The Galactic Times Newsletter #19 - March 1 - 16, 2022
Look Out Below!!--In the Spring, Dinosaurs Die, Dog Houses Get Meteorite Holes, and the Milky Way Gets Streamed; The Sun Enters the Whale (WHAT?); Dawn Sky Gets Too Crowded for Mercury; Two Surveys.
Cover Photo - A Dinosaur’s Bad Spring Day….
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — A Dinosaur’s Bad Spring Day
Welcome to Issue 19, and Our Request for Information
This Just In —
* Will You Love Me in the Spring? Or Kill Me?
* Getting the License Plate of That Colliding Galaxy
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing - Moon Passes OVER Uranus, Ceres, and a Bright Star
* Observing—Plan-et — Venus, Saturn, Mars Begin to Gather for a Show, Mercury Says Hi, Bye.
* For the Future — Saturn Sneaks Up on Venus and Mars
* Border Crossings — The Sun Nibbles on the Whale’s Tail
Astronomy in Everyday Life - Space — In the Dog House
A Message To International Astronomy Teachers and Researchers
The Classroom Astronomer Inbox Magazine Issue 20 Highlights
Welcome to The Galactic Times Inbox Magazine, #19 !
Spring! The time when we all look skyward, as the temperatures warm. We hope not to see snow falling? For some, hope not to see other things falling. Like—-
Dinosaurs looking not to see BIG ROCKS falling out of the sky—because scientists have discovered that big one that caused massive extinctions millions of years ago fell in the spring….
Dogs, in Costa Rica, hoping not to see SMALL ROCKS crashing through their little houses!
The Milky Way galaxy, hoping (if it can) not to see multiple galaxies falling into its disk and getting destroyed into multiple streams of stars.
Also, something fishy this way comes…..if you thought November-December was zodiacally strange, with the 13th sign of the Zodiac, Ophiuchus, just wait until you deal with March!
Finally, we have a plea from a researcher, and one from us. Her’s is at the end of the issue. Mine follows here…
As you are certainly well aware, COVID has caused great changes to the way astronomy, especially astronomy education, has managed these past two years. My other newsletter, to which some of you subscribe, The Classroom Astronomer (TCA), went to a Paid version, $55 per year for 30 issues, and a monthly free Digest version. Now before you stress out, no, I’m not planning to turn TGT into a paid subscribers-only newsletter! But….. the conferences that I get much of both newsletters’ information from are (stupidly, IMHO) returning to all or mostly in-person formats instead of last year’s wholly virtual meetings. In order to get both the news items for TGT and the educational stories for TCA, I am definitely going to be needing more support for these newsletters. NOTE: I do not get ALL my living expenses covered by these newsletters; I pay the rent through Hermograph books and retirement funds. Those do not cover travel costs.
Based on a discussion with other newsletter writers, what I’m inquiring about is possibly offering an upper-tier support level. Everybody, paying or not, gets TGT but those that pay a support amount will get something extra. Substack, my newsletter host service, offers three kinds of subscription supports—automatic monthly payments, annual payments, and a kind of Founding Member/Supporting Member (which I’m trying to find out if it is an annual or one-time payment, at a much higher level, but variable in amount as per the payer’s decision).
I would like to find out three things from you in return email, with no commitment….
If you were going to provide support for the TGT newsletter such that it was possible for yours truly to go to the various conferences that were virtual last year (AAS, European Astronomical Society, Royal Astronomical Society, etc.):
1. I’m looking for ideas as to what extra perks such Supporters would get, or like to get. TGT has no advertisers who can provide perks to donate to you but if you have or know of any who might I’d like to hear about them. There is the possibility of reviving the podcast that had the TGT name, and I’m building a Green Screen studio because there have been requests for live lessons and broadcasts. Perhaps private videos, broadcasts or podcasts are of interest? I already can offer discounts on Hermograph products, of course, and there are two astronomy-related books in the works. Are there any other ideas you might have?
So which of these, or what other ideas would YOU have, that would be a perk you’d like to see for your support to The Galactic Times? Write in the space below:
2. At what annual level of payment would you consider paying? $___________
3. Would you prefer to pay via the ( ) automatic monthly method ( ) “annual subscription” method, or ( ) one-time (per year or occasional/whenever/whatever) Supporting Member payment method? [Check one or more.]
PLEASE cut and paste the above and send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Much thanks! LK
Click here https://www.thegalactictimes.com for our Home Page, with all past issue Tables of Contents and stories indexed by topic. You can also hear and find useful materials for education from our former podcast, on the website (plus links to other Hermograph products and periodicals).
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If you are enjoying this twice-monthly newsletter, please support it by 1) using the link at the end to spread copies to your colleagues and friends and urge them to subscribe (why should you do all the emailing, right? We’re glad to do it!) and 2) if you are an educator, subscribe to the Classroom Astronomer Inbox Magazine, too!
And don’t forget to respond to the questions above! And below! Or something may fall onto the sky on you…..
This Just In—
* Will You Love Me in the Spring? Or Kill Me?
We are fairly certain that that dinosaurs died when an asteroid smashed into the edge of today’s Yucatan peninsula, marking the end of the Mesozoic era. When exactly was that? Welllll…..somewhere around 66 million years ago is the best we can do, year-wise….but Swedish geologist Melanie During and her team can tell you it happened in the spring of whatever year that was.
The Chicxulub asteroid killed off 76% of all life on Earth and some of those were filter-feeding fish. These fish have well-preserved fossil bones that show seasonal growth patterns. Fossils of the fish found in North Dakota showed impact debris in their gills, but not their digestive systems, indicate they were killed when the impact thousands of miles away caused tremendous water shaking during their spring reproductive cycle. Southern hemisphere fish were not in the reproductive phases, and recovered (if they did) faster than northern hemisphere fish. The story is in Nature, February 23rd.
* Getting the License Plate of That Colliding Galaxy
Galactic archaeology is one of the hottest areas of astronomy. The Gaia mission mapping out the millions of stars in the Milky Way, and determining their motions, finds streams of stars moving through the Milky Way’s halo as well as its spiral arms, though these streams are far less conspicuous than those arms. These streams are the stretched out remains of the globular clusters, dwarf galaxies and one-time (and sometimes still-existing) satellite galaxies orbiting around us that in passing by and through the galactic disk get cannibalized and destroyed and their stars ultimately merged into the Milky Way’s. But the streams are the telltale threads of that — one group of astronomers called it creating the Milky Way as a smoothie in a blender, a perhaps less violent picture of creating the galaxy, and at least as tasty as a candy bar, right? — and matching them up and figuring out their ages is a major challenge.
According to K. Mahlan et al, in the Astrophysical Journal, there are somewhere around 40 to 60 streams, but some of them apparently share the same dynamical motions, which means they come from the same source. These sources have been given names, as the following (former) dwarf galaxies the Milky Way has eaten (or blended): Sagittarius, Cetus, Gaia-Sausage/Enceladus, LMS-1/Wukong and Arjuna/Sequoia/I'itoi. A new one, called Pontus, is found in the data as well. These six do not account for all the streams, by far. But at least you now know the names of the late and lamented one-time companions of our Galaxy that are no more.
Sky Planning Calendar
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
March 2 New Moon
March 6 The waxing crescent moon starts the evening (North America time) about 0.8-degrees south of giant planet Uranus, but after it sets a few hours after sunset, the Moon covers up the planet. Our readers in SE Australia and Polynesia (yes, TGT has some, YAY!) can see the occultation.
March 8 The Moon floats between the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters of Taurus. Only a few more of these before winter is over….
March 9 Remember what the Moon did to Uranus three days ago? It does the same thing to dwarf planet Ceres tonight, being only 0.3-degrees away this time. And though the timing is different, the place to observe it is pretty much the same.
March 10 First Quarter AND Apogee. A micro-sized half-moon. This month, a half just ain’t as big as it used to be…..
March 12 The Moon is to right (west) of Pollux of the Gemini twins. Tomorrow it will be to the east (left).
****March 13 Daylight Saving Time starts, for those who observe this. ***** Our times from now on will be in Central Daylight Time, unless stated otherwise.
March 15 The Moon passes in front of the bright star Eta Leonis.
This one is easy to find and observe, as Eta is naked-eye in brightness and is in the crook of the backwards question mark that marks the head of Leo the Lion. Where the straight line coming up from bright star Regulus, the Lion’s Heart, meets the curve of the question mark, that’s Eta (pronounced A, as in the grade - tah). Regulus, the Alpha Star, is virtually exactly on the Sun’s path in the sky, the Ecliptic, and thus this clearly shows you (and if you are a teacher, your students) that the Moon’s orbit is tilted to the plane of the orbit of the Earth; it is riding above the Earth’s orbit in order to block the light of that star.
All the world’s a stage, says the quote, but this time the stage is the morning, the dawn sky. And all the players are the three innermost planets (not counting us—we aren’t visible up there, right?). And it is all leading to a First Act climax…in the second half of March. There will be another climax later in the spring.
First, a summary, then some details, in order of date.
Mercury: Having a fine show, especially if you live south of the Earth’s equator, but the show is ending. Highlight in these two weeks—March 2nd, when you can find it a mere 0.7-degrees — barely bigger than the Full Moon diameter — south of Saturn, emerging from the solar glare. But by the 10th, Mercury effectively says ‘Bye!’, rising less than 40 minutes before the Sun and that interval shrinking every morning.
Venus is having a field day, er, dawn. It reaches maximum distance from the Sun shortly — rising more than an hour before morning twilight begins, a brilliant star in the eastern half of the sky — but that’s as much as it will get this apparition (can be several hours, but not this time). In two weeks that interval shrinks to about 40 minutes. On the 12th it has its second conjunction with Mars, this time passing 4-degrees from the much fainter little world. Some astronomical publications say the 16th; it depends on whether you talk about straight-line measures or the same ecliptic longitude. In either case, the difference between the two dates’ worth of measures is about 0.1-degree.
Some time between the 9th and 12th, Venus will make a straight line with Alpha and Beta Capricorni, the stars in the head of Capricornus the Sea Goat. From your location, what date will YOU see that happen?
Mars, as noted above, is tagging along bright sister Venus, doing nothing special.
Jupiter is in solar conjunction on the 5th. See you in April’s dawn.
Saturn, peeking out by Mercury early in the month, a good time to find it making a ‘double star.’ But by the end of the month, it rises shortly after twilight begins so it won’t stay lost in the twilight for long.
Notice, as we said last month, planets…evening…nada…until April, for a little bit.
For the Future
Keep your eye on Saturn. After passing close by Mercury, it gets into a menage with Venus and Mars, all fitting within a 7-degree circle in the second half of March.
Border Crossings - The Sun Nibble’s On The Whale’s Tail
Astronomy and Astrology are almost in sync, but then Astrology ruins it….or is it Astronomy?
For these two weeks, your neighborhood newspaper horoscope column will have your sign as Pisces the Fishes. And they will be actually correct…after the 12th. Before that, the Sun is in Aquarius, but at least the Sun is in the water like the Fishes, right?
If the definition of a Sun Sign is the constellation the Sun is in on the day you were born, then you have a problem on March 14th. The Sun is not a point of light. It’s a disk. And on THAT date (usually), part of that disk crosses over and spends a few hours — ~12 — inside the constellation of Cetus the Whale (or in some books, the Sea Monster, of the Andromeda myth fame). Thus, A) you can have a split personality, or B) people should be suspicious of you because you are doubly fishy.
Whenever I have done my astronomy/astrology exercise in astronomy classes, I almost always get gasps about this constellation (a 14th sign of the zodiac!?), and almost always NEVER get someone in class to have this birthday. I think in my entire life I have met perhaps no more than the fingers—on-one-hand’s-worth. Not enough whales in the sea….
Astronomy in Everyday Life
Space — In the Dog House
Nobody’s safe. Not even a dog.
In April 2019, on a warm Costa Rican evening, Roky was minding his own business, preparing for sleep in his wooden and tin-roofed house when suddenly…the sky fell in.
Well, the German Shepherd didn’t know the source of the rock that almost hit him — some strong neighborhood bully, perhaps — but today he needs a new home. Why?
Believe it or not, Roky’s Homely Home sold recently at Christie’s Auction for $44,000. Less than expected, surprisingly, but more than the space rock that hit, which only went for $21,000. Space rocks are, sorta, a dime a dozen, but objects they hit are rare so they go for higher prices. Go figure.
In any case, Roky’s owner can now easily afford a much nicer dog house for Roky…and for himself, no doubt.
A Message to International Astronomy Teachers and Researchers
If you are a NON-USA K-12 teacher (i.e. non-college ages) who teaches astronomy in your classes in any way, or if you are an education researcher who studies astronomy as it is done in the non-college-level schools in your country, OR if you KNOW people who fit those two descriptions, my long-time friend and colleague Dr. Janelle Bailey, a former President of the American Association of Physics Teachers and an astronomy education researcher in her own right, has a research project in which she would like to have your insights. The official text is below and there is a link to a survey to which you would respond. TGT and I otherwise have nothing to do with the survey, and will receive no information or contact information on you or your participation in this; I am simply passing this along because I believe it to be worthwhile. If you fit the description, please consider contributing. If you know colleagues who fit the descriptions (your own contact lists, mailing lists, organizations, as many folks as you can!), feel free to pass it along to them! Thanks, Dr. Larry Krumenaker."
Hi from the USA! We are am conducting a multinational survey of astronomy education in K-12. If you are a teacher or education researcher, please consider participating! Please also feel free to share this with colleagues, particularly those outside of the US.
Project Description: Research in astronomy education is largely centered on the undergraduate level, yet space science is now embedded into science standards in the United States. Most educators, however, do not have the content knowledge to incorporate this science into their existing coursework. This project will utilize Survey and interview data to inform comparisons and case studies of international K-12 astronomy education efforts in community and formal education spaces. This project will inform future studies and collaborations between educators and researchers, and provide examples of astronomy integration in coursework and community. Your participation is entirely voluntary.
If you choose to participate, more information will be provided, and you may choose to cease participation at any point. Full study details and consent will be provided in the first survey. If you do choose to participate, the first survey will take approximately 15 minutes. There may be a one hour video interview to follow.
Christine Hirst Bernhardt & Janelle Bailey
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter Issue 20 Highlights
This premium Inbox Magazine is a subscribers-only publication, though a free Lite version is available. Starting in January, it became a 30-issues per year publication, and the Lite version, now called the TCA Digest, became a monthly, on or before the last day of each month.
Welcome to Issue 20
Sky Lessons - Eyeball “Spectroscopy”
Connections to the Sky -
An Astronomy Cafe for Teens, and Soon for Teachers
The RAP Sheet – Research Abstracts for Practitioners
- Bend It Like Dark Matter!
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