Sunday, August 28, 2011


My Ridgefield friend's roof is now growing a tree but all are safe within. According to the Ridgefield Press, power is out in more than half the town and trees are down on almost every road. Pope's hill (steep part of Ridgebury Road) is closed and there is flooding on Rt 116 near Barlow Mountain Road. Irene hasn't progressed to New York yet and Ridgefield is already in a state of emergency. This picture from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite shows why. It is indeed a mammoth storm. This note comes from our new home in Alstead, NH 182 miles north of Ridgefield where it has been raining all night. Stay safe - today is a day for board games, cards, reading and just mediating on the fact that nature is in control no matter what man tries to do. Photo: NASA/NOAA GOES project- taking Aug. 27 at landfall in NC.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pluto - Downgraded and Downsized

It was 5 years ago that the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to a newly created category of dwarf plant. This new category helped explain the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune that make up the Kuiper Belt. Pluto dilemma was created by the discovery in 2005 of a second major Kuiper object, Eris. Eris was rightly named for the Goddess of discord and strife. She is credited with stirring up enough jealously and envy to cause the Trojan War and now centuries’ later discord among astronomers. When discovered by American Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury and possibly bigger than the Earth. Since then it has been downsized to about 1,455 miles across which is less than 20% as large as Earth. Plus it is 0.2% of Earth’s mass. It’s extremely elliptical orbit is not on the same plane as the eight official planets and at times makes it overlap Neptune orbit. During this time it is closer to the sun than the gas giant. It takes 248 Earth years to complete one circuit around the sun at an average distance of 3.65 billion miles. This distance makes Pluto one of the coldest places in the solar system with surface temperatures hovering around -375ºF. It has 4 known moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra and a newly discovered tiny one presently called P4. Charon is about half the size of Pluto which leads some astronomers to regard Pluto and Charon as a double dwarf planet or binary system. Even though it is smaller than Earth’s moon, Pluto has managed to hold onto a thin atmosphere composed mainly of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide that extends about 1,860 miles into space and changes color. Just recently it discovered by NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft that Charon also has an atmosphere. New Horizon should reach Pluto in July 2015 giving us a new outlook on the tiny worlds at the edge of our solar system. Info credit to Photo credit Space photos comparing USA/Pluto/Charon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Truth about Raindrops

We all know how raindrops are shaped, like little teardrops. This is justified whenever we see a dripping faucet or any picture in publication whether in paper form or on the net. However, this is NOT the case. The common raindrop actually goes through an evolution of shapes none of which are tear shaped. Little raindrops, which we will call droplets that have a radius of less than 1mm are spherical. As they fall from the sky they collide with other droplets. Some of these droplets are adsorbed to create bigger droplets. As it grows the surface tension of the water and the pressure of the air pushing up against the bottom of the drop start to create a more hamburger bun shape. If more droplets are absorbed and the size continues to increase, the raindrop will flatten and develop a depression. If it continues to grow, the drop eventually become parachute shaped until the thin umbrella top can no longer hold its shape and it explodes into smaller droplets. If you want to get deeper in the subject, check out Alistair B. Fraser’s Web page “Bad Rain" at www.ems.psu.ed/fraser/Bad/Badrain.html