mollyringle: (Default)

Since I keep seeing things in stories like a full moon rising in the middle of the night, or a “waning” moon showing up at sunset, or the points of the crescent moon pointing toward the sun in the sky, I figured it was time to write this brief guide. Because none of those things are astronomically possible if you are writing about planet Earth as we know it.

This doesn’t matter very much, I know. But the small section of the population who does notice moon phases, and/or are astronomy buffs, will appreciate your being accurate about it. So here is the quick-and-dirty guide to how the moon works:

The waxing moon (the phase in which it’s gradually getting more illuminated—“bigger,” we say) begins as a very thin crescent at sunset, just above the sun in the west. Its back, its illuminated edge, will face the sun; the points will point away from the sun.

That’s how it always works, of course: the sun illuminates the moon, so the bright side of the moon is the side facing the sun, and the points of the crescent therefore always point away from the sun.

As the waxing moon gets brighter, it rises a little later each night, so that it’s a bit farther to the east at sunset than it was the previous night. Waxing moon can thus be seen in the afternoon too, before sunset, but not in the morning and not for very long in the night; it sets sometime during the night.

The full moon always rises right at sunset. Sun in the west, full moon in the east, shining at each other from opposite horizons, sun fully illuminating face of moon.

And then we are in waning moon phase. After the full, the moon starts rising after sunset, later and later each night as it becomes less illuminated (“smaller”). Waning moon can thus be seen in the morning too, till it goes fully dark and starts over again. (That's the new moon, which rises and sets with the sun, which is why you can’t see it.)

This page has some good tables and explanations on moonrise and moonset too, written by a proper astronomer.

We have some lovely waxing moon going on right now, by the way!

mollyringle: (comet)

I'm not a good astronomer, only able to pick out a few constellations or individual stars. But Sirius is probably the one star I'd know just by looking at it even without Orion nearby to point the way. All stars twinkle, but Sirius glitters and flashes--red! blue! yellow! white! full spectrum! I stared at it a while last night, and when I pointed it out to my husband and said it could easily be mistaken for a plane due to its brightness and flashiness, he peered at it and said, "No, that *has* to be a plane...doesn't it?"

Then the Pleiades and Jupiter grouped up together in one of the skylights over the bed, so, thank you all around, clear winter skies.

Speaking of astronomy, did you know there are two, yes, TWO possibly brilliant comets coming in 2013? Comet PANSTARRS will be the more modest opening act in March, and the potentially dazzling Comet ISON is due for around November. Keep an eye on astronomy pages for details. (This blog seems dedicated to the comets in particular.)

Speaking of science in general, you could do a lot worse for a new year's resolution than this philosophy from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

degrasse tyson

Or maybe you just need something faux-literary and silly. Here you go.

mollyringle: (comet)
It's all right, we've all been busy and/or lazy, but I'll get off my rear and remind you: please send in your Raven lines! I've only gotten a couple so far. They're males with nice voices, so I'm not complaining, but the poem's sounding pretty incomplete.

We were out of town for a few days, staying at a cabin of my husband's coworker, out in central Washington. Aside from pines and horses and snow-dusted mountains, I saw, to my delight, stars. I do love living beneath the clouds in the city lights here, but I miss stars. I went outside into the pitch black outside the cabin Tuesday night, and stood groping and inching forward, blinking like a blind thing. A glare lay over my eyes, somehow red and green at the same time; I began to fear my night vision was gone for good after all this city living. But lo! It cleared. And there they were. The stars. Thousands of them.

And the Milky Way! I hadn't seen it for years. Absolutely gorgeous. I leaned back on the hood of the car like a drunken teenager and just gazed. Ahhh.

So. Ahem. Please record your lines. Thanks! Enjoy your weekend.
mollyringle: (Parrish stars)
A short Alaskan fable, as told on "Northern Exposure," Christmas-y episode 3.10 ('Seoul Mates'), which we just watched:

"A long time ago, the raven looked down from the sky and saw that the people of the world were living in darkness. The ball of light was kept hidden by a selfish old chief. So the raven turned himself into a spruce needle and floated on the river where the chief's daughter came for water. She drank the spruce needle.

"She became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, which was the raven in disguise. The baby cried and cried until the chief gave him the ball of light to play with. As soon as he had the light, the raven turned back into himself and carried the light into the sky. From then on, we no longer lived in darkness."

The figure of Raven is a powerful "trickster" persona like Coyote from elsewhere in North America, Hermes/Mercury from Greece/Rome, and Anansi from Africa, to name just a few; and though these types of gods wreak havoc, I'm always especially fond of them. Prometheus also comes to mind with this particular story, bringing light or fire to mankind. But mostly, it's a good story for the winter solstice--which I suppose is why, in part, the writers of "Northern Exposure" won an Emmy for that particular episode. I recommend looking it up if you want to diversify your holiday viewing a little.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of glaring sunshine and heat, but all the same, I like balance in everything; and therefore I am pleased to welcome back the sun as we tip the scales that direction again. Happy solstice, everyone.

Comet Swan

Oct. 26th, 2006 03:53 pm
mollyringle: (comet)
For those of you with actual clear skies, an astronomy PSA (hehe...had to use an acronym; couldn't resist)...

From , where you can get a sky map and pretty comet photos--

Only a few days ago you needed a telescope to see Comet Swan. Not anymore. The comet has suddenly brightened to naked eye visibility. The cause of the outburst: Probably, a crack has opened in the comet's nucleus, exposing a fresh vein of volatile ice to vaporizing sunlight.

To see the comet, go outside after sunset and look west. It is about halfway up the sky gliding through the constellation Corona Borealis. To the unaided eye it looks like a faint, fuzzy star. For full effect, look through binoculars or a small telescope. Swan's huge green atmosphere and long sinuous tail are beautiful.
mollyringle: (angsssty)
It is the beginning of autumn, and I am happy about it. Night temperatures have been getting down into the 40s; wood smoke has started to tint the scent of the air; the first yellow leaves are falling. As a Washingtonian I really should have an apple tree budding with ripe fruit to round things out, but we don't at the moment. Will settle for buying local apples at the grocery store. (Munching on slices of one right now.)

However, I seem to be the only one who is happy about the autumnal equinox, given that 85% of my friends list, and the people I've encountered at work today, are snarling, grumbling, or biting. Guess the balance of daylight and night doesn't lend to a balanced mood.

So, a more amusing thought: as a pregnant woman, what should I be for Halloween this year? Britney Spears? Catholic schoolgirl? Prom queen? Caramel apple? Put your brainstorming capacities to the task.

And lastly but not leastly, a happy birthday to Bilbo and Frodo.
mollyringle: (narnia)
Astonishingly pretty picture of the day )

It occurs to me that I have two directly conflicting loves: cloudy weather and astronomy. So I guess I need it to be cloudy during the day to keep off those icky sun rays, then clear at night so the stars and aurora can shine through. Yes. Can we arrange that?

In the meantime it sounds like a good setup for a mythological story: the child of the stars falls in love with the child of the rain, but they can never really spend any time together except in moments of weather transition. Very Ladyhawke, don't you think?
mollyringle: (kodama)
Last night there was supposedly a huge amount of geomagnetic activity due to solar flares, and the Spaceweather site said, "AURORA ALERT: if it is dark where you live, go outside now!" So Steve and I jumped in the car at 9 pm and went zooming around like storm chasers, trying to find SOMEWHERE in the Seattle area where it wasn't cloudy. We failed. V. disappointing. But, Spaceweather says there could be more tonight, so watch the skies.

Many months ago I asked you for recommendations on the great triumvirate of skin care (cleanser, toner, moisturizer) for sensitive/oily/breakout-prone skin. I have tried a few different things since then, but have settled into a set I think I can live with. Cetaphil or Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin have worked fine as cleansers. The Dove bar in particular has been great in that it lasts forever, and costs virtually nothing. Never thought I'd like a bar of soap for my face, but it really leaves my face feeling nice and clean.

For the moisturizer, I've settled on Neutrogena Skin Clearing Moisturizer, with salicylic acid and retinol. Benzoyl peroxide, as an acne fighter--the active ingredient in Proactiv and many others--was peeling and drying my skin too much, and bleaching any cloth it touched in the bargain. Salicylic acid does not bleach, and is in low enough concentration in this mix to keep it from drying out my skin.

But the real money product, which I recommend enthusiastically to anyone, is plain old pure tea tree oil. I've been using it as a toner, dabbing a tiny bit onto a wet cotton ball (to dilute it--that stuff is strong!) and applying it between cleaning and moisturizing. My face, for the first time since puberty, has not been getting shiny by the end of the day; which is interesting, considering I'm actually putting oil onto it. But tea tree oil is not your average oil. It is a natural antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal agent. You can treat pretty much any infection on the exterior of your body with this stuff--cuts, scrapes, poison oak, athlete's foot, supposedly even yeast infections (!). Some people complain of the smell, which is sort of like eucalyptus and turpentine, but I actually like it; and anyway, the vapors vanish after a few minutes.

I do still get breakouts, yes, but they're fewer and less serious; and they heal faster. The little myriad bumps on my forehead, brought about by Proactiv, are gone. The tingle of the tea tree oil gives me a nice glow. All hail the weird little Australian tree!
mollyringle: (kodama)
Total lunar eclipse tonight, visible in pretty much all of North America.

Carry on.
mollyringle: (Parrish Stars)
Apparently we're due for some sunspot/solar flare activity today, so your cell phone might refuse to cooperate for a little while. However, it also means that we in the lower 48 might get to see some Northern Lights! Well, "as far south as Oregon and Illinois," anyway...

One of my coworkers says she saw them here in Seattle last night, so that sounds promising.


mollyringle: (Default)

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