Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

September 1, 2012

Star Lab returning; here’s an Earth quiz

This Friday, I will begin my Friday visits of Allegany County elementary schools with a portable planetarium.

The planetarium system that belongs to the board of education is called Star Lab. This will be my 31st year of doing Star Lab presentations, having started in 1981.

I use two projection cylinders, one for the night sky and the other showing the major features of Earth’s surface. Last year, I started using the Earth cylinder; I hope to break up my fall 2012 presentations in half, one of the night sky and the other on the Earth’s surface.

I have prepared a one page file called “Key Earth Facts,” which can be downloaded from the teacher’s resource area of // .

Using this file, here are some questions about our planet. Near the bottom of this column, I will reveal the correct answers. I hope you find these questions interesting and useful; you are welcome to try them on your friends.

1. How far does the Earth travel around the sun each day? Of course, we make one complete orbit each year. Knowing the Earth-sun distance and the number of days in a year is essential. Is this daily distance: A)25,000 miles? B)238,000 miles? or C) 1.6 million miles?

2. How fast does the Earth rotate in our area in miles/hour? Knowing the circumference of the Earth, the time it takes the Earth to rotate and allowing for our latitude are all needed. Is our rotation speed? A) about 600 mph? B) about 800 mph?  C) about 1024 mph.

There are four major oceans. Here are the oceans in alphabetical order:  Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific.

3. Arrange the oceans with the largest first, the next largest second, and so on.

4. What ocean covers more area than all seven continents combined?

There are seven continents: In alphabetic order the continents are: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.

5. Which two continents have had rock bands named after them? (Hint: You have to go back to the 1980s.)

6. In which continent do over 60 percent of humans dwell?

7. Which continent has the lowest population density? Population density is the number of people per square mile.

(Antarctica doesn’t count as it has no permanent residents, just visiting scientists.)

8. After China, India and the United States, what is the fourth most populous country in the world?

9. Which major country has two of the six most populous urban areas in the world?

10. In North and South America, which are the two most populous urban areas? (Hint: People of these two urban areas tend not to speak in English.)

  Here are the answers to above questions:

1. The Earth’s average distance from the sun is 93 million miles. The circumference of the Earth’s orbit (being nearly circular) is about 584 million miles. 584 million miles/365.25 days = 1.6 million miles/day. Answer C)

2. The Earth rotates every 23 hours and 56 minutes or 23.93 hours. The Earth’s circumference = 25,000 miles.

  We are about 40 degrees latitude north so our rotation speed is about Cos(40 degrees) = 0.766 as fast as at the equator. This yields a local rotation speed of 798 miles per hour. Answer B)

3. The size order of the 4 oceans are: Pacific (largest), Atlantic, Indian and Arctic (smallest).

4. The Pacific Ocean covers an area of 64 million square miles. The 7 continents cover an area of 57.3 million sq. mi.

5. The two continents that have had rock bands named after them are Asia and Europe.

6. 60 percent of humans (now over 7 billion) dwell in Asia, which has 30 percent of the land area. Answer = Asia

7. Which continent has the lowest population density? Australia with a population 21.8 million (0.3 percent of humans) has an area of 3.036 million square miles (5.3 percent of world’s land). Australia is considered to be both a continent and an island.

8. After China, India and the United States, the fourth most populous country in the world is Indonesia.

9. India has the second most populous urban area (Delhi, India with over 24 million people) and the fourth most populous urban area (Mumbai, formerly Bombay with 21.8 million people).

10. The two most populous America urban areas are Sao Paulo, Brazil with 21.3 million people and Mexico City, Mexico with 20.5 million people.

SKY SIGHTS THIS WEEK Last month’s moon (full on Aug. 31) is still prominent in the late evening sky.

On Sept. 6, the moon will appear close to the Seven Sisters star cluster in the late evening northeastern sky.

On the morning of (Sept. 8), the moon will appear close to the planet Jupiter in the southern dawn sky. The moon’s phase is then half full with the curved side facing to the left.

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

Text Only
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

Latest news
Must Read
House Ads