April 17, 2014

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Conditions at Parkersburg, Mid Ohio Valley Regional Airport, WV
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Amateur Astronomy

From trivia questions to crass marketing, back yard astronomy took a hit this week.

As a child of the sixties, I was caught up in the space race.

Ever since Sputnik scared the stuffings out of our country, the big push for science and astronomy dominated the educational process when I was in elementary school.

I remember making scale models of the planets and the solar system, and writing reports on the nine planets based upon what I found in our World Book Encyclopedia and Golden Book Encyclopedia to amaze the teacher with my knowledge, research and enthusiasm.

What I forgot was that we were limited to writing reports on only two of the planets maximum as we worked toward a goal of 100 points.  That's 50 for the scale model, and only 20 more points for two of the NINE reports that I wrote.  Bummer!

But it all came rushing back to me tonight, as I watched Jeopardy's final round.  The question was "This planet named after a roman god has moons named after his Greek counterpart."

Quickly my brain flashed to the possibilities...not Venus... nor Mercury.... could be Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune or Pluto... but my favorite choice was Mars.... after all, I had read "Colossus and the Crab" back in high school and learned that the two potato shaped "moons" were named Phobos and Demos.... and they sure sounded dreadful and fearful and GREEK to me!

The final contestants each entered an answer... Jupiter was guessed for no money wagered...and Neptune was a favorite too... but the winner changed to a correct guess of Mars, but lost the game cause she didn't have enough money/points banked by then.

In another way, we have lost again this week... as Universal Studios of Florida have stolen the night sky from us. They have unveiled a new Harry Potter ride complete with sky-searching spotlights (al la the Ground Zero spotlights to heaven).

The problem is that it pollutes the night sky with scattered light.  Not enough to turn night to day, but enough to obscure dim objects. There is a comet passing overhead this week, and sure enough, Universal Studios is wiping out any chance of seeing it clearly for anyone in Florida... thanks to their searchlights.

Hey, we already know about Harry Potter....and who hasn't seen the amazing commercials promoting the new ride?  Why do we need the light pollution?

Because they can.

Guess the price of electricity isn't high enough yet to have the theme parks start to conserve.

(PS: Guess who's NOT driving to Florida to celebrate the new Harry Potter ride anytime soon?)

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