For those of you who experienced the Great American Eclipse, enough said. For those who missed it, let me be the first to commiserate with you; you quite simply have no idea.
I could say something like “The moment was glorific;” a true statement, for sure, although an inadequate testament at best. Indeed, the worst traffic jam in Wyoming history could do nothing to lessen my appreciation and wonder. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
BTW, the traffic jam was truly epic. In my own case, it took ten miserable hours for my wife and I to crawl back to Denver even though the outward journey only took about three. And we were the lucky ones; three of the four other couples that accompanied us on this trip took at least 13½ exhausting hours to do the same.
To get a good sense of the how the eclipse went down (at least in Casper, WY), check out KCWY13’s Even Scientist Were Blown Away By Great American Eclipse. I get a good bit of air-time and I only manage to make one flub; see if you can spot it. As to my favorite moment, at 1:48 or so my friend friend Gary Trapuzzano and his lovely wife Tracey Berlin kiss on camera after totality, clearly elated if also a bit stunned; pretty much summing up the whole experience for me. Sheer magic.
Again, the eclipse was transcendent. Word to the wise, though: 4/8/2024 looks to be even better!
The truth of the matter is that I’ve had relatively little success as an observational astronomer, never no mind the embarrassing fact that I’ve been at it for more than forty years. Resorting to numeracy, alone, there are at least at least 3×1023 stars in the observable universe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star) yet I’ve barely glanced at a measling fraction of that whole. Take the 4×1012 stars in the thirty-nine Messier Galaxies, for instance, then toss in a few odds and ends from the ARP and NGC yet that wouldn’t even put me within ten orders of magnitude of the theoretical total. Not that the reality of it all is likely to be a fraction of that optimistic number. No, I’d be astounded to learn that I’d so much as glanced upon a quadrillionth of it all. And I’m an unabashed optimist! Continue reading
One of the hazards of being an outreach-minded astronomer is having to deal with a never-ending stream of lunatics. Whether it be the overly-fervent gal who got supper-pissed when I failed to agree with her that asterisms were galaxy-sized corporeal beings or the octogenarian who called out the cops because he was sure that I was using my telescope to peep at him through his solid walls, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with both the grossly misinformed and the all but barking mad. As a rule, though, I tend to take such crackpots in my stride.
The people who drive me bonkers, though, are the supposedly sane and well educated; fellow citizens who hold the most outrageous and improbable beliefs even though a modicum of sense and introspection should serve to dispel them one and all.
Laurel & Hardy’s 1934 film “Babes In Toyland,” and have certainly been known to intone the toy soldier’s signature phrase to myself during any number of odd—and usually inappropriate—moments. Ore-oh, OREO, indeed! If I could only fit myself out with one of those natty enameled uniforms then I’m quite sure that I’d be styling with the best of them.
I’ve always loved
But I digress. On this day, my purpose is to discourse on orreries; not ore-ohs, nor even oreos. For the uninformed, an orrery is (to quote Wikipedia): a mechanical device that illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the Solar System in a heliocentric model. In this somewhat mod-ern era, mechanical orreries have fallen out of fashion, particularly since online orreries like “The Planets Today” are so easy to use, and exceedingly more accurate.
The problem with electronic orreries is that they lack my favorite component: gears! Continue reading
(Note: this article was originally published in 2005 on my defunt astronomy tourism site: ScopeSeeing.com. A related press release may be found here. 2003 UB313 was ultimately named Eris, and in the process helped to dethrone Pluto to “dwarf-planet” status.)
On the morning of October 9th, 2005 a small team of amateur astronomers visually observed the 10th planet using McDonald Observatory’s 2.1m Otto Struve Telescope. Keith Murdock completed the first observation at 1:08 AM CDT. Louis Berman made a second confirming observation at 1:15 AM CDT. Over the next hour the planet was subsequently observed by seven additional team members and two McDonald Observatory staff. Continue reading