THE AUGUST ECLIPSE!!

Solar and Lunar Eclipses Worldwide

Solar and Lunar Eclipses Worldwide

Hello! Here in New England we have had a good summer and it isn’t over yet! There are still weeks to go in August of lazy summer days and cool nights. Here at Oak Meadow one event we are all looking forward to is the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017. The following is a quick blast of great information from DeeDee Hughes, our Oak Meadow colleague:

Hi Folks,

We are all a little eclipse-crazy here in Corvallis, Oregon since we are in the “zone of totality” for viewing the total solar eclipse on August 21. I did some research and found this cool interactive map that shows the path of eclipses for years to come. I found a page where you can type in a city name and see what the eclipse will look like from there–I couldn’t resist checking out where friends and family members live. It’s fun to compare different places:  

Brattleboro VT

Santa Cruz CA

Corvallis OR

Seems like everyone in the country will be seeing something cool. Oh, and this article has good info about the solar eclipse glasses and how to tell if you have safe ones. 

I was wondering why the upcoming eclipse is being called “Eclipse of the Century” when they happen all the time, so I dug deeper. A total solar eclipse is different than an annular eclipse, but both have the moon lined up exactly in between Earth and the sun. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves fully in front of the sun but because the moon is further from the Earth at that time, there will be a “ring of fire” seen around the moon, rather than having the moon block the sun entirely the way it does in a total solar eclipse. The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse is the distance between the moon and Earth. Here’s an article with a cool “ring of fire” photo. 

That’s my two cents on cool eclipse fun! DD

I’ll also add that EARTHSKY has a very good “Eclipse Day” checklist for getting ready for viewing. Be prepared, have fun, and enjoy the “Eclipse of the Century” with family and friends!

 

Stamp Collecting!

“The word ‘philatelist’ means a person who practices philately or stamp collecting. It comes from the French word ‘philatelie’, which was derived from the Greek words ‘philos’, meaning loving, and ‘atelia’, meaning exemption from tax which also came to mean ‘postage is prepaid.’.”

American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is the largest, nonprofit organization in the world for stamp collectors.

When I was little and traveled with my family, we didn’t have computers for emailing and so we wrote lots of letters to family and friends. We also made a tradition of mailing ourselves letters to our own home! We would go to a post office in a country or town that we were visiting, and purchase a special stamp. (You can ask the post master to show you what stamps he/she has available.) Then, using the stamp, we would mail the letter home to ourselves. It was fun to see the letters and the stamps when we arrived home. I don’t have a very big collection of stamps, but the ones that I do have hold some wonderful memories for me.

This year a really cool stamp is going to be offered! A first of its kind! Some background first:

You may have read that there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States this summer. (Monday, August 21, 2017.) People from all over the world will be coming to different spots in the United States to witness this solar eclipse.

Solar Eclipse
Photo Credit: Public Domain

What does a solar eclipse have to do with a stamp? Well, the Postal Service will be offering a first-of-its-kind stamp! It changes when you touch it! The Postal Service announcement says: “The Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.”

You can read the story of how the stamp was designed here.

If you would like to view other stamps that have commemorated eclipses, you can view them here.

So, as you travel to new places, or even stay in your hometown, take a look at the many stamps that the post office has to offer!

P. S.  Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can be dangerous; here’s a way to enjoy the eclipse without hurting your eyes: http://hilaroad.com/camp/projects/eclipse_viewer/eclipse_viewer.html

 

The Night Sky

This week’s night sky
(Northern Hemisphere)

“You cannot teach anybody anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” ~~ Galileo ~~ (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)

I love to go outside on a clear night and observe the stars and planets. Last night the incredibly beautiful full moon was so bright that it was hard to see any constellations! I took a walk in the moonlight and thought about how strong the light from our sun is that our moon can reflect enough light for me to see where I am going at 10:00 at night. Awesome! In the 7th grade science curriculum, Oak Meadow students investigate the moon, its phases, and its gravitational pull on Earth. Students also learn to compare the characteristics of the planets in our solar system. The study of astronomy is so fascinating!

Sky viewing is a great time for gathering friends on an evening and doing some star watching. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY!

Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations!

Some towns have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!

“This Week’s Sky at a Glance” at the Sky and Telescope website is really helpful for learning what is visible in your own evening sky. Check it out for the constellation guide covering the whole evening sky. Observing the night sky is such a fun activity on a sparkling clear night!

HAPPY SOLSTICE!

“The 2016 December solstice will come on the 21st at 10:44 UTC. That’s 4:44 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.” http://earthsky.org/tonight/years-shortest-season-starts-with-december-solstice

Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter or summer season wherever you are on Earth!

The Transit of Mercury

Today, a rare celestial event occurs: Mercury crosses in front of the sun. This celestial event only happens on the average thirteen times a century. For seven and a half hours, this unique “transit of Mercury” can be viewed through high powered binoculars or with solar filters. However, if you would like to follow today’s transit of the smallest planet in the solar system through a live webcam, please click on “Transit of Mercury 2016“.

Oak Meadow’s fourth grade astronomy unit includes a research report on planets, so today is a perfect opportunity to view and to learn more about Mercury – the planet that is not only the smallest of the eight planets, but also the closest one to the sun. To learn more about Mercury and the other planets in our solar system, you can also find educational information from the website, KidsAstronomy.com.

Astronomy for Kids

In Oak Meadow’s fourth grade science coursework, the final block of lessons offers an extensive study on astronomy. The twelve lessons offer educational information, additional book and story selections, sky watching activities, hands-on projects, and artistic exercises.

I highly recommend the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website to families as a way to further enhance the ongoing lessons. APOD is a collaboration of NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU). Each day, an image or photograph of our universe is featured with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. This website is extremely interesting, as well as quite educational for any budding scientist, astronomer or avid sky watcher.

As part of Oak Meadow’s fourth grade astronomy block, there is a five-week main lesson project, in which the students choose a planet to research and complete a written report. I suggest perusing the website, Kids Astronomyfor additional information. It offers educational websites and interactive games, worksheets, music, and movies.

Meet_the_Planets_CoverOne of Oak Meadow’s enrolled families shared an exciting website they discovered called Meet the Planets. This site (and book) offers awesome portrayals of “Who’s Who & What’s What” in each of the illustrations created by Laurie Allen Klein.

If your family is interested in stargazing, there are many amazing events occurring throughout the year of 2016. The Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events for Calendar Year 2016 is a good site for finding these specific dates. Plato, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, once wrote, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” May you find similar inspiration in your sky gazing activities!

What's That Chirp Noise I Hear?

images-3I heard birds chirping outside my office window this morning and I acknowledged to myself what a sweet sound it is. Their twittering reminded me that as the Earth rotates, each of us hears the morning calls of birds. I thought of my students in far off places such as Australia, Costa Rica, and Italy and registered that they were hearing their birds at very different times than each other.

I like to sit back and dwell on the planet as a little spaceship floating in the universe. Here we all are, floating through space together, caught in an orbit of gravitational pull by our sun. I marvel at that! At the same time, I’m also in awe of the scientists that came before me with their observations and predictions about the Earth and the universe. It is because of them that I can even have these thoughts. My studies of their work has led me to know the universe. If you are in the middle grades of Oak Meadow , then you will study the concepts of meteorology and astronomy in 6th grade, to light and sound waves in 8th grade physics, that will serve as a foundation for your own viewing the universe.images-2

One exceptional and admirable scientist you will study about is Albert Einstein. His observations, predictions, and construction of theories continue to amaze us today. Just this month, one of his predictions made over 100 years ago was validated. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Physicists at The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana have been busy for about twenty five years hoping to detect the sound of gravitational waves.

Then, on September 14, 2015, at just before eleven in the morning, Central European Time, the waves reached Earth. Marco Drago, a thirty-two-year-old Italian postdoctoral student and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, was the first person to notice them. He was sitting in front of his computer at the Albert Einstein Institute, in Hannover, Germany, viewing the LIGO data remotely. The waves appeared on his screen as a compressed squiggle, but the most exquisite ears in the universe, attuned to vibrations of less than a trillionth of an inch, would have heard what astronomers call a chirp—a faint whooping from low to high. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/gravitational-waves-exist-heres-how-scientists-finally-found-them

So the other “chirp” I am hearing isn’t the sound of birds! It’s the sound of gravitational waves!

To learn more about this, and to hear the chirp, go to http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/gravitational-waves-einstein-s-ripples-spacetime-spotted-first-time

Summer Viewing!

The night sky in New England, June 30-July 4

from Sky and Telescope

Summer, in New England, is a great time for gathering friends on a warm evening and doing some star viewing. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY! images

Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations! images

Most towns in New England have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!

So if you are thinking of having a party this summer, think about including some star gazing, too!

 

 

 

Astronomy or Astrology?

In my previous post I wrote:

Last week I overheard a boy and girl having a conversation about different planets. They were looking at astronomy books in the library. The boy said, “It’s fun learning new facts about the different planets. I just love astrology.” What do you think? What should the girl reply?”

Thank you to all for your terrific comments!

I was hoping that the girl would say, ” I like learning new facts about the planets, too. I just love Astronomy.”

The two words are often confused by people. In the Oak Meadow science curriculum, you’ve learned that Astronomy is the study of the planets, stars, universes, galaxies, pulsars, and beyond. It’s a branch of physics.

“It does make a certain amount of sense. Astronomy is, strictly speaking, the measurement of the positions of the stars and planets, “ordering the stars,” so to speak. In the old days, interpreting those measurements was called astrology, but nowadays we interpret our measurements, not with numerology and unfounded conjecture, but with physics, and we call it astrophysics” This quote came from Britt Scharringhausen at the website, Ask an Astronomer.

In the the study of astronomy in the Oak Meadow 7th grade science curriculum, there’s an assignment to write a report on a constellation. It’s impressive when a student’s answer is based on the astronomical details and the astrological story of the constellation.

Check out: Curious About Astronomy: What’s the difference between astronomy and astrology?

Curious!

Last week I overheard a boy and girl having a conversation about different planets. They were looking at astronomy books in the library. The boy said, “It’s fun learning new facts about the different planets. I just love astrology.”

What do you think? What should the girl reply? I’m looking for comments! There will be more posted about this in my next post. For now, LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!