StarWatch for the greater Lehigh Valley

MAY  2017


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1081    MAY 7, 2017:   Mr. Gorsky: An Urban Myth
“When Apollo Mission Astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous ‘one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind’ statement but followed it by several remarks and usual com traffic. Just before he re-entered the Lander, however, he made the enigmatic remark, ‘Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.’ Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut. However upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the ‘Good luck, Mr. Gorsky’ statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled. On July 5, 1995, in Tampa Bay, FL, while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year old question to Armstrong. This time, he finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had died and so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the question. When he was a kid, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit a fly ball that landed in the front of his neighbor's bedroom windows. His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky, ‘…Sex! You want …sex? You'll get …sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!’ True story…” The 50th anniversary of humankind’s first footsteps onto the moon’s surface will be celebrated in just over two years, July 20, 2019, but somehow the Gorsky story still continues. Understand that it is simply an urban legend. It never happened. The full NASA transcript with comments regarding the closeout on the lunar surface can be found at At 111:37:32 into the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong pulled himself up onto the ladder reaching the third step. “Okay?” (111:37:15) was his last comment made from the lunar surface in reference to the placement of a package of memorial items Buzz Aldrin had just dropped onto the moon’s surface from the Lunar Module. The full discussion of the origins and spreading of this urban myth can be found in more detail at Goodbye, Mr. Gorsky. FADE OUT…

1082    MAY 14, 2017:   Hidden Figures
In 1966 our family vacation took us to Florida. There is an event from that trip which will forever be branded into my mind. As part of our journey to the Sunshine State, we traveled to Silver Springs State Park, home of the glass bottom boats. When my father bought the tickets for our excursion, I remember the lobby area being composed of a racially mixed audience. At the appropriate time, we all headed down to the boat ramps, but along the way, a curious thing happened. I noticed black families queuing to the left while whites moved to the right. At the bottom of the incline, I remember my first glimpse of the well maintained gleaming boats in which we were to cruise. A quick glance to the left and I saw black families headed towards older, smaller crafts with blue paint flecking from their wooden frames. I was barely 16 and really confused at what I had just witnessed. I recently completed Margot Lee Shetterly’s, Hidden Figures, HarperCollins Publishers, 2016, “the untold story of the black women mathematicians who helped win the space race.” To say the least, it was an uncomfortable reading experience with Shetterly intentionally telling the narrative in the language of the many women who she interviewed, using words like “Negro,” “Colored,” and “Girls” in her detailed and well researched descriptions. The account takes place mainly in the town of Hampton, Virginia, and in the burgeoning complex that would eventually become NASA’s Langley Research Center, 225 miles south from where I grew up and live today. There, West Area calculators who were all black and female crunched the numbers that helped to make American fighter planes more effective in combat during WW2, improved safety and efficiency for commercial aircraft during the 1950’s, and double-checked the orbital calculations of electronic computers during America’s space race. Then these same women, who grew to become a respected part of the Langley aviation community, would ride home in the back of segregated buses to their segregated middle class neighborhoods. Thank goodness for affirmative action and kudos for writers like Shetterly who continue to bring to light the duality in the American narrative that needs to be understood and digested by folks like me who queued to the right.

[Jacket, Hidden Figures]
Did you know that in 1969 when Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon, virtually all Pocono resorts in Pennsylvania would not allow blacks to lodge at their establishments? Hidden Figures jacket design by Elsie Lyons... Jacket photograph from the "New Journal and Guide," background illustration from Shutterstock...

1083    MAY 21, 2017:   Dark Matter
I have had two great loves in my life. Susan and I will have been married 35 years this coming June 25. The other woman…? Well, obviously, it wasn’t successful, but I longed for her until I met my Sue. But what if that first relationship had been successful? How would my life have evolved if I had taken the other road? There are a group of physicists who believe that we live in a multiverse, a kaleidoscope of universes all existing at the same time. Each decision that we make creates another universe that splits off with the consequences of that choice going forward in time. This is essentially the premise of Blake Crouch’s, Dark Matter, Crown, New York, 2016, which has Jason and Jason2 as its main character. I say “character” because they are both the same person living at the same time in two parallel universes. Jason made the decision to marry Daniela, and together they have a son named Charlie. Jason is a successful physics professor living in Chicago in an extraordinarily happy relationship with his family. However, he wonders if he could have made more of his professional life. Jason2 is a world-renowned physicist who sacrificed family for fame and invented a machine, a box, which can transport a person to another timeline of himself. The catch is that Jason2 is probably the only person who knows exactly how to find that transcendent moment in another person’s life to make the proper connection. Jason2 may be the Einstein of his 21st century timeline, but he lacks the completeness of a family relationship and wants desperately to be the love of Daniela’s and Charlie’s lives. So Jason2 kidnaps Jason and exchanges places with him so that Jason2 can have it all. That leaves Jason on a quest to get back to Daniela and Charlie. Since both Jason and Jason2 are the same person, it doesn’t take long for Jason to understand how to move the box to different timelines of himself. The trick that needs to be learned is getting “the box” close enough to the timeline that will allow Daniela and him to be reconnected. As he gets closer, Jason leaves multiple timelines of himself in Chicago which can reconnect with each other, so by the moment Jason finds his correct timeline, there are over 100 other Jasons, all trying to assume the identity of Jason2 who has successfully bonded with Daniela and Charlie. How the real Jason outwits Jason2 and all of the other Jasons vying for his life (timeline) is what makes the book a winner. Read Dark Matter to be surprised for yourself.

[Jacket, Dark Matter]
Dark Matter jacket design by Christopher Brand...

1084    MAY 28, 2017:   Thermochromic Stamp to Commemorate Eclipse
The moon was new on Thursday, May 25, so as you watch it blossom towards first quarter during the fireworks displays this Memorial Day weekend, note that we are now less than 90 days away from the Great American Eclipse, a total solar eclipse where the only land traversed by the moon’s main shadow will be the continental US from Oregon to South Carolina. In all other locations, the eclipse will be a partial event, a portion of the moon covering the sun, but it will still be an occurrence worth viewing if you possess the correct filtration. I’ll talk more about that next week. Locally, the amount of sun that will be obscured by the moon will reach 75 percent at 2:43 p.m., Monday, August 21. First contact, when the eclipse begins will take place at 1:20 p.m., while second contact, when the partial eclipse concludes, happens at 4:00 p.m. Locations west of the East Coast see it earlier, not only because the moon’s shadow moves from west to east, but because of time zone differences. The farther north or south an observer is distanced from where the moon’s main shadow will traverse, the less obscuration of the sun will occur. The US Postal Service is also getting into the act by celebrating this historic event with a special philatelic gem to be released on the summer solstice, June 20. The Forever Stamp will be printed with thermochromic pigments, an ink that changes color with temperature, a first for any US stamp. Under cooler conditions the imprint will feature an image of the eclipsed moon with wispy strands of solar corona emanating from it; but putting the warmth of your thumb on the stamp will cause thermochromism to occur, changing Luna from an eclipsed moon into a full moon. One word of caution the Postal Service warns. The pigment will become desensitized by ultraviolet radiation, so the US Postal Service will be selling the Forever Stamp, as well as a UV blocking envelope for an additional nominal fee. Appropriately, the solar image has used a composite photograph of a total solar eclipse taken by “Mr. Eclipse,” astrophysicist Fred Espenak, who may hold the world’s record for spending more time in the shadow of the moon than any other human being. The actual images were recorded from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Thanks, Mark Balanda, from Hershey, PA for tipping me off to this event.

[Thermochromic Eclipse Stamp]
This Thermochromic Eclipse Stamp, the first of its kind, will be released to the public on the summer solstice, June 20, 2017 to commemorate the August 21 total solar eclipse which will cross the US from Oregon to South Carolina. By warming the stamp with your thumb, the eclipsed sun will change into a full moon. Photography, US Postal Service...

[May Star Map]

[May Moon Phase Calendar]