Sam WHITBY #233

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #233

@. . . .   CMO 232 arrived safely in Hopewell, and we enjoyed the sketch by Hitomi Tsunemachi very much. My Grandfather, the identifier of the foxfire, would have smiled a very big smile to see that illustration.

  We have been expecting the aurora borealis here during the past week. Friday morning, as you have probably already read, there was an especially active solar flare, to which Randy Tatum alerted me, and it was followed by a strong geo-magnetic storm. Our sky was cloudy during much of last week, and the waxing Moon made the bright city sky even brighter. Anyway, I have not seen the northern lights yet, and this may turn out to have been our best chance for the current solar cycle. I will go out tonight as soon as I finish writing, in order to look one more time. Tonight, as the geo-magnetic storm is winding down, our sky is hazy with the usual Viginia summer haze but without heavy clouds.

  I heard on the news on the radio this morning that the eclipse of the Moon was well observed in the Orient. You have my congratulations for having so many visitors at your sky watch. Your description of the color of the eclipse was interesting. There has been some theorizing that lunar eclipses would become brighter and more colorful after the Earth's atmosphere has begun to clear from Mount Pinatubo's and other volcanic eruptions.
  Almost every morning we have crepuscular rays. I make a practice of looking also for anti-crepuscular rays on the other side of the sky. It amazes some and irritates others to have it pointed out that the rays are actually essentially parallel and that they diverge and converge as an effect of perspective. Back in the days of the dusty volcanic atmosphere we saw some spectacular rays that stretched all the way across the sky. This year I have seen only one obvious anti-crepuscular system, plus one or two others that were doubtful or at least not obvious.

  On the ecological front, I have good news and news that is not so good. Here in Virginia we have had a troublesome shortage of honey bees. Last year I saw many blossoms fall off my plants unfertilized, for there were almost no bees to do their work. This year we have more bees, and our harvest has improved as a result. In my garden I am almost never stung. A couple of weeks ago we had a drill at work, and, when I ran across the lawn to my post, a bee stung me on the ankle. Evidently the prison system makes even the bee population irritable. The less good news is that the Virginia Department of Transportation cut down the Turk's Cap lilies that I usually admire this time of year. The damage is probably not permanent, and it was not deliberate. It was just done by a road crew that mowed the roadside at an unfortunate time of year.

  Last week David and I visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. A treat for me was seeing nine Mars sketches on a page from Percival Lowell's observing book. Touching a piece of the Moon was nice, but I've done that before. Seeing Lowell's drawings was a real thrill.
  Looking forward to the approach of Mars,

(17 July 2000 email)

@. . . .   Thank you for your kind forwarding of the summit news and the images of Jupiter of Akutsu. David is out of town for a week, but when he returns he will be thrilled to see some Japanese news.
  The day after I wrote to you about the bees, the newspaper reported that "killer bees" had killed a Virginia farmer's goat and had stung the farmer and his wife severely, injuring also a sheriff's deputy who came to offer aid. Experts have confirmed that the bees were the aggressive Africanized variety that has been moving northward for several years.
  These creatures are no friends of mine. Our local bees, on the contrary, are very gentle and seldom sting. They work in my garden as I do, and I brush them aside without harm to either of us. The thought of their being replaced by a dangerous variety is frightening.

  I will probably have some comments about the summit later. It is hoped that we will all benefit from it.

(22 July 2000 email)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :