Realizations from Watching the Planets and the Moon

During this week of April 12th, 2020, early risers were rewarded with the sight of a waning crescent moon and three planets, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, all fairly close to each other just before sunrise. On the 16th, I used a different shutter speed to capture a bit of detail from the moon, one that... Continue Reading →

A “What Am I?” Puzzle

If it wasn't for my atypical stellar atmosphere, I would be of no value to astronomers. I have a layer of ionized hydrogen and fully ionized helium, neither of which can lose energy to outer space. So these ions keep absorbing energy from my interior until I expand. This eventually lowers my density and allows... Continue Reading →

Fun With Shadows on the Winter Solstice

Walking back from an errand yesterday morning, I was startled by the length of my shadow, almost 10 meters long. Yesterday, the first day of winter, marked the pinnacle of shadow-length. From today onward, as the days will begin to lengthen, as solar angles become more generous, concentrating solar radiation on less area, the march... Continue Reading →

Wezen, a Deceivingly Dim Star

The Stars in the Brazilian flag are not randomly drawn. For instance, in the lower left area of the circle are six stars from the Canis Major constellation. This morning while the rest of the family either snored or dreamed, I walked the dog at an early hour under relatively dark skies. Thanks to our... Continue Reading →

Visions from the Atacama

The driest non-polar region in the world is Chile's Atacama Desert. Some areas have gone 173 months without rain. At about a latitude of 20 degrees south of the equator, prevailing southeast trade winds carry moisture into the the eastern slopes of the Andes. But as the warm air ascends,  it encounters lower atmospheric pressure... Continue Reading →

Astronomical Beauty of Hydrogen

If you enjoy chemistry, physics and math, it's difficult not to love astronomy. Where else can you find an extraterrestrial interplay of this trio of intellectual endeavours? Uncompounded, neutral hydrogen ( H2 ) occupies an extremely small part of the earth's atmosphere. It is continuously produced naturally by tectonic and microbiological processes, thanks to iron-rich mafic... Continue Reading →

Adventures With Venus

From a comfortable position on Earth's surface, Venus does look beautiful. It is one of the brightest objects in the sky; only the moon and the sun and some future nearby nova or supernova can outshine it. When Earth turns away from the Sun, it also turns away from Venus. Being an "inferior" planet, meaning that it is... Continue Reading →

Cosmic Origins of Atoms in a Mineral

A mineral is more pure than its parent rock. But compared to food additives, industrial compounds and pharmaceuticals, a mineral's compound often hosts more elements. As a result it isn't difficult to find a mineral whose atoms have a variety of cosmic origins. Only a small percentage of elements on Earth are created in and around the... Continue Reading →

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