Sunday, July 20, 2008

ASTRONOMY AND SPACE NEWS AND EVENTS


“One Small Step,” Thirty-Nine Years Ago

Thirty-nine years ago, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Alden Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., piloting the lunar module Eagle, were the first humans to land and walk on the surface of the moon. They set down in lunar maria known as the Sea of Tranquility. Orbiting above in the command module Columbia was the third member of the crew, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, keeping busy with scientific projects and awaiting their return the following day.

This mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he expressed during his May 25, 1961 speech before a Joint Session of Congress:

“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

President Kennedy underlined the importance of this program in his address on September 12, 1962 at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

For more on the Apollo Program and the Apollo 11 mission, check out these links:

The Apollo Program – National Air and Space Museum:
http://www.nasm.si.edu/collections/imagery/Apollo/AS11/a11.htm

Human Space Flight – The Apollo 11 Mission:
http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/history/apollo/apollo11/

Apollo 11 Imagery Gallery:
http://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/apollo.html


Fourth Dwarf Planet Named

You probably remember all of the controversy last year when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted on a new definition for solar system planets, and that as a result, Pluto was re-classified from a planet to a dwarf planet, one of three so designated at that time (Pluto, Eris and Ceres).

Also, you may know that just last month the IAU announced the creation of a new class of sub-planets called plutoids—small, round and icy bodies like Pluto which orbit in the outer solar system. At the time of the announcement there were two known plutoids—Pluto, of course, and Eris.

Well, the plutoid family just got bigger with the July 19th IAU announcement regarding the outer solar system body formerly known as 2005 FY9. The body is now officially designated a plutoid and is officially named Makemake (pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh), after the Polynesian god of fertility and creator of humanity.

Discovered March 31, 2005 at Palomar Observatory by astronomers Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz, Makemake is a reddish methane ice-covered body thought to be about two-thirds the size of Pluto. Before it received the designation 2005 FY9, the discoverers nicknamed the object “Easterbunny” since it was discovered shortly after Easter 2005. When considering official names to propose to the IAU for their discovery, Brown considered various mythological gods and thought of the South Pacific’s Easter Island. Makemake was the chief god among the Rapa Nui, the people who settled the island. Incidentally, Rapa Nui is also the local name for the island itself.

For more on Makemake, check out these links:

Astronomy Picture of the Day, July 16, 2008:
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap080716.html

IAU News Release – IAU0806: Fourth dwarf planet named Makemake, July 19, 2008, Paris:
http://www.iau.org/public_press/news/release/iau0806/


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

As a Methodist minister in the early 19th Century, George Atkins (?-1827) began his pastoring in the churches of the Ohio Conference. In 1818, he transferred to Knoxville, Tennessee. Later, in 1826, he received an appointment to preach at Abingdon Town, Virginia. In addition to his ministerial duties, Atkins was also involved with newspapers.

In 1819, a year after his arrival in Knoxville, Aktins was inspired to write a powerful hymn text that seemed to distill the essence of the church's purpose as Atkins saw it. This included preaching the Word of God, comforting those in need and saving the souls of sinners be they family, friends or total strangers. In every task, however, Atkins reminded the listener that their various effort were worthless without prayer, which was the key to enabling the grace of God. Atkins compared God's grace to the food that helped sustained the children of Israel during their years in the wilderness--holy manna; bread from heaven. While it is not certain, the hymn may have been used in revival, for it certainly depicts a revived and empowered church as it would have appeared in the culture of the time.

Atkins' hymn was first published in 1825 as part of the collection entitled 'The Columbian Harmony' (Cincinnati, Ohio: Morgan, Lodge, and Fisher). The hymn collection was edited by musician William Moore (19th Century) of Wilson County in Central Tennessee. Atkins' text was paired with a melody thought to be written by Moore himself. Appropriately, the melody was called Holy Manna.


Brethren, We Have Met to Worship

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

-----

Bibliography

William Moore (19th Century). (17:21:34, February 23, 2008). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/m/o/o/moore_w.htm

Brethren, We Have Met to Worship. (17:46:55, February 23, 2008). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/b/r/brethren.htm

George Atkins (?-1827). (16:53:36, February 23, 2008). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/a/t/k/atkins_g.htm

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson Coming to Tampa Bay March 26

(We have been asked by public television station WEDU to provide you with the following announcement.)

Event: Cosmic Quandaries with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Date: March 26, 2008
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg
Tickets: $15

Join Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson - world renowned astrophysicist, bestselling author, and host of the groundbreaking PBS series NOVA scienceNOW for a journey across the universe as he reveals its cosmic wonders, curiosities and uncertainties in front of a live audience at The Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Public television station WEDU welcomes Dr. deGrasse Tyson, Nova scienceNOW senior executive producer, Paula S. Apsell, and local experts as they field questions from the audience and explore the mystery of black holes and other galactic conundrums.

Tickets are $15 per person and, unlike the universe, are limited for this exclusive WEDU event. You are encouraged to reserve your tickets by telephoning 727.822.3590 or www.mypalladium.org. Dr. Tyson’s most recent book, 'Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries' will be available for purchase at the event.

For more than three decades, NOVA has been unrivaled in bringing authoritative, innovative, and entertaining science documentaries to TV. Now the same award-winning producers have teamed up with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the series, to cover the timeliest developments and intriguing personalities in science and technology today. Presenting multiple stories in a magazine format reported by a diverse team of correspondents in the field, NOVA scienceNOW airs five times a year in the NOVA time slot, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on WEDU.

Respected scientist, author, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most popular lecturers on astronomy. Tyson was appointed the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in 1995. Tyson has also received recognition as one of the Most Influential People on TIME magazine’s TOP 100 list; and the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by PEOPLE magazine. Tyson’s most recent book, 'Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries,' complements his quest for all things cosmic and follows his others including 'Just Visiting the Planet, a Q&A on the universe for all ages,' and his memoir, 'The Sky Is Not The Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist.' Tyson studied physics at Harvard University before receiving his doctorate in astrophysics from Columbia University.

For more information please call (727) 822-3590. The event is underwritten in part by South Florida Museum and Celestron. To read more, visit the following link: http://www.wedu.org/Content/Events/Default.aspx


Montana Student Wins Planets Mnemonic

A fourth-grader at Riverview Elementary School in Riverview, Montana has won the National Geographic planetary mnemonic contest, developing a handy way to remember the newly assigned 11 planets, including three dwarfs.

National Geographic Children's Books created the contest in response to the recent announcement by the scientific community that there are now 11 recognized planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris. Ceres, Pluto and Eris are considered dwarf planets.

Ten-year-old Maryn Smith's winning mnemonic is My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants. Smith's mnemonic will be published in astronomer David Aguilar's next National Geographic book, "11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System." It also will be recorded into a song by Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb. Both are scheduled to be released in March.

Roaming Note: While it is great that we have a new mnemonic to help students learn the sequence of the major and dwarf planets, and my complements to young Miss Smith for her really neat achievement, I wonder how long it will be valid. Even during the fateful IAU meeting that established working definitions for planets, and for a dwarf planets, it was noted by more than a few that the known number of bodies similar to Pluto would only increase. This suggests that any mnemonic referencing both planet classes has a limited life span at best. Of course, it would be wonderful if any new dwarf planet could be easily wedged into Miss Smith's mnemonic, but only time will tell.


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POETRY CORNER

Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the twentieth century. A Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist, Merton wrote over 60 books and many essays and reviews. In addition, Merton was a proponent of inter-religious dialogue, engaging in dialogues with Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama, Vietnamese-born Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and Japanese scholar of Buddhism, Zen and Shin, D. T. Suzuki.

Merton's superiors allowed him extend periods of seclusion and meditation during 1953 and 1954. One result was a collection of meditations that was first published in 1956 under the title 'Thoughts in Solitude.' The following passage from that work was written as the humble confession of one man, but it resonated in the souls of many. It has since been recited and reproduced many times over. The text has become so well known that it is often described simply as "the Merton Prayer."


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

-----


To learn more about the life and works of Thomas Merton, visit the home page of The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living: https://www.mertoninstitute.org/


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IN THE ATTIC

I'm about to lay myself open to you, and I'm really scared. I'm going to let you a little farther into my world. Into my attic, as it were. Come this way up the ladder. Careful. Low beam, there. Watch your head...

A while back, I worked my way through a decision made by my church body. The details aren't important. What matters is that I had great concerns about the process and the decision. I asked questions and I raised objections. However, though I still had concerns, I eventually became supportive of that decision.

Mind you, I am a Baptist. And that Christian denomination, among other things, emphasizes the importance of the individual. We believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not one by proxy, a biblical truth sometimes described as the priesthood of the believer. We believe in the autonomy of the local church, and that we are not controlled by an outer denominational hierarchy, but rather by the local body of believers who voluntarily come together to carry out the mission of the church. Also, we Baptists are strong supporters of religious liberty and freedom for all. We respect, defend and revel in our God given right to speak our mind. Any Baptist business meeting will prove that to you. And I have seen a few in my time. Believe me when I say they can be quite an adventure. Be sure to bring your own popcorn.

Humor aside, I do value our Baptist individuality. But I also acknowledge that the whole process is built on trust, beginning with my trust that God is directing my life for good, whether I understand His plan or not. My church body models that trust when they select members to work through a task or a decision process. I can't personally make every decision in my church. Nothing would get done. I have to trust God and my fellow believers. I may not always agree with another member's decision, and I don't. For that matter, my fellow believers do not always agree with me. We are Baptists, after all. The bottom line for me is that if God is ultimately in charge, then those members are chosen by God for their various duties, so I needed get over myself, listen to what they have to say and trust their instincts.

It can be scary at times. So scary. I've known churches in my community that completely fell apart when the members found their trust had been greatly misplaced. For that matter, it seems we are all disillusioned daily by political leaders and other personalities in the spotlight. Trust is fragile. Once broken, it mends slowly. And even after it heals, there are scars. The words of the "Merton prayer" come to my mind quite frequently these days. And with each review I once again come to acknowledge, like Merton, that whatever I may do, wherever I may go, that God "will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

OK. I'm done. And I really hope you're still with me. Now, be careful as we work around these boxes. And hold on tight as we make our way back down this rickety ladder. And remember to watch your... Oh, sorry. Head...


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

As part of the Protestant Reformation in central Europe, the church leaders sought ways to increase the participation of the common people in the church services. One of the things that many churches did was to update their church psalter. A Psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms and other devotional material. It is comparable in many ways to the Protestant hymnals of today. The first psalter was the original, the Book of Pslams in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church later translated the psalms into Latin, but the leaders of the Protestant Reformation updated their psalters into the languages of the various peoples and set them to singable tunes.

One of the greatest psalters of the sixteen century was the 'Pseaumes Octante Trois de David,' also known as the 'Genevan Psalter,' completed in 1551 and used in the Reformed churches of Geneva, Switzerland. The 'Genevan Psalter' was the product of a collaborative effort among several people, most notably Loys Bourgeois, Claude Goudimel, Théodore de Bèze and the French court poet Clément Marot.

Théodore de Bèze, or Theodore of Beza (1519-1605) was a Protestant writer, minister and theologian. Beza wrote many religious works, but he also wrote for the theater, making Beza a member of the tradition of Protestant writers whose artistic intuitions led them to integrate both the profane and the sacred in order to produce their desired effect. One of Beza's contributions to the 'Genevan Psalter' was his setting of Psalm 134.

Loys Bourgeois, or Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510–1559 or later) was a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. It is thought that Bourgeois was responsible for thirty-four of the original melodies presented in the 'Genevan Psalter,' including the melody he composed for Beza's Psalm 134, which is by far Bourgeois's most famous hymn melody.


Psalm 134
(Théodore de Bèze, The Genevan Psalter, English translation)

You faithful servants of the Lord,
sing out his praise with one accord,
while serving him with all your might
and keeping vigil through the night.

Unto his house lift up your hand
and to the Lord your praises send.
May God who made the earth and sky
bestow his blessings from on high.

-----

In keeping with the dictates of John Calvin, all of the 'Genevan Psalter' tunes were monophonic, without multiple parts or counterpoint. Bourgeois did write four-part harmonizations, but they were reserved for singing and playing at home. Many of these settings are syllabic and chordal, a hymn style which continues in many Protestant church services today.

Like other Reformation psalters, the 'Genevan Psalter' included some psalm arrangements that had been published previously and were already known to the congregations. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that on December 3, 1551, shortly after the publication of the 'Genevan Psalter,' Bourgeois was imprisoned for changing the melodies of some of the well-known psalms "without a license." Following the personal intervention of John Calvin, Bourgeois was released. However, the controversy continued because those who already knew the old tunes had no desire to learn new versions. The town council ordered the burning of Bourgeois's instructions to the singers, claiming they were confusing. Soon afterward, his employment terminated, Bourgeois left Geneva and settled in Lyon, where his wife (eventually) followed him.

Bourgeois' melody for Psalm 134 was later paired with an English adaptation of Psalm 100 by Scottish clergyman William Kethe (? - 1594). The new setting was first published in 1561 as part of Sternhold and Hopkins' Psalter. In time, Kethe's adaptation of Psalm 100 became known as the "Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth." A now-famous arrangement of the "Old 100th" was written by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


All People that on Earth do Dwell

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heav’n and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Amen.

-----


About 1674, Anglican priest Thomas Ken (1637-1711) wrote a collection of hymns that were publish in the ‘Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College.’ Two of Ken's hymns were entitled "Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun," and "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night." While these hymns address different ends of the day (awaking to the day and preparing for sleep), they both closed with the same stanza of praise to God. Below is the text from the first of the two hymns.


Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

-----

The last stanza of this hymn has gained widespread use as a doxology--a formulaic ascription of praise to God. The word doxology comes from the Greek words ‘doxa,’ meaning "glory," and ‘logos,’ meaning "word" or "speaking." In Christian worship services, a doxology is often a short hymn of praise to God. A doxology is often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in Jewish worship. Typically, a Christian doxology is a sung expression of praise to the Holy Trinity--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While there are many doxologies, the last stanza of Ken's hymn has come to be known in many Christian denominations as "The Doxology" or “The Common Doxology.”


Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

-----


Some Protestant denominations have recently altered the Doxology text so that references to the Godhead are gender-neutral. Such changes have received combinations of both criticism and support. Here is one such alteration example from the ‘Disciples of Christ Chalice Hymnal.’

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God above, ye heavenly host:
Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost.

-----


Bibliography

All People That On Earth Do Dwell. (2007, December 16). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/l/allpeopl.htm

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun. (2008, February 23). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved March 9, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/w/awakemys.htm

Doxology. (2008, March 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:28, March 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Doxology&oldid=196302269

doxology. (2007). The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-doxology.html

Louis Bourgeois. (2008, January 7). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/b/o/u/bourgeois_l.htm

Loys Bourgeois (2007, October 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loys_Bourgeois

Old 100th. (2008, February 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:03, March 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Old_100th&oldid=192717672

Theodore de Beze's version of Psalm 134. (2007, December 31). The Genevan Psalter. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://genevanpsalter.redeemer.ca/

Theodore of Beza. Project Poissy. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~lavoicy/poissy/Beze.htm

Sunday, February 24, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

Planet Saturn 2008 Opposition

February 24 marks this year’s opposition of Saturn, the point in Earth’s orbit when Saturn is opposite our sun in the sky. This is time of year when Saturn is closest and offers the best observing, though the good observing this year can be had from January to May. Saturn is currently shining at about 0.2 magnitude and can be found in the constellation Leo. Because the planet it at opposition (opposite the sun in our sky), it will rise when the sun sets and will set when the sun rises. Because of Saturn's brightness, a large telescope isn’t required, but can provide a brighter image. A good telescope for observing Saturn is one where the telescope and eyepiece combination is capable of offering a 100- to 200-power magnification without overtaxing the abilities of instrument or creating eye strain for the observer. For example, an 8-inch aperture Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope combined with a 10mm focal length eyepiece will provide a bright 100-power image. Using color filters will highlight features for better study. For example, both magenta and green filters (used separately) will highlight the rings of Saturn. Earth's oppositions of Saturn are just a little over a year apart. The next opposition will occur March 9, 2009.

In honor of this opposition, here is a quick overview of the Saturn system, provided by NASA's Solar System Exploration Web site: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/


The Planet Saturn

Saturn was the most distant of the five planets known to the ancients. In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to gaze at Saturn through a telescope. To his surprise, he saw a pair of objects on either side of the planet. He sketched them as separate spheres and wrote that Saturn appeared to be triple-bodied. Continuing his observations over the next few years, Galileo drew the lateral bodies as arms or handles attached to Saturn. In 1659, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, using a more powerful telescope than Galileo's, proposed that Saturn was surrounded by a thin, flat ring. In 1675, Italian-born astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered a 'division' between what are now called the A and B rings. It is now known that the gravitational influence of Saturn's moon Mimas is responsible for the Cassini Division, which is 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) wide.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Its volume is 755 times greater than that of Earth. Winds in the upper atmosphere reach 500 meters (1,600 feet) per second in the equatorial region. (In contrast, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at about 110 meters, or 360 feet, per second.) These super-fast winds, combined with heat rising from within the planet's interior, cause the yellow and gold bands visible in the atmosphere.

Saturn's ring system is the most extensive and complex in the so-lar system, extending hundreds of thousands of kilometers from the planet. In the early 1980s, NASA's two Voyager spacecraft revealed that Saturn's rings are made mostly of water ice, and they found 'braided' rings, ringlets, and 'spokes' - dark features in the rings that circle the planet at different rates from that of the surrounding ring material. Material in the rings ranges in size from a few micrometers to several tens of meters. Two of Saturn's small moons orbit within gaps in the main rings.

Saturn has 52 known natural satellites (moons) and there are probably many more waiting to be discovered. Saturn's largest satellite, Titan, is a bit bigger than the planet Mercury. (Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system; only Jupiter's moon Ganymede is bigger.) Titan is shrouded in a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that might be similar to what Earth's was like long ago. Further study of this moon promises to reveal much about planetary formation and, perhaps, about the early days of Earth. Saturn also has many smaller 'icy' satellites. From Enceladus, which shows evidence of recent (and ongoing) surface changes, to Iapetus, with one hemisphere darker than asphalt and the other as bright as snow, each of Saturn's satellites is unique.

Though Saturn's magnetic field is not as huge as Jupiter's, it is still 578 times as powerful as Earth's. Saturn, the rings, and many of the satellites lie totally within Saturn's enormous magnetosphere, the region of space in which the behavior of electrically charged particles is influenced more by Saturn's magnetic field than by the solar wind. Hubble Space Telescope images show that Saturn's polar regions have aurorae similar to Earth's. Aurorae occur when charged particles spiral into a planet's atmosphere along magnetic field lines.

Voyagers 1 and 2 flew by and photographed Saturn in 1981. The next chapter in our knowledge of Saturn is underway, as the Cassini- Huygens spacecraft continues its exploration of the Saturn system. The Huygens probe descended through Titan's atmosphere in January 2005, collecting data on the atmosphere and surface. Cassini will orbit Saturn more than 70 times during a four-year study of the planet and its moons, rings, and magnetosphere. Cassini-Huygens is sponsored by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.


Saturn's Moons

Saturn is home to a vast array of intriguing and unique worlds. From the cloud-shrouded surface of Titan to crater-riddled Phoebe, each of Saturn's moons tells another piece of the story surrounding the Saturn system.

Christiaan Huygens discovered the first known moon of Saturn. The year was 1655 and the moon is Titan. Jean-Dominique Cassini made the next four discoveries: Iapetus (1671), Rhea (1672), Dione (1684), and Tethys (1684). Mimas and Enceladus were both discovered by William Herschel in 1789. The next two discoveries came at intervals of 50 or more years - Hyperion (1848) and Phoebe (1898).

As telescopic resolving power increased through the 19th century, Saturn's family of known moons grew. In 1966 Epimetheus and Janus were discovered. By the time Cassini-Huygens was launched in 1997, Saturn's moon count had reached 18. The number of known moons soon increased with high-resolution imaging techniques used on ground-based telescopes. Cassini discovered four more moons after its arrival at Saturn and may find even more during its mission.

We've discovered a total of 52 natural satellites orbiting Saturn. Each of Saturn's moons bears a unique story. Two of the moons orbit within gaps in the main rings. Some, such as Prometheus and Pandora, interact with ring material, shepherding the ring in its orbit. Some small moons are trapped in the same orbits as Tethys or Dione. Janus and Epimetheus occasionally pass close to each other, causing them to periodically exchange orbits. Here's a sampling of some of the unique aspects of the moons:

- Titan is so large that it affects the orbits of other near-by moons. At 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) across, it is the second largest moon in the solar system. Titan hides its surface with a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Titan's atmosphere is similar to Earth's atmosphere of long ago, before biology took hold on our home planet. Titan's atmosphere is approximately 95% nitrogen with traces of methane. While Earth's atmosphere extends about 60 kilometers (37 miles) into space, Titan's extends nearly 600 kilometers (ten times that of Earth's atmosphere) into space.

- Iapetus has one side as bright as snow and one side as dark as black velvet, with a huge ridge running around most of its dark-side equator.

- Phoebe orbits the planet in a direction opposite that of Saturn's larger moons, as do several of the recently discovered moons.

- Mimas has an enormous crater on one side, the result of an impact that nearly split the moon apart.

- Enceladus displays evidence of active ice volcanism: Cassini observed warm fractures where evaporating ice evidently escapes and forms a huge cloud of water vapor over the south pole.

- Hyperion has an odd flattened shape and rotates chaotically, probably due to a recent collision.

- Pan orbits within the main rings and helps sweep materials out of a narrow space known as the Encke Gap.

- Tethys has a huge rift zone called Ithaca Chasma that runs nearly three-quarters of the way around the moon.

- Four moons orbit in stable places around Saturn called Lagrangian points. These places lie 60 degrees ahead of or behind a larger moon and in the same orbit. Telesto and Calypso occupy the two Lagrangian points of Tethys in its orbit; Helene and Polydeuces occupy the corresponding Lagrangian points of Dione.

- Sixteen of Saturn's moons keep the same face toward the planet as they orbit. Called 'tidal locking,' this is the same phenomenon that keeps our Moon always facing toward Earth. The Cassini spacecraft will fly past Titan 45 times during its four-year primary mission. In addition, Cassini will gather data about many of the other satellites in an effort to fully understand the nature, formation, and dynamics of Saturn's moons.


Saturn's Ring System

The rings of Saturn have puzzled astronomers since Galileo Galilei discovered them with his telescope in 1610. Detailed study by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft in the 1980s only increased the mystery.

There are thousands of rings made of up billions of particles of ice and rock. The particles range in size from a grain of sugar to the size of a house. The rings are believe to be pieces of comets, asteroids or shattered moons that broke up before they reached the planet. Each ring orbits at a different speed around the planet. Information from NASA's Cassini mission will help reveal how they formed, how they maintain their orbit and, above all, why they are there in the first place.

While the other three gas planets in the solar system - Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune - have rings orbiting around them, Saturn's are by far the largest and most spectacular. With a thickness of about 1 kilometer (3,200 feet) or less, they span up to 282,000 km (175,000 miles), about three quarters of the distance between the Earth and its moon.

Named alphabetically in the order they were discovered, the rings are relatively close to each other, with the exception of the Cassini Division, a gap measuring 4,700 kilometers (2,920 miles). The main rings are, working outward from the planet, known as C, B, and A. The Cassini Division is the largest gap in the rings and separates Rings B and A. In addition a number of fainter rings have been discovered more recently. The D Ring is exceedingly faint and closest to the planet. The F Ring is a narrow feature just outside the A Ring. Beyond that are two far fainter rings named G and E. The rings show a tremendous amount of structure on all scales; some of this structure is related to gravitational perturbations by Saturn's many moons, but much of it remains unexplained.

To enter Saturn's orbit, Cassini flew through the gap between the F and the G rings, farther from the planet than the Cassini Division. As a safe measure, during the crossing of the ring plane, instruments and cameras onboard the spacecraft were shut off temporarily. However, the spectacular crossing into Saturn's orbit brought incredible information, images and footage, while the instruments onboard are still collecting unique data that may answer many questions about the rings' composition.

To learn more about the Saturn system and the ongoing discoveries, visit the home page of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/

To learn more about our solar system, visit NASA's Solar System Exploration home page: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/


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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Feb 24 - The planet Saturn is at opposition, the point when a planet farther from the sun than Earth appears opposite the Sun in the sky.

Feb 27 - The moon is at apogee, the point in the moon's orbit when it is farthest from Earth.

Feb 28, 9:18 P.M. EST (Feb 29, 02:18 UTC) - Last Quarter Moon


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Feb 24, 1968 - 40th anniversary of the discovery of pulsars by Irish radio astronomer Jocelyn Bell, now Jocelyn Bell Burnell (b. 1943), while a graduate student working with her thesis adviser Antony Hewish at the University of Cambridge.

Feb 24, 1969 - Launch of NASA's Mariner 6 spacecraft (U.S. Mars flyby mission)

Feb 27, 1897 - Birthday of French astronomer Bernard Ferdinand Lyot (1897-1952)

Mar ??, 2002
- Discovery of the meteorite NWA 1195 (A Mars meteorite)

Mar 1, 1966 - Venus impact of Soviet probe Venera 3

Mar 1, 1982 - Venus landing and flyby of Soviet combination probe Venera 13. The lander survived on the surface for 127 minutes.

Mar 1, 1980 - Discovery of Saturn moon Helene by Pierre Laques and Jean Lecacheux through ground based observations.


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POETRY CORNER

The Rainy Day

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), 1841


The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust more dead leaves fall.
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold and dark and dreary.
It rains and the wind is never weary.
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past.
And youth's fond hopes fall thick in the blast.
And my life is dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart and cease repining
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining
Thy fate is the common fate of all
Into each life some rain must fall
Some days must be dark and dreary.

-----


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may be the best known of America's poets. During his life, Longfellow wrote twenty books and more than 150 poems. Following is death, Longfellow was the first American poet to have a memorial bust placed in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Even today his work was highly regarded and quoted often. And yet his life was not without tragedy and loss. Longfellow lost two wives in terrible and differing circumstances. And he himself was badly scarred and nearly died from burns suffered while attempting to save his second wife.

Even in the midst of this and other events, Longfellow was still able to keep some perspective on the peaks and valleys of his life. We can see this in a poem that he wrote in 1841 around the age of 34. It was some time after the death of his first wife of three years. Longfellow was a professor at Harvard and had not as of yet fully committed to writing exclusively. He was staying at the Wadsworth-Longfellow family home in Portland, Main. It happened to be a particularly rainy day and Longfellow's room overlooked the family garden, where he could clearly see the effects of the wind and rain. While reflecting on the oppressive and dreary nature of the day, Longfellow could still observe that, regardless of the individual, "Into each life some rain must fall."

Jesus made a similar observation during his sermon on the mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5. Jesus reminded us that the triumphs and tragedies of our earthly existence are no different from those of our enemy, and that as children of God our purpose, come rain or shine, is to love our enemy in His name.

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:43-45, KJV)


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

Joseph Brackett was born in Cumberland, Maine on May 6, 1797. Sometime later, the Brackett family moved to Gorham, Maine, where the family and their farm became part of a new community of the Society of Friends, a Christian organization commonly known as the Shakers. In 1819, Joseph moved with the rest of the Gorham community to Poland Hill, Maine.

Eventually, Joseph served as first minister of the Maine Shaker societies, as well as Church Elder at the New Gloucester, Maine community, which is now known as Sabbathday Lake, the last remaining Shaker community. Elder Joseph Brackett died on July 4, 1882.

In 1848 while at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine, Elder Joseph Brackett wrote a new song for the worship services. While some Shaker songs can be quite lengthy, Brackett's song had only one verse. Its length and its construction seemed to encapsulate the very essence of what it means to be a Shaker. The words expressed many of their basic philosophies, including their worship practices of dance and movement, the simplicity of their societal structure and of their faith, and their emphasis on servanthood. Brackett called the song "Simple Gifts."


Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

-----

Composer Aaron Copland used the melody in his score for Martha Graham's ballet, Appalachian Spring, which was first performed in 1944. Copland used the melody again in 1950 as part of his first set of Old American Songs for voice and piano, which was later orchestrated.

The melody has been adapted or arranged many times by folksingers and composers. Probably the best known example was first published in 1963 and written by Sydney Bertram Carter (1915-13 - 2004), British poet, songwriter, folk musician and Quaker. Carter was inspired partly by Jesus, and partly by Nataraja, the dancing embodiment of the Hindu god Shiva. In the song, Christ dances the shape and pattern of creation and our lives and then, as the piper, calls us to the dance. Carter entitled the song "Lord of the Dance." He adapted the "Simple Gifts" melody as a tribute to the Shakers and because it seemed so appropriate for the song.

"Lord of the Dance" is copyrighted internationally by Stainer & Bell Ltd. The copyright in the United States and Canada is held by Hope Publishing Company. Because of copyrights, the text could not be listed here without first obtaining the proper permissions. Instead, the link to Stainer & Bell's song page is provided below for your enjoyment.

Lord of the Dance. Words & Music by Sydney Carter. Copyright Stainer & Bell Ltd.
http://www.stainer.co.uk/lotd.html

-----

Bibliography

Lord of the Dance. Words & Music by Sydney Carter. Stainer & Bell Ltd. Retrieved February 18, 2008 from http://www.stainer.co.uk/lotd.html

Lord of the Dance. Words: Sydney B. Carter, 1963. Music: 19th Century Shaker tune, adapted by Sydney Carter, 1963. LORD OF THE DANCE © 1963 Stainer & Bell Ltd. Administered by Hope Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny. The Cyber Hymnal. Last updated 21:33, December 5, 2007. Retrieved 07:30, February 18, 2008, from www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/o/r/lordoftd.htm

Simple Gifts. (2008, February 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:46, February 18, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Simple_Gifts&oldid=191929815

Sydney Carter. (2007, December 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:40, February 18, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sydney_Carter&oldid=177008464

Sunday, February 17, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

First Successful Prediction (Possibly) of an Extrasolar Planet

Astronomer Rory Barnes at the University of Arizona is currently considered the first to successfully predict the orbital location of an extrasolar planet.

The last planet found by prediction of its orbit was our solar system’s planet Neptune, found in 1846. Barnes has noted that the successful prediction of planet orbital distances from their stars implies an understanding, at least the beginning of an understanding, of how planets form and where we should look. He looked at a system called HD 74156, which seemed to have a large gap between two known planets. Barnes predicted a planet there. Other astronomers later found it. Barnes said he believes many stars have their own planets. Based on the latest information, here is the rundown on this planetary system.

The star is HD 74156, a yellow dwarf star (spectral type G0V) in the constellation of Hydra, 210.6 light years from our solar system. At this writing, it is known to be orbited by three large planets.

The first planet discovered, planet “HD 74156 b,” is at least 88% more massive than Jupiter and orbits very close to the star, with an orbital period of 51.65 Earth days. Its surface temperatures must be high and its radius about 1.1 to 1.3 that of Jupiter. It is most likely a gas giant. Planet “b” was discovered in 2003.

The second planet discovered, planet “HD 74156 c,” has at least eight times the mass of Jupiter but is likely smaller than planet “b.” Planet “c” has an eccentric orbit with a period of 2467 Earth days. Because of its eccentricity, the planet “c” occasionally passes through the star's habitable zone (where water would be liquid rather than frozen or a vapor). This eccentric orbit would be subject to extreme shifts of temperature. Current information suggests that “c” is most likely a gas giant. Planet “c” was discovered in 2003.

The third planet discovered, our predicted planet, “HD 74156 d,” is a gas giant having 40% the mass of Jupiter. Its orbit is between those of “b” and “c,” about the same distance as Earth to the Sun, this puts it in the star's habitable zone. Planet “d” has an orbital period of 336.6 Earth days. It was first observed in 2007 by Jacob Bean and his team at the University of Texas.

Planet “d” is the one predicted by computer models of Roy Barnes, Thomas Quinn and Sean Raymond. The models operate under the theory that planetary systems would have planets occupying every stable orbital zone. The two previously discovered planets of this system, “b” and “c,” left a stable gap between them where “d” was ultimately detected. It should be noted that doubts have recently been raised as to whether the detection of planet “d” was correct. In December of 2007, astronomer Roman V. Baluev suggested that the observed effects may be explained by errors in the observation data. Time and further observations will determine whether planet “d” is really there.

As of this writing, 273 extrasolar planets have been discovered, or at least are under official consideration, orbiting around 234 stars. To learn more, visit the home page of The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia: http://exoplanet.eu/

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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Feb 18 - the planet Mercury is stationary. The body appears motionless in the sky due to the turning point between its direct and retrograde motion.

Feb 19 - Asteroid 4450 Pan Near-Earth Flyby (0.041 AU)

Feb 19 - Asteroid 99942 Apophis Closest Approach To Earth (1.402 AU)

Feb 20, 10:30 P.M. (Feb 21, 03:30 UTC) - Full Moon; total lunar eclipse

Feb 20 - Cassini, Distant Flyby of Pan, Prometheus, Pandora & Janus

Feb 20 - Uranus Ring Plane Crossing

Feb 20 - Comet 193P/LINEAR-NEAT Perihelion (2.156 AU)

Feb 20 - Asteroid 153591 (2001 SN263) Near-Earth Flyby (0.066 AU)

Feb 21 - Total Lunar Eclipse

Feb 22 - Cassini, Titan Flyby


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Feb 17, 1965 – Launch of Ranger 8 (U.S. moon impact mission)

Feb 17, 1996 – Launch of NEAR (U.S. asteroid orbiter/lander)

Feb 18, 1930 – Discovery of Pluto by U.S. astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh (1906-1997)

Feb 19, 1473 – Birthday of Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543)

Feb 20, 1962 – Launch of Friendship 7, first U.S. manned orbital mission, with astronaut John Glenn (b. 1921)

Feb 20, 1986 – Launch of Soviet space station Mir

Feb 20, 1994 - Clementine, Moon Orbit Insertion

Feb 21, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 586 Thekla by astronomer Max Wolf

Feb 21, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 596 Scheila by astronomer August Kopff

Feb 22, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 587 Hypsipyle and 588 Achilles by astronomer Max Wolf

Feb 22, 1966 – Launch of Soviet spacecraft Kosmos 110, which carried into orbit two dogs: Veterok and Ugolyok

Feb 23, 1987 - Supernova 1987A Explosion

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POET’S CORNER

O Captain! My Captain!
(by Walt Whitman, 1819–1892, a poem on the death of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln following the Civil War. The poem was published in "Leaves of Grass" in 1900)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

The folk song "O Waly, Waly" is thought to have originated in the 1600s, but was not published until 1724. Scholars are not certain whether the song is of English or Scottish origin, but the text, shown below, would suggest that it is Scottish. The text of the song laments the challenges of maintaining a love over a lifetime. It is presented from the point of view of a woman whose lover was unfaithful.


O Waly, Waly

O Waly, waly, up the bank,
And waly, waly, doun the brae,
And waly, waly, yon burn-side,
Where I and my Love wont to gae!

I lean'd my back unto an aik,
I thocht it was a trustie tree;
But first it bow'd and syne it brak—
Sae my true love did lichtlie me.

O waly, waly, gin love be bonnie,
A little time while it is new!
But when 'tis auld it waxeth cauld,
And fades awa' like morning dew.

O wherefore should I busk my heid,
Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
For my true Love has me forsook,
And says he'll never lo'e me mair.

Now Arthur's Seat sall be my bed,
The sheets sall ne'er be 'filed by me;
Saint Anton's well sall be my drink;
Since my true Love has forsaken me.

Marti'mas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
And shake the green leaves aff the tree?
O gentle Death, when wilt thou come?
For of my life I am wearìe.

'Tis not the frost, that freezes fell,
Nor blawing snaw's inclemencie,
'Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry;
But my Love's heart grown cauld to me.

When we cam in by Glasgow toun,
We were a comely sicht to see;
My Love was clad in the black velvèt,
And I mysel in cramasie.

But had I wist, before I kist,
That love had been sae ill to win,
I had lock'd my heart in a case o' gowd,
And pinn'd it wi' a siller pin.

And O! if my young babe were born,:
And set upon the nurse's knee;
And I mysel were dead and gane,
And the green grass growing over me!

-----

If the above Scots text has you scratching your head, please refer to the following glossary of translations.

"aik" - oak
"Arthur's Seat" - the name of a high peak in the hills of Edinburgh, Scotland
"auld" - old
"bed" - in this case, inferring a burial plot
"blaw" - blow
"bonnie" - beautiful
"brae" - hill
"brak" - broke
"burn-side" - riverside
"busk my heid" - adorn my head
"cauld" - cold
"cramasie" - crimson
"gae" - go
"gin" - if
"gowd" - gold
"kame" - comb
"kist" - kissed a coffin; died
"lichtlie" - lightly (not serious; was unfaithful)
"mair" - more
"Marti'mas" - Martinmas, the feast of St. Martin, observed November 11, a time traditionally marking the end of all preparations for winter.
"O Waly, waly" - woe is me
"sae" - so
"Saint Anton's well" - a well at the foot of Arthur's Seat
"sall" - shall
"sic cauld" - such cold
"sicht" - sight
"siller" - silver
"snaw" - snow
"syne" - soon
"wist" - known

In 1776, Scottish poet and wig-maker Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) published "Tea-Table Miscellany", a collection of verses by himself and others. One of the verses was a lengthy ballad often referenced as "Child Ballad 204" or "Lord Jamie Douglas." The text describes the unhappy first marriage of James Douglas, Second Marquess of Douglas, to Lady Barbara Erskine. A portion of the ballad is the text of "O Waly, Waly," leading some to mistakenly think that the song originated as part of the Douglas ballad, but in the same publication it states that the text is to be sung to the tune of "Waly, Waly," confirming that the song was well known prior to the ballad, and suggesting that Douglas' lament was to be considered kindred to that of the wronged woman in "O Waly, Waly."

Sometime during the 19th century a variation of "O Waly, Waly" was created, called "The Water is Wide." The song was first "collected" during World War I by British musician and song catcher Cecil James Sharp (1859-1924) while on his voyage from England to the United States.


The Water is Wide

The water is wide, I cannot get o'er
And neither have I wings to fly.
O go and get me some little boat,
To carry o'er my true love and I.

A-down in the meadows the other day
A-gath'ring flow'rs both fine and gay
A-gath'ring flowers, both red and blue,
I little thought what love could do.

I put my hand into one soft bush,
Thinking the sweetest flow'r to find.
I prick'd my finger to the bone
And left the sweetest flow'r alone.

I lean'd my back up against some oak,
Thinking it was a trusty tree.
But first he bended then he broke,
So did my love prove false to me.

Where love is planted, O there it grows,
It buds and blossoms like some rose;
It has a sweet and pleasant smell,
No flow'r on earth can it excel.

Must I be bound, O and she go free!
Must I love one thing that does not love me!
Why should I act such a childish part,
And love a girl that will break my heart.

There is a ship sailing on the sea,
She's loaded deep as deep can be,
But not so deep as in love I am;
I care not if I sink or swim.

O love is handsome and love is fine,
And love is charming when it is true;
As it grows older it groweth colder
And fades away like the morning dew.

(alternate ending)

The water is wide, I cannot get over,
There's no true love, at least not for me,
My love was untrue but I can't complain,
Some day I hope to love again.

-----


In 1972, Hope Publishing Company released a beautiful new hymn arranged by Hal Harold Hopson (b. 1933). The hymn is set to the melody of "O Waly, Waly" and the text is based on the words of the apostle Paul found in I Corinthians chapter 13, which is often described as the love chapter. Since that text is under copyright, I will not present it here. Instead, I will provide a link to the apropriate page of The Cyber Hymnal that displays the text and that has the necessary permissions from Hope Publishing Company.

"The Gift of Love"
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/i/giftlove.htm


-----

Bibliography

The Water Is Wide (song). (2008, February 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:41, February 16, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Water_Is_Wide_%28song%29&oldid=190545608

The Water is Wide (O Waly, Waly)
Part of the section "Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America" of Contemplations from the Marianis Trench. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from http://www.contemplator.com/england/water.html

The Gift of Love
Copyright © 1972, Hope Publishing Company. The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/i/giftlove.htm

Child Ballad 204, Lord Jamie Douglas. Internet Sacred Text Archive. Last updated January 30, 2006. Retrieved February 15, 2008, from http://www.preterhuman.net/texts/religion.occult.new_age/www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch204.htm

388. Waly, Waly
Anonymous. 17th Cent. Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900. Bartleby.com. Retrieved February 16, 2008, from http://www.bartleby.com/101/388.html

Allan Ramsay (poet). (2008, January 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:50, February 16, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Allan_Ramsay_%28poet%29&oldid=182935414

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS


Another Extrasolar Planet Discovered

Astronomers at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (USC) in Spain recently announced their discovery of a huge planet in the star system Gliese 22 (pronounced “Gleez 22”). The findings were recently reported in Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine.

The discovery marks the first successful us of astrometry to find extra solar planets. Astrometry is the discipline which studies the position and movement of celestial bodies.

Prior to this discovery, extra solar planets were found by measuring their stars' radial velocities or by observing the slight reduction in the stars' light that occurs when an orbiting planet passes directly between it and us.

The Gliese 22 star system is composed of three low-mass stars. Two of them form a binary system, in which both orbit around a common center of mass, while the third star - the most distant of the three - orbits the other two.

The new planet, calculated to have a mass 16 times that of Jupiter, was found orbiting the third star.

The discovering team noticed that the third star moved from side to side a little as it orbited the binary system. Investigators said the oscillating motion could only be explained by the presence of another body - the large planet - circling it and pulling it slightly back and forth.

To learn more about the university, the observatory and Extrasolar Planets, please visit the following sites:

Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (English version):
http://www.usc.es/en/index.jsp

Astronomical Observatory "Ramón Mª Aller" (English version):
http://www.usc.es/en/servizos/portadas/observatorio.jsp

The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia
http://exoplanet.eu/


Mercury Excitement

As most of you already know, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury on January 14, 2008, and it has beamed back some surprises.

The spacecraft collected more than 1,200 images and made the first up-close measurements of Mercury since Mariner 10’s three flyby’s in the mid-1970s.

Researchers once thought Mercury was a lot like Earth's moon, but MESSENGER has found many differences. For example, unlike the moon, Mercury has huge cliffs with structures snaking hundreds of miles across the planet's face. The spacecraft also found impact craters that appear very different from lunar craters. One particularly curious crater is called "The Spider."

This type of formation has not been seen before on Mercury and nothing like it has been seen on Earth’s moon. It lies in the middle of a huge impact crater called the Caloris basin and consists of more than 100 narrow, flat-floored troughs radiating from a complex central region. The Spider has a crater near its center, but it's uncertain whether that crater is related to the original formation or came later.

Researchers already knew that Mercury’s Caloris Basin was one of the largest impact craters in the solar system, but MESSENGER has shown it is even bigger than they thought. When Mariner 10 flew by Mercury in the 1970s, it saw only a portion of Caloris basin. Now that MESSENGER has shown scientists the basin's full extent, its diameter has been revised upward from the Mariner 10 estimate of 800 miles to perhaps as large as 960 miles from rim to rim.

In addition, Mercury's magnetic field was found to be different from the measurements of the Mariner 10 observations 30 years ago. While the magnetic field was generally quiet (no magnetic storms) on January 14th, it showed several signs of significant internal pressure. Additional flybys of MESSENGER in late 2008 and 2009 plus a yearlong orbital phase beginning in 2011 will shed more light on the stability and dynamics of Mercury's magnetic cocoon.

MESSENGER also detected ultraviolet emissions from sodium, calcium and hydrogen in Mercury's exosphere. The exosphere is Mercury's super-low-density atmosphere, which astronomers think probably formed from atoms knocked off Mercury's surface. The “knocking” may be caused by contact with hot plasma trapped in Mercury's magnetic field. In addition, MESSENGER encountered Mercury's sodium-rich exospheric "tail" which extends more than 25,000 miles from the planet, and also discovered a hydrogen tail of similar dimensions.

While the latest discoveries are very exciting, astronomers caution that everything should be kept in perspective. Since the future still holds two more flybys followed by a year-long study in orbit, this may only be the beginning.

To learn more, visit the mission home page of MESSENGER, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission
http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/


Visit Saturn on Your Computer

A new interactive 3-D viewer that uses a game engine will allow users to view the Saturn system as Cassini spacecraft sees it. The Cassini at Saturn Interactive Explorer makes the real Cassini mission data fully available in three colorful, easy-to-use features, or “expeditions.”

The "Where is Cassini Now?" expedition shows exactly where the Cassini spacecraft is and what it is doing each moment over the current 24-hour period. Viewers can see the spacecraft move in its orbit and maneuver according to instructions from mission scientists and navigators at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

With the "Mission Overview" expedition, look back in time as Cassini orbited the Saturn system over the past 3.5 years, and fast-forward into the future to see where it is headed. Users can control two virtual cameras to see Cassini fly by Saturn and its moons.

The "Saturn's Moons" expedition gives an in-depth peek at seven of Saturn's moons, providing useful facts and interactive surface views of each one.

To try for yourself the “Saturn Interactive Explorer,” visit this link at the home page of NASA’s Cassini mission:
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/CASSIE

For more information on NASA’s Cassini mission, visit the home page: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov


U-M Library Celebrates Addition of One Millionth Book

Earlier this month, the University of Michigan's library celebrated a milestone: It has digitized its one-millionth book, and recently put it online.

Most of the one million volumes were digitized as part of the ongoing project with Google Inc., which will take several more years to digitize all 7.5 million bound volumes.

The one millionth book was "Maria Mitchell, Life, Letters and Journals," which documents the life of the 19th century American astronomer.

The scanned works can be searched using the online U-M library catalog. Works in the public domain can be read cover-to-cover. Works covered by copyright cannot be read fully, but Web users will be able to assess their contents before deciding whether to borrow or purchase them. You may visit the online library at the following link:
http://www.lib.umich.edu/mdp/


Phoenix Mars Lander Team Completes Test Session

The Phoenix Mars Lander team recently finished their Operational Readiness Test, their final opportunity to be together as a team and practice for the actual mission when the Lander reaches the Red Planet in May.

During the three month mission, the team of scientists must spend each day in a conference room at the University of Arizona (U of A) figuring out what commands to send to the spacecraft. They will then wait a full day before learning whether Phoenix understood and performed its tasks.

Because of the value of every day of the mission, the team leaders recognize that the testing is crucial to the mission success, and they report that they have learned a lot during their “mock mission” test.

The team is running their mission tests using a duplicate model of the Phoenix lander that is positioned in another part of the facility which is off limits to the team during the test. In one of their recent tests, the mission team was given a scenario in which one of the lander legs set down on a rock, causing the lander to shift out of the expected landing position. The team soon figured out how to work around that development in order to take the planned Martian soil samples.

To learn more about the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, visit the mission home page:
http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/


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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Feb 13, 10:33 P.M. (Feb 14, 03:33 UTC) - First Quarter Moon

Feb 13 - Moon at perigee, the point in the Moon's orbit when it is nearest to Earth.

Feb 10 - Asteroid 2006 DU62 Near-Earth Flyby (0.055 AU)

Feb 12 - Asteroid 2007 DA Near-Earth Flyby (0.025 AU)

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Feb 10, 1974 - Mars 4 (Soviet probe), Mars flyby

Feb 11, 1970 - Launch of Ohsumi, Japan's first satellite

Feb 11, 1996 - Cassini spacecraft, Saturn ring plane crossing (3 of 3)

Feb 12, 1947 - Sikhote Alin meteorite fall in Russia

Feb 12, 1974 - Mars 5 (Soviet probe), Mars orbit insertion

Feb 12, 2001 - NEAR-Shoemaker, landing on asteroid Eros

Feb 13, 1852 - Birthday of British astronomer and publisher of star catalogs, including “The Second Armagh Catalogue of Stars” and “The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars” (NGC), John Louis Emil Dreyer (1852-1926)

Feb 14, 1898 - Birthday of American-based Swiss astronomer, Fritz Zwicky (1898-1974)

Feb 14, 1963 - Launch of Syncom 1 (U.S.), the first geosynchronous satellite

Feb 14, 1972 - Launch of Luna 20, Soviet moon sample return mission

Feb 14, 1985 - Launch of the Solar Maximum Mission (Solar Max)

Feb 14, 1990 - Voyager 1 spacecraft, taking of the solar system "family portrait" images

Feb 14, 2000 - NEAR-Shoemaker, asteroid Eros orbit insertion

Feb 15, 1564 - Birthday of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Feb 15, 1992 – Moon flyby of Hiten, the ISAS (Japanese Space Agency) Earth orbiting satellite which was primarily designed to test and verify technologies for future lunar missions.

Feb 16, 1906 - Discovery of asteroid 585 Bilkis by German astronomer, and discoverer of several comets and asteroids, August Kopff (1882-1960)

Feb 16, 1906 - Discovery of asteroids 602 Marianna, 603 Timandra and 604 Tekmessa by American astronomer, discover and co-discoverer of several comets, and discoverer of several asteroids, Joel Hastings Metcalf.

Feb 16, 1948 - Discovery of Uranus moon Miranda by Dutch American astronomer, Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973)


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POET’S CORNER

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
(by Robert Frost. Written in 1922, first published in 1923 in his volume, "New Hampshire.")

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


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BASIC BIBLE

Sometimes the truth of God’s Word is easier to understand when we see the simplicity of the story.


God Helped Isaac
(Based Genesis 26:12-33)

Isaac was a farmer and he lived with this family in the land of Gerar. Isaac and his family grew crops and tended flocks and herds. God loved Isaac and blessed him with many animals and very good crops.

But the people living near Isaac grumbled. They were not happy that Isaac had so much and that they did not. They told Isaac "You have more animals and more crops than us. We are afraid of you because you have so much. We do not want you here. Go away."

So Isaac packed up his home, his animals, and all that he had. He moved to another place and dug a well to get water to drink.

But people in the new place fussed, too. “This is our water," they said.

So Isaac moved again. Every time Isaac moved, he did not grumble. He was kind, even though others were not kind to him.

God loved Isaac. He said: "I am God. Don't be afraid. I am with you. I will take care of you."


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

His name was John Hatton. He lived and died in Lancashire, England in the eighteenth century. We are not certain when he was born, but church records tell us he was christened as an infant on September 25, 1710. We are not sure when he died, but we know that his funeral sermon was preached 83 years later, at the Presbyterian Chapel in St. Helens, Windle, Lancaster on December 13, 1793. We are not even sure how he died, but tradition says it was violent, being thrown from a stagecoach.

Beyond these facts, we also know that he was a musician of sorts. He may have written a great deal of music during his life, but the only melody of his which survives to our time was published with a hymn in 1793, the year of his death. The melody was named for the road in Windle, Lancaster on which Hatton lived--Duke Street.

Hatton's melody was paired with a much older text by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), from his 1719 publication, "The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Applied to the Christian State and Worship." The text is from Watts' poetic paraphrase of the second half of King David's Psalm 72, "Christ's kingdom among the Gentiles."


Jesus Shall Reign

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.

There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The heathen lands, that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at His first dawning light;
And deserts blossom at the sight.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.


-----

Later, the melody was paired with other texts, such as "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," which was originally published in 1775 by Samuel Medley (1738-1799). Medley's text, and similar texts by others, is based on the affirmation of Job: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." (Job 19:25-27 KJV).


I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.

He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!

-----


It is ironic to note that while so little is known about the man who provided this beautiful melody, the texts that it accompanies remind us of things so important and eternal--the constant presence and the lordship of Jesus Christ.

-----


Bibliography

Jesus Shall Reign
The Cyber Hymnal
Last updated January 23, 2008
Retrieved February 7, 2008
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/s/jsreign.htm

I Know That My Redeemer Lives (Medley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Last updated December 5, 2007
Retrieved February 8, 2008
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/k/iknowtha.htm

Biography and music of John Hatton (1710-1793)
Retrieved February 7, 2008
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/h/a/t/hatton_j.htm

The Psalms of David, by Isaac Watts
Project Gutenberg
Release August 12, 2004
Retrieved February 8, 2008
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/13166


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Saturday, February 02, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

AAS Meeting Lectures Online

Now available online are audio and video recordings of many of lectures from the January meet of the American Astronomical Society.

Topics include extrasolar planets, galaxy formation, and star birth, and others. Be aware, however, that the videos are in MP4 format (commonly called iPod format), so you may have to convert the files to your format of choice before enjoying them.

For example, one Internet user downloaded some MP4 files and then converted them to a preferred format using Quicktime Pro. Also, since I have a Creative Zen Micro Photo, I happen to know that Creative brand products include on CD some conversion software tools, but I can say no more beyond that. If you don't normally work with the provided formats or you don't have software to convert the formats, you may run into problems. Oh. I should also mention that I have not had time to download from this site, so I don't have copies of these files, converted or otherwise.

I understand that efforts are under way to make other file formats available for download, but we will have to wait and see how that develops.

To check out the audio and video files, go to this link: http://aas211.showmaestro.com/


LIGO Detected No Gravity Waves from GRB

During the week of January 14, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) attempted, but was unable to detect gravitational radiation associated with a gamma ray burst (GRB). The result was a valuable contribution, as it helped to distinguish between competing models for what powers GRBs. The LIGO detector is due to be upgraded this year so that it may provide more accurate measurements.

LIGO is a facility dedicated to the detection of cosmic gravitational waves and the harnessing of these waves for scientific research. It consists of two widely separated installations within the United States — one in Hanford Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana — operated in unison as a single observatory.

LIGO is being built by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and funded by the National Science Foundation. To learn more about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), visit the observatory home page: http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/


Annular Solar Eclipse

This Wednesday/Thursday, February 6/7, marks the first solar eclipse of 2008. The event is an annular eclipse that will be visible from a shadow that will traverses Antarctica and southern regions of the Pacific Ocean. The interesting aspect of annular eclipses is that, because the moon is farther from Earth than during total eclipses, the moon's silhouette is smaller than the apparent diameter of the sun, and so the sun's light appears as a bright ring around the moon during totality. Most eclipse paths that travel from west to east, but this eclipse path begins by running east to west and slowly turns north before curving west to east near its terminus. Partial phases of the eclipse are visible primarily from eastern Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

The last solar eclipse, on September 11, was a partial eclipse that was visible from South America and Antarctica. The next solar eclipse, a total eclipse, will be on August 1 and will be visible from northeastern North America, Europe and Asia, and totality will be seen from northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Mongolia, and China.

For more information on this and other solar eclipses, visit NASA's Eclipse Home Page: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/solar.html


Cincinnati Observatory Restoration in Progress

The historic Cincinnati Observatory in Mt. Lookout is currently undergoing a $3 million restoration that is scheduled for completion in May. The goal of the project is to bring the facility back to its original appearance. The facility is the nation's oldest and longest continuously operating observatory, established in 1843 and operating in its current location since 1873. The observatory averages upwards of 20,000 visitors each year, putting it in great need of repairs and maintenance.

The building went into serious disrepair during the 1990's and there were discussions by the University of Cincinnati (the current operators of the observatory) to abandon the site so that developers could build condominiums. Historians, local citizens, astronomers and other groups protested and the university reconsidered. Restoration of the building began in 1999, but since that time there have also arisen needs to refinish the pine floors, replace the bookcases and reline and relay the resurface walls.

The restoration is under the supervision of the non-profit Cincinnati Observatory Center. Most of the funding comes from various local foundations, citizen donations, memberships, entrance fees and support from the University of Cincinnati. To learn more about the observatory and the restoration process, visit the home page of the Cincinnati Observatory Center: http://www.cincinnatiobservatory.org


Stardust Comet Dust Resembles Asteroid Material

Scientists were surprised by the results of studying the comet dust samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission. The results indicate that the comet material formed very close to the young sun. In 2006 the spacecraft returned samples from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2"). New research reveals that, while the sample included material that formed very close to the young sun, it was missing ingredients that would be expected in comet dust. Rather than resembling an ancient, unaltered comet, the material more closely matches what they would expect from a meteorite or an asteroid.

The research team specifically searched for two silicate materials that are thought to be unique to cometary interplanetary dust particles: amorphous silicates known as Gems (glass with embedded metal and sulfides); and sliver-like whiskers of the crystalline silicate enstatite (a rock-forming mineral). Stardust is a part of NASA's series of Discovery missions and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Stardust launched in February 1999 and began collecting interstellar dust in 2000. It encountered Wild 2 in January 2004. Stardust was the first spacecraft to safely return to Earth with samples of comet dust.

The follow-on mission for the Stardust spacecraft, Stardust-NExT, is a low-cost mission that will expand the investigation of comet Tempel 1 begun by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. To learn more about the Stardust mission and the follow-on Stardust-NEXT mission, visit the mission homepage: http://www.nasa.gov/stardust


Happy Chinese New Year

February 7 marks the Chinese New Year, which is the Year of the Rat. The Chinese zodiac has twelve animals, one for each year, and the cycle completely rotates every twelve years. This year begins the cycle again with the rat, or mouse (2007 was the year of the pig, or boar).

Legend says that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. According to the zodiac, those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers, and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar cycle and predates the Gregorian calendar by thousands of years. Depending on the authority, February 7 either marks the beginning of the year 4705 or 4706.

To learn more about the Chinese zodiac and Chinese culture, visit "China Today: The Chinese Zodiac": http://www.chinatoday.com/culture/zodiac/zodiac.htm


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THE SKY THIS WEEK

Feb 6, 10:44 P.M. (Feb 7, 03:44 UTC) - New Moon and Annular Solar Eclipse

Feb 6 - The planet Mercury is in inferior conjunction, when Mercury passes between the sun and Earth.

Feb 7 - Annular solar eclipse, visible in Antarctica

Feb 7 - Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat.

Feb 8 - Cassini spacecraft, distant flyby of Saturn moons Epimetheus, Pandora and Atlas


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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Feb 3, 1966 - First landing on the moon, performed by Soviet Union robotic probe Luna 9

Feb 4, 1906 - Birthday of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)

Feb 4, 1967 - Launch of U.S. probe Lunar Orbiter 3

Feb 5, 1974 - Mariner 10 flyby of Venus

Feb 6, 1991 - Re-entry and burn-up of Soviet Union space station Salyut-7, launched April 19, 1982 and host to twelve expedition crews.

Feb 7, 1889 - Birthday of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Feb 7, 1824 - Birthday of British amateur astronomer and astronomy revolutionary, Sir William Huggins (1824-1910)

Feb 8, 1828 - 180th birthday of science fiction author Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Feb 8, 1992 - Ulysses, Jupiter Flyby

Feb 8, 2000 - Discovery of the GRV 99027 meteorite (a Mars meteorite)

Feb 8, 2001 - Discovery of the SAU 094 meteorite (a Mars meteorite)

Feb 9, 1905 - Discovery of Asteroid 558 Carmen by German astronomer and astrophotography pioneer Max Wolf (1863 - 1932).

Feb 9, 1990 - Galileo spacecraft flyby of Venus

Feb 9, 1999 - Launch of STARDUST spacecraft. Collected particles from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2") and collected interplanetary particles


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

The northern tip of India borders the great Himalayan Mountain range. Today, this region is part of the Indian state of Meghalaya, but until 1970 this was the old Indian state of Assam.

About one hundred and fifty years ago, in the Garo Hills of this region, the members of the Garo tribe converted to Christianity. Today, North East India has a tremendous and growing Christan population.

As you would expect, the faith of the Garos spread into all aspects of there lives, including their music. One result of this is a beautiful hymn that is sung throughout the region. In fact it is a favorite Gospel song of all the North East India tribes--perhaps their most favorite.

The song is a Garo text that is combined with a native Hindustani melody--a melody of North India. The tune reflects their love of musical contrasts, with deep lows and soaring highs. The text is the Garo's affirming response to the statement of Jesus in the Gospels: "If any anyone comes after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (based on Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23).


I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.


-----

The hymn of commitment gradually worked its way around the world. It seems that it first appeared in the United States in 1950, with the publication of "Choice Light and Life," compiled by LeRoy M. Lowell and published by the Free Methodist Church (Winona Lake, Indiana). Other publications quickly followed. One was a hymn arrangement in four parts by composer, arranger and editor, William Jensen Reynolds (b. 1920). The arrangement was published in 1959 by Broadman Press. The tune was given the name "Assam," the name at that time for the home region of the Garo tribe. The hymn text included two verses of the original Garo text ("I have decided..." and "Though none go with me...") combined with a third verse written by John Clark.


My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
My cross I'll carry till I see Jesus,
No turning back, I'll follow him.


-----

Bibliography

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Timeless Truths, Free Online Library
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/I_Have_Decided_to_Follow_Jesus/

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Published February 2, 2002, Lewis G. Scharpf, Jr.
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.ajoyfulnoise.net/followJesus.htm

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"
Copyright (c) 2002 to present, PreciousLordTakeMyHand.com
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.preciouslordtakemyhand.com/christianhymns/ihavedecidedtofollowjesus.html

“No Turning Back” (sermon text)
Joe Glaze, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hamilton NY
Presented March 5, 2007
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.firstbaptistchurchhamilton.org/images/3-5-07.pdf

"A Day with Dr. Thom," posted September 17, 2007 by Jason Pratt
"Where in the World is Jay?" a Web log maintained by Jason Pratt
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://charlesjasonpratt.blogspot.com/

Composers: Reynolds, William J.
Hope Publishing Company
Retrieved January 29, 2008
http://www.hopepublishing.com/html/main.isx?sub=27&search=78


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