Friday, September 23, 2016

Andromeda’s Story



To the ancients the sky was their calendar.  They used it to predict the changing of the seasons by watching the patterns of stars as they moved across the sky.  How better to remember these sequences, than by a story.  Andromeda’s story includes five autumn constellations.  It begins with her parents, King Cepheus & Queen Cassiopeia of Aethiopia.  Cassiopeia, already known for her extreme vanity, declared that her daughter was more beautiful than the Sea Nymphs.   Greatly insulted, the Sea Nymphs turned to the God of the Sea, Poseidon for revenge.  He sent a great monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia.  A desperate Cepheus, consulted the Oracle of Apollo who declared the only way to stop the carnage, was to sacrifice Andromeda to Cetus.  Stripped naked the poor girl was chained to a rock to await her fate.  As chance would have it, Perseus was flying by on the Great Flying Horse, Pegasus.  He was returning from slaying the snake haired Medusa and thus was still carrying Hades’ magical Helm of Invisibility, Athena’s Mirrored Shield,  and a sword forged by the God Hephaetus.  He easily slayed Cetus and immediately took Andromeda for his wife.  Together they had seven sons and two daughters and are credited as being the ancestors of the Persians. After her death, according to a Greek play, Athena placed her in the sky along with her hero husband.  And thus they lived "Happily Ever After".  Photo:  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/andromeda-constellation.html

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lady Slippers



Lady Slippers are so special that when discovered it is like finding a treasure.  Wildflower lovers will keep their location secret, in fear that those who don’t understand their complexity will pick them or dig them up.  Both spell disaster to the plant.  Just to germinate, they require acidic soil that contains a fungus of the Rhizoctonia genus.  Like most orchids, their seeds do not contain a food supply.  Under the right conditions, the fungus will crack the seed and attach itself.  It will pass along nutrients to promote germination and growth.  Once the plant is established and producing its own nutrients, the fungus will extract food from the slipper’s roots.  In this way, both benefit from their relationship.  Lady Slippers take years to reach the flowering stage and bees are its sole pollinator.  Attracted by color and scent, the bee enters through the front slit into a one-way labyrinth that contains no nectar.  Near the exit, hairs will grab onto any pollen the bee may be carrying before depositing new pollen onto its back.  Such an elaborate system leads to very few flowers being pollinated.  However, a pollinated flower can produce 60,000 seeds.  In that a Lady Slipper’s average life span is 20 years with some living much longer, they have a long time to successfully produce one pollinated flower.   (Photo:  Donna Roscoe)

Friday, April 15, 2016

First Spring Butterflies by Allison Archambault
 
While hiking in late March, I saw my first butterfly of the season; a mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  I wondered how could it be here so early when most butterflies are en route with the spring migration, and what is it feeding on as the nectar plants aren’t out yet?  A few days later I saw a few more of these distinctive large butterflies, with their dark maroon/brown wings with a cream edge and iridescent blue spots just inside the light edges.  This got me curious, so I did a little research.  I learned that the mourning cloaks are out so early because they don’t all migrate like many other species of butterflies (the monarchs for example).  They over-winter hiding in tree cavities and under loose bark in a state similar to hibernation.  This gives them an advantage come the spring in that they don’t have to travel long distances to return, and can get a jump start on mating.  The adult mourning cloaks feed primarily on tree sap and depend less on nectar, which would explain how they can survive this time of year.  They also live up to a year, which makes them one of the longest living butterflies, if you consider how adult monarchs only live for two to six weeks!  In the spring, the females lay their eggs on host plants such as willow, elm, hawthorn, hackberry, wild rose and poplar.  The larvae which emerge are called spiny elm caterpillars, and they have black bodies with red dots down their back, red legs and a number of long black spines, plus shorter spines with white on the tips.  They have voracious appetites for such small creatures and can grow up to two inches long before they pupate and go through the fifteen day process of metamorphoses before the beautiful adult butterflies emerge.
Mourning cloak butterfly (Ann Murray photo)








Sunday, March 20, 2016

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., March 22nd and Thurs., March 24th at Scott Lot Preserve in Redding, CT.
Coming from the north on Route 7 turn left onto Old Redding Rd. Right after going under RR bear right onto Mountain Rd. Follow Mountain Rd. to end and turn left onto Peaceable St. Parking for the open space will be on the left. If you come to an electrical substation, you went too far.
Meet at 8:30am.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., Feb. 2nd and Thurs., Feb. 4th at Bear Mountain Reservation in CT.
Take exit 5 off of I-84. Follow Rt. 37 North past all the shopping centers. Go past the
commercialized district and eventually past the federal prison into the more
rural part of northern Danbury. About 0.2 mile past the prison entrance, on
the right, is Bear Mountain Road which is 2.8 miles from I-84. Turn right
onto Bear Mountain Road and follow it for 0.5 mile. Turn right into the
entrance of Bear Mountain Reservation.
Meet at 8:30am.
Contact:  Mendy Polchinski at 203-241-1770 or mmpolchinski@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The snow is finally here!
Come join the DC Women's Hiking Group for snowshoeing at the Ridgefield Golf Course on Tues., Jan.  26th and Thurs., Jan.  28th.
There will be snowshoes to borrow.
Take Ridgebury Rd. and make a left onto Dhly.
Meet in the parking area at 8:30am.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Comet Catalina



A visitor from the Orb Cloud, the most outer region of our solar system, Comet Catalina was first thought to be an asteroid with a short period orbit.  But after further observation it was determined to have been knocked out of the Orb Cloud by some passing nameless star long ago and was on a several million year trajectory course out of our solar system.  It was discovered on Oct 31, 2013 at the Catalina Sky Survey’s Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, located in the Catalina Mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona as part of NASA-funded program to find Near Earth Objects.  The comet will come closest to Earth on Jan. 12th, a mere 66.9 million miles away.  Officially named C/2013 US10 this one time visitor to our night sky has two tails. A plasma tail made of ionized gas, and a dust tail made of small solid particles.  Because the escaping gas and dust are affected by the Sun in slightly different ways, the tails point in slightly different directions.   The core of the comet is like a dirty snowball.  As it approaches the sun’s warmth the gas and dust sublimate into a glowing atmosphere called the coma.  Scientists believe that Comet Catalina is a young comet, traveling in a chaotic orbit affected by galactic tides and passing stars.  This fly-by is really the last it will see of our Sun.  As it sling shoot around the sun, it built up enough velocity  to escape the Sun’s  gravitational force and continue its wild ride into the universe beyond. Photo:  Amateur astronomer Rich Tyson, the Slooh Observatories on the Canary Islands Dec. 12.