Lunar fogbow? Beautiful, whatever you call it

January 10, 2017

I follow Phil Plait to get smart and stay informed about the stars and the universe.

Sometimes it’s just the sheer beauty one finds that wakes you up.

Phil posted this on Twitter, a lunar fogbow:

From Twitter, Phil Plait: Göran Strand (@astrofotografen) captured a VERY rare sight: a lunar fogbow! http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/12/26/g_ran_strand_photo_of_a_very_rare_lunar_fogbow.html …

From Twitter, Phil Plait: Göran Strand (@astrofotografen) captured a VERY rare sight: a lunar fogbow! http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/12/26/g_ran_strand_photo_of_a_very_rare_lunar_fogbow.html

Plait’s explanations are fun:

Göran Strand is an amazing astrophotographer whose work I’ve highlighted here many times. He has an astonishing skill in making beautiful photographs out of rare and bizarre phenomena.

It’s not just a beautiful photograph. It’s a rather rare phenomenon beautifully captured by Göran Strand, and wonderfully explained by Plait at his blog at Slate:

And here he is once again: That photo above shows that’s quite uncommon sigh: a fogbow! But this being Strand, even that’s not unusual enough. For him, it had to be even more difficult to track down. That’s not just a fogbow, it’s a lunar fogbow!

Fogbows are similar to rainbows, in that they’re caused by water droplets, but in detail they’re very different. In a rainbow, sunlight is bent and reflected inside a raindrop, and sent off at an angle. The drops are big compared to the wavelength of light, so they act a bit like mirrors. Each color of sunlight, though, bends at a slightly different angle, separating them, creating the multihued rainbow.

Plait’s got more good science explanation. Go see.

Strand has photos to sell in various formats. I see in a lot of offices, “inspirational” posters with good photos and occasionally-pithy-but-often-banal sayings and platitudes, hoped by bosses to spur productivity on the cheap. Order up a sizable print from Strand, get the full description of the photo, and mount it in your office instead. You’re likely to discover than genuine natural beauty from awe-inspiring photos spurs creativity and productivity more than the stock photos and stock sayings.

Those photos are starting points for learning, too, teachers. Real photos, worthy of any history, economics, geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, geological science or environmental science class.

Try ’em and see.

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Milky Way in Navajoland: YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ

May 13, 2014

Milky Way over Monument Valley Navajo Park. Photo by Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović, from the video

Milky Way over Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Photo by Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović, from the video (which also features Grand Canyon National Park)

Phil Plait’s column/blog at Slate, Bad Astronomy, put me on to this one.  Wow.

You can see it at Vimeo, and read a lot more about the making of the film.

YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ (Navajo for Milky Way or “That Which Awaits the Dawn”)

Phil wrote:

And that they do. The Milky Way is the star of the show; the galactic bulge, disk, and dark fingers of vast dust lanes as clear as if this were taken from space. Well, sort of; I was impressed by the mix of clouds and sky, to be honest. The contrast was interesting, and it’s rather amazing the Milky Way could stand out so clearly above the cloud line.

One thing I want to point out specifically: At 2:10 in, a meteor flashes and leaves behind a curling wisp of what looks like smoke. This is called a persistent train, the vaporized remains of the meteoroid itself, and can glow for several minutes. The upper level winds from 60–100 km above Earth’s surface are what blow it into those curlicues.

More details, for more films from these guys:

Shot and Produced by: Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović
Music: A Seated Night (Ambient) by Moby. Courtesy MobyGratis.com / Unknown Native Chant
Thanks: Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park.

See other Sunchaser Timelapses on Vimeo here: vimeo.com/album/189653
LIKE Sunchaser Pictures on Facebook! facebook.com/SunchaserPicturesPage
LIKE Bloodhoney on Facebook! facebook.com/blood.honey.by.harun.mehmedinovic

For more from the artists:

BloodHoney.com
SunchaserPictures.com

 


Why real science is better in school than faux science

March 1, 2008

P. Z. Myers notes the silliness that anti-science types get involved in, especially when they attempt to make scientists look bad over something complex enough that it just can’t be worked out — leap years!

The two most amusing explanations for why we have leap years that I’ve heard came from creationists:

  1. Those scientists can’t even measure the length of the year accurately! They have to keep fudging their numbers every few years to make everything add up, so why should I trust them?
  2. We have leap years because the earth is slowing down in its orbit, which proves that the earth can’t be old — a million years ago the earth would have been whirling around the sun so fast it would have flown out of orbit!

Phil Plait at the misnamed (for this post) Bad Astronomy explains in glorious mathematical detail how leap year calculations work, and why we need wait around for more than three millennia to lobby for another calendar correction. Phil is really a remarkable story teller, for an astronomer:

We have two basic units of time: the day and the year. Of all the everyday measurements we use, these are the only two based on concrete physical events: the time it takes for the Earth to spin once on its axis, and the time it takes to go around the Sun. Every other unit of time we use (second, hour, week, month) is rather arbitrary. Convenient, but they are not based on independent, non-arbitrary events.

It takes roughly 365 days for the Earth to orbit the Sun once. If it were exactly 365 days, we’d be all set! Our calendars would be the same every year, and there’d be no worries.

But that’s not the way things are. There are not an exactly even number of days in a year; there are about 365.25 days in a year. That means every year, our calendar is off by about a quarter of a day, an extra 6 or so hours just sitting there, left over. After four years, then, the yearly calendar is off by roughly one day:

4 years at 365 (calendar) days/year = 1460 days, but4 years at 365.25 (physical) days/year = 1461 days.

These are mysteries that beg for explanations in social studies classes. For example, the differences in George Washington’s birth date, as recorded in the year he was born, and as listed today, are due to England’s and the English-speaking world’s late adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, switching from the Julian (England made the switch in 1752, about a half century after almost everyone else in the west, 170 years after Pope Gregory XIII proposed it).

Pope Gregory, who ordered new calendars, better to calculate religious feast days, like Easter. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced about 1583, with leap years. The actual time between two yearly solar events isn't 365 days exactly. It's actually 365.2422 days — so every four years there's approximately one extra day left over.  (NPR image and information)

Pope Gregory, who ordered new calendars, better to calculate religious feast days, like Easter. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced about 1583, with leap years. The actual time between two yearly solar events isn’t 365 days exactly. It’s actually 365.2422 days — so every four years there’s approximately one extra day left over. (NPR image and information)

If nothing else, social studies should be good for providing cocktail party trivia, shouldn’t it? And it won’t really matter to you unless one is a scientist launching rockets at a distant planet, or a churchman trying to fix the date of Easter, or a farmer trying to be certain the planting calendar is accurate to the season, or a commodities futures trader trying to figure out when agricultural goods come to market, or a mortgage banker working to make sure mortgages are calculated correctly for the next 30 years and that notices go out to homeowners as required by law, or a homeowner checking up on your mortgage bank, or an average investor checking up on your commodities futures traders and REIT investment advisor, or just a kid interested in the minutiae of how science really affects us in our every day lives.

Now we wonder: In comments, will some creationist bring up the old canard about Harold Hill and NASA’s calculations being off by the one day Joshua stopped the sun?

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Hall of Fame: Debunking the Moon landing hoax hoax

December 10, 2006

Apollo 14 on the moon - Alan Shepard?

Photo from Apollo 14 Moon Mission

 

In a classroom discussion of “how do we know what we know” about history, another student brought up the allegations that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) faked the manned Moon landings. That makes about a dozen times this year a kid has mentioned this claim (who thinks to start counting these things?). The kid was pretty unshakable in his convictions — after all, he said, how can a flag wave in a vacuum?

I usually mention a couple of things that the fake claimers leave out — that dozens, if not hundreds, of amateur astronomers tracked the astronauts on their way to the Moon, that many people intercepted the radio transmissions from the Moon, that one mission retrieved debris from an earlier unmanned landing, etc. Younger students who lack experience in serious critical thinking have difficulty with these concepts. They also lack the historic background — the last manned Moon landing occurred when their parents were kids, perhaps. They didn’t grow up with NASA launches on television, and the whole world holding its breath to see what wonders would be found in space.

Phil Plait runs a fine blog called Bad Astronomy. Five years ago he got fed up with the Fox Television program claiming the Moon landings were hoaxes, and he made a significant reply that should be in some hall of fame for debunking hoaxes. Since the claim that the Moon landings were hoaxes is, itself, a hoax, I have titled this “Debunking the Moon landing hoax hoax.”

In any case, if you’re wondering about whether the Moon landings were hoaxes, you need to see Phil Plait’s post. Phil writes:

From the very first moment to the very last, the program is loaded with bad thinking, ridiculous suppositions and utterly wrong science. I was able to get a copy of the show in advance, and although I was expecting it to be bad, I was still surprised and how awful it was. I took four pages of notes. I won’t subject you to all of that here; it would take hours to write. I’ll only go over some of the major points of the show, and explain briefly why they are wrong.

Also, consider these chunks of evidence, which Phil does not mention so far as I know:

First, the first Moon landing left a mirror on the surface, off of which Earth-bound astronomers may bounce laser transmissions in order to measure exactly the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Read the rest of this entry »


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