Cumberland Times-News


June 8, 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!

The observable universe is about 90 billion light years across. How far we can see is limited by the age of the universe. Beyond this cosmic horizon, the universe could go on forever.

After a coverage of the variety of objects seen from Earth, “Stars and Planets” explains how sky positions are specified and how these positions are affected by our Earth’s two main motions, rotation every day and revolution every year. “Why we have seasons?” is well explained by diagrams.

If you decide to make sky watching one of your hobbies, there are some steps to take: 1. Sky Charts. “Stars and Planets” has monthly star charts for both northern hemisphere and southern hemispheres. (People that live in Australia or South America, see our star groups upside down!) 2. Where are the planets? The planets are wanderers, creeping along the zodiac as they orbit the sun. “Stars and Planets” shows the positions of the seven planets near the start of each year with little colored dots with the year within.(2014 is shown by 14, to save space.) 3. Then how to find the sky objects on the
sky charts? You can use your hands and arms as degree “rulers.” (Stretch either arm fully and point your index finger upward; the width across that finger is about 1 degree. If you stretch apart your fingers while keeping the arm fully extended, the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger is 20 degrees.) 4. Then there is a nice treatment of observing devices — binoculars and telescopes. A brief look at astrophotography follows, including the use of smart phones to capture images.

The next section covers the solar system, the sun, planets and smaller bodies (which can collide with us!) Unusual sky phenomena such as haloes, sun dogs and aurorae are illustrated.

5. How are the stars organized? A two page-spread on our galaxy is very helpful, showing the view if we could travel vast distances and look back. Next are monthly star charts that can be used at a number of latitudes (such as Cumberland 40 N, Hawaii 20 N, Rio de Janeiro 20 S). For a more detailed look, there is a section on all 88 of the constellations that cover the entire sky. For the original 48 constellations, the myths and key telescopic sights are recounted.

For the 40 constellations recognized officially in 1925,“Stars and Planets” states the names and their reasons for naming the constellations after navigation instruments, parts of ships, and animals.

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  • Don’t do it. Don’t do it

    Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 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

  • Mike Sawyers and his father, Frank Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim

    The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hugo Perez Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?

    We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Stopgap

    Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.

    July 16, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • Build it now Build it now

    Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

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

    July 13, 2014