Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn Begins at the Equinox on Thursday Morning

http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/pix/graphics/solsticeimage008.png
This diagram shows the position of the Earth, in relation to the Sun, at the time of the Autumnal Equinox, as well as the other solstices and equinox of the year.
(Graphic Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club; permission granted for only non-profit use with credit to author.)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The Autumnal Equinox, the beginning of the season of Autumn or Fall in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, begins Thursday Morning, 2016 September 22 at 10:21 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 14:21 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (the time of the posting of this blog-post).

In Earth's Southern Hemisphere, this marks the astronomical beginning of the season of Spring.

On the day of Equinox, the Sun appears directly overhead at local Noon on the Equator. At the moment of Equinox, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of Earth are illuminated equally. And, the time of Equinox is the only time when  the terminator (dividing line on Earth between daylight and darkness) is perpendicular to the Equator.

This, and the reason for seasons on Earth in the first place, is due to the fact that Earth rotates on its axis, which is tilted at an approximate 23.44-degree angle from the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, this axial tilt causes one hemisphere of the planet to receive more direct solar radiation during that hemisphere's season of Summer and much less direct solar radiation a half-year later during that hemisphere's season of Winter. As mentioned, during an Equinox (about half-way between Summer and Winter, and about half-way between Winter and Summer) both planetary hemispheres receive an equal amount of solar radiation.

Although "Equinox" in Latin means equal-night, the day of the Equinox does not actually have an equal amount of daylight and nightfall, as it appears on the Earth's surface. If the Sun was just a pin-point of light in our sky, as all other stars appear, day and night would be equal.
But, because the Sun is a disk, part of the Sun has risen above the horizon before the center of the sun (which would be the pin-point of light); so there are extra moments of light on the Equniox. Likewise, part of the Sun is still visible, after the center of the Sun has set.
Additionally, the refraction of sunlight by our atmosphere causes sunlight to appear above the horizon, before sunrise and after sunset.

September 25 will mark the Equilux ("equal-light"), the actual day with equal hours and minutes of the Sun above the horizon, and equal hours and minutes of the Sun below the horizon. The Equilux occurs twice each year, approximately 3-to-4 days before the Vernal Equinox and 3-to-4 days after the Autumnal Equinox.

An urban legend that has been making the rounds for decades has it that eggs can be stood on their ends only during an Equinox, whether the Vernal Equinox in the Spring or the Autumnal Equinox in the Fall. This is completely false. Depending greatly on the size and shape of the particular egg, eggs can be stood on their ends any day of the year! Astronomy has nothing to do with whether an egg can stand on its end. If an egg can stand on its end on the Equinox (and, due to the shape and size of some eggs, this is not even possible), it can stand the same way any other day of the year.

In the last few years, with the help of the Internet and Social Media, another urban legend has become prevalent. Now it is claimed that brooms can stand, on their own, on their bristles, only on an Equinox day. This is also false. Again, as with eggs, if a broom can stand on its bristles by itself (this usually only works with newer brooms, with more even bristles) on an Equinox, it can do so any day of the year!

September 22 is also designated as the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day for this year.

Internet Links to Additional Information --- 


Season of Autumn or Fall: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn

Equinox: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox
Earth's Seasons: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season

Tilt of a planet's axis: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_tilt

Urban legend of eggs and brooms standing on their own, only on an Equinox:
Link >>> http://www.snopes.com/science/equinox.asp

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Link >>> http://www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/falls-prevention/falls-prevention-awareness.html

Special Thanks: Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club.

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Sept. 22.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, September 18, 2016

U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer Science Questions

SDlogo.png


By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

***** UPDATE - 2016 September 21 ***** Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party Nominee for U.S. President) has now responded to the questions posed by ScienceDebate.org . His answers are now included, along with the answers of the other three candidates, in the linked Internet web page posted near the end of this blog-post.

Three of the four leading candidates, in the 2016 race for the U.S. Presidency, have answered 20 questions in the areas of Science, Engineering, Technology, Health, and the Environment. As they did during the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Presidential Races, these 20 questions were posed to the candidates by the non-profit advocacy group ScienceDebate.org.

The 20 questions were answered, by press time, by former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodam Clinton (Democratic Nominee), businessman and real estate tycoon Donald J. Trump (Republican Party Nominee), and physician Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party Nominee). ScienceDebate.org is waiting for a response from former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party Nominee).

These 20 questions were formulated by a blue-ribbon coalition of 56 non-partisan organizations representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers. On August 10, this coalition sent the questions to the four leading presidential candidates.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort and author of The War on Science.

A ScienceDebate.org news release on September 13 went on to say, “A 2015 national poll commissioned by ScienceDebate.org and Research!America revealed that a large majority of Americans (87%) say it is important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues.”

For more than eight years, ScienceDebate.org has been seeking to include science questions in the scheduled presidential debates, or possibly dedicate a special debate of the presidential candidates to science and technology topics. Although neither has happened, U.S. President Barack Obama, and his Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney, all answered the science questions posed to them by ScienceDebate.org in the last two presidential races.

The 20 questions asked the candidates, for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race, regard:

  1. Innovation
  2. Research
  3. Climate Change
  4. Biodiversity
  5. The Internet
  6. Mental Health
  7. Energy
  8. Education
  9. Public Health
  10. Water
  11. Nuclear Power
  12. Food
  13. Global Challenges
  14. Regulations
  15. Vaccination
  16. Space
  17. Opioids
  18. Ocean Health
  19. Immigration
  20. Scientific Integrity

ScienceDebate.org urges journalists, bloggers, and the general public to press the presidential candidates on these issues during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election season.

Internet Link to the Answers, to the 20 Science Questions, by U.S. Presidential Candidates:
Link >>> sciencedebate.org/20answers

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

ScienceDebate.org ---
Link 1 >>> http://sciencedebate.org/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ScienceDebate.org

2016 U.S. Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate Schedule:
Link >>> http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/2016-debate-schedule/2016-presidential-debate-schedule/

Official Internet Web Sites of the U.S. Presidential Candidates Questioned ---

Former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodam Clinton (Democratic Nominee):
Link >>> https://www.hillaryclinton.com

Businessman and real estate tycoon Donald J. Trump (Republican Party Nominee):
Link >>> https://www.donaldjtrump.com/

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party Nominee):
Link >>> https://www.johnsonweld.com/

Physician Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party Nominee):
Link >>> http://www.jill2016.com/
 
Related Blog Posts ---

Science Questions: Congressional Leaders Answer." 2012 Oct. 18.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/10/science-questions-congressional-leaders.html

 

"NEW LINK: ScienceDebate - Obama & Romney Answers." 2012 Sept. 4.

 Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-link-sciencedebate-obama-romney.html

 

"Science Questions Answered by Obama & Romney." 2012 Sept. 4.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/09/science-questions-answered-by-obama.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Sept. 18.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 Images from Space


                  Three images from Space, of the 9/11 Attacks on Manhattan,
                  followed by a description of the view from the International Space Station.

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/583025main_iss003e5387_full.jpg
International Space Station image of Manhattan and vicinity shortly after the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center Towers on 2001 September 11. (Image source: NASA)

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/583105main_modis-0912_redplumex500_full.jpg View of Manhattan from NASA's Terra satellite, showing a large stream of smoke from Ground Zero.
(Image Sources: NASA, Liam Gumley, MODIS Atmosphere Group, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/583036main_wtc-merge-321pan_lrg_full.jpg
A day after the attack, on 2001 September 12 at approx. 11:30 a.m. EDT / 15:30 UTC, smoke can
still be seen rising from Ground Zero, in this view from the U.S. Geological Survey satellite
Landsat 7. (Image Source: USGS Landsat 7 team at the EROS Data Center)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Astronaut Frank L. Culbertson, Jr. (Captain, U.S. Navy, now retired), was Commander of Expedition 3 on the International Space Station. He was the only American in space at that time.

After learning of the attacks, he and his crew took many photographs and videos, from Earth orbit, of the aftermath of the attacks. He also wrote a public letter and created a video, both explaining what he and his crew did that day. Links to that letter and video are at the end of this blog-post.

Captain Culbertson was accompanied on Expedition 3 by two Russian cosmonauts, Flight Engineers Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin. They had been in space for exactly 30 days, after a delay in launch of a few weeks, before the events of 9/11 occurred.

Fifteen years ago, at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 12:46 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (the time of the posting of this blog-post) on Tuesday Morning, 2001 September 11, the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City occurred. In this first attack, five Al-Qaeda terrorists flew the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 into the northern facade of One World Trade Center (North Tower).

At 9:03 a.m. EDT / 13:03 UTC, five more hijackers flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the southern facade of Two World Trade Center (South Tower). Five more hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. EDT / 13:37 UTC.

At 10:03 a.m. EDT / 14:03 UTC, United Airlines Flight 93, which had been commandeered by four hijackers, crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near the small town of Shanksville, about 65 miles / 105 kilometers southeast of Pittsburgh. When the passengers attempted to regain control of the aircraft, the hijackers intentionally crashed the plane in Western Pennsylvania, rather than continuing to their original target. Although news of this hijacked aircraft had resulted in the mass evacuation of Downtown Pittsburgh, it is now believed that the hijackers' plan was to crash this plane into either the Capitol or the White House in Washington.

At that time, without the ability to receive standard radio or television broadcasts, or regular access to the Internet, the International Space Station crew had no idea of what was happening in New York City, Washington, or Shanksville until Captain Culbertson made a routine contact with ground control, regarding results of basic medical tests of the crew members, on the morning of 9/11. As Captain Culbertson was speaking to Flight Surgeon Steve Hart on the ground at about 10:00 a.m. EDT / 14:00 UTC, Dr. Hart mentioned that they had just lost contact with a fourth airplane over Pennsylvania.

After checking the International Space Station's location on a nearby lap-top computer, Captain Culbertson realized that they would soon be flying over New England, where they could get a view of New York City, since it was “such a perfect weather day all over the United States.” After quickly finding a video camera, he started shooting video, from a window in the Russian segment of the Station, of Manhattan from above Maine, about 400 miles away.

The only thing he could see, which appears on the video he shot, was a big black column of smoke coming from New York City, over Long Island and over the Atlantic Ocean. But, when zooming-in with the camera, he saw a big gray blob enveloping Lower Manhattan. He later learned that the big gray blob had been caused by the collapse of the second World Trade Center tower.

After several seconds, New York City was beyond the spacecraft's horizon. He then knew they had 90 minutes to set-up additional cameras for the next pass over the Eastern United States, which would allow more videography of the situation.

Captain Culbertson, along with the two Russian flight engineers, manned cameras over the next pass. On this pass, the International Space Station flew further south, so they took pictures of a large part of the country while looking for additional attacks, along with additional images of the New York area. They did fly directly over the Pentagon, and Captain Culbertson said he could see the gash in the building.

Within about two orbits of the International Space Station after the attacks, Captain Culbertson said that all the airplane contrails that can normally be seen criss-crossing the country were gone. By this time, the Federal Government had ordered all commercial and private aircraft grounded, indefinitely. He said the only contrail that could be seen, flying from the central part of the United States to Washington, was that of Air Force One with the President of the United States on-board.

At that time of great uncertainty, many critical Federal facilities were moved to undisclosed locations, for security purposes. Houston's Johnson Space Center Mission Control was also moved to an undisclosed location, according to Captain Culbertson. So, for a while, most of the information sent to the International Space Station came from Moscow.

The next day, Captain Culbertson learned that a fellow classmate from the U.S. Naval Academy, Chic Burlingame, was the captain of the American Airlines jet aircraft that hit the Pentagon. From a letter he wrote on 2001 September 12, Captain Culbertson said, “I can't imagine what he must of gone through, and now I hear that he may have risen further than we can even think of by possibly preventing his plane from being the one to attack the White House. What a terrible loss, but I'm sure Chic was fighting bravely to the end.”

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

YouTube Videos of NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson explaining his view of the 9/11 tragedy from the International Space Station ---
Link (1 min.) >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dvTc8pmOzY
Link (10 min.) >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdbFvUM_CzI

Letters from NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson explaining his view of the 9/11 tragedy from the International Space Station:
Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/sept11_culbertson.html

Retired NASA Astronaut Frank L. Culbertson, Jr. (Captain, U.S. Navy, now retired):
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_L._Culbertson_Jr.

2001 September 11 Attacks: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Sept. 11.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

50th Anniversary: 'Star Trek'

Image result for images star trek transporter room
This scene from the original "Star Trek" series shows a person materializing in the
Transporter Room of the Star Ship Enterprise. Teleportation was used in the "Star
Trek" series, to simplify and reduce costs of the special effects that would have been
necessary to show the star ship landing on a planet.
(Image Source: http://www.howardandrewjones.com/star-trek/trek-week-part-3 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Science-fiction has always been an inspiration to scientists, as well as to lay people. Television's greatest science-fiction franchise marks an important milestone this evening.

The world premiere of Star Trek, at the beginning of the 1966-1967 television season, occurred precisely 50 years ago (from the time of the posting of this blog post), at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 23:30 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Tuesday Evening, 1966 September 6.

Star Trek was originally produced for America's NBC Television Network. However, due to the varying schedules of the several world television networks slated to air Star Trek, the world premiere actually occurred on the CTV Television Network in Canada. Coincidentally, the lead television actor on the series, William Shatner (who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise), was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The United States premiere of Star Trek occurred two days later, on Thursday Evening, 1966 September 8 at 8:30 p.m. EDT / September 9 0:30 UTC, on NBC-TV. The CBS Television Network had considered Star Trek for the 1965-1966 television season, but instead picked-up the science-fiction program Lost in Space, which ran from 1965 to 1968.

The original Star Trek series, which portrayed the missions of a Star Fleet crew on the interstellar Star Ship Enterprise circa A.D. 2260, only lasted three seasons. However, unlike most other television series Star Trek had just begun. When episodes from the first three seasons started being broadcast in reruns, syndicated to television stations across the country, the program started to build a new and bigger following, than during the prime-time airings of the show. This was particularly true for children, who would watch Star Trek every weekday after coming home from school.

This new popularity brought-forth an animated Star Trek series for children. Four more Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise followed beginning in the 1980s. Except for Star Trek: Enterprise, the other new Star Trek series were not broadcast on any television network; episodes of these series were syndicated, first-run, to individual television stations across the country.

Star Trek: Enterprise, touted as the “show that started a. network,” was the signature show of the then-new UPN Television Network, which later merged with the WB Television Network to form the present CW Television Network (which is owned by CBS). CBS plans a new Star Trek: Discovery series for next year.

Additionally, six full-length Star Trek motion pictures were produced, using the cast of the original Stat Trek television series. The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation starred in four additional films. Additionally, three more films were recently made on the basis of the original Star Trek television series, but with a new, younger cast.

The original Star Trek series began during the middle of the “Space Race,” to the Moon between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (now known as the Russian Federation). Astronomy and Space Sciences were very important during this time period of American history and was emphasized in the schools, similar to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) emphasis in the schools today.

This was due to the surprise of Russia launching the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, into Earth orbit on 1957 October 4. In fact, Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was one of many science institutions across the country which participated in one of the earliest citizen-science programs, Operation Moonwatch, which asked amateur astronomers and other interested citizens to help track Sputnik and other satellites later launched by the United States and the Soviet Union.

Operation Moonwatch had been organized by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the International Geophysical Year (IGY – 1957 to 1958), the year-and-a-half period of time specified for international scientific research and collaboration. Although the United States had planned to launch the first satellite during the IGY, American space officials were shocked when the Soviet Union up-staged them with the Sputnik launch.

Of course, this had national defense implications, particularly occurring near the beginning of the Cold War between America and Russia. If Russia had the technology to orbit an Earth satellite, it also had the technology to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, potentially carrying nuclear warheads, toward the United States.

It was in the Cold War and Space Race eras that Star Trek started its “Five-Year Mission.” Although, initially, Star Trek was a popular television program, this popularity did not last. Unfortunately, even today, people interested in science and space exploration, and hence become an audience for a science-fiction series such as Star Trek, is a minority of the nation's population.

When Star Trek's ratings did not improve during the second season (1967-1968), NBC considered canceling the program. Although Star Trek's fan base was small, it was very loyal. So, these fans, led by Bjo Trimble who had become a science-fiction fan in 1952 while a Navy WAVE stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago, initiated a letter-writing campaign to keep Star Trek on the air. After this “Save Star Trek” campaign succeeded in allowing the original series to have a third season (1968-1969), Ms. Trimble was also part of the successful campaign to have the first NASA Space Shuttle named the “Enterprise.”

In addition to promoting space exploration during the Space Race days of the mid-1960s, Star Trek gave a very optimistic view of the future, including a U.S.S Enterprise crew which included all races, as well as humanoid species from other planets. This was very welcome to many television viewers during the turbulent 1960s, when the newspapers and radio and television news broadcasts highlighted racial tensions and the continuing Vietnam War. This optimism for a better future was very appealing to many Americans.

And, Star Trek seemed like a future that could really happen. Unlike many previous science-fiction motion pictures and television programs, Star Trek used scientific advisers to make the science-fiction seem as realistic as possible.

An interesting result in this careful attention to scientific detail, when designing the program and the Star Ship Enterprise, was that several of the technical devices used on the ship, predicted in 1966, are reality today. Of course, the Star Trek communicator is quite similar to cellular telephones in use today. Desk-top computers, found throughout the Enterprise, are now found throughout offices and homes. And, when Captain Kirk once kidded Engineer Scotty about constantly reading his technical journals, those technical journals were being read on a desk-top computer, as many scientists and engineers today do the same thing.

But, up until this time, most science-fiction television programs had been broadcast in black-and-white (i.e. monochrome). Even though most people at this time did not own a color television, could you really display Star Trek as a futuristic show with cutting-edge technology, while it is broadcast in black-and-white?

By 1965, all three American commercial television networks were in the process of converting their programming, particularly during evening prime-time [which originally was 7:30 to 11:00 p.m., but later shifted to 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., due to new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations], to color broadcasting from the monochrome or black-and-white transmissions that had been typical since the beginning of commercial television broadcasting in 1941.

In 1965, CBS, which now owns the Star Trek franchise, broadcast the first season of Lost in Space in black-and-white, while the last two seasons were broadcast in color. However, all three seasons of the original Star Trek program (and of course, ultimately, all seasons of all Star Trek spin-offs) were broadcast in color.

NBC was then owned by RCA (Radio Corporation of America), which was the largest producer of color televisions. So, to help RCA sell more color television sets, NBC pioneered color broadcasting ahead of the other two networks. Up until 1966, usually, a new program on NBC would be broadcast in black-and-white for one year; if the program was popular enough to be renewed for a second year, it would automatically convert to a color broadcast. In fact, during the 1965-1966 television season, NBC only broadcast two new programs in black-and-white, while all other programs were broadcast in color.

Then, at the beginning of the 1966-1967 television season, NBC-TV declared themselves the “Full-Color Network.” From then on, all NBC programs were broadcast in color. The other two commercial networks soon did likewise.

However, Star Trek did not seem to follow the normal NBC rules. Even Star Trek's very first pilot episode, filmed in 1964, was in color. It may be that they felt a futuristic, science-fiction program should be in color. But, the question remains, if CBS had picked-up Star Trek in 1965, instead of Lost in Space, would the first season have been in color?

Star Trek was not the only science-fiction television series to premiere during the 1966-1967 television season. A day after the American premiere of Star Trek, The Time Tunnel premiered on the ABC Television Network, on Friday Evening, 1966 September 9 at 8:00 p.m. EDT / September 10 at 0:00 UTC. In The Time Tunnel, also telecast in color, at a secret American installation a time machine known as the Time Tunnel was constructed. Two scientists transported through the Time Tunnel and appeared in a different time and place, often close to an event in world history, during each of the 30 episodes of the one and only season of the program.

Although ratings for the program were relatively good, and it was expected to be renewed for a second season, an ABC executive lobbied for The Time Tunnel to be replaced by a new program called The Legend of Custer. After poor ratings and poor media reviews of The Legend of Custer, it was canceled after 17 episodes. The Time Tunnel never returned to the ABC schedule.

Star Trek also included several time-travel episodes. One episode (the last episode of the second season), was even a pilot for a possible spin-off program: Assignment: Earth. However, this proposed spin-off was not picked-up by NBC for a separate program.

At the beginning of the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Star Trek, the U.S.S. Enterprise travels back in time to 1968, to conduct “historical research” regarding how Earth avoided a nuclear holocaust during the mid-1960s. It is curious that no history professors, specializing in 20th century Earth history, accompanied the Enterprise crew on this historical research mission!

Soon after arriving in Earth orbit in 1968, a mysterious man in a 20th century business suit is intercepted by the Enterprise's transporter, having teleported from a thousand light-years away. Known as Gary Seven, he claims to be a human, who grew-up on an alien planet, specifically on a mission to come back to Earth and help Earth survive a world with nuclear weapons.

During a briefing in an Enterprise conference room, Mr. Spock mentions that current crises (at that time in 1968) could fill a “tape bank.” He says, "There will be an important assassination today...” This episode, the last episode of season 2, aired on 1968 March 29. A few days later, on 1968 April 4. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, followed by riots in many U.S. cities.

Mr. Spock continues, during the briefing, saying, “...and, this could be highly critical, the launching of an orbital nuclear warhead platform by the United States, countering a similar launch by other powers." As the major plot of this episode, Gary Seven's goal was to take-over the U.S.'s orbiting nuclear warhead platform, and cause it to almost set-off World War III. It was Gary Seven's hope that this would scare all of the major powers to give-up orbiting nuclear warhead platforms.

In reality, the Outer Space Treaty, which took effect about a half-year earlier (1967 October 10), forbade any nation signatory to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit. This treaty had been opened for signature, on 1967 January 27, in the capitals of three countries: United States, United Kingdom, and Russia (then known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics); by a tragic coincidence, the late afternoon of that same day, U.S. astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire during a test of their Apollo 1 space capsule. The “Assignment: Earth” episode script may-well have been substantially written before the treaty went into effect, and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry may have decided to go-ahead with the episode.

Early in the episode, Gary Seven, who had escaped from detention on the Enterprise and was now in a private office in New York City, was trying to, verbally, get information from his large office computer, but the computer refused to give him any information without proper authentication. Finally, Gary Seven explained his mission to the computer saying, "Problem: Earth technology and science have progressed faster than social and political knowledge. My mission is to prevent Earth's civilization from destroying itself, before it can mature into a peaceful society."

My father, William L. Walsh, who was a Senior Research Chemist for the Gulf Oil Corporation (but had such an interest in history and public affairs, that he almost became a history professor), impressed upon me, as we watched this episode together, the importance of the first sentence of this particular statement. That we may have developed great technology (and, our technology in 2016 is much greater than it was in 1968), but the peoples of the world must learn to live together or the technology could destroy us.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry often placed important social messages, such as this one, into episodes of Star Trek.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NBC-TV Science-Fiction program, Star Trek:
Link 1 >>> http://www.startrek.com/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series

Transcript of "Assignment: Earth" episode of Star Trek:
Link >>> http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/55.htm

Star Trek Fan & Navy WAVE Bjo Trimble: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjo_Trimble
Navy WAVES: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WAVES

NASA Astronaut Mike Fincke, Buhl Science Academy alumnus of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, appears in series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, 2005 May 13:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/bio/finckestartrek.html

"Space Race" of the late 1950s and 1960s: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Race

Sputnik 1, First Artificial Satellite, Launched by Russia in 1957:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1

Operation Moonwatch: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Moonwatch

International Geophysical Year (IGY - 1957 to 1958):
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Geophysical_Year

Outer Space Treaty: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

CBS-TV Science-Fiction program, Lost in Space:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_in_Space

ABC-TV Science-Fiction program, The Time Tunnel:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Tunnel

Related Blog Posts ---

"Star Trek 'Universal Translator' Realized by Microsoft." 2012 Nov. 11.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/11/star-trek-universal-translator-realized.html

 

"Star Trek Tricorder Becoming Reality." 2012 March 30.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/03/palm-sized-star-trek-tech-may-be-closer.html

 

"Star Trek's 'Universal Translator' Becomes Reality." 2012 March 19.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/03/star-treks-universal-translator-becomes.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Sept. 6.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Astronomical Calendar: 2016 September

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.png
Artist rendering of NASA's OSIRIS-REx space probe, to study and return a sample of soil from an asteroid; 2016 September 8 opens a 33-day launch window.
More info: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2016.html#OSIRIS-REx
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) / Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin - Website used: "[We will find organic materials on Asteroid Bennu, says OSIRIS-REx principal investigator http://phys.org/news/2015-07-materials-asteroid-bennu-osiris-rex-principal.html]" by Phys.orgDirect source: Image, hosted by cdn.phys.org, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50114199 )

Astronomical Calendar for 2016 September: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2016.html#sep

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 September 1.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Extremely Close Conjunction of Venus & Jupiter Saturday Night

2016-august-27-venus-jupiter-mercury
Low on the western horizon, Venus and Jupiter will have an amazingly
close conjunction shortly after sunset on Saturday evening, and
Mercury may be dimly visible even lower. (Image Source: EarthSky.org)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Saturday evening (2016 August 27), shortly after local sunset, the planets Venus and Jupiter can be seen in an extremely close conjunction. In fact, the brightest two planets in our Solar System will be so close that, to the naked-eye, they may look like one very bright object!

Actually, this will be a triple conjunction, as to the lower left of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, if you look very carefully you may even be able to make-out the small planet, Mercury. Right after sunset, Mercury will be hugging the horizon. So, do not be surprised if you cannot find it. To find Mercury, you will need a very good western horizon and good seeing conditions.

Venus and Jupiter, which are the third and fourth brightest objects in the sky, respectively (the Sun and Moon are the first and second brightest, respectively), will be very close to the horizon—only about 5 degrees above the horizon—after sunset; and, Mercury will be much lower. If you hold your closed-fist at arm's-length, the diameter of the closed-fist is about 10 degrees-of-arc; so, half of that distance is the height of the conjunction above the Earth's horizon.

So, to view this conjunction, you should be on the highest hill possible, with a very good view of the western horizon, with few obstructions such as trees, buildings, or other hills. At mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, you will have about a half-hour to view the conjunction, as the planets will set about an hour after sunset. In the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter will appear just below Venus, while the much smaller and dimmer Mercury will be to the lower left of Venus and Jupiter.

To view this conjunction, start watching for Venus, the brighter of the two planets, about a half-hour after sunset. After you find Venus, Jupiter should appear just below Venus just a little later. Late Summer haze and humidity, particularly near the horizon, could make the conjunction more difficult to find. But, if you see a bright spot twinkling, you will likely have found Venus; although planets do not normally twinkle, as do stars, any bright object near the horizon is likely to twinkle.

Observers in the Southern Hemisphere will have more time, as people watching at mid-southern latitudes will have about an hour-and-a-half to watch the conjunction before the planets set two hours after sunset. Hence, at sunset the planets will be a little higher in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, Jupiter will appear just above, and just a wee-bit to the left of, Venus, and Mercury will be a little to the upper left of Jupiter and Venus.

If both Venus and Jupiter can be found with the naked-eye, they will be easily seen within the same field-of-view of binoculars or a telescope. A lot of the time, both celestial objects in a conjunction cannot be seen at the same time in a set of binoculars or a telescope, as most objects are not this close during a conjunction. However, Mercury will not be seen in the same field-of-view in a telescope; Mercury may or may not be seen in the same field-of-view of a set of binoculars, depending on the size of binoculars.

This year's closest approach of two planets (as viewed from Earth) will actually occur a little before sunset. On Saturday Evening, 2016 August 27 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 22:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the two planets will be in conjunction (when they have an identical right ascension, of an east-west celestial coordinate system) at 0.1 degree of separation. Actually, about a half hour later, at 6:31 p.m. EDT / 22:31 UTC, the two planets will be at their very closest at 0.067 degree or 4 arc-minutes of separation; this closest approach is known astronomically as an appulse. So, although most people will be viewing the two planets, technically, a little bit after the conjunction and the appulse, Venus and Jupiter will still be extremely close until they set.

Of course, as with all celestial observing, viewing this conjunction will be weather-permitting. If there are too many clouds in the western sky after sunset, particularly close to the horizon, the conjunction likely will not be seen.

For several months, Jupiter has shone as the bright planet in the evening sky. Now, Jupiter's position in the sky each night is lower, as it meets Venus on August 27. Soon, Jupiter will be so close to the Sun (as viewed from Earth) that it will no longer be visible; in fact, Jupiter and the Sun will be in conjunction a month from now (September 26 at 3:00 a.m. EDT / 7:00 UTC). In October, Jupiter reappears in the morning sky.

Venus had just reappeared low in the evening sky last month. Venus had its own conjunction with the Sun, superior conjunction, on June 6 at 6:00 p.m EDT / 22:00 UTC. Now, each night Venus rises a little higher in the sky, and by Autumn Venus will be the very bright evening planet for the rest of the year.

This will be one of the closest conjunctions, without the possibility of an occultation of the two planets. An occultation of Jupiter by Venus is even more rare than a close conjunction, such as the one that will occur this evening. The last Venus - Jupiter occultation occurred in 1818, with an earlier one in 1570.. The next one will occur in 2065, but probably will not really be visible, as the two planets will only be 8 degrees from the Sun. The next one after 2065, which will occur in 2123, may be visible at 16 degrees from the Sun.

Even without a major conjunction, Venus is so bright it is often mistaken for an unidentified flying object (UFO). During the months Venus was visible in the nighttime sky, I would often receive telephone calls at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), in the evening hours during the 1980s and early 1990s, from people asking what the very bright object is in the western sky.

In fact Venus and Jupiter are so bright, the pairing of the two planets in 2014 almost caused an international incident between India and China. Indian Army sentries along the Himalayan border mistook the two planets for spy drones from China. Indian astronomers correctly identified the conjunction before the Indian Army took steps against the supposed Chinese incursion.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Precise Time for Sunset for any Location on Earth:
Link >>> http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Conjunction: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy)

Appulse: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appulse

Occultation: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occultation

Right Ascension: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_ascension

Mercury: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(planet)

Venus: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus

Jupiter: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 27.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, August 25, 2016

International Dark-Sky Parks: Part of National Park Service Centennial

Owachomo Bridge with the Milky Way overhead
In 2006, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah was designated as the world's first International Dark-Sky Park. This photograph shows the night sky at Owachomo Bridge. August 25 marks the centennial of America's National Park Service.
(Image Source: National Park Service; Photographer: Jacob W. Frank)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (2016 August 25) marks the centennial of America's National Park Service. And, since 2006, several National Parks have been designated International Dark-Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association.

What became the world's first designated National Parks has been described as “America's Best Idea,” in the 2009 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) historical, television documentary series produced by Ken Burns. Although, U.S. National Parks date long before the National Park Service was formed.

The earliest versions of National Parks were the Hot Springs, Arkansas Reservation created by the U.S. Congress in 1832 and the Congressional ceding of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (Yosemite Grant) to the State of California as a State Park for "public use, resort, and recreation" in 1864. The smallest National Park by area, Hot Springs became an official National Park in 1921. Yosemite was designated a National Park in 1890, but it did not come under Federal control until U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (influenced by Sierra Club Founder John Muir) signed a Congressional bill taking control from California in 1906.

Yellowstone National Park became the first official National Park in 1872. Yellowstone is considered the world's first National Park, even though national nature preserves had been established earlier in Germany (Drachenfels:1822) and France (Forest of Fontainebleau: 1861).

Federal control of Yellowstone was necessary from the beginning, Unlike Yosemite, no state existed where the Yellowstone National Park was formed, only a Federally-governed territory. Yellowstone's boundaries are within parts of three states, which did not join the Union until 1889-1890: Wyoming (1890), Montana (1889), and Idaho (1890).

It was not until the U.S. Department of the Interior had accumulated 39 national parks and monuments that Congress formed the National Park Service, within the Department, to administer parks and monuments in a comprehensive way. On 1916 August 25, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed-into-law the National Park Service Organic Act.

Today, of the 412 sites managed by the National Park Service, only 59 carry the designation of “National Park.” Other sites have the designations of National Monuments, National Historical Sites and Parks, National Natural Landmarks, National Wildlife Preservation Areas, and Marine Protected Areas. Completely separate from the National Park Service are National Forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service (established in 1891) which is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the later half of the 19th century and through the 20th century, National Parks have been dedicated to preserving wilderness and natural eco-systems, sites of historical, cultural, natural, scientific, and educational importance, and areas to protect wildlife. However, with increasing national and world populations, and the greater urbanization of these populations, it became increasingly evident that a new preservation was needed---to preserve dark skies due to increased light pollution.

Outdoor lighting at night, that is not properly shielded, can cause excess light to escape into the sky causing sky-glow, which brightens the sky (which does not need brightened) and drowns-out the dimmer celestial objects. Additionally, this wastes light energy which could be better used on the ground.

Excess light entering the eyes causes eye-glare, which makes driving, cycling, or even walking, more difficult. This also narrows eye pupils, greatly limiting night vision, making it even more difficult to see dim objects in the night sky.

Light pollution in most major cities, today, make it difficult to observe anything but the Moon, planets, and the brightest stars. And, since the constellations consist of both bright and dim stars, it is becoming ever more difficult to make-out constellations with the naked-eye from urban areas, since many of the dimmer stars seem to be missing from where a constellation should be found.

This light pollution also makes astronomical observatories located within major cities less usable for astronomical research. Most of these observatories are very historic, as they were built in the 19th or early 20th centuries, before light pollution became a problem. However, for cutting-edge astronomical research to continue, money has to be spent to build new observatories in remote locations away from urban areas, or launched into Outer Space.

In 2001, the International Dark-Sky Association, which had been established in 1988, started an International Dark-Sky Places program "to protect locations of exceptional nighttime visages for future generations." This program includes three categories of International Dark-Sky Places: International Dark-Sky Parks, International Dark-Sky Reserves, and International Dark-Sky Communities.

Flagstaff, Arizona became the first International Dark-Sky Community in 2001. Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first International Dark-Sky Park in 2006. The Reserve at Mont-Megantic in Quebec, Canada became the first International Dark-Sky Reserve in 2008; thus far, all International Dark-Sky Reserves are located outside of the United States.

Presently, there are seven U.S. National Parks and National Monuments which have been designated as International Dark-Sky Parks:

Special Note: To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, all National Parks will offer free-of-charge admission this weekend, including this Thursday and Friday --- Thursday through Sunday: 2016 August 25 through August 28, and also on 2016 September 24 and on 2016 November 11.
AND, all children attending school in the fourth grade can obtain a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program!
PLUS, Active-Duty Military Members and Citizens with a Permanent Disability can also obtain free passes to National Parks.
More Info - Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

International Dark-Sky Parks:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association#International_Dark_Sky_Parks

International Dark-Sky Association:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association

National Park Service ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Park_Service
National Park Service History: Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/history.htm

National Park Service Centennial ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm
Link 2 >>> http://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/celebrating-100-years-service

Grand Canyon Receives Provisional Status, in 2016 June, as an International Dark-Sky Park:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/astronomical-calendar-2016-august.html

The National Parks: America's Best Idea - 2009 PBS Documentary:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_National_Parks:_America%27s_Best_Idea

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 25.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Twitter Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >