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  • Dirk | BEYONDbones
    the 400 to 600 cubic cm range yet they are considered to be members of the genus Homo Here is why The shared derived features that connect H naledi with other members of Homo occupy most regions of the H naledi skeleton and represent distinct functional systems including locomotion manipulation and mastication Brain size and tooth size in hominins Lee R Berger et al eLife Sciences 2015 4 e09560 Fossil Dating One aspect currently left unanswered is when Homo naledi lived the scientists offer what if scenarios for dates ranging between one and two million years ago some even more recent These are just that scenarios They do not provide a date as none exists at this point That brings up the question how does one date a fossil Knowing when a human ancestor lived helps us understand the affiliations of different species and who might have evolved from whom Scientists have access to a wide array of dating techniques Homo naledi had human like hands though smaller than our own Radiometric Dating Several techniques measure the amount of radioactive decay of chemical elements Known as radiometric dating techniques these include potassium argon dating argon argon dating carbon 14 or radiocarbon and uranium series This radioactive decay occurs in a consistent manner over long periods of time A benchmark concept in using this approach is that of a half life defined as the time it takes for one half of the atoms of a radioactive material to disintegrate Early hominid sites in Eastern Africa have stratigraphic affiliations with volcanic layers These layers can be dated with the radiometric dating techniques just described As we will see below the situation in Southern Africa is different Measuring Stored Electrons Thermoluminescence optically stimulated luminescence and electron spin resonance measure the amount of electrons that get absorbed and trapped inside a rock or tooth over time The application of these techniques to date fossils highlights how the study of human origins truly is a multi disciplinary effort Thermoluminescence or TL is a geochronometric technique used for sediment The technique has an age range of 1 000 to 500 000 years The technique is used on sediment grains with defects and impurities which function as natural radiation dosimeters when buried Part of the radioactive decay from K U Th and Rb in the soil as well as contributions from cosmic rays are trapped over time in sediments The longer the burial the more absorbed dose is stored in sediment the dose is proportional to a glow curve of light obtained in response when the sample is heated or exposed to light from LEDs Greater light doses indicate an older age Luminescence dating is a form of geochronology that measures the energy of photons being released In natural settings ionizing radiation U Th Rb K is absorbed and stored by sediments in the crystal lattice This stored radiation dose can be evicted with stimulation and released as luminescence The calculated age is the time since the last exposure to sunlight or intense heat Homo naledi s feet appear nearly human Finally electron spin resonance ESR measures the number of trapped electrons accumulated since the time of burial in the flaws of dental enamel s crystalline structure At sites containing human and animal teeth ESR can be used to determine how long the teeth have been in the ground but finding teeth at an archaeological site is unusual so this dating method is not as common as thermoluminescence or radiocarbon dating Another dating technique altogether is paleomagnetism It compares the direction of the magnetic particles in layers of sediment to the known worldwide shifts in Earth s magnetic field which have well established dates using other dating methods Sites in Southern Africa cannot be dated with techniques outlined earlier A lot of the fossil remains are found in a stone matrix rather than on the surface These fossils can be dated using biochronology Most often though not always hominid remains are found in stratigraphic association with animal bones Quite often these animal remains belong to animal species that roamed elsewhere in Africa where absolute dates are available In this way sites that do not have radioactive or other materials for dating can still be given a reliable age estimate Finally one can estimate the time that elapsed since two species separated from a common ancestor This is based on the concept of a molecular clock This method compares the amount of genetic difference between living organisms and computes an age based on well tested rates of genetic mutation over time Since genetic material like DNA decays rapidly the molecular clock method cannot date very old fossils The most ancient DNA that has been retrieved thus far dates back to 300 000 to 400 000 years ago There is no doubt that more information will be forthcoming from the Rising Star Cave system in South Africa Over the last two years the researchers have literally scratched the surface of what is in the cave As mentioned earlier the genus Homo is defined by a number of features One of these used to be that we buried our dead This appeared to have happened in this case as well Once the remains are dated we will know if this fundamentally human trait extended further back in time than we ever imagined Or not Posted in Anthropology Archaeology Paleontology Science Tagged bone fragments bones carbon 14 dating hominid hominin homo naledi homo sapiens human bones human skull human teeth Morian Hall of Paleontology radiometric dating Rising Star Cave South Africa Leave a reply Egyptian Nefertiti replica ends in a bust Ugly statue brews social media storm Published by Dirk on July 9 2015 at 6 00 am in Anthropology Reply A mini controversy has just broken out in social media about a rather ugly new rendering of the famous Nefertiti bust The original bust currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin is one of the most iconic pieces

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/dirkv/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Donna | BEYONDbones
    is any thread to my occasional posts as a HMNS registrar it is that the connection between an object and a viewer influences the viewer in some way As someone whose professional life consists largely of dealing with objects I am not unfamiliar with the concept My collections and exhibits colleagues and I are always keenly aware of the care and respect employed when handling museum objects So sometimes we can temporarily lose sight of an object s scientific historical aesthetic educational value when we re trying to ensure that its mount is supportive the lighting levels aren t harmful the proper temp and humidity of a gallery case environment is steadily maintained in short that nothing goes wrong However being Texas born and bred I found it difficult not to get caught up in the emotional wow factor of the items in this exhibit Audrey Jones Beck s Mardi Gras Dress I ll readily admit that I inwardly groaned when I saw all the documents that needed condition reports at the start of the exhibit installation Paper documents are delicate and fragile so we mostly viewed them through mylar sleeves but even that method still needs an abundance of caution It wasn t a job we could zip through And once again I marveled at the miracles a conservator can perform to mitigate the damages of time But over and over I found myself drawn into the words on the page especially when they were handwritten and signed In the letter quoted above Sam Houston goes on to delineate his cabinet members As I read the names my decidedly low brow reaction was well geez that s half the streets downtown Somehow I never knew that Rusk was the Secretary of War While perusing the pages of the minutes of the Convention of Texas Independence I started making connections with my travels throughout the state The list of attendees is basically a roll call of the counties in this state Sometimes the words would just sing and I had to take a moment Here s a brief quote from page 24 of the minutes that I particularly like that unless a people are educated and enlightened it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty or the capacity for self government Also in the minutes directly following the declaration of independence is the appointment of a committee charged with immediately getting the declaration to a printer for wide distribution Communication is important no matter what era a revolution takes place but the distance between the printer s broadsides of 1836 and the revolutionary tweets of 2011 is amazing isn t it Not to mention the difference between putting quill to paper and tapping thumbs to glass screens Which reminds me of something else I noticed through this long fifty four plus pages document the handwriting was remarkably clear and beautiful to start towards the end the poor secretary s hand was beginning to sag It was a long convention Other documents provoked equally strong but completely opposite reactions As one colleague pointed out We re all creeped out by the slavery stuff Documents are made on paper but it s the actual words that matter So yes it s pieces of paper from the Harris County tax office but those dry and orderly tax receipts for humans beings considered personal property right here in our now very diverse cosmopolitan city will always retain a repulsive taint That s why it s important to include them in this exhibit Davy Crockett s Violin But enough already about documents Let s go on to random wish we d snapped a photo installation moments The faces when folks first saw the turkey dress a combo of wow and how the heck are we going to display that thing Beth and Mike struggling with the San Jacinto Mardi Gras dress dress waist too tiny mannequin hips and shoulders too wide Mike taking a hammer to the nude mannequin in an attempt to narrow said mannequin suggestions made that our skinniest staff member just stand in the exhibit wearing the dress sanity returns new mannequin ordered Audrey Jones Beck truly was a mere slip of a girl when she wore that thing Rodney age ing the canvas of the Santa Anna tent prop in his backyard Looking inside the proper right sound hole on Davy Crockett s violin and seeing penciled FRANKLIN CO Feb 14 1819 then realizing that the date the violin was being examined was February 14 2011 Small things can humanize historical figures Santa Anna was definitely a cruel harsh man but his fawn paperweight is unexpectedly goofy and charming The small wood heart whittled by Sam Houston is a tender link to the monumental figure across the street from the museum s doors Beth happened across a list of clothing in Anna Chase s journal who may have been a spy but according to that wardrobe inventory was also something of a clothes horse Trying not to hum Old Man River Lift that bale The cotton bale is the traditional five hundred pounds no mount needed Most disappointing moment for yours truly during the exhibit installation was learning that due to curatorial decision the way cool children s cap guns from the 1940s and 50s were cut from the exhibit Man they had Texas Rangers emblems on em and really worked and everything Dang So that s a few behind the scenes moments from the Texas exhibit Many people worked tirelessly on this exhibit and the gracious lenders were very generous with their treasures It wouldn t have happened otherwise But one last thing On that letter from Sam Houston to Edward Hall which started off this post in the viewer s upper left corner an unknown hand exuberantly wrote Save this Whoever scribbled that was absolutely right and I like to think it was an early forebear of a museum collections worker Letter from Sam Houston to Edward

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/dmeadows/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Emily | BEYONDbones
    find a plaque that lists an important group of annual donors the Wiess Energy Hall Partners Wiess Energy Hall Partners make a yearly contribution to our Annual Fund allowing the Museum to maximize its effectiveness as a vibrant center for natural science education Through their support we Develop and maintain TEKS based field trip curricula that meet the needs of elementary middle and high schools Conduct energy workshops for teachers Create energy education materials Host energy related events for students to increase their awareness of careers in the energy industry Build education based partnerships with colleges and universities Develop stronger relationships with the corporate community particularly those in the energy industry by offering continuing education programs led by energy industry leaders CB I an energy infrastructure focused company has been a Wiess Energy Hall Partner since 2010 Enthusiastic about the HMNS mission of science education CB I supports the learning principles of the Wiess Energy Hall through the Wiess Energy Hall Online program This online course provides educational modules about all facets of the energy industry while incorporating fun interactive learning methods Best of all it can be used by anyone from the novice trying to learn the basics to seasoned professionals who need to fulfill continuing education requirements Maribeth Duggins Director of Community Relations at CB I states At CB I education is our top priority when it comes to community support We are proud to support the Wiess Energy Hall as part of our commitment to science particularly in the energy industry We are grateful to CB I and all the Wiess Energy Hall Partners for their commitment to science education and meeting society s need for a well educated productive population The next time you visit the Museum to view our extensive collection of dinosaur backbones please give a nod to the other albeit figurative but just as vital backbone of HMNS our many dedicated supporters For more information on how to become a supporter of HMNS visit our website or contact Amy Chaisson Director of Corporate Giving 713 639 4746 or achaissonAThmnsDOTorg Posted in Giving Tagged CB I continuing education Teacher Workshops TEKS wiess energy hall Wiess Energy Hall Partners Leave a reply The bold and the beautiful Glitz and glam galore adorn HMNS at the Bulgari gala Published by Emily on May 2 2014 at 11 28 pm in Bulgari 130 Years of Masterpieces Reply Traveling from all over the globe top Bulgari executives joined local Museum and jewelry enthusiasts for a night celebrating gorgeous gems in our dazzling city the opening gala for Bulgari 130 Years of Masterpieces at the Houston Museum of Natural Science The night began in the 3rd floor exhibition space now open to the public click here for tickets featuring 150 pieces of sparkling Bulgari necklaces earrings bracelets and minaudière including precious pieces from the Elizabeth Taylor Heritage Collection J Ben Bourgeois Productions transformed Herzstein Hall into in a graceful garden space with scenes of the Spanish Steps floral chandeliers

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/elutz/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Erin B | BEYONDbones
    to space Hubble 3D tells the story of the last mission to repair the Hubble Telescope one of the most extraordinary scientific instruments ever created And I don t know if you ve noticed but space is big Really really big Bigger than we re capable of comprehending really So an IMAX format works really well here Also it s in 3D I know what you re thinking So is everything else You saw Avatar in 3D and thought meh But trust me this film is the application 3D technology was searching for In addition to blasting you into outer space on the back of the space shuttle s rocket Hubble 3D takes you inside extremely high resolution Hubble images flies you through them really until you really feel like you ve experienced the Universe Finally limited time Don t take my word for it Hubble 3D is one of the most popular IMAX films we ve ever shown Which is why it s back but only through Nov 10 So check out the previews get the film schedule and plan your trip to see this extraordinary film Pretty much the most awe inspiring experience non astronauts can have Until they slap an IMAX camera on this Posted in Astronomy Tagged Astronomy Giant Screen Theatre HMNS Hubble 3D space Leave a reply August Flickr Photo of the Month Terra Cotta Warriors Published by Erin B on August 31 2011 at 11 33 am in Anthropology 1 Houston Cougars There are some amazing photographers that wander the halls of HMNS as well as the areas surrounding the Museum in Hermann Park When we re lucky they share what they capture in our HMNS Flickr pool Each month we highlight one of these photos here on the blog This month we re featuring a photo from Arie Moghaddam known as Houston Cougars on Flickr who is a regular attendee of the Museum s Flickr meetups This photo is from the meetup we held in our Summer 2009 exhibition Terra Cotta Warriors Guardians of China s First Emperor Why would we feature an image that s celebrating it s 2nd birthday First we re thinking a lot about the Terra Cotta Warriors lately since we ve just announced a new exhibit featuring these wonders of the world Warriors Tombs and Temples opens April 1 2012 The upcoming exhibit includes 200 incredibly preserved ancient works of art featuring newly discovered artifacts unearthed from imperial royal and elite tombs and from beneath Buddhist monasteries in and around the capital cities of three great dynasties as well as four of the famous life size Terra Cotta Warriors And second it s a great image with a unique perspective on the original exhibit Arie shared a few words about what inspired it As for what inspired me to take the picture aside from you being nice enough to invite us of all the pictures I took I think this one best captures the essence of the exhibit

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/eblatzer/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Erin M | BEYONDbones
    which you purchased the fruit a call just to let them know you found a spider in their produce and you re trying to get it identified Finding a spider in a food product can be jarring but don t freak out It s most likely harmless Report the spider to grocery store personnel or call an entomologist to be sure of the species Next find an actual expert to identify the spider Stay away from pest control companies they don t always have an actual entomologist on staff but they will be happy to give you a wrong answer and then tell you that your house needs to be sprayed for extra precaution Call a university or museum and ask for an entomologist If they don t have one they will know where to find one Deliver the spider and wait for an answer Most likely the results will come back as a harmless spider of some kind In some rare cases it may be a type of Brazilian wandering spider or perhaps a black widow This has happened As long as you kept a cool head and caught and isolated the spider without picking it up with your hands you were not bitten by it Call the store and tell them what type of spider it was Then move on with your life And for goodness sake if you see a spider on or near you don t jump from a moving car or try to set it on fire in the proximity of highly combustible chemicals These other things will kill you the spider will not ChillsAtHMNS Posted in Entomology Food Plants Insects Zoology Tagged arachnids arachnology Cockrell Butterfly Center entomology myths spiders spiders in fruit Leave a reply Stay cool in the rainforest summer events unfold at the Cockrell Butterfly Center Published by Erin M on May 30 2015 at 6 00 am in Education Reply Summer is here and the kids are out of school so what better time to escape the heat and join us here at HMNS for some cool and educational arthropod experiences The Cockrell Butterfly Center will be welcoming back a popular summertime program and introducing a couple of new ones which will be sure to excite the bug lover in everyone Every week this summer we will be giving you a chance to get up close and personal with some of our famous residents on three different days Here s a little about what we ll be up to Small Talk Tuesdays at 1 p m Small creatures big information Every Tuesday in the Children s Area on the main level of the CBC we will be introducing you to a different resident of the Brown Hall of Entomology Our entomologists will bring out our biggest and most exotic creatures as well as some familiar or not too familiar Houston natives Giant katydids Atlas moths and odd arachnids are just some of the creatures you will meet Each talk will fill your head with all kinds of cool information and facts about our feature creatures Afterward we will answer any questions you may have Up close viewing and sometimes touching will be permitted and definitely feel free to bring the camera Wing It Wednesdays at 10 30 a m At the CBC you can watch brand new butterflies emerging from their chrysalises pumping blood into their newly formed wings and preparing for their first flight After this enter the rainforest filled with lush tropical plants and hundreds of butterflies fluttering through their naturalistic habitat But how do they get there Every Wednesday morning join our entomologists outside of the Chrysalis Corner in the Brown Hall of Entomology We will talk about a typical butterfly release and answer questions Then you can walk into the rainforest and watch as brand new butterflies take their first flight in their new home Touching of the delicate butterflies will not be permitted but please feel free to take as many pictures as you want Friday Feeding Frenzy 9 30 10 10 30 and 11 30 a m The main event Get ready to see huge ferocious carnivorous insects and other animals feast on their prey in front of your very own eyes This Friday and every Friday throughout the summer the Cockrell Butterfly Center will be feeding a live animal for your viewing pleasure We have several arthropods and even some reptiles that we will showcase Here is a little about the line up Green Tree Pythons Morelia viridis Our green tree pythons Kaa and Nagini will be ready to dine on mice These snakes are native to Indonesia Australia and New Guinea Pythons are non venomous snakes that subdue their prey by constricting Their food consists mostly of small mammals and the occasional reptile They lay in wait curled around a tree branch and when potential prey approaches they strike from an S position using their tails to anchor themselves to the branch Once their prey is snagged it s lights out Giant Asian Mantis Hierodula membranacea This praying mantis one of the largest species comes from Southeast Asia Mantises are ambush predators and have several features that ensure their success in catching prey Their amazing camouflage allows them to resemble either living or dead parts of plants flowers tree bark stones or sticks Not only does this help conceal them from predators it also keeps potential prey oblivious to their presence An insect that wanders too close is snatched by raptorial front legs legs specialized for grabbing and held still by several tough spines The mantis uses chewing mandibles to eat its victim alive Mantises have excellent vision at close range and can see as far as 20 meters Their eyes are large and located on the sides of their head allowing the insect to see all around itself They can keep their eyes on potential prey by inconspicuously moving their heads up to 180 degrees Nothing can escape their field of

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/emills/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Gary | BEYONDbones
    are also able to use their internal organs for multiple purposes For example their heart and kidneys are used in their reproductive circulatory and excretion systems Mollusks are more varied than any other phylum Think about it squids octopi cuttlefish nautili clams mussels oysters conch slugs snails they all have many diverse species and yet they re all still mollusks And this is due in part at least to how long they ve been around While there s still significant scientific debate about their precise lineages we know that they ve been around since the Cambrian period 541 to 485 million years ago This has allowed them to diversify to fit in many many niches all around the world from the depths of the ocean to mountain tops Now for my favorite SNAILS Perhaps it s because of my name Gary like Spongebob s pet snail but I think snails are really cool They account for 80 of mollusks and are perhaps the most diverse of them all They re found everywhere in part because some have evolved to have gills while others have lungs But that s not all Some species with gills can be found on land others with lungs are found in freshwater with a select few even found in marine environments They re in ditches deserts large bodies of water and everywhere in between Most are herbivores but there are also omnivores and predatory snails They re also found in many sizes from giant African land snails 35 cm in length to some just 1 5 mm long So come to HMNS to the Strake Hall of Malacology to learn everything there is about these marvelous mollusks Posted in Malacology Tagged Hall of Malacology malacology mollusks snails Leave a reply Search Category List Anthropology 135 Archaeology 16 Astronomy 225 Behind the Scenes 25 Bulgari 130 Years of Masterpieces 4 Chemistry 9 Coastal Ecology 8 Distinguished Lectures 55 Education 250 Egyptology 34 Energy 87 Entomology 14 Fabergé A Brilliant Vision 12 Food 11 Geek Holidays 6 Gems Minerals 29 George Observatory 25 Giant Screen Theatre 67 Giving 4 HMNS Happenings 84 HMNS Sugar Land 35 Lucy s Legacy 36 Magna Carta 4 Malacology 6 Maya 2012 3 Mixers Elixirs 8 Museum Store 27 Outreach 20 Paleontology 196 Party Smarty 11 Plants Insects 226 React Interact 11 Science 491 Scouts 15 Special Events 34 Special Exhibitions 28 STEM GEMS 15 World Trekkers 5 Zoology 86 Tags 100 years 100 objects Anthropology archaeology big dipper bob bakker bugs butterflies Butterfly Dimetrodon dinosaur dinosaurs Education Energy entomology evolution fossils gems george observatory Giant Screen Theatre Hall of Ancient Egypt Houston houston museum of natural science insects jupiter lois Lucy Mars moon Morian Hall of Paleontology museum NASA night sky orion photography planets preserving artifacts preserving objects saturn science museum solar system stargazing stars sun venus Zoology HMNS 4th grade enjoying our energy presentation thanks to our Innovation Grant hmns Horn Dream Big AliefScience https t co XX2TvjkUbQ posted on Feb

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/gkidder/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Greta | BEYONDbones
    from Dinosaur Discovery part of Chevron Earth Science On Wheels makes it possible OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our last saboteur certainly employs a most unusual method of dispatching enemies how about getting licked to death The lightning whelk a carnivorous snail uses the sharp edge of its shell to pry apart bivalves Once open the whelk uses its radula think scratchy cat tongue but much worse to lick and scrape the hapless victim into smaller pieces for consumption Fun fact this ruthless snail is the state shell of Texas and can often be found on gulf coast beaches Look for a left handed sinistral shell shaped so it s easier to put your left hand in Another great place to see a whelk In our Wildlife On Wheels Invertebrates program or in the Strake Hall of Malacology Interested in bringing these super cool sneaky creatures to your school or group Send an email to outreach hmns org or call 713 639 4758 to book your Outreach Program today Posted in Outreach Tagged american alligator bugs on wheels Chevron Earth Science on Wheels Cockrell Butterfly Center Giant Long legged Katydid Morian Hall of Paleontology outreach Saboteurs Spies Strake Hall of Malacology Traitors Tyrannosaurus rex Wildlife on Wheels Leave a reply Hands on brains on Encourage and engage your students with HMNS Science Nights Published by Greta on February 28 2014 at 4 36 pm in Outreach Reply We ve heard the same story for years now American students are falling behind in the sciences and becoming less competitive in the global workforce But what can we do about it It seems that teachers and parents can agree that this is in fact happening but where we struggle is finding ways to close the gap and really get kids to excel again Nearly a quarter of American parents believe that their child s school doesn t place enough emphasis on science curricula But is it really a lack of emphasis that s occurring or a lack of resources Or simply that a variety of approaches are called for in order to get kids to better engage with the subject matter Ben Mardell Ph D and researcher with Project Zero at Harvard University believes that kids need to have better access to hands on learning techniques Kids learn through all their senses and they like to touch and manipulate things Research suggests that this method of learning helps kids not only to engage better with the subject matter but to help them retain the information with better clarity and for a longer amount of time For example engaging in a simple hands on task like doodling or cutting out shapes prevents restlessness during a learning experience Lynn D Dierking interim associate dean for research at Oregon State University s College of Education says Hands on learning can be exceedingly powerful What these opportunities do for children and adults is they help them understand at a deeper level some of the things that they have

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/greta/ (2016-02-12)
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  • James | BEYONDbones
    until its opposition next spring Jupiter now dominates the southwestern sky at dawn As Jupiter approaches its opposition on march 8 you can also begin looking for it in late evening By January 31 for example Jupiter rises by 9 00 and will have cleared most horizon obstacles by 9 30 or 10 In January the Big Dipper is only partly risen at dusk As the Big Dipper rises though Cassiopeia remains high This is a pattern of five stars in a distinct W or M shape which lies directly across the North Star from the Big Dipper Look for Cassiopeia high in the north on fall and winter evenings Watch for the Great Square of Pegasus in the west at dusk Taurus the Bull is high in the south Look for the Pleiades star cluster above reddish Aldebaran Dazzling Orion the Hunter takes center stage on winter evenings Surrounding Orion are the brilliant stars of winter Orion s belt points down to Sirius the Dog Star which outshines all other stars we ever see at night The Little Dog Star Procyon rises with Sirius and is level with Orion s shoulder as they swing towards the south To the upper left of Orion s shoulder is Gemini the Twins Moon Phases in January 2016 Last Quarter Jan 1 11 30 p m Jan 31 9 28 p m New Jan 9 7 31 p m 1st Quarter Jan 16 5 26 p m Full Jan 23 7 46 am At 4 49 pm on Saturday January 2 the Earth was as close to the Sun as it will get this year Thus we say that the Earth was at perihelion However Earth was only about 1 6 closer to the Sun than average on this date That s why being closer to the Sun at this time does little to warm us up The effect of Earth s tilt on its axis dominates the small effect of Earth s varying distance in causing the seasons Although the shortest day least daylight occurs on December 21 the latest sunrise occurs for us about January 10 That s because the Earth speeds up on its orbit as it approaches perihelion This acceleration shifts sunrise local noon and sunset slightly later each day for the first part of this month The effect is smaller than that of the Sun taking a slightly higher path across the sky which normally dominates in causing later sunsets and earlier sunrises But the Sun s apparent path varies very little near the solstice itself allowing the secondary effect of the Earth approaching the Sun to predominate until mid January Most people then will notice that both sunrise and sunset are now happening earlier than in December As we move farther from the solstice the effect of the Sun taking a slightly higher path each day again predominates On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer If you re there listen for my announcement Clear Skies Posted in Astronomy Tagged Astronomy earth January jupiter Mars moon orion saturn solstice stars sun venus Leave a reply Geminid Meteor Shower offers a brilliant weekend at the George Published by James on December 11 2015 at 6 02 pm in Astronomy Reply The annual Geminid Meteor Shower peaks this weekend and we ve got some tips for stargazers hoping to catch it The Geminids are unique among meteor showers because they are associated not with a comet but with an asteroid 3200 Phaethon Comet orbits are so oblong that that they cross Earth s orbit almost at right angles For most meteor showers then Earth doesn t rotate us to face the debris field until after midnight The less oblong orbit of an asteroid meets Earth s orbit at a shallower angle Thus we rotate to face into the debris field earlier in the night even before midnight With Geminids then we see significant activity as early as 9 or 10 p m although the shower will likely peak just before dawn The Geminid meteor shower is one of the brightest most active and most remarkable annual stellar events A new moon falls on Thursday Dec 10 this year That makes Sunday night s moon a slender crescent which sets by 8 p m This should guarantee us nice dark night for viewing once the shower gets going The Geminid Meteor shower peaks every December and is one of the best most reliable showers producing an average of 100 meteors per hour They re called the Geminids by the way because we see them seem to radiate from an area of sky near Castor a bright star in Gemini the Twins In December Gemini is still rising at dusk but it has cleared the horizon by 8 p m passes high overhead at about 1 a m and is in the west by dawn Remember though that not all meteors will be in Gemini They just seem to radiate from that direction which means that wherever they appear the streak will seem to move away from Gemini Therefore it s best to lie on your back so you can observe as much of the sky as possible at once Remember to have patience as the 100 meteors per hour is about one or two per minute on average One minute can be a long time if you waiting for something to happen Weather permitting telescopes including the Gueymard Research Telescope will be available for public use at the George Observatory until 10 p m during the Geminid Meteor Shower event As with all showers the Geminid Meteor Shower will be best viewed away from city light pollution weather permitting The George Observatory will be open Sunday night until midnight for observation For directions to The George located just an hour southwest of Houston click here Entry to Brazos Bend State Park is

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/author/jwooten/ (2016-02-12)
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