StarWatch for the greater Lehigh Valley



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[Moon Phases]


280   JANUARY 6, 2002:     Astronomical Calendar
There are numerous sources that influence the articles that you read in this column. Foremost among them is a superbly detailed publication called the Astronomical Calendar, compiled and illustrated by Guy Ottewell of Furman University, Greenville, SC. Oversized at 15 by 11 inches, Ottewell places the whole year of astronomy at your fingertips and richly illustrates events with a technical skill that is unmatched by any single author or source. There are sky maps for each month, a calendar of events, and observing highlights. There are timely sections on the sun, the moon, eclipses, conjunctions, the planets, asteroids, comets, meteors, spaceflight, plus a glossary of terms to help the uninitiated. At $29.00, including shipping and handling, Ottewell creates a valuable source that this column could not do without. Download an order form from The web version of StarWatch has been enlarged in the last few months, and I'd like to acquaint you with its new features. You can access StarWatch through the web address printed at the bottom of this page. Simply click on the "StarWatch" button when the page loads and navigate to the appropriate month and week. Besides finding all of the StarWatch articles indexed according to subject, you'll often find illustrations along with these articles. Large quarter moon phases are now listed for each month. There are also 8-1/2 inch by 11-inch star charts, one for each cardinal direction and the zenith, that can be easily printed. Make sure that you are in a landscape mode before printing. The monthly moon phase calendar, along with an all-sky map are still being carried at the bottom of each page.


281   JANUARY 13, 2002:    When Space-Time Lines Intersect-Part 1
It is incredible how people meet. Our reality is based upon space (length, width, and height) and time. We move through our lives in this manner, following a space-time line that must intersect another individual's space-time line if we are to get together. My wife, Susan, and I lived for over 27 years in Allentown and our space lines intersected many many times. In other words we were in the same place, but at different times. Until I was 28, our space-time lines intersected only twice. During the first occurrence, in early 1970, nothing happened, although my wife journaled the occasion. I remember the event, but not her. The second time, October 3, 1978, fireworks erupted, and our space-time lines have merged ever since. We were married in 1982. Here is one of my favorite space-time intersections. Sam Hopkins is a former Allen astronomy student of mine. He participated in a school astronomy field experience to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico during the spring of 2000, graduated, and became a Marine reservist. Sam desperately wanted to return to Chaco as an astronomy volunteer, but he had insufficient money. So Sam earned his trip by helping me at the Allentown School District Planetarium last spring during my sabbatical leave. We drove to Chaco in mid-May. Sam was to stay for three weeks then fly home, but I convinced him to extend his stint by several more weeks. On his second last night, Sam gave his first image show, where he described, some of the many beautiful digital photos that have been made at the Chaco Observatory. In the group was a young woman from Amherst, MA, Laura Young. You'll have to wait until next week for the rest of the story, or read ahead on the net.


[Sam and Laura]
SAM HOPKINS' AND LAURA YOUNG'S space-time lines are intersecting as often as possible these days. Read the StarWatch articles above and below their picture for further details. Gary A. Becker photo...

282   JANUARY 20, 2002:    When Space-Time Lines Intersect-Part 2
Every human being progresses through a space-time line while they are alive. A person moves from place to place (space) over a period of time. For two individuals to meet, their space-time lines have to intersect. Last week, I described the ordeal that my friend, Sam Hopkins, went through to volunteer at Chaco Culture in New Mexico at the Park's Observatory. On Sam's second last night, he gave his first astronomy presentation. In the audience was Laura Young of Amherst, MA. Laura, 17, was impressed, and the two continued to look at images until Laura's mother literally "dragged" her back to their campsite. The following evening, Laura briefly appeared and presented Sam with a beautiful handmade bracelet. Needless to say, that was a sleepless night for Sam and me. Sam wrote a thank you note, and with the help of Park employee, Liz Churchill, managed to locate the Young's campsite. Sam's recent Marine training came into good play because he managed to sneak up to the right picnic table, and secure the note on the tabletop without disturbing Laura or her mother. Sam departed Chaco without knowing whether Laura had found his letter. Laura also left the same day. Sam returned to Allentown, but since Laura was still traveling, it was sometime before they began regularly communicating. But that is all ancient history at present. Sam and Laura's space-time lines are crossing as frequently as possible. View a recent intersection at the ASD Planetarium at this week's web StarWatch. Laura is currently a freshman at Grinnell College in Iowa. Oh, I forgot to mention that Laura's mother, Dr. Judith Young, is professor of astronomy at the University of MA, Amherst. This could truly be a match sanctioned by the heavens.


283   JANUARY 27, 2002:    A Sentient Universe
We live in a universe that is composed mostly of hydrogen, a light, colorless, odorless gas, which if given enough time, can turn into people. The storyline is a complex series of twists and turns that has been occurring for billions of years and has resulted in us. The universe started with a bang, a Big Bang, the rifting of dimensions 12-18 billion years ago from something smaller than a pinhead--a burst of pure energy, which a moment later had set down all of the laws of nature as we know them today. Energy rapidly morphed into hydrogen, helium, and a tiny bit of lithium. In the turbulence of the primordial mix, denser structures began to dictate the formation of galaxies which had as their basic luminous component, stars. One of these huge structures was the progenitor of our own Milky Way. Galaxies clustered, cannibalized each other, and the clusters have moved outward in an ever expanding universe. Within our own Local Group, the Milky Way became dominant. Hundreds of billions of stars have lived and died since our galaxy's beginning, stars that have changed their hydrogen and helium into heavier elements through thermonuclear fusion. About one star in a thousand has gone supernova, producing in its catastrophic wake all of the known elements and seeding the galaxy with its stardust--dust that in one case mingled with more hydrogen and helium to form a star with its planets and moons that today we call our solar system. On the third planet, those atoms created in the dying bellies of stars were able to organize into replicating units about four billion years ago and evolve over time into people. Humanity has a tremendous responsibility to understand the soul of this universe that has given so much of itself to create us.


January Star Map

January Moon Phase Calendar