Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The December 10, 2011 lunar eclipse

Any hobby usually requires some "sacrifice". In my case, astronomy normally requires that I be awake and up while it's dark outside (the exception is when I'm using my telescopes to look [safely] at the Sun). A lunar eclipse always takes place when the Moon is full; the Moon is always exactly opposite the Sun then. At this time of year, the Sun rises low in the SE. That means that the Moon sets high in the NW.

This month's lunar eclipse occurred a couple of hours before sunrise, and I could watch it through my west-facing office window. I set up one of my cameras (a Canon Rebel XT SLR) and took some pictures through the double-paned window, and through breaks in the clouds. Before the eclipse started, the sky had been absolutely clear, but, just around the start of the eclipse, heavy clouds began to roll in. This is Vancouver, after all. Midway through the eclipse they totally obliterated any view of the eclipsed Moon. I got only one good picture through the last cloud break. These clouds kept the day dark and gray right through the next night, until the next morning.

Here are some of the pictures:

From the top down:

The Moon before entering Earth's shadow. The area at "11 o'clock" is getting darker.
Clouds are rolling in.
Three quarters into the Earth's shadow. Picture taken through a break in the clouds.

About 5 minutes before "totality" (again a break in the clouds). The star under the Moon is Iota Tauri (Iota in the constellation of Taurus, the bull)
The last "hole" in the clouds. The clouds to the right of the dark tree covered the Moon a short time later.
Midway through totality. This picture was taken just after the one above. About half-way through totality - the Moon has moved, so now is totally covered by the Earth's shadow. The brighter part of the Moon is closer to the edge of the shadow. Notice that the star Iota Tauri is now farther away from the Moon - it's a consequence of the Moon's motion in its orbit.

This is my last picture of this eclipse. A minute later, the Moon was completely covered by clouds and no longer visible.

The orange colour of the Moon in the Earth's shadow is due the sunlight being "refracted" by the Earth's atmosphere onto the Moon's surface. If you were on the Moon, you'd see the dark disk of the Earth surrounded by a reddish-orange ring (a circular sunset). From the Moon, this event is a total eclipse of the Sun. You'd have an awe-inspiring sight.

 The top picture was taken about two hours before the bottom one. It was a cold morning outside. This kind of thing did not bother me in the past, but now, in my old age, I enjoy creature comforts much more. I was glad to witness this in my nice, warm office.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Green Thing

The Green Thing

(forwarded by my sister)

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this "green thing" back in my earlier days."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have "the green thing" in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.  But we didn't have "the green thing" back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have "the green thing" in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn't have "the green thing" back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the
mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; we didn't
have "the green thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have "the green thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have "the green thing" back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person.
Remember: Don't make old People mad.
We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

7 months

We raised a toast to Derek again at 5:40 pm. It seems like yesterday. The memory will always be with us.