Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Astro-Calendar: 2020 April / 175th Anniversary (April 10): Great Pittsburgh Fire




While the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is better known, this is a painting (1846) of the Great Pittsburgh Fire on April 10, 175 years ago (1845), by witness William Coventry Wall. Started on a very windy day by a woman who started an outdoor fire to heat wash water, which she had left unattended, the Great Pittsburgh Fire consumed one-third of this city of, then, more than 20,000 population (which already had four daily newspapers), representing around two-thirds of the wealth of the city (between $6 million and $12 million damage). While the fire destroyed 1,200 buildings and displaced 12,000 people, only two deaths were reported.
More information: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_Pittsburgh
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, By painting by William Coventry Wall, Carnegie Museum of Art (photo by Moira Burke) - File:WLA cma View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh 1846.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17312244)

Astronomical Calendar for 2020 April ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2020.html#apr

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2020 March / "Galactic Tick Day": March 21"

Monday, 2020 March 2.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/03/astro-calendar-2020-march-galactic-tick.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              Wednesday, 2020 April 1.

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spring Begins at the Vernal Equinox Late Thursday Night

   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 Vernal Equinox at the official beginning of the season of Spring in the Earth's Northern Hemisphere (Autumn in Earth's Southern Hemisphere), as well as the other equinox and solstices of the year.
(Graphic Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center - Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991) 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

Spring begins late Thursday evening at the moment of the Vernal Equinox in Earth's Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere of Earth, this marks the astronomical beginning of the season of Autumn. And, Saturday marks "Galactic Tick Day," which celebrates our Solar System's travel around the Milky Way Galaxy.

                                                Vernal Equinox on Earth

The Vernal Equinox occurs on Earth at precisely: 11:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) on Thursday Evening, 2020 March 19 / 3:50 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Friday Morning, 2020 March 20.

As the diagram at the beginning of this blog-post demonstrates, 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 Earth 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 a 23.439281-degree angle from the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, which is part of the Ecliptic of our Solar System. 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 Equinox. 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.

March 16 marked 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 (Equilux on September 25, while the Autumnal Equinox is ~ September 22 or 23).

An urban legend that has been making the rounds for decades, now exacerbated by the Internet and Social Media, 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 and stiff bristles) on an Equinox, it can do so any day of the year!

In ancient times, the Vernal Equinox was considered the beginning of the new calendar year. This was when most of Western Civilization used the Julian Calendar, and the Vernal Equinox occurred on March 25, later observed by Christians as the Feast of the Annunciation (observed nine full months before Christmas Day). As part of the Gregorian Calendar reform, in October of 1582, Pope Gregory XIII chose the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (January 1) as the beginning of the New Year in the Roman Catholic Church's Liturgical Year.

The Vernal Equinox continues to be considered the beginning of the New Year, or an important holy day, in several other places on Earth ---

* Beginning of New Year (using the Solar Calendar) - Nowruz: Afghanistan and Iran / Persia.
* Holy Day for adherents of the Zoroastrian Religion (the three Magi, who the Christian Bible reports visited the Christ Child after following the Star of Bethlehem / Christmas Star, were adherents of the Zoroastrian Religion).
* Holy Day for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith: Baha'i Naw-Ruz, one of nine holy days of the Bahá'í Faith.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) observe Sun-Earth Day on or near the Vernal Equinox. This is a joint educational program started in 2000, to popularize the knowledge about the Sun, and the way it influences life on Earth, among students and the public. This is part of Solar Week, which is the calendar week that includes the Vernal Equinox.

The first week of Spring, beginning with the Vernal Equinox, has been declared by physicians as Medicine Cabinet Clean-Up Week. To avoid prescription drug abuse, particularly important at this time of the opioid crisis, physicians encourage everyone to get rid of unused and no-longer-needed medications and other drugs, which may have lingered in the household, as part of an annual Spring cleaning. Several states have prescription drug take-back locations, where these drugs can be dropped-off.

The week of the Vernal Equinox is the also the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held each year in Washington, DC, which begins on March 20. This festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the City of Washington. The festival runs through April 12 this year.

However, due to the Coronavirus / COVID-19, the annual 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade® (April 4) and Petalpalooza® (April 11) have been canceled, while other events have been postponed. Of course, the Washington Cherry Blossoms should still be in bloom, during this time period.

                                                "Galactic Tick Day"

Saturday, 2020 March 21 marks "Galactic Tick Day," which celebrates our Solar System's travel around the Milky Way Galaxy. It takes 230 million years for our Solar System to make one revolution around the Milky Way. The Galactic Tick Day occurs once every 1.7361 years, marking each 1 centi-arc-second of travel (i.e. "tick") in this trek.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Vernal Equinox: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_equinox

Season of Spring: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_%28season%29

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

National Cherry Blossom Festival: Link >>> https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/

News Release - National Cherry Blossom Festival Cancellations & Postponements:

Galactic Tick Day: Link >>> http://galactictick.com/

Hubble Space Telescope image of Galaxy UGC 12158, a spiral galaxy which is thought to resemble our Milky Way Galaxy in appearance:

Related Blog Post ---

Winter Begins Late Sat. Night; Ursid Meteor Shower Sun. Night.” Fri., 2019 Dec. 20.


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Thursday, 2020 March 19.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Monday, March 16, 2020

NASA Public Design Contest: Venus Rover Obstacle Avoidance Sensor


Artist's concept (2020 February 21) of a proposed wind-powered, Venus Rover probe, being considered for a future launch.
(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/JPL-Caltech - https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/venus/20200221/Rover-2-16.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87366612)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

After several successful probes and rovers sent to the Planet Mars, NASA is now starting to design a rover to probe the hostile surface of the Planet Venus. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is offering a $15,000 prize for the successful entry in a public contest to design an obstacle avoidance sensor for this Venus rover.

Venus is known as Earth's “sister” planet, as Venus is just a wee bit smaller than the Earth (with a similar mass and gravity) and approaches closer to Earth than any other planet. However, that is where the similarities end. Venus is shrouded with opaque and highly-reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, in an extremely dense atmosphere (densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets in our Solar System), consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide (CO2) which has created a run-away Greenhouse Effect on the planet.

Venus' atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times stronger than the pressure on Earth's surface (roughly the pressure found 3,000 feet / 900 meters under the oceans on Earth). NASA notes that this great pressure could easily crush a nuclear-powered submarine.

With a mean surface temperature of +863 degrees Fahrenheit / +462 degrees Celsius / +735 degrees Kelvin, Venus is by-far the hottest planet in the Solar System, despite the fact that Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. And, NASA adds that this heat “can turn lead into a puddle.”

These planetary conditions have made a surface study of Venus very challenging. Both the United States and Russia have had limited success landing probes on Venus. In fact, while the United States has had greater success with probes to the Martian surface, Russia, before dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, had concentrated on Venusian landers with notable successes.

The Russian Venera 7 probe became the first spacecraft to soft-land on Venus on 1970 December 15, which stayed in contact with Earth for 23 minutes. The Russian probes Venera 9 and Venera 10 landed and took the first surface photographs of Venus in October of 1975. The first color photographs of the Venus surface were sent back to Earth by the Soviet Venera 13 lander in 1981, which lasted on the surface for a record 127 minutes.

NASA had some success with the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe in 1978, when one of four small probes survived a landing on Venus. This probe transmitted data from the surface for more than an hour.

The last Earth probe to land on Venus was the Russian Vega 2 in 1985.

So, this new Venus rover project will be one of NASA's greatest challenges to-date. Called the Automation Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE), this probe will be designed to operate on the surface of Venus, not for an hour or two, but for months!

AREE is planned to be powered by the Venusian winds, which seem to be somewhat strong and fairly constant on the planet's surface. According to NASA, the extreme pressure on the surface of Venus means that the fairly low wind speeds would feel almost like gale-force winds here on Earth.

The challenge that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has offered for consideration by the general public is to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for the AREE rover. The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge seeks a sensor to be incorporated into the final design of the Venus rover. This sensor would be the primary mechanism for the rover to detect and navigate around surface obstructions.

As of now, there is no time-line for when the AREE would be launched toward Venus. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory hopes that the successful development of a robust obstacle avoidance sensor will strengthen the case to return to Venus with a rover, sooner rather than later.

First prize for the winning entry will be $15,000. Second prize ($10,000) and third prize ($5,000) will also be awarded.

Entries are due 2020 May 29.

More information on this “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge:



Internet Links to Additional Information ---

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

Observations & Explorations of Venus:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observations_and_explorations_of_Venus

Automation Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE):
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automaton_Rover_for_Extreme_Environments

Transit of Venus, 2004 & 2012, Viewed from Pittsburgh:
Link >>> http://venustransit.pghfree.net/

Related Blog Posts ---

"Extremely Close Conjunction of Venus & Jupiter Saturday Night." Sat., 2016 Aug. 27.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/extremely-close-conjunction-of-venus.html


"NASA Astronauts to Visit Venus Atmosphere Before Mars?" Mon., 2014 Dec. 29.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/nasa-astronauts-to-visit-venus.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Monday, 2020 March 16.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Monday, March 2, 2020

Astro-Calendar: 2020 March / "Galactic Tick Day": March 21

   
March 21 marks "Galactic Tick Day," which celebrates our Solar System's travel around the Milky Way Galaxy; it takes 230 million years for our Solar System to make one revolution around the Milky Way. The Galactic Tick Day occurs once every 1.7361 years, marking each 1 centi-arc-second of travel (i.e. "tick") in this trek. More Information: Link >>> http://galactictick.com/
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope is of Galaxy UGC 12158, a spiral galaxy which is thought to resemble our Milky Way Galaxy in appearance. (Image Sources: NASA, European Space Agency, Wikipedia.org, By ESA/Hubble & NASA - http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1035a/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12385417)

Astronomical Calendar for 2020 March ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2020.html#mar

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2020 Feb. / Once-in-Century Palindrome: Feb. 2"

Saturday, 2020 February 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/02/astro-calendar-2020-feb-once-in-century.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              Monday, 2020 March 2.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Monday, February 17, 2020

Science & U.S. Presidents

                         JQA Photo.tif                      
Photograph, by Mathew Brady, of John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States, considered the Astronomy President for his efforts to bring improved astronomical observatories to America.
(Image Sources: Mathew Brady, Wikipedia.org, By Original - Unknown; Copy - Mathew Brady - National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42373159)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

On Presidents' Day, SpaceWatchtower takes another look at the scientific interests and backgrounds of past American Presidents. Several American Presidents, from John Quincy Adams, truly the Astronomy President (profiled in SpaceWatchtower on Presidents' Day of 2014 by the Cincinnati Observatory Historian John E. Ventre), to Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy, had a great interest and / or background in science.

1st President (1789 to 1797) – George Washington

Long before he was an American General or President, George Washington was a professional land surveyor. Starting in 1748, he started a surveying career that lasted the rest of his life. In 1749 he received a commission from the College of William and Mary to become the professional surveyor for the new Virginia County of Culpepper. By 1752, after completing nearly 200 surveys totaling more than 60,000 acres, he abandoned a professional surveyors career in favor of a military career. However, he continued surveying, off-and-on, until about five weeks before his death in 1799.

More information:

2nd President (1797 to 1801) – John Adams

In 1780, John Adams was one of the founders of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. The Academy carries out nonpartisan policy research by bringing together scientists, scholars, artists, policymakers, business leaders, and other experts to make multidisciplinary analyses of complex social, political, and intellectual topics.

3rd President (1801 to 1809) – Thomas Jefferson

For more than two decades, Thomas Jefferson was President of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin it was the preeminent scientific organization of its day. He was fascinated by the sciences, including paleontology, archeology, agriculture, engineering, architecture, and mathematics. In the Federal Government, he promoted the sciences and recommended to Congress a survey of the nation's coast, which led to the National Geodetic Survey. He founded the University of Virginia.

As Secretary of State, he oversaw the Patent Office and helped establish patent law. Although he invented several items, he never patented any of them, believing, like Benjamin Franklin, that inventions should be shared for the benefit of mankind. As President, he sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the American West, after the purchase of the huge Louisiana Territory from France.

In 1809, Thomas Jefferson said, "Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight..." He also said, "Science has liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example has kindled feelings of right in the people."

More information:

6th President (1825 to 1829) – John Quincy Adams

Truly the “Astronomy President,” John Quincy Adams was likely the President with the highest IQ (estimated at 70 points above average). He worked hard to establish the Harvard College Observatory and the U.S. Naval Observatory. Near the end of his life, though in feeble health, he insisted on traveling to lay the corner-stone for the Cincinnati Observatory in 1843, which two years later would house the world's second largest telescope.

He estalished a uniform system of weights and measures, improved the patent system, saw to it that there was a good survey of the nation's coasts, and generally was a strong supporter of science. He was also instrumental in helping establish the Smithsonian Institution, as a Congressman after leaving the Presidency.

More information:

16th President (1861 to 1865) – Abraham Lincoln

During his Presidency, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill creating the National Academy of Sciences. He was so concerned with farming practices that he enforced scientific techniques onto the agricultural industry. He saw to it that farmers were educated, at government expense (including the beginning of land-grant agricultural colleges), and provided the most up-to-date information on farm machinery. He encouraged the search for alternative fuels, so the country would not be so reliant on sperm whale oil. He was also the first President to hold a patent---on his invention of a method to lift boats off of sandbars and shoals.

20th President (1881) – James A. Garfield

A mathematics wizard, James Garfield developed a trapezoid proof of the Pythagorean theorem, which was published in the New England Journal of Education. And, as with Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield continued to promote Federal Government support of agricultural science.

26th President (1901 to 1909) – Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (TR)

Theodore Roosevelt was an amazing personality. In addition to being a politician who reached the Presidency of the United States, he was also an avid conservationist and naturalist. His interest in science started as a child, when he acquired an interest in zoology and taxidermy and became a young ornithologist. Near the end of his life, he made a grand scientific expedition into the jungles of South America, supported by New York City's American Museum of Natural History, which almost cost him his life.

Theodore Roosevelt always had an interest in the environment and in conservation. President Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.

The National Monuments Act, also known as the Antiquities Act, became law in 1906 with the strong support of President Roosevelt. This law gives the President of the United States the authority to restrict the use of specific public lands owned by the federal government for the preservation of historic, prehistoric, and scientific interest.

Theodore Roosevelt also closely studied naval power and technology, resulting in the publication of two books on naval warfare that continue to be considered among the subject's leading books on the subject.

More information:

27th President (1909 to 1913) – William Howard Taft

In 1913, William Howard Taft was one of the first (of three recipients) to receive a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences, one of the oldest honorary U.S. societies which promotes the study of the social sciences and supports social science research and discussion.

31st President (1929 to 1933) – Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover, who entered Stanford University in its inaugural year of 1891, originally majored in mechanical engineering, but soon changed his major to geology after working for John Casper Branner, chair of the University's Geology Department. After interning in the Summer months with the U.S. Geological Survey, he chose a career as a mining geologist. He worked for many years as a mining engineer, after having trouble finding a job as a mining geologist, later becoming a mining consultant. This all preceded his life in the public sector which included Chair of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Director of the U.S. Food Administration, the third U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and as the 31st President of the United States.

32nd President (1933 to 1945) – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)

Like his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a life-long interest in the environment and conservation starting with an interest in forestry on his family estate when he was young. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which upgraded the National Park and National Forest systems, which he also widely promoted. He also insisted that the CCC and the Works Progress Administration upgrade state parks, as well as manage the ravaging effects of the Dust Bowl.

With the suggestion of Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, FDR created the first scientific mega-project, the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, ending World War II quickly and decisively.

33rd President (1945 to 1953) – Harry S. Truman

After World War II, Harry Truman worked with preeminent scientist Vannevar Bush to increase Federal funding for scientific research. And, in 1950, he signed a bill into law creating the National Science Foundation.

34th President (1953 to 1961) – Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike)

For D-Day during World War II, U.S. General Eisenhower needed to use astronomy and meteorology to determine the best time for Allied troops to invade Normandy. Spring Tides and a Full Moon were essential for D-Day to be a success.

More information on how science was used to prepare for D-Day:

After the surprise launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite in 1957, President Eisenhower insisted on forming a civilian agency or administration to coordinate the American Space Program, rather than allowing the military to control it. The President believed a civilian agency would be more effective in the new mission, avoiding inter-military service rivalries that he felt had already showed difficulty in launching the first American satellite.

More information on President Eisenhower's proposal for NASA:

35th President (1961 to 1963) – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK)

Although originally skeptical regarding the American Space Program, further Russian advances into Outer Space led to President Kennedy proposing an American mission to land Americans on the Moon, and return them safely to the Earth, by the end of the decade.

More information:

36th President (1963 to 1969) – Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)

LBJ was a strong advocate for the American Space Program while he was in the U.S. Senate, helping to shepherd the bill that led to the formation of NASA through Congress. As U.S. Vice President, President Kennedy appointed LBJ as both the Chairman of the President's Ad Hoc Committee for Science and Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. As President, LBJ pushed-through President Kennedy's vision of landing Americans on the Moon by the end of the decade. LBJ was President during the first crewed mission to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8, and on 1969 July 16 was the first former or incumbent U.S. President to attend a rocket launch, the launch of Apollo 11 which resulted in the first Americans to land on the Moon.

More information:

37th President (1969 to 1974) – Richard M. Nixon

Although not particularly known for an interest in environmentalism, President Nixon's legacy includes the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - 1970) and the passage of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act (1970), Clean Water Act (1970), and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

President Nixon was in office when President Kennedy's vision of Americans landing on the Moon before 1970 occurred. However, once the “Space Race” with the Russians was won, Americans quickly lost interest in the Space Program, and the President was not interested in spending the huge amounts of public money that would be necessary for a permanent, crewed base on the Moon or a crewed mission to Mars, as NASA had been planning. Instead, NASA launched the first American space station, Skylab, and in 1972 one of the canceled Apollo missions to the Moon was re-purposed as a joint American Apollo – Russian Soyuz mission in Earth orbit.

More information on President Nixon's Space Policy:

39th President (1977 to 1981) – Jimmy Carter

In 1941, Jimmy Carter began his college career with undergraduate coursework in engineering at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, Georgia. In 1942, he transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, then in 1943 he achieved his dream of attending the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1946, he graduated from the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and was commissioned in the Navy as an Ensign, where he served aboard submarines. In 1953, he was preparing to become an engineering officer on the submarine Seawolf, when his father died. Jimmy Carter then resigned his Navy commission, to return home to manage the family peanut farm.

Jimmy Carter encouraged an incremental Space Program, but did support the Space Shuttle program and the Hubble Space Telescope (which was not actually launched until 1990). A message written by President Carter was included on the golden records sent into space with the two Voyager space probes, which have now left our Solar System for Interstellar Space.

Having inherited the 1970s Energy Crisis, President Carter established the U.S. Department of Energy, promoted research into alternative energy sources, and proposed energy conservation schemes.

Although a Baptist Sunday School teacher, the President did have a friendship with the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould.

40th President (1981 to 1989) – Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was a strong proponent of space exploration, including the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station. He started the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which detractors called “Star Wars,” due to its reliance on space-based defense systems; some people believe SDI, although never perfected, helped to hasten the end of the Cold War. Although not an environmentalist, he quickly banned ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons when a hole in the atmosphere's ozone layer was scientifically demonstrated.

43rd President (2001 to 2009) – George W. Bush

In President George W. Bush's first years in office, he increased funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health as part of his education agenda. He also created educational programs to strengthen the grounding of science and mathematics for American high school students. However, rising inflation led to a cut in the National Institutes of Health funding in 2006, the first such cut to the agency in 36 years.

Although President Bush said he believed global warming was real and is a serious problem, his Administration's stance on the issue remained controversial among scientists and environmentalists. He claimed there is a "debate over whether it's man-made or naturally caused." Critics of his Administration contend that he did little to solve the problem of global warming and did not publicize the problem.

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, the President announced his Advanced Energy Initiative to increase energy development research. In the State of the Union Address over the following two years he repeated his pledge to work towards increasing alternative fuel production. In the 2008 address, he also said he would work with other countries on clean energy projects to reverse the growth of greenhouse gasses.

Although President Bush said he favors research using adult stem cells, he issued the first veto of his Presidency for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have repealed a previous bill thus allowing the use of embryonic stem cells in research.

44th President (2009 to 2017) – Barack Obama

In a major space policy speech in April of 2010, President Obama announced changes to the NASA mission including ending the Aries I and V rockets and Constellation program for returning humans to the Moon, in favor of funding Earth science projects, continuing missions to the International Space Station, and a new rocket type and research and development for an eventual crewed mission to Mars.

In 2009, he proposed new regulations on power plants, factories, and oil refineries to curb greenhouse gases causing global warming. He also opposed the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, due to its potential increase in carbon pollution. To expand the conservation of Federal lands, he used the Antiquities Act to create 25 National Monuments and expand 4 others.

President Obama, during his tenure, began several popular science projects: annual White House Science Fair, annual White House Astronomy Night, and a 2016 White House Science Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh.

More information on the 2016 White House Science Frontiers Conference and the White House Astronomy Night at the Allegheny Observatory, both in Pittsburgh:

Internet Link to Additonal Information ---

List of Presidents of the United States of America:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_presidents_of_the_United_States

Related Blog Posts ---

"Requirement for World War II D-Day: Full Moon !" Thur., 2019 June 6.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/06/requirement-for-world-war-ii-d-day-full.html

 

"White House Science Frontiers Conference & Astronomy Night in Pittsburgh."

 Fri., 2016 Oct. 14.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/10/white-house-science-frontiers.html

 

170th Anniversary: Smithsonian Institution." Wed., 2016 Aug. 10.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/170th-anniversary-smithsonian.html

 

"Presidents' Day: The Astronomy President." Mon., 2014 Feb. 17.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/02/presidents-day-astronomy-president.html

 

"JFK: Loss of the Man Who Sent Us to the Moon." Fri., 2013 Nov. 22.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/11/jfk-loss-of-man-who-sent-us-to-moon.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Monday, 2020 February 17.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Astro-Calendar: 2020 Feb. / Once-in-Century Palindrome: Feb. 2

Groundhogday2005.jpg
In addition to being Groundhog Day (above, photo of 2005 annual Groundhog Day ceremony on Gobler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) and Super Bowl Sunday, February 2 is a once-in-a-century, calendar-date palindrome: 02 / 02 / 2020 (palindrome is a sequence of numbers which reads the same forward as it reads backward), and the 33rd day of the year (in the month including the Leap Year Day, February 29), which is followed by 333 more days! The previous calendar-date palindrome was 1111 November 11 (11 / 11 / 1111). The next two calendar-date palendromes will be 2121 December 12 (12 / 12 / 2121) and 3030 March 3 (03 / 03 / 3030).
More info: Link >>> https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/01/31/sundays-date-is-rare-extra-special-palindrome/
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=216601)
               
Astronomical Calendar for 2020 February ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/20s20.html#feb

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: Jan. / SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Launch Jan. 11"

Thursday, 2020 January 2.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/01/astro-calendar-jan-spacex-crew-dragon.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              Saturday, 2020 February 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >

Monday, January 27, 2020

New Solar Sail Better Uses Laser Energy for Spacecraft Propulsion


Artist's depiction of the proposed Japanese IKAROS space-probe using a solar sail powered by a powerful ground-based laser.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, By Andrzej Mirecki - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14656159)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Solar sails which could propel spacecraft to other planets, or possibly even to distant stars, have been a dream of scientists since the 19th century. A light-sail design would accelerate a spacecraft slowly, but it would speed-up to high speeds over a longer period of time.

Particularly for possible interstellar travel, our current use of rockets with chemical propellants would not be efficient or effective. And, a large part of the thrust has to be used just to transport the heavy fuel needed for later in the mission.

Originally conceived to take advantage of the solar wind of our Sun (and, perhaps, that of other stars), today light-sail spacecraft are more likely to use strong ground-based (and, perhaps, some day space-based) lasers for such spacecraft propulsion.

However, when using a ground-based laser, one potential problem has been to keep the laser-sail spacecraft from straying away from the laser beam and veering off-course. Optical scientists from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the BEAM Engineering for Advanced Measurements are experimenting with solutions to this problem.

While previous light-sail designs simply acted like mirrors to reflect the laser-light back to the source, the new design uses liquid crystals in diffraction gratings to better stabilize the spacecraft. If the spacecraft starts drifting toward the left, the new sail deflects light to the right and visa-versa. Hence, the spacecraft is forced to position itself back to where the laser beam falls on the center of the sail.

Today, diffraction gratings are used to help encode music and other information on compact disks and digital video disks. One of the effects of diffraction, which some people may be familiar with, is the rainbow effect seen when light is reflected from a CD or DVD.

The original experiment, which was successful, simply used diffraction gratings on the left and right sides of the sail. Now, the researchers are beginning experiments to test diffraction gratings that could center a spacecraft, no-matter which direction it drifts (not just to the right or to the left). They hope that future experiments could be conducted in Earth orbit, on the International Space Station or a separate satellite.

This research was published by researchers Ying-Ju Lucy Chu, Nelson V. Tabiryan, and Grover A. Swartzlander, Jr. in the 2019 December 13 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

In 2016, Breakthrough Starshot Initiative announced a plan to launch swarms of micro-chip-sized spacecraft toward the Alpha Centauri star system, the closest multi-star system to the Earth. Proposed to cost up to $100 million, the very small spacecraft would include thin, reflective, and very light-weight laser-light sails, propelled by incredibly powerful lasers based on Earth. The project proponents hope each spacecraft could reach speeds close to 20 per-cent of the speed of light, reaching the Alpha Centauri system 20 years after launch.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Solar Sail: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_sail

Breakthrough Starshot---
Link 1 >>> http://breakthroughinitiatives.org/initiative/3
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Starshot

Abstract: Research Paper -
"Experimental Verification of a Bigrating Beam Rider."
Ying-Ju Lucy Chu, Nelson V. Tabiryan, and Grover A. Swartzlander, Jr.
Phys. Rev. Lett. 123, 244302 - Published 2019 Dec. 13.
Link >>> https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.244302

Related Blog Posts ---

"Nano-Space Probes to Star Alpha Centauri by Laser-Sail ?" Thur., 2017 Dec. 7.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/12/nano-space-probes-to-star-alpha.html

 

"Laser-Propelled Nano-Space Probe to Reach Alpha Centauri in 20 Years?." Thur., 2016 April 14.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/04/laser-propelled-nano-space-probe-to.html

 

"Solar Sail Spacecraft Test in 2016." Thur., 2014 July 17.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/07/solar-sail-spacecraft-test-in-2016.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Monday, 2020 January 27.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

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

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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 >