Oct 9, 2013 - By Carl ManningWell how did you like the drizzly, wet, snowy and broken-tree month of September? It certainly was a September to remember.
It was also a month that brought my family a new grandchild, Grayson Oliver Peart, 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and 19 inches long. I don't remember too many stars, but I do remember watching the sky the night after Grayson was born for a plane that would carry him to Denver.
Yes, a flight to life. It was cloudy and it was the weekend of floods in the Denver area, so Tanis and I were apprehensive and worried. The flight went over, and we tried to sleep, but sleep was hard to find that night. We drove our daughter Claire down to Denver the next day, with fingers crossed that we could even get there because so many roads were closed due to the flooding.
We did get there and with every mile we went, Claire's husband Derek would call with a bit of good news. By the time we got to Denver, we were feeling pretty good about Grayson.
He is home now and doing great, but times like that cloudy, starless night are scary. We were blessed to have good doctors, nurses and folks to care for him and us. We always need to count our lucky stars and be thankful for both our cloudy and our clear nights.
I am looking forward to an Indian summer and many clear nights in October to see the stars and look at the moon -- and to be thankful for them. And Happy Halloween.
"A monthly look at the night skies of the northern Rocky Mountains, written by astronomers Ron Canterna, University of Wyoming; Jay Norris, Challis, Idaho Observatory; and Daryl Macomb, Boise State University.
"In the autumn night skies, Pegasus, the winged horse, is a prominent constellation overlooking the October harvest. Named after the Greek mythological figure, Pegasus sprang from the neck of the Medusa, when she was beheaded by Perseus. Pegasus is noted by a great square, outlined by its three brightest stars -- Markab, Scheat and Algenib -- and Alpheratz, the brightest star in Andromeda.
"Although Pegasus seems to be devoid of any interesting naked-eye objects, it does have a few very interesting deep sky objects -- most notably, the classic globular cluster M 15; Stephan's Quintet, a region of five closely grouped galaxies that are in the process of evolving; and Einstein's Cross, which consists of four separate images of the same quasar that have been formed by the gravitational lensing of a nearby galaxy.
"Planet and meteor alert: Saturn, Mercury and Venus can be seen right after sunset on the western horizon. Jupiter rises around midnight and Mars around 4 a.m. The Draconid meteor shower peaks around Oct. 7-8, and the Orionids around Oct. 21-22. Both are best seen after midnight.
"October 2013 Interest: The surface of Venus:
Last month, we discussed the atmosphere of Venus -- Earth's "sister planet" -- and it turned out not to be sister-like at all. Venus has very high pressures and temperatures compared to Earth, and its surface attributes are similarly foreign.
Of the many orbiter and lander spacecraft sent to Venus, the most productive was the Magellan spacecraft (1989-1994), which mapped the planet's entire surface from orbit, using radar to penetrate the dense Venusian cloud layer. The URL above includes a movie of the radar-mapped surface with Venus rotating. The radar map resolves features down to a scale of about one kilometer.
"The map shows that Venus is about 80 percent covered by smooth volcanic plains, with the remainder being two raised areas, or "continents," one each in the planet's northern and southern hemispheres. The continents are named Ishtar Terra (about the size of Australia) after the Babylonian goddess of love; and Aphrodite Terra (the size of South America) after the Greek goddess of love.
"Venus has several smaller types of features, unlike any found on other planets in our solar system. These include dome or pancake-shaped areas ranging 20-50 kilometers in diameter, suggestive of ancient welling up of lava; ray-like fractures called "novae"; more complex radial and concentric networks resembling spider webs; and some lava channels more than 6,000 kilometers long.
"Venus has few impact craters, most likely because its surface is relatively young. Its surface is less than 800 million years old -- more recent than the late heavy bombardment phase (roughly 4 billion years ago) hypothesized to have last cratered the Earth's moon and the other terrestrial planets of the solar system.
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