Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

March 3, 2012

FSU program focuses upon hoofed animals

Our Sunday programs are now held in Compton 224, as opposed to the Planetarium programs formerly held in Tawes Hall, soon to be demolished.

So we are now having programs that cover both the skies and a selection of animals in our Science Discovery Center. March’s program is “Hoofed Animals of Northern Lands and their Skies.”

These 4 p.m. programs have two parts, a half hour presentation in a large classroom (room 224) and then we go to the first floor to view the actual animals (preserved) in our Science Discovery Center where cameras are welcome. (There is an elevator for less mobile individuals.)

These sky-animals programs will continue through 2012 and 2013, changing each school month. In 2014, the new CCIT building (where Tawes Hall formerly stood) will open with a new planetarium facility.

 Last month, our featured program was “Bears and their Skies,” focusing on the eight bear species. Our March program treats well known animals with hoofs, who are herbivores (plant eaters). Even Toed Hoofed animals far outnumber the bears, often forming herds that number in the thousands.

We start with the best known deer — our local Whitetail Deer and Blacktail or Mule Deer (in western North America). Both deer have lighter rumps.

When alarmed, these deer raise their darker tails, exposing their brighter behinds so the rest of the herd can be alerted to a nearby predator. Female deer (does) also raise their tails so their fawns can more easily follow them as they race through the woods.

The two biggest deer are Moose and Elk, with the heaviest Moose nearly 1,500 pounds. With all that bulk, Moose are fairly slow.

To protect themselves during summer, Moose often go into marshes with water up to their nostrils and eat aquatic plants. During the winter, Moose subsist on twigs of willow and popular.

Elk, a subspecies of Red Deer, can weigh as much as 1,000 lbs. The Red Deer are the most widespread in the world, with several varieties on most continents.

 Caribou (called Reindeer in Europe) are even smaller; both sexes have antlers. For during the winter, Caribou can use their antlers and hooves to dig up lichens. Females retain their antlers until spring; pregnant deer can use their antlers to compete with males during lean times.

About two million Reindeer in Europe are domesticated (in herds tended by Laplanders). Fallow Deer can be found across Northern and Southern Europe, living in forests and grassland. Just as Reindeer, Fallow Deer can be domesticated and kept in herds. Most Fallow Deer have white spots over a brown coat.

The Musk Deer has tusks or long canines that offer protection, but no antlers. Musk males have a pouch of musk near their sex organs to attract females. Musk Deer can be found in Eastern Asia from Siberia, the Korean Peninsula and through much of China.

 North America has only one native antelope — the Pronghorn Antelope. Unlike the other antelopes (Bovids), the Pronghorns are the only species in their family.

They are the fastest mammals in North America, having been clocked at 50 miles per hour. Their name comes from the forward facing prong on the male horns.

While deer shed their antlers, the Pronghorns annually shed their sheath of skin over their horns. Female pronghorns either have short horns or no horns at all.

Pronghorns inhabit the arid areas of western U.S. and Canada. Their versatile coat (flat for cold air, erect when warm) allows them to flourish in the heat of a desert or the cold of mountainous areas.

 There are two Bovids (includes cattle, most antelopes, sheep and goats) in our presentation — the massive Musk Ox and Big Horn sheep. Musk Ox are the hoofed animals that live farthest North.

Their massive coat has rough coarse hairs that the snow and rain roll off and a soft inner undercoat that traps their body heat. Both sexes have sharp horns that face forward.

When the herd is threatened, they make a circle and face outwards with their sharp horns exposed to discourage any predators (mainly wolves). Their calves stay in the center of the circle, well protected.

Musk Ox are spread across Northern Canada, upper Alaska, Greenland and Northern Asia. Big Horn sheep have massive curving horns that are thick as a human arm. Like other horned animals, the horns grow throughout their lives.

In the summer, male Big Horn charge at each other, smashing their heads together in an effort to show dominance. Their skulls are thick so they can absorb the impact.

Just as some deer, Big Horns display alarm by lifting up their tails, exposing their white rumps. Big Horns live in western Canada and through the U.S. desert areas.

SKY SIGHTS THIS WEEK: Tomorrow the orange planet Mars will be closest to the Earth at a distance of 62.7 million miles. Mars is now rising as the sun sets and hanging in the sky all through the night. On March 7, the full moon will appear underneath Mars.

The two brightest planets, brilliant Venus and bright Jupiter are slowly approaching in the western dusk. The two planets will be side by side on March 13.

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