October 23, Partial Eclipse of the Sun

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between Earth and the Sun. The moon has “phases” as it travels in a wobbly orbit around Earth. The “light of the Moon” is really just sunlight reflecting off the lunar surface. Depending where the Moon is in relation to the Sun, this light appears to us as new moon, crescent moon, quarter moon, half moon, full moon and so on – the moon orbits Earth once every 29 1/2 days, hence our lunar cycle.

A “new Moon” can’t actually be seen from Earth because the illuminated side points away from us. A solar eclipse can only happen during the new moon phase, and only when the wobbly moon orbit lines up between Earth and the Sun, as to caste a shadow – this is a solar eclipse. Because the Moon’s orbit is tilted 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun, the “shadow” usually misses Earth.  A couple of times a year the shadow falls on our planet, depending on the angle of orbit and global location, this translates to varying degrees of eclipse.

On October 23, a partial eclipse will dazzle those inclined to notice –  if you reside in the “red zone”, click on the link below the graphic for optimum viewing times and duration.



Solar Sector Boundary Crossing

Hang on for a lesson in solar dynamics – Earth is experiencing a solar sector boundary crossing. Let me explain….

The sun produces wind (currently 410.9 Km/second) that blasts across the cosmos. Just like Earth, our Sun has a magnetic field – known as the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into a spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction. It divides into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along the ecliptic plane ( a direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.


Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact (scientific term, southward Bz) the two fields link causing partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

It takes 3 or 4 days for magnetism to sort itself out – in the meantime, and barring the occasional high frequency radio disruption,  wonky GPS and cell phones, peppered with sudden power grid failure events – we’re treated to kick ass auroras.

Some Questions

Lately I’ve been asked – “Do Atheists feel guilt?”,  “Are Atheists more likely to commit murder?”, “How do Atheists feel about homosexuality?”, “Is there a symbol Atheists could wear to alert people wanting to talk about God?”, ” Would an Atheist “pray” for a dying loved one if they asked them to?”and “Do Atheists love anything other than themselves?”. Yikes.

My first reaction is disbelief – how could anyone be so stupid? Head shaking gave way to a “no shit Sherlock” moment – it wasn’t stupidity per se, rather an inability to fathom  parameters unfettered by religious indoctrination.

My light-bulb moment did little to soothe prickled sensibilities – it did however lead to a vow. I promised myself  – from this day forward I’ll try to remember, these people simply can’t help themselves.


Pondering History

Modern society places itself in an ivory tower – dominant, untouchable, and permanent. Six thousand years ago, ancient civilizations saw themselves the same way. Regardless of pinholes along historical timelines – each and every one considered their culture as one to endure for all eternity.

Every lesson we need is represented in history. Exploitation of resources, failure to recognize weather patterns, deforestation, overly ambitious conquests, superior weaponry, religious squabbles, greed, genocide, holy wars, enslavement, ramifications of technology – history screams “pay attention”. Modern man has little time for dusty old history – we see ourselves as superior, untouchable and entitled to all the perks advanced technology lays at our feet.

None of us stops to think – we aren’t that special. History shows us civilizations come and go, shit happens – cataclysmic natural disaster, unforeseen drought, cosmic events, a myriad of reasons toppling civilization from that ivory tower.

Modern technology doesn’t exclude us from catastrophe. In what way is the modern world different from the world of ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, India, South America, or China?  If anyone believes our advancements differ from those throughout history – think again.




Three Times As Much Water

As we persist in haphazardly polluting global water, what would it mean if three times as much surface water was locked beneath the Earth? Geophysicist Dr. Steven Jacobsen and Seismologist Dr. Brandon Schmandt think a “ocean” lays 650 Kilometers beneath the surface of North America.

Before you breath a sigh of relief, thinking some underground “do over” waits to salvage our flippant disregard for limited resources – it doesn’t wait to fill your water bottle. Jacobsen and Schmandt believe the water is locked within a crystalline mineral called Ringwoodite. By studying seismic waves during earthquakes, researchers think Earth’s mantle is “saturated” with water. The two published results last June in the journal Science, Their data was collected beneath North America – further exploration is taking place to understand if the entire planet hides deep mantle water.

Pondering the possibility of 3 times as much water,  hundreds of miles below the surface, isn’t a discovery of some future supply once we’ve turned ours to sludge. What it is, is a step closer to understanding life in relation to water. Life as we know it can’t exist without water – if all this water resides in Earth’s mantle –  what forms of life might lie beneath the surface of other planets, perhaps even those in our solar system?


I Hate Turkey

Hate is a big word, temper that to strong dislike. Strictly a holiday meal, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter demand roast Turkey and all the fixings. Nobody plans a dinner party in May with “hey, a Turkey would be great”.

The idea of Turkey eclipses reality. There’s a reason we say “I hope it’s not dry” – everyone knows it will be. Turkey requires gravy, cranberry sauce, or mayonnaise once it lands in a sandwich. Families believe size matters, holiday Turkeys linger for days. Soup is Turkey’s greatest gift, immersing that carcass in water means the end of Turkey for another year.

Restricting Turkey to once a year wasn’t easy. I blame myself, stuffing is practically a food group in my home. Nothing fancy, half bread, half sausage meat, onion, celery, and sage. Preparing copious amounts, even though the “cavity” only holds a few cups is lost on my family. I’ve tried to explain stuffing can be served anytime, pointing out almost all the stuffing is baked far from the demon Turkey. No good.

All day “don’t overcook it”, “I hope it’s not dry”, “are you watching the bird”. It’s a damn Turkey! Have you ever had one that melts in your mouth? Turkey is an obligation, if it rocked our world we’d be roasting them all year long.