Book A Star Tour Now

book now


Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon Over Machtesh Ramon

The full moon that rises today, Friday August 31st, will be a blue moon. Well...not really like the photo I've tinted here for you. The moon is never actually blue. A "blue moon" is the second full moon in a calendar (Gregorian calendar) month. Its color is no different from a regular full moon. The first full moon this month fell on August 1st; the second on August 31st. Since the  moon has a period of 29 1/2 days, it sometimes happens that two will fall in the same 31 day month.

In the Hebrew calendar, based on a lunar cycle, there can never be two full moons in a month, by definition. The full moon of August 1st fell on the 15th of Av; the full moon of August 31st falls on the 14th of Elul. So, a blue moon is really just a coincidental occurrence. It happens 7 times in 19 years, a Metonic cycle of the moon, so about once every 2.7 years. Not exactly rare, but rare enough for the term "once in a blue moon" to have entered the common parlance, meaning an event that does not occur often. The next one is on July 31, 2015.

"Blue Moon" rising over Machtesh Ramon.
Why a "blue moon" and not, say, a "green moon"? The name apparently derives from the Old English word "blewe" which means "betaryer" and also "blue". In the Middle Ages when the Church announced the date of Lent and Easter to the populace, these events were calculated from the appearance of the full moon. If there was an extra full moon before Lent, it threw off the calculations. Hence the calendar had been "betrayed" by a "blewe" moon. Perhaps betrayer was chosen as the term since it was reminiscent of Jesus's betrayal by Judas, but that is just my speculation. In any case, the "blewe moon" was intercalated so as not to throw off the dates of Lent and Easter. If this is the case, then a "blewe moon" would have indeed been very rare, since only the second full moon in the month before Lent would have qualified for that designation.

As it happened, the name came to be applied to any second full moon falling in the same calendrical month of the year. In the case of the Hebrew calendar this is the 15th of Elul, two weeks before Rosh Hashannah. The theme of Elul is "Hamelech Ba'Sadeh", The King is in the Field, accessible to all who wish to reach out to him, make amends and a better start for the new year about to begin. Kesivah and Chasimah Toavah to all k'lal Yisroel!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, First Man to Walk on the Moon, Dies at 82

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died yesterday at the age of 82. I remember watching the lunar landing and the first moon walk in July 1969 when I was a student at the University of Chicago. It was the culmination of many long NASA space TV sessions that began for me as a teen with the Mercury program that launched Alan Shepard into space in the first sub-orbital flight, in a race with the Russians to be the first on the moon. Those were the days. Getting up early in the morning to watch the Redstone rockets launch the first astronauts, the coundowns, the agonizing holds at T-1 second, and finally the "lift off", as we learned - not "blast off" as the science fiction books had it - with the mighty rockets roaring into space with their manned payloads, just in time to rush out the door and catch the bus to school. (Yes, I was bussed to Jewish day schools in the South before busing was busing.)

Now we have no more manned space program, but we have excelled at sending probes to the most distant planets and robotic explorers to Mars. In just 400 years we have progressed from Galileo's first glimpse of the distant heavens using a telescope so primitive that you wouldn't give it to a child today to actually visiting these far, far away places. Who knows what the next 400 years might bring, if the savages of the world and their sympathizers and enablers don't ruin it for everyone.

According to the press Armstrong died of complications from cardiac procedures. Does that mean a medical mistake? Sure hope not.

In tribute, here is the video that I remember watching so well from his first steps on the moon.

The flag that Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed on the moon still "flies", but no one gave any thought to longevity at the time, so ultra-violet rays from the sun have bleached it completely white, the color of surrender. Hopefully, not symbolic...

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Curiosity" Rover Party Party Party!!!

The Mars-bound Curiosity Rover is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars on Monday, August 6, at 8:31AM Israel Daylight Time (IDT). To honor and celebrate the most complex and difficult mission NASA has ever done for a robotic explorer we will have an impromptu party at the CafeNeto in Mitzpe Ramon, starting at 8:00AM on Monday morning, August 6th. NASA will be streaming live video of the event from their web site which we will watch using the CafeNeto's wifi connection. Bring along a computer, tablet, or smartphone and you can stream from there, too. Of course the CafeNeto will be serving their always exceptional drinks and food, and Ami's convenience store (all kosher) is open next door for those who wish to roll their own.

Curiosity Rover is lowered to the surface of Mars by its hovering sky crane.
It seems that parties are being held all over the world for this event, including one that NASA is hosting in Times Square where the landing will be streamed onto the Jumbotron at 42nd street. This could be even bigger than the Facebook IPO, and it won't cost you a cent!

This is NASA's Curiosity home page which includes a countdown timer clock for the event:

List of Curiosity landing parties around the world. Find your nearest one!

This is where you can watch the streaming video of the landing on NASA TV:

Facts about Curiosity and the landing:

What you will see on TV as Curiosity lands:

Astronomy Israel party listing on the official world-wide Curiosity party site:

The seven minutes of the landing has been described by NASA as "seven minutes of sheer terror", as Curiosity goes from a cosmic velocity of 13,000 MPH to zero through its landing sequence to finally be lowered to the surface by a hovering sky-crane using over 70 pyrotechnic elements that will finally fly the sky-crane safely away from Curiosity where it will crash to the surface of Mars.

It takes transmissions from Curiosity 14 minutes to reach earth, observing the universal cosmic speed limit of 186,000MPS, so mission operators won't know whether Curiosity has survived its seven minutes of terror for 14 minutes after its landing. The 8:31 landing time is calculated to include the 14 minutes of transmission delay, so the actual landing will occur at 8:17AM IDT.

Come and join us as we find out the ultimate fate of the greatest robotic mission to the planets ever undertaken by mankind!

Enhanced by Zemanta


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...