Powered by Squarespace

Look Up in the Sky 

Originally Published  Astronomy.Com


Monday, April 6
If you head outside after darkness falls tonight and look due west, you’ll see the stars of Taurus the Bull about one-third of the way to the zenith. The V-shaped Hyades star cluster, which forms the Bull’s face, points straight toward the horizon. To the right of the Hyades lies the spectacular Pleiades star cluster (M45) and to the left are the glittering jewels that form Orion the Hunter’s shape.

Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun today. From our earthly perspective, this means the distant planet lies behind our star and thus remains out of sight. Uranus will return to the morning sky in May.

Tuesday, April 7
The Moon travels approximately 13° relative to the background stars every 24 hours, and this motion carries it to Saturn’s vicinity tonight. Although the two solar system objects rise around 11 p.m. local daylight time this evening, they climb higher and move closer to each other after midnight. By 4 a.m., they will be just 3° apart and some 30° above the southern horizon. (The Moon passes 2° north of the planet at 9 a.m. EDT.)

Europa occulrs Io the evening of April 8 starting just a minute after the scene shown here. Less than two hours later Europa eclipses Io.

Europa occults Io the evening of April 8 starting just a minute after the scene shown here. Less than two hours later, Europa eclipses Io.

Astronomy: Roen Kelly

Wednesday, April 8
Although Jupiter reached opposition and peak visibility two months ago (on February 6), it remains a stunning sight from dusk until it sets around 4 a.m. local daylight time. The brilliant planet shines at magnitude –2.3 and stands due south and nearly 70° above the horizon as twilight fades to darkness. Jupiter’s westward motion relative to the starry background comes to a halt today at a point just 5° east-southeast of the Beehive star cluster (M44) in Cancer. Typical 7x50 binoculars will show them both in the same field of view. If you target the giant planet through a telescope, you’ll see its 41"-diameter disk and lots of atmospheric detail. Also pay attention tonight to the moons Io and Europa — Jupiter’s third- and fourth-largest satellite, respectively. Europa partially occults Io for five minutes starting at 11:51 p.m. EDT; Europa will eclipse Io for four minutes beginning at 1:38 a.m. EDT tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 9
Although the calendar may say it is spring, the so-called Winter Hexagon remains prominent on April evenings. One of the sky’s largest asterisms — a recognizable pattern of stars separate from a constellation’s form — the hexagon stands out in the western sky after darkness falls. To trace this asterism, start with southern Orion’s luminary, Rigel. From there, the hexagon makes a clockwise loop. The second stop is brilliant Sirius in Canis Major. Next, pick up Procyon in the faint constellation Canis Minor, then the twins Castor and Pollux in Gemini, followed by Capella in Auriga, Aldebaran in Taurus, and finally back to Rigel.

Mercury passes behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective this evening. Although the solar glare hides Mercury, the innermost planet’s rapid motion will carry it into view after sunset in just two weeks. This will be the start of Mercury’s finest evening appearance of the year for Northern Hemisphere observers.

Venus shines brilliantly in the southeast before dawn this month.

Venus appears near the Pleiades on April 10, much like it did the evening of April 10, 2007, when the star cluster lay just above the planet on the right side of this image.

Tunç Tezel

Friday, April 10
Brilliant Venus dazzles in the western sky after sunset all week. But tonight offers a special treat as the planet passes 3° south of the stunning Pleiades star cluster (M45). The pair remains on view from twilight until after 10 p.m. local daylight time. Binoculars will deliver the best views of this dramatic conjunction. If you turn a telescope on Venus, you’ll see a disk that spans 15" and appears about three-quarters lit.

Saturday, April 11
Last Quarter Moon arrives at 11:44 p.m. EDT. It doesn’t rise until around 2:30 a.m. local daylight time tomorrow morning, however, and will climb well above the southeastern horizon as dawn approaches. Throughout this period, the half-lit orb lies among the background stars of Sagittarius the Archer, northeast of that constellation’s Teapot asterism.

Sunday, April 12
With the Moon’s glare diminished now that our satellite has waned to a crescent, it’s a good time to view Saturn. The ringed planet shines at magnitude 0.2 among the background stars of northern Scorpius, a region that climbs highest in the south around the time twilight begins. This morning, the planet lies 0.8° northwest of magnitude 4.1 Nu (ν) Scorpii. If you target the planet through a telescope, you’ll see its 18"-diameter disk surrounded by a beautiful ring system that spans 41" and tilts 25° to our line of sight.



Our Ancestors Were Smart, Are WE?

Where did we get this idea that the ancient peoples thought the Earth was flat? 

Recently, Senator Ted Cruz compared himself to Galileo when he stated, “ It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.” 

Wrong on so many levels. Everybody loves to compare themselves to this man. Especially crackpots.

Galileo Galilei got in trouble, not because he thought the world was round, but because he taught that the Earth orbited the Sun ,not the accepted view at the time. 

I remember being taught this in the seventh grade. When Columbus made his proposal to the Spanish King and Queen to reach the east by sailing west, the argument against it was not that the ships would fall off the edge of the Earth. Ferdinand brought in his royal scholars and asked them if hey saw any problems. 

Columbus was not the first to come up with this idea. And the royal scholars had heard it all before. They told the king that the journey was too far. The sailors would die of starvation before before they reached China. They sighted Greek text from Eratosthenes as far back as fifth century BCE that showed the world to be around 25,000 miles in circumference.


The irony is that they were right. Columbus had used some faulty math and thought that the Earth was much smaller.

Had there not been a relatively unknown land mass (later known as the North and South Americas) Columbus and his men would have all died at sea. 

Now I can remember my teacher, Mrs. Davis, explaining this to us in the seventh grade. I even remember thinking that I was glad I had reached the point in my education where I was starting to get some facts. 

I had earlier been told that story about how even educated people back then thought the Earth had an edge to it. But know I was growing up, and could be told the unedited tale. It didn't need to be all cut and dried simple. 

But as I grew, it came to my attention that most people seemed to lack this information. When I pressed people with questions, some even lit up with recognition. Oh yea, they would say, I forgot about that. 

And while we are on the subject, the “Flat Earth” concept is rather new. And the Flat Earth Society is stronger now than it ever was, thanks to the internet. 

I’ve notice this tendency, especial in history. People tend to believe the first story they were told. Everyone remembers that the American Revolution was about “no taxation without representation.” Few of us remember what we learned in high school, about how so many of the English agreed with this idea. 

You might be led to suspect that the earlier an idea is put in your head, the longer it takes to get it out.




Religious Liberty V Human Rights. 

Or you’re against presuppositionalism ? Then we can't do bussiness

Let me say first , this is not an original idea. I’ve heard Penn Gillette talk about it on his pod cast. I’ve seen it mentioned for other situations in variations for years.


First, lets define the problem. Some religious people want to reserve the right not to offer their goods and or services to other people because those other people have a lifestyle they disagree with for religious reasons.


The godly folk argue that their religious rights supersede the human rights of those others. I know of no other way to put it. Now despite what they claim, most of the religious do not follow Biblical law to the letter. Ironically, because they stamp all over the human rights of others. I don’t find any Christians who advocate going down to the WalMart on a Sunday afternoon and stoning the workers to death. Or Jews who will do it on Saturday. (see footnote.)

But I digress. How to solve this problem.

One way, and it is quite simple, is to adopt a universally accepted symbol for people who want to use this power. Something that does not choose any religion over another. No crosses or stars or crescent moon. That way, anybody of any religion can use it.

Lets say, for the sake of demonstration, we use a blue uppercase “R” on a white background in a square. Simple enough.

Now, the owner of the business can use this to inform potential customers that this operation reserves the right to refuse service to anyone on religious grounds.

The card must be displayed conspicuously on all doors, advertisements and in the case of restaurants , all menus. To ensure this right, the establishment must take the responsibility to informing potential customers of the position of said establishment.

And there you go. Do this tomorrow, and the problem will go away next week.

Just not the way some people think.

At first blush it would seem that the godly folks are getting what they want. Well, they are. They get to choose who they do business with. Are you gay? Sorry, no seats here. Do you support a woman’s right to choose? Please buy your flowers at some other florist.

And it can go deeper. Southern Baptist can refuse to serve Later Day Saints. I know a lot of Southern Baptist who would jump at this.

Excuse me? Did you say you’re against presuppositionalism ? Well, you can take your order for a wedding cake somewhere else and go to hell in the bargain.

But there is a second side to that coin. By placing that symbol in your doorway, you announce that you don't want to do business with a percentage of the population, but you disagree with a notion that many people in our country take for granted.

You are announcing that you don't like the very American ideal that all people are to be free from persecution because of race , creed , religion, national origin or sexual preference.

You are telling your prospective clients that you are a bigot.

 You know, there are some places in this country where that idea will fly.

 Just not most places.


 * Foot note

As a side note, please don’t tell me that Christians don’t do this because the Messiah fulfilled the Judaic law. People who state this never read the words of Jesus in Matthew 17 and 18. There he states that he is not here to change the law.



Happy Birthday Harry!

Today would be Houdini's birthday. Erik Weisz , as he was known to his family, was born in Budapest. You could easily call him the first Superstar.

If you would like a good movie about the guy, I would suggest Houdini staring Adrian Brody. I think it takes as little license with the story as it could. Well, the way the disapearing elephant is shown is completely wrong. But what are you gonna do?  BTW, its available on Netflix.

It pains me to say this, because the kid in me is a George Pal fan, but stay away from the movie he made with Tony Curtis. That version has almost nothing right in the story.

No, he did not die on stage.

It innores his brother, and his mother never spoke english. 

Now if you'd like a good book on the subject, I recomend, "The Secrect Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero" by William Kalush. 




Most Conspiracy Theories Fall Apart Why? Can You Keep A Secret?

Conspiracy theories tend to fall apart.

Don't get me wrong, there are conspiracies out there. Watergate comes to mind. People conspired to make that happen. 

And I should point out, that just until a few years ago , I was a card carrying theorist myself concerning the JFK assassination  . I could quote you chapter and verse on anomalies like pristine bullets and telephone system failures. Like most people my age, I saw that entire drama spread out in front of me like a three act play on television . 

I understand the feeling that something with this much impact on my own life, just could not be something as simple as one man. I just had to be bigger than we were told. There was no other way it could be.

I think I hit the high point of my belief just before the Oliver Stone movie, "JFK" was released. Not long after I saw that film, things started getting , for want of a better word, weird.

Holes started showing up in the narrative we theorist had been following. The first real crack in the wall came from the unlikely source of the magicians, Penn & Teller. One of their magic books had an article using a watermelon to show how Kennedy's head would have moved in that seemingly unexplainable way.  If he was shot from behind, wouldn't his head moved forward, instead of backward as in the Zapruper film?

(Just a quick note here. The above hyperlink does not take you to the real Zapruper film, but rather, the Google page ABOUT said film)
And there in the demonstration, there was the melon moving backwards.

But there was more. Lots more. The famous Washington DC phone system breakdown was mostly a non event. Witnesses deaths under strange circumstances, we're not so statistically abnormal, and no where near as against all odds as had been previously stated in the press. And the famous magic bullet was easily explained. Yes, when you demonstrate it with people sitting  in straight chairs, as they did in the movie, it looks like the projectile went all over the map. 

But put the victims in a car. Have that car move. Add the confusion of shots fired. Things don't look as down pat anymore.

But the major thing that seals the deal on this and almost any other conspiracy theory is this :
Look how many people had to know, and keep quiet. 

A conservative estimate is in the hundreds. People in the FBI, the Congress, the Texas law enforcement, the Department of Justice and even the Mafia all had to have some knowledge of it. Maybe not all these groups, and certainly not everyone in them, but some of these people had to know something. Before, or at least after.

I can't help but think what Ben Franklin said about two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.

After fifty years, someone should have come forward by now. 

All we hear are crickets.

This thing about everyone keeping quiet after so many years is the bane of most conspiracy theories.  Its just too unlikely. 

There's another "black opp" out there that's getting its share of press of late. "Big Pharma" . This one almost has legs. Big drug companies allegedly keep cures off the market to keep people, just sick enough, to continue milking them of all their money. It sounds almost plausible .

But wait. Nobody in this company has loved ones who could benefit from these drugs that they are keeping from us? Nobody? No one wants to be the hero? No one wants to be listed in history as the person who wiped out heart disease?

All these people are quiet?

I'm not buying that.

Here's one of my favorites.  Extraterrestrial beings have landed and governments conspire to keep it under wraps?

No one ever explains why though.

Well, sometimes you hear that the information is kept out of the mainstream because the public would panic.
According to who? The proof of extraterrestrial life, even if it were only microbial , would easily be the most exciting news of the century. And consider this. The discovery of any such kind of life would instantly galvanize the public, with almost everyone demanding that we learn everything we can. 

Right now we live in a time when scientist pay for most of their research with grant money. The average astronomer must submit twelve grants before one becomes available . A process that takes an average of two years to come to fruition .

If ET was discovered tomorrow, you can bet that lots of grants would become available.

But of course, NASA, and National Science Foundation, and every astronomer and astrophysics major in every country in the world is keeping mum on this.

And why ? I don't know. Avoiding panic, or something.