Saturday/ 44 years ago 🌋

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the 1980 Mt St Helens eruption.

‘We know that Mount St. Helens is the volcano in the Cascades most likely to erupt again in our lifetimes. It is likely that the types, frequencies, and magnitudes of past activity will be repeated in the future. However, neither a large debris avalanche nor a major lateral blast like those of May 18, 1980 is likely now that a deep crater has formed’.
– Cascades Volcano Observatory, Mount St. Helens, Nov. 3, 2023 (from the website)

Mount St. Helens prior to the catastrophic eruption of May 18, 1980. Streams and lava flows also visible. View is looking southerly from oblique aerial view. Mount Hood in distance.
[Photo and description from website]
Plinian eruption column from May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens. Aerial view from the Southwest.
[Photo and description from website]

Tuesday/ planet Mars 🛰️

Here is a new image of the Martian surface, taken by the Perseverance rover.
The atmosphere of Mars is much thinner than Earth’s.
The Red Planet’s atmosphere contains more than 95% carbon dioxide and much less than 1% oxygen.
Gravity on Mars is about 38% of the gravity of Earth, due to its smaller mass.

Picture posted by Curiosity @MAstronomers on X

Saturday/ the northern lights

We were treated to a rare display of the northern lights here from Seattle on Friday night.
I took the first two pictures from my back porch around midnight on Friday.
The third picture was taken by my friend Thomas from Kitsap Peninsula. Look for the grouping of stars called the Big Dipper (a big ladle, left-of-middle, top of picture).

Sunday/ the black sun is coming ☀️

Anticipation of the total eclipse of the sun that is about to be visible in a large swath of North America, is at a fever pitch.
The eclipse will be visible starting at 12:06 p.m. CDT near Eagle Pass, Texas, before progressing to totality by about 1:27 p.m. CDT.
It will progress along its path to the northeast over the next few hours and the last of the eclipse in North America will be seen from Caribou, Maine at 4:40 p.m. EDT.

It does look like there will be cloud cover in several places along the way.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we will only see some 20% of the sun being obscured by the moon, and that is if the clouds allow it.

The Black Sun at Volunteer Park tonight.  
The sculpture of black Brazilian granite on a concrete base was created in 1969 by Isamu Noguchi.

Tuesday/ the earthquake in Taiwan 🏞️

The Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked the island during the morning rush Wednesday, damaging buildings and creating a tsunami that washed ashore on southern Japanese islands. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, and the tsunami threat largely passed about two hours later.

Despite the quake striking at the height of the morning rush hour just before 8 a.m., the initial panic faded quickly on the island that is regularly rocked by temblors and prepares for them with drills at schools and notices issued via public media and mobile phone.

Still, the earthquake was strong enough to scare people who are used to such shaking.

“Earthquakes are a common occurrence, and I’ve grown accustomed to them. But today was the first time I was scared to tears by an earthquake,” Taipei resident Hsien-hsuen Keng said. ”I was awakened by the earthquake. I had never felt such intense shaking before.”

A five-story building in the lightly populated southeastern coastal city of Hualien near the epicenter appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle. In the capital, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes, while debris fell from some building sites. Schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some also covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.
[Image taken from a video footage run by TVBS]

Saturday/ change the time ⌚

Just on the border of your waking mind
There lies another time
Where darkness and light are one
And as you tread the halls of sanity
You feel so glad to be
Unable to go beyond
I have a message from another time
– Lyrics from ‘Prologue’ on the album ‘Time’ by Electric Light Orchestra, 1981

It’s time to fiddle with our clocks again here in the United States.
Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday morning at 2 am.

Yeah, an hour extra daylight at the end of the day— robbed from the daylight in the early morning.

So we’re not really saving any daylight now, are we?

Saturday/ 14,000 feet under the sea 🌊

‘Alien-looking lobsters, sponges, urchins, sea stars and sea lilies are among the creatures deep-sea explorers found off the coast of Chile.
Deep-sea explorers searching below the waves off the coast of Chile may have found more than 100 species completely new to science.

The potential discovery of the new creatures across 10 seamounts in the southeast Pacific does more than just add to the depth of understanding of the sheer diversity of ocean life. For the researchers, it shows how ocean protections put in place by the Chilean government are working to bolster biodiversity, an encouraging sign for other countries looking to safeguard their marine waters’.
– From a report by Dino Grandoni for the Washington Post of Feb. 24.
– Pictures are stills from a video by the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Friday/ crossing the equator 🌎

We were sailing just about due south, as we crossed the equator at noon today, close to Manta on the coast of Ecuador.
The captain made an announcement, and sounded the horn of the ship.

There it is, the imaginary line that divides Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.
My weather app instantly changed the location from North Pacific Ocean to South Pacific Ocean, and the latitude has now turned negative (south) as well.
(Thanks to Bryan for the iPhone compass picture).
There was pickleball today— on deck and on the equator, how about that?
Two of the five pickleball Amigos from Seattle showed off their skills on the very breezy pickleball enclosure.
The entire space is enclosed by netting, so that the pickleball cannot go flying into the ocean. Great! 

Tuesday/ peering deep and wide 🌌

Euclid is a wide-angle space telescope with a 600-megapixel camera to record visible light, a near-infrared spectrometer, and photometer, to determine the redshift of detected galaxies. It was developed by the European Space Agency and the Euclid Consortium, and was launched on 1 July 2023.
– Wikipedia

Today, the European Space Agency shared the first images obtained from the telescope.

One thousand galaxies belonging to the Perseus Cluster with more than 100,000 additional galaxies visible farther away. Each can contain up to hundreds of billions of stars.
[Courtesy European Space Agency/Euclid Consortium/NASA; image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre, G. Anselmi]
The spiral galaxy IC 342, an intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Camelopardalis, located relatively close to our own Milky Way galaxy.
Radius 35,000 light years | discovered 1892 | distance from Earth 10.76 million light years.
[Courtesy the European Space Agency/Euclid Consortium/NASA; image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre, G. Anselmi]
The Horsehead Nebula is a small dark nebula in the constellation Orion (in the Milky Way galaxy).
Radius 3.5 light years | discovered 1888 | distance from Earth 1,500 light years.
[Courtesy of the European Space Agency/Euclid Consortium/NASA; image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre, G. Anselmi]
Irregular galaxy NGC 6822.
Discovered 1884 | distance from Earth 1.6 million light years.
[Courtesy the European Space Agency/Euclid Consortium/NASA; image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre, G. Anselmi]
A full view of the globular cluster NGC 6397 in constellation Ara in the Milky Way.
Radius 34 light years | distance from Earth 7,800 light years.
[Courtesy the European Space Agency/Euclid Consortium/NASA; image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre, G. Anselmi]

Sunday/ one more jab 💉

I ran out and got the new RSV vaccine yesterday (from Pfizer, marketed as ‘Abrysvo’). It does feel like my system is reacting to it, more so than was the case for the flu shot or the latest COVID vaccine.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces (and from what I understand, not by airborne transmission).
RSV causes mild cold symptoms in most people, but if the virus ends up  flourishing in the lungs, it can lead to hospitalization and even death in older people and babies.

Researchers have been trying for decades to create effective RSV vaccines.
One turning point came with the investigation of an RSV protein called ‘RSV prefusion (RSV preF)’ that turned out to provide potent stimulation of the immune system.

Abrysvo contains proteins from the surfaces of two strains of the RSV virus. When a person is given the vaccine, the immune system treats the viral proteins as ‘foreign’ entities and makes defenses against them. If, later on, the vaccinated person comes into contact with the virus, the immune system will recognize the viral proteins and be prepared to attack it.

An illustration of how subunit vaccines work, from Pfizer’s website.
This mechanism is one of SIX major categorizations of vaccines. Ready?
1. Live-attenuated vaccines (such as for measles/mumps/rubella, chicken pox).
2. Inactivated vaccines (for polio, flu).
3. Subunit vaccines (shingles, hepatitus B, and now RSV).
4. Toxoid vaccines (such as for tetanus, diphteria).
5. Viral vector vaccines (such as the Ebola vaccine, some COVID vaccines).
6. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (used for Pfizer’s COVID vaccine).

Wednesday/ when trees were mushrooms 🌋

Etching depicting some of the most significant plants of the Carboniferous.
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic that spans 60 million years from the end of the Devonian Period 358.9 million years ago, to the beginning of the Permian Period, 298.9 mya.
[Picture: Bibliographisches Institut – Meyers Konversationslexikon]
From the 2021 book ‘A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth’ by Henry Gee:
The Carboniferous* lycopod forests were not like this at all (trees with wood and bark). The lycopods, like their Devonian forebears, were hollow, supported by thick skin rather than heartwood, and covered in green, leaflike scales. Indeed, the entire plant— the trunk and the crown of dropping branches alike— was scaly. With no columns of vessels to transport food, each of the scales was photosynthetic, supplying food to the tissues close by.
          Even stranger to our eyes, these trees spent most of their lives as inconspicuous stumps in the ground. Only when it was ready to reproduce did a tree grow, a pole shooting upward like a firework in slow motion to explode in a crown of branches that would broadcast spores into the wind.
          Once the spores had been shed, the tree would die.
          Over many years of wind and weather, fungi and bacteria would etch away at the husk until it collapsed onto the sodden forest floor below. A lycopod forest looked like the desolate landscape of the First World War Western Front: a craterscape of hollow stumps filled with a refuse of water and death; the trees, like poles, denuded of all leaves or branches, rising from a mire of decay. There was very little shade and no understory apart from the deepening litter forming around the shattered wrecks of the lycopod trunks.

Tuesday/ mushrooms 🍄

The mushroom spores in the ground in my backyard have started to sprout— the way they usually do in October.
The right kind of soil, and changes in temperature, light and water, trigger them to start growing.

Mushrooms, as living organisms, belong to a kingdom separate from plants (see table below).

MoneraBacteria, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), and spirochetes
ProtistaProtozoans and algae of various types
FungiFunguses, molds, mushrooms, yeasts, mildews, and smuts
PlantaeMosses, ferns, woody and non-woody flowering plants
AnimaliaSponges, worms, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals

Saturday/ the partial solar eclipse 🌛

The band of area from which the ‘ring of fire’ view of the solar eclipse could be seen ran through the Pacific Northwest, New Mexico and Texas.
Farther afield, the moon passing in front of the sun made it appear as a crescent shape. 
[Source: Eclipse data from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio]
The ‘ring of fire’ as seen from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Here in Seattle, the sun came out from behind the clouds just in time for this morning’s partial solar eclipse.
At about 9.20 am, 81% of the sun was obscured.

Here is my own ‘pin hole camera’ view of the sun, taken at about 9.11 am in Seattle. (The sun’s light passing through three pin holes in a piece of tin plate, catching the crescent shape of the sun not obscured by the moon).

Tuesday/ got my flu shot 💉

I got my flu shot today, the one branded as the FLUCELVAX® Quad 2023-24.
It’s the first flu vaccine in the United States that was cultured in cells* and not in chicken eggs.

Some observational studies have shown cell culture-based vaccines to provide greater protection against flu or flu-like illness (as opposed to ones grown in eggs).

*From the CDC’s website: ‘Cell culture-based flu vaccine production does not require chicken eggs because the vaccine viruses used to make vaccine are grown in mammalian cell cultures (no animals are harmed by this process)’.

One of several animal posters published by the CDC to tout the benefits of the flu vaccine.

Wednesday/ keeping an eye on Apophis 🌠

I stumbled across an old YouTube video in which astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the dire possibility of giant asteroid Apophis hitting Earth.

Luckily, I also found this updated report on NASA’s web site:
Estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, Apophis quickly gained notoriety as an asteroid that could pose a serious threat to Earth when astronomers predicted that it would come uncomfortably close in 2029. Thanks to additional observations of Apophis, the risk of an impact in 2029 was later ruled out, as was the potential impact risk posed by another close approach in 2036. Until March 2021, however, a small chance of impact in 2068 still remained.

When Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth around March 5, 2021, astronomers took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, enabling them to confidently rule out any impact risk in 2068 and long after.


Wednesday/ behold the whirlpool galaxy 🌌

In 2011, scientists imaging M51 with Hubble hoped to capture the galaxy with the James Webb Space Telescope one day. That day has arrived.
– Monisha Ravisetti writing for

Messier 51 (M51), the ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’ — also known as NGC 5194 — lies about 27 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici, and is trapped in a tumultuous relationship with its near neighbor, the dwarf galaxy NGC 5195.
This description of the image from the European Space Agency: A large spiral galaxy takes up the entirety of the image. The core is mostly bright white, but there are also swirling, detailed structures that resemble water circling a drain. There is white and pale blue light that emanates from stars and dust at the core’s centre, but it is tightly limited to the core. The rings feature colors of deep red and orange and highlight filaments of dust around cavernous black bubbles.
[Image credit: NASA/ James Webb Space Telescope]

Saturday/ a meteor shower 🌠

Here is the news
Coming to you every hour upon the hour
Here is the news
The weather’s fine
But there may be a meteor shower
– From Electric Light Orchestra’s 1982 concept album “Time”, about a man from 1981 travelling into the far off future of 2095 and having to deal with the stresses and setbacks of the future.
In this song, a news program is playing all the hourly (and quite depressing) headlines, some of which do have basis in reality.

It is a great year to look for Perseid meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere (and burn up), and this weekend is the peak time to do that.
There is a crescent moon in the sky, meaning the sky will be dark.
The best time to catch them is just before dawn— around 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. local time (eek!).
One can expect to see a Perseid every minute or so, or roughly 40 to 50 an hour during the peak, though rates could be even higher under ideal viewing conditions.

A Perseid meteor makes its entrance to the Earth’s atmosphere, seen looking east at 6,000 feet on top of Table Mountain near Ellensburg.
[Photo by Steve Ringman, published in The Seattle Times, 2010]

Friday/ the week that was 🛸

David Grusch, a former employee of the Pentagon’s UAP task force, even claimed that the government has recovered “non-human” “biologics” at the scene of various crashes. Say what?

Happy Friday after a busy news week.

From the Washington Post:
On Wednesday alone, the hearing for “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAP) by a House Oversight subcommittee had stiff competition for the public’s attention.
A plea deal involving President Biden’s son Hunter fell apart in court, raising questions about the future of the government’s case against him for tax and gun charges.
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was escorted out of a news conference after he appeared momentarily unable to speak, sparking concerns about the Senate minority leader’s health.
Donald Trump was charged with 3 more counts in the documents case, along with a new co-conspirator, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago. (Charges for the Jan.6 events are still expected).
And the ongoing, dramatic heat waves in Europe and the United States and wildfires in Canada and North Africa continued — with rising warnings about how climate change is rapidly altering life on Earth.