Our winter almanac 12.03.2010 – 18.03.2010

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

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