Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2011

I think my Dead Sea Scrolls class went well. Whew! A big conclusion to a busy month. Unfortunately the Backyard Astronomy class was cancelled due to low enrollment, but I’ll be trying again for a class on June 5, 2012, featuring the upcoming Transit of Venus.

In celebration, here’s one of a number of good leftover Moon photos that I haven’t posted yet. There’ll be more:


Just past Full Moon, 1:38 AM CDT 8-14-11 (6:38 UT). Bright Crater Aristarchus shows up well in the upper left, the bright rays from Proclus also showing up well just to the left of the Sea of Crises. 60mm refractor telescope, 17mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Still curious at age 16, Pluto checks out what’s under the picnic table at the dog park, Sunday afternoon, October 23, 2011.

We don’t know exactly what day Pluto and his littermates were born in Mrs. Beyer’s barn in mid-August, 1995, but we know exactly what day I adopted him: Saturday, October 28, 1995, when Mrs. Beyer brought the litter of puppies to the outdoor pavilion at our church Harvest Festival in Pleasanton, Texas. After puppyhood in Texas he came with me to Indiana, then with us to Minnesota, South Dakota, then back to Minnesota, where he’s still our faithful companion today! Happy Adoption Day, Pluto!

Read Full Post »


5:31 AM CDT 10-28-11 (10:31 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.
Left to right: Europa, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, Callisto (far to the right, showing up somewhat faintly, but it’s there.)
At the time of this photo, Jupiter was “only” 369 million miles away (under 594 million km), the closest it will be to Earth until 2022.

As Jupiter passes opposition, it’s just beginning the season of greatest viewing convenience for people who like to view the skies in the evening just after dark. Preview of coming attraction: during March 7-18, 2012, Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets in our sky, will join together in a dazzling pair just after dark in the evening.

These days the predawn sky is beautiful. As Jupiter beamed brightly in the west, the Pleiades hung high above it, with the Hyades to their left, Orion still further to the left shining grandly in the south. Mars is currently high in the eastern sky before dawn. Anyone willing to try out my unconventional predawn viewing schedule will be richly rewarded.

Read Full Post »

Jupiter is now coming into opposition, the time at which it’s most directly opposite the Sun in our sky, and making its closest approach to Earth. Jupiter comes into opposition about every thirteenth month, but this is the closest opposition until 2022, making it appear especially bright. Don’t miss the excellent pictures that Christopher Go has been taking, even though he’s been dealing with monsoon season in the Philippines.

Read Full Post »

Nibiru-hunters will have to look elsewhere:

Comet Elenin’s Last Gasp

Read Full Post »

Cloudy today, so here are three previously unposted photos from August 25, 2011:


6:29 AM CDT 8-25-11 (11:29 UTC)


6:32 AM CDT (11:32 UTC)


6:33 AM CDT (11:33 UTC)

8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, closeups with 2x Barlow, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

Read Full Post »


Above: the thin, lovely waning crescent Moon in the predawn sky, 6:56 AM CDT October 24, 2011. Unfortunately clouds soon moved in and thwarted a closer look.
Below: 7:45 AM CDT October 22, 2011 (12:45 UTC), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

As promised, I shall offer a few notes in hopes of clarifying for the layperson what is said, and what is not said, in this paper by professional astronomer Dr. Lorenzo Iorio:

On the anomalous secular increase of the eccentricity of the orbit
of the Moon

An earlier edition of the same paper may be found here.

For over a year I’ve been aware that many people visiting my site have been seeking answers regarding an alleged shift in the Moon’s orbit, as well as alleged changes or shifts in the orientation of the Moon’s surface. Often this is connected with concerns and fears about catastrophic events coming up in the year 2012.

See these previous posts for background:
The Moon’s Eccentric Orbit and Changing Apparent Size

Reports of the Moon’s orbit changing are somewhat exaggerated – 11-3-10

The Moon on 3-13-11; “Proof of Moon Shift” indeed!

Waxing gibbous Moon October 9/10, 2011; lunar field rotation; post announcement re: Dr. Iorio and the Moon’s orbit

Nearly Full Moon October 11, 2011; J.M. Talbot’s “Pleiades and Orion”

There are also those who believe that the alleged shifts in the Moon’s orbit and orientation represent “signs” in the Moon, which fulfill in part the prophecy in Luke 21:25:

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (NIV)

For example, between about 8:50 and 12:00 in this half-hour video, author and speaker L.A. Marzulli and the program host make the following assertions:

– People are seeing signs in the Sun and Moon, and saying that “this doesn’t look right.”
– Marzulli and others sought answers about the Moon’s orientation in the sky from several prominent astronomical institutions, and basically had the door “slammed” in their face.
– Dr. Iorio’s paper says that the lunar surface is doing “things we normally we do not see,” and says that foreign objects are coming into our solar system.

At the end of this post I will explain more of my own motivation as a Christian for responding to these allegations. Meanwhile, I think we ought to do Dr. Iorio the courtesy of looking carefully at what he does say, and what he does not say.

First, from the Introduction, Page 2:

Anderson & Nieto (2010), in a review of some astrometric
anomalies recently detected in the solar system by several
independent groups, mentioned also an anomalous secular
increase of the eccentricity1 e of the orbit of the Moon
e˙meas = (9 ± 3) × 10−12 yr−1 (1)
based on an analysis of a long LLR data record spanning
38.7 yr (16 March 1970-22 November 2008) performed by
Williams & Boggs (2009)

Translation: Ever since the Apollo astronauts placed laser reflectors on the Moon, ultra-precise measurements have been made of the Moon’s distance from the Earth. Gradually over long periods of time, the Moon’s orbit, already elliptical, is becoming more elliptical and comet-like, at a greater rate than previously known or predicted. This amounts to a gradually, steady variation in the Moon’s orbit of about nine parts per trillion per year. To help you visualize better just how small and slow this variation is, someone called CLPrime mentions in this online discussion:

In fact, I just did the math, and that works out to 8.4 millimetres per year.
In the 38.7 years they’ve been observing this, the moon’s apogee has gained a sixth of a metre while the perigee has lost as much …

… Over time, this could become a much more significant effect… especially in 89 billion years, when it causes the moon to come crashing down on the earth.

Since astronomers predict other catastrophic events such as the Sun’s Red Giant stage in “only” five billion years, I’m not alarmed about what might happen in 89 billion years!

What Dr. Iorio does not say:
Yes, this paper does describe a “change” or “shift” in the Moon’s orbit, but it is not a sudden change, and nothing in this paper suggests that it is an accelerating change. It is a change in our knowledge of the Moon’s orbit, not a sudden shift in the Moon’s orbit itself. Dr. Iorio is not saying that the Moon’s orbit shifted suddenly in 1970, or 2008, or 2011. He’s saying that the Moon’s orbit has been gradually changing all along at the rate described, and that it was happening even before we had the ability to make these precise measurements.

Next, from Page 5 of Dr. Iorio’s paper:

A promising candidate for explaining the anomalous increase of the lunar eccentricity may be, at least in principle, a trans-Plutonian massive body of planetary size located in the remote peripheries of the solar system: Planet X/Nemesis/Tyche (Lykawka & Mukai
2008; Melott & Bambach 2010; Fern´andez 2011; Matese & Whitmire 2011).

Translation: One explanation for unexpected perturbations in the Moon’s orbit would be a not-yet-discovered massive object. Perhaps Dr. Iorio’s paper would have drawn less reaction if he had not mentioned the word “Nibiru,” which today is pregnant with 2012-related connotations. Yet in itself this proposal is simply calm science at work; it was through analysis of perturbations of the orbit of Uranus that Neptune was discovered in 1846, so it makes sense for Dr. Iorio to consider this possibility as he goes through the checklist of possible explanations. And please note Dr. Iorio’s conclusion on this topic, from Page 5:

Actually, eq. (40) is totally unacceptable since it corresponds to distances of X as absurdly small as dX = 30 au for a terrestrial body, and dX = 200 au for a Jovian mass (Iorio 2011).
We must conclude that not even the hypothesis of Planet X is a viable one to explain the anomalous increase of the lunar eccentricity of eq. (1).

Translation: A body with enough gravity to perturb the Moon in this way would have to be an Earth-sized object in the vicinity of Neptune and Pluto, or possibly a Jupiter-sized object 6-7 times that far away. Either way, this proposal would be “absurd” because such an object would already have been easily detected, optically as well as by its massive perturbations of other objects in the solar system. Thus it is clear from this statement that Dr. Iorio rejects the “Nibiru” explanation rather than supporting it, as some seem to think.

Note Dr. Iorio’s concluding paragraph:

Thus, in conclusion, the issue of finding a satisfactorily
explanation of the observed orbital anomaly of the Moon
still remains open. Our analysis should have effectively restricted
the field of possible explanations, indirectly pointing
towards either non-gravitational, mundane effects or some
artifacts in the data processing. Further data analyses, hopefully
performed by independent teams, should help in shedding
further light on such an astrometric anomaly.

Again, this is sober science at work. New data comes to light that challenges us because it isn’t completely explained by current theory. So we search for the explanation. Sometimes it results in small adjustments to our theories, and sometimes it results ultimately in revolutions in scientific thought. I recommend an excellent book that describes this process, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn.

As a Christian, I believe that we have a special responsibility to listen carefully to what people like Dr. Iorio say, and not misrepresent their words. In John 21:20-23, the author of John describes a case in which people read something into Jesus’ words that wasn’t really there:

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (NIV)

Since Jesus also says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” I think we ought to “do for” Dr. Iorio by reading and listening carefully to what he really says and be careful not to read into his words things that he did not really say.

This is a special responsibility for Christians who influence many others, such as L.A. Marzulli. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Judged more strictly not only by God, but by others. I solemnly, earnestly urge L.A. Marzulli to stop citing alleged “Moon shifts” and Dr. Iorio’s paper as evidence that “signs” are happening in the Moon. It only gives non-Christians reason to scoff and ridicule when Christians in influential positions make unfounded and untrue statements.

As a Christian I believe that the words of Jesus in Luke 21:25 are true, and in time it will become abundantly clear how they are fulfilled. But as a careful, long-time observer of the Moon, my testimony is that nothing unusual is happening to the Moon. I’ve been observing the Moon closely since I was a kid in the 1970s, and since mid-2010 I’ve been building a library of simple but authentic images of the Moon and other solar system objects, which may be viewed on this site. I cite this as evidence that I’m indeed a careful, persistent, consistent observer of the Moon, and that if anything unusual happened it would not escape my notice.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »