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.
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. Aplea 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.
the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is farthest from the sun.
the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is closest to the sun.
Happy Aphelion Day.
Today at 2:06 p.m. Pacific time, Earth was at the outermost point in its (slightly elliptical) orbit around our Sun, known as aphelion.
We are all some 3 million miles farther from our Sun today than when we were closest* to it in January (the date changes slightly from year to year). It doesn’t feel like it here in the Northern hemisphere, but Earth is in fact receiving 7% less direct sunlight than it does in January.
(Seasons on Earth are the result of changes in the amount of direct sunlight as the planet is tilted toward and away from the sun, and not a result of its orbital path).
*Earth’s average distance from the sun is about 93 million miles.
No matter what size the pie (the circle) is, its circumference divided by its diameter is always pi*.
*The number pi (symbol π) is a mathematical constant and is a transcendental number (a number that is not algebraic—that is, not the root of a non-zero polynomial of finite degree with rational coefficients).
The value of pi is approximately 3.14159.
Pi appears in many formulas in mathematics and physics.
The clouds have cleared, and there is a nice view of the Venus-Jupiter conjunction* tonight in the Western night sky here tonight.
Hopefully the sky will be clear tomorrow night as well, when they will appear to be even closer.
*Conjunction means two astronomical objects appear close to each other in the sky, as seen from our view on Earth. Jupiter is still some 400 million miles away from Venus (on average 416 million miles away).
One can see why astronomers are excited about the pictures from the James Webb telescope, when you put them next to pictures of Hubble (launched 30 years ago in 1990).
The Webb telescope works with infrared light and can peer through cosmic dust to provide pictures with more detail and depth.
Below are pictures of the Carina Nebula (a nebula is a gigantic could of gas and dust), located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
The nebula is some 8,500 light-years from Earth with a radius of 230 light years.
I have had my Instant Pot pressure cooker for a week now, and I’m still learning to use it —but I like it a lot.
So far I have cooked regular oats, steel-cut oats, rice, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and sweet potato in it. Asparagus is ready in an instant with an official cooking time of 0 minutes. You put them in, and they’re done. Howzat! 😂
Let me explain. The laws of physics still apply. Even if you put the water and asparagus in the cooker and tell it to cook for 0 minutes, it will still take 5-10 mins to get to the operating temperature and pressure inside. During that time it already cooks the food inside. Something as delicate as asparagus is then cooked already. Voila.
The $10-billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is on its way to Earth’s second “Lagrange point” (referred to as L2). It should get there in 26 more days. After that, it will be 5 more months before we will hopefully start to receive images from the telescope. (The temperatures on the telescope have to stabilize, and it has to be calibrated).
L2 is theoretically a point in space. In practice, it is a region some 500,000 mi (800,000 km) wide, in which objects can maintain a stationary position relative to Earth, with the barest minimum of propulsive force needed to keep them there.
From Scientific American:
The most ambitious space telescope built to date is about to start peering at the universe through infrared eyes. The $10-billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is designed to see farther back in space and time than ever before, where light has been stretched by the expansion of space into much longer wavelengths. To see this faint light, the telescope must observe far from Earth and its contaminating light and heat. After launch, JWST will travel 1.5 million kilometers to Earth’s second “Lagrange point” (L2), a spot in space where the gravitational forces of our planet and the sun are roughly equal, creating a stable orbital location. This vantage point will allow JWST to orbit with its giant sunshield positioned between the telescope and the sun, Earth and moon, shielding the telescope and keeping it at a frigid –370 degrees Fahrenheit (-223 degrees Celsius).
The 97 points of the Glasgow Climate Pact (COP26) make heavy reading for a Sunday night, but I glanced through it. Man a.. and China and Russia did not even attend the conference.
The United States is at least serious again to make an effort, but as George Monbiot writes for The Guardian, it’s too late for incremental changes, and we need a critical minority to commit to the cause.
It works like this: ”There’s an aspect of human nature that is simultaneously terrible and hopeful: most people side with the status quo, whatever it may be. A critical threshold is reached when a certain proportion of the population change their views. Other people sense that the wind has changed, and tack around to catch it. There are plenty of tipping points in recent history: the remarkably swift reduction in smoking; the rapid shift, in nations such as the UK and Ireland, away from homophobia; the #MeToo movement, which, in a matter of weeks, greatly reduced the social tolerance of sexual abuse and everyday sexism. But where does the tipping point lie? Researchers whose work was published in Science in 2018 discovered that a critical threshold was passed when the size of a committed minority reached roughly 25% of the population. At this point, social conventions suddenly flip. Between 72% and 100% of the people in the experiments swung round, destroying apparently stable social norms. As the paper notes, a large body of work suggests that “the power of small groups comes not from their authority or wealth, but from their commitment to the cause”.
As far as the hard numbers go, here is a to-the-point summary written by Adam Taylor and Harry Taylor in the Washington Post: Where (temperature change) are we at now? A Washington Post analysis of multiple data sets has found that Earth has already warmed more than 1 degree Celsius on average over the past century. Some places may already have seen rises of 2 °C.
Where are we headed? In their latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that under the current scenario, the world would likely hit the 1.5 °C threshold by 2040. Under the most optimistic scenario presented in the report, global temperatures would reach 1.5 °C by the middle of the century and then drop back down as emissions were cut further, potentially avoiding some of the worst outcomes. Under the worst scenario envisaged by the IPCC, the best estimate was that the world will likely see a rise of 4.4 °C by the end of the century — with an extreme impact on life on Earth.
It’s too late now, but I should have driven out some dark elevated area outside the city (Seattle) to see if I can spot some aurora borealis light resulting from Thursday’s X-class* solar flare.
*X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. Flares that are classified X10 or stronger are considered unusually intense.
We’re in Solar Cycle 25, which started in Dec. 2019. (Extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began in 1755). Each solar cycle lasts roughly every 11 years. The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle after which it completely flips: the north and south poles switch places. Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.
The Carrington Event was a powerful geomagnetic storm on 1–2 September 1859, during Solar Cycle 10. A solar coronal mass ejection hit Earth’s magnetosphere and induced the largest geomagnetic storm on record. The associated “white light flare” in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by British astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson. The storm created strong auroral displays and caused serious damage to telegraph systems.
Auroras were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. were so bright that the glow woke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.
People in the northeastern United States could read a newspaper by the aurora’s light.
Here’s a ‘Pi Day’ picture from Twitter. (We write March 14 as 3.14 here in the United States).
From Wikipedia: The number π (/paɪ/) is a mathematical constant. It is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and it also has various equivalent definitions. It appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. The earliest known use of the Greek letter π to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter was by Welsh mathematician William Jones in 1706. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, and is spelled out as “pi”. It is also referred to as Archimedes’ constant.
We had 58°F (14°C) at the high here in the city, and sun all day.
The little crocuses with their flowers have popped out of the ground, just a little bit later than they were last year.
And how do they know when to flower? It’s very complicated. Flowering plants have a master gene called APETALA1 (AP1). A combination of sunlight, soil temperature and water, prompts the AP1 gene to generate proteins, which in turn, switch on more than 1,000 other genes that are involved in the flowering process.