Three bright planets have graced the evening sky for the past month and will continue to do so throughout June and July. Jupiter, largest planet in the solar system, shines brightest in the southwestern sky just after sunset. Mars, slightly fainter but much redder than Jupiter, is rising in the southeast as the sun sets. Finally, 20 degrees (approximately two fists extended at arm’s length) further southeast Saturn appears white in comparison to Mars and the nearby bright star Antares – both red. Together, these three bright planets make excellent targets for small telescopes, binoculars or just stargazing with the unaided eye. Images of each planet taken with the College’s 14-inch telescope and planetary camera are shown above.
Christmas came early for Star Wars fans, like me, this year. Last weekend’s opening smashed box office records, touched hearts and thoroughly entertained. My wife, two sons and I saw Episode VI on Saturday evening after December Commencement. Like thousands of others, our theater was filled with families and friends enjoying every moment – many on the edge of their seats. We left excitedly discussing the events that unfolded and the mysteries that still remain. The magic of Star Wars is back!
Speculation about technologically-superior, alien life is abundant in science fiction. Novels such as Larry Nivan’s Ringworld, video games such as Halo, and a TV episode of Star Trek – The Next Generation depict solar-system-scale structures (megastructures) built by incredibly-advanced, intelligent civilizations. Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed that increasing energy demands would lead extraterrestrial civilizations to build larger and larger structures to capture the energy from their star. This might culminate in a “Dyson Sphere”, a megastructure that would completely or nearly completely enshroud the central star of the civilization’s solar system. The episode “Relics” in the Star Trek the Next Generation series depicts a Dyson Sphere. Larry Nivan’s multiple-award winning novel Ringworld imagines a slightly less grand megastructure, a million-mile-wide ribbon that circles a star at the distance separating the earth and sun – ninety three million miles. The video game Halo takes place and is named after smaller versions of the ringworld megastructure.
The harvest moon is traditionally the full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox – September 23, 2015 this year. Sunday night, September 27th, this year’s harvest moon will pass through Earth’s shadow. This eclipse is especially rare, since it occurs when the moon is the closest to the earth – the so-called “super moon”. So, the full moon on September 27th will be the brightest and largest of the year. Beginning at 9:07pm the moon will enter the darkest part of the shadow – the umbra. For the next hour the full moon will increasingly be eclipsed – less and less of the moon will be directly reflecting the sun’s light as more of the moon enters the earth’s shadow.
Jesus answered [the rich young man], “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” – Matthew 19:21-25