Our spring almanac 26.03.2010 – 01.04.2010

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


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