Hello, there! Now that we're already a couple of days past the new moon, it's high time once again for the monthly snapshot of the full moon. (I say snapshot because that's really what it is. If and when I ever get an imaging system that works with my telescope gear, I'll "upgrade" the name to "image.") This was taken way back on June 3, fighting the ever-present low cloud/haze that obscures the moon for nights on end.
Today the sun is above the horizon longer than on any other day of the year. It's also the day the sun "stands still" in declination: that is, it stops moving north from one sunrise/sunset to the next, and starts moving south. And, as we Northern Hemisphere types recall, when the sun's in the south (where it will be in a few months, after the equinox), we start to think "winter." Here's a diagram to refresh your memories (taken from a Google image search returning a page from the Fairfax County Public Schools Planetarium): Remember: the Earth's axis of rotation hasn't shifted from one seasonal event to the next. Only its position in orbit with respect to the Sun has changed. This year's event happens at 7:09 p.m. EDT today, about an hour before sunset here in Boca Raton. Here's a little table showing how little change there is in sunrise/sunset times this week:
Table of sunrise/set times (in EDT) for Boca Raton, FL in June 2012
Mid-June sunrise/sunset time, Boca Raton, FL
|Day||Rise (a.m. EDT)||Set (p.m. EDT)|
I'm on the email list for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and every now and then they send around something that I think is worth sharing with everyone. Here's an instance today: National Pollinator Week Encourages Everyone to “Bee” Good to Pollinators. Learn what you can do to help the birds and the bees (the bats, butterflies and beetles too!). “Without pollinators, life on Earth would be scarcely recognizable. We depend on these amazing insects and animals for the clothes we wear, the houses we live in and the food we eat,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Every American should be concerned about alarming declines in our nation’s pollinators, but fortunately everyone can pitch in to help them.” Pollinators are essential to agriculture and forestry, pollinating more than 150 different kinds of fruits, vegetables and nuts that provide a third of the nation’s food and beverages. In the United States alone, pollinators enable people to produce about $20 billion worth of products every year. In addition, more than 75 percent of flowering plants are animal pollinated. These plants provide habitat, food, and shelter for many species of wildlife. Most plants need pollinators to reproduce, and use nectar to attract them. Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators. A study of the status of pollinators in North America by the National Academy of Sciences found that populations of honeybees (which are not native to North America) and some wild pollinators are declining. Declines in pollinators may be a result of habitat loss and degradation, and disease (introduced parasites and pathogens). The celebration of National Pollinator Week began in 2007 with Senate Resolution 580 and a proclamation from the Secretary of Agriculture. This recognition has grown each year since, with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and a majority of the nation’s governors joining Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in issuing their own proclamations this year. The Service and its partners will celebrate National Pollinator Week with educational awareness events and conservation projects. To find a Pollinator Week Event near you, visit http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm You can help pollinators by:
- Reducing your impact. Reduce your pesticide use, increase greens paces, and reduce your carbon footprint. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
- Planting for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes.
- Telling a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators. Host a dinner, a pollinated food cook-off or other event and invite your friends.
Last Tuesday the second planet from the sun passed in front of the sun's disk for the second and last time this young century. Back in 2004, I saw the first event briefly while parked outside a gas station trying to get out from under the clouds that had blocked us at our chosen observing site in Florida. This time, I was pretty sure I could do a better job: a planned trip to relatively cloudless California coincided nicely with the timing of the event, and I had even planned enough time to land, enjoy the customary In-N-Out lunch at the airport, then make the long drive up to our home base (the in-law's home in Atascadero) with an hour or so to spare before the event began. Of course, things did not work out as planned. Although I was able to find the binocular filters I'd made years ago out of surplus Baader film, my full-aperture white-light filter made at the same time went missing before the trip. So I needed a last-minute replacement for that. Here are the binocular filters; although they were made for different binoculars, the loving attention to detail and high-cost materials (cardboard tubes ain't cheap!) meant I had to recycle them:
After my post a couple of weeks ago where I lost track of a pair of damselflies in tandem before I found out whether they actually attained the wheel position I've been hoping for another chance. Today, the first sunny day after what seems like a week of rain, I got my wish. In spades! This evening there were more Nehalennia pallidula than I could shake a stick at! Everywhere I looked was a male looking for a mate, a pair that I accidentally separated with my clumsy walking through the tall grass, or a pair actually mating! I managed to latch onto one pair that seemed to know which end was up, and I was able to follow them without scaring them to separate. I even managed a few "in-process" pictures. Here is one of the puzzles from last time; I simply couldn't figure out how the male grabs onto the female and THEN transfers the sperm from his primary genitalia at the tip of the abdomen to his secondary genitalia on segment two. Well, here is how he does it: may not be abundant in the wild*, but in the urban wilderness of my property, I would guesstimate, just ticking them off on my fingers, that there were at least two dozen individuals today: 8 in the tall grass behind the shed, 5 or 6 more under the canoe, at least 6 more in the front yard, and probably 10 more on the other side. These are conservative guesstimates. These numbers are just for the Everglades Sprite; I didn't even mention (until now) the Fragile Forktail or two that I saw, or the Rambur's Forktail pair I saw mating earlier today. Don't know where all the Citrine Forktails have gone (a month ago they were present in numbers similar to those of the Everglades Sprite today), but their position in the ecosystem has not gone unfilled! Spring may be almost over, but it sure is still la saison d'amour here in my yard! Go odonata! *I know no one ever clicks links anymore, so I'll just tell you that its status is "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List for 2011.2.