fooling entomologists. Executive Producer Steven Molaro responded in a press release: "We are always extremely flattered when the science community embraces our show. Sheldon would be honored to know that Euglossa bazinga was inspired by him. In fact, after Mothra (1961) and griffins, bees are his third-favorite flying creature." (Episode 35)
  • Helium is the only substance in the universe that cannot be in solid form. It can never get cold enough. (Episode 36)
  • All light travels in a straight line unless something gets in the way and does one of these things:
    • reflect it (like a mirror)
    • refract or bend it (like a prism) or
    • scatter it (like molecules of the gases in the atmosphere)
    Sunlight reaches Earth's atmosphere and is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth's atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky. (Episode 37)
  • Mars surface is covered with iron oxide (rust) which gives the planet its reddish appearance. (Episode 38)
  • In 1845, five years after Dr. J. W. Draper captured the first photograph of the full moon, French physicists Leon Foucault and Louis Fizeau made the first successful photograph of the sun. In a major technological feat at the time, the pair pointed their camera at Earth's star; after an exposure of just 1/60th of a second, the photo was made. (Episode 39)
  • On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. So, Eisenhower signed NASA to establish NASA. (Episode 40)
  • During the 1950s, some experts doubted that manned spaceflight was possible. Still when John F. Kennedy was elected president, many including he had doubts about the project. As president he chose to support the program a few months before the launch of Freedom 7, which became a great public success. Afterwards, a majority of the American public supported manned spaceflight, and within a few weeks, Kennedy announced a plan for a manned mission to land on the Moon and return safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s. (Episode 41)
  • Before the Apollo 12 mission, Al Bean and Pete Conrad had one of the support crew go out and buy an automatic timer for the Hasselblad camera, a little spring-loaded gadget. Conrad and Bean's idea was that they would mount the camera on their tool carrier and then pose, side by side, next to the Surveyor craft. It would only take a minute for them to fire off a few shots - saluting, waving, shaking hands, whatever - and Conrad was sure than when they got home one of those pictures would end up on the cover of Life magazine. He couldn't wait until everybody asked, 'who took the picture?'

    Conrad had managed to smuggle the timer in the pocket of his space suit. He'd remembered to bring it into the LM with him, and just before they'd headed out on the traverse that morning, he'd dropped it into the tool carrier - which was now full of rocks and tenacious lunar dust. Bean rummaged in the bag for a moment, looking for a glint of chrome, but saw only lunar grime. The only solution was to take all of the rocks out of the tool carrier. They couldn't talk about it; the whole world would know what they were up to. So they made hand signals. While Conrad held the tool carrier, Bean rummage among the samples, each in their little Teflon baggies. He wondered if he should just put the tool carrier down, get on his knees, and lay the rocks on the ground, but he worried he'd never get them all back in the bag if he did. After a couple of minutes, Bean realized the timer was buried inside the bag, lost in the dust. He said quietly, "Forget it."

    A little over an hour later, back at the lunar module Intrepid, Conrad was emptying the tool carrier into the rock box when suddenly out fell the Hasselblad timer. He called to Bean, "I've got something for you."

    "Just what we need," Bean said. He picked up the timer and threw it into the distance as hard as he could. (Episode 42)

  • Canceled Space Station Projects
    1. The United States Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) project was to employ elements of existing Gemini craft. This was unusual in being an explicitly military project, as opposed to the Soviet Almaz program, which was heavily intertwined with, and concealed by, the Salyut program. It was canceled in 1969, about a year before the first planned test flight.

    2. A second Skylab unit (Skylab B) was manufactured, as a backup article; due to the high costs of providing launch vehicles, and a desire by NASA to cease Saturn and Apollo operations in time to prepare for the Space Shuttle coming into service, it was never flown. The hull can now be seen in the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington DC.

    3. A number of additional Salyuts were produced, as backups or as flight articles that were later canceled.

    4. The U.S. Space Station Freedom program, despite being under development for ten years, was never launched, instead evolving into the International Space Station.

    5. The Soviet/Russian Mir-2 station, which was never constructed, had some of its elements incorporated into the International Space Station.

    6. The Industrial Space Facility was a station proposed in the 1980s that was to be privately funded. The project was canceled when the company created to build it, Space Industries Incorporated, was unable to secure funding from the United States government.

    7. The European Columbus project planned to create a small space station serviced by the Hermes shuttle. It evolved into the ISS Columbus module.

    8. Excalibur Almaz, a company based in the Isle of Man, was developing a reusable space vehicle and a space station based on old Soviet "Almaz" technology for flight in the early 2010s. In March 2016, plans were announced to have the equipment converted into an educational exhibit, owing to lack of funds. (Episode 43)
  • If you were to binge listen to The Astronomical Almanac, it would take you 17 hours 55 minutes to hear all 43 episodes (to date). (Episode 44)
  • Voyagers in Film and Television
    1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
    2. Starman (1984)
    3. X-Files episode titled "Little Green Men" (1994)
    4. Saturday Night Live episode 64 (1978), a psychic played by actor Steve Martin says the extraterrestrials had found the record and replied, "Send More Chuck Berry". (Episode 45)
  • Joseph-Louis Lagrange, the greatest mathematician of the eighteenth century, was born at Turin on January 25, 1736, and died at Paris on April 10, 1813. His father, who had charge of the Sardinian military chest, was of good social position and wealthy, but before his son grew up he had lost most of his property in speculations, and young Lagrange had to rely on his own abilities. He was educated at the college of Turin, but it was not until he was seventeen that he showed any taste for mathematics - his interest in the subject being first excited by a memoir by Halley across which he came by accident. Alone and unaided, he threw himself into mathematical studies; at the end of a year's incessant toil he was already an accomplished mathematician, and was made a lecturer in the artillery school. (Episode 46)
  • The Spitzer Space Telescope measured the planet Upsilon Andromeda B's temperature, and found that the difference between the two sides of it are about 2,552 degrees Fahrenheit, ranging from minus -4 to 446 degrees to about 2,552 to 3,002 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature difference has led to speculation that Upsilon Andromeda b is tidal locked with the same side always facing Upsilon Andromeda A. (Episode 47)
  • Stephan's Quintet is a visual grouping of five galaxies of which four form the first compact galaxy group ever discovered. A compact group consists of a small number of galaxies, typically around five, in close proximity and relatively isolated from other galaxies and formations. (Episode 48)
  • Perseus is perhaps best known for the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best annual meteor showers, whose radiant lies close to (eta) η-Per.

    Major Meteor Showers (Class I)

    Shower Activity Period Maximum Radiant Velocity r Max. Time Moon
    Date S. L. R.A. Dec. km/s ZHR
    Perseids (PER) Jul 13-Aug 26 Aug 12 140.0° 03:12 +57.6° 60.5 2.2 100 0400 19
    (Episode 49)
  • Pisces, named for the Latin plural of fish, occupies 889 square degrees, making it the 14th largest constellation overall. While it is a fairly large constellation, its stars are faint - none are brighter than fourth magnitude - making it challenging to see in the sky with the naked eye. (Episode 50)
  • Aquarius is the 10th largest constellation in the sky, occupying an area of 980 square degrees. (Episode 51)
  • Auroras have been observed on other planets besides Earth. Any planet that has a magnetic field and an atmosphere will have auroral activity. (Episode 52)
  • The odds of being killed by falling space debris is 1 in 5 billion. (Episode 53)
  • The closest black hole to Earth is only 1.6 light-years away. And, just after the Big Bang, everything in the universe was in liquid form. (Episode 54)
  • Let's start the year off with this in mind:
    1. there are no shooting stars; but there are meteors;
    2. there is no 'dark side of the Moon'; but there is a 'far side of the Moon';
    3. astrology is not scientific - you might as well predict your life based on airplane contrails; but Astronomy is the branch of science that deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole. (Episode 55)
  • The reason why the Moon takes on a reddish color during totality is a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. It is the same mechanism responsible for causing colorful sunrises and sunsets, and for the sky to look blue.

    Even though sunlight may look white to human eyes, it is actually composed of different colors. These colors are visible through a prism or in a rainbow (ROYGBIV). Colors towards the red part of the spectrum have longer wavelengths and lower frequencies compared to colors towards the violet part of the spectrum which have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies.

    The next piece of the puzzle of why a totally eclipsed Moon turns red is the Earth's atmosphere. The layer of air surrounding our planet is made up of different gases, water droplets, and dust particles. When sunlight entering the Earth's atmosphere strikes the particles that are smaller than the light's wavelengths, it gets scattered into different directions. Not all colors in the light spectrum, however, are equally scattered. Colors with shorter wavelengths, especially the violet and blue colors, are scattered more strongly, so they are removed from the sunlight before it hits the surface of the Moon during a lunar eclipse. Those with longer wavelengths, like red and orange, pass through the atmosphere. This red-orange light is then bent or refracted around Earth, hitting the surface of the Moon and giving it the reddish-orange glow that total lunar eclipses are famous for. (Episode 56)

  • Hevelius made observations of sunspots, 1642-1645, devoted four years to charting the lunar surface, discovered the Moon's libration in longitude, and published his results in Selenographia, sive Lunae descriptio (1647), a work which entitles him to be called "the founder of lunar topography".

    He discovered four comets, in 1652, 1661 (probably Ikeya-Zhang), 1672 and 1677. These discoveries led to his thesis that such bodies revolve around the Sun in parabolic paths.

    Katharine, his first wife, died in 1662, and a year later Hevelius married Elisabeth Koopmann, the young daughter of a merchant family. The couple had four children. Elisabeth supported him, published two of his works after his death, and is considered the first female astronomer.

    His observatory, instruments and books were destroyed by fire on 26 September 1679. The catastrophe is described in the preface to his Annus climactericus (1685). He promptly repaired the damage enough to enable him to observe the great comet of December 1680. He named the constellation Sextans in memory of these lost instruments.

    In late 1683, in commemoration of the victory of Christian forces led by Polish King John III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna, he invented and named the constellation Scutum Sobiescianum (Sobieski's Shield), now called Scutum. This constellation first occurred publicly in his star atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum, that was printed in his own house at lavish expense, and he himself engraved many of the printing plates.

    His health had suffered from the shock of the 1679 fire and he died on his 76th birthday, 28 January 1687. Hevelius was buried in St. Catherine's Church in his hometown.

    Descendants of Hevelius live in Urzedów in Poland where they support local astronomy enthusiasts. (Episode 57)

  • For the 10 year period surrounding 2019 (i.e., 2014-2024), The March equinox varies between March 19-20; the June solstice varies between June 20-21; the September equinox varies between September 22-23; but the December solstice always occurs on December 21st. (Episode 58)
  • Today, the month of February has 28 days in common years and 29 days in leap years. But February 30 has been a real date at least twice in history.

    Sweden added the date to its 1712 calendar following an earlier calendar error; the Soviet Union observed February 30 in 1930 and 1931 in an attempt to cut seven-day weeks into five-day weeks and to introduce 30-day months for every working month.

    Sweden’s 30 Days of February

    In 1700, Sweden, which included Finland at the time, planned to convert from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

    Therefore 1700, which should have been a leap year in the Julian calendar, was not a leap year in Sweden. However, 1704 and 1708 became leap years by error. This left Sweden out of synchronization with both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars, so the country reverted back to the Julian calendar.

    February 30, 1712, came into existence in Sweden when the Julian calendar was restored and 2 leap days were added that year. Sweden’s final conversion to the Gregorian calendar occurred in 1753, when an 11-day correction was applied so that February 17 was succeeded by March 1 that year. Not everyone was pleased with the calendar reform. Some people believed it stole 11 days of their lives.

    The Soviet Revolutionary Calendar

    February 30 existed from 1930–1931 after the Soviet Union introduced a revolutionary calendar in 1929. This calendar featured five-day weeks, 30-day months for every working month, and the remaining five or six days were “monthless” holidays. The abolition of the seven-day week in favor of a five-day week was intended to improve industrial efficiency by avoiding the regular interruption of a non-working day.

    Restored Week in 1940

    However, the Gregorian calendar continued to be used in the Soviet Union during this period. This is confirmed by successive dates found in daily issues of Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, in which February had 28 days in 1930 and 1931, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. The Soviet revolutionary calendar was discarded as it was difficult to eliminate the Sunday rest tradition. The original seven-day week was restored in 1940.

    The 13th century scholar Johannes de Sacrobosco claimed that February had 30 days in leap years between 45 BC and 8 BC in the Julian calendar, when February was shortened to give the month of August the same length as the month of July. However, historical evidence relating to the Julian calendar refutes Sacrobosco, who was critical of that particular calendar. (Episode 59)

  • It's Monday and you are looking forward to the weekend. Why do you have to wait 5 days until Saturday? And how come the day after Monday is Tuesday and not, say, Sunday? You have an ancient people (in modern-day Iraq) to thank.

    A Week for Each Moon Phase

    The reason why we organize our lives around a 7-day week is, quite literally, above our heads. Like many other calendars, today's Gregorian calendar is ultimately based on the phases of the Moon. It takes the Moon around 29.5 days to cycle through all Moon phases.

    For everyday purposes, this is a fairly long and impractical time span, so it makes sense to break it down into smaller segments.

    Enter the Babylonians. This ancient society, who lived in Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq, rounded the Moon cycle down to 28 days and divided this time span into 4 periods of 7 days each, using leap days to stay in sync with the Moon phases in the long-run.

    7 Planets, 7 Days

    Avid astronomers and astrologers, the Babylonians developed a kind of horoscope around 500 BC where each day of the week was assigned to one of the classical planets – the 7 celestial bodies visible to the naked eye. These are the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.

    Some historical sources claim that the connection between the days of the week and the classical planets was introduced later by the ancient Greeks.

    Roman Gods Named Days of the Week

    However, historians generally agree that it was the Romans who, a few hundred years later, added many features of the modern 7-day week by adapting the Babylonian system to their world view.

    From around the 1st century BC, they introduced a system where each day was named after one of their pagan gods, each of whom was associated with one of the classical planets. For example, Saturday was dies Saturni, the day of Saturn.

    In most Latin-based languages, the names of the weekdays still reveal this connection to the classical planets. However, in most cases, the Roman deities have been replaced by their Norse or Germanic equivalents. (Episode 60)

  • Copernicus was one the brightest Renaissance-era mathematicians and astronomers, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. He died at the age of 70. A Polish forensic team reconstructed his face from his remains. (Episode 61)
  • (Episode 62)

  • Uranus is a real oddball in our solar system. Its spin axis is tilted by a whopping 98 degrees, meaning it essentially spins on its side. No other planet has anywhere near such a tilt. For example, Jupiter is tilted by 3 degrees; Earth by 23 degrees.
  • Shooting stars really aren't stars. They are usually just tiny dust particles falling through our atmosphere and they vaporize due to the heat of friction with the atmospheric gases. Earth sometimes passes through cometary orbits. As comets travel around the Sun, they leave behind dust trails. When Earth encounters that dust, we see an increase in meteors as the particles travel through our atmosphere and are burned up.
  • If you would place a pinhead sized piece of the Sun on the Earth you would die from standing within 145 km (90 miles) from it.
  • Only 5% of the universe is made up of normal matter, 25% is dark matter and 70% is dark energy.
  • The star Lucy in the constellation Centaurus is a huge cosmic diamond of 10 billion trillion trillion carats.
  • Venus,on the other hand, does not have any seasons at all.
  • 1 year on Mercury consists of less than 2 days on Mercury.
  • There are as many oxygen atoms in a breath as breaths of air in the atmosphere.
  • The coldest place in the universe is on Earth. In Wolfgang Ketterles lab in Massachusetts. 0.000000000001 degrees Kelvin.
  • Saturn's moon Titan has liquid oceans of natural gas.
  • All the planets are the same age: 4.544 billion years.
  • Earth's Moon was most likely formed after an early planet named Theia crashed into Earth.
  • 8000 stars are visible with naked eye from Earth. 4000 in each hemisphere, 2000 at daylight and 2000 at night.
  • 90-99% of all normal matter in the universe is hydrogen.
  • All the coal, oil, gas, wood and fuel on Earth would only keep the Sun burning for few days.
  • A single Quasar produce the same amount of energy as 1 trillion suns.
  • A planet nicknamed "The Genesis Planet" has been found to be 12.7 billion years old making it the oldest planet found.
  • The shape of the universe looks a lot like a brain cell.
  • Every year, the Moon is moving away from Earth by 3.8 centimeters.
  • The Moon spins around its axis in the same time it goes one lap around the Earth which makes us always see the same side of it.
  • While in space, astronauts can get taller, but at the same time, their hearts can get smaller.
  • Rogue planets are not bound by any star, brown dwarf or another planet which makes them free-float around the galaxy.
  • Sweeps 10 is the planet with the shortest orbital period found. It orbits its star in only 10 hours.
  • 85% of all stars in our galaxy are part of multiple-star systems.
  • Some brown dwarfs have liquid iron rain falling down on them.
  • The light emitting from the Sun is actually 30.000 years old.
  • Of the over 20 million meteors that are observable every day only one or two reach the surface of Earth.
  • There are at least 10^24 stars in the universe.
  • Certain “star quakes” have been found to tear apart the surface of neutron stars.
  • Any free-moving liquid in outer space will form itself into a sphere due to surface tension.
  • The crews of commercial airlines face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. A likely reason: cosmic rays. High energy particles from space hitting the top of Earth's atmosphere create a spray of secondary radiation that penetrates the walls of airplanes flying above ~20,000 feet.

6. The Buffer Zone

  • Astronomy is "free". (Episode 2)
  • Beggar's Night, Jokes and Halloween (while growing up in Iowa). (Episode 5)
  • Leonid meteor storm (1999); an annual Leonid shower may deposit 12 or 13 tons of particles across the entire planet. (Episode 6)
  • "Reading a Book" under the light of the full Moon. (Episode 7)
  • Resources and Links at The Astronomical Almanac website. (Episode 8)
  • Comet Bennett at 4:00 in the morning. (Episode 27)

  • "Sleeping out" under the stars.
  • Before "smart" telescopes.
copyright © 2017-2018 Robert A. Antol