October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
Long time readers of The Quiet Way will remember that I really like those times when there are special alignments in the sky. This past week has qualified in that regard. I posted a photograph over on landscapes and other abstractions showing an appulse of Regulus, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter that occurred on Friday. This morning, Sunday, Mercury joined the gathering. While not particularly tight, the clustering of four planets and the Moon together in the morning sky is a truly beautiful sight.
The beauty of these alignments is not just to the eye but also to the mind as they let one consider the arrangement of the planets and the moon in their orbits and relative to one another. The Earth orbits the Sun in a plane called the ecliptic plane. The orbits of the four planets in this gathering are inlined at smallish angles to the ecliptic but close enough to let one imagine the ecliptic plane when looking at the scene in the sky. Since we are in the ecliptic plane ourselves we see it only as a line with the planets clustered around it. The Sun is below the horizon to the left and on that line. Mercury is in close to the Sun. But Jupiter is next? We are looking across the orbits of Venus, Earth, and Mars to see Jupiter far out in space beyond. The same for Mars. Venus is between the Earth and Sun but appears to be the furthest from the Sun because of its location in its orbit relative to our own.
The Moon’s orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic and wanders around it. In fact, when it is in the part of the orbit where it passes from being below the ecliptic to above it (or vice versa) and when that part is on the line between the Earth and Sun there is a Solar or Lunar eclipse. That is why our orbital plane is called the ecliptic!
If you look at the position of the Moon relative to Venus and Jupiter in the landscapes… photograph compared to the photograph above, taken two days later, you can get an idea of how far across the sky the moon moves from night to night. The Moon will be New tomorrow night, crossing the line between the Earth and the Sun.
And of course one can and should spend a little time thinking about why that ecliptic line is inclined to the horizon the way it is, having to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis to the ecliptic plane but also to our northern mid-latitude location on the rotating spherical Earth.
On top of all of that, we saw several nice meteors on our walk this morning. Hence the title of the post…
September 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
…and September too.
Many years ago there was a song, Ridgetop by Jesse Colin Young, that included the title of this post in the lyrics. I guess it created a a kind of ideal to pursue. Now, thanks to Leah’s efforts, we have blueberries, red, yellow, and black raspberries, and blackberries each summer.
August 13, 2015 § 1 Comment
The Perseids have become a kind of fabled occurrence each summer. Its advent is heralded on all forms of media with interviews and advice on how best to view them. All of this fuss raises my expectations of a great shower…and this year’s shower was, in fact, better than usual. But still not up to the expectations that are raised…
Perhaps it is not the meteor shower itself so much as the occasion to be outside under a wonderful summer night time sky that makes us look forward to the Perseid shower so much. In that regard expectations are met or exceeded, especially on a night like last night. It was pleasantly cool and clear. A few insects were singing softly and the Barred Owls were calling in the ravine south of the house. Overhead were all of the old familiar constellations and asterisms…The Northern Cross, The Lazy W, and The Big Dipper early with Perseus and its Double Cluster, The Andromeda Galaxy, The Pleiades, and Orion showing up later. We saw a satellite flare. All put in place around the Milky Way. This all recalled summer evenings visiting my grandparents in southern Ohio back in the late 1950s, a time when the sky was so much darker. It recalled evenings years later with friends and our children watching meteors on humid August nights. Maybe all of that is why the Perseid Meteor Shower is such a big deal each summer. If you are patient, you even get to see a few meteors…
August 5, 2015 § 1 Comment
In our part of the country we see our share of fast food litter along the roadways…Burger King bags and McDonald’s French Fry boxes. Every so often we will see a Starbucks cup or Arby’s bag, indicating that the litterer had been to the city…we don’t have either of those establishments around here.
Earlier this summer, while on a visit to rural Maryland, we went for an early morning walk and were surprised to find a Blackberry box along the road…fast food for an obviously more sophisticated palate.
But litter all the same…
June 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
May 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
For Mother’s Day, my wife and I have a tradition of going to the Lakeside Daisy Preserve on Ohio’s Marblehead peninsula. Lakeside Daisies are on the federal list of endangered species and, by some accounts, the Marblehead preserve is the only naturally occurring population in the United States.
This photograph above shows the flowers growing up from a lush green carpet of vegetation but the preserve is situated on an old limestone quarry and the soil is poor. The photograph below is perhaps more typical.