When Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

The Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

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Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition.

Over millennia, stars along the path of the planets and sun through the sky held a special place for careful observers. Twelve patterns were imagined, each a named constellation. The word “constellation” means “to know from the stars.” Indeed, we can know much from the constellations. For example, it is winter in the northern hemisphere when the constellation “Cancer” (The Crab) is high in the night sky.

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Click photograph for my OnLine Galleries. Clicking the other photographs in this post will yield a larger image.

On the evening of January 20/21, 2019 the full moon climbed from the horizon (Click this link for the first post of this series “Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019…”) to a point high overhead were it appeared to float among the stars of Cancer, the crab. On the way, the disk darkened as its orbital path brought it into the earth’s shadow. The surrounding stars emerged from the darkening full moon glow. I captured the sight using a Canon dslr, the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on a tripod by setting the ISO to 3200 to reduce the exposure to 1.3 second and placing the auto exposure area (a feature of the dslr/lens combination) away from the full moon.

Additionally, the moon is overexposed on the original image, for the following I used Photoshop to cut and paste the moon from the last photograph of this blog, reduced it to the approximate angular diameter of the moon and pasted it over the overexposed disk. There are better astrophotography images of this event, this image is mine to use and adequate for this purpose.

The Moon on the Crab’s back

Cancer is difficult to trace, the constituent stars are all dim. Hint: click on any of the following photographs and a new page will open with a larger resolution image. What is striking in the following photograph are the number of apparently paired stars. Our sun is an exception, it is not part of a star system; even so, most of these pairings are line of sight, not physical star systems. For example, starting from the “red” moon there is a faint star, “Delta” of Cancer. Trace an imaginary line between the moon and Delta, in your mind move the line down and a little to the right to a pair of dim stars, “Nu” and “Gamma” of Cancer (left to right). The two are not a system, being 390 and 181 light years away. Each is a multiple star system in itself as is Delta. The three are on the back of Cancer, with two stars on the upper right being “Alpha” and “Beta”.

A most interesting object of this photograph, well worth the price of binoculars, is between Nu and Gamma and a little higher, towards the moon. It was what I saw the first time viewing this photograph: a cluster of stars called “The Beehive.” This was how I identified the location of the moon on the back of this crab.

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Click photograph for a higher resolution version
Total Lunar Eclipse and Surrounding Sky with labels for primary element of the Cancer constellation

For the following photograph I cut/pasted/enlarged a square with the (enhanced) Moon, Delta. Nu and Gamma, below, with the Beehive between them. See that the stars, though “fuzzy”, have colors. Delta is a orange giant, also known as the “Southern Donkey”. Gamma, the “Northern Donkey,” and NU are white. The back of the Crab holds a two donkeys eating from a manger, a Galactic Stellar Cluster name “The Beehive.” This night the moon joined the feast.

Click photograph for a higher resolution image
“Beehive” with Total Lunar Eclipse with labels for primary elements of Cancer Constellation

The Beehive

With binoculars (or telescope with a wide field eyepiece), the Beehive is a glorious spectacle of 1,000 gravitationally bound stars, a mixture of colors from blue to red. It was one of the first objects Galileo viewed through the telescope, picking out 40 stars. In later years it was here we found the first planets orbiting sun-like (i.e. having the characteristics of our yellow star) stars within a stellar cluster. In spite of being 600+ light years distant the Beehive was known since ancient times, being visible without a telescope in clear, dark skies.

The Total Eclipse

A glorious moon at full totality is captured in the following two photographs. I used the dslr at 3200 ISO with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens at 300 mm. Setting the exposure area to the Moon, the exposure was 3.2 seconds.

In the first photograph, I especially enjoy the effect modeling of the shadows does to make the disk appear round. The field of view does not include Delta, Gamma, Nu or the Beehive. At this time I was not aware how close the Beehive was, or even that the Moon was in Cancer. The beauty of the moon floating among the stars is apparent.

Click photograph for larger image
Click photograph for larger image

Click link for the first post of this series 

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Growth and Beauty

a exploration of logarithmic spirals and symmetry

Growth

An early thought of mine, as a child, was to wonder, “How large does a person grow?” If growth was perpetual, there was no end to how large I will become; yet, tested against observed reality, “Why was it the case this was unlikely?” Years later, when recalling this, I understood my intuition touched upon the logarithmic spiral and mollusk shell.

Three Scallops and One Tallin

Sea Oat stalk, photographed above, after it dries slowly in the sun and wind, curls into a logarithmic spiral. One two dimensional spiral may be compared to another by measuring the rate and direction of opening, the increase in distance between the part closer to the source and the outer swirl. The growth of all shells follow a logarithmic spiral in three dimensions where the progression from a staring plane, as well as the direction, up or down from the plane, is an element.

Sea shells give evidence to my question of “how large can one grow.” The size of each of the millions encountered on a beach is an example of a life ended. Each of record of the length and character of the organism. For example, a close inspection of the bottom shell of the above photograph, a tellin of the family Tellinidae, reveals the spiral is growing toward the surface of the sand. Imagine wrapping your hand around the outer edge of the tellin with your thumb pointed down.

Each of the four shells of the above photograph had a mate, were one of a pair. Types of shells share characteristic pair symmetries. For example, a pair of tellins display a type of asymmetry called chirality, also called “handed-ness” after the same property of your right and left hands. One shell half (from the same individual) is the mirror image of the other, each unbalanced as the growth spirals toward opposite directions.

Asymmetry, halves from different individuals

When I started beachcombing, examining collected shells I did not have a pair from the same individual and incorrectly concluded direction of growth was unique to an individual. The ribbing of the above two shells illustrate three concepts: the logarithmic spiral growth pattern, chirality, as well as how I came to that wrong conclusion: that two individuals can grow in different directions. It was a logical hop to understand how, to make two shells hinged at the source of the growth spiral, each individual requires two halves, each a mirror image of the other. That every member of the species demonstrated the same asymmetry, each half grows in the opposite direction.

Asymmetry, attached matching halves

The above photograph shows attached matching halves. The attachment point was a surprise: the apparent source point is not attached to the ligament joining the halves? I have yet to understand this. Do you?

Beauty

The association of beauty with scallop shells bridges thousands of years. For example, a fresco of the Roman goddess Venus, born from the ocean riding a shell, was unearthed from Pompeii. The living organism is not part of the story, just the shell. Why the scallop? My answer is, “Each half is completely, in itself, symmetrical.”

The top three shells of the first photograph are scallops. The first and last, broken by the waves, are missing parts. The middle scallop, small and off-white, is complete. Place an imaginary line down the center and each side is identical. Applying the real world (i.e., physics) to myth, a scallop shell allows the goddess to move forward in a straight line. Sailing an asymmetrical shell, she moves in an eternal circle.

An object with symmetry is visually complete unto itself, self-contained; functionality aside, one scallop does not required a partner. The paired shells are interesting in they do not match, one is deeper, it encloses more volume. The deeper side rests under the surface, allowing the top halve to present a lower profile the better to hide from predators.

Calico Scallop Shell

The scallop echoes the beauty of Venus. Symmetry enhances human features (earch “Venus (mythology)” for images of her face through the ages), though it does not define beauty. An overly symmetrical face seems strange. I will close with an extreme example, the other day I came upon this beach crab wandering around in the daylight. Symmetry does NOT enhance its features.

Christmas Ornaments 2018 VI

The past summer, the first of my retirement, my early morning hours were spent on Ancestry.com researching our family histories to bring this process, started 2013 in preparation for our tour of Ireland, to a point where I can start to consolidate it into a document shared with other family members.

Pam, at the Cobh Heritage Center

It is a wonderful feeling when the pieces come together. For example the passenger manifest when Grandfather McArdle brought Grandmother and then three year old Mom to Quebec, Canada from the port of Belfast April 1926.

Outside the exhibits there was this collection of authentic emigration trunks on a hand cart.
My father’s trunk from the war was stenciled with his name. A. Lett. took such care marking this suitcase, blocking out the black ground for the carefully hand written white letters.

Their belongings are gathered together in just such a manner. My parents marked all my belongings that left the home with me with my name and address.

Our thought were on this when we selected this suitcase marked with the shamrock from a “Christmas Store” along the streets of the Pennsylvania town of Jim Thorpe, as the memory of our ancestors our exploration of Ireland.

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Click this link for the first “Christmas Ornaments 2018” post.

Click this link for another post about Cobh, Ireland, “Annie Moore and her Brothers.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Christmas Ornaments 2018 IV

tongues of flame

Carrying on the thoughts on lambency from my last post, “Christmas Ornaments 2018 III”, here is a macro of our Christmas tree.  There is no element of the Christmas celebration so puzzling to outsiders as the practice of sacrificing a beautiful tree, to drag it inside for display, presenting a part of the forest as a sacred object, touched by light or, in earlier times, tongues of fire (candles).

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery
Pam presents me with a Christmas ornament every year and this was the first.  

Stories of the fragrance of holiness, sometimes attributed to the Holy Spirit or Saints, are sprinkled throughout traditional Christianity within personal testimony and scripture as well as in our celebrations and rites as incense.  A character of the freshly cut pine that melds well with this tradition is the unmistakable fragrance of a freshly cut evergreen conifer , reminiscent of the precious, aromatic resin frankincense, one of the gifts to the infant Jesus from the three wise men of the east.  In spite of saving several dozen authentic trees, our artificial conifer has not acquired the sacred fragrance.

The first blown-glass bulbs, such as our large elaborate specimen of the photograph, were produced by heating sand to the melting point, putting a dab on the end of a very long heat resistant pipe.  When encircled by a clay mold, when the pipe is blown into the glass expands to coat with clay with a thin layer of glass.  The addition of silver and other shiny compounds allow the finished product to capture and reflect light.  Each bulb is its own lambent tongue of flame, licked with captive light.

Click this link for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills        

Carpenter Falls flows into Skaneateles Lake

on the jug path

Under a crystal blue September sky, my wife and I climbed into the gorge of Bear Swamp Creek to the foot of this waterfall past the site of a distillery where, years ago, locals used to frequent using a “jug path.”

The creek is strictly protected as part of the water source for Syracuse, flowing from the Skaneateles Highlands past historical villages such as “New Hope.” Before merging with Skaneateles Lake, the creek traverses this 90 foot fall, call Carpenter Falls.

You need to climb the steep slopes of the gorge for this unobstructed view.

It is even possible to climb to the ledge behind the water. Standing on the ledge, the stream passes 50 feet overhead. It is a lovely view down the gorge in all seasons.

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This site is protected by the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Valparaiso Connections VIII

Captain Arturo Prat and Chilean Naval Tradition

Captain Arturo Prat and the Esmeralda

After reading my last post “Valparaiso Connections VII” why Captain Pratt was so honored by the nation?  

From the starboard side of the Regatta while docking at Valparaiso. On the right is the port with shipping containers, beyond are the Chilean Navy frigates 
Almirante Blanco Encalada and
Almirante Latorre at anchor.

On that morning, May 21, 1879 the two Chilean ships blockading Iquique port were surprised by two Peruvian warships from the port of Callao, the monitor Huáscar and armored frigate Independencia.

View west from La Sebastiana, former residence of Neruda, on Florida Hill.  We look over the city, docks and Chilean Naval Vessels to the Pacific Ocean.


Arturo Prat commanded the Chilean corvette Esmeralda. 
 Carlos Condell de la Haza  was Covadonga’s commander.

CS Almirante Blanco Encalada (FF-15), a modern frigate of the Chilean Navy at anchor.  With the Durante Point lighthouse, several fast fishing boats returning with their catch. 

The Chileans are outgunned by the Peruvians in armored ships.  Condell fled in the Convadonga, pursued by the Independencia.  This was the wiser course and most militarily effective because, following the Convadonga into shallow waters the deeper draft Independencia lost advantage when it ran aground and was lost. 

We did not have time to explore the National Maritime Museum.

Prat stood ground in the middle of the bay, any canon shots simply bounced off the heavily armored Huascar.  The Esmeralda suffered shot after shot until the command of the Huascar, Captain Graf, decided to ram the Esmeralda to force a surrender and safe useless death.

Naval Cadet with friend viewing the ships at anchor.

At the first ram to the stern, as the ships were in contact, Prat ordered an attack, “Let’s board, boys.”  In the confusion only two seamen joined   Prat.  One failed to board, Prat and Petty Officer Juan de Dios Aldea attacked.  Dios Aldea was mortally wounded.  Prat continued to advance alone, to the amazement of the Peruvians, awed at his courage.  Prat was gunned down on the deck of the Huascar. 

He crew watched in horror.  When the Esmeralda was rammed again, this time in the bow, Sublieutenant Ignacio Serrano lead  of 10 Chileans to board for an attack with machetes and rifles.  They were massacred by the mounted Gatling gun, only Serrano survived.  

The example of Prat and his crew is taught today.  Arturo Pratt is the most common street name, as well as plazas, buildings.  Four major warships were named after him.  The current active ship is the frigate FFG 11, the Capitan Prat.  The Chilean naval academy is named 
Escuela Naval Arturo Prat.  His portrait is on the 10,000 peso Chilean note.

Lighthouse on Punta Duprat

Click this link for the first post in this Valparaiso Connections series.

Valparaiso Connections VII

Fertile Land and Saltpeter, spoils of war

Plaza Victoria

This is an answer for those of who responded to my last post Valparaiso Connections VI with “what does that desert in Peru have to do with Valparaiso?”  It starts with the Plaza Victoria at the end of Pedro Montt Avenue.  Victoria, as in victory not Queen Victoria.   At the beginning of the 19thcentury this was a beach, the site of several ship wrecks.  It was set aside as a gathering place by the Mayor, named Plaza Nueva (New Plaza), for a bullring until bullfights a law banned bullfighting on September 1823. The plaza became a place of public executions and, after Chile’s victory in the Battle of Yungay, a place of celebration, formally renamed for the victory.

The Central Valley of Chile is an exception to the topology north through Lima where agriculture and population centers follow river valleys watered by the Andes and surrounded by waterless wastes.  Yungay, is among one of those watered desert valleys.  Located 120 miles north of Lima, Peru at about 8,000 feet just below a summit of the Western Andes, remnants of cultures from 10,000 B.C. are proof of agriculture and human settlement. It was near Yungay, on January 20, 1839 (summer in the southern hemisphere) a force of Chilean and Peruvian dissidents called the United Restorative Army defeated a Peru-Bolivian Confederation Army to end the War of Confederation. The resulting split into different countries of Peru and Bolivia weakened a threat to Chile and Argentina, aimed in large part toward the broad and fertile Central Valley of Chile. The desperation in view in my post Valparaiso Connections VI was in large measure a motivation war, this motivation is still powerful today.

 The subsequent prosperity allowed reclamation of the land of Plaza Victoria from the sea.  For example, in my post Valparaiso Connections V we learned how French immigrants arrived and developed Central Valley wineries in the 19th century.   Around the time of the victory Chacobuco Street was built adjacent to the plaza on reclaimed land, the Plaza Victoria was pulled from the sea.  

The concrete Lions and bronze statue captured in the above gallery, were elements of a round of enhancements to Plaza Victoria begun 1870.

Monument to the Heroes of Iquique

Here we see from the Regatta bridge a monument to the Heroes of Iquique.   The Battle of Iquique, May 21, 1879, is remembered annually as Naval Glories Day (Dia de las Glorias Navales) .

  Click this Link for the Fine Art Photography Gallery.

This monument commemorates the destruction of the Chilean warship Esmeralda.  At the monument peak is Arturo Prat Chacón, captain of the Esmeralda who perished with his wooden ship.  He and the crew were blockading the then Peruvian port of Iquique along with another ship, the Covadonga.

May 1879 was in the initial phase of the War of the Pacific, fought over rich mineral deposits of the Atacama desert.  Today, the Chilean flag is over these barren wastes, seen here flying over a roadside memorial to an automobile accident victim.  The desert is the backdrop, there are no animals or plants here, only red dirt.  NASA uses the Atacama in simulations of the Martian environment. 

There are deposits of the mineral saltpeter, mined by large operations.  Here is the entrance of a World Heritate site we visited while docked at Iquique. 

The mining operation was literally scraping the deposits lying on the ground and processing it into, among other products, nitrogen
fertilizer.  At that time the operation was hugely lucrative, employing thousands in very difficult conditions.  That is a different story. 

Captain Prat faced two armored Peruvian warships, one the iron clad Huáscar.  Over the course of four hours the Esmeralda was overpowered and sunk.  The Huascar and the 22,500 mountain peak at Yungay, Huascarán, are named for an Inca chief.  

The monument honors the bravery of Captain Prat and his crew, all of whom are named on plaques.

After the Huáscar rammed Esmeralda a third time to sink it, the Huáscar captain, Miguel Grau Seminario, rescued Chilean survivors in danger of drowning.  In the meantime, the armored Peruvian warship was lured into the shallows and destroyed.  Although the blockage on Iquique was lifted Peru lost one of its most powerful ships at the cost to Chile of an older wooden ship.

The defeat and examples of the Esmerelda crew and captain brought a wave of recruits to the Chilean forces.  Chile was the victor of the War of the Pacific, vast tracks of the Atacama desert were taken from Bolivia, including the Saltpeter mines, shutting that country off from the Pacific Ocean.  There is a connection between these memories and the Training Ship anchored in the harbor, the sixth ship to carry the name, Esmeralda (BE-43). 

See my posting Valparaiso Connections V for the more recent history of the Esmeralda.


Click this link for the first of the Valparaiso Connections 

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills