May 28, 2017

August 2013-Life in the AstroBlogosphere: Adventures in Astrology

Gazing upon astronomy’s astrological past…

(Photo by author).

I was first bitten by the astrology bug in the 6th grade.

This was in the late 1970s, when Weekly Reader (remember Weekly Reader?) offered students mail order books to purchase. Astrology and new age mania was also at a fevered pitch.

I eagerly absorbed a book on astrology, like I did with every new subject I came across. (UFOs and Bigfoot were big then too). How simple and clear cut it all seemed! All of humanity could be divvied up into 12 trouble-free houses, all dictated by birth date. All triumphs and tribulations could be attributed to the heavens. After all, as the book stated, “If plants grown in different seasons are dissimilar, then why not people?” [Read more...]

18.01.11: The Signs They Are a Changin’

Sextans…the 14th sign? (Created by the Author in Starry night).

OK. By now, you know that your astrological sign isn’t what you were always told it was. Last week, (non-) news broke that according to astronomy, not only were the zodiacal signs wrong, but the Sun actually passes through a 13th sign, that of Ophiuchus. The astrology-minded scrambled, desperately trying to conceive not only what a ‘serpent bearer’ should be like, but how to pronounce it. [Read more...]

Review: Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum.

Out from Basic Books!

Out from Basic Books!

  

   All too often these days, we’ve heard it said that America is in danger of losing its competitive edge in the world scientific arena. This is inevitably blamed on education, political agendas, or general apathy. A quick sound bite will usually then proceed that claims X percentage of Americans do not accept evolution, or the Big Bang, or some other scientific fact. [Read more...]

Astro Event: A Very Close Dawn Conjunction.

 

Jupiter & Uranus at Appulse! (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

Jupiter & Uranus at Appulse! (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

 

 

    Tomorrow morning has something worth getting up for; one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year. Specifically, the planets Jupiter and Uranus sit about 26’ arc minutes apart, as seen through binoculars. Both will also fit nicely in a low power telescopic field for the next week or so. Jupiter has been very much in the news as of late, as it first became suddenly “one striped” a few weeks ago and was recently smacked again by an impactor. When we first caught wind of this, our first instinct was hoax, such as the “Mars is the closest this August in 50,000 years!” email that circulates every summer. But it does indeed appear that another impactor has struck the giant world, on the same calendar date and discovered by the same observer! We’ve definitely received a lesson in Jupiters’ role as a cosmic vacuum cleaner as of late, although no true impact scar has yet to reveal itself. It’s also worth noting that the impact longitude will be on the planet’s central meridian at 4:21 EDT tomorrow the 8th as well, another reason to check out Jupiter. The impact video that circulated revealed the hit to be right at the longitude of the missing Southern Equatorial Belt. Uranus will be slightly fainter than a typical Galilean moon and display a grayish green disk. The pair rises around 3AM local and a waning crescent Moon will be nearby. Fun fact: did you know that Galileo missed the opportunity to discover another outer world, Neptune, during a close conjunction? He even drew its position change next to Jupiter in his notebook! Probably the reason that he didn’t make the intuitive leap was because no one at the time supposed that there should be any undiscovered planets!

The Astro-Word for this week is Appulse. This is another term that points back to astronomy’s hoary roots with astrology. We say an object (usually two planets or a planet and the Moon) are at appulse on their closest apparent approach. Of course, this is only line of sight from our vantage point; in reality, objects such as Jupiter and Uranus are millions of miles apart. The term appulse has sort of fallen to the wayside in favor of its synonym, conjunction, but it certainly doesn’t raise the eyebrows like another related mystical sounding term, occultation. I’m just glad that professional astronomers no longer have to subsidize their income by casting horoscopes for kings, as they did in times of yore!

Review: Science Under Siege edited by Kendrick Frazier.

Out now from Prometheus Books!
Out now from Prometheus Books!
After centuries of progressive enlightenment, a sinister reversal is afoot. Ever since science has become an effective force for change, there have been those who either inadvertently or deliberately sought to reverse the benefits it has wrought to modern society. True, scientific development is not without its own set of problems as the paradigm shifts; such is our evolution into a more mindful, forward thinking species. But the detractors and exposures of “pseudo” or “anti” science seek to revert our hard won knowledge back to ignorance; at best, their failure represents a simple misinterpretation of the scientific method. But at its worst, their misguided ideology can cost lives… a look at the heavens’ gate mass suicide  or the current anti-vax  movement shows that. I sometimes wonder if our grandparents look down on us, woefully shaking their heads as we work to undo the hard won knowledge they accumulated for our own general well being… [Read more...]

AstroEvent of the Week: 15.06.09: The Summer Solstice.

Sunset.

A Monsoon Sunset over the former Very Small Optical Observatory. (Photo by Author).

Astronomers throughout the northern hemisphere, rejoice; the long slow onslaught of daylight is about to end! The summer solstice occurs right on schedule this year at 05:45 Universal Time on Sunday, June 21st. The most northerly point in the Sun’s yearly celestial journey, it will now start its long apparent journey south. While this may be the longest (barely) stretch of daylight, don’t confuse it with the earliest sunrise or latest sunset, which may occur weeks prior or after (remember sun-fast and our friend, the Equation of Time?) Now is a good time to note any local Stonehenge- like alignments in your local neighborhood, as the Sun’s path marks the Tropic of Cancer, which actually falls around the Taurus/Gemini border in our modern epoch (sorry to break this to all you astrologer types!)… Here’s to the eventual return of the darkness! [Read more...]

Astrology: An Astronomical Perspective

Astronomy may well be man’s oldest scientific endeavour. When we weren’t busy eking out an existence, we were looking to the stars. The sky to our ancestors must have seemed enigmatic and mysterious. Removed from terrestrial affairs, the heavens seemed aloof. [Read more...]