Hodge-podge

Just a little more about my life and things I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days.

First of all, I don’t really like my job, although it gets me out of sitting alone in my apartment, which is good. Mostly I don’t like having to be on my feet for 8 hours a day. The work itself isn’t bad, except when the bathrooms are messy. And Wal-Mart associates are mostly very nice people. Some of them will even discuss history and politics with me, but I need to do more about economic ideas.

I haven’t had time to do much of anything, the last couple of days. But I did start a couple of things.

I’ve borrowed the book The Silmarillion, by JRR Tolkien (published posthumously with editing by his son Christopher), which contains several stories that are the back history of the elves, mostly, from his more famous works, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Its quite fascinating, especially his ideas about multiple Gods creating things. And also, as a genealogy lover, I like learning about the ancestors of the elf Elrond.

Second thing I’ve just started: a friend recently fixed up my laptop for me, which now works normally except for not having internet. Being a tech guy, he gave me a text editor program for computer programmers, also an interpreter and help guide for the computer language Python, a more advanced language related to C and C++. By more advanced, I mean that things you would have to write as programs in C++ are built into the Python language, some advanced data structures, for instance. I studied C++ in college so this should be quite interesting. I don’t know if I’ll get a career doing Python programming but I’ve started trying to learn the language.

I’ve also volunteered to help a pro-liberty PAC here in New Hampshire, called the Get Involved PAC. They basically recruit candidates to run for state office here, especially to fill seats where the incumbent had a score from the NH Liberty Alliance that was less than a B. I actually did that about a week ago but I don’t think I wrote anything about it at the time. The leaders are Free Staters and also part of NHLA, and one of them is also my landlord, the owner of the building where I live.

I’m about to embark on another chapter of my map creation, tackling the more complex state house maps.

Speaking of chapters, I may post some short stories on this site in the near future. I’ve been working on my own fictional world for quite some time but don’t have anything quite ready to publish yet.

I tried stargazing again yesterday morning and could only see the brightest stars. About all I could make out were the two Dippers and Leo.

Today, the sky is much clearer though there are some clouds.

There was a solar eclipse a few days ago, visible only in a small area in Asia or the Pacific Ocean. A solar eclipse is always followed, so I’ve heard, two weeks later by a lunar eclipse. They are seen over a much larger area of the earth. So, in about ten days, at our next full moon, be watching the skies. This one is a partial eclipse, though.

I’m going back out to look at stars, after I consult my sky map again. More later!


 

 

 

Not such a good night for stargazing


One of my many hobbies is stargazing, and I expected it to be a good night for it. I tend to be a light sleeper and wake up several times during the night. Frequently I can’t go back to sleep right away, and sometimes I go out to look at the stars.

Where I live is very good for that. There is a large parking lot right outside my door, so the trees are relatively far away. The only street light is in a neighbor’s yard at least 100 feet away. There are two other apartments on my side of the building, and they could have their outside lights on, but if not, I can usually see a lot of stars. Provided, of course, that it’s not cloudy, there’s not a full moon, and there’s not a lot of traffic on the highway. A bit of traffic I can handle, I just close my eyes to protect my night vision.

Since my door faces north, I can always see the Big Dipper and the North Star. At certain times, Orion, another super-bright constellation, makes an appearance.

Last night I thought would be perfect, since the sky cleared up after the rain in the morning, but unexpectedly there were quite a few clouds at 1 am, the first time I went out. The second time, around 5 am, was just a few minutes before sunrise and the eastern sky was already starting to lighten to blue.  However, I could see the brightest stars, plus as a bonus, just as it was about to set in the west, the planet Jupiter (which has been near the constellation Leo for quite some time).

I recently lost the contents of two external hard drives that both failed. One of the things I lost was some documents showing the stars each month, going back a couple of years. I have, however, started to collect them again. On Skymaps.com you can get the last three months for free. They do three different latitudes: Northern (I think 45° North), Equator, and Southern. Their maps show where the planets are as well as give a list of conjunctions, occultations, eclipses, meteor showers, and other major skywatching events for the current month. I highly recommend their maps for anyone who enjoys looking at the stars.

My scientific interests

2015 has been an exciting year in astronomy, which I have been interested in since I was a kid. I earned the astronomy merit badge when I was a boy scout, along with most of the other nature-related badges.

Two exploration space missions by NASA reached their most exciting point in the last six months. In April, the spaceship Dawn reached its second study location. It had previously orbited the large asteroid called Vesta. Now, for one year, it is orbiting the largest asteroid, Ceres (which is also the smallest dwarf planet, and the largest object in the Main Asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter), obtaining all kinds of images and other data.

The most exciting event was just over a month ago. In mid-July, the spaceship New Horizons finally reached the dwarf planet Pluto (which was considered a planet for 76 years, from its discovery in 1930 until the astronomy conference in 2006 which created the category of dwarf planet). For those who don’t know, a planet has three characteristics – it is rounded by its own rotation, it orbits the sun directly, and since this 2006 conference, it also has to have “cleared its orbit”, meaning there are no similar-size or larger objects in its same orbital area. Pluto fails the third test, and so it is called a dwarf planet.

But there was still a lot of interest in getting a good look at it. Our best images from the Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit around the Earth, were not all that good. The New Horizons will be sending back its data for about 18 months, as it moves toward a rendezvous with another Kuyper belt object (that is the name for the ring of objects including Pluto, that are just beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune).

Anyway, I was super-excited about these astronomy events, almost as excited as I am whenever my church announces a new temple.