Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice

Today is the “Longest” day of the year - the Summer Solstice. Called a variation of Midsummer by most northern cultures, this marks a day of great celebration. When man determined time by the sun and moon, midsummer was the middle of the growing season. Most celebrations took on a joyous quality. At Midsummer food was easier to find, herbs could be gathered and crops had been planted in anticipation of a bountiful harvest. It was considered by some cultures a good time to wed as it fell between the intense work of planting and harvesting of crops. The “downtime” could be spent in preparation and celebrations. In China it was a time of balance. Midsummer celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.

Now with modern technology driving our lives, it is barely noticed. However, the natural world will be resetting its internal clocks to reflect the eventual slide toward the cold season. Now is the time for second clutches of eggs or litters and for the young to start their intense survival training. Sunlight drives the natural rhythm of plants. The work of photosynthesis has reached its peak and now food production will decline. With the gradual decrease in sunlight some plants will start setting buds for the next growing season. We owe this all to the 23.5ยบ tilt of Mother Earth. It causes sunlight to be unevenly distributed over our planet’s surface as it orbits around the sun. This creates the seasons – the main driver behind the Rhythm of Life. (Originally posted 6-20-12)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Come join the DC Women's Hiking Group for our last week of hiking before the summer break!

We will hike Tues., June 18th at Pierrepont State Park in Ridgefield.
Across from Scotland Elementary School on Barlow Mt. Road.
Meet in parking area at 8:30am.

On Thurs., June 20th we will hike at Pootatuck State Forest in New Fairfield,Ct.

Take 84 East to Exit 5  merge onto Downs St. Continue onto North St. Continue onto CT 37N (Padanram Rd). Continue onto CT 37N (Pembroke Rd). About 2 miles past the interesection for 37 and 39, make a slight right onto Pine Hill Rd. Continue for about 1.7 miles. At fork, keep right. Parking lot is at end of the road at trailhead.
Please bring a picnic lunch for after the hike.
Please note:  Meet at 9am for this hike.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Little History of Our Flag

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the First Flag Act:  "Resolved:  That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."  The exact design is frequently attributed to Congressman Francis Hopkinson of Philadelphia.  However, when he petitioned Congress for payment of his idea, he was turned down on the bases that others had contributed to the design.  Today the first official US flag is referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag (pictured).  However, the claim that she sewed the first flag has never been substantiated.  Since the Betsy Ross Flag, the official American flag has changed 26 times.  With the admission of Vermont and Kentucky, the second flag was approved in 1795. It not only added a star but a strip for each of the new states.  It is referred to as the Star Spangle Banner because it was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814.  In 1818, with admission of 5 new states, the next change was made but it was decided that only stars would be added and the strips would stay at 13 for the original 13 colonies.  Between 1819 and 1877 the flag changed 17 times with the longest continuous time for one flag being 10 years.  During both the administration of Presidents Monroe and Polk it changed 5 times.  In 1890 it jumped from 38 stars to 44 and then changed 4 more times by 1912.  This flag stayed at 48 stars for the next 47 years.  Alaska added the 49th star in 1959 and Hawaii completed the present flag at 50 in 1960.  Today National Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th in commemoration of the First Flag Act.  We can thank BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher from Fredonia, WI for being behind the holiday.  In 1885, Cigrand started promoting June 14 as “Flag Birthday or Flag Day”.  However, even though localities and some states picked up on honoring the day, it wasn’t until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress making it a National holiday. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 2013 Constellation of the Month – Corona Borealis

Almost directly overhead an hour after sunset, is a compact,  U-shaped constellation, Corona Borealis --  the Northern Crown.  (There is also a Southern Crown, Corona Australis, which is visible to people living in the southern hemisphere.)

  Coronal Borealis is just east of kite-shaped Bootes (our June 2012 constellation of the month).  It is about halfway between two very bright stars – Arcturus, which marks the bottom of the kite, and Vega, which is, the westernmost star in the Summer Triangle.

Its brightest star, Alpha Coronae Borealis, is 2nd magnitude -- as bright as most of the stars in the Big Dipper.  The other 6 stars are considerably fainter, but still visible with the naked eye.  Alpha, like so many stars, is actually a double star, in which 2 stars orbit each other.  Our vantage point on earth is lined up with the plane of the orbit, so that one star will regularly pass in from of the other.  When the fainter star is in front of the brighter star, the pair will appear slightly fainter,  This happens every 17 days. This type of star is called an "eclipsing binary."

The constellation also contains 2 rarer types of variable stars.  T Coronae Borealis is an exploding variable star also known as the Blaze Star.  It is usually a very faint star, but once every 80 years or so it explodes, like a nova  In a matter of hours, it can increase its brightness 1,500 times – from magnitude 10 to magnitude 2.  

Another variable star is R Coronae Borealis.  It  periodically experiences drops in brightness, which can sometimes be very dramatic.  Scientists speculate that a buildup of carbon particles is the cause.

Corona Borealis has no easily seen nebulae or galaxies.  But it does have some attractive binary stars, which can be separated by small telescopes like those used at Discovery Center astronomy events.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., June 11th and Thurs., June 13th at Topstone Park in Redding, CT.
Take Rt. 7 to Topstone Road.
Follow over railroad tracks staying on Topstone Rd.
Keep going just past where it turns to a dirt road.
Parking area will be on right side of road.
Meet at 8:30am.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., June 4th and Thurs., June 6th at Saugatuck Falls Natural Area in Redding, CT.
Saugatuck Falls Natural Area entrance is located between mail box # 65 and 73 on Diamond Hill Road, Redding. Follow straight in until you see the large sign (entrance marker) on your left.
Meet at 8:30am