Dec 202014
 

Stand still!

The Sky This Week, 2014 December 16 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

The Winter Solstice occurs on the 21st at 6:03 pm EDT, marking the beginning of the astronomical season of winter.  At this time the Sun will reach its most southerly point along the ecliptic at a point above the Tropic of Capricorn some 5000 kilometers (3000 miles) south of the Hawai’ian Islands.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere this will also correspond to the shortest length of daylight we’ll experience for the year.  Here in Washington we’ll have just 9 hours 26 minutes between sunrise and sunset.  Of course, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this marks the beginning of summer, and they see their shortest nights.

The December solstice has been an important yearly event that has been observed and commemorated by people since very ancient times.  In particular it was widely observed by the Neolithic people of Europe, and many of the ancient monuments that dot the landscapes of the British Isles and northern France were used to observe the passing of this special day.  Our modern holidays have been adapted from many of these ancient observances, many with a common theme of light to chase away the long winter darkness.  For ancient people this was a welcome turning point in the year since it portended the gradual return of the warming Sun and the (eventual) end of winter.

The Sky This Week, 2014 December 16 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

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 Posted by at 4:03 am
Dec 032014
 

Watch the moon rise at sunset on 12/5-7.

The Sky This Week, 2014 December 2 – 9 — Naval Oceanography Portal

The Moon passes through the bright stars of the Great Winter Circle this week, a fitting backdrop for the most northerly Full Moon of the year, which occurs on 6th at 7:27 am Eastern Standard Time.  December’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Moon Before Yule, Cold Moon, or Long Night Moon.  The latter is particularly appropriate as we approach the year’s longest nights around the time of the Winter Solstice.  Watch Luna glide just a degree north of the bright star Aldebaran on the night of December 5th.  On the following night her bright crisp disc hovers above the figure of Orion, the Hunter.  

For most folks living in the mainland United States this week begins the series of phenomena associated with the winter solstice.  For the next 10 days we will experience the earliest sunsets of the year.  Here in Washington they occur at 4:46 pm EST.  By the 12th the sunset time slowly begins to creep a bit later; however, the time of latest sunrise is still advancing.  That event falls on the several days before and after January 4th.  Thus, when we measure the total length of daylight/night, we find that the year’s shortest day indeed does fall on the solstice on December 21st.  This “lag” in the times of sunrise and sunset is a result of our method of keeping time by using a standard second and by the slightly elliptical orbit of the Earth around the Sun.  If we still used sundials for keeping time the effect wouldn’t exist.

The Sky This Week, 2014 December 2 – 9 — Naval Oceanography Portal

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 Posted by at 11:04 am
Nov 242014
 

A few people decided to take the last wild river in New Mexico away from all of us and sell it to a few. And no one can stop the few from screwing the many.

Interstate Stream Commission approves Gila River diversion | Albuquerque Journal News

At Monday’s meeting, Interstate Stream Commission staff acknowledged that evaporation and reservoir seepage will eat up nearly half the water before it ever reaches any farms or cities. The law under which the project would be built authorized 14,000 acre feet per year on average from the Gila, but the actual yield will likely be between 6,000 and 8,000 acre feet, ISC staff member Ali Effati told the commission.

Interstate Stream Commission approves Gila River diversion | Albuquerque Journal News

New Mexico commission makes Gila River decision | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

The commission’s vote on the diversion recommendation was not unanimous. Commissioner Blane Sanchez objected and Topper Thorpe chose not to vote, a decision that spurred cheers from people in the audience who have been critical of diversion.

New Mexico commission makes Gila River decision | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

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 Posted by at 8:41 pm
Nov 212014
 

Slides at the link.

Rock of ages: Up to 70,000 petroglyphs may exist along Mesa Prieta | Albuquerque Journal News By Jackie Jadrnak / Journal North Reporter PUBLISHED: Friday, November 21, 2014 at 12:05 am

Along the entire Mesa Prieta, which stretches to the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Chama, and the first Spanish settlement of San Gabriel, some 70,000 petroglyphs are estimated to exist. They include abstract images, except for human handprints and animal footprints, from the Archaic Period (2,000 to 5,000 years ago), a host of human, animal, cosmic and geometric forms from the Puebloan Period (beginning in 1200 A.D.), and even more from the Historic Period, which begins with the Spanish arrival in 1598 around Ohkay Owingeh.

Rock of ages: Up to 70,000 petroglyphs may exist along Mesa Prieta | Albuquerque Journal News

http://mesaprietapetroglyphs.org/

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 Posted by at 2:35 pm
Nov 072014
 

Our new Land Commissioner is likely to regard mineral extraction as more important than Chaco. Keep a sharp eye out and raise Hell over every threat to this treasure.

I like to drive to Chaco by going north out of Grants via Milan. The lower portion of this route is marred by old radioactive tailing ponds. However, my last trip a year or more ago I passed through a hellish landscape of smoke and dust as countless large machines ripped up the land. I’d like to see that on the 10 o’clock news and the front of the newspaper. Instead, this destruction goes on just out of sight of most travelers. Don’t let it get an inch closer to Chaco.

Future of Chaco in question as oil and gas close in | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

In some ways, it still looks like it did centuries ago.

“Right now, you can stand at Pueblo Alto, look north and see a landscape that is substantially the same as what the Chacoans saw,” said Barbara West, former superintendent of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

But that could be changing.

Future of Chaco in question as oil and gas close in | New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

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 Posted by at 7:57 pm
Oct 272014
 

In their typical multi-prong attack, the Republicans cut funding to public land services, then accuse those services of being unable to handle the task. The goal is to pass the lands to local governments where it will be much easier to bribe politicians and cherry-pick the best lands. When the burden of land management falls on local governments, they will fail and throw up their hands and sell the lands. ROBBERY!

If local governments happen to bankrupt themselves trying to manage public lands, all the better, because then local governments will have to beg corporations to take over a wider array of public services. This is the most transparent of vile schemes. [hat tip to Meg Adams]

The Land Grab Out West By Senator MARTIN HEINRICH

These types of land-grab schemes are as old as the railroads. But the chief salesman for this latest land seizure campaign, the American Lands Council, is having some success pitching state legislators on “model legislation” to enable these transfers. The legislation was drafted with the help of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which receives financing from the utility industry and fossil-fuel producers.

It is unclear whether such legislation is even enforceable.

Continue reading the main story 423Comments

Still, even the Republican National Committee has bought the snake oil the American Lands Council is selling. Last January, the committee endorsed the transfer of public lands to the states. In addition, the United States House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, endorsed the outright sale of our public lands.

Like other Westerners who value our shared lands as assets to be used, enjoyed and passed to future generations, I find this dispiriting to see. And for an overwhelming majority of public land users in the West who pay their grazing fees and play by the rules, the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion of Cliven Bundy and the American Lands Council is not so much a movement as another special-interest-financed boondoggle.

The Land Grab Out West – NYTimes.com

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 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Oct 202014
 

 

splash

Orionid meteors fly out of a radiant near the shoulder of Orion, the Hunter.  In this sky map, the radiant is denoted by a red dot. Although the meteors emerge from a single point, they can appear anywhere in the sky. Image credit: Dr. Tony Phillips [Larger image]

“We expect to see about 20 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Tuesday morning, Oct 21st,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.  “With no Moon to spoil the show, observing conditions should be ideal.”

Because these meteors streak out of the constellation Orion, astronomers call them “Orionids.”

“The Orionid meteor shower is not the strongest, but it is one of the most beautiful showers of the year,” notes Cooke.

The reason is its setting: The shower is framed by some of the brightest stars in the heavens. Constellations such as Taurus, Gemini and Orion provide a glittering backdrop for the display.  The brightest star of all, Sirius, is located just below Orion’s left foot, a good place to point your camera while you’re waiting for meteors.

An Orionid meteor streaks over the city lights of Shanghai in 2009. Credit: Jefferson Teng

To see the show, Cooke suggests going outside one to two hours before sunrise when the sky is dark and the constellation Orion is high overhead. Lie down on a blanket with a broad view of the heavens.  Although Orionids emerge from a small area near the shoulder of Orion, they will spray across the entire sky.

2014 Orionid Meteor Shower – NASA Science

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 Posted by at 7:10 am
Oct 092014
 

A description of several nice trails in or near Abq.

The cooler temperatures of fall make it a great time to spend some quality time outdoors. But the shorter days also mean weekday outdoor time probably has to be close to home.

Fortunately, the Albuquerque area has many great trails (both urban and forest) where you can enjoy the weather, get some great views and get in some exercise if you’re so inclined. Only the trail on the east side of the Sandias takes more than 30 minutes to get to. And all are uniquely Albuquerque.

Fall for a walk | Albuquerque Journal News

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 Posted by at 9:15 am
Oct 072014
 

If we left it up to the market, there would be an oil well in the middle of Rinconada. The profiteers don’t care what they destroy for money. Look at the stripmining going on just barely south of Chaco and the toxic waste closer to Grants.

“We’re not against oil and gas drilling [mjh: I AM!], but it has to be done properly,” said Bruce Gordon, president of EcoFLight, during a flight over the park and its surroundings on Monday morning.

The Partnership for Responsible Business and the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce organized the flyover tour that included one tribal leader and a handful of journalists.

“The biggest thing is the landscape,” said Keenan King, who works with the Partnership for Responsible Business.

Barbara West, a former Chaco Canyon park superintendent, and Mike Eisenfeld, with the San Juan Citizens Alliance, flew above the park on Sunday evening. They were interviewed after the flight in Farmington on Monday.

The group agreed that the BLM needed to create a “Master Leasing Plan” that would take into consideration keeping the park largely unspoiled for visitors.

“We don’t want Chaco to be an island surrounded by hundreds of wells,” said Paul Reed, an archeologist with Archeology Southwest and the author of “The Puebloan Society of Chaco Canyon.”

Environmental groups call for BLM to create comprehensive leasing plan | Albuquerque Journal News

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 Posted by at 2:05 pm
Oct 072014
 

See the link for info about the turquoise band.

Colorful Lunar Eclipse – NASA Science

On Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th, not long before sunrise, the bright full Moon over North America will turn a lovely shade of celestial red.  It’s a lunar eclipse—visible from all parts of the USA.

“It promises to be a stunning sight, even from the most light polluted cities,” says NASA’s longtime eclipse expert Fred Espenak. “I encourage everyone, especially families with curious children, to go out and enjoy the event.”

Colorful Lunar Eclipse – NASA Science

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 Posted by at 6:00 am
Oct 012014
 

Imagine boarding the Rail Runner in Santa Fe or Albuquerque and riding south to Bosque del Apache. Wouldn’t it be fantastic? We have the tracks, we have the trains, we have the natural attraction. More than anything we lack imagination and determination to make it happen.

The people most likely to take this train don’t require a fancy stop. The Durango-Silverton rail simply stops in the middle of wilderness for hikers.

Eventually, I’d like to see a special Crane engine modeled after the lovely Rail Runner. But we could start this run in no time. We have trains going to the Wine Festival in Bernalillo. Why not to the Festival of the Cranes?

[reposted from 10/23/13 every year until we can do this]

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 Posted by at 4:47 am
Sep 092014
 

Talk about your canary in a coal mine. Doom.

Global warming may mean bye-bye for some birdies | Albuquerque Journal News

The report says that in a few decades, 126 bird species will end up with a much smaller area to live in, which the society says will make them endangered. An additional 188 species will lose more than half their natural range but relocate to new areas. Those moves will be threatening to the birds’ survival, too, because they will be confronted with different food and soil, bird experts said.

Other birds, including backyard regulars like the American robin and the blue jay, will fly in even more places, the report says. And some of the biggest potential winners aren’t exactly birds that people like — species such as the turkey vulture, the American crow and the mourning dove, which will expand their ranges tremendously.

“If you want to know what the climate change future sounds like, it sounds a lot like a mourning dove,” Langham said. Some people find annoying the singing of the mourning dove, which will more than double its range.

Global warming may mean bye-bye for some birdies | Albuquerque Journal News

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 Posted by at 6:41 pm
Sep 082014
 

The Sky This Week, 2014 September 2 – 9 — Naval Oceanography Portal

Full Moon occurs on the 8th at 9:38 pm Eastern Daylight Time.  The Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox is popularly known as the Harvest Moon.  This year the Full Moon of September beats the October Full Moon by one day for this distinction.  In addition to a catchy name, the Harvest Moon also describes a phenomenon that occurs at this time of the year in which the times of successive moonrises around the time of Full Moon differ by about half an hour instead of the more usual one hour.  This effect becomes more noticeable in more northerly latitudes; residents of Stockholm in Sweden see successive moonrises just over 20 minutes later each night.  Folks in Tromsø, Norway will find Luna rising at about the same time for the nights around Full Moon; north of about 70 degrees latitude Luna actually rises earlier for several nights!  This phenomenon once assisted farmers bringing in their crops by providing the light of the rising Moon to assist them in their labors, allowing them to work late into the night.

The last few weeks of astronomical summer produce another subtle change in the night sky.  This is one of two times during the year that the length of daylight changes at its most rapid rate.  In the spring we all notice the days getting longer, and now we see the opposite effect.  Most of us notice this at the time of sunset, which occurs about two minutes earlier each day as we approach the equinox.  Since the stars set four minutes earlier each day throughout the year, the net effect is that the constellations seem to slow their passage across the sky in the fall, so the stars of summer will seem to linger with us well into November.

The Sky This Week, 2014 September 2 – 9 — Naval Oceanography Portal

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 Posted by at 7:38 am