Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

April 5, 2014

Here’s a fine guide to new Cosmos series

This columnist recommends the new series: “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” presented on FOX on Sundays at 9 p.m. and on the National Geographic channel at 10 p.m. on Monday and Friday evenings.

If you lack cable or a satellite dish, try the FOX site COMSOSonTV.com on the internet where you can watch entire episodes of the new Cosmos, including the commercials.

I expect that after the new COSMOS concludes with Episode 13, the entire series will be released on both DVD and Blu-Ray. The last Sunday in March featured Episode 5, so by June 1 and June 2, Episode 13 will be shown.

While I was waiting in line at a local grocery store, I noticed a National Geographic special edition titled “Beyond our Universe: Exploring the Vastness of Space.”

This 127 page edition was written by Dr. James Trefil, one of the best U.S. science writers for the public. Parts of the text have appeared previously in Trefil’s book, “Space Atlas.”

This special issue has ISSN 2160-7141 and was published this year. This issue can be ordered on line at shopping/com.specialeditions “Beyond Our Galaxy: Exploring the Vastness of Space” starts with The Solar System, then The Milky Way, The Universe and lastly the Multiverse.

There are many pages that display spectacular space scenes, some artist generated and other actual space images. What I like are the 18 space maps included, some developed especially for this edition.

In the Solar System section, there is a two page spread, showing both the inner planets (out to Mars) and the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).

There is also a two page spread of Mercury, based on the Messenger orbiter that shows the major features on both sides of Mercury. Some of Mercury’s craters are named after literary, musical and art figures, including Shakespeare, Byron, Kipling, Holst, Brahms, Ives, Picasso and Rodin.

There is very realistic painting showing the planetary collision that likely led to the formation of our moon.

There is another two page spread showing both the near side of the moon (faces Earth) and the hidden side of the moon (turned away from us). Mars’ two page spread shows the solar system’s largest volcano, Olympus Mons, three times as high as Mount Everest.

The giant planets have no solid surfaces, but their moons that allow razor sharp images (no atmosphere to obscure their features). Jupiter’s inner two big moons, Io and Europa are both shown in two page spreads.

Io has 400 active volcanoes while Europa has many cracks in its icy crust. Titan, Saturn’s big moon has a nitrogen atmosphere denser than our Earth’s atmosphere but with a surface temperature nearly 300 degrees F below zero.

   The Milky Way section features a two page spread of our spiral galaxy, showing our sun’s location and the delicate spiral arms. The sun, our star gets another two page spread, showing both the interior layers and external eruptions.

There is a full page image of living stromatolites, bacterial life forms that can be traced back 3.5 billion years ago. “Beyond our Universe” tackles the two biggest cosmic mysteries — Dark Matter (first realized in the 1930s) and Dark Energy (used to explain the accelerating expansion of our universe that was discovered in the late 1990’s).  

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: Early this evening, the half full moon appears with the bright planet Jupiter high in the southwest.

Find the Big Dipper high in the north; then extend its handle outward to the twinkling orange star Arcturus. Go to the right (south) of Arcturus to spot the orange planet Mars, matching the brightest night star.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014

  • A long and winding road faces our food

    Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.

    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

  • Moon-watching easy when you know how

    Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.

    June 21, 2014

  • Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets

    How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).

    June 15, 2014

  • Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one

    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

    May 18, 2014

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