Our spring almanac 09.04.2010 – 15.04.2010

Cherry blossom – at last!

Cherry blossom opposite Fairfields School Basingstoke 09.04.2010

Yom Hashoah
The Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 11.04.2010. The date is chosen as the closest date (in the Jewish calendar) to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The name comes from the Hebrew word ‘shoah’, which means ‘whirlwind’. Yom Hashoah ceremonies include the lighting of candles for Holocaust victims, and listening to the stories of survivors. Religious ceremonies include prayers such as Kaddish for the dead and the El Maleh Rahamim, a memorial prayer.

In a place called Yad Vashem, near Jerusalem in Israel, you will find the Hall of Names containing Pages of Testimony commemorating the six millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off.”

The Sikh New Year Festival 13.04.2010
Vaisakhi, also spelled Baisakhi, is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar. It is the Sikh New Year festival and is celebrated on April 13 or 14. It also commemorates 1699, the year Sikhism was born as a collective faith.

The Dasam Granth (formally dasvēṁ pātśāh kī granth or The Book of the Tenth Master) is an eighteenth-century collection of poems by Gobind Singh, the tenth guru. It was he who, on Vaisakhi in 1699, laid down the Foundation of the Khalsa.

Birthday of Guru Nanak (Nanakshahi calendar)
The founder of the Sikh religion was born on 14 April 1469. This festival is also currently celebrated according to the Lunar Calendar, but this may change. Hola Mohalla, according to the Nanakshahi Calendar, also takes place on this day. Hola Mohalla is currently celebrated according to the Lunar Calendar, but this may change.


In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the kingdom Ethiopia. Our previous spring almanac has the constellation Cassiopeia as our theme. The Greek myth that connects Perseus, Pegasus, the Gorgon Medusa, Cassiopeia and Andromeda comes to a dramatic moment when, as divine punishment for her mother’s bragging, Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus.

After her death, Andromeda was placed by Athena amongst the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia.

Andromeda was the Constellation Logo of Overton School.

One of Overton School’s student came up with a brilliant new constellation image, a tractor! Just right for farming the countryside around this part of Basingstoke and Deane,

Stars and galaxies
Alpheratz is the brightest star in this constellation.

Alpheratz is also known as Sirrah, both names derive from the Arabic name, سرة الفرس surrat al-faras “the navel of the horse”. (سرة alone is surra.) The word horse reflects the star’s historical placement in Pegasus. Another term for this star used by medieval astronomers writing in Arabic was راس المراة المسلسلة rās al-mar’a al-musalsala “the head of the woman in chains”, the chained woman here being Andromeda. In the Hindu lunar zodiac, this star, together with the other stars in the Great Square of Pegasus (α, β, and γ Pegasi), makes up the nakshatras of Pūrva Bhādrapadā and Uttara Bhādrapadā. The term Nakshatra (Devanagari: नक्षत्र, Sanskrit: nakshatra, ‘star’, from Sanskrit: naksha, ‘approach’, and Sanskrit: tra, ‘guard’) or lunar mansion is one of the 27 divisions of the sky, identified by the prominent stars in them, used in Jyotisha, which is the Hindu system of astrology.

Beta Andromedae is a red giant star in the constellation of Andromeda. It has the traditional name Mirach (also spelled Merach, Mirac, Mirak). It is approximately 200 light years away. Mirach is a corruption of the Arabic ميزر mīzar “girdle” and refers to Mirach’s position at the left hip of the princess Andromeda.

A light-year
A light-year, also light year or lightyear, (symbol: ly) is a unit of length, equal to just under 10 trillion kilometres (i.e. 1016 metres). As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year. The light-year is often used to measure distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale.

Gamma Andromedae is the third brightest star in the constellation of Andromeda. It is also known by the traditional name Almach (also spelt as Almaach, Almaack, Almak, Almaak, or Alamak), from the Arabic العناق الأرض al-‘anāq al-’arđ̧ “the caracal” (desert lynx). It was known as 天大將軍一 (the First Star of the Great General of the Heaven) in Chinese.

In 1778, Johann Tobias Mayer discovered that γ Andromedae was a double star. When examined in a small telescope, it appears to be a bright, golden yellow star (γ1 Andromedae) next to a dimmer, indigo blue star (γ2 Andromedae), separated by approximately 10 arcseconds. It is considered by stargazers to be a beautiful double star with a striking contrast of color. It was later discovered that γ2 Andromedae is itself a triple star system. What appears as a single star to the naked eye is thus a quadruple star system, approximately 350 light-years from the Earth.

Andromeda the Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy as seen by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2,500,000 light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, and is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way. As it is visible as a faint smudge on a moonless night, it is one of the farthest objects visible to the naked eye, and can be seen even from urban areas with binoculars. It gets its name from the area of the sky in which it appears, the Andromeda constellation. Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which consists of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies. Although the largest, Andromeda may not be the most massive, as recent findings suggest that the Milky Way contains more dark matter and may be the most massive in the grouping. The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that M31 contains one trillion stars, more than the number of stars in our own galaxy, which is estimated to be about 200-400 billion.

A 2009 study concluded that Andromeda and the Milky Way are about equal in mass. Although it appears more than six times as wide as the full Moon when photographed through a larger telescope, only the brighter central region is visible with the naked eye.

Using the orbiting Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have imaged the center of our near-twin island universe, finding evidence for an object so bizarre it would have impressed many 1960s science fiction writers (and readers). Like the Milky Way, Andromeda’s galactic center appears to harbor an X-ray source characteristic of a black hole of a million or more solar masses. Seen above, the false-color X-ray picture shows a number of X-ray sources, likely X-ray binary stars, within Andromeda’s central region as yellowish dots. The blue source located right at the galaxy’s center is the position of the suspected massive 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.

Andromeda will collide with the Milky Way
The Andromeda Galaxy is approaching the Sun at about 100 to 140 kilometres per second so the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way are thus expected to collide in perhaps 2.5 billion years. A likely outcome of the collision is that the galaxies will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy. Such events are frequent among the galaxies in galaxy groups.

Beautiful coloured clouds sometimes have a lining of glass.

Volcanic ash fills the skies
On 15.04.2010. The Guardian reports that:
Tens of thousands of passengers across Britain and Europe were grounded today as airports closed or faced severe disruption from a plume of ash caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

All non-emergency flights in the UK will be grounded from noon to six because the after-effects of the eruption have made flying too hazardous, air safety officials said.

All flights in and out of Scotland were stopped earlier today with other airports facing severe disruption until the blanket ban was announced. Denmark’s air space will close later this afternoon. Airports and airlines warned cancellations and delays were likely tomorrow and possibly longer as the ash continued to move south and east into northern Europe.

Volcanic ash is drifting south-east from the volcano, located beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier about 120km east of Reykjavik. About 800 residents were evacuated from the area yesterday as rivers rose by up to 3 metres.

Overton in sunshine on 15.04.2010


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