Tag: Moon

A Letter to the Moon

We live on such a fragile planet!

The idea of writing a letter to the moon is not a new one and it came to me when listening to an item yesterday morning, Pacific Time, broadcast by the BBC on Radio 4. The item was the news that Elon Musk has announced that:

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has unveiled the first private passenger it plans to fly around the Moon.

Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, 42, announced: “I choose to go to the Moon.”

The mission is planned for 2023, and would be the first lunar journey by humans since 1972.

So here is that letter!

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Dear Mr Moon,

I cannot believe how quickly the years roll by!

Who would have thought that yesterday, the 18th of September, 2018, was the anniversary of the day in September, 1977 when:

On September 18, 1977, as it headed toward the outer solar system, Voyager 1 looked back and acquired a stunning image of our Earth and moon.

You will surely remember that first image taken of the Planet Earth and your good self in the same frame.

Here is the 1st-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame. Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km) from Earth. Image Number: PIA00013 via NASA/JPL.

Now here we are some 41 years later and, my, how things have changed.

But something, dear Mr. Moon, has never changed for you. That is the sight of our most beautiful planet. Plus, I would go so far as to venture that what makes our planet such a beautiful sight, one that has captivated us humans when we have gone into space and looked back at home, is the magic of our atmosphere.

It is so thin!

Picture taken by a NASA satellite orbiting the earth some 200 miles above the planet’s surface.

So, so thin …. and so, so fragile.

It is akin to the thinness of the skin of an onion.

In fact, Mr. Moon, that layer that we earthlings call the troposphere, the layer closest to Earth’s surface varies from just 4 miles to 12 miles (7 to 20 km) thick. It contains half of our planet’s atmosphere!

Everything that sustains the life of air-breathing creatures, human and otherwise, depends on the health of this narrow layer of atmosphere above our heads. Now the thickness of that layer varies depending on the season and the temperature of the air. But let’s use an average thickness of 8 miles (say, 13 km) because I want to explore in my letter to you some comparisons.

In your infinite gaze down upon your mother planet you will have seen the arrival  of H. sapiens, out of ancestral H. erectus, that took place roughly 315,000 years ago.

You will also have seen from your lofty vantage point the growth of both CO2 levels in the planet’s atmosphere and the average land-ocean temperature. Forgive me quoting something at you, but:

OBSERVABLE CHANGES IN THE EARTH

SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

While politicians have been busy debating the merits of climate science, the physical symptoms of climate change have become increasingly apparent: since the industrial revolution, sea level has grown by 0.9 inches, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen to unprecedented levels, average global temperatures have increased by about 1.0 degree Celsius and, to top it off, the global population has jumped by nearly 600 percent; 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurred in the 21st century, and 2016 is likely to be the warmest year ever recorded.

Now the Industrial Revolution was all but over back in 1840 and the last 178 years have seen an explosion in the way we use energy, in all its forms. Plus we have to accept that back then the global population was around 1 billion persons. It is now over 7 billion.

Between 1900 and 2000, the increase in world population was three times greater than during the entire previous history of humanity—an increase from 1.5 to 6.1 billion in just 100 years.

So on to my comparisons.

The radius of our beautiful planet is about 3,959 miles (6,371 km). The average thickness of the troposphere is 8 miles (13 km).

Thus the ratio of thickness of our liveable atmosphere to the radius of the planet is 8 divided by 3,959. That is a figure of 0.002! Our atmosphere is 1/1000th of the size of the radius of our planet.

Hang on that figure for a moment.

In the last 178 years humanity has transformed our consumption of energy and especially carbon-based fuels. H. sapiens has been around for 315,000 years.

Thus the ratio of these present ‘modern’ times (the last 178 years) to the arrival of us back then (315,000 years ago) is 178 divided by 315,000. That is a (rounded) figure of 0.0006. Our modern times are just 1/10,000th of the time that so-called modern man has been on this planet.

So, dear Mr. Moon, you must despair that in so short a number of years, proportionally ten times smaller than the ratio of the troposphere to the radius of our planet, we funny creatures have done so much damage to what we all depend on to stay alive – clean air!

Or maybe, my dear companion of the night sky, because you are celebrating your 4.1 billionth year of existence, what we humans are doing is all a bit of a yawn.

Sincerely,

This old Brit living in Oregon.

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My dear friends (and I’m now speaking to you dear reader, not the moon!) when you reflect on the fragility of our atmosphere, well the layer we depend on for life, you realise without doubt that each and every one of us must make this pledge.

“I promise to do everything possible to reduce my own personal CO2 output and to ensure that both to my near friends and my political representatives I make it clear that we must turn back – and turn back now!”

Or, as George Monbiot writes in closing a recent essay (that I am republishing tomorrow): “Defending the planet means changing the world.”

Our incredible world!

What to see in the night sky in August

You all understand that this blog, while predominantly about our special doggie friends, never hesitates to wander away from matters canine if I think it will be enjoyed by all you good people.

You will also all appreciate that August is the month where in the USA, on August 21st, there will be a total eclipse of the sun.

The reasons why I didn’t hesitate to republish a recent post that was presented on Mother Nature Network.

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What to see in the night sky in August

While the total solar eclipse is the highlight, there are other celestial fireworks to look forward to this month.

Michael d’Estries   August 1, 2017.

Michael d’Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Celestial events for August 2017 include a total solar eclipse, Perseid meteor shower and the rise of the Sturgeon Moon. (Photo: Michael Seeley/Flickr)

Welcome to August, a month defined by loud cicadas, pool parties, humidity and children fretting about an impending return to school. When it comes to celestial happenings, however, there is no larger star this month that our own moon. From a partial lunar eclipse to the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in almost a century, the moon will be the cause of most eyeballs drifting towards the heavens over the next several weeks.

Below is a small sampling of some of the night and day celestial events to look forward to this month. Wishing you all clear skies!

The rise of the full Sturgeon Moon (Aug. 7)

The full Sturgeon Moon is so-named for the fish that are easily caught in August and early September. (Photo: Paul Kline/flickr)

August’s full moon, nicknamed the Sturgeon Moon, will rise for the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on the evening of Aug. 7 at 8:05 p.m.

The Sturgeon Moon gets its name from the species of fish native to both Europe and the Americas that is easily caught this time of year. Other nicknames include the Corn Moon, Fruit Moon and Grain Moon. In countries experiencing winter, such as New Zealand, native Māori called this full moon “Here-turi-kōkā” or “the scorching effect of fire is seen on the knees of man.” This reference is to warm fires that glow during the Southern Hemisphere’s coldest month.

Partial lunar eclipse (Aug. 7 & 8)

Observers in Africa, Asia and Australia will see August’s partial lunar eclipse in its entirety. (Photo: Forrest Tanaka/flickr)

As a kind of consolation prize for missing out on this month’s total solar eclipse over North America, those living on the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia will bear witness to a partial lunar eclipse. Spectators in Europe will catch the tail end of the eclipse as the moon rises around 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 7.

This phenomenon occurs between two to four times a year when the moon passes through a portion of the Earth’s shadow. Because the shadow cast is more than 5,700 miles wide, lunar eclipses last much longer than solar eclipses. In some instances, totality can occur for as long as 1 hour and 40 minutes. As a reference, maximum totality for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse will top out a mere 2 minutes and 42 seconds. The longest, at over 7 minutes, won’t take place until the year 2186.

This month’s partial lunar eclipse is the last of the year. Next year, total lunar eclipses will take place in January and July.

Perseid meteor shower (Aug. 12)

A composite shot of last year’s Perseid meteor shower over Turkey. Notice how the path of the meteors appears to race from the constellation Perseus. (Photo: NASA)

Regarded as one of the best celestial light shows of the year, the Perseid meteor shower occurs from July 17 to Aug. 24 and peaks on the evening of Aug. 12.

The shower, sometimes creating as many as 60 to 200 shooting stars per hour, is produced as Earth passes through debris left over from the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. This 16-mile-wide periodic comet, which completes an orbit around the sun every 133 years, has been described as “the single most dangerous object known to humanity.” This is because every instance of its return to the inner solar system brings it ever closer to the Earth-moon system. Though astronomers believe the comet bears no threat for at least the next 2,000 years, future impacts cannot be ruled out.

If the comet were to hit Earth, scientists believe Swift-Tuttle would be at least 27 times more powerful than the asteroid or comet that wiped out the dinosaurs. For now, you can take in the beauty of the debris from this harbinger of doom by looking north towards the constellation Perseus. Because the moon will be three-quarters full, you’ll need to search out a nice dark sky to escape any light pollution from urban environments.

Total solar eclipse (Aug. 21)

A total solar eclipse as captured over the Southern Hemisphere in November 2012. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By far the biggest celestial event in ages, Aug. 21 marks the first time since June 1918 that a total solar eclipse will race from coast to coast across the United States. Cities and towns along the 72-mile-wide path of totality are preparing for an influx of visitors, with millions of Americans expected to drive to view the rare phenomenon. Those outside totality will still experience a show, with partial solar eclipses happening over much of North America. Regardless, everyone will want to invest in a pair of special solar eclipse glasses to avoid ruining your eyesight.

Total solar eclipses occur when the new moon moves between the Earth and the sun and casts its shadow on the planet. This shadow is comprised of two concentric cones –– the larger penumbra, which from Earth only shows the sun partially blocked, and the much smaller umbra, which blocks the sun completely. It is within this latter cone that totality will occur, giving spectators on the ground what’s considered by many to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

The Great American Eclipse will actually first start out in the Pacific (at this point, it will actually, unbelievably rise while completely eclipsed!), making landfall on the Oregon community of Lincoln Beach at 10:16:01 a.m. (PDT). From there, the moon’s shadow will continue to race across the U.S. The point of greatest eclipse, where the axis of the moon’s shadow passes nearest to the center of Earth, will take place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and last 2 minutes and 40.1 seconds. In celebration of the event, the town has temporarily renamed itself “Eclipseville,” and expects anywhere from 55,000 to 150,000 tourists to visit in advance of Aug. 21.

The next total solar eclipse over the U.S. will take place on April 8, 2024.

New moon (Aug. 21)

August’s new moon will not only create a show during the day, but also leave the heavens to glow unimpeded by night. (Photo: Coconino National Forest/flickr)

Fresh after wowing the U.S. during the day with its solar theatrics, August’s new moon will give way to dark skies for the next several nights. This is the perfect opportunity to grab a blanket and head outside into the still-warm summer evenings to enjoy the heavens in all their glory. With some remnants of the Perseids still visible, it will also offer a chance to catch some of the faintest shooting stars.

Look for Earth’s shadow (All year)

The Earth’s shadow and ‘Belt of Venus’ as captured above Mauna Kea, Hawaii. (Photo: Jay El Eskay/flickr)

Ever wonder what causes the beautiful bands of color in the eastern sky at sunset or the western sky at sunrise? The dark blue band stretching 180 degrees along the horizon is actually the Earth’s shadow emanating some 870,000 miles into space. The golden-red portion, nicknamed the “Belt of Venus,” is Earth’s upper-atmosphere illuminated by the setting or rising sun.

Now that you know about this phenomenon, choose a night or morning sometime to try and pick it out. You’ll need a western or eastern horizon that’s fairly unobstructed to get a clear view of our planet’s huge curved shadow.

Looking ahead to September

On Sept. 15, the Cassini spacecraft will end its 20-year mission to Saturn with a dramatic death dive into the ringed planet. (Photo: NASA)

As fall beckons, the biggest event next month will be the dramatic death dive of the Cassini spacecraft into Saturn. Taking place on Sept. 15, Cassini will make discoveries about Saturn right up until its fiery conclusion, with unprecedented photos and data captured and transmitted during its final moments.

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It is going to be quite a month!

Oh, and for those of you that want to know the timings of the eclipse over North America there is a useful reference site here, from which I republish the following table.

Eclipse Start & End: Local Time for US States

The eclipse will begin over the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC, which corresponds to 8:46 am Pacific Time. It will reach the coast of Oregon at Lincoln City, just west of Salem, at 9:04 am local time. The eclipse will reach its maximum point here at 10:17 am.

From here, the Moon’s central shadow will move inland. The following table shows when the Moon will begin to move in front of the Sun and the moment it completely covers the Sun, as seen from some locations along the central path of the eclipse. All times are local.

Location Partial Eclipse Begins Sun Completely Obscured
Salem, OR 09:05 am PDT 10:18 am PDT
Idaho Falls, ID 10:15 am MDT 11:33 am MDT
Casper, WY 10:22 am MDT 11:43 am MDT
Lincoln, NE 11:37 am CDT 1:03 pm CDT
Sabetha, KS 11:38 am CDT 1:05 pm CDT
Jefferson City, MO 11:46 am CDT 1:14 pm CDT
Carbondale, IL 11:52 am CDT 1:21 pm CDT
Hopkinsville, KY 11:56 am CDT 1:25 pm CDT
Nashville, TN 11:58 am CDT 1:28 pm CDT
Talulah Falls, GA 1:07 pm EDT 2:37 pm EDT
Columbia, SC 1:13 pm EDT 2:43 pm EDT
Charleston, SC 1:16 pm EDT 2:47 pm EDT

Please note that this list includes only a small selection of locations where the total eclipse will be visible. You can look up more locations in our Eclipse Database or via the Eclipse Map.

Enjoy your nights out there! And let your dogs howl their hearts out!

Out of this world!

Literally!

I noticed the other day a series of photographs of the moon and Venus that were included in an item on EarthSky News. All I am going to do is to republish a selection of the photographs so if you would like to read the full item, including all the photographs, then here is the link.

Mohamed Laaïfat Photographies in Normandy, France caught the little planet Mercury, too, along with the moon and Venus, on January 21.
Mohamed Laaïfat Photographies in Normandy, France caught the little planet Mercury, too, along with the moon and Venus, on January 21.

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João Pedro Marques caught bright Venus and the waxing moon on the evening of January 22, 2015, from Portugal. The reddish “star” above and to the left of the moon is Mars.
João Pedro Marques caught bright Venus and the waxing moon on the evening of January 22, 2015, from Portugal. The reddish “star” above and to the left of the moon is Mars.

In the above image, Mars may only be seen by viewing a bigger image here.

One Horse Media in Lolo, Montana wrote: “What a cool moon and view of Venus this evening! I was happy to have just enough time to take a few photos as soon as I got home!”
One Horse Media in Lolo, Montana wrote: “What a cool moon and view of Venus this evening! I was happy to have just enough time to take a few photos as soon as I got home!”

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Hecktor Barrios in Hermosillo, Mexico wrote: “Venus, Moon and Mercury, the latter barely visible."
Hecktor Barrios in Hermosillo, Mexico wrote: “Venus, Moon and Mercury, the latter barely visible.”

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Planet Venus and young moon on January 21, 2015, as captured by Cathy Emmett Palmer in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Planet Venus and young moon on January 21, 2015, as captured by Cathy Emmett Palmer in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Won’t add any more thoughts from me because each and every one of you will have your own feelings and responses to these photographs. Don’t want my ideas to get in the way of your own thoughts.

Just all of you have a wonderful and peaceful weekend.

A return to integrity

Can we mend our broken ways? Just possibly.

Yesterday’s long rant was the outcome of me promising ‘a debate’ with Patrice Ayme.  Succinctly, I had disagreed with a comment from Patrice where he had written: “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.” and wanted to respond within the space of a post rather than the more restrictive comment.

For my disagreement with Patrice had been essentially about his statement, ‘Force is the truth of man‘.  I don’t recall a war in the last 50 years that has been a force for good.

But then it was Alex’s comment, see below, that stopped me short.  For I realised that I was confusing ‘force’ with ‘war’ and that was probably a big mistake on my behalf.  Of course, I’m writing this without the benefit of knowing better what Patrice meant in his comment! Blogging, as powerful a media as it is, does not provide for immediate interaction!

Nevertheless, Alex’s comment yesterday was powerfully inspirational.  Because so many of us (and I include me in that ‘us’) all too often behave as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.

I closed yesterday’s post with these words;

So what to do?  Because I am fundamentally at odds with the sentiment expressed by Patrice Ayme; “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.

The answer takes us to tomorrow’s post, A return to integrity.

And, yes, it does mention dogs!  Rather a lot as it happens!

Dogs are the one species that man has lived with longer than any other species.  So when we refer to the qualities of the dog it is simply because we are so familiar with them.  In no way does that exclude the numerous other species that bond with man and share the same wonderful qualities.

Qualities so easily seen: Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness and Affection. Together they are Integrity.

Of course dogs will kill a rabbit, for example, as readily as a cat will kill a mouse.  In this respect force is the truth of Nature.

The only way for species man to survive on this planet is for every element of man’s existence on this planet to be rethought of in terms of the natural order.  Read the comment left by Alex in yesterday’s post:

Hi Paul, what you highlight are examples of disconnection between humanity with nature and each other. I have on my own blog highlighted a concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – which is only possible when the self realises they are part of an inter-connected network of life. Your example of islands of fragmented forest where disconnected wildlife are dying out is how it is with disconnected humanity, we are doomed to destruction because we are cut off from the life-giving connection to nature.

All the problems you highlight are symptoms of the disease of disconnection, until there is reconnection to nature none of these symptoms can be successfully addressed.

War is an integral part of nature, when people seek to dismiss this then they add to the disconnection from nature. I was stung in the face by a drunken wasp a few days ago, this is how it is with nature, it is beautiful but also brutal. Peace and balance are illusions, life is in a becoming because of unbalance and strife. I advocate harmony, like a downhill skier we do not seek to control our surroundings, but instead act in harmony by moving around the obstacles such as rock and tree.

Disconnection can be as large as destroying whole forests by ignorant energy policies to those idiots who kicked a puffball to pieces before I could harvest it, or the new owners of my former home who have taken a chainsaw to all the trees and bushes in the garden. People who are disconnected do not consider how their actions impact nature or people contrary to the philosophy of Ubuntu.

I am because we are!” Each and every one of us is where we are today, for good or ill, because of what we are: part of Nature.  It’s so incredibly obvious – we are a natural species – yet who reading this wouldn’t admit at times to behaving “as though we are a species utterly divorced from Nature.”

Millions of us have pets and animals that we love.  Yet we still miss the key truth of our pets.  That we are a part of Nature, subject to Natural order, just as much as our pets are.  We have so much to learn from our animals.

Take this rather sad story but, nonetheless, a formidable story of the integrity of one species for another.  Watch the video.

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Take this rather happier story about the integrity of one species for another. Watch the video.

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Thus when we see the extraordinary benefits that arise from love and trust, from loyalty and faithfulness, and much more, why oh why is so much of our society fundamentally broken?

As John Hurlburt wrote in a recent email, it is because, “we are spiritual bankrupt. We spend too much of our time thinking about ourselves and what we want and too little of our time thinking about other people and what we all need.”  John went on to add that this spiritual bankruptcy had preceded our moral and economical bankruptcy. He pointed out that the solution to our moral and financial problems, as well as our salvation as individuals and as a species, is spiritual. “We simply need to love the Nature of God, the earth and each other regardless of what we may believe God to be.”

Now whether you are a religious soul, or a heathen, or somewhere in the middle, it matters not.  For if we continue to defy Nature and the natural laws of this planet we are going to be dust before the end of this century.  Again in John’s powerful words:

Denying climate change is a death wish.

Nature always wins in the long run.

Nature is balanced. Are we?

As if to endorse the great examples that Nature offers us in terms of the benefits of love and trust, take a look at these three recent photographs from here in Oregon.

A young timid deer responding to me sitting quietly on the ground.
A young timid deer showing her trust of me as I sat quietly on the ground less than 30 feet away.

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A mother and her fawn trusting Jean's love for them, and getting a good feed!
A mother and her fawn trusting Jean’s love for them, and getting a good feed!

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Sweeny, on back of settee, and Cleo in peace and comfort.
Little Sweeny and Cleo converting trust to peace and happiness.  (Not to mention Jean!)

Now these are not photographs to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over, these are reminders that kindness, generosity, selflessness and trust are part of Nature.  All the great virtues and values of man do not come from a vacuum, they come to us via Nature.

We have been blessed by an evolution that has allowed mankind to achieve remarkable things.  Even to the point of leaving the confines of our planet and setting foot on the Moon and sending probes from out of our Solar System.  There’s a sense, a distinctly tangible sense, that man has conquered all; that we have broken the link from being part of Nature; from being of Nature.

And now Mother Earth is reminding all of her species, every single one of them including species man, that everything is bound by her Natural Laws.

Does this mean that man has to revert to some form of pre-civilised stone-age era?  Of course not!  Progress can be as much within the Natural order than in competition with it, as it has been in recent times.  In fact, Professor Pat Shipman explains our progress is benefited by being part of that Natural order.  Here’s how Amazon describe her book, The Animal Connection.

The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human

A bold, illuminating new take on the love of animals that drove human evolution.

Why do humans all over the world take in and nurture other animals? This behavior might seem maladaptive—after all, every mouthful given to another species is one that you cannot eat—but in this heartening new study, acclaimed anthropologist Pat Shipman reveals that our propensity to domesticate and care for other animals is in fact among our species’ greatest strengths. For the last 2.6 million years, Shipman explains, humans who coexisted with animals enjoyed definite adaptive and cultural advantages. To illustrate this point, Shipman gives us a tour of the milestones in human civilization-from agriculture to art and even language—and describes how we reached each stage through our unique relationship with other animals. The Animal Connection reaffirms our love of animals as something both innate and distinctly human, revealing that the process of domestication not only changed animals but had a resounding impact on us as well.

It’s a powerful read and greatly recommended.  Here’s an extract from the book [page 274, my emphasis]:

Clearly, part of the basis of our intimacy with tame or domesticated animals involves physical contact.  People who work with animals touch them.  It doesn’t matter if you are a horse breeder, a farmer raising pigs, a pet owner, a zoo keeper, or a veterinarian, we touch them, stroke them, hug them.  Many of us kiss our animals and many allow them to sleep with us.  We touch animals because this is a crucial aspect of the nonverbal communication that we have evolved over millennia.  We touch animals because it raises our oxytocin levels – and the animal’s oxytocin levels.  We touch animals because we and they enjoy it.

From the first stone tool to the origin of language and the most recent living tools, our involvement with animals has directed our course.

So to round this off.  These last two posts came from my need to debate with Patrice the statement that “Force is the truth of man.”  If Patrice’s meaning was that the truth of man is subject to the force of Nature, then I agree one-hundred percent.

For the time for man to recognise that the force of Nature is “the truth of man” is running out.

Each of us, whoever you are, for the sake of your children and for all of the children in the world, embrace today the qualities, the values of Nature.

Love, Honesty, Loyalty, Trust, Openness, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Affection.

(Unknown author)

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, colour, religion or politics,

Then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.

Let us learn from dogs.

Let us return to integrity.

In memory of Neil.

There will only ever be one Neil Armstrong.

Like millions of others on this planet, I was held spellbound by the historic and epic moment of man placing his mark on another heavenly body, the Moon.  I had been so wrapped up in NASA’s space missions that I took a holiday from work (I was working at the time for ICIANZ in Sydney, Australia) for the week of July 16th, 1969.

It was, of course, July 16th when the Apollo 11 Mission launched from the Kennedy Space Center culminating at precisely 20:17:39 UTC on July 20, 1969, the moment when the Lunar Module made lunar contact.

But in terms of me writing my own obituary for Neil, what could I offer?

Then a couple of items changed my mind.

Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012)

The first was reading the obituary printed in The Economist.  I have long admired the many, many beautiful obituaries that have been published by this newspaper and this one was no exception.  Take this extract from the Neil Armstrong obituary,

He had an engineer’s reserve, mixed with a natural shyness. Even among the other astronauts, not renowned for their excitability, he was known as the “Ice Commander”. Mike Collins, one of his crew-mates on the moon mission, mused that “Neil never transmits anything but the surface layer, and that only sparingly.” He once lost control of an unwieldy contraption nicknamed the Flying Bedstead that was designed to help astronauts train for the lunar landing. Ejecting only seconds before his craft hit the ground and exploded, he dusted himself off and coolly went back to his office for the rest of the day. There was work to be done.

Then the beautiful words that bring the obituary to a close,

Earth’s beauty

Over half a century, the man who never admitted surprise was surprised to observe the fading of America’s space programme. The Apollo project was one of the mightiest achievements of the potent combination of big government and big science, but such enterprises came to seem alien as well as unaffordable. Mr Armstrong, who after his flight imagined bases all over the moon, sadly supposed that the public had lost interest when there was no more cold-war competition.

Yet the flights had one huge unintended consequence: they transformed attitudes towards Earth itself. He too had been astonished to see his own planet, “quite beautiful”, remote and very blue, covered with a white lace of clouds. His reserve, after all, was not limitless. One photograph showed him in the module after he and Buzz Aldrin had completed their moon-walk, kicking and jumping their way across the vast, sandy, silver surface towards the strangely close horizon. He is dressed in his spacesuit, sports a three-day beard, and is clearly exhausted. On his face is a grin of purest exhilaration.

” … they transformed attitudes towards Earth itself. He too had been astonished to see his own planet, “quite beautiful”, remote and very blue, covered with a white lace of clouds.”   For that reason alone, we need to celebrate the achievement of the Apollo 11 mission for putting our own planet into perspective within the enormity of the universe.

The second item that persuaded me to write this was a wonderful historic insight into how a potential catastrophy on the surface of the Moon would have been handled by President Nixon.  This historic item was published on Carl Milner’s blog the other day, the specific item being  What if the Moon Landing Failed?  Republished with the very kind permission of Carl.

What if the Moon Landing Failed?

Posted on September 1, 2012 by 

When Richard Nixon was the President of the United States, they had a speech ready for him to deliver to the world just in case the 1969 moon landing had ended in disaster. In fact many experts believed there was a big chance that Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin could have really gotten stuck on the moon. It’s something we don’t really think about now because we all know it was such a success. American Archives have unearthed the speech that would have been delivered if the late great Armstrong and Aldrin had never made it back to earth. This is such a great piece of history that I thought I might never see.

Give it a read, It’s such a moving and well prepared speech, and such a good thing that President Nixon never had to delivered it.

So, as with millions of others, I am delighted that this speech remained unspoken and instead we experienced: “At 5:35 p.m. (US EDT), Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:50 p.m. on July 24.

Neil Armstrong’s legacy is not only being part of the wonderful team that allowed man to make the first footprint on the Moon but also bringing into our human consciousness that this blue, wonderful planet we all live on is the only home we have.

First Full-View Photo of Earth
Photograph courtesy NASA Johnson Space Center
This famous “Blue Marble” shot represents the first photograph in which Earth is in full view. The picture was taken on December 7, 1972, as the Apollo 17 crew left Earth’s orbit for the moon. With the sun at their backs, the crew had a perfectly lit view of the blue planet.

Strikes me that celebrating July 20th each year as Blue Planet Day might not be a bad idea!  Any takers?  Now that would be a legacy for Neil!

Harvest moon

There’s always much more to people than meets the eye!

I can’t recall at what point in the life of Learning from Dogs that Per Kurowski popped up over the parapet but it was pretty early on.  Per has been a great supporter of my varied efforts to promote the way that dogs are a wonderful example of integrity, trust and openness.

Anyway, Per comes from a background that one might not associate with the rest of this article.  Per used to be a director at the World Bank.  One of his Blogs includes this:

I warned many about the coming crisis, long before it happened, on many occasions and in many places, even at the World Bank. They did not want to listen and that´s ok, it usually happens, but what is not ok, is that they still do not seem to want to hear it. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” (Plato: 427 BC – 347 BC)

Just a couple of days ago, I posted about the moon that passed closer to the Earth on the 19th than for the last 20 years.  Per added a comment to that Post, “And this is a homemade version of the beautiful Harvest Moon song by Neil Young” With this link.  At that link you can watch and listen to Per singing ‘Harvest Moon’ recorded by Neil Young.  Enjoy.

Here was that moon, as seen from Payson in Arizona with some cloud in the sky!

 

That moon!

 

Finally, for those interested in the lyrics, here they are.

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.
Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

That beautiful moon

The moon is at her full, and riding high,

Floods the calm fields with light.

The airs that hover in the summer sky

Are all asleep to-night William Bryant

 

'Harvest' moon!

 

As many of you know, I wrote a piece last Monday about how close the moon will be to the Earth on the 19th, and some ideas about whether there was a correlation between close full moons and natural disasters.

Well tomorrow is the 19th and I wanted to remind everyone to take time off, be outside and just admire this wondrous object in our night sky.

A reader, thanks Suzann, pointed me to the NASA Science website where there is some good factual information about how special this moon is.  From that website, I quote:

Mark your calendar. On March 19th, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It’s a super “perigee moon”–the biggest in almost 20 years.

“The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993,” says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. “I’d say it’s worth a look.”

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee): diagram. Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon’s orbit.

“The full Moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee–a near-perfect coincidence1that happens only 18 years or so,” adds Chester.

A perigee full Moon brings with it extra-high “perigean tides,” but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches)–not exactly a great flood.

Super Full Moon (moon illusion, 200px)

(The Moon looks extra-big when it is beaming through foreground objects–a.k.a. “the Moon illusion.”)

Indeed, contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The “super moon” of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super Moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless.

Okay, the Moon is 14% bigger than usual, but can you really tell the difference? It’s tricky. There are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon can seem much like any other.

The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. On March 19th, why not let the “Moon illusion” amplify a full Moon that’s extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it.

Don’t bother. Even a super perigee Moon is still 356,577 km away. That is, it turns out, a distance of rare beauty.
Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

Footnote: Less-perfect perigee moons occur more often. In 2008, for instance, there was a full Moon four hours from perigee. Many observers thought that one looked great, so the one-hour perigee moon of 2011 should be a real crowd pleaser.

The full moon – very full!

Brought forward as a result of the Japanese earthquake.

I had this item scheduled for publication on Friday 18th March, the day before this month’s full moon.  But recent events in Japan made me decide to bring it forward to today for reasons that will be clear when this Post is read further.

The world is set to experience the biggest full moon for almost two decades when the satellite reaches its closest point to Earth next weekend.

On 19 March, the full moon will appear unusually large in the night sky as it reaches a point in its cycle known as ‘lunar perigee’.

Stargazers will be treated to a spectacular view when the moon approaches Earth at a distance of 221,567 miles (356,577 km) in its elliptical orbit – the closest it will have passed to our planet since 1992.

The full moon could appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter in the sky, especially when it rises on the eastern horizon at sunset or is provided with the right atmospheric conditions.

Moon apogee and perigee

This phenomenon has reportedly heightened concerns about ‘supermoons’ being linked to extreme weather events – such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. The last time the moon passed close to the Earth was on 10 January 2005, around the time of the Indonesian earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was also associated with an unusually large full moon.

Previous supermoons occurred in 1955, 1974 and 1992 – each of these years experienced extreme weather events, killing thousands of people.

However, an expert speaking to Yahoo! News today believes that a larger moon causing weather chaos is a popular misconception.

Dr Tim O’Brien, a researcher at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, said: “The dangers are really overplayed. You do get a bit higher than average tides than usual along coastlines as a result of the moon’s gravitational pull, but nothing so significant that will cause a serious climatic disaster or anything for people to worry about.”

But according to Dr Victor Gostin, a Planetary and Environmental Geoscientist at Adelaide University, there may be a link between large-scale earthquakes in places around the equator and new and full moon situations.

He said: “This is because the Earth-tides (analogous to ocean tides) may be the final trigger that sets off the earthquake.”

UPDATE: This was noted in Naked Capitalism on Saturday.

Volcanoes have reportedly erupted in JapanIndonesia, and Kamchatka Russia today, presumably due to the massive Japanese earthquake. There have been no reports of damage from the eruptions.

Earth, a poem

A lovely comment and a beautiful poem.

On the 28th January, Learning from Dogs posted the second of two articles about Planet Earth.  The first one was here and the second here.  That second piece attracted a lovely comment from Sue of SueDreamwalker.  What follows from this point is all Sue’s work.

A very Good Post Paul.

I thought I might share a Poem of mine about Earth I was inspired to write this in 1995, long before we got the weather we are experiencing today… Appologies for its length..

I agree we need to respect… for we are along longs ways from Space hopping..

Earth


Earth gave her body; she gave it us to share
Her breath once sweet now pollutes the air
Her waterways of veins once were crystal clear
Now they hold our garbage lifeless pools and mires

Earth gave her body; she gave it us to share
She gave us animals for pleasure and yes for food
Not to be hunted to extinction penned up and abused
She gave us her Forests for shelter and for fuel
Not for mass developments using greed for cutting tools

Earth gave us her body; she gave it us to share
The soil she gave for harvest of plants that now are rare
For medicine and minerals, silver bronze and gold
Her treasure chests of beauty, we’ve pillaged raped and sold

Earth gave us her body; she gave it us to share
Now her tears are falling, can’t you see her pain?
The bombs that we are testing, fall out, Floods- the Rain.
Wars between each Nation, like stabbings in her back
Earthquakes——- Thunder, Lightning,
She’s Crying with each Crack..

“Enough” she cries “Enough”, as Planet Earth disrupts
Her breaking heart that Bleeds, Volcanoes then Erupts
Her breath now rages Anger, Tornadoes swirl revenge
Beware the Human Race, Planet Earth could still avenge

Earth gave her body she gave it us to share
The beauty is all around us, forever standing there
Let’s not take her for granted, for some day she will rebel
Treat her with some kindness, our fellow man as well.

Earth gave her body, she gives us Life
Let’s stop all our hating, stop the greed and strife
Earth gave us a garden, she gives us love
Love is the only answer, we are told so from above

Earth gave her body, Give her your respect
For she might rebel, turn her back sooner than you’d expect
So help her through her Torment, Heal her wounded sores,
We can start by healing each other around her windy shores
Love her and those upon her, take away her tears,
Her Promise in return,
Rebirth the “ Golden Years!”

By Dreamwalker..

Beautiful words!