Memorial Day 2013 Photo Essay: WWII Unknown Serviceman Selection Ceremonies May 26, 1958

On 26 May 1958, ceremonies for the selection of the World War II Unknown Serviceman were conducted on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes. Medal of Honor recipient Hospitalman William R. Charette, USN, selected the Unknown Serviceman. After these ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were transported for internment at Arlington National Cemetery on the following Memorial Day, 31 May.


Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Crewmen of USS Boston (CAG-1) render honors as the first casket is transferred to USS Canberra (CAG-2), prior to ceremonies on board Canberra to select the Unknown Serviceman of World War II. Two more caskets are still on board Boston, visible just aft of the starboard whaleboat davits. The ceremonies took place off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of NHHC, NH 54117.


USS Boston (CAG-1) (left) and USS Canberra (CAG-2). Steam alongside each other, as they practice high-line operations for the transfer of the World War II Unknown Soldier, 22 April 1958. Photographed by Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the NHHC, NH 98289.


Private First Class Frank Calvin, USMC, places the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private Calvin is himself the recipient of two Navy Crosses, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation, circa 1943. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, Ceremonies.


On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.


Return of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Sterio card photograph showing the casket being removed from USS Olympia (C 6) at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., after being brought back from France, circa 9 November 1921. At extreme right are (l-r): Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby; General J.J. Pershing, and Admiral R.E. Coontz. Image published by Keystone View. Co. Courtesy of Commander D. J. Robinson, USN, (Retired), 1980. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 91488.


Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Hospitalman William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate’s casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. The other Unknown Serviceman from WWII not chose was given a solemn burial at sea. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. The other World War II Unknown was buried at sea. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of NHHC, NH 54118.


Armistice Day Ceremonies, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, 11 November 1940. Present Franklin D. Roosevelt places the Memorial Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Serviceman. Those present in the official group are: (from left): Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson; Admiral Harold R. Stark; General George C. Marshall; Secret Servicemen – Thomas J. Qualters, and Guy H. Spaman; Present Roosevelt; Major General E.M. Watson; and Captain Daniel J. Callaghan. National Archives photograph collection: 80-G-K-13877


Sentries from the 3rd Infantry (The Old Guard) stand guard over the casket of the Unknown Serviceman of the Vietnam Era at the conclusion of the internment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Photographed by SPC5 Ed Bosanko, 28 May 1984. DOD Still Media Photograph: DA-SC-85-01320.


Casket of the Unknown Soldier of World War I in its transporting case on the end of the super structure of USS Olympia (C 6), 25 October 1921. NHHC Photograph Collection, NR&L, Ceremonies.


An Army member of the joint services casket team carries the folded US flag from the casket of the Unknown Serviceman of the Vietnam Era to President Ronald Reagan, left, during the interment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Photographed by Mickey Sanborn, 28 May 1984. DOD Still Media Photograph: DA-SC-85-00820.

The Unknown service member from the Vietnam War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984. The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown. Text courtesy of the Arlington National Cemetery website.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Poses with three men to whom he has just presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Korean War combat action, at the White House, Washington, D.C., 12 January 1954. Those who received the medal are (from left to right): First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Kumhwa, Korea, on 14 October 1952; Private First Class Ernest E. West, U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Sataeri, Korea, on 12 October 1952; and Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, U.S. Navy, honored for his actions in Korea on 17 March 1953. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of NHHC, NH 68545.


The United States Navy Ceremonial Guard conducts a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Servicemen in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. March 15, 2011. U.S. Army photograph by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade. DOD Still Media Photograph: 110315-A-AO884-117.

On the Web:

Read more about the Tomb of the Unknowns on the  Arlington National Cemetery website:

Learn more about USS Canberra:

The future of Liberty and Freedom has always been reliant on the sacrifices of the past and present.

Thank you!


Memorial Day 2013

Photo Essay: Moore, Oklahoma Picks Up The Pieces

Days after an EF5 tornado with peak winds estimated at 210 mph (340 kph), struck Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people, including 10 children, residents returned to what was left of their homes to salvage what they could. The tornado was the strongest in the United States in nearly two years, damaging or destroying 1,200 homes and affecting 33,000 people. Collected here are images of Moore residents, helped by their families, friends and community members, as they begin the process of picking up the pieces of their lives.

Some of these images graphically show the horrors and emotions of what Moore is experiencing.  It is hoped these images will be a call to action in the form of prayers, donations and volunteering.


A massive tornado moves past homes in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.


Lightning from a thunderstorm strikes amid the wreckage of twisted cars and structures at Plaza Elementary School, where seven children were killed earlier in the week when a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma


Dawn Ice looks for items to salvage as she helps a friend clean up at his tornado-ravaged home.


Workers repair power lines after they were damaged by a tornado.


An aerial view of damage to neighborhoods in Moore.


A message is written on wooden boards that protect broken windows at a tornado-damaged store in Moore.


David Lee Estep sits atop a rubble pile that was once a home he shared with his parents and waits for word about his parent’s welfare in Moore, on on May 23, 2013. Estep had not heard from his parents since their home collapsed on the three of them after it was hit by a tornado. Shortly after this picture was taken aid workers arrived to tell him his parents were well and they were looking for him.


Volunteers help clean up the Moore Cemetery on May 22, 2013


A tornado-displaced cat and her kittens rest in a cage at an animal shelter in Moore.


Monty Montgomery surveys the scene as he prepares to clean up a friend’s tornado-ravaged home on May 23, 2013, in Moore, Oklahoma.


In this aerial photo, a person, lower right, stands in front of a home demolished by Monday’s tornado in Moore, on May 21, 2013.


A man yells at the media asking them to leave after attending a memorial service for nine-year-old Antonia Candelaria at Vondel Smith Mortuary South Colonial Chapel on May 23, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Candelaria was a student at Plaza Towers Elementary School and was in class when a powerful tornado tore through the town.


A mangled car next to a destroyed tree in Moore.


U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Lake passes a family photo to Elise Hopkins while searching through the debris looking for salvageable items in what is left of her home, in Moore


Lela Carter, 7, looks through children’s books while standing around rows of items residents were donating to victims of a deadly tornado, at a church in Oklahoma City


A homeowner displays a message after his home was destroyed by a tornado, on May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.


Christine Jones (left) is comforted by her cousin, Ann Worden, as she talks about looking for lost wedding rings at her tornado demolished home in Moore.


A woman searches for salvageable belongings at a tornado-devastated home.


Rain falls on the wreckage of Plaza Elementary School, where seven children were killed earlier in the week when a tornado hit Moore.


Debris litters what remains of a classroom at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.


The wreckage of homes litters a playground adjacent to a neighborhood in Moore.


A marquee reads “God Bless Moore” as workers make repairs to the Warren theatre after Moore was left devastated by a tornado.


Brittany Brown rushes to get aid after finding her grandmother’s cat “Kitty” which was buried in tornado rubble for two days at the grandmother’s destroyed home in Moore


Kellie Evey works to dry photographs that were recovered from her destroyed home in Moore.


Justin Stephan explains to his son Timothy, 3, that he can’t play with a toy of his that he found in his tornado-destroyed home on 6th Avenue in Moore.


An Oklahoma T-shirt hangs in the still-standing closet of a home that was destroyed by a tornado in Moore.


An American flag is caught in a tree in Moore, two days after the Oklahoma City suburb was left devastated by a tornado.


Crissy Gregg (left) and Lauren Hogan (carrying air rifles), help their relative Jennifer Walker, not pictured, recover items from her tornado damaged home in Moore


Lightning strikes during a thunderstorm as tornado survivors search for salvageable items at their devastated home in Moore.


Jackie Watkins shows the storm shelter she and five members of her family survived the tornado in Moore.


A television journalist, her shoes covered in plastic bags, prepares to report from the suburb of Moore.


Jason Owen helps his mother to salvage items from her uncle’s home after it was nearly destroyed by a tornado in Moore.


Danielle Stephan holds boyfriend Thomas Layton as they pause between sifting through the remains of a family member’s home one day after a tornado devastated the town Moore


Elvia Rivera and her daughter Ericka, 14, sift through the kitchen of their tornado-damaged home looking for undamaged items to recover in Moore.


Hayley Hawk, 11, outside of a neighbors destroyed home in Moore, on May 22, 2013. Hawk was a student of Plaza Towers Elementary school but was picked-up by her parent before the school was damaged.


A damaged neighborhood near the Plaza Towers elementary school in Moore.


Seven crosses sit along the curb in front of what was once the home of Scott and Julie Lewis before it was destroyed by a tornado on May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The crosses were placed in memory of the seven children from Plaza Towers Elementary School who lost their lives in the tornado. As the tornado approached, Scott Lewis drove to the school and picked up his son Zack, who attended 3rd grade at Plaza Towers, and brought him to their storm shelter. Most of the children who died at the school were classmates of Zack.


Jayme Sheppard carries her daughter Hope, who was enrolled in kindergarten at the storm-damaged Plaza Towers elementary school, on her shoulders as she departs a ceremonial last day of the school year at the Eastlake Elementary School in Oklahoma City.


A neighborhood near the Plaza Towers elementary school in Moore.


Sabrina Mitchell fights back emotions as she searches for her belongings in what was the second floor bedroom of her home after it was destroyed by a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma


This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013.


A destroyed police car sits among the debris of tornado-ravaged homes in Moore.


An aerial photo showing damage to Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was hit by a massive tornado in Moore, on May 20, 2013. Rescue workers and a helicopter can be seen at lower right.

On the Web:

How all of us can continue to help –

Architecture For Humanity

Architecture for Humanity is in Moore and will assist in rebuilding.

Find out more:

DonorsChoose For Teachers has a fund setup to help classrooms in Moore get back to normal. Donations through this link are sent directly to educators. They use this money to restock classrooms.

Operation USA

Operation USA works with Oklahoma’s community clinics and hospitals to replace lost equipment and supplies.  They also make grants to the public to help replace lost health resources.  Medical facilities and missing medications need replacement.  Find out more:

Save The Children

Save the Children deploys Child Friendly Space kits at shelters to make a safe and fun atmosphere for displaced kids. They also plan to deploy infant and toddler hygiene materials.

Donate online:

Donate $10 via text: Text TWISTER to 20222

Now or Never Horse Helper

Now or Never Horse Helper needs volunteers who can foster surviving horses.  Call 405-799-3276 or message the NNHH on their Facebook page.

The Animal Resource Center

The Animal Resource Center is helping displaced pets. They accepting donations through A New Leash on Life.

Red Cross

The Oklahoma City Red Cross opened shelters while first responders are assessing the damage. They say the best way to help is donating to or text REDCROSS to 90999.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has a several emergency relief services setup in and near Moore, to dispense food, water and emotional support to first responders and survivors. Text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts, make a donation via phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY, or visit

Samaritan’s Purse

Samaritan’s Purse sent staff to help people affected by the tornadoes. Go here to support the organization’s efforts


Asteroid QE2 Passes Close to Earth on May 31, 2013

On May 31, at 20:59 Universal Time, the asteroid “1998 QE2” will make a majestic pass by planet Earth. While there is no danger of impact, it’s the closest the asteroid will get to earth for the next two hundred years. Estimated to be 1.7 miles long, the flying space rock will pass as close as 3.6 million miles-that’s a distance about 15 times greater than the Earth-Moon pairing.

Artist Visualization of Asteroid Slipping Past Earth - Photo Credit: NASA

Artist Visualization of Asteroid Slipping Past Earth – Photo Credit: NASA


While optical astronomers and amateur observers aren’t particularly interested in this close pass (it will be difficult but not impossible to spot with a telescope) radar astronomers couldn’t be more excited.

“Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo [observatories] and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features,” said radar astronomer Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin,” said Benner. “We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid’s distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise.”

Even though 1998 QE2 it will be some 4 million miles away, researchers armed with the Goldstone antenna hope to resolve features on the asteroid’s face as small as 12 feet across. Like snowflakes, no two asteroids are alike. Thanks to their constant exposure to the Sun, they can be shaped in various forms and range widely in sizes.

Artist Rendering of the 1.7 mile long asteroid. Credit: NASA

Artist Rendering of the 1.7 mile long asteroid. Credit: NASA

While no one knows exactly what asteroid 1998 QE2 look like, if all goes well, we should be able to put a face to a name very soon.

From May 30 until June 9, radar astronomers using NASA’s 230-foot-wide Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will be conducting an exhaustive regime of observations. The two telescopes have complementary imaging capabilities which will enable astronomers to learn as much as possible about the asteroid during its brief visit near Earth.

“It is tremendously exciting to see detailed images of this asteroid for the first time,” said Benner. “With radar we can transform an object from a point of light into a small world with its own unique set of characteristics. In a real sense, radar imaging of near-Earth asteroids is a fundamental form of exploring a whole class of solar system objects.”

The last “close shave” occurred on Feburary 15 of this year, when a 130-foot asteroid 2012 DA14 passed by just 17,200 miles away, on the same day that a 55-foot object exploded over Russia.

According to Mike Wall, senior writer at, “our planet has been pummeled by space rocks throughout its 4.5-billion-year history, and more strikes are in our future.”

But NASA stays on top of these future strikes, leading the global effort to identify potentially dangerous asteroids.

About asteroid 1998 QE2: Discovered on August 19, 1998 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico. While its name isn’t very exciting, it is assigned by the NASA-supported Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which gives each newly discovered asteroid a provisional designation. Its catalog number starts with the year of first detection, along with an alphanumeric code indicating the half-month it was discovered, and the sequence within that half-month.



Medical examiner releases names of 24 dead in Oklahoma twister – Thoughts & Prayers

Magen Stanley, 5, walks away from her grandparents destroyed home after a tornado hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla.  (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)

Magen Stanley, 5, walks away from her grandparents destroyed home after a tornado hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)

Monday’s powerful tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region with 300 mph winds in May 1999. It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. It also came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more.

Sadly, this must be shared too – prayers for all:

The state medical examiner released Wednesday the names of the 24 people who died in the Moore tornado.
Ten children, including two infants, were among those on the list.
Terri Long, 49
Megan Futrell, 29
Case Futrell, 4 months
Shannon Quick, 40
Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months
Karrina Vargyas, 4
Jenny Neely, 38
Antonia Candelaria, 9
Kyle Davis, 8
Janae Hornsby, 9
Sydney Angle, 9
Emily Conatzer, 9
Nicolas McCabe, 9
Christopher Legg, 9
Cindy Plumley, 45
Deanna Ward, 70
Rick Jones, 54
William Sass, 63
Gina Stromski, 51
Tewauna Robinson, 45
Randy Smith, 39
Leslie Johnson, 46
Hemant Bhonde, 65
Richard Brown, 41


Urban Astronomy: An Essay

When you live in a city, it’s easy to forget that we are surrounded by the greatest show in the Universe: The Universe itself.

This sky comparison chart is the sad proof of that.

night large

Sadly, missing the awe-inspiring show of all those planets, stars, and galaxies dancing around us is the price humans had to pay for having observed it in the first place:

When our prehistoric ancestors studied the sky after sunset, they observed that some of the stars were not fixed with respect to the constant pattern of the constellations. Instead, five of them moved, slowly forward across the sky, then backward for a few months, then forward again, as if they couldn’t quite make up their minds. We call them planets, the Greek word for “wanderers.” These planets presented a profound mystery. The earliest explanation was that they were living beings. How else to explain their strange looping behavior. Later they were thought to be gods, and then disembodied astrological influences. But the real solution to this mystery is that the planets are worlds, that the Earth is one of them, and that they all go around the sun according to precise mathematical laws. This discovery has led directly to our modern global civilization.

A Personal Voyage — Harmony of the World, by Carl Sagan

Excellent Dark Sky


Inner City Sky

inner city large

Next time you have a few free days, remember the images above and go to a remote place, far from any town, in a night with no moon. If you have never done this, I can assure you that the experience will deeply affect your perception of the world.

In the meantime, if you live where the glow of city lights washes out the starry sky, you may think that astronomical observing with a telescope would be about as exciting as snorkeling in a muddy river. What could you possibly see? As it turns out, plenty. Sure, your best views of deep space galaxies and nebulas will be had under a dark sky away from major population centers, streetlamps, and neighborhood house lights. But there are some brighter deep-sky gems that you can see, as well as interesting stars, planets, and our magnificent Moon, which shine brightly and make for pleasurable gazing from even heavily light polluted locales. With a little perseverance, a clear night, and the tips provided here, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy astronomy under skies that are, shall we say, less than stellar.

What’s the Best Telescope for Urban Observing?
The “best” telescope for exploring the heavens from a light-compromised site is the same one you’d choose for a dark sky. That is, a scope that fits your budget, that is easy to set up and move when you’re ready to use it, and that you have room to store in between viewing sessions. As far as aperture goes, larger optics collect more starlight, and that applies whether your sky is light polluted or pitch black. You’ll be able to see more objects and resolve fainter detail with an 8″ telescope than with a 4″ one. So get the biggest telescope you can comfortably afford, but one that’s not too unwieldy to conveniently set up and use on a frequent basis, or too bulky to stash when it is idle.

For city astronomy you might consider getting a telescope with a computerized, or Go-To, mount. It will make pinpointing objects to view much faster than star hopping the old-fashioned way with a star chart, since fewer stars are visible in a bright sky to guide your way. A Go-To mount works equally well in any sky conditions.

Where Should You Set Up?
Pavement and rooftops absorb heat during the day and radiate it back off during the night. The resulting turbulent air can distort the image through your telescope. So for best results, set up your telescope on dirt or grass, which absorb much less heat, and avoid aiming directly over nearby buildings. Of course, try to find a spot that isn’t in the direct line of sight of a streetlight or a neighbor’s porch light. Not only can such light be distracting, but it also can diminish the contrast of the images you see in the eyepiece. But if there’s no escaping one or more such fixtures, try draping your head and the eyepiece area of the telescope with an opaque black cloth to block out the light.

There are a couple of other points worth mentioning here. First, the best time to view an object is when it is high in the sky. You’re looking through less sooty air pollution than when viewing an object near the horizon, so the view will be clearer. Also, there’s less skyglow higher up. Second, the amount of light pollution usually decreases late at night, as downtown businesses close and households turn off some of their outdoor lights. Take advantage of the darker skies by stargazing near midnight or during the “wee hours” of the morning when possible.

What Objects Will You Be Able to See?
Now that you’ve got your telescope set up, preferably in a spot shaded from direct street and house lights, what celestial objects can you expect to see? We’ll leave the Sun out of this discussion and concentrate just on nighttime objects. (The Sun makes a fascinating target for daytime viewing. Just make sure the front of your telescope is capped with a proper solar filter to protect your eyes!)

The Moon
Let’s start with the biggest and brightest object first — the Moon. Earth’s crater-pocked satellite makes a spectacular telescopic target even from the city. Different surface features are highlighted every night along the terminator, the border between the lit and unlit portions of the Moon’s face, as the phase changes. Low-grazing rays from the Sun cast long shadows from mountains and craggy crater walls. You’ll see hundreds of impact craters of all sizes, plus valleys, rilles, rounded domes — all served up in sharp relief. Indeed, the Moon can be so bright that it helps to tone down the glare with a neutral density or variable polarizing Moon filter, which threads into the eyepiece barrel or diagonal.

Four of Earth’s fellow planets shine brightly enough to provide particularly striking views through the telescope for urban astronomers. Getting a crisp view requires a steady atmosphere, i.e., good “seeing,” and patience at the eyepiece to wait for moments of maximum clarity, when the surface details pop sharply into focus. Use our monthly star chart to locate the planets, as their positions change relative to the stars throughout the year.

Our closest planetary neighbor, Venus, is the third brightest orb in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. Because it lies between the Earth and the Sun, it is only partially illuminated from our vantage point and displays Moon-like phases, from crescent to gibbous. In its crescent phase Venus is closer to Earth and thus appears much bigger than it does in its gibbous phase, when Venus is farther away. Its surface is perpetually shrouded by atmospheric clouds, so you won’t see much detail, but it’s a cool sight nonetheless.

Mars is a small and challenging telescopic object, for sure, but one whose subtle surface features are definitely worth checking out. In unsteady air, the “red planet” — more a light salmon color — will look like little more than a blurry, “boiling” ball. But on a night of excellent “seeing,” when atmospheric turbulence is low, a high-quality telescope at high magnification may reveal one or possibly two polar ice caps and distinctive dark markings, including the famous Syrtis Major feature. Sometimes a Martian dust storm can alter the shapes of the dark regions, or temporarily mask them altogether.

The best times for viewing Mars are when it is at opposition, which occurs about every 26 months. That’s when the planet passes closest to the Earth and, thus, appears larger in size.

Our solar system’s biggest planet, Jupiter, rewards city dwellers and anyone else who aims a telescope at it with fascinating and dynamically changing detail. Parallel cloud bands of varying hue and the famous “Great Red Spot” — a swirling anti-cyclone that spans three Earth diameters — are easily seen on its large disk (though the Spot is more of a light tan color). Large optics will also reveal whorls, small light and dark spots, and grayish festoons within the major bands. A new, smaller red spot, dubbed Red Spot Jr., appeared in 2006 and remains visible today. See if you can make it out!

Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, named after Galileo Galilei who discovered them in 1610, are another reason to train your telescope on the gas giant. Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto can be easily seen in small telescopes — and even binoculars. The satellites orbit Jupiter at different rates, from two days to two weeks, so their positions change from night to night. Sometimes you will see all four — tiny dots lined up “in a row” on one side or flanking both sides of the planet’s disk. On other nights, you may see only two or three of them, because one or two are hidden behind the planet, or one could be passing in front and is washed out by the glare. On occasion you may see a tiny, distinct black dot on the planet’s disk. That’s the shadow cast by a moon in the foreground!

There is no more dazzling sight in the solar system than that of the ringed planet Saturn. City lights can’t diminish the beauty of this tiny but picturesque crowd pleaser! Anecdotes abound about non-astronomers who catch their first glimpse of Saturn through a telescope, only to check the front of the scope in disbelief to see if there isn’t a picture of the ringed planet dangling there. For how could an object so far away in space appear so perfectly clear and sharp? Such is the utter coolness of Saturn.

You can easily see the rings with any size telescope and 40x power or more. With a medium-sized or large telescope, you can often detect some subtle variations in hue between the center and the poles of the ball, and maybe even the thin black shadow cast onto the “surface” by the rings. On a night of good seeing you should be able to distinguish two rings — the outer gray “A” ring and an inner white “B” ring, separated by a thin black gap known as the Cassini Division. Closer inspection might even reveal a third, dark-gray “C” ring inside of the B ring.

As you observe Saturn, you will notice that the tilt of its rings varies from edge-on to our line of sight to a maximum of 26 degrees over about a nearly 15-year period. When they are edge-on the rings actually disappear from view for a time.

Saturn has many moons that are also visible in amateur telescopes in close proximity to the planet. They are sometimes hard to distinguish from stars, but you should have no trouble identifying Titan, the biggest of the bunch.

The planets Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune can also be spotted in backyard telescopes from light-polluted sites, if you know where to look. But their tiny disks look little different from stars. The thrill is in finding them and saying you’ve seen them, more so than in discerning any detail in them, which you won’t. Pluto you can forget about seeing from downtown. Besides, it isn’t even a “planet” anymore!

Double and Variable Stars
Double and variable stars cut through urban skyglow and thus make easy and interesting targets for urban stargazers. Most double and multiple stars are gravitationally bound, orbiting systems (visual binaries). Others only appear close together in our line of sight, but really aren’t physically associated at all (optical doubles). Doubles are fun to view because, like snowflakes, every one is different. The component stars may or may not differ in brightness and/or color. They might be very tightly paired, such that you need high power to resolve them, or more widely separated.

One of the most beautiful doubles is Albireo in the constellation Cygnus. Its primary star is a golden 3rd magnitude gem that glows in striking contrast to its sapphire blue 5th-magnitude companion. A spectacular sight in even the smallest telescope! Another fine example is the “Double Double” in Lyra. In a low-power eyepiece you see two widely separated white stars of roughly equal magnitude. But swap in an eyepiece that provides 100x magnification and suddenly both stars resolve into separate binaries themselves — a quadruple star system!

Variable star observing requires more patience. There are different types of variables — eclipsing binaries, pulsating stars, and eruptive variables — each of which exhibits a change in brightness over some length of time, from just hours to many months. You can estimate the magnitude of the variable at any given time by comparing its brightness to stars of known, fixed magnitude that lie close to it. Keep monitoring the star and recording your observations, and over time you will see how its brightness has changed.

There are some variable stars whose brightness swings can even be perceived with the naked eye, though they are not dramatic. Algol in Perseus is one. Its magnitude varies from 2.1 to 3.4 every 2.87 days. If you’re up for a challenge, see if you can detect the change.

You can find lists and descriptions of interesting double and variable stars in many astronomical observing guidebooks, including Nightwatch by Terence Dickinison.

Deep-sky Objects
So-called deep-sky objects, most of which are dim in modest-sized telescopes even from rural locations, have a tough time peeking through urban skyglow. The faintest types — galaxies and nebulas — fare the worst, while open and globular star clusters pierce through the muck better. But don’t despair, because some specimens of all classes of deep-sky object can beam their photons through to your eyepiece.

Again, the higher the object is in the sky and the later at night you look, the better. Globular clusters and tightly packed open star clusters concentrate a lot of light into a small radius, which makes them easier to see than objects whose light is spread out more, such as galaxies and nebulas. The Double Cluster in Perseus, the Hercules Cluster (M13), the Wild Duck Cluster in Scutum, the Pleiades in Taurus, M44 in Cancer, M52 in Cassiopeia, M4 and M6 in Scorpius, and M22 in Sagittarius are a few examples of bright star clusters worth taking a gander at.

Planetary nebulas are small but their disk-shaped shells of ejected gas display high surface brightness. Two good planetaries to shoot for with a backyard telescope are the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra and the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula.

For galaxies and nebulas, the selection is rather slim if you’re observing in heavy light pollution. You’ll enjoy a longer roster of candidates in more modestly tainted suburbs. Start with low power and try occasionally tapping the telescope tube, as the eye is more sensitive to motion and more likely to discern the object when it is vibrating slightly in the field of view. Using averted vision can also help.

Some “faint fuzzies” that you should have success seeing are the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), Whirlpool Galaxy (M52), and M81, a spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. For diffuse nebulas, the Orion Nebula (M42) is the easiest pickings, and the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and Swan Nebula (M17) in Sagittarius are possibilities. You might try using a narrowband light-pollution or “nebula” filter to improve the contrast between the nebulas and the background sky.

Final Thoughts
I hope this post has convinced you that there is plenty to see with an amateur telescope even in a light-polluted night sky. Escape to a dark-sky observing site whenever you can. But for the rest of the time, you needn’t keep your telescope locked away in a closet. Get it out, set it up, gather a few friends or family members around, and enjoy a sampling of the many bright celestial showpieces that still manage to out-glow the skyglow.

Happy Viewing!


Scottish Highlands



Gairnshiel Lodge, a former Victorian Hunting Lodge on the banks of the River Gairn in beautiful Royal Deeside is just 6 miles from the village of Ballater and 5 miles from Balmoral Castle. Built in 1746, Gairnshiel enjoys spectacular views over Glengairn towards Ben Avon and beyond and was extended in Victorian times until it was suitable for use as a hunting lodge. King George V shot here during the 1920’s, as did King George VI and HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (then Duke and Duchess of York).




Lightning is essentially a giant spark of static electricity, though much about how and why it forms remains unknown and the subject of scientific research. It is known that lightning occurs in thunderstorms when there is a separation of electrical charge within the storm clouds, which can cause cloud-to-cloud lightning, the majority of lightning that occurs in a storm.

A charge separation can also form between thunderstorm clouds and the ground, leading to classic cloud-to-ground lightning. Thunder is the acoustic shock wave that results from the heat that a lightning strike produces. NASA research suggests that lightning flashes 40 times a second around the globe.


Crash’s Cycling Meal Plan

food shot

I get asked a lot by other athletes, novice & intermediate runners and cyclists about my personal diet – what do I eat – anything special?

The diet, or as I prefer to call it, meal plan, that I stick to has been formulated just for me by my consulting nutritionists and physicians to fit my metabolism, energy needs, and training/competition schedule. Incidentally, before going on a workout schedule and making changes to your diet, I would advise a doctor’s consultation including a thorough physical.

Here are the very basics:

One of the best things about riding your bike is that you get a free pass to eat what you want, right? Well, sort of. You can definitely consume more calories, but the right eating plan will give you energy, help you feel better, fuel your body more efficiently and help you lose weight, if that is your goal.

The best eating plan for a cyclist is one that includes plenty of low fat, high carbohydrate foods to provide energy and fluids to offer hydration. While ‘carb’ is a four letter word to many dieters, they are certainly not the diet-wrecking evil food that some people might lead you to believe. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy for cycling. Since you are constantly burning carbs to fuel your cycling as well as daily activities, you must regularly replace them with a high carbohydrate diet.

food shot 2

The kind of carbs that give all carbs a bad reputation are those made with simple sugars and refined flours. These offer little nutritional value. Get your fill of carbohydrates through fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grain breads, rice and pasta. Round out your diet with lean protein and a small amount of fat.

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. About an hour before a ride, fuel up with a high carbohydrate snack or small meal. Some ideas might be fresh fruit and whole grain toast or a half whole wheat bagel with peanut butter.

If your ride is longer than 60 minutes, you’ll need to refuel with more carbs. Researchers recommend about 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrate each 30 minutes you ride beyond the first 60 minutes. This might be a good time to consider a sports drink or energy bar. Eating a high carb snack or meal within 60 minutes after a lengthy ride is important to replenish your body and prepare you for your next ride.

Cyclists must make a conscious effort to drink fluids before, during and after riding to stay hydrated. Becoming dehydrated is one of the worst things that can happen to you and so it is important to be proactive and push lots of fluids, even before you feel thirsty. You’ll want to drink at least 8 – 12 ounces of fluid immediately before a ride, another 8 ounces every half hour during a ride, and enough when you’re finished to gradually replenish those lost fluids after a ride.

On The Web:

Go Faster Meal Plan & Healthy Recipes | Bicycling Magazine

Nutrition Guide for Cyclists –

Fitness Republic: Health and Fitness Articles, Workouts, Routines


May 10, 2013 Annular Eclipse


This image depicts the annular eclipse as it will appear from Cooktown, Queensland, Australia on the morning of May 10, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. local time.

A spectacular “ring of fire” solar eclipse will be visible from northern Australia Friday morning local time (May 10), the second to grace the region in less than six months.

During this week’s annular solar eclipse, which begins late Thursday (May 9) Eastern time due to time zone differences,  the moon’s disk will appear to be about 4.5 percent smaller than the disk of the sun, so the effect is like placing a penny atop a nickel. A ring of sunlight remains visible surrounding the moon, resulting in a ring of fire, or annular, solar eclipse.

The shadow path from which the ring will be visible runs for thousands of miles, but will get no wider than 107 miles (172 kilometers) at the point of greatest eclipse. Much of the path falls over the Pacific Ocean, but at or soon after local sunrise Friday (when it will actually be Thursday in North America), it will slice across a part of northern Australia.

A rare event

Just how often does the same region get two solar eclipses in less than six months? Certainly it would seem to be an exceptionally rare occurrence.

The mean frequency of a total solar eclipse for any given spot on Earth is once every 375 years, and it’s once every 224 years for annular eclipses, according to the famous Belgian eclipse calculator Jean Meeus, By combination, this yields an annular or a total eclipse every 140 years.

But the paths of total and annular solar eclipses, while narrow, can also run for thousands of miles across the surface of the Earth. And sometimes, the paths of two different eclipses cross each other after a short time interval, as happens with the eclipses of November 2012 and May 2013.

When the moon passes squarely in front of the sun and either completely obscures it or allows a ring of sunlight to remain, we call that a “central” eclipse. A little less than six months is the shortest time interval you can have between two central eclipses.

WARNING: Never look directly at the sun during an eclipse with a telescope or your unaided eye; severe eye damage can result. Scientists and serious eclipse-watchers use special filters to safely view these events.

Coming attractions

Interestingly, during the 20th century such back-to-back solar eclipses occurred 12 times. But during the 21st century, it happens 23 times.

Prior to 2012-2013, the last time this happened was in 2009-2010 over China. A very long (almost seven-minute) total eclipse occurred on July 22, 2009, followed on Jan. 15 by an annular solar eclipse.

Chongqing, the largest and most populous of China’s four provincial-level municipalities (pop. 31.4 million) was in the totality path in July 2009. Six months later, it ended up on the central line of annularity, with the ring phase lasting 7 minutes and 50 seconds.

The next time this will happen after this week involves two annular eclipses, on Dec. 26, 2019 and June 21, 2020. In fact, the two eclipse tracks will cross each other not once but twice — first over Arabia and later over the Pacific Ocean.

And if you live in south-central Texas, the track of an annular eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023 will cross with the track of a total eclipse on April 8, 2024. The middle of each track (roughly 120 miles, or 200 km, wide) will intersect 10 miles (16 km) north of Utopia, Texas which is located to the west of San Antonio.

The annular eclipse will last five minutes, while the total eclipse will run an unusually long 4 minutes 26 seconds. Amazing!

Eclipse drought will soon end

While we’re on the subject of successive central solar eclipses in certain places, it’s worth pointing out that there are other parts of the globe suffering a solar eclipse drought.

Take for example, northern New York State and much of central and northern New England. The last time an eclipse of the sun was visible from these places was on Christmas Day, 2000.

But the wait will finally come to an end later this year when, on Nov. 3, the latter stages of a partial solar eclipse will be visible at sunrise for the Eastern Seaboard, including upstate New York and New England.


8 May 1945: “V-E” Day Remembered

On 8 May 1945, the unconditional surrender of Germany was ratified by Allies in Berlin. This event is remembered as “V-E” Day! (Victory in Europe)
Read remembrances of V-E Day on the Library of Congress’

But the Allies still had a hard-nosed Japanese force to deal with. It would be another three months until they surrendered.

On the web:


Jubliant! An American Air Force man hugs an English woman, as all London turns out to celebrate Germany’s Surrender. A U.S. Navy Sailor is also present. U.S. Army Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, USA C-20539.

Jubliant! An American Air Force man hugs an English woman, as all London turns out to celebrate Germany’s Surrender. A U.S. Navy Sailor is also present. U.S. Army Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, USA C-20539.

Noumea, New Caledonia. Local people hold a spontaneous parade in celebration of “V-E” Day, 8 May 1945. The celebration included flag waving, cheering, and the ringing of the church bell. National Archives Photograph, 80-G-327520.

Noumea, New Caledonia. Local people hold a spontaneous parade in celebration of “V-E” Day, 8 May 1945. The celebration included flag waving, cheering, and the ringing of the church bell. National Archives Photograph, 80-G-327520.

William R. Wilson (right) and brother Cpl. Jack Wilson (left) standing by a German 88 mm gun at Verdun, France on VE Day. Courtesy of the Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ppmsca-15792.

William R. Wilson (right) and brother Cpl. Jack Wilson (left) standing by a German 88 mm gun at Verdun, France on VE Day. Courtesy of the Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ppmsca-15792.

Conquest of Germany, 1945. A Russian Soldier hugs Army photographer T/4 Charles P. Aquaviva as the 82nd Airborne Division linked up with the Russian Forces near Grabow, Germany, 3 May 1945. U.S. Army Photograph, SC 181990.

Conquest of Germany, 1945. A Russian Soldier hugs Army photographer T/4 Charles P. Aquaviva as the 82nd Airborne Division linked up with the Russian Forces near Grabow, Germany, 3 May 1945. U.S. Army Photograph, SC 181990.

V.E. Day, May 8, 1945, night illumination over K.D. [i.e., King David Hotel] & Y.M.C.A. taken from roof of Army Y.M.C.A. Hostel (old post office). Library of Congress: LC-DIG-matpc-14867

V.E. Day, May 8, 1945, night illumination over K.D. [i.e., King David Hotel] & Y.M.C.A. taken from roof of Army Y.M.C.A. Hostel (old post office). Library of Congress: LC-DIG-matpc-14867

General of the Army George C. Marshall, USA; Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN; and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, make a broadcast in Washington DC on 8 May 1945, following the official announcement of “V-E” Day. National Archives, 80-G-49101.

General of the Army George C. Marshall, USA; Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN; and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, make a broadcast in Washington DC on 8 May 1945, following the official announcement of “V-E” Day. National Archives, 80-G-49101.

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, leaves the Headquarters of US Ports and Bases in Bremen, Germany, 23 July 1945. Note the old designation of the building. National Archives photograph, 80-G-345992.

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, leaves the Headquarters of US Ports and Bases in Bremen, Germany, 23 July 1945. Note the old designation of the building. National Archives photograph, 80-G-345992.

V.E. Day, Barclay's Bank, London, England. Library of Congress: LC-M33- 13254.

V.E. Day, Barclay’s Bank, London, England. Library of Congress: LC-M33- 13254.

The front page of the New York Times proclaims the end of the war.

The front page of the New York Times proclaims the end of the war.