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What is a Harvest Moon?

Harvest Moon, Photo by PH Morton

What is a Harvest Moon?

Harvest moon is a full moon.

It heralds the coming of autumn when farmers are believed to take in their harvests from the field before the frost gets to them.

What makes a harvest moon more special than being just a full moon is that it appears larger and orange and it occurs in September during the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

That is the autumnal equinox?

It is that time when the earth’s equator is directly in line with the center of the sun.

As the Northern hemisphere has its autumn equinox, the Southern Hemisphere is starting its Spring equinox.

 

25 September 2018 – Harvest Moon

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

As astronomy is a hobby & keen interest of mine, I eagerly awaited the lunar eclipse. This lunar eclipse had more publicity due to the fact that it coincided with the appearance of the so-called Supermoon.

Lunar Eclipse

Astronomers don’t really prefer to call it a supermoon.

 

The term would be perigee new moon or perigee full moon.

When the moon change in its orbit and is closest to earth, this is called a perigee (within 98 per cent closest to the earth).

When it is a full moon and it is 98 per cent of its closest orbit (perigee) to the earth this is commonly called a supermoon. There can be 4-6 supermoons in a year.

There won’t be a perigee full moon in 2017 because the full moon and perigee won’t realign again (after November 14, 2016) until January 2, 2018. The next supermoon lunar eclipse will be in 2033.

As I have just retired from my work career,  I could fortunately stay up Sunday evening to the early hours of Monday morning. 🙂 I had my trusty camera ready and waited in the garden. weather conditions were ideal, as not too cold after midnight with some wisps of white cloud that conveniently disappeared; so a clear dark sky for the show to begin!

Around 2am, the top left of the moon was starting to be covered by earth’s shadow as it crept across the moon’s surface.

Lunar Eclipse begins - Photo by PH Morton

Lunar Eclipse begins – Photo by PH Morton

 

Totality and complete earth cover happened at around 3 am.

Total Lunar Eclipse (Totality) - Photo by PH Morton

Total Lunar Eclipse (Totality) – Photo by PH Morton

totality

A lunar eclipse totality lasts much longer than the spectacular  solar eclipse that is over in a few minutes. I watched the eclipse for 3 hours. The moon’s surface facing the earth becomes an amazing  coppery colour. Some cultures call it a ‘Blood Moon’ because of the reddish hue and regard it as a bad omen.

Of course the colour is caused by the sunlight being scattered through the earth’s thick atmosphere so the moon is never blacked out like the sun becomes briefly  in a solar eclipse at totality. The moon does not have an atmosphere anywhere as thick as the earths to scatter any light.

At sea level on Earth, we breathe in an atmosphere where each cubic centimetre contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; by comparison the lunar atmosphere has less than 1,000,000 molecules in the same volume.

It’s faint trace of atmosphere contains molecules including helium, argon, and possibly neon, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. There is no oxygen as abundant on earth.

I managed to get some reasonable photographs as  the eclipse was finishing  around 5am.

Lunar Eclipse ending - Photo by PH Morton

Lunar Eclipse ending – Photo by PH Morton

During my eclipse vigil in our back garden into the small wee hours as we say, a curious urban fox came close to me to see what I was up to then wandered off!

I could hear an owl hooting in the distance and field mice moving in our Blackberry bush/tree. The garden is indeed a fascinating place at night 🙂

Second Full Moon of the Month

Yesterday on Friday 31  July there was a rare astronomical event close to home that many might not have noticed, a second full moon of the month.

They sky over London last night was generally clear and where I live in NW London was exceptional with few clouds.

I gazed up and saw a full moon. what was unusual is that it was the second full moon in a calendar month.

 Second Full Moon of the Month

I took this photo of it at around 1 am (Saturday morning) from our back garden.

Second Full moon July AKA a 'blue moon'

Second Full moon July AKA a ‘blue moon’

 

Normally  there are 29.5 days between full moons and therefore a full moon once a month. Such moons are known as a ‘blue moon’

A blue moon is defined  as the second full moon in a calendar month.  We have a saying that a rare event or happening occurs ‘once in a blue moon.’

The next Blue Moon will be in May 2016.

Even rarer, are have two blue moons in a  calendar year this last  happened in 1999. There were two full moons in January and two full moons in March and no full moon in February. So both January and March had Blue Moons.

The  full moon is given a name for each month of the year it appears.

January: the Wolf Moon, February: the Snow Moon, March: the Worm Moon, April: the Pink Moon, May: the Flower Moon, June: the Strawberry Moon, July: the Buck Moon, August: the Sturgeon Moon, September: the Harvest Moon, October: the Hunter’s Moon, November: the Beaver Moon, December: the Cold Moon.

More well-known here are the Harvest Moon in September as centuries ago, this full moon helped farmers gather their harvest in at night. The Hunter’s Moon appears brighter and larger, which aided hunters at night in fields and forests.

Enjoy gazing at our constant,  closest, changeless, celestial neighbour 🙂

Brief Encounter With Pluto

Brief Encounter With Pluto

A brief encounter with Pluto.  On July 14 2015,  the New Horizons Spacecraft flew past our most distant planet, Pluto.  A truly historic moment in space travel.

Pluto is an a staggering 4.67 million miles (7.5 billion kilometres) from our home planet  earth.

Light & the signals from  New Horizons speeding to us  at  186,000(approx 3000 kms) per second  take over four hours to reach earth!

Here are some of the amazing photos…

pluto-charonPluto and it’s major moon Charon

pluto-mountain-range Close up of Pluto’s ice plain & mountainsPluto-REX-v3 near fly by of Pluto

 

Pluto was regarded as the most distant planet in our solar system after its discovery in 1930 at the Percival Lowell observatory. Urbain Le Verrier in the 1840s, using celestial  mechanics produced by Isaac Newton,   predicted the position of the then-undiscovered planet Neptune  after he had  analysed perturbations in the orbit of Uranus. Further observations of Neptune in the late 19th century made  astronomers speculate that Uranus’ orbit was being disturbed by another planet besides Neptune. In 1906,  a wealthy Bostonian Percival Lowell who had  founded the Lowell  Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona later becoming famous for early detailed observations of Mars. From the observatory  Lowell began an extensive project in search of what was causing the perturbation, a possible ninth planet, which he termed ” Planet X“.

A young astronomer/researcher at the observatory,  Clyde Tombaugh  had the task  to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs taken two weeks apart, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. He  used a blink comparator,  a viewing apparatus used by astronomers to find differences between two wide field  photographs  of the night sky taken through optical telescopes. The blink comparator permitted rapidly switching from viewing one photograph to viewing the other, “blinking” back and forth between the two taken of the same area of the sky at different times. This allowed the user to easily spot objects in the night sky that had changed position.  On 23 January 1930, using the comparator on two photo plates, Clyde discovered the illusive planet X. As discoverer  the Lowell observatory could name this new planet  but as the discovery was world-wide news , suggested names were submitted.

A 11 year old English schoolgirl Venetia Burney from Oxford proposed the  name Pluto. She  was interested in classical mythology as well as astronomy and thought that the god of the underworld was an appropriate name for such a remote, dark and cold world.  This name was submitted to  Lowell. The object was officially named on March 24, 1930 Each member of the Lowell Observatory was allowed to vote on a short-list of three: Minerva (which was already the name for an asteroid), Cronus  and Pluto. Pluto received every vote.  The name was announced on May 1, 1930.Upon the announcement, Venetia received  five pounds (£5) (£234 as of 2012), as a reward. The choice of name was partly inspired by the fact that the first two letters of Pluto are the initials of Percival Lowell, and Pluto’s astronomical symbol (♇) is a monogram constructed from the letters ‘PL’.

Science history books have been recently amended with Pluto being ( I think unfairly) downgraded  to a minor planet and  just one member of the Kuiper Belt objects, a  field containing  primordial  debris  that are remnants from the creation of the solar system. The Kuiper Belt circles the outer solar system. This debris varies in size and  as telescope power improved,  objects as large as Pluto have been discovered within the belt and the  question of Pluto being classed as proper planet has been raised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) .  This meant instead of the 9 planets in our solar system, we have now only the 8 ones being Mercury, Venus Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn.

In 2002, the KBO 5000 Quaor was discovered, with a diameter then thought to be roughly 1280 kilometres, about half that of Pluto. In 2004, the discoverers of 90377 Sedna placed an upper limit of 1800 km on its diameter, nearer to Pluto’s diameter of 2320 km,  although Sedna’s diameter was revised downward to less than 1600 km by 2007. , it was argued, Pluto should be reclassified as one of the Kuiper belt objects. On July 29, 2005, the discovery of a new trans-Neptunian object named Eris was found  be approximately the same size as Pluto. This was the largest object discovered in the Solar System since Neptune’s giant moon Triton in 1846. Its discoverers and the press initially called it the tenth planet , although there was no official consensus at the time on whether to call it a planet.  Others in the astronomical community considered the discovery the strongest argument for reclassifying Pluto as a minor planet. The debate on Pluto’s came to a head in 2006 with an IAU resolution that created an official definition for the term “planet”. According to this resolution, there are three main conditions for an object to be considered a ‘planet’:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be a sphere by its own gravitational force. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape of hydrostatic equilibrium (the condition in fluid mechanics where a volume of a fluid is at rest or at constant velocity. This occurs when compression due to gravity y is balanced by a pressure gradient force] e.g.  the pressure gradient force prevents gravity from collapsing the Earth;s atmosphere into a thin, dense shell, while gravity prevents the pressure gradient force from diffusing the atmosphere into space).
  3. It must have cleared the neighbourhood  around its orbit, that there are no comparable objects within the planet’s orbit.

Pluto fails to meet the third condition, since its mass is only 0.07 times that of the mass of the other objects in its orbit (Earth’s mass, by contrast, is 1.7 million times the remaining mass in its own orbit Controversy still rages at Pluto’s demotion to minor planet and reclassified in the new dwarf planet  Plutoid category of trans-Neptunian objects. In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft to visit Pluto, it is now past  halfway between Earth and Pluto, on approach for a dramatic flight past the icy planet and its moons in July 2015. Fittingly,  the spacecraft contains ashes from the cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh who passed away in 1997.

Photo plates used in the blink comparator  showing an object  shown
with a pointer (Planet X) that moved over six nights against the  background of more fixed stars  and confirmed as a new planet later named Pluto.


Pluto and its moons: Hubble Space Telescope.

NewHorizonsspacecraftenroutetoPlutowithsevenonboardinstruments-

Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color, composition and thermal maps.

 

Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).

 

REX: (Radio Science EXperiment) Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer.

 

LORRI: (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s far side and provides high resolution geologic data.

 

SWAP: (Solar Wind Around Pluto) Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes Pluto’s interaction with solar wind.

 

PEPSSI: (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere.

 

SDC: (Student Dust Counter) Built and operated by students; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.

New Horizons is powered a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which transforms the heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium dioxide into electricity. The compact, rugged General Purpose Heat Source  developed and provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, carries approximately 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of plutonium dioxide fuel. It provides about 200 watts of power.

Assembly of New Horizons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

IMG_1307

Old keys, Photo by JMorton

IMG_1305

Key, Photo by JMorton

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

We have a really lovely sideboard, in which I’ve stored all my chinas: plates, my lazy Susan, cups and saucers, my special dinner wares.  I thought because they are for special occasion, I should store them under lock and key.  Well, that was the idea.  The problem now is that they are so safe, I can’t get to them, no one can get to them.  The key won’t unlock the cupboard anymore.

I don’t really want to force open the sideboard because it is an antique, really beautiful; I don’t want to damage it.  It has been with Peter’s family, before I was even born and that was a very long time ago. eeckk 🙂

Anyway with this problem in mind, I got to thinking (as one does) how keys and locks have evolved.

I know that in ancient time, people would bury or leave their valuables in special places such as caves, under a tree, by the riverbank, or obvious landmarks, etc. (Actually, our canine does this. He would bury his dog bones for later use. 🙂 )

The Egyptians and the Chinese used complicated wooden bolts as early as 2000BC.

And then of course  Europe started using wooden chests to hide their valuables.  The wooden chest graduated into a strong box, and then to the use of safe.

It was Linus Yale, Junior,  an American, who developed a lock based on the early Egyptian principle of pin tumblers, the kind of lock that we still use today.

—–

I think, like me, Benjamin Franklin had a problem with  one of his keys and it had become rather redundant as it would not opened the furniture it was supposed to unlock.  Ergo he used that key to conduct his now famous experiment of attaching a key to a kite, which he flew during a thunderstorm.  The key was electrified, thus he invented the lightning conductor.

Keys are also used as a coming of age gift.  When my son turned 13, under much pomp and ceremony, he got his first set of house keys, which he promptly lost.   🙁

Apparently ancient Rome used to have this tradition of giving the keys for the household to new brides.

 

Happy Pi Day

Source : http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com

Source : http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com

Peter said to me that it was Pie Day and encouraged me to blog about it. I was just too ill to jump with any form of enthusiasm to his challenge.  In my condition, being only half alive 🙁 , the last thing in my mind is thinking about food.  And enthusing about the delicacy and efficacy of apple pies, pork pies, or any other pies do not interest me in the least.

It was a few second before we both realised that we were talking in cross purposes. Peter in fact was talking about Pi (514_400x400_NoPeel), the 3.1416 Pi.  Having found this out, I still can’t understand why today is Pi Day?  It is not 2016!  Or is it?  I have been sleeping for most of the days and I might have slept for a year for all I know or even care! LOL

In my mind’s eye, I don’t understand why 3.1416 or rather 3.1415 is celebrated as Pi day afterall, Great Britain are used to dates in the order of date first, followed by the month and then the year. So today is 14 March 2015 or 14/3/2015. Another thing 3.1416 is what I have always thought as the value of Pi. It was rounded of from 3.14159265359. It cannot just be cut off as 3.1415 as the next number is 9 and this can’t just be ignored!

Anyway this is just my two cent. I do not really want to upset anyone in anyway who wants to celebrate Pi day. For me, I would probably raise a drink to Pi next year 14 March 2016!

THE 25 BIGGEST TURNING POINTS IN EARTH’S HISTORY

Hmmm ;)

Hmmm 😉

Yes they are big and fundamental in how we became and what were are today.

Below is a link to the 25 biggest turning points in earth’s history. Science is continually  shining an almost celestial light to illuminate the path out of  the darkness of our ignorance  in understanding our  existence. Exciting discoveries are being made. It is now thought that life on our planet  began in deep space.

The cloud of gas and dust that eventually formed our sun and solar system was created over 5 billion years ago  by the massive  death throes  and explosion of a massive star over 10-100 times the size of our sun in an event known as a supernova. This cloud  contained all the elements we know of today and make us up.

So we are literally  star born!

Chemical precursors  to life have been found in comets and asteroids that were and still are  around  from 5 billion years ago at the birth of our solar system, from this cloud.

Some of these objects  were very many at the beginning  and  their close orbits meant that they  regularly collided with the  forming earth.  Some of these comets and meteorites  seeded our planet  with chemicals and materials which over millions of years evolved into multi cellar life, primitive bacteria and thenceforth to us billions of years later.

Please click below to link to an interesting BBC science article graphically portraying those key points &  milestones in hour history

THE 25 BIGGEST TURNING POINTS IN EARTH’S HISTORY 

 

 

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