Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus

Today Venus will cross the sun. Many people are excited about this transit of Venus. And, yup, so am I. I am not the expert on this. But I know some things.

Such as when it starts and ends here in Flagstaff-- around 3:00 p.m. until after sunset. It lasts long enough that I didn’t need to reschedule my son’s orthodontist appointment that also starts at 3 p.m.

I know that you are not supposed to look at the sun or you will burn your eyes out, something like that. We still have our # 14 welder’s glasses from viewing the solar eclipse so we will use those. We might then head to either the U.S. Naval Observatory or Lowell Observatory. The U.S. Naval Observatory has resurrected a telescope that was used in the 19th century during that Venus transit.

 I also know that this event is rare. I won’t be alive for the next Venus transit(unless something very strange happens). Venus orbits the sun inside Earth’s orbit but is tilted so it rarely crosses in front of the sun from our vantage point here on Earth. The next time Venus crosses in front of the sun will be in 2117 And then again in 2125. Someone is going to have to get out some models to show me how this works, but for some reason the transits occur in pairs eight years apart and then not again for another century. The last Venus transit was in 2004.

What’s important to me is that we get to see it today, all of us, those who care to anyway. Some sites are broadcasting this event live, so even if your skies are socked in and grayer than gray you can watch this event. This is a chance to see our brilliant evening/ morning “star” in dark contrast against our tremendous sun. It’s definitely worth a look.

Bad Astronomy & EarthSky are chock full of Venus transit information.
Bad Astronomy will be hosting live
EarthSky's viewing tips.
Today’s APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) is “live” of the Venus transit

 Enjoy the view!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cicadas, Crickets, oh my

Putnam's cicada?

A friend once mentioned how she misses the chorus of birds that use to wake her up back in Vermont. Here in Flagstaff we can hear a raucous jay, a chipper chickadee and maybe a bird song here and there, but sadly no chorus. What would that sound like? But we aren’t without noises.

These days our airwaves are filled with soft clicks from thousands of cicadas. I have been trying to figure out how to describe this sound? As you walk down the street the loudness ebbs as you move past trees but, still, it is a constant noise. Web sites say it sounds like two coins clicking together. As a matter of fact one site claimed that you could entice the cicadas to click by clicking coins together. Like they need enticing, this sound starts in the morning and lasts until dusk (not complaining, just an observation).
Cute cicada, probably Putnam's cicada
Apparently these cicada are Platypedia putnami, Putnam’s cicada. A species of cicada found primarily in the Rocky Mountain region. These cicadas, “wing bangers,” lack the tymbal that creates the vibrating song of other cicadas. Putnam’s cicadas bang their wings together? (I was just watching one and it looked like they were striking the wings together or against the body, but not on the branches)on the branches to create the clicking sound. It’s the males attracting their mates.

Here is the cricket sound I recorded.

If you are wondering why I don’t have a photo of one, so am I. Before I decided to write this post the cicadas were dropping on me and scaring the bejeezus out of me. Now, I can’t find one for the life of me. Figures. If I get a photo soon I will post it. (found at last by my hubby)

Fortunately, the wonderful www is full of cicada lore and photos. Who knew? There are lots of cicada fans out there. Check out these sites for terrific cicada information.
Bug Eric
Cicada Mania
BugGuide with a photo of a Putnam's cicada

For my lullaby, I enjoy the soothing chirp of the crickets. But that is another story.

Some things are changing...

Annular eclipse, May 20, 2012 from Wupatki Natl Monument, photo by my hubbie
I have missed this blog and have thought and thought and thought about it. It will be mostly the same but some things will be changing. I love this planet Earth and this amazing universe so we will focus on small things like that, okay? :)