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SKYWATCH with Jon Bell

Fri Jan 4, 2019     SKYWATCH ANNIVERSARY

The Quadrantid meteor show is going on right now; with clear dark skies you should see a few of them in the north sky late tonight. I mention this because sky phenomena that people can see is usually my first priority when I write these astronomy spots. This month marks my 24th year hosting Skywatch. Before that I did similar radio programs in Tidewater, Virginia. And before that, I handled the telephone sky information service at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Over the years, I’ve developed a list that helps me decide what to talk about. Highest priority goes to current sky events, like the meteor shower; likewise, eclipses, comets, conjunctions of the moon and planets, as well as any breaking news in astronomy. Next come any historical events such as discovery dates and the births of famous astronomers. After that I talk about stars and constellations they can see in the current evening sky. And finally, I discuss astronomy concepts and general sky phenomena.

Mon Jan 7, 2019    ISAAC NEWTON

Sir Isaac Newton was born on January 4th, 1643. He was also born on Christmas Day, December 25th, in the year 1642. Newton has two birthdays because when he was born, England was still using the old Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was adopted long after he died, and when it was put in place, eleven days had to be added to all the old Julian dates, which would reckon his birthday to be January 4th. Isaac Newton invented calculus so that he could develop his three laws of motion, describing such things as inertia, force and acceleration, plus the famous third law – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and that’s how rockets work. Newton discovered mathematical laws which described gravity, and he reasoned that it was universal, that is, that gravity works everywhere in the same way. Besides carrying out investigations into the nature of light, Newton built the first reflecting telescope, called the Newtonian reflector after him.

Tue Jan 8, 2019      GALILEO'S MOONS/JUPITER AND THE MOON

Over four hundred years ago, the astronomer Galileo wrote the following in his logbook: "On the seventh day of January in this present year 1610, at the first hour of night, Jupiter presented itself to me. Beside the planet there were three starlets, small indeed, but very bright. Returning on January eighth I found a very different arrangement. On the thirteenth of January four stars were seen by me for the first time." Galileo concluded that the four star-like objects were moons orbitng Jupiter. To see what Galileo saw, all you need is a small telescope, for Jupiter is visible in our skies this month. Go outside an hour before sunrise, and look toward the east. There is a brilliant star there, above the horizon. But that’s not Jupiter, that’s Venus. Now look below Venus and there’s another star, almost as bright. That’s Jupiter. The telescope will show you Jupiter as a small, banded disc or dot of light; and the moons will appear as tiny stars nearby.

Thu Jan 10, 2019   UNDER THE FLORIDA SKIES TALK

This evening I’m going to give a presentation at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach, as part of the Florida Humanities Series. The title of the lecture is, “Under Florida Skies,” and I’ll be talking about some of the stars and other notable luminaries in the heavens that you can see when you go outside on these pleasant subtropical evenings here in the Sunshine State. Thanks to our southerly position on the globe, we can find a few stars up there that northerners never see, such as Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky. It’s prominent here, but up north, Canopus never rises above the horizon. I’ll also discuss the upcoming lunar eclipse on January 20th; this eclipse begins shortly after 10:30 pm and the Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium will host guided views of the eclipse, aided by the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society. The talk will be at 7 pm at the Emerson Center, which is on 27th Avenue and 16th Street in Vero Beach. The talk is free.

This evening I’m going to give a presentation at the Emerson Center in Vero Beach, as part of the Florida Humanities Series. The title of the lecture is, “Under Florida Skies,” and I’ll be talking about some of the stars and other notable luminaries in the heavens that you can see when you go outside on these pleasant subtropical evenings here in the Sunshine State. Thanks to our southerly position on the globe, we can find a few stars up there that northerners never see, such as Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky. It’s prominent here, but up north, Canopus never rises above the horizon. I’ll also discuss the upcoming lunar eclipse on January 20th; this eclipse begins shortly after 10:30 pm and the Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium will host guided views of the eclipse, aided by the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society. The talk will be at 7 pm at the Emerson Center, which is on 27th Avenue and 16th Street in Vero Beach. The talk is free.

Fri Jan 11, 2019   CALENDAR ORIGINS

Our calendar is based on patterns in the heavens – the earth’s rotation, the phases of the moon, the orbit of the earth about the sun. Our calendar has its origins thousands of years ago, from Egypt. By keeping close watch on the sun’s progress through the sky, ancient Egyptians were able to accurately measure the length of the year, and knew it was about 365 and a quarter days long. Their calendar had 12 months of 30 days each, which worked out to 360 days total. Then they had five extra days or “empty” days, known as heiru renpet, which they used as a holiday at the end of the year. The new year began with the predawn rising of a star they named Sothis, which appeared in the east just before sunrise. This happened in July, around the time each year when the Nile River flooded. Sothis is still shining up there; we call it Sirius, the dog star, the brightest star in the night, which appears below and to the left of the constellation Orion, in the southern sky these early winter evenings.


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SKYWATCH WITH JON BELL
sky-watch

BEST OF ASTRONOMER'S SONGBOOK
Music Notes

Songs of Space and Time



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