Some good news for a change…

Score one for reality!  Three test cases, alleging that vaccinations caused autism, have gone down in flames.

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Why I don’t discuss evolution here

Today I tweeted a link to a news item about evolution.  Somone ( who shall remain anonymous ) asked me why I didn’t discuss this here.  Was I afraid?  Was I avoiding the issue?

To make myself clear, this blog is about astronomy, specifically about amateur astronomy, and my efforts in astronomy education outreach.  I try to stay focused on that issue here.   A bit of poking around in my profile and the links therein will make my position on that issue clear.   However, I have made a decision, a long time ago, to stay focused on the core issue of astronomy in this blog.

My reasoning is that it is far too easy to let that particular topic dominate the discussion.  Sure, it would probably drive a lot of readership here, and it would look good in my stats.  However, there are countless resources available if you are interested in that whole debate.   I do participate in that debate, but not here.  There are even blogs by astronomers (with more astronomical credentials than I have) who do not shy away from that debate.

My goal here is to promote amateur astronomy, and to promote astronomy education outreach within the amateur astronomy community.  Since that debate does not fit with those goals, I do not discuss it here.

The End.


No, not dollars.  Energy.  And I’m not talking about oil futures.

Astronomers now estimate that out of the total mass-energy  in the universe, 74% to 76% is dark energy, 20% to 22% is dark matter and 4% is ‘normal’ (baryonic) matter/energy (remember, ‘normal’ matter and ‘normal’ energy are related by the famous equation E=Mc^2).  It’s the last bit that makes stars, planets and everything we see.

So, 94% to 98% of the universe we simply can’t see.

Big Solar Flare

5th grade students at Rod Kelley will recall my talking about solar flares yesterday.  Here is a news report about an X-Class solar flare that was detected on December 5th.  Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X depending on how much power they carry. It is sort of like the ‘Richter Scale’ for solar flares.  This solar flare was an X9, which is a very big one, one of the strongest solar flares recorded over the last 30 years.

Happy Equinox, Vernal!

For some silly reason every time I hear ‘Vernal’ I imagine “Ernest P. Worrell” saying ‘KnoWhatIMean Vernal?’.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to be ‘Vern’ and that it’s an obvious homonym, but I can’t help myself.

In astronomical terms an equinox is the moment at which the sun passes directly over the equator.  This happens twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the fall.  For the northern hemisphere, The vernal (spring) equinox happens on March 20 or 21st and the autumnal (fall) equinox happens on September 20 or 21st.   For the down-unders, reverse those terms.  As I write this the vernal equinox happened about 15 minutes ago.  So it’s officially spring!

(  ah-choo! )  <dag nabbed hay fever…>

Oregon Dead Zone – sign of global warming?

In a story on Wired News we find that a region of oxygen-depleted ocean water (with 1/6 normal oxygen levels) has returned off the Oregon coast for the sixth year in a row.

“It does, indeed, appear to be the new normal,” said Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine biology at Oregon State University. “The fact that we are seeing six in a row now tells us that something pretty fundamental has changed about conditions off of our coast.”