A Nothing To Howl At Super Wolf Blood Eclipsed Moon

 

To say the least, I’d be flattering myself to even whisper the words ASTRONOMER and CRITIC anywhere in the vicinity of my birth-name… even after qualifying / clarifying those proper nouns with adjectives such as RANK and AMATEUR.

And far be it from me to negatively critique a lunar eclipse… one of Ma Nature’s most magnificent performances… BUT… this time out… as far as I was concerned… her show was playing out in a crappy venue… in spite of the atypically (for a Michigan winter) clear skies.

Unlike my past experiences of this nature, I’d categorize last night’s total eclipse a total bust.

Many moons ago, I had derived far more enjoyment from watching Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor setting just as the eclipse had achieved totality. True, I had been booted from “The Theatre” long before the start of “Act II: The return to Full Phase” but half a “show” had been better than none.

And speaking of none… last night’s problems had arisen right from the get-go. The temperature had already plummeted to 0° F / -18° C… with the wind chill factor only making matters worse. By eclipse end the predicted temps would be tanking out at -7° F / -22° C.

Adding to this meteorological misery was the viewing angle. With the Moon at the zenith, it didn’t take long for this to become a (literal) pain in the neck. My in-advance awareness of this positioning problem was the precise reason that I hadn’t even bothered lugging out my 90mm telescope (I mean who’d even want to crouch down even closer to the recently fallen, thick, cold blanket of snow?)

Anyway… long sigh… with my three layers of clothing (inclusive of a thick down parka, lined gloves, long-johns and winter boots) still proving inadequate… with self-preservation mode constantly kicking in full force, I found myself needing to return (frequently) to the not-so-great indoors to warm up. And that need is at the crux of this negative review.

While I cannot speak for everyone… I found what was really missing was that uninterrupted dramatic build up towards totality. It’s kind of like leaving the movie theater to go buy popcorn and returning just as the protagonist… just in the nick of time… heroically saves the day. In other words…

My needing to repeatedly rejoin this eclipse in progress ruined the mood. Even timing it out to return at the precise moment of totality presented new problems. At that juncture, my eyes were no longer accustomed to the dark. Adding to my woes was how the overhang of my parka’s hood was constantly blocking my line of sight. Try dodging that while attempting to relocate the directly overhead Moon, now darkened by the Earth’s shadow. As for “losing” the hood? Yeah, right… just what I needed… frostbitten ears. Need I say more?

Orienting my head back into its default position and glumly swaying it side to side, once again the cold proved too much. Now back indoors and reclining on my sofa, head resting comfortably, I dozed off and didn’t wake up until long after the “Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse of 2019” had ended.

All in all… at least in my neck of the woods… very little to howl at!

 

 

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“Apollo 8, you are Go for TLI!”

On this day, 50 years ago, at 7:51 AM EST, a Saturn V rocket blasted off from Florida… from the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A… thereby sending America’s Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders into Earth orbit. Upon completing a subsequent, 2 1/2 hour long, methodical checklist to confirm all systems go, Capcom (Capsule communicator) Michael Collins radioed the astronauts thusly…

“Apollo 8, you are Go for TLI.”
(TLI = Translunar Injection)

With each passing minute and mile during this three day / quarter of a million mile mission, these three brave men were taking the type of giant leap, which the late President John F. Kennedy had committed America to… i.e., they were further laying the groundwork for a lunar landing by the end of the 60s decade.

True, both the US / USSR space programs had started out as a thinly veiled extension of the coldhearted cold war… i.e, fierce international competition to simultaneously determine which superpower could reach the Moon first and thereby establish nuclear ICBM superiority.

However… American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts… also, unintentionally wound up transcending most politicians’ foolhardy posturing and knuckle-headed, knuckle dragging narrow-mindedness.

Indeed, as these missions literally soared into space, so did the human spirit. Our successes glowingly illustrating our innovativeness and resolve. Even our failures (inclusive of the death of astronauts / cosmonauts) heightened our awareness of the preciousness of life. The most telling aspect, by far, so far, was that for a fleeting moment in the annals of history we had become a unified people.

A couple of prime examples of this unification are rooted deeply within this very historical Apollo 8 flight… the Christmas Eve, Moon to Earth audio / video transmission of Borman, Lovell and Anders reading from the Book of Genesis while focusing their camera on lunar landscape images passing beneath them and [2] Anders’ eye opening, soul searching snapshot… what was to be later titled Earthrise.

While one half century’s worth of waning moon phases could never cause any waning of my own sense of unity… well… regrettably… not enough of us… who lived vicariously through our astronauts’ successes… remain.

As for those of us who have either forgotten or were born since that era… well… too many educators… restricted to George W. Bush, teach to the test, tactics… have not been able to adequately convey this feeling to energize young minds… well… that is… if/when NASA’s outer space glory days / achievements are even covered in the first place.

Indeed… what would any such “child left behind” ever know about any of that?

I’m not saying that our survival as a species, necessarily, wholly, depends upon America reviving its space program. What I am saying is that my homeland… indeed nations spanning our globe… must aspire to something greater… something more positive… oh… say… utilizing our scientific know-how to clean up our environment… to conquer discrimination, intellectual / nutritional starvation and other such human suffering.

 

A Pathogenic Dealey Plaza?

 

Following the (alleged), lengthy, outward-bound trail of “bread crumbs” extending from the White House to two specific boudoirs, we now know how sufficient funds proved insufficient in silencing a porn star and a Playboy bunny… i.e., could not prevent them from exposing the X-rated (alleged) prez’s (alleged) extramarital hook-ups.

1. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… one wonders how a self-proclaimed “stable genius” could ever be caught in flagrante delicto. One would think that, at the very least, he’d be aware of the fact that…

Money Can’t Buy Him Either Love or Silence!

How ironic it is, indeed, how he cannot even properly assess who’s to blame. Hell, all he would ever need to do is gaze adoringly into the nearest mirror. Now, that’s not asking too much from a narcissist… is it? Well… apparently it is.

Instead, we find that his persecution complex, paranoia and arrested development are all acting like a harmful drug interaction… i.e., one that drives him to bogusly brand finger-pointing Democrats and liberals as mudslinging disseminators of “fake news”.

At the risk of over-generalizing… must anyone remind the (alleged) prez that sex industry workers tend to be liberally minded? Such a ‘tude could certainly prove an asset for anyone who bares it all and/or boinks for bucks. Additionally, many of these folks feel the “allure” of porn wages, which far exceed the non-living, minimum wage jobs, which billionaire conservatives purportedly “create”. As such, a nude model / porn star could neither feel any loyalty to the big bucker Donny… nor could he ever expect them to cozy up to the glaring hypocrisy of his publicly, pretending to be a Bible thumper while privately fornicating.

Hmm… to help him atone, perhaps, future mistresses could spank / thump Trump’s rump with a Bible? Uh… BAD IDEA! The Secret Service would first freak out… next categorize that as an assault… and finally rush in to (hopefully secretly) offer up their protection.

2. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… one wonders how a self-proclaimed germ-o-phobe could ever overcome his fears long enought to engage in risky, condom-less conduct? BTW, the porn star did claim they had barebacked it! Imagine that… even against the backdrop of an antibiotic / antiviral drug resistant, STD raging pandemic… one that’s inclusive of potentially fatal HIV/AIDS! And, most assuredly, when considering the tenacity and adaptability of most microbes, usage of words, such as FATAL, would not be unwarranted.

3. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… this means he has not only had sex with two women but with every last, damned one of their sex partners… and with every partner those partners have had sex with… and on and on and on.

4. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… how can any medical professional ever claim (with any certainty) that nasty microbes… maybe even some that have yet to be discovered… have not been rotting away his body and (alleged) brain? Indeed, might his reckless, erotic private behavior account for much of his wildly erratic, public behavior?

5. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… what would stop an enemy from using that against him. What if that were to go beyond that (alleged) made-in-Russia pee-pee tape, which Vladimir Putin is (allegedly) using as blackmail? Bad enough… BUT… here’s where the (alleged) prez’s (alleged) promiscuity gets even dicier.

What if, someday, an ISIS type foe were to hire some bioethics barren, recombinant DNA geneticist… ask him/her to tinker with the adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C) bases… and in the process… cook up a totally new sexually transmitted disease? Let’s say that resultant microbe is fine-tune engineered to be female gender-friendly. Fleshing that diabolical scenario out further, each infected woman would become a totally unharmed carrier fully capable of spreading the disease to each of her totally vulnerable male partners… men who’d, eventually, succumb? Perhaps that pathogen should be named the BlackWidowSpider-18? Or to be more scientifically accurate call it the LatrodectusMactans-18?

6. If the fake prez’s sexploits are, indeed, true… one would hope that his Secret Service protectors are cognizant of the fact that any of his drop-dead-gorgeous women, in actuality, could be in possession of a deeply concealed (as in… invisible to the naked eye), drop-dead caliber weapon. In other words, the fake prez, while tooling down each partner’s “private road”… as it were… could be driving down the pathogenic equivalent of JFK’s 11/22/1963 motorcade drive through Dealey Plaza.

One would expect Secret Service training to be inclusive of such futuristic plots… i.e., so they’d know their protection should be inclusive of confronting and confining a suspected bio-assassin before she had even undone one blouse button… or if things had already gotten down and dirty… to… at the very least… rush in… just in the nick of time… to offer (latex) protection to the prez!

Yeah… I know… I know… I know…

This blog’s already icky subject matter has just gotten even ickier. But… as we all should know… both a Blogger’s and a Secret Service agent’s job can get dirty… but damn it… someone has to do it!

 

 

A Sense of DNA Level Déjà Vu [Part 3]

 

Over the course of this blog series’ first two installments, you and I’ve been teleporting back to my July 28th, telescopic “travels” to Mars. While, we’ve been exploring my astronomical, philosophical and theological observations / musings, we have yet to ferret and flesh out the underlying causes of my chronic, Mars Mania “affliction”… that is until now.

With Part 3 about to unfold, I pause to announce a slight course correction re my mission to the cosmos. Rather than revisiting this past Saturday’s viewing session, we’ll be reliving the return to my backyard open air observatory at 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT) on this very day… July 31st. I just had to “be there” at that precise moment… at the very pinnacle of 2018’s Mars and Earth rendezvous… to experience the almost palpable cosmic magic in the air.

Remaining ever mindful of Part 3’s content prerequisites, as I metaphorically wander about the heavens and the recesses of my mind, I start to zero in on the origins of my personal obsession with Mars.

As I wistfully gaze upward, I briefly consider the possibility that aliens might be doing the same. Only my not wanting to wake up my neighbors prevents me from yelling skyward at the top of my lungs, “Is there anybody out there?” Of course, my dismay regarding the present-day ideological disarray of my homeland… our home world… has certainly, detrimentally impacted my attitude (not unlike a meteor hit). How so? Well, were any ET’s to ever flyby my neighborhood, I’d instantly stick out my thumb and attempt to hitch a ride. Even if their motives were unclear… even if it’d be a certain, one-way trip for me… in a heartbeat… I’d still take my chances and opt to forever leave planet Earth.

Alas… long sigh… on this night… there are no such, extraordinary, extraterrestrial vehicular light patterns in the skies… soooooo… I must make the best of the ordinary.

And I do that, precisely, by granting free rein to my boyhood recollections. Naturally, Mars themed literary works come to mind. First up, my Middle Schooler era, figurative feasting upon my book club purchased, paperback copy of H. G. Wells’ page turner, Sci-Fi novel, The War of the Worlds. Next up, come my elementary school library visits… my checking out astronomy textbooks… their authors’ content, eventually, proving to be more fiction than fact. About the only thing they had ever gotten right? The Red Planet’s 24 hour and 37 minute diurnal rotation!

That’s about all anyone could ever expect from authors “infecting” themselves with the “contagion” of astronomer Percival Lowell’s over-imaginative “strain” of Mars Mania (and I do good-naturedly employ those enclosed in quotation marks, italicized words). Their perpetuation of his fantasyland… an irrigation canal networked, hospitable to humans, environment… coupled with my younger, overly impressionable mind… accounts for my own fantasies of becoming a spacefarer aboard NASA’s very first Mars-ward bound spacecraft.

My mind next crossfades to the plights of Sci-Fi stranded astronauts portrayed in films such as 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (which takes literary liberties with the Daniel Defoe classic) and in 2015’s The Martian based on Andy Weir’s sci-fi book of the same title.

As these big screen drama scenes dissolve to the realm of the Sixtes era, small screen, Sci-Fi TV sitcom, I catch myself smiling as I recall My Favorite Martian episodes featuring earthling Tim O’Hara comedically interacting with his spacecraft crashed and marooned, ET “Uncle Martin”.

The TV images soon shift from the ridiculous to the sublime. Philosopher / astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan… via both his book and PBS miniseries Cosmos… presents his Blues For A Red Planet chapter / episode #5. That late, great man… the consummate scientist and dramatist… so adeptly, fact checks / debunks Lowellesque Mars Mania yet, simultaneously rekindles it with seasoned-by-science sanity. In his chapter’s / episode’s epilogue he even speculates…

“The power of Lowell’s idea may, just possibly, make it a kind of premonition. His canal network was built by Martians. Even this may be an accurate prophecy: If the planet ever is terraformed, it will be done by human beings whose permanent residence and planetary affiliation is Mars… The Martians will be us.”

It’s at that moment where my thoughts begin to set, along with Mars’ orb rapidly nearing the hazy, southwestern horizon. As I naked eye glimpse that bright orange dot slipping behind the approaching, thick veil of clouds, I begin loosening the clamps, separating my scope from its tripod.

As I look up one last time, my thoughts of Dr. Sagan’s Cosmos crossfade to his fictional work, Contact. It is during one of that film’s final scenes where silver screen star Jodie Foster… in the lead role of astronomer Ellie Arroway… so fervently… so eloquently… so tearfully serves upward, her own cosmic perspective as…

“A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny and insignificant… and how rare and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not… that none of us are alone! I wish i could share that. I wish that everyone… if even for one moment… could feel that awe and humility and hope. That continues to be my wish.”

To continue conveying and living those same sentiments is my wish, too! Hopefully, you feel similarly!

While the gradual dimming of that bright orange dot… a.k.a. Mars 2018… is inevitable in the days and weeks to come, my oneness with our universe shall shine on brightly… eternally. My continually blogging about Mars… on similar cosmic topics… will be unavoidable. After all…

“Transcendental moments, such as these, are where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?”

 

As for part 4 to this series… stay tuned…

 

 

A Sense of DNA Level Déjà Vu [Part 2]

 

Throughout Part 1, you and I began reliving my overnight, in the wee hours of July 28th telescopic “travels” to Mars… at a point where the red planet had been scant days shy of it’s closest encounter with Earth since August 27, 2003.

By that post’s conclusion, we’re arriving at the moment of first contact… my first, telescopically enhanced, visual contact with the red planet in nearly 15 years. I begin sharing my initial feelings of the moment… earth-shattering impressions one need not be an astronomer… either professional or amateur… to experience and appreciate. I wind up concluding…

“A transcendental moment, such as this, is where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?”

As Part 2 begins… we now return to my backyard open air observatory… my eyes and mind still effortlessly wandering the heavens. I cannot help but feel (right down to my infinitesimal DNA) that sturdy bond with the multiple hundreds of generations of human stargazers before my time.

At the very first glimpse of Mars in my scope’s eyepiece, my time traveling / traveling the heavens begins. Flashbacks first send me to my previous, August 2003, telescopic, close encounter with Mars and, next, back to April of that very year… when my own mother’s change of address had involved her new heavenly home. And that, too, reminds me of how I had chosen a heavenly / stellar theme for her memorial service… had written… had interwoven… the very stars into the eulogy I had delivered to honor her…. to chronicle her life and times… to remind all in attendance of her star power.

Long before this night, I’ve realized that it matters not if my observations are telescopically enhanced or naked eye… whenever I’m gazing up at the starry skies I cannot help but feel that unbreakable bond with my forbearers… my unshakable belief that both of my parents’ loving, protecting instincts are still intact and alive… that their eternal spirits are gazing right back at me. And I suspect I shall continue to harbor such perceptions until I join them, someday… when, upon my arrival, I wind up partying right alongside them at that ultimate family reunion in the sky!

My thoughts soon crossfade to my very first, fresh out of the packing carton, telescopic viewing session on April Fools Day ‘97… just in time to eyewitness The Great Comet of ’97, Hale-Bopp… observe its flyby into our inner solar system’s local neighborhood. More crossfades ensue. I’m now revisiting long ago, memorable viewing sessions involving my first time encounters with Saturn… my being wowed by its almost surreal system of rings… my also inviting my Mom to eyewitness this natural wonder on the grandest of scales… and her being wowed, too. I also recall my first sighting of Jupiter and its four Galilean satellites… as well as my earliest deep space visits with The Pleiades / The Seven Sisters and Orion’s Nebula and Trapezium Cluster.

Imagine that! All of these cherished memories occurring while standing beneath… in the midst of… this marvelous Mars July ’18 moment… while all the details of this close encounter are getting written into the annals of astronomical history… are concurrently being imprinted / indelibly burned into my own memories.

My thoughts now crossfade to my boyhood days… to a time when I first came down with my “bad case” of Mars Mania… all of which I’ll be fondly recalling when I post Part 3… later this week.

 

 

A Sense of DNA Level Déjà Vu

 

As I commit this black font to white screen, it’s been approximately 36 hours since my reluctantly “returning” to Earth. Much transpired leading up to, during and since my “journey” and… via the following account… I now begin to relive my “travels” thru space/time.

Once again, I find myself venturing forth into out-of-doors overnight… the wee hours of Saturday, July 28th… experiencing the sensation of being enshrouded by the unseasonably chilly air…12.8ºC / 55ºF [Note to self… next time don both jacket and dew resistant footwear].

My 2 orbs panning, upward, across the 2 a.m. heavens, I find 2 orbs instantly, intently, “staring” back at me… our dazzling, milk-white, Full Moon and, not far beneath it, its celestial BFF… the vividly reddish-orange, planet Mars… scant days away from its closest encounter with Earth since August 27, 2003. For a moment I chuckle… might Mars’ orb / eye be deemed bloodshot?

My thoughts now dismiss the frivolous / focus upon the factual. I mentally note, crunch and compare the specific orbital data of each new millennial, Mars/Earth rendezvous… 2003’s distance apart had been 55.8 million km / 34.6 million mi compared to the here and now’s projected 57.6 million km / 35.8 million mi.

My naked eye observations of these spherical apparitions have instantaneously prompted my I’ve-Gotta-Get-A-Closer-Look reaction. Rushing back inside, within mere minutes I’m lugging out and setting up my 90mm refractor telescope / tripod and transforming my home-turf into an open air, backyard observatory.

Regrettably, proximity, alone, is no guarantee of ideal seeing conditions… especially when peering at dinky Mars through such a small, low tech scope. The other factors in play will be [1] Earth’s rotation, which… @460 meters per second / 1,000 miles per hour… is constantly making a motion picture out of our nighttime skies… [2] the tilt of Earth’s axis positioning the red planet too low in the southwestern, hazy skies… [3] the sky awash with both lunar brightness and manmade light pollution… [4] the ongoing “game” of planetary peekaboo “curtesy” of two, nearby, towering, deciduous trees.

Even so, this amateur astronomer relishes any opportunity to experience the grandeur of our little corner of the universe… views any need to repeatedly relocate and realign his unwieldy scope to be a labor of love.

And now that I’ve accurately trained my smaller, finder scope’s crosshairs, it’s time to peer through the eyepiece… get my very first, optically enhanced, glance at Mars in nearly a decade and a half. I can feel my facial muscles forming a slight, contented smile.

The still of the night’s “soundtrack” is now “in/on the air”. The “musical genres” inclusive of my “easy listening” rhythmic breathing… the “one hit wonder” of brief, off in the far distance, spooked crow’s caws… the occasional “garage band” roar of 18-wheeler semis barreling down the faraway, highways and byways… the “classical flautist” inspired unexpected, mournful blasts of a miles away, freight-train engineer’s horn.

A transcendental moment, such as this, is where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?

 

Stay tuned for Part 2… to be posted later this week.