Astronomical Clock

Astronomical_clock,_design_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerHans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497 – between 7 October and 29 November 1543)

Hans Holbein designed this clocksalt—a combination of a clock, hourglass, sundial, and compass—for Sir Anthony Denny, whose portrait he had drawn two years earlier.
A note on the drawing shows that Denny presented a clock made from this design to King Henry, who owned a number of clocks and clocksalts, as a New year’s gift. It would have been an expensive item, made of precious metals. Holbein had often designed for goldsmiths since his training in Augsburg, a centre of the goldsmiths’ trade.
Two of the notes on the sketch are in the hand of Holbein’s friend the royal astronomer Nicholas Kratzer, who probably assisted in the technical design of the piece.
Susan Foister, Holbein in England

Anthony Denny was the most prominent member of the Privy chamber in the last years of Henry VIII.
He was educated at St Paul’s School and St John’s College, Cambridge, was a member of the reformist circle that offset the conservative religious influence of Bishop Gardiner, and helped finalise Henry‘s will upon his deathbed, specifically arguing to him against the removal of Gardiner from the will.
Denny was himself the man to tell Henry of his coming death, advising the old King “to prepare for his final agony”.
Robert Hutchinson, (2006)

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Solstice

doveGerard David (c. 1460 – 13 August 1523) 

 

Interim

The earth is motionless
And poised in space …
A great bird resting in its flight
Between the alleys of the stars.
It is the wind’s hour off ….
The wind has nestled down among the corn ….
The two speak privately together,
Awaiting the whirr of wings.

 

Lola Ridge (December 1873 – May 1941)

 

 

Published in: on December 22, 2015 at 11:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Inaudible Music, Inexplicable Matter

The central region of a rich galaxy cluster about 250 million light years from Earth.


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips
July 24, 2014:
  The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns.  Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one.

Together with a team of more than a half-dozen colleagues, Esra Bulbul, of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, has been using Chandra to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth.   Imagine a cloud of gas in which each atom is a whole galaxy—that’s a bit what the Perseus cluster is like.  It is one of the most massive known objects in the Universe.
The cluster itself is immersed in an enormous  ‘atmosphere’  of superheated plasma—and it is there that the mystery resides

“A line appeared at 3.56 keV (kilo-electron volts) which does not correspond to any known atomic transition. It was a great surprise.”
The spectral line appears not to come from any known type of matter, which shifts suspicion to the unknown: dark matter.
The menagerie of dark matter candidates that might produce this kind of line include axions, sterile neutrinos, and “moduli dark matter” that may result from the curling up of extra dimensions in string theory.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” says   “What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics.”

Solving the mystery could require a whole new observatory.  In 2015, the Japanese space agency is planning to launch an advanced X-ray telescope called “Astro-H.” It has a new type of X-ray detector, developed collaboratively by NASA and University of Wisconsin scientists, which will be able to measure the mystery line with more precision than currently possible.

“Maybe then,” says Bulbul, “we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/24jul_perseuscluster/

 

Perseus galaxy cluster’s Cosmic B Flat

In 2003 a team of astronomers led by Dr. Andrew Fabian at Cambridge University discovered one of the deepest notes ever detected, a B.
No human will actually hear the note, because its time period between oscillations is 9.6 million years, which is 57 octaves below the keys in the middle of a piano.

 

see also:

Variations on an Ascending Scale
Study of Clouds
Trees Cry Out

Old Stardust

perseus s marco
The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower; the point from which they appear to come lies in the constellation Perseus.
“Perseides” refers to the sons of Perseus.

The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud. It stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift–Tuttle and consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 133-year orbit.
Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years.
However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1865, which can give an early mini-peak the day before the maximum shower.

The earliest information on this meteor shower is found in Chinese annals in A.D. 36. However, credit for recognising the shower’s annual appearance is given to Adolphe Quetelet, who reported in 1835 that there was a shower emanating from the constellation Perseus. Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of Saint Lawrence”, since 10 August is the date of that saint’s martyrdom.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between 9 and 14 August, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky; but, because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the Northern Hemisphere. As with many meteor showers, the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space. Most Perseids disappear while at heights above 80 kilometres (50 mi)

W

 

Falling Stars

meteor‘Meteor seen over Hewit Common near York’ 
by Nathaniel Pigott  (1725–1804)

 

The Great Fireball of 1783

In the summer of 1783 the Montgolfier brothers flew the first successful hot-air balloon at Annonay in France, creating a craze for ballooning which swept Parisian society, and Henry Cavendish and Joseph Priestley continued their independent experiments on ‘inflammable air’ [hydrogen] and the chemical composition of water.

Sir Joseph Banks,  President of the Royal Society for over 41 years, was summering in Lincolnshire while Charles Blagden kept him apprised of scientific goings-on, opened Banks’s mail for him, and marshalled  the traffic at Banks’s house at 32 Soho Square – a continual back-and-forth flow of books, drawings, journals, newspapers, plant specimens and people

That same summer a large meteor was seen over England on the night of August 18th, passing rapidly over Scotland and travelling down the east coast of England – it was seen at Lincolnshire, where it appeared to break up, but the core continued, still blazing, more or less on its former trajectory– and at Ramsgate.  It was also seen from Brussels and France; and there was an unconfirmed sighting as far south as Rome. Blagden and Banks between them gathered reports of the event from across Britain and the Continent to attempt to estimate the meteor’s size, altitude, and speed; it was visible for a little under a minute, its altitude was estimated variously between 50 and 60 miles, it appeared about as large as the Moon’s disc (Blagden reckoned its diameter at roughly half a mile) and its speed was calculated at 20 miles per second.

These calculations of the meteor’s altitude and speed are remarkably plausible – and if Blagden’s estimate of its size is even marginally accurate then humanity can breathe a two-hundred-year’s delayed sigh of relief at its close shave.  Blagden didn’t see it like that, because he didn’t think meteors were physical bodies but electrical phenomena in the upper atmosphere.

When he heard that the Astronomer Royal, Nevill Maskelyne, was sending out queries of his own for an investigation of the comet, he wrote scoffingly to Banks:

‘I hear many years ago Professor [John] Winthrop, of Cambridge [Harvard] in new England, sent a paper to the R.S. containing a circumstantial theory of meteors as bodies revolving in very excentric elipses round our earth, & producing light by their effect upon our atmosphere.  This paper it was not thought proper to print; but most likely [Sir John] Pringle took his ideas from it, which Maskelyne is now going to hash up warm.  If every falling star be such a body, and it seems impossible to draw a line of distinction between them & the larger meteors, we are in high luck indeed that some of them, out of such an immense number, do not now & then miss their way, or get entangled in our atmosphere, and give us a smack.  That this good world may be preserved from such misfortunes is the hearty wish of

Your affectionate

C.B.’

Blagden argued in his published paper that it was precisely because meteors were seen so frequently, yet never felt actually to hit, that they weren’t orbiting bodies like comets.  His crowd-sourced data was remarkably reliable; and from his description of the meteor you would swear he imagined it as a solid body, but he’s forced away from that conclusion because he can’t find any evidence for the logical endpoint of that line of thought: namely, the meteor’s impact.

Crowd-sourcing observations in this way was an important tool, continues to be important to modern science, and is crucial to the history of science.

Blagden’s dismissive mention of John Winthrop, Hollis Professor of natural philosophy and Astronomy at Harvard is intriguing, in this context.  Winthrop’s theory that meteors were of extra-terrestrial origin was substantially correct, and his paper, which the Society hadn’t seen fit to publish at the time, is still in the archives; but he was also responsible for one of the first attempts to treat earthquakes as geological phenomena.
Like meteors and comets, these had largely been regarded prior to the scientific revolution as manifestations of divine wrath or providential omens; Winthrop’s study of the effects of the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which had also been felt in New England, attempted to measure the damage it caused and to quantify the forces involved, and he published the resulting lecture in Boston as well as sending an account to the Royal Society.

blogs.royalsociety.org/history-of-science/2013/10/16/crowd-sourcing/

Famous contributing authors to Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which was established in 1665, include Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and Charles Darwin.

Sir Joseph Banks took part in the Voyage of HMS Endeavour, exploration of Botany Bay with Captain James Cooke.

 

Variations on an Ascending Scale

herschelFriedrich Wilhelm Herschel (1738 – 1822) was born in the Electorate of Hanover, part of the Holy Roman Empire, to Isaac Herschel and Anna Ilse Moritzen. The family were Lutheran Christians, probably descended on his father’s side from converted Moravian Jews. His father was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band. In 1755 the Hanoverian Guards regiment, in whose band Wilhelm and his brother Jakob were engaged as oboists, was ordered to England. At the time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II. As the threat of war with France loomed, the Hanoverian Guards were recalled from England to defend Hanover. After they were defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck, Herschel’s father Isaak sent his two sons to seek refuge in England. Although his older brother Jakob had received his dismissal from the Guards, Wilhelm was accused of desertion (for which he was pardoned by George III). Wilhelm, nineteen years old, was a quick student of the English language. In addition to the oboe, he played the violin and harpsichord, and composed music. After terms as first violin and soloist in one orchestra, and first organist at a church, he was appointed director of the orchestra at Bath, with his sister often appearing as soprano soloist, and three of his brothers as musicians.  His compositions include 24 symphonies and many concertos. Six of his symphonies have been recorded in the 21st century, by the London Mozart Players.
Herschel’s music led him to an interest in mathematics and lenses. He started building his own reflecting telescopes and would spend up to 16 hours a day grinding and polishing the mirrors they used. He began to look at the planets and the stars in 1773, and on 1 March 1774 began an astronomical journal by noting his observations of Saturn’s rings and the Great Orion Nebula. From the back garden of his house in New King Street, Bath, Herschel began a systematic search among “every star in the Heavens.” His theoretical and observational work provided the foundation for modern binary star astronomy. In 1783 he gave Caroline a telescope, and she began to make astronomical discoveries in her own right, particularly of comets. She discovered or observed eight comets, eleven nebulae and, at her brother’s suggestion, updated and corrected Flamsteed’s work detailing the position of stars which was published as the British Catalogue of Stars. She was honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society for this work. From studying the proper motion of stars, Herschel was the first to realise that the solar system is moving through space, and determine the approximate direction of that movement. Studying the structure of the Milky Way he concluded that it was in the shape of a disk. He also coined the word “asteroid”, meaning star-like to describe the appearance of small moons. As part of his attempts to determine whether there were a link between solar activity and the terrestrial climate, he collected records of the price of wheat, as direct meteorological measurements were not available. He theorised that the price of wheat would be linked to the harvest and hence to the weather over the year. In 1800, Herschel was testing filters for the sun so he could observe sun spots. He found infrared radiation in sunlight by passing the light through a prism and holding a thermometer just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. This thermometer was meant to be a control to measure the ambient air temperature in the room, but after it showed a higher temperature at that end, he ultimately concluded that there must be an invisible form of light. Herschel also used a microscope to establish that coral was not a plant, as many believed at the time, since it lacked the cell walls characteristic of plants Despite his important scientific discoveries, Herschel was not averse to wild speculation. In particular, he believed every planet was inhabited.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efk3fm1B0zc&list=PLeYfIuyXgO3MabCWDAVHGiRSD8tDBOfTB
Chamber Symphony in F Major: II. Adagio e cantabile

 

Tractatus de Conclusionibus Astrolabii Bred and mylk for childeren

astrolabe
Lyte Lowys my sone, I aperceyve wel by certeyne evydences thyn abilite to lerne sciences touching nombres and proporciouns; and as wel considre I thy besy praier in special to lerne the tretys of the Astrelabie. Than for as moche as a philosofre saith, “he wrappith him in his frend, that condescendith to the rightfulle praiers of his frend,” therfore have I yeven the a suffisant Astrolabie as for oure orizonte, compowned after the latitude of Oxenforde; upon which, by mediacioun of this litel tretys, I purpose to teche the a certein nombre of conclusions aperteynyng to the same instrument.

A Treatise on the Astrolabe

Little Lewis my son, I perceive well by certain evidences thine ability to learn sciences touching numbers and proportions; and as well consider I thy constant prayer in special to learn the treatise of the Astrolabe. Than for as much as a philosopher saith, “He wrappth him in his friend, that condescendth to the rightful prayers of his friend”, therefore have I given thee a suffisant Astrolabe as for our horizons, compounded after the latitude of Oxford; upon which, by means of this little treatise, I purpose to teach thee a certain number of conclusions pertaining to the same instrument.
 
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400)
 
[“the firste fyndere of our fair langage,”  Thomas Occleve (c. 1368–1426)
“lodesterre … off our language,”  John Lydgate of Bury (c. 1370 – c. 1451)]

Stars

stars

The Dark Side of The Moons

Aert van der Neer  (c. 1603 – 1677)

For decades, scientists have been trying to understand why the near side of the Moon – the one visible from Earth – is flat and cratered while the rarely-seen far side is heavily cratered and has mountain ranges higher than 3,000m.

Various theories have been proposed to explain what’s termed the lunar dichotomy. One suggests that tidal heating, caused by the pull of the Earth on the ocean of liquid rock that once flowed under the lunar crust, may have been the cause.
But a new paper proposes a different solution: a long-term series of cosmic collisions.

The researchers argue that the Earth was struck about four billion years ago by another planet about the size of Mars. This is known as the global-impact hypothesis. The resulting debris eventually coalesced to form our Moon.

But the scientists say that another, smaller lunar body may have formed from the same material.
After spending millions of years “stuck” in a gravitational tug of war between the Earth and the Moon, the smaller moon embarked on a collision course with its big sister, slowly crashing into it at a velocity of less than three kilometres per second – slower than the speed of sound in rocks.
Dr Martin Jutzi from the University of Bern, Switzerland, one of the authors of the paper, explained, “It was a rather gentle collision … that’s important because it means no huge shocks or melting was produced.
The bigger moon would have had a “magma ocean” with a thin crust on top, and the impact would have led to the build-up of material on the lunar crust and would also have redistributed the underlying magma to the near side of the moon, an idea backed up by observations from Nasa’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft.

Scientists would like to get their hands on samples from the far side of the Moon to prove their theory.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14391929

Darker Spaces

WhistlerJames Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903)

Far Out

Beyond the dark cartoons
Are darker spaces where
Small cloudy nests of stars
Seem to float on air.

These have no proper names:
Men out alone at night
Never look up at them
For guidance or delight,

For such evasive dust
Can make so little clear:
Much less is known than not,
More far than near.

Philip Larkin