Signs of Summer

tiger lily bloom

All the indicators of summer are here in Paradelle: Father’s Day, the smell of barbeques in the air, roses in blooms, green tomatoes in my garden, the first tiger lily blooms were this week, school ending (at least for southern schools and northern private and parochial schools), proud parent prom pictures on Facebook, people headed “down the shore” (as we say in New Jersey) starting with Memorial Day – and then, officially, the summer solstice. (The official part for my neighborhood is June 21, 2019 at 11:54 am EDT.)

Solstices are opposite on either side of the equator. Our summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

I have already written for past solstices of the solstitium (Latin for sol/sun and stitium/stop) and its ancient belief that the Sun appeared to stop at this time.  In our northern hemisphere, the Sun is actually higher in the sky throughout the day, so its rays are hitting Earth at a more direct angle and it is heating us up.

There is usually a Full Moon near the solstice, though there is no astronomical connection.

Although the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, that is relative. It may well seem the same or shorter than other days. In Paradelle, we just had three days of rain and rainy days always seem shorter to me. Today is summerish – reaching up in the 80 degrees and drying out things so that I can cut the grass.

Sunrise today was at 5:24 am at 58° Northeast. I was happy to have slept through it.  Sunset today will be at 8:30 pm at 302° Northwest.

Unlike the ancient ones, we now know that the Sun does not stop today, bit it does cross a path and “shifts” position at a moment in time. I observe the position of the Sun during the year relative to my home and at one time tracked it on my office wall. Isaac Newton did this too. I’m no Newton but I did like being a citizen scientist for my own curiosity and noting that when I was sipping my morning coffee on the couch, the Sun shines right on me. On the winter solstice – when I could use the extra heat – it is coming through a window on the other side of the room.

Whatever your signs of summer are, they probably have arrived too or are soon to appear. Hope you have a good season.

Does the Sun Feel Closer Today?

Does the Sun feel any closer to you today? I don’t mean does it feel warmer – though you might assume that to be true if it was any closer. Tonight, January 2, 2019, Earth reaches its closest point to the Sun for this entire year.

The moment of this special point in our orbit is called perihelion, a word we get from the Greek roots peri (near) and helios (sun).  The actual moment of perihelion will be 11:20 p.m. CST tonight.

Don’t expect to feel anything. Like most celestial occurrences, we don’t feel the effects immediately (like the change of seasons) or at all (like perihelion).

How close is close for the Sun? Earth will be 91,403,554 miles (147,099,761 km) from the Sun. Still, pretty far away. But in six months when we are farthest away (aphelion) and is most distant, the distance will be about 3 million miles (5 million km) further away.

Are you surprised that when we are farthest away from the sun in early July, it will be summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Falling Stars from the Chariot of the Sun

meteors
Geminids in the northern hemisphere by Asim Patel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via commons.wikimedia.org

The Geminid meteor shower is a very reliable annual meteor shower that will visit us again this week.

The next several nights are probably the best nights for watching with the peak morning is likely to be December 14, 2018, but the morning of December 13 might offer a good display, too, and meteor watchers have been catching Geminids for some nights now.

You can watch in the late evening, but the best viewing hours are typically around 2 a.m., no matter where you are on Earth. And this year there will only be a waxing crescent moon, so moonlight won’t wash out the darkness.

The meteors appear to come from (radiate from) the constellation Gemini, which rises around sunset and moves overhead into morning. The best views are usually between midnight and 4am.

The Geminids are slow-moving dust particles when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere. “Slow” is relative here – they are only moving at 22 miles per second. The friction with air molecules will burn them up and make a nice glow for us to watch.

These showers are caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is an asteroid. That is unusual and this is one of the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet. This asteroid has an orbit that brings it closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid. And that is how the asteroid got its name.

Phaeton
Gustave Moreau: Fall of Phaéton (Chute de Phaéton) watercolor study, via Wikimedia

Phaethon is a name from mythology.  Phaethon was the Ancient Greek name for the planet Jupiter, a planet whose motions and cycles were observed by the ancients and often used in poetry and myth.

In mythology, Phaethon’s father was the sun god Helios who granted his son’s wish to drive the sun chariot for a day.  Phaethon was unable to control the horses and to prevent the chariot from hitting and destroying Earth, Zeus knocked it out of the sky with a thunderbolt. Phaethon fell to earth and was killed.

Of course, meteors are not falling stars, and they are not coming from the chariot of the Sun, but it does make for a good story.

 

When Noon Is Noon

The sundial and clock agree four times a year, on or near April 15, June 15, September 1 and December 25. I haven’t found any special names for these dates. No equinox or solstice label to mark these days.

That surprises me because I imagine that ancient people who were so observant of the Sun and Moon that they built temples to their movements would have noted these days. If you were a priest or in the upper class, you could have a large or small temple or altar that marked the astronomical events in an earthly way. But for the average person, I am imagining that a simple sundial was your most likely way to mark the time and follow the Sun.

At this time of the year, when the midday sun is highest, your sundial should say it is noon and your clock should say 12 pm.

I have always had a sundial in the garden. My mother had one in the garden when I was a kid and I have one now. It probably is one of the reasons that I still am tuned in to the Sun and Moon.

As a kid, it annoyed me that the sundial was always wrong. It was “wrong” because when it said it was 1 pm, I knew it was 2 pm because I had a watch. And I have always adjusted my sundial so that it was close to clock time.

I don’t know exactly when I discovered the why of the Sun’s path that explained the sundial but I was certainly an adult.

I am tempted to install a more permanent sundial in the garden, one that is wrong most of the year, as a reminder to me that the Earth is changing its relationship to the Sun.

A sundial can be as simple as sa stick in the ground that casts a shadow. That shadow from the style falls onto a surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, the straight edge. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow-edge aligns with hour-lines. Sundials need to have that edge parallel to the axis of the Earth’s rotation to tell the correct time throughout the year.

Long ago, people thought the Sun was moving across the seasons. Most people today (not all, I have discovered) know it is the Earth tilting and moving that cause the sundial to change.

You should pay attention to all the cycles in your life. Some are natural and some we create ourselves. They affect us, whether we pass attention to them or not.

Maybe you should get yourself a sundial and tune in to the Earth and Sun.

Feeling the Sun


We finally got a true spring day today and I sat with my cup of tea outside and it felt great to have the Sun shining on me. Would you be surprised to learn that solar storms can affect your emotional health and consciousness?

Many people feel that the Moon affects them, but a lot of research has pretty much shown that madness during Full Moons, increased suicide rates and other effects are more myth than fact. Still, I have read some of the same claims and research into the Sun’s effect on us.

But there are scientific studies that confirm links between solar activity and our bodies and minds.

When I was working and teaching full-time at New Jersey Institute of Technology, I learned some things about solar flares because the university has the Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research for ground- and space-based solar and terrestrial physics. They particularly have an interest in understanding the effects of the Sun on the geospace environment. That Center operates the Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) and Owens Valley Solar Array (OVSA) in California.

A solar storm or eruption is a massive explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere. It releases a tremendous amount of energy and affects all layers of the solar atmosphere. The numbers are incomprehensible to most of us. Plasma heating to tens of millions of Celsius degrees and accelerating electrons, protons shooting at close to the speed of light are not concepts we can really understand.

Animals and humans have a magnetic field that surrounds them. Earth’s magnetic field protects the planet. Geomagnetic activity seems to have three seasonal peaks and these periods are said to correspond to a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other emotional disorders.

The more obvious effects to point at are how electromagnetic activity of the sun affects our electronic devices. Their effects on the human electromagnetic field and the idea that our body can experience various emotions and changes is a newer theory and more controversial.

Here are some of the physiological effects of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)(which are quite brief) are said to have on us: headaches, palpitations, mood swings, fatigue and general malaise. The pineal gland in our brain is also influenced by the electromagnetic activity, which causes a production of excess melatonin, a hormone that can cause drowsiness.

Might CMEs cause physical sensations because of distortions of energy flow inside the body? Hot and cold sensations, sensations of “electricity” and extreme environmental sensitivity have all been “reported” by people.

But our bodies are said to also have an emotional response to these hidden waves of energy. Some of the claims I have read seem rather extreme, pointing to increases in addiction, health problems, depression, unhealthy relationships, repressed emotions and desires.

I have read a number of articles the past week from “Scientific Evidence that Geomagnetic Storms Are Making You Sick“(much of that research coming from Russia) to more New Age pieces that see solar storms as changing human consciousness.

At this point, I would say these connections are somewhere between science and belief, but are interesting enough to continue researching. Will they cause a shift in our consciousness? The Sun has been shining on Earth a long time and I haven’t seen it happen yet.

I haven’t found a good guide to when to expect these solar storms, but I did find lots of suggestions for how to cope with their effects on us, including: ​salt baths, magnesium supplements, ​drink a lot of pure water, ​meditate more or do stillness, relaxation & breathing exercise, ​gentle exercise, and staying away from negative people. I would recommend all but the first two in that list anyway!

More

https://theawakenedstate.net/solar-flares-and-the-consciousness-connection/

 

Today the Earth Is the Closest It Will Be to the Sun All Year But…

Yes, the Earth is closest to sun on January 2/3 for this entire year, but don’t expect to feel it.

It certainly will not feel any warmer where I am (actually it’s colder than yesterday and tomorrow is even colder). This perihelion will happen at night (10:35 p.m. EST) for me and it will be quite cold then. (It happens on the morning of January 3 5:35 UTC in Europe and Africa.) Perihelion, from the Greek roots peri (near) and helios (sun), will bring us within 91,401,983 miles (147,097,233 km) of the Sun. Though we won’t feel any hotter, Earth is about 3 million miles (5 million km) closer to the sun in early January than it is in early July. This happens every year in early January. And we will be farthest away (aphelion) from the sun in early July. Seems counterintuitive to us in the Northern Hemisphere.

The difference in distance between perihelion and aphelion isn’t that much because Earth’s orbit is very nearly circular. That is why the tilt of our world’s axis is what creates winter and summer on Earth. My Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun now, so it is winter.  The day of maximum tilt toward or away from the sun is the December or June solstice, but even that won’t make for the hottest or coldest days of the year. This tilting may make seasons, but atmospheric conditions make our weather change. I blame those Arctic blasts for my car’s dead battery this morning.