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Skywatch for the week of February 21, 2022

Skywatch 2-21-2022.mp3


Many of the constellations we see now were also recognized by ancient Egyptians, but there were also many star patterns which were theirs alone. The Big Dipper, part of the larger constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, was seen by the Egyptians as the leg of a great bull, a dismembered piece of the god Set. At end of the handle of the Little Dipper, the star Polaris represented the coffin of Osiris, that diabolical death-trap, created by his brother Set for the express purpose of killing Osiris. The rest of the Little Dipper was sometimes a scorpion, or sometimes a jackal, the “dark and loathsome creature of Set.” Between the dippers is the long, straggling constellation of Draco the Dragon, seen in Babylonia as the frightful Tiamat, whose body was divided to make heaven and earth. But to the pharaohs of Egypt these stars also represented Taweret the Hippopotamus and Sobek the Alligator.

Skywatch 2-22-2022.mp3


George Washington was born on February 11th in 1731. He was also born over a year later, on February 22nd, 1732. If there were a calendar over Washington’s cradle it would have said the date was February 11th, 1731. But of course that was the old Julian calendar that was introduced to the world back in 46 BC, by the decree of Julius Caesar. In 1582, Pope Gregory replaced it with the Gregorian calendar, because after fifteen hundred years of reckoning time, the Julian calendar had slipped by ten days. But since the English colony of Virginia was Protestant, they kept the old style calendar until 1752, until everything was off by eleven days, so they decided to cut those days out of the calendar while also changing the new year’s beginning from the month of March back to January, thus shifting Washington’s birthday to February 22nd, which was fine with him. And now, Congress says it was yesterday, the third Monday in February. OK.

Skywatch 2-23-2022.mp3


What happens if you jump into a black hole? Well, the slight distance between your head and your feet is enough to create a gravitational dilemma: your feet would be pulled in with a lot more force than your head, which would stretch your body out as thin as a piece of spaghetti, which of course is not a natural state for the human body to be in, so you would disintegrate, and eventually all of your atoms would spiral into the black hole - so stay out of black holes! The nearest known black hole is near the constellation of Orion the Hunter, which dominates the southern evening sky. There’s a faint constellation to the east of Orion known as Monoceros the Unicorn, and it is here where we find the nearest known black hole, called, V616 Monocerotis. It’s about 3,000 light years away, or 18,000 trillion miles. So even the nearest black hole is so far away that nobody is in any danger of falling in!

Skywatch 2-24-2022.mp3


In 1967, Jocelyn Bell, then a graduate student at England’s Cambridge University, made an incredible discovery: while going over the data from a radio telescope she’d help build, Bell found a rapidly recurring signal, which spiked every 1.3 seconds. Bell had found the very first pulsar, although the source of the signals was not known at the time (Bell and her advisor dubbed them “L.G.M.”s, light-heartedly suggesting they could be signals from an alien civilization consisting of “Little Green Men.”) Her work was announced on February 24, 1968 and her advisor was soon awarded a Nobel prize (Wait, what?) But in 2018, decades after the discovery, Bell finally received her Nobel, in the category of Fundamental Physics. In the meantime, the American astronomer Dr. Thomas Gold identified the mystery objects as pulsing stars, or pulsars - the compact cores of dying neutron stars.

Skywatch 2-25-2022.mp3

Fri Feb 25, 2022 ANCIENT ORION

In the southern sky after sunset the ancient hero Orion the Hunter dominates the winter night. One of the oldest of the established constellations, Orion is perhaps also the most readily recognizable – the three bright stars close together in a line – the hunter’s belt - make it easy to find. The venerable origins of Orion can be traced back to the Mediterranean and the Middle East: In Chaldea he was Tammuz; to the Syrians, the giant Al Jabbar. The ancient Egyptians knew him as one of their most revered gods, Osiris, and it’s been claimed that the Great Pyramid of Khufu, along with two others, were built to mirror the three belt stars – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. But the Greek myths are the ones we recall the best. He was a giant, the son of Poseidon, who often hunted with the moon goddess Artemis, but was stung by Scorpius for boasting too much of his strength, then finally restored to life in the heavens where we see him tonight.