Spiders Rule


Forget cute baby kittens, look beyond conventional fluffiness and embrace the Peacock Spider. Look at this guy, he’s delightful. Yes, that’s a spider! A jumping spider native to Australia. Jumpers have excellent vision and stalk rather than trap prey in webs.

Cute soft-furred spider with vivid blue, red and yellow pattern on abdomen.

Delightful knows no bounds. Watch his courtship dance –

Considerably less fluffy, but equally remarkable are Diving Bell Spiders. In ponds across Europe and Asia, these wily arachnids spend their entire life underwater. They breathe air trapped in bubbles that are held in place by webs. Divers leave their bubble to hunt prey, surfacing only to gather fresh oxygen for their bubble.

See the source image

Flying spiders? Who knew threads of wind swept silk propelled spiders hundreds of miles? Known as parachuting or ballooning, countless small spiders raise their abdomen and cast silk to the wind. A phenonium which explains sudden appearance of spiders on ships at sea.

Long-legged spider, with back end pointing up.

Small spider raising its abdomen to balloon away. Image via Sarefo.

Your Sky Tonight


One of humanity’s greatest challenges is ambivalence toward night skies. Technology and light pollution erode inclination to gaze upward after sunset. Astronomical observations are the fabric of humanity, defining ancient monoliths, pyramids, temples and settlements. The cosmos gave us navigation, seasons, moon phases, the calendar and inexplicable feats of ancient architecture. Today, GPS points North, few know that “star” is actually Mars and Betelgeuse might as well be Beetlejuice. Sigh.

Rudimentary sky basics needn’t be elusive – ponder Time and Date night sky map and planets. Linked below –

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/

Enter your location, voila! An instant interactive sky map tracks anything you fancy. View live, adjusted for current weather conditions. Scroll left or right to adjust time of day. Click on the Sun, Moon or planets, follow their path in relation to location and time of day. Curious about meteor showers like the Leonids peaking in a few days? Click on https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/leonids.html

Time and Date is a valuable, uncomplicated resource. Give their night sky map a try.

See the source image

Planet Patrol Wants You


Calling all citizen scientists, Planet Patrol wants you. NASA, SETI, the Space Science Telescope Institute and Zooniverse collaborated to launch Planet Patrol, a website urging citizen scientists to help find exoplanets. Planet Patrol site explains –

“NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission will take pictures of more than a million stars to search for planets orbiting them, called ‘transiting exoplanets.’ We expect this mission will see thousands of these transiting exoplanets when they pass in front of nearby stars and periodically block some of the starlight.

But sometimes when a star dims like that, it’s not because of a planet. Variable stars, eclipsing binary stars, blended stars, glitches in the data, etc., can cause a similar effect. We need your help to spot these imposters!

At Planet Patrol, you’ll help us check the data from the TESS mission, one image at a time, to make sure that objects we suspect are planets REALLY are planets.”

In a nutshell – anyone with a little spare time, set of fresh eyes and impetus to participate in cosmic discovery can be a citizen scientist. How cool would it be to identify a exoplanet? Check out the link below –

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/marckuchner/planet-patrol/

Long curving line of varied planets with stars in background.
Scientists have discovered over 4,000 exoplanets so far, of many different kinds, as represented in this artist’s concept. With the public’s help, they should find many more as well. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech).

Read https://earthsky.org/space/exoplanets-nasas-planet-patrol-citizen-science?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=40df63514c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-40df63514c-393970565 for more details. To date 3,968 citizen scientists are on board. What are you waiting for?

Finding Polaris – Embrace the North Star


Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.

Very many bright concentric circles in sky around a bright irregular dot, trees in foreground.

Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”

To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.

Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.

Diagram: White sky with four black Big Dippers in a circle around Polaris.

If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.

Glory Holes


Oh Canada. I thought a closed U.S./Canada border and polite socially distanced mask respect for fellow citizens accounted for low COVID infection rates in Canada. Say what you will about Canada, but above all – we don’t shy away from open discussion of safe sex practices during pandemic times. Such is our nature, no stone left unturned. Seems we’re acutely aware of safe sex practices.

Ponder content of a recent brochure issued by the CDC in British Columbia. Fear not Canada, lest there be any doubt, government doesn’t shy away from straight answers. It recognizes our sexual nature with gloriously detailed recommendations.

In a perfect world government would have persons inclined to engage in sexual activity with another outside their immediate bubble – take matters in their own hands. It suggests masturbating in the same room as your partner, or engaging in virtual sex. Barring that, wear a mask, avoid kissing, choose a position conducive to least amount of face to face contact. Ever a wealth of practical solutions, government boldly advocated for physical barriers, specifically “glory holes”.

http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/prevention-risks/covid-19-and-sex

A “glory hole” is a hole made in a wall or other type of partition where a man can insert his penis and receive sexual stimulation. They are usually used so the sex partners can’t see each other and are anonymous.

A hand gives a thumb's up out of a hole in the

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/glory-holes-coronavirus-sex-covid-19_ca_5f18bed5c5b6f2f6c9f10049

This satirical sign appeared on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. –

This Canadian appreciates the effort, recognizes creative impetus pegging the heartbeat of my home and native land. Lighten up people! It’s a public service announcement, not a manifesto promoting glory hole annihilation of western civilization.

Conservative American heads imploded when glory hole advice made headlines. One right wing site I refuse to dignify with a link said – “Soon enough the Canadian government will be putting out manuals on how to do anal sex. Soon enough the Canadian government will be putting out manuals on how to fist-fuck your own asshole while gay niggers rape a goat in front of you. Soon enough the Canadian government will legalize child rape so that Justin Trudeau and his tranny wife can abuse their own children. This is what Canada has become: an absolute cesspit of evil and cultural decay. The Canadian government is swimming with perverts, pedophiles and zoophiles.”

Hey America, don’t be mad. At least Canada isn’t afraid to speak frankly. Nor do we pretend sexual encounters are exclusive to same sex partners. I’ll take realistic practicality over preposterous family values ignorance any day.

Not Too Late to Ponder Comet NEOWISE


On March 27, 2020 C/2020 F3 was discovered by astronomers at WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), a NASA space telescope launched in 2009. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-field_Infrared_Survey_Explorer . On March 31, 2020 it gained official comet status, April 1, 2020 saw it dubbed comet NEOWISE. In a nutshell comets are cosmic objects comprised of ice, dust and space gak presenting a observable tail courtesy close orbital proximity to the Sun. (hence, ice melt)  NEOWISE, current darling of space and common observers alike, made closest approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020. The rest is history, history which won’t be repeated until NEOWISE returns in 6,800 years.

Comet NEOWISE is a rare naked eye cosmic spectacle. A remarkably bright experience afforded Northern Hemisphere residents willing to find a dark place, look northwest after sunset toward the Big Dipper to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE.

https://www.space.com/comet-neowise-strange-facts.html?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9155&utm_content=SDC_Newsletter+&utm_term=3580249&m_i=dStOzCRRSVnQXbejZr4A4D0CjNmLoDniLEav%2BJqEI19uyt1Z%2BawSQE9xCCP7rAta4J4Z08SYh53ttnROnALyZpoYwJSMJNhcIVdLI_dddc

NEOWISE-F3-July-4-2020-Chris-Schur-S.jpg (1140×712)

 

See the source image

https://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-offers-tips-how-see-visible-comet-neowise-3012079

 

Explore the Night Sky


Adrian Mauduit at Night Lights Films launched a mesmerizing timelapse endeavor titled Explore the Night Sky. From Night Lights Films –

“Welcome to this new series of educational videos about the cosmos titled ‘Explore the Night Sky’. They consist of short episodes focusing on one celestial object or phenomenon that can be observed from Earth. They are kid friendly and their purpose is to make people discover the sky at night while encouraging science education and promoting the fight against light pollution. In this episode, we feature the open star cluster ‘Pleiades’, aka Messier 45, M 45 or the ‘Seven Sisters’ through a series of time-lapse sequences taken in various locations around the Earth (Norway, Switzerland, Spain, Chile). A lot of people have seen this small patchy group of star without realizing it contains about 1000 of them! Learn more about it by watching the rest of this mesmerizing film.”

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0CLzCpM6nuLSAi1JNBjkA

Cosmic wonder is a gift. No better way to embrace wonder than by following Adrian Mauduit.

Beryl Dickinson-Dash


In 1949 Beryl Dickinson-Dash was a third year arts major attending McGill University in Montreal. At the time, only 150 of 8,500 McGill students were black. Most blacks were international students, Beryl Dickinson-Dash belonged to a handful of Canadian born black students, notedly a black Canadian woman who knew of no other black female Canadian students.

Beryl with her mother Maisy

Winter Carnival was a big deal at McGill, a mid-winter festival presided over by Carnival queen and four princesses. Keen beauties required 25 signatures from male students to secure nomination. Without her knowledge, the roommate of Beryl’s boyfriend (whom she later married) submitted a photo she’d given her boyfriend on his birthday along with 25 signatures from black male students. Beryl was shocked to find herself one of 26 official candidates.

Next came the ceremonial tea, an afternoon of polite white glove decorum and radio interviews. 26 were cut to 15, 15 became 5 finalists after a second round of interviews and struts. Beryl made the final cut. Each candidate was assigned a campaign manager.

Campaigns reached fever pitch, Beryl’s boyfriend, his brother, roommate and black students rallied behind her. Telegrams were sent to McGill posing as endorsement from prominent companies and organizations. Posters of Beryl appeared in every classroom. Voting booths with scrutineers proved seriousness of a fair vote. Results were leaked several days before official crowning. Beryl won by a landside, so much so final numbers wouldn’t be released as doing so might “injure the other girls”. Just past midnight, March 5, 1949 on her 21st birthday, Beryl Dickinson-Dash was crowned McGill Carnival Queen at the Montreal Forum in front of 8,000 spectators.

A newspaper clipping from March 5, 1949, announcing the pageant victory. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Beryl doesn’t know why a predominantly white student body elected her Carnival queen. “Perhaps they were tired of how things were” she said. Regardless, she became a media sensation, front page news in papers and magazines. South of the border, Color magazine sponsored Dickinson-Dash (now Beryl Rapier) for a two week trip to West Virginia – her first negro college. A painting of Beryl standing in front of West Virginia state capital building by artist William Edouard Scott titled Spirit of Democracy was presented to McGill as a token of appreciation from people of America. I remind you – it was 1949!

Color magazine sponsored a two-week trip to West Virginia for Rapier. A press clipping from that trip features photographs of her at West Virginia State College. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Sadly, few people in Canada know the story of Beryl Dickinson-Dash. But for stumbling upon her story last week courtesy CBC Radio Doc Project, I’d remain oblivious to a remarkable moment in Canadian history. More photos and history at the link below –

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/docproject/how-montrealer-beryl-dickinson-dash-made-history-as-mcgill-s-first-black-queen-of-carnival-1.5605944

Springtime STEVE Sightings


STEVE ( Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement ) might look like an aurora, but it’s not. STEVE is an atmospheric phenomenon characteristic of northern hemisphere spring and fall. The result of uppity solar wind messing with Earth’s magnetic field. Meddling which allows ribbons of super heated gas travelling at speeds exceeding 13,000 mph to create observable arcs of soft purple hues. STEVE favours latitudes between +50N and +55N. Go STEVE! Hope to meet you one day.

Photo credit – Jocelyn Blanchette

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/3/eaaq0030.full