Our spring almanac 11.06.2010 – 17.06.2010

The World Cup opens in South Africa 11.06.2010

The first two World Cup matches took place in Uruguay, simultaneously on 13 July 1930, and were won by France and USA, who defeated Mexico 4–1 and Belgium 3–0 respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and in doing so became the first nation to win the World Cup. The FIFA championship has been awarded every four years since the first tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not contested because of World War II.

Night skies in Taurus

The Pleiades

The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (Messier object 45), is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars you can see in the constellation of Taurus.

An image of the Pleiades in infrared light, showing the associated dust.

X-ray images of the Pleiades reveal the stars with the hottest atmospheres. Green squares indicate the seven optically brightest stars.

Pleiades is among the closest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky, and so the fact that people looking at the night sky over thousands of years leads to the Pleiades having many different associations among different cultures and traditions.

This disk is attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, and associatively dated to c. 1600 BC. It has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture. The Nebra Sky Disk as it is called, is a bronze disk of around 30 cm diameter, with a blue-green patina and inlaid with gold symbols. These are thought to show the sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars, including a cluster that could well be the Pleiades.

The Pleiades Πληιόνης (pleye’-a-deez, also plee’-a-deez), companions of Artemis (ar’-te-mis), were the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas (at’-las) and the sea-nymph Pleione (pleye-oh’-nee) born on Mt. Cyllene (seye-lee’-nee). They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides.

Navigation and the Pleiades
There is some debate as to the origin of the name Pleiades. Previously, it was accepted the name is derived from the name of their mother, Pleione. However, the name Pleiades is more likely to come from πλει̂ν (to sail), because the Pleiades star cluster are visible in the Mediterranean at night during the summer, from the middle of May until the beginning of November, which coincided with the sailing season in antiquity. This derivation was recognized by the Roman poet Virgil (Georgics 1.136-138).

The Greek poet Hesiod mentions the Pleiades several times in his Works and Days. As the Pleiades are primarily summer stars, they feature prominently in the ancient agricultural calendar. Here is a bit of advice from Hesiod:

“And if longing seizes you for sailing the stormy seas,
when the Pleiades flee mighty Orion
and plunge into the misty deep
and all the gusty winds are raging,
then do not keep your ship on the wine-dark sea
but, as I bid you, remember to work the land.”

The Minoan Civilization
The Minoan civilization, a Bronze Age civilization, arose on the island of Crete, the largest island in the part of the Mediterranean known as the Aegean Sea.

It is one of the oldest civilizations and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. This was a time so ancient that the ancient Greeks remembered it only in stories and mythology. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.

It was a civilization based on trade across the Mediterranean, including Egypt. This trade depended on the ships and sailors who sailed them. Navigation and sailing makes for trade, wealth and communication.

The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). The disc was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace of Phaistos, on the south coast of Crete, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center. On side A of the disc one can find twice the depiction of a pigeon.

In Ancient Greek mythology doves stood for the constellation of the Pleiades. In Hesiod’s Astronomy the Pleiades are called doves. The interval between two depictions of the sign pigeon on side A (signs 45 and 91 from the beginning of the inscription) is 46 signs which approximately corresponds to the number of days between the evening disappearance and the morning appearance of the Pleiades. The observation of the vernal disappearance and appearance of the Pleiades was very important for early Greek astronomy and was described in Hesiod’s Works and Days.

The west wind Zephyr as in the “Spring” of Sandro Boticelli.

If the Pleiades rising and setting are 25 March and 10 May, the beginning of calendrical count on the Disk will be 8 February. It is beginning of the month of Aquarius close to the early spring (when the western wind blows) in Greek calendars and considered to be the spring herald.

It may well be that the Phaistos Disk is a star compass that resembles star compasses of Arabian and Polynesian sailors but is not identical to them. Each field of the Disk contains information about the constellations whose brightest stars are arranged along the East-West line on appropriate days (beginning with 8 February). For example, the field A1 contains five signs which correspond to the period from 8 February to 12 February. In this period on the East-West line one can observe some of the brightest stars of the constellation of Cancer (Ancient Greek Karkinos = the sign no. 2 karekomoontes ‘long-haired’ on the Phaistos Disk), Capella (Ancient Greek Aix = the sign no. 12 aigis ‘shield’ on the Phaistos Disk), Perseus (see above), Andromeda (see above), and Sextans (see above) in the first minutes of their visibility after the sunset. Some fields contain the constellations in the last minutes of their visibility before the sunrise, e.g. the field A23 describes the first morning rising of the Pleiades. In several cases a field might contain information both on the morning and evening constellations.

The Hayabusa (はやぶさ?, literally peregrine falcon) returns to Earth 03.06.2010

An unmanned spacecraft developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to return a sample of material from a small near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa, returned to Earth on 13 June 2010 allowing scientists to analyse the dust and therefore help us understand better how the Solar system has evolved and developed over 4.5 billion years.

The Hayabusa was launched on 9 May 2003 and reached Itokawa in mid-September 2005. After arriving at Itokawa, Hayabusa studied the asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, colour, composition, density, and history. In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and attempted to collect samples but it is not clear whether the sampling mechanism worked as intended. Nevertheless, there is a high probability that some dust was trapped in the sampling chamber during contact with the asteroid, so the chamber was sealed, and the spacecraft made the long journey back to Earth.

The reentry capsule and the spacecraft made a spectacular return entry to the Earth’s atmosphere on 13 June, 2010 at 13:51 UTC. The heat-shielded capsule made a parachute landing in the South Australian outback while the spacecraft broke up and burned in a large fireball.

Dragon Boat Festival 16.06.2010

All over the world people chinese communities celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. It is in fact the Duanwu Festival (Chinese: 端午節), but is also known around the world as the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional holiday for Chinese and other East Asian and Southeast Asian societies as well. The festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar on which the Chinese calendar is based. This is the source of the alternative name of Double Fifth. Last year this occurred on May 28 and in 2010 it happens on June 16.

The focus of the celebrations includes eating the rice dumpling zongzi, and racing dragon boats.


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