Yet another month has passed by, and what a month it has been! In my most recent post, on 2019-06-21, I talked about the international space station (ISS) and even made an update later on. But here comes more!
1. More about ISS
Further to my previous facts about the ISS, the following also deserves to be told.
We saw a most spectacular flyover in the early hours of 2019-07-22, about one hour before the sun rise. It came in from the North West and left us in the South East. The whole passing over the American continent took exactly 27 minutes, from the entry close to Oil City, WA, USA until the exit on the shores of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina by the town of Barra Velha.
Below you can see two instances of its route, first when it was at its highest peak for our viewing, in the town of Inajá, state of Paraná, 35 km away from our location, and then after 5 more seconds, when even our town appears on the Google map below the world chart.
In reference #1 below is a link to the web site from which the above maps were taken, and reference #2 gives extensive background information about the ISS.
And finally, here is a photo taken at the same moment:
2. Walking on the moon
Everybody has of course heard about the historic feat in July 1969 when two American astronauts first set foot on the moon. But do you know the story behind the spacesuit that they wore?
It was made by the International Latex Corporation at their Playtex division, known for producing female garment. Their employees were responsible for manually sewing all the 4 000 pieces that made up each spacesuit. It consisted of 21 layers of synthetics, neoprene rubber and metallized polyester films, which protected Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from the extreme climate conditions on the moon surface. Each suit cost in the region of US$ 100 000 to US$ 250 000!
Read more about this fantastic story in reference #3 below. And in reference #4 is mentioned a book called ‘The golden thread’ in which the author Kassia Saint Clair gives even more details about the whole process of developing and manufacturing this lunar edition of a spacesuit.
3. Dog years
In my post of 2016-06-14, I wrote about our dog Prins, who has was commemorating his 7th birthday, counted in human years, that day. Thus, last month he completed 10 human years.
However, as I also wrote then, the second year and onward for a dog corresponds to a 7 times longer period of time. That means that last Sunday, 2019-07-28, Prins turned himself into the oldest living creature in our family, at least within his conception!
And here is a photo of Prins in his spacesuit, somewhat cheaper than Neil’s and Buzz’s, but equally well made by his human mother:
Today is the brightest day of the year on the Northern hemisphere, it is the day of the Summer solstice. You may remember that I already wrote about it briefly three years ago, on 2016-03-20, but here are some more interesting facts:
1. Summer solstice
The Summer solstice is the day of the year when one of the Earth’s hemispheres is located as close to the sun as possible. On the Northern hemisphere it happens around June 21 and on the Southern hemisphere around December 21. As a consequence, this is also the longest day of the year, considering the time from sun rise to sun set. But it also means that on the opposite hemisphere, it is the shortest day of the year. Read reference # 1 below for more information about the solstice.
So, which is the difference in duration of daylight in a particular place, if we compare those two dates? Well, the closer you live to the North Pole or the South Pole, the bigger the difference in time. You have probably heard about the expression “Midnight sun”, which is a phenomenon observed by those who live within the Arctic circle. As an example, in Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, this year its habitants are lucky to have days with 24 h daylight from May 28 all through to July 16, a total of 50 days! But at the time around the December equinox, it is of course the opposite. From December 11, 2019 to January 1, 2020, during a total of 22 whole days, the Sun does not appear above the horizon not even a single minute!
And the closer one lives to the Equator, the less difference in time between the longest and the shortest day of the year. As an example, in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazônia, located 2 degrees South of the Equator, the difference is only 22 minutes, and in Macapá, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amapá, located exactly on the Equator, every day in 2019 is 12 h 7 min long. In my town Paranavaí, located slightly North of the tropic of the Capricorn, thus within the tropics, today is only 10 h 43 min long, whereas on December 21 it will be 13 h 34 min, a difference of 2 h 51 min. Reference #2 below has a link to a site that gives such information for any place on Earth, well worth studying.
2. UTC #1
And speaking about time, maybe you have noticed that the old abbreviation GMT (which stands for Greenwich Mean Time) is more often these days exchanged to UTC, how come?
I believe it is a matter of jealousy. Although the time settings for the globe are maintained within a zero meridian passing through the Greenwich observatory in UK, why should the British people have the privilege also to the name? So instead, UTC was introduced. Now, what does UTC stands for, exactly?
The fact is that it is a fabricated “abbreviation” involving English and French. Some centuries ago, the French had their own zero meridian for time, passing through Paris, but they had to succumb to Greenwich in that sense. So, as a compromise, they managed to enforce the denomination UTC. In English it would be similar to “Coordinated Universal Time” (CUT), and in French “Temps Universel Coordonné” (TUC), so UTC is not a bad compromise. Reference #3 has the whole story about it.
3. UTC #2
While I was doing research about UTC #1, I remembered that UTC is also the (real) abbreviation of a technical university in France, where I studied in the 1970s. I already wrote something about it on 2017-11-11, but here comes more. This UTC means Université de Technologie de Compiègne. It is a technical university belonging to the French state, created in 1972, and since 2012 it makes part of the group of Sorbonne Universities. It has a reputation of being more integrated into the society, with frequent trainee periods in the French industry, as well as many interchange programs with other international universities, than the traditional theoretical French technical universities, e.g. École Polytechnique.
I studied there between September, 1978 and June, 1979, exactly 40 years ago. During that year happened an interesting fact, a group of students from China came to study at our university. It was a sensation at that time, because China was extremely closed to external activities. This photo shows the Chinese students, taken in February, 1979. They have since kept the contact and met year after year and update themselves. See also reference # 4 below. At the bottom of that page you can also find the complete magazine edition of April 2019, both in French and English.
4. ISS flies over Paranavaí
The sensation today here in my home town was the passing of the international space station (ISS). I had heard about it before, that it would be possible to see it with the naked eye, but never had the chance to actually see it. See also reference #5 with the announcement.
Update on 2019-07-12
Today we had a chance of viewing the ISS even better and for longer. And it did not hurt at all that the moon was eager to also play a vital part of the scene, being half way between the crescent and full moon phases. See the photo below. Reference #6, which tells the ISS passing date and time for any location on the earth, said the following about this event:
We were very lucky recently to catch the collision of two neutron stars, possibly forming a so called kilonova. It happened 130 million years ago. This kind of event typically happens less than once in a century, and if it had happened only one month later, then we would have missed its ripples completely! The reason for that is that the detector system will then undergo an upgrade which will result in a double precision in the measurements compared to the first generation.
Of course, this is all connected with the recent confirmation that gravitational waves, which were forecasted by Albert Einstein already in 1916, really exist. The first successful discovery was only announced in the beginning of 2016, and more about that event can be found in my post of 2016-02-12.
As you probably know, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been awarded to the three main scientists behind the detection of gravitational waves, and thus this recent event, which occurred on 2017-08-17 and was announced to the public on 2017-10-16, came at a very good time. You can read (and hear, if you understand Swedish) more about this fantastic event in references #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 below. In reference #6 there is also an interesting discussion on how the heaviest materials in the universe are formed.
This illustration shows the hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from the neutron stars just before they collided. This cloud produces the kilonova’s visible and infrared light. Within this neutron-rich debris, large quantities of some of the universe’s heaviest elements were forged, including hundreds of Earth masses of gold and platinum. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab
You have surely heard about “fake news”, but what about “fake food”? Currently, there is a heavy discussion going on in São Paulo, where the mayor, João Doria Jr., has declared that he wants to introduce a low-grade flour called ‘farinata’ to increase the volume of the school lunch in the public schools. Reference #5 below, in Brazilian Portuguese, published by O Estado de S. Paulo last Friday, claims that it is not a bad thing from a nutritional point of view, although there are so called ‘experts’ who argue about that.
This reminds me of a habit in the Nordic countries some centuries ago. If the crop failed, the poor had no alternative than to shred the trees from their bark and grind the material into a powder which was then added to the flour. Of course that was a measure which only served as landfill in the stomachs, without taste and nutrition. Reference #6 discusses that topic in detail and in references #7 and 8 you can listen to a tune which deals with that subject, both sung by Monica Thörnell and in an instrumental version by Kebnekaise.
If you are in the US, then you can enjoy an extra day off work and celebrate the nation’s independence day, congratulations!
And thanks to the internet you can also listen to a Swedish radio programme, where Gloria Ray Karlmark counts her life story, including fighting for racial emancipation in Little Rock, Arkansas, and being the first coloured female student at MIT. But you need to know Swedish, and if you do, the link can be found in reference #1 below.
And when it is time for the fireworks tonight, think about what is happening at that very moment even further out in the sky, on a distance 48 light-minutes away. A Nasa probe named Juno penetrates the Jupiter atmosphere, searching for clues to the composition of this gigantic planet, the biggest one in our solar system. For more information, see reference #2 below.
But do you know why the probe is called Juno? It all started back in ancient Rome. Their god of gods was Jupiter, married to Juno. But Jupiter also had women on the side, the four most prominent being Io, Europa, Ganimedes and Calisto. In order to hide his extra-marital affairs from his wife, Jupiter surrounded himself by a cloud. But the jealous Juno had a sight which could penetrate that cloud. So now, Juno will once again penetrate the clouds of Jupiter and report her findings to Mother Earth.
In the meantime, I suggest you appreciate the following image. Further information can be found in reference #3 below.
An image showing what the Hubble telescope found when directing UV rays towards Jupiter. It shows a permanent aurora, a result of the combination of solar winds and charged particles from the planet’s biggest moon, Io. Image by NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)