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Skywatch for the week of April 22, 2024

Skywatch Monday 4-22-2024.mp3

Mon Apr 22, 2024 DEATH OF MARK TWAIN

Sam Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, died on April 21st, 1910. Twain was born the same year that Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky. In 1909 he wrote, “I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet.” The comet’s orbit brings it close to the sun every seventy-six years on average, but it wasn’t visible to most folks until a week or so after his death in 1910. But there was a brighter comet in 1910, which could be seen in the daytime, in the months just before he died. Perhaps he was thinking of this comet when he wrote, “Death is the starlit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.”


Skywatch Tuesday 4-23-2024.mp3

Tue Apr 23, 2024 APRIL FULL MOON

The full moon rises in the east this evening once the sun has set in the west. Since spring is underway, the Sioux Indians call April’s full moon, the Moon of Greening Grass; to the Winnebago, it is Planting Corn Moon. The Seneca Indians, the Keepers of the Western Door, recognize this as the time of the strawberry dance, while the Keepers of the Eastern Door, the Mohawk, know it as “Onerahtokha,” the budding time, which is similar to the Kiowa’s Leaf Moon, as this is the time of year when new leaves form on trees. The Cheyenne Indians speak of it as the Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs. To the Mandan Indians of North Dakota, it is simply the Planter’s Moon; it was under the light of this full moon many people planted tobacco, potato, and the Three Sisters - the seeds of corn, squash and bean.


Skywatch Wednesday 4-24-2024.mp3

Wed Apr 24, 2024 HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT

If you want to lose weight, move to the equator. Here’s why: The rotating Earth creates centrifugal force - not really a force, just inertia at work. The Earth’s spin hurls us out into space, but gravity holds us back. Earth’s rotational speed is zero at the poles, but almost a thousand miles an hour at the equator. And the Earth is a little fatter around the equator than from pole to pole. So at the equator we’re 12 miles farther away from Earth’s center, and there’s slightly less gravity. This reduces our weight by about two-tenths of one percent from our position here in Florida. So if you weigh 150 pounds and you move to Ecuador, you’ll weigh about a third of a pound less.


Skywatch Thursday 4-25-2024.mp3


On April 26th, 1803, there was a great bombardment of meteorites in France. This phenomenon was so spectacular that it convinced astronomers that these rocks had come from outer space. When a space rock hits our atmosphere, it heats up the air, which makes a bright flash of light across the sky - a meteor, also called a shooting or falling star. Big rocks make fireballs, but most meteors are just tiny bits of dust or ice, or a small pebble, that burns up in our upper atmosphere. The heat of its passage lights up the air around it, which causes the brief flash of light that you see. If a larger rock tumbles to earth, something as large as a bowling ball, say, then there's a good chance that it won't burn up completely, but strike the ground, and become a meteorite, a rock from outer space. That’s what they got back in 1803.


Skywatch Friday 4-26-2024.mp3


On Saturday, April 27th – that’s tomorrow – at 6 o’clock in the evening, Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium will be presenting a free lecture on art and astronomy. This 45 minute presentation will feature a dialogue between IRSC Professor Emeritus Jane Howard and me, in which we discuss various works of art. Jane will tell you more about how the artists created these masterpieces, while I will talk about the astronomy in the picture. For example, did you know that in Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night on the Rhone,” you can find the Big Dipper in his sky? So come on out to the Hallstrom Planetarium tomorrow at 6 pm. Again, the talk is free, and I’ll even point out some stars and constellations on the planetarium dome.