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  • Houston | BEYONDbones
    August 20 6 9 30 p m last entry at 8 p m Armored warriors of the past inspired the creative genius of a filmmaker in a galaxy not so far away In this multimedia tour of the Samurai The Way of the Warrior exhibit led by HMNS staff and a few guest Jedi Sith and Samurai guides the origins of many of George Lucas Star Wars heroes and villains will be unveiled You will also enjoy demonstrations of light saber and kendo katana The compelling links between Samurai and Jedi will build your appreciation for both For advance tickets call 713 639 4629 or click here Posted in Distinguished Lectures Tagged george lucas exhibition film filmmaker Houston jedi movie museum Samurai Science sith star wars warrior Leave a reply April is here Get Ready to Celebrate Earth Day all month long in Houston Published by Daniel on April 4 2015 at 6 00 am in Energy Reply Well it s that time of year again Happy April everyone With the April flowers come Earth Day celebrations While the official Earth Day is April 22 Houstonians like to celebrate Earth Day every weekend in April Even better all these Earth Day events are free Start out the month by bringing your recyclables to Discovery Green April 4th is a recycling Saturday Spend the day downtown or around Hermann Park maybe even at HMNS and end your day at the Miller Outdoor Theater watching Legally Blonde the Musical not Earth Day centered but still fun and free April 11th is the big event at Discovery Green Earth Day Houston sponsored by Air Alliance Houston It s the big event because that s where HMNS and I ll be Not only will we have info and a cool game about how you can conserve energy but also have BUGS While it may not sound exciting to have bugs when you re outside these are bugs you can and will want to interact with Come by and pet a tarantula Don t worry when you stop by you won t be bugging us The Houston Arboretum has a slew of free events on April 18 Everything from a self guided scavenger hunt to guided hikes and face painting They will also have a plant sale Exploration Green will host its first Earth Day on April 25 They will have a trail run arts and crafts kite flying and much more So take advantage of one or more of the Earth Day events Brush up on your energy conservation at the Energy Conservation Club See y all out at Discovery Green Posted in Energy Tagged april celebrate earth earth day Houston museum recycle Science Leave a reply Seeing Stars with James Wooten Lunar Eclipse on April 4 Published by James on April 2 2015 at 12 22 pm in Astronomy Reply Mars remains in the west at dusk this month as it moves through Aries Mars continues to fade a little each night as

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/houston/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Houston Museum Of Natural Science | BEYONDbones
    the front entrance of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Casey will be available to meet visitors While you re here check out Tornado Alley 3D showing at 11 40 am 12 30 3 and 3 50 pm Casey will introduce each film Want To Ride in the TIV Enter to win a ride with Casey in the Tornado Intercept Vehicle at approximately 4 pm on March 12 To enter tell us about your strangest weather experience your favorite episode of Storm Chasers or your thoughts on Houston s weather just leave a comment on this post between February 23 and March 8 The winner will be selected randomly and contacted on March 9 2012 For official contest rules please click here The winner will be contacted by email so don t forget to leave that information in the comment entry field don t worry your email will be kept confidential Posted in Giant Screen Theatre Tagged Giant Screen Giant Screen Theatre HMNS houston museum of natural science TIV 2 Tornado Alley 3D Tornado Intercept Vehicle weather Wortham Giant Screen Theatre wortham imax theatre 80 Replies Come Party at the Museum with Party Smarty Published by Ivan on February 17 2012 at 4 46 pm in Education Reply Today s post is by Alex Pivateau the Museum s Birthday Party Manager Does your child love to stroll amongst jaw droppingly gigantic dinosaurs Does he or she enjoy exploring outer space in our Planetarium Or perhaps he or she loves to watch butterflies excitedly flap their beautiful wings in the Cockrell Butterfly Center If your child loves coming to the Houston Museum of Natural Science allow us to host their birthday party here for an engaging party they won t forget Party Smarty at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is our birthday party program that hosts fun and educational birthday parties Children learn about natural history and the world around us in an entertaining and visually stimulating way In our 90 minute party format your child chooses a specific theme and we focus his or her party around that theme 20 30 minutes are for welcoming guests while kids do crafts and activities 30 minutes are allotted for either a tour of the dinosaur hall entry to the Butterfly Center or a movie in the Planetarium Then we come back to the party room to eat cake and sing Happy Birthday Each HMNS birthday party comes with a decorated party room with special focus on the theme of the party 6 6 ft tables table covers chairs two parking passes to our garage and a party coordinator who is in charge of supervising crafts leading the tour cutting passing out cake and transporting items to and from your car Balloons silverware invitations and thank you cards are available for an extra fee We also have add on presenters to help enhance the party to be even more fun and memorable We have balloon artists face painters magicians exotic animal

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/houston-museum-of-natural-science/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Insects | BEYONDbones
    was a hard hat zone she said There were cables and ropes everywhere Some of the cement planters were in place but not much else The metal struts were up but there was no glass Greig educates students about plants as well as insects In nature the two forms of life depend on each other It was so bare when we first opened so of course it s grown up since then At first the plants were so small Greig said But despite the bareness the first year we had a millon people come through the butterfly center It was a big deal and kind of a trial by fire I had never been on television or radio before and we got plenty of press I had to learn to talk in front of a camera Her first duties were to help oversee the construction and work with the builders and the landscape architects She also had to hire staff get the butterfly importation permits and create the museum s first entomology hall This precursor to the current Brown Hall of Entomology contained many preserved specimens but had lots of text and no interactive displays People would go through the butterfly center first and then go up there and the energy level just died Greig said There were some great specimens and some good information but it was a very quiet somber space After several years Greig and the Exhibits department began planning a bigger brighter vibrant entomology hall Along with a couple of museum board members they visited museums and zoos all over the country to see what others had accomplished and how to adapt the best qualities into one fun educational hall The result has been well received Greig educates a student on butterfly identification at the CBC Gone were the static displays replaced by interactive games giant models and live arthropods One of the biggest changes was to move the display cases closer to the ground making the whole exhibit more kid friendly and engaging The unveiling of the brand new Brown Hall of Entomology on July 1 2007 was one of the highlights of Greig s 22 year tenure as director followed closely by the hysteria of Lois the corpse flower and Cash for Cockroaches In preparation for the opening of the new exhibit in 2007 the CBC offered to buy up to 1 000 cockroaches for 25 cents each from Houston residents to fill a feature of the hall the Roach Dome The public response was huge and the story made the front page of the Houston Chronicle before jumping nationally and beyond with coverage from Reuters Lois similarly brought in a surge of media attention when the giant corpse flower showed hints of blooming in the summer of 2010 After being cared for and nurtured for years up in the greenhouses Lois sprouted a slightly different stalk sending the city of Houston into a three week frenzy that culminated with her stinky bloom in July Celebrity status was afforded to horticulturist Zac Stayton a parody Twitter account was born t shirts and buttons were mass produced and a documentary was made and released in the aftermath It was so great for the museum so great for Houston Greig said That is what the museum should be about It was exciting and educational and fun There was one woman who came over 30 times At least once sometimes twice a day While Greig has always loved creepy crawlies she has devoted her life to educating others about the positives bugs and arthropods provide to the world She says that you can t force that appreciation on people but you can try to get through to them by asking them to imagine what the world would be like without them among other tactics I try to educate them with some fun stories and show that I m not afraid That there s nothing to be afraid of Seeing that someone can be totally comfortable with insects and spiders is important Greig said As an arthropod lover Greig believes all insects are important and that even roaches are deserving of our love Greig herself is very enthusiastic about the evolution of many insects and their various adaptations for survival The camouflage used by insects such as walking sticks and katydids really gets visitors thinking about how life got to this point and Greig counts that as one of the must sees of the Cockrell Butterfly Center She is passionate about moving past the creepy crawly label as a result It s neat to be able to use the butterflies as the hook the ambassadors I would say to bring people in and then we help them to realize that bees and even cockroaches are important Greig added While Greig has always had a love of nature she arrived at UT from Calgary ready to study linguistics She says she took a circuitous route back to biology and that she is proof that you can do really whatever you want to do It s turned out to be really a perfect fit Greig said Running the Butterfly Center has been a great job for me There are really not that many jobs like this It was total serendipity Visitors to the Cockrell Butterfly Center in October can see special plant life in the rainforest conservatory during the temporary exhibition Savage Garden And teachers hoping to meet Greig can mark their calendars for The Educator Event HMNS Jan 23 2016 where she will give the keynote address In addition educators can book one of Greig s Bugs On Wheels Outreach Programs Monarchs or The Buzz About Bees ChillsAtHMNS Posted in Entomology Plants Insects Tagged arthropods Brown Hall of Entomology butterflies Butterfly Caterpillar Cockrell Butterfly Center cockroaches entomology insects Nancy Greig pupa 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

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/insects/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Jupiter | BEYONDbones
    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 Amazing Cakes Top picks of Party Smarty 2015 Published by Guest Contributor on December 18 2015 at 6 00 am in Party Smarty Reply by Karen Whitley Every year we see hundreds of birthday cakes and we are blown away candle pun intended by some of the creations parents bring in From the cakes that defy gravity to the ones we have to use careful geometry to cut we are always excited to see what a party brings in Here s a look at some of our favorite cakes so far Here s a gorgeous cake to celebrate our butterfly theme The bees and ladybugs add the perfect touch If you have a boy or girl more interested in bugs than botany check out this cake crawling with garden pals For all of you mad scientists

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/jupiter/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Lois | BEYONDbones
    buy their plants VC So would you say this job is a continuation of the sort of work you ve done for the museum or is it more of a fresh start ZS It s kind of a fresh start It s changing gears from tropicals to basically what grows well around here A big part of it though will be working here I learned a lot of the butterfly attractants for our area although I work with tropicals on a daily basis there are a lot of calls asking well what can I plant in my backyard So learned a lot about our native butterflies here and what plants attract them and what plants you can put in your garden And that s a big part of what I m going to be growing at Color Spot butterfly attractants nectar plants so there is an overlap there VC And you have the different pollinators to take into account with that as well ZS Yes exactly Everything about pollination and pollinators I learned here firsthand When I first started I didn t know much about butterflies I knew the monarch the one that everybody knows and other than that I didn t know that there were 15 other species of butterflies that are native here to Houston That is something I ve definitely gained from my time here VC Is there anything that you re really excited about growing or working on at Color Spot ZS There are a lot of new bulbs tulips and things like that that we get to do trials with Before they even hit the market we get to take some of these bulbs that these growers bring from the Netherlands and get to try them out test them out in our greenhouses We get to be on the front line before anyone else in the area knows about them that s something I m really excited about VC I ve been reading through some archival press from when Lois was blooming and I saw a couple of places where you d been quoted I think that s how some of our Houston audience got to know you through that experience Can we count on you to come back down the next time she s in bloom ZS Oh yeah definitely I ll be here of course I wouldn t miss it VC Do you think you ll become pen pals with her ZS laughing Oh no I don t think so No more anthropomorphizing Lois although that was funny and clever when that happened The people though that s what made Lois what she was Lois was just a flower and people would probably gasp hearing me say that but it was the whole community rallying around Lois that was the coolest part of the whole thing 80 000 plus people coming out plus the people you know we had people in Australia saying get out of the way We can t see Lois on the webcam So just the fact that it was everybody at the same time seeing the same thing and it just blew up on social media And that s what I though was so cool everybody so in synch waiting just to see what would happen with Lois As a horticulturist it was really cool to see just everyone getting around it and thinking it was as cool as I did Normally you know I ll be like ooo look at this cool plant and people couldn t care less but to see everyone else sharing that passion that was the best part about it VC Is there anything else you d like to say or share with our readers on the blog ZS It s been a fantastic four and a half years here and honestly all of the events that we did it wouldn t have been possible without people getting as geeky about plants as me From the miracle fruit tasting and the chocolate and the coffee to see everybody getting around it that was the best Lois kind of spurred everybody on to find this new kind of passion in horticulture There were a lot of parents that came up to me and said I asked my kid what they want to do and now they all want to be a horticulturist And that s the best thing that could come from it I think is a whole new generation of people that find plants as interesting as I do Posted in Plants Insects Tagged Butterfly Center Cockrell Butterfly Center corpse flower garden horticulture horticulturist Houston lois plants Zac Stayton Leave a reply Meet Audrey Corpse Flower Published by Erin B on July 26 2011 at 2 55 pm in Plants Insects 2 Say hi to Audrey Your votes are in Our no longer little corpse flower is now named AUDREY And as CorpzFlowrLois reports it s possible that Audrey s estimated age and Lois growth cycle may result in twin blooms sometime in the next several years Insert staff wide sterotypical shout of TWINS followed by synchronized fainting We announced the new name yesterday on the anniversary of Lois the Corpse Flower s much anticipated 2010 bloom All five of our finalists were on hand to hear the name revealed The final tally which takes into account the Facebook Twitter poll plus votes submitted on this post is as follows Audrey 336 First submitted by Julianne Maddox As the winner Julianne will go on a provate tour of the HMNS Greenhouses with our horticulturists Delilah 301 First submitted by Mel Cody Clark 152 First submitted by Carol Davis Hermann 96 First submitted by Ed Truitt See his photos of Audrey here Violet 39 First submitted by Alicia Leighty Our finalists wait for the big announcement Julianne our winner with Zac our horticulturist and R Clayton McKee You can see some of his photos of Audrey here A closeup of Audrey s leaf This will

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/lois/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Lucy | BEYONDbones
    important fossil take THAT Lucy provides compelling evidence that modern birds are direct descendants of the dinosaurs Is there any debate on how this fossil relates to birds Although the evidence linking Archaeopteryx to birds is pretty persuasive a spirited controversy amongst scientists will likely rage for some time to come Detailed anatomical analysis made possible by the stunning near perfect condition of fossils such as the Thermopolis specimen make the conclusion all but irrefutable Where was the fossil found The Thermopolis specimen was found in the world renowned stone quarries of Solnhofen Germany The celebrated quarries are known around the world for high quality lithographic limestone the original and still optimum source of rock plates for the world s first lithographic printing Before the smooth warm hued limestone quarried at Solnhofen was used in lithography it was prized for its beauty and durability as a carving and building stone But perhaps most significantly the Solnhofen limestone is among the world s most prolific sources of superb fossils of animals and plants that lived 150 million years ago What makes this exhibition important I think the answer to that question can be best answered by Joel Bartsch President of HMNS The discovery of a single fossilized feather in the stone quarries of Solnhofen Germany in 1861 led to the discovery of a lizard like creature whose near perfect fossil showed clearly that it was completely covered with feathers Dubbed Archaeopteryx and now considered the world s earliest bird this renowned fossil will be displayed in Houston for the first time ever This is a rare opportunity to witness for yourself the direct link between dinosaurs and modern birds What is the condition of the fossil can you see the feathers clearly Is there a certain pattern to the feathers There are only ten fossil Archaeopteryx in the entire world and the Thermopolis specimen on display in Houston is in many ways the most complete of all of them You can clearly see the imprint of feathers on the bird s extremities How big is the fossil In size the Thermopolis specimen of Archeopteryx is about the size of a crow We know you have more questions Please email them to us at blogadmin hmns org Come learn the answers for yourself by visiting our new exhibition Archaeopteryx Icon of Evolution opening this Friday Posted in Paleontology Tagged archaeology archaeopteryx dinosaur birds HMNS lithography Lucy Paleontology pterodactyls solnholfen thermopolis specimen 2 Replies Lucy s Great Mystery Part 3 Published by Bob on November 19 2009 at 11 10 am in Lucy s Legacy 1 In Part One we learned the frightening facts Lucy was surrounded by formidable felines She was too slow to run away and she didn t have weapons to repel 150 pound leopards or 500 pound homothere saber tooths In Part Two we discussed even more of the fearsome predators surrounding Lucy and began to discuss how futile fighting back would be How Could Our Lucy Survive a Legion of Cats and Hyenas How did she defend herself Here are some suggestions She made sharp edged knives out of broken antelope bones and buffalo horns This was a popular theory in the 1950 s In South African caves Lucy s relatives are found with hundreds of broken antelope bones horse bones and broken horns form all sorts of hoofed creatures Conclusion Australopithecus didn t make stone tools they made bone tools Supposedly Lucy and her clan smashed antelope legs and used the sharp edged ends the way a hockey fan would use a broken beer bottle in a bar fight Poke whack stab Broken bones can be nasty weapons it s true but Hyenas broke the bones Careful analysis of the way the bones were broken proved that Australopithecus didn t do the breaking Teeth marks on the bones and the style of breakage matched what we see today around a hyena lair All of those cave bones had been smashed by the big teeth of hyenas and maybe big lion sized cats The predators smashed Australopithecus bones too Maybe Lucy Smelled Bad Or Tasted Bad photo credit Charles Clint Seriously this is a theory we must consider A few animals stink so thoroughly that predators won t attack Skunks are a good example Even mountain lions are repelled by one spray from the stink glands of a Texas skunk And meat can stink or be poisonous Toxins in the Fugu fish are deadly if you go to a restaurant and gulp down the wrong part of your Fugu you ll die So maybe Darwinian processes gave Lucy toxic flesh But primates don t evolve super stink Today we just don t find any lemurs bushbabies monkeys or apes with toxic meat or stinky glands In fact most stinky mammals are predators skunks ferrets and stink badgers So although it s theoretically possible we should not be too enthusiastic about Lucy evolving chemical defenses Let s Review Lucy s Potential Let s review what Lucy could do we have nearly all the bones from the skeleton if we supplement Lucy and other Ethiopian finds with close relatives dug from South Africa Follow along by scrutinizing our Lucy chimp us body diagram No Grabber Toe Lucy s big toe was like ours it didn t face away from the other toes the way a chimp big toe does So Lucy couldn t grab a branch and climb like a chimp Knees Together Chimps can t stand perfectly upright because their knees slant down and out But Lucy could stand in a modern posture her joints were shaped so the right and left thighs came down and towards each other She d walk and run like us modern humans too knees close together Strong Shins Thighs Lucy did have muscular short shins and thighs No she couldn t sprint as fast as a modern human but she could accelerate fast and turn quickly And short legs actually are good for

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  • Mars | BEYONDbones
    Canopus is the second brightest star ever visible at night Thus it is clearly noticeable along the southern horizon on February and March evenings However you must be south of 37 degrees north to see Canopus rise This is the line that divides Utah Colorado and Kansas from Arizona New Mexico and Oklahoma The sky we see depends on our latitude as well as on the time of night and time of year From any given location in our hemisphere there is an area of the sky around the North Star in which stars never set circumpolar stars and an equivalent area around the South Celestial Pole in which stars never rise The closer you are to the pole the larger these areas are The closer you get to the equator the fewer circumpolar stars there are but there are also fewer stars that never rise for you At the equator no stars are either circumpolar or never visible all of them rise and set as Earth turns That s why down here in south Texas the Big Dipper sets for a while although it s always up for most Americans On the other hand Canopus too far south to rise for most Americans rises for us Moon Phases in February 2016 Last Quarter Jan 31 9 28 p m New Feb 8 8 39 a m First Quarter Feb 15 1 46 a m Full Feb 22 12 20 p m February is so short that last quarter Moons occur on Jan 31 and March 1 but not in February The New Moon of Feb 8 is the second New Moon after the winter solstice Accordingly it marks Chinese New Year Welcome to the Year of the Monkey Monday Feb 29 is leap day This day exists because our normal year of 365 days is too short The true length of one Earth orbit around the Sun is 365 days and almost 6 hours No one wants to begin a year in the middle of a day however Therefore we let the error add up over four years until it becomes 24 hours or one whole day then add that day back to the calendar Thus February 29 occurs every four years Almost 6 hours Well alright the difference between our orbit and our year is actually 5 hours 49 minutes and 16 seconds That makes our system a very slight overcorrection To prevent that from adding up we ll skip leap day in 2100 2200 and 2300 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 big dipper george observatory jupiter leap year Mars mercury moon orion phases Pleiades saturn sirius taurus venus Leave a reply Seeing Stars with James Wooten Four Planets are Visible Published by James on January 4 2016 at 2 02 pm in Astronomy Reply Venus is in the southeast at dawn approaching Saturn Venus passes Saturn the morning of January 9 the two planets are less than one tenth of one degree apart They re easy to tell apart as Venus outshines all the stars we see at night and is almost 100 times brighter than Saturn Mars is now in the south at dawn Much dimmer than Venus now Mars is getting a little brighter each day 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

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/tag/mars/ (2016-02-12)
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  • Moon | BEYONDbones
    New Feb 8 8 39 a m First Quarter Feb 15 1 46 a m Full Feb 22 12 20 p m February is so short that last quarter Moons occur on Jan 31 and March 1 but not in February The New Moon of Feb 8 is the second New Moon after the winter solstice Accordingly it marks Chinese New Year Welcome to the Year of the Monkey Monday Feb 29 is leap day This day exists because our normal year of 365 days is too short The true length of one Earth orbit around the Sun is 365 days and almost 6 hours No one wants to begin a year in the middle of a day however Therefore we let the error add up over four years until it becomes 24 hours or one whole day then add that day back to the calendar Thus February 29 occurs every four years Almost 6 hours Well alright the difference between our orbit and our year is actually 5 hours 49 minutes and 16 seconds That makes our system a very slight overcorrection To prevent that from adding up we ll skip leap day in 2100 2200 and 2300 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 big dipper george observatory jupiter leap year Mars mercury moon orion phases Pleiades saturn sirius taurus venus Leave a reply Seeing Stars with James Wooten Four Planets are Visible Published by James on January 4 2016 at 2 02 pm in Astronomy Reply Venus is in the southeast at dawn approaching Saturn Venus passes Saturn the morning of January 9 the two planets are less than one tenth of one degree apart They re easy to tell apart as Venus outshines all the stars we see at night and is almost 100 times brighter than Saturn Mars is now in the south at dawn Much dimmer than Venus now Mars is getting a little brighter each day 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 Once in a Red Supermoon Watch Sunday s rare lunar eclipse at the George Observatory Published by James on September 25 2015 at 3 09 pm in Astronomy Reply Our moon goes by many different names depending on the season and its position relative to the Earth The evening of Sunday Sept 27 it will become three identities at once an exceptionally rare occurrence For the first time in 33 years Earth will witness a total eclipse of the moon at its perigee near the autumnal equinox a blood moon a supermoon and a harvest moon combined You can watch the eclipse of historic proportions anywhere on

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