Super-moon Totally Eclipses the Sun

Mark March 20, 2015 on your calender. If that day rings a bell, you might be pondering the spring equinox – a conclusion worthy of honourable mention yet no blue ribbon because this March equinox is so much more.

In a nutshell, the Earth has a wobbly axis. Twice a year (March and September) the “plane” of Earth’s equator passes the center of the sun, at that point our axis tilts neither away or towards the sun. Imagine a line perpendicular to the equator, a brief time when northern and southern hemispheres are illuminated equally – you have the equinox. Think of it as roughly equal hours of day and night. Due to a blinky wobble in Earth’s axis, this happens at different times each March, roughly on the 20th or 21st.

Lets talk Moon. A super-moon occurs when a new or full moon happens at the “perigee” or closest point of orbit to Earth. 2015 officially has 6 super-moons – new moons in January, February and March, full moons in August, September and October.

Moving on to Sun – a solar eclipse only happens when a new moon passes between Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow on our planet. This conjuncture, or “syzygy” causes the Moon to fully obscure the sun’s “disc”, resulting in shadows cast upon earth.

So we have equinox, super-moon, and solar eclipse – what are the chances of them happening at the same time? If you guessed not very likely, I award you that blue ribbon.

Enter March 20, 2015 – one of those few days when cosmic circumstance delivers. If you miss this one, you’ll have to wait until 2034, 2053, or 2072.

Composite total solar eclipse Aug. 1999 by Fred Espenak.

Senate Snowball

You’ve gotta love American politics, only in America would the head of the Environment and Public Works Committee saunter onto the Senate floor with snowball in hand. James Inhofe, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, chairman manning the helm of environmental issues, had a point to make. This wasn’t just any snowball, it was proof God existed and climate change was a hoax.

“God is still up there, and He promised to maintain the seasons and that cold and heat would never cease as long as the earth remains.”

“The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous,” he said.

Inhofe isn’t content with jurisdiction over environment – he published a book titled The Greatest Hoax, urging readers to ignore science (dubbed alarmists) because a greater “Authority” has already spoken.

Over the past few days I’ve been called “eco-tard” “nuts to ponder” “ignorant clown” “climate fetishist” “moronic liberal” “parroting lies of liars” – and those are just the nice names. More than one of these people supported venom with links to The Greatest Hoax.

All I can say is “good luck America” and have a nice day.


Aurora Watch

For 3 days sunspot AR2297 has produced eruptions of solar plasma. Today a powerful M9 flare proved this sunspot has lots more to say. Radiation (able to reach our planet within 8 minutes ) swiftly impacted HF radio frequencies over the Pacific Ocean. Few people would notice blinky radio signals, Auroras are an entirely different matter.

Envy can’t begin to describe my dismay over residing outside the Auroral Oval – that sweet spot where Northern Lights dance with wild abandon. Yesterday found me grumpy over a CIR, (co-rotating interaction region) alert – transition zones between slow and fast moving solar winds that pile up solar plasma and spark auroras when impacting the magnetosphere. As if that wasn’t enough, AR2297 unleashed a M9 in case I wasn’t paying attention.

All I can hope is to live vicariously through those lucky enough to fall under Aurora’s spell. This is the weekend to welcome Aurora.

March 7, 2015 M9 class eruption captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.


Ceres Dawn

This morning at 4:39 AM PST NASA’s Dawn probe made history – almost 8 years from Earth, gravitational pull 38,000 miles from Ceres captured Dawn, the first probe to orbit a dwarf planet. Discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, Ceres reigns as largest object in the “asteroid belt” between Mars and Jupiter. At 590 miles in diameter it’s also the only asteroid belt object “rounded” by gravity – composed of rock and ice, it accounts for one third the mass of our asteroid belt. Originally hailed as planet, then asteroid, science settled on dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn has been a busy little probe – second to Ceres in pecking order of the belt is Vesta, a plucky little asteroid about a third the mass. En-route to Ceres, Dawn paid Vesta a visit in 2011. Images of Vesta indicate liquid water once flowed on her surface.

Dawn will now decrease orbital distance around Ceres, by August 2015 a projected distance of 1,480 Km begins a 2 month high resolution 3D mapping phase. November 2015 finds Dawn orbiting a mere  375 Km., for 3 months of gamma-ray, neutron detection and gravitational analysis.

NASA hoped Dawn could leave Ceres for a rendezvous with asteroid Pallas in 2018 – Dawn simply won’t be able to muster enough steam. With just enough fuel too navigate proposed orbital inclinations, Dawn will forever remain an orbiting satellite of Ceres.

Delusional Stephen Harper

Aside from spending a few minutes inside the mind of Stephen Harper, tasking myself with understanding his politics remains elusive, unfathomable and disturbing. Harper’s announcement this week of proposed “tough on crime” legislation serves as another example of how loopy Canada’s embarrassing leader has become.

In a nutshell, Harper declared intent to introduce legislation concerning the legal definition of “life sentence” for serious crimes. Vowing to protect citizens from perpetrators of “heinous” crimes, those convicted of first degree murder involving police or correctional officers, terrorism, kidnapping, treason, sexual assault and crimes of “a particularly brutal nature” , would automatically receive life with no chance of parole. Currently “life” for first degree murder means no chance of parole for 25 years. Aware of constitutional challenges, Harper added “some killers” could petition for release after serving no less than 35 years – however, the application would be heard by the Minister of Public Safety –

“This is not parole,” Harper said. “Unlike parole, decisions will not rest with an appointed board but with the federal cabinet, men and women fully accountable to their fellow citizens and to the families of the victims of these crimes.”

News flash Mr. Harper, currently Canada’s “heinous” criminals have no chance of parole under the designation of “dangerous offender”. The likes of Paul Bernardo and Robert Pickton will never be released from prison. Passing yourself off as a public safety savior, proclaiming your politics our last bastion of justice – frankly lands as a transparent blustery attempt to bolster your position. Did you really think Canadians would fall for fear mongering?

Silly me, of course you did. Why else would you approve this controversial post on the official Conservative party Facebook page? You truly are a piece of work, but I digress.

It goes without saying that our justice system has issues. That said, implementing a rigid system of “life without chance of parole” strikes me as bat shit nonsense. I thought the purpose of incarceration was to reform, educate and transform lives. The possibility of parole might be the only incentive prisoners have to change their lives, take that away and all you have are penal colonies full of violent, angry misfits.

Stephen Harper believes Canada will swallow his “tough on crime” agenda with nary a blink. It doesn’t work that way Mr. Harper, we’re Canadian.Rather than embarrass yourself and waste our time with pre-election platitudes, why not put on your big boy pants and address issues responsible for crime? You’re sorely mistaken if your delusions of grandeur translates into treating Canadians like hysterical fools.

Those responsible for heinous and brutal crimes must be removed from society. That said, you can’t colour every criminal with the same brush. Canadian courts have the power to designate criminals as dangerous offenders with no chance of parole, suggesting your government will make the world a better place is delusional.


There’s a pack of postage stamps somewhere, I saw them last spring while searching for tax receipts. A book of ten glossy peel and stick intentions, tossed with irreverent haste into the chasm of a bottomless drawer. With nothing to mail, all I wanted was to hold the possibility.

Trying to remember the last time a hand written letter arrived at my door-step,  I faced the reality a Christmas card from my sister counted – her decision to pen sentiments meant more than an e-card. At least she bothered to find a stamp.

The more I thought about it, my mind’s eye paraded her distinctive calligraphy to a shoebox on the closet shelf. There it was, resting atop a lifetime of penned treasures, stoically guarding a dusty box of tender expression. Letter after letter passed through my hands, serenaded by  pen strokes’ symphony.

I found myself mourning a future of paperless memories, lives existing in clouds of digital storage. Photographs tossed into online folders, communication lost to inadvertent clicks, sentiment reduced to homogenized fonts. Who has time to paste pictures in albums or walk to a mailbox, technology scoffs at quaintly archaic tasks.

Technology lacks a shoe box, humanity desperately needs a letter. Before it’s too late, each and every one of us needs to write a letter. Absurd as that may sound, it might be the most important gift of all – millions of shoe-boxes depend on it.