The Eclipse Seasons

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There can be no doubt that solar and lunar eclipses are some of the most fascinating sights for the “naked” eye. (And I say “naked” under the assumption that you know never to look directly at the sun without approved protection!)

Unless it’s during totality. Then you can take those glasses off.

But what I mean is, solar and lunar eclipses don’t require telescopes or binoculars to be seen. You don’t need to use any special equipment. You just need your eyes, and in the case of a solar eclipse, some form of protection—like solar glasses.

You may have noticed that when a solar eclipse comes up—or even a lunar eclipse—it’s all the rage. Suddenly, the media is swamped with safety warnings and calendar countdowns to the big event.

The United States just about lost its mind over the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. And I have a feeling the next total solar eclipse to pass over the US, in seven years, will be just as dramatic.

But you might also be wondering…how do we know when these incredible sights are going to happen? Continue reading

Solar Eclipse Sights

This is adapted from a post I wrote for the wonderful Momma over at A Momma’s View. For the original version, click here.

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The total solar eclipse is an incredible phenomenon, one that I hope to see myself someday.

It isn’t often that an astronomical event occurs of such magnitude that people of all walks of life from all around the globe are drawn to one measly 65-mile wide strip of land, to crowd in like sardines as they watch the world change around them.

What’s important to realize about a total solar eclipse, versus just an annular one, is that it’s a people event.

Scientists do take this opportunity to study the sun’s corona, an outer layer of gases that’s usually too faint to be seen. But in general, this is an event for crowds to enjoy.

And enjoy it they do. I have never known another event of astronomical significance to populate the web and turn heads like a total solar eclipse.

But what happens during a solar eclipse? What can you expect to see, and how can you protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays? Continue reading

The Annular Eclipse

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An annular solar eclipse is…an interesting sight, to say the least.

(I sincerely hope the photographer didn’t fry his camera taking this picture. Enough light from the sun is still reaching us to fry your retina, or damage your optics…)

The annular eclipse is not to be confused with an annual eclipse. When my dad first got excited about it back in 2012, preparing us for the spectacular sight of a solar eclipse in May, I wondered why the heck we hadn’t done this every year before.

The fact is, I’d never heard the word “annular,” so I thought Dad was just wrong.

But in reality, “annular” means something very different from “annual.” Continue reading

The Solar Eclipse

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A solar eclipse is the most amazing astronomical sight you’ll ever see.

Not only is it the only time you’ll ever be able to clearly see the “new moon” phase of the moon, it’s the only time you’ll ever see the sun’s corona. And it’s the only time that, under very specific circumstances, you can actually look directly at the sun for a few moments.

But before you get too excited about that, let me tell you what’s happening in the sky—and give you a few important safety warnings!

(This is just the first of a few posts that will talk about solar eclipses; they’re all worthy of a read. Even if you don’t read all of mine, make absolutely certain you’re caught up on safety warnings before you view a solar eclipse!) Continue reading

The Lunar Eclipse

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Have you ever heard of the blood moon?

It’s named for its red appearance. Sometimes it’s even mistaken for Mars, as in the case of the “Mars hoax” back in 2002. It was claimed then that Mars would look as large as the full moon on August 27.

In truth, Mars will never appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye (a fancy way of saying that you’re not looking through a telescope or binoculars). What really happened was that the moon passed through the Earth’s shadow.

Wait a second. The Earth has a shadow? And it’s red? Continue reading

Lunar Phases and Motion

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The lunar phases…who really understands ’em?

We see them all the time. When we look up at the moon in the sky, we’re bound to notice that it looks just a little bit different from the last time we saw it. It changes from a slivery crescent to a full circle, and then wanes back to the crescent phase again.

The moon has behaved the same way in the sky for billions of years, ever since a Mars-sized space rock collided with the newborn Earth and the debris collected into our own personal satellite.

For that long, the moon has watched over us and captivated scientists and amateur skywatchers alike.

But what are the secrets behind its monthly changes? Continue reading

Milankovitch and Climate

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The Yugoslavian meteorologist Milutin Milankovitch is known for coming up with the idea of orbital forcing, also known as Milankovitch cycles. Orbital forcing is a fancy term for certain changes in Earth’s orbit, which are precession, obliquity, and eccentricity.

I’ve written about all three of these before, but here’s a brief overview:

Precession is the motion of Earth’s axis like a spinning top. Imagine the Earth’s day-by-day rotating motion as that of a top. What do tops also do? They wobble.

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Although I’ve written about obliquity, I haven’t used the term before. It’s a fancy word for how the tilt of the Earth’s axis doesn’t stay at the same angle. It changes a bit over a very long period of time, ranging between 22° and 24°.

Eccentricity refers to the changing shape of Earth’s orbit. You might know that it’s not a perfect circle—it’s an ellipse, which I’ll talk about in more depth later. What you might not know is that how elliptical it is—that is, how far it is from being a perfect circle—also changes a bit over time.

These motions are all very well established in science today. We know that they each have an effect on Earth’s climate, and together they cause the ice ages. But Milutin Milankovitch, the scientist who first came up with the idea, had a lot going against him. Continue reading

Sunrise in Flagstaff

It’s 5:00 am and I’m up ungodly early to photograph the sunrise for a school assignment. So I figured I’d blog about it. Because, why not?

4:50: Okay, I’m up. Why do I have to be up so freaking early again?

5:00: Dressed. I can see the sunrise from a spot about twenty minutes away. Do I really have to get moving now?

(Unfortunately, yes. Because my brain is absolutely useless for anything but the prearranged plan. Working on homework sounds atrocious.)

5:19: Almost to my lookout point. Thank goodness there is little to no traffic. I really don’t feel like being run over because I didn’t have the brain space to remember the rules of the road…

5:21: At the parking garage. I’ll have a view of the horizon from the roof. But why does a multistory building need all these stairs…?

5:24: Up six flights of stairs, and I’m on the roof. Sunrise isn’t till 6:02. But my god, the horizon is beautiful…

For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime sight, like a solar eclipse. I will never be up this early again if I can help it, so I’m going to appreciate the view while I’m here.

Well. Sunrise isn’t for another half-hour. I’ll check back in when the sun peeks over the horizon… Continue reading

General Update: Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

Do you think you recognize this blog, but the title and url are wrong? Are you wondering how you’re following it, when you don’t remember ever hitting the follow button?

That’s probably because this is the blog once known as “Far Beyond the Stars” at the now-inactive url: perseshow.wordpress.com. And I was once known as Perse Show, though now I go by my real name, Emma.

Now you’re probably wondering why I threw you all for a loop by changing web addresses, blog names, usernames, and basically everything else that identifies me, while still holding onto the same location of the web.

Don’t worry. I’m about to explain all that, and also how the aim and focus of this blog has changed and could change in the future. (Not much is different, just the way it connects to my life!)

Continue reading

Types of Mixtures

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The easiest way to explain mixtures in chemistry is to talk about food.

Think about mixtures in terms of cooking, and there isn’t much I need to tell you. A salad, like the one pictured above, is a mixture. So is chicken noodle soup. So is…hmm, so is lemonade.

I told you we’d be talking about lemonade soon.

Even air is a mixture—of different gases. Believe it or not, we don’t just breathe in oxygen. In fact, if we breathed in pure oxygen, it would be poisonous. We inhale a little bit of nitrogen, too.

A mixture is—by textbook definition—a physical blend of two or more substances. Continue reading