The road ends, but the journey continues...

Tag: stars & planets

PLUTO my favorite planet next to Mars…

When I was growing up I had an imaginary friend. Her name was Zelda. Zelda was a witch. That’s right, this little half-Italian Catholic girl had an imaginary witch-friend. She flew on a broom stick and traveled to oh so many places I could never go. Like Pluto. Actually, Zelda lived on the planet Pluto.
Pluto, my favorite planet next to Mars…
When I was an 8th grader in what was then called Jr. High, I entered the science fair. It was kind of a new thing in the 60s, not at all required for students as part of any pre-set curriculum.
My project was an in-depth study of – you guessed it – the planet Mars. I won several firsts and seconds and ultimately made it through district with an Honorable Mention. That HM meant I couldn’t go on to ‘state’, but it was still quite a feat! Back then, this thirteen-year-old school girl scientist didn’t know that it was considered unusual for a girl to be interested in math and science.
Scroll up a few decades to the 21st century.
When New Horizons was launched in 2006, hubby and I kept periodic tabs on its journey. As the internet improved, so did the ease with which we were able to keep up with all the photos and info NASA had to offer. The Jupiter fly-by photos in 2007 awed and inspired the world – talk about in-your-face beauty.
Early on in the mission, it came out that Queen’s Brian May is also Dr. Brian May the astrophysicist. Because he was dubbed an official “science team collaborator” to the New Horizons Team, I scrutinized his collaborations to see if rock stardom would overshadow scientific curiosity.
I was not disappointed, Dr. Brian is the real deal on both counts.
I’m confident he helped advance the cause of math and science showing nerdiness to be on a par with rock stardom.

pluto and charon from new horizons

Pluto & Charon from New Horizons


By late 2014 New Horizons began its Pluto encounter, rapidly entering into its approach phase to the planet. The infamous Pluto fly-by began in July 2015 while it was a mere 7,800 miles above the surface of Pluto. That’s just 601 miles above Santa Fe, NM in terms of an Earth distance comparison!
Because of this close encounter of the (formerly) 9th kind*, a map of Pluto was compiled featuring names recognizing people of significance to Pluto.  Approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in September 2017, it includes an area named after an 11-year old girl.
 
pluto features map

Map of Pluto with features approved by the IAU, September 2017


Burney crater honors Venetia Burney (1918-2009), who as an 11-year-old schoolgirl suggested the name “Pluto” for Clyde Tombaugh’s newly discovered planet. Later in life she taught mathematics and economics.
I wonder if Zelda ever visited Venetia as a young child growing up in Oxford, England back in the day?
*Pluto was considered to be the 9th planet in our solar system back when I was a child…now it is classified as a Dwarf Planet.
Pluto photo credit, Pluto map credit

note: this is for day five of my 6 years on WP.org posts

Totally Awesome Totality

Yep, this is a bit on the late side. I realized I kept commenting on other blogs about my personal experience with Totality but held back from crafting a post for my own blog. The key here is in the word ‘craft’ as in: taking time to make it blog-worthy.  Just saying ‘wow, that was cool’ or ‘it was the experience of a lifetime’ isn’t my type of blog-worthiness, but the ‘awesomeness’ of the event just doesn’t translate well into words.

Me, before Totality

Me, before Totality


At least for me.
And while I’m more inclined to craft a poem rather than labor over prose, I’m running low on the patience factor for that sort of creation these days.
So pardon me as I fulfill the urge to post my own reactions via placing those comments via bullet points here:

  • Total Eclipse Dillon Park, Sumter, South Carolina

    Total Eclipse Dillon Park, Sumter, South Carolina


    We went to Dillon Park in Sumter…let me tell you – the absolute BEST! Chicken me even took off those glasses for the ‘safe’ 90 plus seconds. And just for the record, the sky was midnight blue not black during totality, we got to see Venus as well as the corona and we were bathed in more of a type of ‘moonlight’ softness. Geez, I really should do a blog post on this! HA!
Hubby, after Totality

Hubby, after Totality

  • Still glowing in solar bliss…we went to Sumter, SC a stone’s throw from the venue where I gave my SwS presentation June 3rd (about 50 minutes from where we currently live)…and got to see it at 100% totality! I had been prepping myself to buck up and just take those darn glasses off during the ‘safe’ time, (such a counter intuitive thing to do) so with a little ooohing and ahhhing encouragement from hubby, I had ’em off and: WOW!
    Not a pitch black sky, more a midnight blue and felt like moonlight on a clear evening…crickets started chirping – then just as suddenly stopped!
    The whole camera thing is way over-rated, nothing’s like the real thing!!!! I really should blog a bit about the experience, but maybe I’ll simmer on a song for later?

I’ll end it there, with the possibility of a future composition in the works…

This is What We Saw on Our Way Back from Colorado

Saturday, October 24, 2015: hubby’s phone alarm went off at 4 AM initiating our practiced paces to get out on the road quickly and efficiently. Heading east on US 36 through to I-70E, hubby and I enjoyed the clear pre-dawn sky.  Littered with glittering stars, planets and satellites, we absorbed the 180 degree view of the Eastern Horizon.  Knowing our unobstructed high plains views would be left behind with each mile driven back to our current place of residence in South Carolina, we reminisced about our numerous past night-sky adventures.  Amidst our gazing, talking, dreaming and driving we both realized something extraordinary was occurring in the left, northern most part of the eastern sky.
“Ah, yes, there’s Venus, but what’s that bigger planet? Jupiter?”
I grabbed the mini-binoculars always at the ready in our car and saw a third red dot curved below the other two planets.
“Terry! It’s a trio of planets, Mars is there, too.”
With hubby at the wheel, we both sky-watched as this glorious oddity continued to shine forth throughout the unfolding of the dawn, well into Kansas.  What exactly was this?
Turns out, October 24, 2015 was the absolute best day to observe this rare Dawn Triangle of Planets,  marking the beginning of the best week to observe it as well.

(It’s not too late to get out and see this for yourself!)

Also, turns out that the biggest planet was Venus…my bad!

 

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