For my 2017 class…

If you’re in my 2017 Solar System class, please put a comment here showing that you’ve found my blog and that you’re following it :)  Please include your first name and last name initial.  Note that you MUST be logged in to your own WordPress blog when commenting or else you’re doing it wrong!

Also make sure you have bookmarked the big class blog aggregator: Astro2110 – The Solar System.  From there, you can follow everyone or specific classmates if you like (when I post them).

new years eve 2017

Hypatia – Historical Astronomers in Context (repost)

<note to students: I went farther than you need to because no one can use Hypatia as their historical figure>

Hypatia – 350?? to 415 C.E. pic source Mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, teacher

Hypatia was the first woman KNOWN to contribute to mathematics and science.  Her father, Theon of Alexandria, was a well-known academic and taught his daughter to follow in his footsteps.  Remarkably, she was the head of the Platonist school of philosophy in Alexandria, Egypt.  She was advisor to rulers and sought out by scholars and those who wanted to learn for she was famed for her oratory skills, her sharp mind, and her virtue.  She worked on astronomical bodies and tools (astrolabes especially), on density, and abstract mathematics of the day.  Her greatest contribution to mathematics turned out not to be an original work but one that described the mathematics of conic sections (ellipses, parabolas, hyperbolas) in a manner more easily understood than the original author.  Unfortunately, she is perhaps most well-known for her manner of death: a mob of Christian fanatics kidnapped her, took her to a church, stripped her of clothing and then of her skin using roofing tiles, then burned her mutilated body.  Many historians say this event was really the end of rigorous scholarship in the once great city of Alexandria.

Other sources of interest about Hypatia:

  • Hypatia biography (from University of St. Andrews)
  • Biographies of Women Mathematicians: Hypatia (from Agnes Scott College)
  • Women in History: Hypatia (Humanist Network News Ezine)

Contemporary person:

Contemporary events:

  • Stained glass starts getting used in Roman churches
  • The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths (410 CE) – basically ended the Western Roman Empire (though the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire lasted another 1000 years).  Generally said to be the end of “classical history” and the start of the “Middle Ages”
  • Hadrian’s Wall (separating “barbarian” Scotland and “civilized” (a.k.a. Romanized) Britain) is overrun for pretty much the final time and allowed to fall into ruin (406 CE)
  • In China – Jin Dynasty
  • In IndiaGupta Empire (“The Golden Age of India”)
  • In Africa – People start settling the area of the Great Zimbabwe (but don’t build stone structures yet)
  • In Mesoamerica – the Maya and Zapotec were the most well-developed cultures but were mostly city-states with Teotihuacan as the most powerful (too early for Aztec)
  • In America – Southwest: Late Basketmaker II Era ; In Midwest/East: Hopewell Culture
  • In South America – most significant cultures are Moche and Nazca (the ones with the lines) (too early for Inca)

Reflection:

I really enjoyed seeing what was going on in the world of Hypatia’s – the things that affected her spheres and what was going on throughout the globe.  Hypatia’s specific world was one where scholarship was valued but it could really be affected by the politics of the era, especially with fanatic Christians.  It seems once Christians of the day got a bit of power or really just stopped being murdered, they adopted some of the same intolerant tactics.  She just happened to be in the wrong city in the wrong time period but she did get to live a scholarly life and be appreciated by MANY in her rather long (for that period) lifetime.  However, she lived when the mighty Roman Empire was finally defeated – what a strange time!  The Western Empire (i.e., not Byzantine) was floundering anyway but that Visigoth sack of Rome was so disheartening to the people of the day.

Elsewhere in the world, I found that what was going on in the Americas particularly interesting – I always have trouble with putting the ancient American civilizations into context.  We hadn’t gotten anywhere near Incans or Aztecs or Iroquois, but the civilizations that were there were mighty themselves.  I always wonder at what we’ve lost over the years from American cultures (from idiotic conquerers), from Mediterranean cultures (from the fires that happened at the Library of Alexandria and from religious zealotry), from just the passage of time…

Information About Eclipses

Here are some of my favorite sites for learning about eclipses (including the upcoming Great American Eclipse!):

moonslide_seip_c800-APOD

“Moon Slide (slim)” from Astronomy Picture of the Day. This “Moon-trail” by Stefan Siep was created by just opening the shutter and keeping it open for about 3 hours. Note the brightness difference between full and eclipsed :)

For the Pedagogy course

We should have a great time blogging! :)

2016 Planetary Alignment!

As described in class, here are my two favorite articles about this alignment:

Get Up Early, See Five Planets at Once! from Sky and Telescope

How to View Five Planets Aligning in a Celestial Spectacle from The New York Times

I happen to adore the NYT diagram because it shows the Solar System view as well as the view from Earth:

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.49.15 PM

View of planetary positioning from “above” the Solar System as well as the view from Earth (from the New York Times)

Planet Nine!

Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet

This is legit folks!  For those who are at a university (like Vanderbilt), this press release has a link to the actual research article in the Astronomical Journal.  It’s a bit heavy at times but well done.

There’s also a pretty good article on Wired: This Isn’t the First Time Astronomers Have “Found” a Planet Nine

P9_KBO_orbits_labeled-NEWS-WEB

(from the press release) The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. Also, when viewed in three dimensions, they tilt nearly identically away from the plane of the solar system. Batygin and Brown show that a planet with 10 times the mass of the earth in a distant eccentric orbit anti-aligned with the other six objects (orange) is required to maintain this configuration.

For my 2016 class…

If you’re in my 2016 Solar System class, please put a comment here showing that you’ve found my blog and that you’re following it :)  Please include your first name and last name initial.  Note that you MUST be logged in to your own WordPress blog when commenting or else you’re doing it wrong!

Also make sure you have bookmarked the big class blog aggregator: Astro201 – The Solar System.  From there, you can follow everyone or specific classmates if you like (when I post them).

2016sparkle-small

Saturn’s Titan doesn’t have it’s own magnetosphere!

So whilst finding out some information about Saturn’s orbiter Cassini, I came across this story: Cassini Catches Titan Naked in the Solar Wind.  We’ve been talking a lot about magnetospheres when we discuss the giant worlds so this whole thing is really interesting!

Titan outside of a compressed Saturn magnetosphere

Titan outside of a compressed Saturn magnetosphere. From NASAs Cassini page

The space probe Cassini was going by Titan in 2013 when a big solar storm hit Saturn’s magnetosphere and compressed it.  This left Titan without the protection of that magnetosphere.  According to the newly published data, Titan has no appreciable magnetosphere because particles interacted with its atmosphere just like the particles in the atmospheres of Venus and Mars (no magnetospheres due to not spinning fast enough and solid core, respectively).  The scientists interviewed for the article talk about how this information shows them that computer models developed for closer worlds can still be used for worlds farther away and that’s awesome :)  I love the Universe :)

My favorite tides

DIFFERENTIALS!! :)

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

During class today, I talked about tides and how there is a great deal of misinformation out there.

My favorite websites for the astronomical explanation of tides are:

The YouTube videos of the awesome spring and neap tides in Clovelly.

Here’s a great animation about tides from the Nebraska ClassAction collection of Astronomical Simulations and Animations.

For my 2015 class…

If you’re in my 2015 Solar System class, please put a comment here showing that you’ve found my blog and that you’re following it :)  Please include your first name and last name initial.  Note that you MUST be logged in to your own WordPress blog when commenting or else you’re doing it wrong!

Also make sure you have bookmarked the big class blog aggregator: Astro201 – The Solar System.  From there, you can follow everyone or specific classmates if you like (when I post them).

2015

Yay for a new semester!