Friday, November 16, 2012

Leonid meteor shower (and the Taurids & Orionids, too)

Conditions should be nearly perfect for the annual Leonid meteor shower: a waxing crescent moon and clear weather should make for spectacular viewing.
from Sky & Telescope

The best viewing of the Leonids will be from about 1:00 a.m. to dawn on 17 November 2012. That means Friday night (16 November) for those of you like me that have trouble keeping the a.m./p.m. thing separate from the date.

How to find them: find Ursa Major (aka the Big Dipper) and look to the right (east). You can also get a map of the sky for your mobile device or computer.

The best way to view these meteors streaking away from Leo is to look straight up. This means bringing a nice, comfortable lounge/camp chair outside to sit in. You'll also want to bundle up and bring plenty of blankets- sitting still outside in the cold, pre-dawn hours is not an activity that will warm your blood. A thermos full of hot coffee or chocolate might be nice, too.

At the same time the Leonids are peaking (20-30 meteors per hour under ideal conditions) near Ursa Major, the Taurids will be waning near the Pleiades and the Orionids (debris from Comet Halley) near Orion. The Taurids and Orionids are of much less frequency (10-15 meteors per hour) but should add a few more shooting stars to the sky.

Need more information? Check out the links below.

More Info
from the web

from Ball State Libraries (CardCat)
Comets & meteors [videorecording] 
DVD Video 9716 (EdRes)

Comets, meteors & asteroids--how they affect earth 
QB721.4 .G53 1985 (Gen-Coll)

Cosmic pinball : the science of comets, meteors, and asteroids 
QB721 .S85 2000 (Gen-Coll)

The doomsday lobby : hype and panic from Sputniks, Martians, and marauding meteors
Q127 .U6 B46 2010 (Gen-Coll)

The heavens on fire : the great Leonid meteor storms
QB745 .L58 1998 (Gen-Coll)

A most pleasant prospect : into the garden of naturall contemplation, to behold the natuall causes of all kinde of meteors ...: of which sort the blazing starres, shooting starres, flames in the aire, &c. thunder, lightning, earthquakes, &c. raine, dew, snow, clouds, springs, &c. stones, metals, and earths ...
PR1121 .S54 NO.11441 (Archives- no circ)

Observing meteors, comets, supernovae, and other transient phenomena
QB63 .B66 1999 (Gen-Coll)

The physics and astronomy of meteors, comets and meteorites
QB741 .H38 (Gen-Coll)

Space garbage : comets, meteors, and other solar-system debris : guest star, Halley's Comet 
QB741 .M37 1985 (Gen-Coll)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Blue moons

"Once in a blue moon." We've all heard this and know that it means that something is rare or impossible, but what is a "blue moon"?

There is actually a bit of controversy and confusion about this term, believe it or not. A series of misinterpretations in Sky & Telescope ended with the author of an article in the March 1946 issue attributing the 1937 Maine Farmer's Almanac as defining a "blue moon" the 2nd full moon within a calendar month. The actual definition stated that the 3rd full moon in 1 season was referred to as a blue moon but the above mistake stuck.

But why a blue moon and not, say, a red or purple moon? Occasionally, the moon might appear bluish due to suspended particulates in the atmosphere: dust, ash, and other debris. When Krakatoa erupted in 1883, tons of ash and dust were sent skyward and changed not only sunsets but the apparent colors of the sun and moon themselves for years.

Another factor is at work here. Before we get to the calendrical definition and even before the volcanic historical origin, the concept of a blue moon being something rare or ridiculously impossible was extant in western culture. A poem by the Bishop of Chichester in 1528 stated the following:
Rede me and be nott wrothe, For I say no things but trothe: Yf they saye the mone is belewe, We must believe that it is true.
In other words, don't believe everything you're told.

Of course, the full moon seen in the sky right now is not a blue moon. Two full moons will occur this month (August 2012) which is why you might hear people talking about "blue moons" right now. But we'll have to wait until closer to the end of the month to see that "blue moon" -if you follow the more recent definition.

More Info...
In Ball State University Libraries
Krakatoa: the day the world exploded, August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester.
QE523 .K73 W56 2003B

The Indonesia reader: history, culture, politics by Tineke Hellwig
DS634 .I53 2009

Call number ranges for volcanoes: QE521.5-QE527.75

Other resources

Friday, July 20, 2012

43rd anniversary of Apollo 11

43 years ago today, 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on our nearest companion in the solar system changing humankind's history forever.

NASA put together a documentary called "The Journeys of Apollo" for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

Take a look at NASA's official site.

Look at incredible panoramas of the lunar surface and Apollo missions at

Was the moon landing a hoax...? Find out at:
Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy links

Moon Base Clavius

More on Apollo 11 and Space Exploration:
Select Books and Videos at BSU Libraries
(click on the link to view the CardCat record)

10:56:20 PM EDT, 7/20/69 : the historic conquest of the moon as reported to the American people / by CBS News over the CBS Television network.
TL789.8.U6 A527 1970 (ARCHIVES)

Apollo 11 / by U.S. G.P.O.
NAS 1.45:5 (GOV-PUBS)

Apollo [videorecording] : missions to the moon / by Dastar Corp.
VIDEO VHS 12533-12539 (ED-RES)

Team Moon : how 400,000 people landed Apollo 11 on the moon / by Catherine Thimmesh.
629.45 T443TE (ED-RES)

Buzz Aldrin : the pilot of the first moon landing / by Amy Sterling Casil.
92 A3655CA (ED-RES)

Moon rocks and minerals; scientific results of the study of the Apollo 11 lunar samples with preliminary data on Apollo 12 samples / by Alfred A. Levinson and S. Ross Taylor.
QB592 .L48 1971 (GEN-COLL)

Appointment on the moon; the full story of Americans in space from Explorer 1 to the lunar landing and beyond / by Richard S. Lewis.
TL789.8.U5 L46 1969 (GEN-COLL)

First on the moon. A voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins [and] Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., / by Neil Armstrong, Gene Farmer, Dora Jane Hamblin.
TL789.8.U6 A516 (GEN-COLL)

Return to the Moon : exploration, enterprise, and energy in the human settlement of space / by Harrison Schmitt
TL799.M6 S36 2006 (GEN-COLL)

Friday, July 06, 2012

the Higgs boson

Particle buzz
Since Wednesday, 04 July, there has been lots of buzz about CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) possibly finding the Higgs boson all over the web in news reports, blog entries, humorous memes, tweets, etc. Nothing is confirmed yet but the findings look promising.

What is it?
In at nutshell, the Higgs boson is the particle that creates a field (ie the Higgs field) which imparts mass to all other particles as they travel through it. It means that matter matters because it has mass.

So what?
Finding the Higgs is a verifiable Big Deal because without it, the standard model -the prevailing cosmological explanation of the origins and functioning of the universe- collapses and we're left to sort out of a new model of the universe once again.

Why is it referred to as "the God particle"?
Dr. Peter Higgs himself explains why author Leon M. Lederman coined the term (see Library Resources below).

Library Resources-
External Resources- 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice 2012

Earth northern hemisphere solstice graphic from WikiCommons
image from WikiCommons

7:09 pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time, 20 June 2012 marks the summer solstice- the longest day of the year.

This means that the sun appears furthest north in the sky and the time between sunrise and sunset is the greatest providing the most daylight hours for the whole year. For example, sunrise was 6:12 am this morning and sunset will be 9:15 pm. On 22 September, the autmunal equinox three months from now, sunrise will be 7:30 am and sunset will be 7:38 pm (do your own calculations at the US Naval Observatory)- almost 3 hours more daylight (2 hours, 55 minutes, to be exact).

For more information on this in Ball State's University Libraries and online:

Do keyword searches in CardCat for "vernal," "spring," "autumnal," or "fall" "equinox," or "soltices." You can also type in terms such as "astronomy" or "seasons" for more general information.

You can also find books on this subject and astronomy in general on the shelves under call numbers beginning with Q14 (encyclopedia, dictionaries, glossaries, etc.) or QB63-65 (field guides, star charts, manuals, etc.).

External Links--

"The Egg and the Equinox" and "Shall I compare thee to a summer's solstice?" from Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy

"The Longest Day",

"Summer Solstice" from Wolfram Research

SkyTonight Almanac from Sky & Telescope
Earth's Seasons: Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion from the US Naval Observatory

First Day of Summer, Old Farmer's Almanac

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to access electronic reserves

  1. Make sure the computer you are using has a PDF reader as all electronic reserves are in PDF format. All computers in the University Libraries have Adobe Acrobat already installed. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download available at

  2. Access University Libraries home page.

  3. Click on CardCatNOTE: you must login to CardCat using your BSU username and password to access course reserves.

  4. Click on the Course Reserves link in the grey area in the top third of the CardCat page.

  5. Enter search criteria in text box (recommend using Instructor's name (eg Airriess) or Course Number (eg GEOG 121))

  6. Click on button that matches search criteria (eg Airriess, GEOG 121, etc.)

  7. Locate desired reserve from displayed list and Click on the Title hyperlink. Reserve information including the URL will be displayed.

  8. Click on the URL.

  9. Enter your BSU username and password if prompted.

  10. Click OK.

  11. Adobe Acrobat Reader or its plug-in will launch and display the document.

More information specific to Electronic Reserves can be located on the Course Reserves page titled “Search for Items on Reserve.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vernal equinox 2012

from EarthSky
At 1:14am Eastern Daylight Saving Time, 20 March 2012, spring begins. This date and time mark the vernal equinox- equal hours of daylight and darkness that occur twice a year in spring and fall.

For more information on this in Ball State's University Libraries and online:

Do keyword searches in CardCat for "vernal," "spring," "autumnal," or "fall" "equinox," or "soltices." You can also type in terms such as "astronomy" or "seasons" for more general information.

You can also find books on this subject and astronomy in general on the shelves under call numbers beginning with Q14 (encyclopedia, dictionaries, glossaries, etc.) or QB63-65 (field guides, star charts, manuals, etc.).

More information...
"The Egg and the Equinox" from Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy
Seasons Calculator for Indianapolis IN, years 2000-2049 from
SkyTonight Almanac from Sky & Telescope
"Everything you need to know: Vernal spring equinox 2012." from EarthSky
Earth's Seasons: Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion from the US Naval Observatory

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Intercalary years (aka bissextile or leap years)

Shifting of the date of the summer solstice
from Absolute Astronomy

Every four years we add a day to our calendar: 29 February. We call this a "leap year," or an "intercalary year," or a "bissextile year." A year that is not a leap year is called a "common year."


This is necessary in order to keep our calendar (Gregorian) in sync with the seasonal year because the day is not exactly 24 hours long and extra time accumulates every year at the rate of about 1/4 of a day. In other words, our year is not 365 days, it's 365.25 days long. In order to keep things accurate, we add an entire day every fourth year.

Side note: On a much smaller scale, we also add leap seconds occasionally because the solar day becomes 1.7 milliseconds longer each century due to tidal friction. This information is tracked with atomic clocks by the  International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS). It will be a very, very long time before we have a 366-day year (billions of years).

More information...
Leap year/day
"Leap year: 2012 is a Leap Year" (
"Why we have leap days" (Bad Astronomy/Discover)
"LeapYear" (Wolfram Research)
"Leap years and leap seconds" (Royal Museums Greenwich, UK)
"Leap Years" (United States Naval Observatory (USNO))
General information & traditions (Wikipedia)
Galileo Day Campaign (Somnabulist)

Gregorian calendar
Absolute Astronomy
Wolfram Research
The Galileo Project

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daylight Saving Time: 2012

 from WikiMedia Commons
So, when exactly do we reset our clocks? And is it forward or backward one hour?

Daylight Saving Time can be very confusing. Read below to help end your confusion! [The chart on the left plots the times of sunrise and sunset (with DST adjustment as separate lines) in Greenwich, GB for 2007.]

Short answer
For the Spring- On Sunday, 11 March, 2012 at 2:00am, you should set your clock forward one hour to 3:00am.

For the Fall- On Sunday, 04 November, 2012 at 2:00am, you should set your clock backward one hour to 1:00am. (Remember "spring forward, fall back...").

Easy answer: Most people who go to bed earlier than the wee hours of the morning simply set their clocks back/forward one hour before they go to bed on Saturday.

Detailed answer: Go HERE.

For more information...
Daylight Saving Time from WebExhibits

World Clock for Indianapolis DST

National Geographic on DST

US Naval Observatory on DST

Figure out what time it is in the United States at