All posts for the month October, 2006


Over the last year or so I’ve gotten interested in podcasts – on demand audio programs which usually focus on a single theme or subject. Gradually my list of subscribed podcasts has grown to almost 9 hours of listening per week! Right now I concentrate on current technology news or astronomy related podcasts.

If you are not familiar with podcasting you can look at this Wikipedia article. There are thousands of podcasts on almost any conceivable subject and the numbers are growing exponentially. If you have some special interest, no matter how obscure, just Google for – podcast “your interest” – and I bet you’ll find at least one, probably more, related podcast.

The name podcast tends to make many people think that you must have an Apple iPod to listen to podcasts. This is absolutely not true. Anyone with a computer can listen to podcasts – you don’t need a special mp3 player, though that does allow you to listen while on the go. You don’t even need to have a special program like Apple iTunes to download podcasts. Nearly all podcasters have multiple ways to download their shows.
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Moon and Pleiades In astronomy, an occultation is when one closer object passes in front of another farther object. Most commonly, our Moon is the closer object and a star or planet is the more distant one.

Tomorrow night (October 9 in the US) you’ll get to see this phenomena for yourself. Starting around 11pm CDT (4am GMT on the 10th) the nearly full Moon will pass in front of the Pleiades star cluster (Messier 45) in the constellation of Taurus. The stars of this cluster will disappear behind the bright edge of the Moon and reappear later from the dark edge.

Because of the brightness of the Moon you’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to see this best. It’s rather amazing to see the stars pop out almost instaniously from behind the dark limb.

At my location the Moon will rise around 8PM so it will be well above the eastern horizon by the time the occultations begin. You can check your local paper for the time of Moonrise in your area. If you click on the thumbnail you can see a timeline of the Moon’s position relative to the star cluster. This chart is only strictly valid for my location (Central Iowa). If you want to get accurate information for your own location you can go to this link for details. Otherwise, just go out and look up at the sky around the times indicated (adjusted for your time zone.)

Political Spam

An election is coming up – can’t you tell? The politicos conveniently excluded themselves from the National Do Not Call List. As a consequence anyone in a district not completely locked by one party or the other will get calls at inconvenient hours. Calls purporting to be “surveys” but which actually are meant to scare you into voting the way they want. They are looking for fresh meat – people they think might be persuadable into voting their way.

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