All posts by mjh

Mark Justice Hinton lives in New Mexico and loves the Four Corners region, as well as the Rocky Mountains. Write him at chaco@mjhinton.com.

Cold Moon is full 12/13/16

The Sky This Week, 2016 December 6 – 13

The Moon brightens the evening sky this week, waxing toward the Full phase as she courses through the late autumn and early winter constellations. Full Moon occurs on the 13th at 7:06 pm Eastern Standard Time. December’s Full Moon is known as the Moon Before Yule in the skylore of European Christianity. Other names, such as the Cold Moon, Big Moon, and Long Night Moon, reflect the influence of Celtic and Native American lore. December’s Full Moon occurs near Luna’s most northerly declination for the year, flooding the winter landscape with her pale light. This year she appears a bit brighter than usual thanks to the Full phase occurring near the Moon’s close perigee, which falls on the 12th. On the evening of the 12th you’ll find the nearly-full Moon pass through the heart of the Hyades star cluster which forms the “face” of Tauris, the Bull. Watch Luna creep closer to the bright star Aldebaran as the evening passes. At 11:07 pm EST the star will wink out as the Moon’s limb covers it. You can see it re-appear at 12:21 am.

The Full Moon washes out the annual Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on the night of the 13th. This is normally one of the year’s most reliable showers, and under dark skies it usually produces one or two “shooting stars” per minute. The meteors are generally slower than the August Perseids, and the radiant, in the constellation of Gemini, is well-placed after around 10:00 pm. Bright moonlight will hamper the number of meteors that the average observer will see this year, but a patient observer may be able to spot 20 or so per hour, even from urban locations.

2016 Ends with Three Supermoons – NASA

2016 Ends with Three Supermoons

Since the moon’s orbit is elliptical, one side (perigee) is about 30,000 miles closer to Earth than the other (apogee). The word syzygy, in addition to being useful in word games, is the scientific name for when the Earth, sun, and moon line up as the moon orbits Earth. When perigee-syzygy of the Earth-moon-sun system occurs and the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, we get a perigee moon or more commonly, a supermoon!

This coincidence happens three times in 2016. On October 16 and December 14, the moon becomes full on the same day as perigee. On November 14, it becomes full within about two hours of perigee—arguably making it an extra-super moon.

The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016 but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century. The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

The Hunter’s Moon, 10/15-16

The Sky This Week, 2016 October 11 – 18

Full Moon occurs on the 16th at 12:23 am Eastern Daylight Time. October’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Hunter’s Moon. The geometry of the Moon’s path in the sky is similar to last month’s Harvest Moon, so the interval between successive moonrises around the time of Full Moon causes Luna to appear to rise at nearly the same time for a few nights. In September this phenomena was used by farmers to use the light of the rising Moon to help them bring in more crops. This month hunters have a bit of extra light to pursue game across the stubble of the harvested fields.

Map of Archaeological Cultures of the Southwestern US

I’m linking to this capture the map by Catherine Gilman of these pre-Hispanic cultural areas. I have not heard of Patayan or Trincheras cultures.

Aaron Wright, Preservation Archaeologist

[Aaron Wright is] also in the midst of applying for a series of grants to continue our research along the lower Gila River. These efforts are designed to expand our knowledge of the Patayan tradition, at least how it was expressed in southwest Arizona. Patayan is the least understood late prehispanic cultural tradition in the U.S. Southwest. Some may even claim that Patayan isn’t even a Southwestern archaeological tradition: don’t believe them! Granted, Patayan isn’t covered in our college courses on Southwest archaeology, but this is because little research has even been done on this aspect of the past.

Map of Southwest Archaeological Cultures

Archaeological cultures of the Southwest. Map by Catherine Gilman. Courtesy of Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Along the lower Gila, Patayan is expressed in fabulous geoglyphs and extremely dense galleries of rock art adorning black volcanic cliffs and weathered granitic boulders. It is also found among the dozens of villages sites strategically placed to harness floodwater from the lower Gila in order to irrigate crops of corn, melons, gourds, and cotton. Yes, I’m talking about sedentary agricultural villages. Are we to believe that the rock art and geoglyphs were crafted by phantoms? The lower Gila contains some of the best-preserved, and most of the only extant Patayan villages. This is because damming and extensive agriculture have obliterated much of the Patayan signature from the valleys of the lower Colorado River, the epicenter of the Patayan World.

Distances in space

Great stuff, as usual, from The Sky This Week.

This is a good week to try to make sense of the sheer scale of the cosmos as we have a variety of bright objects that we can look at and think of in terms of distance as well as brightness. The first thing we need to do is find a convenient “measuring stick”, and fortunately the laws of physics provide us one that’s good for measuring vast distances. Light, the essential “messenger” of all celestial objects, travels at a finite speed that amounts to about 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second, so if we can measure the time it takes light to reach us from an object we can gauge its distance.

When we look at the Moon, we see it as it appeared a just over a second ago. Light from the Sun takes eight minutes to get from there to here. The ruddy glow of Mars is five minutes old by the time it arrives here at earth. Giant Jupiter’s bright glow has taken 50 minutes to cross the gulf of space that separates us. … Our last bright planet is Saturn, and the view you’ll get of his wonderful rings tonight will take 77 minutes to get here. Far-flung Pluto, which marked the edge of the solar system when I was in school, is still relatively close-by, just under 4.5 hours at light speed.

Now let’s jump to the rising stars of the summer Triangle in the eastern part of the sky. Bright Vega, highest and brightest star of the trio, is located at a distance that takes light 27 years to cross! Altair, southernmost of the three stars, is even closer, a mere 16 “light years” away. Looking at the last, northernmost member of the triangle one would naturally assume that Deneb would be a similar distance from Earth, but here is where assumptions break down. Vega and Altair are relatively bright “normal” stars, but Deneb is a “blue supergiant” star that shines with the equivalent light of 100,000 suns! Its distance is some 100 times farther away than Altair, so the light you see from it tonight started its journey toward us when Constantine was Emperor of Rome. And we’ve barely ventured into the vast starfields of the Milky Way.

from The Sky This Week

Full Moon and Summer Solstice on 6/20

From The Sky This Week: The Moon waxes in the evening sky this week, passing through the summer constellations along the southern reaches of the ecliptic. Full Moon occurs on the 20th at 7:02 am Eastern Daylight Time. June’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Mead Moon, and Honey Moon. Each of these names not only indicates something indicative of the month’s flora, they also refer to the warm tone that the Moon can take on a warm June evening due to her southerly declination. Look for the Moon a few degrees north of the bright star Spica on the evening of the 14th. On the 16th and 17th she accompanies ruddy Mars across the sky, and on the 18th she passes just over two degrees north of yellow-hued Saturn.

The summer solstice falls on the 20th at 6:34 pm EDT. At this time the center of the Sun’s disc stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer north of the Hawai’ian Islands. While astronomers consider this to be the first day of summer, many traditional calendars observe it as “Midsummer’s Day”, commemorating the year’s longest day. Here in Washington Old Sol is above the horizon for 14 hours 54 minutes. Add in the times of morning and evening twilight and the duration of astronomical darkness amounts to a paltry 5 hours 8 minutes. The farther north you go, the less the duration of night becomes. Cities such as Paris and London never experience total darkness at this time of the year, and places north of the Arctic Circle see the Sun above the horizon for a full 24 hours. The Sun appears to hover near the Tropic of Cancer for a week or so around the time of the solstice, and most of us probably won’t notice the changing times of sunrise and sunset until well into July.

http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/tours-events/sky-this-week/the-sky-this-week-2016-june-14-21

Goodbye to Night: 80 Percent of Humanity Lives Under Light Polluted Skies – Discover

Goodbye to Night: 80 Percent of Humanity Lives Under Light Polluted Skies By Carl Engelking | June 10, 2016 12:59 pm

The beauty of the night sky is rapidly fading, and an update to the first global light pollution map, created 15 years ago, makes that painfully clear.

The new atlas revealed that more than 80 percent of the world lives under light-polluted skies – that rises to 99 percent of the population in the United States and Europe. One-third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way. As the new map shows, the night sky is slowly retreating to the glow of artificial light.

Virtual imagery of Chimney Rock, a Chaco outlier in southern Colorado

Laser-based technology uncovers new archaeological details
By Mary Shinn Herald staff writer, Durango Herald

Their work is part of Project Map, an effort to model ancient and historic monuments across the state. Chimney Rock is one of their first projects because of its archaeological ties to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, and for decades researchers from CU Boulder have worked at the site, which was mainly inhabited between 925 and 1125.

“This is one of the most important national monuments of the Chacoan culture in the state of Colorado,” Gutierrez said.

original article

BLM acquires ancient pueblo site south of Santa Fe | Albuquerque Journal

By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer
Friday, April 15th, 2016 at 6:38pm

From http://www.abqjournal.com/758088/news/blm-acquires-ancient-pueblo-site-south-of-santa-fe.html

SANTA FE – The federal Bureau of Land Management is purchasing the 365-acre site of an ancient pueblo in the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe.

The BLM will use $1.5 million from Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy the Burnt Corn Pueblo site, located east of the village of Galisteo and near the well-known Petroglyph Hill, a mesa topped with thousands of pieces of rock art that is owned by Santa Fe County.

“With this purchase, the entire Burnt Corn Pueblo will be protected for future generations,” said a news release from the members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said the purchase will open up new land for visitors interested in the Galisteo Basin’s numerous Native American and Spanish ruins, but no details on plans for public access were available Friday.

Petroglyph Hill was acquired by the county from the huge Thornton Ranch several years ago. Information on the seller of the Burnt Corn Pueblo area was not available.

U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján said the new acquisition also will help with creation of “a long distance regional trail network” in the area. The news release said Land and Water Conservation money “will be used to promote preservation and open up access to more than 2,000 acres” in the Galisteo Basin.

The pueblo site on a ridge gets its name from burnt corn found across its landscape. Experts say it was occupied briefly between 1200 and 1300 and had eight room blocks and a larger plaza pueblo, and it burned — presumably with corn drying on drying on roofs — about the time its occupants left, raising questions about whether the village caught fire or was attacked. The high pueblo site is described as providing spectacular views of the surrounding basin.

BLM Defers on Fracking Leases near Chaco Canyon | Archaeology Southwest

BLM Defers on Fracking Leases near Chaco Canyon | Archaeology Southwest

BLM Defers on Fracking Leases near Chaco Canyon
Yesterday, the Bureau of Land Management deferred for the third time the sale of three oil and gas lease parcels and approximately 2,122 acres of federal mineral estate on Navajo allotment lands in the Greater Chaco region. A broad coalition of local and regional watchdog groups submitted comments opposing the lease sale for fracking near Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The comments focused in part on the agency’s woefully insufficient management plan for the region, which treats the Greater Chaco’s communities and landscapes as a sacrifice zone. BLM’s deferral of these leases, for the third time, illustrates the need for the agency to complete its ongoing resource management plan amendment before continuing to lease and authorize the development of any additional public lands for oil and gas. http://bit.ly/1LSSdPZ – Pagosa Daily Post

BLM Defers on Fracking Leases near Chaco Canyon | Archaeology Southwest