Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Space has been Studied Throughout Human Existence

Without studying space, We wouldn't understand  time like we do, nor keep it. We also wouldn't understand  days and nights, the phases of the moon, or why the stars appear differently every night ( even if the actual change is minute on a day to day basis, they do change.)

The sky has fascinated ( and been feared by) Humans since ancient times, and  there have been questions about what's really above us up there. One of the earliest reasons people studies space because it was considered " the playground of the gods"  which could explain its distance from mere humans. The sun was often  thought  to be the most important god, the moon being a close second.  An Astronomy timeline ( Illustrates that some of the earliest astrological knowledge was of the phases of the moon and the  movement of the sun. Stonehenge, for example, has structures that line up with the  sun paths of the equinoxes. most early astronomical observations were of these "heavenly bodies"  because they were ( and  still are)  the biggest objects in the sky and  easily observable. Other early records did claim of other objects ( like planets) but  they were far and few between since  early astronomy ( like other things) was poorly recorded.

Another plausible reason to study space was to possibly understand our own earth and how it would effect  our species. Early peoples recorded lunar and solar eclipses but it wasn't until about 480
B.C after taking astrological records from the Babylonians , Thales predicted eclipses. This may not seem so  fascinating but to  ancient humans  didn't understand  the concept, the sky going dark at a weird interval might scare people, and make them think they were being punished by the gods. Once Thales was able to predict some eclipses it  made us seem like we were "more in control of" space, not that we really were. ( you can read the rest of the  article here : )  The article discusses the  formation of several Heliocentric ( Sun revolving) models of the solar system and Geocentric ( Earth Centering) models as well. and in learning out position as an orbiting planet of the sun and not vice versa. we could understand our earth and it's proximity to other astronomical objects as well.

Time was another important factor in why we study space. At some point we needed a way to know how long a day way and how id we spate that day up and split those days into much longer months. It started with the sun's path but slowly it evolved. the Original roman calendar was based solely on the lunar months made up with 10 solar months. Well several months got added ( at one point there was a month that showed up  every two years after February) and things went  that way until Julius Caesar got told to follow the solar calendar which was accurately timed at 365 days and 6 hours. This  was the beginning of our modern calendar time.  Our Watches also run on solar time, not sidereal time which is the true movement of the earth. ( Here is a comparison of Solar days and Sidereal time : )

That is all  ancient  history though. Yet we still study the cosmos, apparently unappeasable with  without knowing what's around us and  what's Really out there. Every year there are seemingly endless new studies and discoveries  that were unknown to us before. We may not know why they are up there, but were going to  try pretty hard to understand what's up in the cosmos.

EDIT: Thanks to a helpful comment by Mrs. Herrold, it seems I am missing part of the blog... Why do  we continue to study space? I believe  its to try and understand what is around us in the universe in our solar system, our galaxy, our side of the universe etc., as most humans have a lust for answers and knowledge. We search to see if we can break down complicated mysteries into easy to digest terms that we already can comprehend. We are all made of particles of the universe and maybe we can learn where we come from, and what came before us, and maybe what will happen after. To quote a favorite novel The Fault in Our Stars "There was a time before consciousness and there will be a time after."  We're just trying to comprehend what we can in our little blip in time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Moon Myths debunked

Blog for the week of 9.16

In honor of the Harvest moon ( Which is simply the full moon closest to the Autumn equinox) This week let’s take a look at some common moon myths that are associated with full moons or try to explain the cycles of the moon Full list of 10 moon myths found here :

Myth #1: Werewolves shape shift and appear on full moons.

Reality: Most of the deep set beliefs that werewolves have a set timeline for transforming and that they’re killed by silver bullets stems from the 1941 movie The Wolf Man. Werewolves have be “reported” as far back as Grecian times ( I guess they had  hairy people then as well) but the whole notion of werewolves ( if they even exist) and their “monthly cycles” in relation to the moon are no much more than Hollywood propaganda.

Myth #2: The moon reflects everything

This myth made me stop and ponder a bit, because it doesn’t seem so farfetched. I chose this myth to dig up some dirt on, and find if this was more than a myth. After scouring the nearest search engine and scrolling past all the Yahoo answers (definitely not of scientific merit) I do eventually find a Lecture on the sun and the moon. (Full lecture hyperlink at bottom) The first part goes on to say that while besides the moon being the second brightest object in out sky; it only reflects about 3% of the Sun’s light in order to shine. Wanting to double check the accuracy of this 3% reflection statistic I find  an article explaining why it reflects at all.  There is a way to measure how reflective an object is called Albedo  so the moon must have alow Albedo to only reflect 3% of the Sun’s light. ( another site claimed 7% of the light  reflected so my verdict lies between the two variables).

I don’t believe I know anyone who believes in these myths seriously, even though my grandpa will tell the man in the moon story about a billion times in a night if the moon is out when we stargaze. Logically, to me, it seems like these beliefs in the moon are like some peoples belief in bad luck, that even though science can debunk them, they are still passed down and believed in for fun or tradition, who knows?






( full  Moon/ sun lecture with helpful pictures:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What I Want to Study in Astronomy.

When i was ranking, the Choices i really really wish i could've put ever topic at the top of my List. Choosing makes me anxious and I want to get every bit out of this class that i can. I put astrobiology at the tippy top of my list partially  because of my preference to it thanks to a little research project Mrs. Herrold knows all too well about. I also think the very idea of looking for ANY life form other than the ones on this known planet really excites me.The second choice i picked was  telescopes,  because i am taking a liking to Astrophotography.  I just need a telescope first, which i am currently working  on obtaining. This class is going to be  so  meaningful to me because i have  the drive to learn about Astronomy

Five Questions about My Top Choices

  1. What kind of telescopes,Cameras, Lenses, Filters etc.  Are needed to take photos of certain DSOs, Constellations, Stars and Planets?
  2. What kind of environments would have to be present in outer space for life ( at least our definition of life) to be able to survive?
  3. Which Telescopes ( that we can get access to at least) give us the Greatest Magnitude  visible?
  4. Would humans ever  be able to live on other planets ( such as Mars hint hint) given the right  living conditions?
  5. What can we do to get the best view with telescopes in our are with a less than  ideal  sky ( thanks to light pollution
    A Pretty picture of the Andromeda galaxy ( via Nasa)