Archive for March, 2010

Our spring almanac 26.03.2010 – 01.04.2010

Posted in astronomical time on March 26, 2010 by espacelab

Earth Hour is on March 27 20.30h-21.30h local time

Earth Hour is a global event organized by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as World Wildlife Fund) and is held on the last Saturday of March annually, asking households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights. Following Sydney’s lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008. Earth Hour 2010 took place on March 27, 2010 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., at participants’ respective local time.


Pegasus was the Constellation Logo for Merton School in Basingstoke.

Pegasus is a constellation in the northern sky, named after the winged horse Pegasus in Greek mythology.

The poet Hesiod connects the name Pegasus with the word for “spring, well”, the flowing of water out of the earth rather than our present season. “Everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth”.
Michaud’s Biographie universelle relates that when Pegasus was born, he flew to where thunder and lightning is released, which connects to the name’s possible origins in the Luwian language: pihassas, meaning “lightning”. Then, according to certain versions of the myth, Athena tamed him and gave him to Perseus, who flew to Ethiopia to help Andromeda. There are several versions of the birth of the winged stallion and his brother Chrysaor in the far distant place at the edge of Earth, Hesiod’s “springs of Oceanus”, which encircles the inhabited earth, and where Perseus found Medusa.

Messier 15 or M15 (also designated NGC 7078) is a globular cluster in the constellation Pegasus. It was discovered by Jean-Dominique Maraldi in 1746 and included in Charles Messier’s catalogue of comet-like objects in 1764. At an estimated 13.2 billion years old, it is one of the oldest known globular clusters. M15 is about 33,600 light-years from Earth. Messier 15 is one of the most densely packed globulars known in the Milky Way galaxy. Its core has undergone a contraction known as ‘core collapse’ and it has a central density cusp with an enormous number of stars surrounding what may be a central black hole.

What is a black hole?
According to the general theory of relativity, a black hole is a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. It is the result of the deformation of spacetime caused by a very compact mass. Around a black hole there is an undetectable surface which marks the point of no return, called an event horizon. It is called “black” because it absorbs all the light that hits it, reflecting nothing.

To the amateur astronomer Messier 15 appears as a fuzzy star in the smallest of telescopes.

One of Merton’s students came up with an alternative image for the constellation; the England flag!

Months and their origins.
In this 7 day period we see the end of the month of March and the beginning of April. March was named in honour of Mars, the Roman god of battle, or war, and April comes from the Latin word Aperire which means ‘to open’, the month when Earth opens to receive seed. Mars was also the tutelary god of the city of Rome. As he was regarded as the legendary father of Rome’s founder, Romulus, it was believed that all Romans were descendants of Mars.

Ten months were not enough!
The legendary founder of Rome was Romulus, and it was Romulus who devised a calendar for Rome that began the year with the month of March. This calendar was made up of 10 months, and the number 10 seems to suggest that a decimal numbering system was already marking out a difference in approach between the Romans and the Greeks and Egyptians.

Unfortunately the 10 months only added up to 304 days, 5 of these months having 30 days, and the rest 31 days. A year that was a couple of months out of synchronization with the solar year was going to create immediate problems. Ovid, the Roman poet living 700 years after Romulus, said that Romulus was probably better versed in swords than stars.

Romulus’s successor Numa Pompilius soon added the two extra months of January and February making a grand total of 355 days for the year, and so still short of the solar year by 10 days, and longer than the lunar calendar by 16 hours. This created more problems for the future.

The story of Romulus and his brother remus being brought up by a she-wolf was known far and wide, even by Saxons here in England. A small Anglo-Saxon whalebone chest from the eighth century, now in the British Museum is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes. Both identifying the images and interpreting the runic inscriptions has generated a considerable amount of scholarship. Generally reckoned to be of Northumbrian origin, it is of unique importance for the insight it gives into early Anglo-Saxon culture.

Clocks going forward
To make the most of the lengthening daylight hours an Act of parliament was passed in 1916 that defined a period of that year should be one hour in advance of Greenwich Mean Time. This is called Summer Time. This Act of Parliament was followed by the Summer Time Acts of 1922 and 1925 that defined the period which Summer Time was to be used. Even though we have only just entered the spring season British Summer Time begins this week on March 28 at 01h GMT.

Palm Sunday

This sixth and last Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday. This date relates to Easter, a date that is set by the Moon and the Solar equinox and marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week.

Fast of the Firstborn
This takes place on Monday 29 March and is observed only by firstborn males, on the day before the Jewish Feast of Passover. This fast celebrates the survival of Jewish firtborn sons from the 10th Plague of Egypt.

Passover is on Tuesday 30 March
Passover is one of the most important religious festivals in the Jewish calendar. Jews celebrate the Feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

The Torah contains a Divine commandment to eat matzo on the first night of Passover and to eat only unleavened bread (i.e., matzo) during the entire week of Passover. Because the Hebrews left Egypt with such haste, there was no time to allow baked bread to rise; so flat bread, matzo, is a reminder of the Exodus.

The full moon

Tuesday 30 March is the beginning of the Buddhist Theravada New Year
New Year festival for Theravada Buddhists, celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. This day also is the Buddhist festival of Magha Puja, known as Fourfold Assembly or Sangha Day. Marks the day Buddha addressed a meeting of 1250 arahants.

Tuesday 30 March the LHC becomes operative again

Ian Sample has been a science correspondent for the Guardian since 2003. Here is an extract from his blog 30.03.2010

7.32am: Eighteen months after the Large Hadron Collider suffered an enormous helium leak that shut the machine down, engineers are readying the machine for its first high energy collisions.

The LHC accelerates two counter-rotating beams of protons – the subatomic constituents of atomic nuclei – to within a whisker of the speed of light, before steering them into one another. The head-on collisions release enough energy to mimic in microcosm the conditions that prevailed a fraction of a second after the big bang.

The first collisions are expected as early as 8am this morning, but at Cern things can happen faster or slower than expected. A tentative schedule of the day’s events is here.

Alas I am covering the events from London. You can watch Cern’s streaming coverage here. If you have work to do and can’t sit around watching people chat about particle physics all morning, I’ll follow it for you.

The machine has already collided particles at a combined energy (call it centre-of-mass energy) of 2.36 trillion electron volts (TeV). One electron volt is the amount of energy the particle gains when accelerated across an electric field of 1 volt.

Slamming particles together at 2.36TeV in November showed the machine, and its four huge detectors, work well. It also claimed the crown for the LHC as the most powerful collider in the world, by pipping the US Fermilab’s Tevatron collider near Chicago.

Today is bigger news. Today the machine will go to half of its full energy, that is, colliding particles together with a total energy of 7TeV.

The experiment was a great success!
Applause and cheers broke out across Cern, the European Nuclear Research Organisation near Geneva, at 12.06pm BST, the moment when subatomic particles travelling at close to the speed of light were slammed together in the machine, creating the highest energy particle collisions a laboratory has ever achieved.

“With these record-shattering collision energies, the LHC experiments are propelled into a vast region to explore, and the hunt begins for dark matter, new forces, new dimensions and the Higgs boson,” said Fabiola Gianotti, spokesman for the huge Atlas collaboration at the LHC.

Dark matter is the mysterious, invisible substance that hugs galaxies and makes up around a quarter of the universe. It is so named because it neither shines nor reflects radiation.

The Last Supper

Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter and ends our 7 day period on 1 April. Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist. The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. The word maundy comes from the command (mandate) given by Christ at the Last Supper, that we should love one another.

UK Space Agency
The UK Space Agency is a United Kingdom government agency responsible for its space programme was established on 1 April 2010 to replace the British National Space Centre and took over responsibility for government policy and key budgets for space and representing the UK in all negotiations on space matters.

Spring daffodils overlooking Popley in Basingstoke 01.04.2010


Our spring almanac 19.03.2010 – 25.03.2010

Posted in astronomical time on March 19, 2010 by espacelab

The Spring Equinox
Astronomical Spring begins on Saturday with the arrival of the spring equinox. The spring equinox for this year 2010 is on March 20 at 17.32h GMT. The astronomical season of spring begins and carries on until the summer solstice. Equinox is a Latin word that means equal nights, a term that refers to the fact there are 12 hours of daylight followed by 12 hours of night on the spring and and autumn equinoxes.

The Earth spins on its axis every 24 hours, giving us our 24 hours and night and day, but this axis has got a tilt of 23.4 degrees. It is this tilt that causes the seasonal changes we see over the 12 months of the year. For instance, on the date of the winter solstice the northern half of our planet is tilted away from the Sun at the full angle of 23.4 degrees, so that sunlight reaching us is not so strong as it is on the summer solstice when our part of the planet is tilted fully towards the Sun. Every living thing on our planet has evolved to adapt to these four seasons.

The equinoxes happen when during the Earth’s orbit round the Sun the Earth’s tilt ends up sideways to the Sun. If you were able to stand on the equator at noon on either of the equinoxes, the Sun would be directly overhead, casting the smallest shadow possible.

For us, in the northern hemisphere of our planet, the arc of the sun as it travels across the sky for 12 hours looks like this.

Night and Day
Why is the night sky never completely dark? The answer is airglow (also called nightglow). This is the very weak emission of light by a planetary atmosphere. In the case of Earth’s atmosphere, this phenomenon causes the night sky to never be completely dark (even after the effects of starlight and diffused sunlight from the far side are removed).

Airglow is caused by various processes in the upper atmosphere, such as the recombination of ions which were photoionized by the sun during the day, luminescence caused by cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere, and chemiluminescence caused mainly by oxygen and nitrogen reacting with hydroxyl ions at heights of a few hundred kilometers. It is not noticeable during the daytime because of the scattered light from the Sun.

The stars that form the constellation Lyra against the night sky. Lyra is a constellation that appears in Spring.

Lyra (from Greek λύρα) is a constellation. Its name derived from the lyre, a stringed musical instrument well known for its use in classical antiquity and later. Lyra was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union today.

Lyra is a small constellation, but its principal star, Vega, is one of the brightest in the sky. Beginning at the north, Lyra is bordered by the Dragon Draco, the Greek hero Hercules, the little fox Vulpecula and Cygnus the swan.

Lyra is the Constellation Logo for Marnel School in Basingstoke.

One of Marnel’s students came up with a new identity for the pattern of stars that forms the Lyra constellation, Elvis Presley! He was the King!

The lyre of Classical Antiquity was ordinarily played by being strummed with a plectrum, like a guitar or a zither, rather than being plucked, like a harp.

The constellation Orion as seen from out in the country and as seen from the middle of town.

Dark skies and light pollution
Light pollution is excessive or obtrusive artificial light. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) defines light pollution as: “Any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste. It obscures the stars in the night sky for city dwellers, interferes with astronomical observatories, and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.

Blue skies research and global dimming
We are all seeing rather less of the Sun. Scientists looking at five decades of sunlight measurements have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.

The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill who was astonished to find that his research pointed to a large fall in solar radiation. “There was a staggering 22% drop in the sunlight, and that really amazed me,” he says.

Intrigued, he searched out records from all around the world, and found the same story almost everywhere he looked, with sunlight falling by 10% over the USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% in parts of the British Isles. Although the effect varied greatly from place to place, overall the decline amounted to 1-2% globally per decade between the 1950s and the 1990s.

Gerry called the phenomenon global dimming, but his research, published in 2001, met with a sceptical response from other scientists. It was only recently, when his conclusions were confirmed by Australian scientists using a completely different method to estimate solar radiation, that climate scientists at last woke up to the reality of global dimming.

Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution. Burning coal, oil and wood, whether in cars, power stations or cooking fires, produces not only invisible carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) but also tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants.

Spring and the New Year
Beginning the new year in the spring makes sense. The signs of new growth in spring suggests new beginnings, especially in olden times when most people made their living from the land.

In England, Lady Day was New Year’s Day up to 1752 when, following the move from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, 1 January became the start of the year. In the Christian calendar, Lady Day is the traditional name of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin which takes place on 25 March, nine months before Christmas celebrations of the birth of Jesus, and the first of the four traditional Irish and English quarter days.

The “Lady” was the Virgin Mary.

New year celebrations that take place on the spring equinox
Noruz (also known as Jamshedi or Jamshidi Noruz) is the seventh obligatory feast and it is dedicated to fire. It is the Zoroastrian New Year celebration, and occurs on the spring equinox. Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster (aka Zarathustra) founded in the early part of the 5th century BCE.

Bas-relief in Persepolis, Iran, showing a symbol of the Zoroastrian Noruz, where the day of a spring equinox shows how the power of the eternally fighting bull (personifying the Earth), and a lion (personifying the Sun), are equal.

Noruz is so deeply embedded in Iranian culture that it is still celebrated as the Iranian New Year in Islamic Iran, although without the religious connotations. Many fires are lit and there is feasting and celebrations. In modern times fireworks have also become part of the festivities.

Haft Sīn (هفت سین) or the seven ‘S’s is a major tradition of Noruz. The haft sin table includes seven specific items starting with the letter ‘S’ or Sīn (س) in the Persian alphabet. The items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals called Amesha Sepanta protecting them. The seven elements of Life, namely Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, and Human, are represented. They also have Astrological correlations to five planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Sun and Moon. With the advent of Islam the word Amesha Sepanta shortened to and eventually was remembered by just the letter S and the number 7. The Haft Sin has evolved over time, but has kept its symbolism. Traditionally, families attempt to set as beautiful a Haft Sīn table as they can, as it is not only of traditional and spiritual value, but also noticed by visitors during Noruzi visitations and is a reflection of their good taste.

The Haft Sīn items are:
sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
sīr – garlic – symbolizing medicine
sīb – apples – symbolizing beauty and health
somaq – sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
serkeh – vinegar – symbolizing age and patience
Other items on the table may include:
Sonbol – Hyacinth (plant)
Sekkeh – Coins – representative of wealth
traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
Aajeel – dried nuts, berries and raisins
lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving). As an essential object of the Nowruz table, this goldfish is also “very ancient and meaningful” and with Zoroastrian connection.[59]
rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
the national colours, for a patriotic touch
a holy book (e.g., the Avesta, Qur’an, Bible, Torah, or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafez)

Connected to this festival historically is Naw-Rúz (literally new day) which is the Bahá’í new year festival and falls at the spring equinox, although it has been fixed at 21st March for countries outside the Middle East. Naw-Rúz symbolises the new life of spring. The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh in nineteenth-century Persia (modern Iran), emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind.

Weeping willows coming into leaf in Chineham Park, Popley, Basingstoke 25.03.2010

Our winter almanac 12.03.2010 – 18.03.2010

Posted in astronomical time on March 12, 2010 by espacelab

The Spring Asterism

Spring is approaching and the pattern of stars called The Great Diamond or Virgin’s Diamond/Diamond of Virgo is becoming visible in the night sky. A star pattern that is not one of the constellations is known as an asterism. It is composed of the stars Cor Caroli (in Canes Venatici), Denebola (the tail of Leo), Spica (the wheat of Virgo), and Arcturus (in Bootes). It is somewhat larger than Ursa Major (the plough or big dipper).

The star Denebola
Its name is shortened from Deneb Alased, from the Arabic phrase ذنب الاسد ðanab al-asad “tail of the lion”, as it represents the lion’s tail—the star’s position in the Leo constellation.

Leo was the Constellation Logo for Cliddesdon School.

The constellation Leo
Leo has been represented as a lion by numerous civilizations for thousands of years. Leo contains many bright galaxies, of which Messier 65, Messier 66, Messier 95, and Messier 96 are the most famous, the first two being part of the Leo Triplet.

The Leo Triplet, with M65 at the upper right, M66 at the lower right, and NGC 3628 at the upper left.

The Leo Ring, a cloud of hydrogen and helium gas left over from the Big Bang, is found in orbit of two galaxies found within this constellation.

One of Cliddesdon’s students came up with a brilliant new image for Leo, rollerblades!

Lying within the Great Diamond is the set of stars traditionally assigned to Coma Berenices. Many nearby galaxies, including galaxies within the Virgo Cluster, are located within this asterism, and some of these galaxies can easily be observed with amateur telescopes.

A blue halo

Blue light is scattered more than other wavelengths by the gases in the atmosphere, giving the Earth a blue halo when seen from space.

The Blue Planet

Earthrise is the name given to a photograph of the Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. In Life’s 100 Photographs that Changed the World, wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called it “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

Coloured skies
Diffuse sky radiation is solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface after having been scattered from the direct solar beam by molecules in the atmosphere. It is also called skylight, diffuse skylight, or sky radiation and is the reason for changes in the colour of the sky.

Why is the sky blue?
The sunlit sky appears blue because air scatters short-wavelength light more than longer wavelengths. Since blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength red light. The result is that the human eye perceives blue when looking toward parts of the sky other than the sun.

Red skies
Near sunrise and sunset, most of the light we see comes in nearly tangent to the Earth’s surface, so that the light’s path through the atmosphere is so long that much of the blue and even green light is scattered out, leaving the sun rays and the clouds it illuminates red. Therefore, when looking at the sunset and sunrise, you will see the color red more than any of the other colors.

Plants that Tell the Time
As our part of the world blossoms in the spring, have you ever wondered how flowers and plants know when their flowering time and season has arrived?

Many flowers open during the day and close at night, There are even species of plants whose flowers follow the Sun from sunrise to sunset. Then, during the night, they turn and point toward the part of the horizon where they will catch the first morning rays of sunlight.

The natural rhythms of plants seem to governed by something mysteriously like a clock. When plants are put in a place where there are no changes in light or temperature, then they find their own daily rhythms running between 21 and 27 hours. Comparing these times to the 24 hours of our day these disoriented plants run up to 3 hours fast or 3 hours slow. Even mechanical clocks run fast and slow, and in the earliest clockwork mechanisms and water clocks if the weather was hot or cold it could make a great deal of difference to how fast or slow the clocks would run.

Plants seem to have a way of continually re-setting their internal clocks using the daily changes of temperature and light. Plants can also sense when seasons come and go, and the changing length of daylight seems to be very important to how plants grow. Plants are very sensitive to light, and light can help plants adjust their clocks. Red light has a strong influence on a pigment in plant leaves called phytochrome. This pigment reacts to the increased amount of red light which occurs at dawn and dusk. Then this special pigment changes back to its original form during the night. The time this process takes helps set the plant’s internal clock.

Sunset on Mars

Sunsets on other planets appear different because of the differences in the distance from the planet to the sun and in different atmospheric compositions. This is an actual photograph taken by a robotic Mars mission explorer.

Because Mars is farther from the Sun than the Earth is, the Sun appears only about two-thirds the size that it appears in a sunset seen from the Earth Although Mars lacks oxygen and nitrogen, it is covered in red dust frequently hoisted into the atmosphere by fast but thin winds. At least some Martian days are capped by a sunset significantly longer and redder than typical on Earth. One study found that for up to two hours after twilight, sunlight continued to reflect off Martian dust high in the atmosphere, casting a diffuse glow.

Mothering Sunday
Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year, using the lunisolar calendar calculations for setting the date for Easter, Mothering Sunday falls on 14 March. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name.

Traditionally, this was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family. Today it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and home-made cards to their mothers.

Simnel cakes have been known since mediaeval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made.

History of Mothering Sunday
Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church’. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their ‘mother’ church – the main church or Cathedral of the area.

Inevitably the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. It was quite common in those days for children to leave home for work once they were ten years old. Most historians think that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family.

As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

Ugadi (Yugadi)
March 16 this year marks the Hindu festival of Ugadi (literally ‘the start of an era’) is the New Year festival for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in southern India. It occurs on the first day of the month of Chaitra.

Holigey/Bhakshalu-prepared on Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Gudi Padwa
While the people of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh use the term Yugadi/Ugadhi for this festival, the people of Maharashtra term the same festival, observed on the same day, Gudi Padwa.

Cheti Chand
Sindhis, people from Sindh, celebrate the same day as their New Year day Cheti Chand.

The Lunar Almanac of the Deccan
The word Yugadi can be explained as; ‘Yuga’ is the word for ‘epoch’ or ‘era’, and ‘aadi’ stands for ‘the beginning’. Yugadi specifically refers to the start of the age we are living in now, Kali Yuga. Kali Yuga started the moment when Lord Krishna left the world. Maharshi Vedavyasa describes this event with the words ‘Yesmin Krishno divamvyataha, Tasmat eeva pratipannam Kaliyugam’. Kali Yuga began on Feb 17/18 midnight 3102 BC.
The festival marks the new year day for people between Vindhyas and Kaveri river who follow the Dakshina Bhartha lunar calendar, pervasively adhered to in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

This calendar reckons dates based on the Shalivahana era (Shalivahana Shaka), which begins its count from the supposed date of the founding of the Empire by the legendary hero Shalivahana. The Satavahana king Shalivahana (also identified as Gautamiputra Satakarni) is credited with the initiation of this era known as Shalivahana. The Salivahana era begins its count of years from the year corresponding to 78 AD of the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the year 2000 AD corresponds to the year 1922 of the Salivahana Era.

In the terminology used by this lunar calendar (also each year is identified as per Indian Calendar), Yugadi falls on Chaitra Shudhdha Paadyami or the first day of the bright half of the Indian month of Chaitra. This generally falls in the months of March or April of the Gregorian calendar. In 2010, ugadi falls on March 16th.

Lunar calendars have a sixty year cycle and starts the new year on Yugadi i.e., on Chaitra Sudhdha Paadyami. After the completion of sixty years, the calendar starts anew with the first year.

Yugadi (start of new year) is based on Bhāskara II lunar calculations in 12th century. It starts on the first new moon after Sun crosses equator from south to north on Spring Equinox. However, people celebrate Yugadi on the next morning as Indian day starts from sun rise. Many Indians in America also celebrate Yugadi.

Gudhi Padwa (Devnagari: गुढीपाडवा {often mis-pronounced as guDi padwa because ढी sounds like डी while speaking}) is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month, and is celebrated as New Year’s Day by Maharashtrians and Hindu Konkanis ( called as Samvatsar Padvo[1] or Yugadi by Konkanis ). It is the same day on which great king Shalivahana defeated Sakas in battle.
This is also first day of Marathi Calendar. This festival is supposed to mark the beginning of Vasant (spring). According to the Gregorian calendar this would fall sometime at the end of March and the beginning of April. According to the Brahma Purana, this is the day on which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick from this day forth. This is one of the 3 and a half days in the Indian Lunar calendar called “Sade-Teen Muhurt”, whose every moment is considered auspicious in general to start a new activity.

Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. St Patrick’s Day is March 17. St Patrick is traditionally associated with the Shamrock plant, which he used to explain the concept of the Trinity.

St Patrick’s value doesn’t really come from the historical details but from the inspiration of a man who returned to the country where he had been a child slave, in order to bring the message of Christ. When he was a child, raiders from Ireland came and took him from Britain and he was sold as a slave, and spent about six years tending sheep and pigs around Slemish (a mountain formed from the plug of an extinct volcano just outside Ballymena in what is now Co Antrim). As a stowaway, he returned to his parents, but felt called by God to return to preach to the people of Ireland. His life is celebrated across the world, especially in places with an Irish connection, just as we have here in Basingstoke.

In Chicago Illinois they colour the Chicago River emerald green on St Patrick’s day as they celebrate this special holiday across the United States.

The Church at Farleigh Wallop on the hill overlooking Cliddesdon, Basingstoke and Deane 18.03.2010

Our winter almanac 05.03.2010 – 11.03.2010

Posted in astronomical time on March 5, 2010 by espacelab

Seven Stars make a plough
Seeing the plough in the stars of the night sky is not surprising when you consider the importance of farming to our ancestors.

The Constellation Logo for Bramley School was the Plough, known in the ancient list of constellations drawn up by the astronomer Ptolemy as Ursa Major, the Great Bear.

Ursa Major
Ursa Major is a constellation visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere. Its name means the Great Bear in Latin. It is dominated by the widely recognized asterism known as the Big Dipper or Plough, which is a useful pointer toward north, and which has mythological significance in numerous world cultures.

The seven brightest stars of Ursa Major form the asterism known as the Big Dipper in the United States and Canada, or the Plough in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is also occasionally referred to as the Butcher’s Cleaver in northern England. In Ireland the figure is sometimes called the Starry Plough and has been used as a political symbol. Known as Charles his waine in some areas of England, it was formerly called by the old name Charles’ Wain (“wain” meaning “wagon,” and derived from the still older Carlswæn), as it still is in Scandinavia, Karlavagnen, Karlsvogna, or Karlsvognen. A folk etymology holds that it was named after Charlemagne, but this common Germanic name meant the men’s wagon (the churls’ wagon), in contrast to the women’s wagon (the Little Dipper). An older Odin’s Wain may have preceeded these Nordic designations. Similarly, in Romanian and most Slavic languages it is known as “the Great Wagon”, as opposed to “the Small Wagon,” the Little Dipper. In German it is called Großer Wagen (Great Cart). In Dutch, its name is Steelpannetje (saucepan). Book XVIII of Homer’s Iliad mentions it as “the Bear, which men also call the Wain.”

Ursa Major was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It is mentioned by writers and poets such as Homer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and in other works of literature across the world.

Vincent Van Gogh paints this constellation in one of his pictures of the starry sky at night.

Three leaps
Another asterism is recognized in Arab culture, a series of three pairs of stars:
ν and ξ Ursae Majoris, Alula Borealis and Australis, the “first leap”;
λ and μ Ursae Majoris, Tania Borealis and Australis, the “second leap”;
ι and κ Ursae Majoris, Talitha Borealis and Australis, the “third leap”.

These stars are found along the southwest border of the constellation.

Ptolemy the astronomer
Claudius Ptolemaeus, known in English as Ptolemy, was a Roman citizen of Greek or Egyptian ancestry. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer and a poet. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and died in the city of Alexandria around AD 168. Ptolemy was the author of several scientific treatises, at least three of which were of continuing importance to later Islamic and European science. The first is the astronomical treatise now known as the Almagest. Almagest is the Latin form of the Arabic name (الكتاب المجسطي, al-kitabu-l-mijisti, in English The Great Book) of a mathematical and astronomical treatise proposing the complex motions of the stars and planetary paths, originally written in Greek as Μαθηματικἠ Σύνταξις.

16th-century representation of the Ptolemy’s geocentric model

Ptolemy’s cosmos
The cosmology of the Almagest includes five main points, each of which is the subject of a chapter in Book I.
The celestial realm is spherical, and moves as a sphere.
The Earth is a sphere.
The Earth is at the center of the cosmos.
The Earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point.[2]
The Earth does not move.

Ptolemy assigned the following order to the planetary spheres, beginning with the innermost:
Sphere of fixed stars

How we know about ancient astronomical ideas
The reason his work on astronomy has an Arabic name is very important. Ptolemy wrote the Almagest as a textbook of mathematical astronomy. It explained geometrical models of the planets based on combinations of circles, which could be used to predict the motions of celestial objects. Ptolemy’s comprehensive treatise of mathematical astronomy superseded most older texts of Greek astronomy, so, as a result, the older texts ceased to be copied and were gradually lost. Much of what we know about the work of astronomers like Hipparchus comes from references in the Almagest. The first translations into Arabic were made in the 9th century, with two separate efforts, one sponsored by the caliph Al-Ma’mun. By this time, the Almagest was lost in Western Europe, or only dimly remembered in astrological lore. Consequently, Western Europe rediscovered Ptolemy from translations of Arabic versions. In the twelfth century a Spanish version was produced, which was later translated into Latin under the patronage of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. Gerard of Cremona translated the Almagest into Latin directly from the Arabic version. Gerard found the Arabic text in Toledo, Spain. Gerard of Cremona was unable to translate many technical terms; he even retained the Arabic Abrachir for Hipparchus.

Ptolemy on the Moon
Ptolemaeus is an ancient lunar impact crater named after Ptolemy.

The crater Ammonius on the floor of Ptolemaeus. The Apollo 12 lunar module is visible near top of image.

The story of Icarus
Icarus‘ father, Daedalus, a talented and remarkable Athenian craftsman, attempted to escape from his exile in the place of Crete, where he and his son were imprisoned at the hands of King Minos, the king for whom he had built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur (half man, half bull). Daedalus, the superior craftsman, was exiled because he gave Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, a clew of string in order to help Theseus, the enemy of Minos, survive the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.

Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms. And so, Icarus fell into the sea in the area which bears his name, the Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos.

The Sun travels around the Earth
This is what geocentric means, the Earth is fixed as a centre of things and the Sun travels around the Earth, and poor young Icarus flies too close to the Sun, the wax that holds the feathers melts in the Sun’s heat and he falls into the sea.

Breughel’s picture depicts the moment when Icarus fall into the sea. It is a small detail in a landscape where the most visible and important action is a Ploughman ploughing his field and concentrating on his work.

The warning of Daedelus to his son Icarus as told by Ovid
When he had put the last touches to what he had begun, the artificer balanced his own body between the two wings and hovered in the moving air. He instructed the boy as well, saying ‘Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes. And I order you not to aim towards Bootes, the Herdsman, or Helice, the Great Bear, or towards the drawn sword of Orion: take the course I show you!’ At the same time as he laid down the rules of flight, he fitted the newly created wings on the boy’s shoulders. While he worked and issued his warnings the ageing man’s cheeks were wet with tears: the father’s hands trembled.

He gave a never to be repeated kiss to his son, and lifting upwards on his wings, flew ahead, anxious for his companion, like a bird, leading her fledglings out of a nest above, into the empty air. He urged the boy to follow, and showed him the dangerous art of flying, moving his own wings, and then looking back at his son. Some angler catching fish with a quivering rod, or a shepherd leaning on his crook, or a ploughman resting on the handles of his plough, saw them, perhaps, and stood there amazed, believing them to be gods able to travel the sky.

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BCE – 17 or 18 CE), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the Metamorphoses a mythological hexameter poem, and the Fasti, about the Roman calendar. Many artists in Europe have based their subject matter on episodes from Metamorphoses.

The coldest place on Earth
If you were to fly towards the Sun into the mesosphere, which extends from the stratopause at 51 km (32 mi; 170,000 ft) to 80–85 km (50–53 mi; 260,000–280,000 ft), and where most meteors burn up upon entering the atmosphere, the mesopause, the temperature minimum that marks the top of the mesosphere, is the coldest place on Earth and has an average temperature around −100 °C (−148.0 °F; 173.1 K).

Women’s World Day of Prayer (Christian)
This dates from 1887 and is celebrated on the first Friday of March which this year is falls on March 5. This year the theme of prayer has been prepared by the women of the National Committee of Cameroon; “Let Everything that has breath praise God”.

International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day (IWD) is marked on March 8 every year. It is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Bramley on a winters day 11.03.2010