Webmaster's blog

California fires mapped online by officials

There are so many fires that is is hard to get answer to questions about any particular fire in the counties affected; this California Fire Web site has up-to date information on all of them, plus a Google map showing all the locations.

"Shooting Stars" this weekend!

If you want your wishes to come true this just could be your weekend. If you believe in wishing on a falling star, that is! The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks after midnight Saturday night, October 20, and into the pre-dawn hours of Sunday. IF the sky is clear (and that's a rather big "if" lately) and you go to a place where the skies are dark, you may see more than 20 meteors streak across the sky in an hour! Some of the meteors will be bright and leave briefly glowing trails. Many will be fast and faint. Don't worry, however, you won't be bonked on the noggin by the falling debris -- it's only dust and small grains left behind in space during previous passages of Halley's Comet. Traveling at very high speed, the tiny particles glow brightly as they enter Earth's atmosphere heating and finally "burning up" completely.

Website stops delivery of unwanted catalogs

Do you remember that "Seinfeld" episode when Kramer takes an armload of unwanted Pottery Barn catalogs and throws them inside one of the company's stores?

Every feel like doing that? How do you stop getting those catalogs, anyhow?

Catalog Choice is a service that helps you opt out of catalogs that you don't want.

Did you see this morning's eclipse?

Total Lunar Eclipse August 28, 2007; photo by James Guilford

Did you see this morning's total lunar eclipse? It was well worth it to me getting up 90 minutes early! I watched the Moon move from the shade of Earth's outer shadow and into the deep inner cone of darkness -- within the space of a bit more than an hour Luna changed from a full, golden disk to a dull coppery remnant in the western sky. Sunrise erased the last traces of the spectacle from sight a little after 6:00 AM.

The next total lunar eclipse visible from here will take place the night of February 21, 2008. It will be well placed in the sky for us to see the entire show, not just the first half. Mark your calendar now!

-- Photo by James Guilford

Lunar eclipse Tues: Aug. 28

Don't forget to get up early Tuesday, Aug. 28 (if the sky is clear) to enjoy the total lunar eclipse! Around 5 AM ought to do. Take a look, have a coffee, go take another look... repeat!

For details and an excellent Web link, visit my earlier blog entry on this subject:

"Lunar eclipse August 28"

Google Sky: A jolly good thing!

Now you can use the Google Earth system to take you to any place on this planet and ask to look up, at the sky! You'll need to have the Google Earth application installed on your computer in order to try this add-on feature.

Find Google Earth at: http://earth.google.com

I love this part of the BBC News piece announcing the Google tool....

Lunar eclipse August 28

This is one lunar eclipse you won't have to stay up late for... instead, you'll probably need to get up early! You won't need a telescope to see the eclipse and moonlight is perfectly safe to view without special eye protection.

{NOTE: Click Here to see a NASA Web page with loads of information on this eclipse!}

Perseid meteor shower won't get you wet

It's in the news: This weekend the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks! What does that mean? If you like seeing "shooting stars," this is your weekend. It's a shower that won't get you wet (or pelt you with space rocks, for that matter).

Go outside after 10:00 PM at a dark location. Look up (generally towards the east) and watch. If you are sharp-eyed and have good sky conditions you could see upwards of 60 meteors per hour when the Perseid shower reaches its peak! If you watch long enough you may even be treated to a "fireball" or two -- especially brilliant meteors -- flaring as they disintegrate in Earth's upper atmosphere.

The shower reaches its peak overnight Sunday, August 12 and into the wee hours of Monday. Weather forecasters are saying we can expect cloudy skies overnight Sunday. Don't despair!

The show is already going on nightly. So stay up late Saturday night, when clear skies are expected, and into Sunday morning to enjoy the show! You won't see as many meteors Saturday night as you would at the peak of the event, but you can't see 'em at all through clouds!

A patio lounge chair and a light cover will make it easy to lay back, look up, and comfortably count the "falling stars" while you enjoy the beauty of the night sky.

For more details visit Science@NASA.

What's the deal with those "greeting card" emails?

What a lovely surprise, a 'classmate' has sent you an electronic greeting card! How nice.

The only thing is, that "greeting card" may just be hiding nasty little computer viruses that could harm your computer, or spyware that resides on your computer and allows other people to access it without your knowledge.

Some of these bogus e-cards appear to come from the "Greeting Card Association," a real trade group which DOES NOT issue greeting cards, or other legitimate-sounding companies. Often the email's subject line says a "a former classmate" or "a family member" has sent a greeting card.

Astronomer: Beautiful twilight alignment

Those enjoying Sunday's warm twilight June 17 saw a beautiful alignment in the western sky. Starting with the crescent Moon a string of star-like lights led the eye up and into the southwestern sky. Starting with the Moon and working up and to the left were the brilliant planet Venus, then the golden planet Saturn, and finally the bright star Regulus.

The alignment will continue to be visible during the next-to-last week of June but the Moon's position will change within the string. On June 18 the Moon will be seen between Venus, to its right, and Saturn, higher and to the left. On June 19 the Moon and Regulus will appear next to each other at the left end of the line with Saturn in the middle and Venus punctuating the right end.