Thursday Reader: NASA’s Mercury Messenger Says Goodbye

NASA's Mercury MESSENGER Probe

NASA’s Mercury MESSENGER Probe

The robotic spacecraft MESSENGER has run out of fuel. With no way to make major adjustments to its orbit around the planet Mercury, the probe will smash into the surface at more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second). The impact will add a new crater to the planet’s scarred face that engineers estimate will be as wide as 52 feet (16 meters).

The end is likely to come at about 3:30 p.m. EDT on April 30, 2015.

Unmasking the Secrets of Mercury Scientists have worked to learn more about the minerals and surface processes on Mercury using instruments on the MESSENGER spacecraft to diligently collect single tracks of spectral surface measurements since entering Mercury orbit on March 17, 2011. The track coverage is now extensive enough that the spectral properties of both broad terrains and small, distinct features such as pyroclastic vents and fresh craters can be studied. The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system's innermost planet. In the mission's more than four years of orbital operations, MESSENGER has acquired over 250,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER's highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury near the end of April 2015. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Unmasking the Secrets of Mercury
Scientists have worked to learn more about the minerals and surface processes on Mercury using instruments on the MESSENGER spacecraft to diligently collect single tracks of spectral surface measurements since entering Mercury orbit on March 17, 2011. The track coverage is now extensive enough that the spectral properties of both broad terrains and small, distinct features such as pyroclastic vents and fresh craters can be studied.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system’s innermost planet. In the mission’s more than four years of orbital operations, MESSENGER has acquired over 250,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER’s highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury near the end of April 2015.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

None of this is a surprise to MESSENGER’s handlers on Earth, who have managed a highly successful mission during a flight of nearly 11 years. The intrepid MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft was launched on August 3, 2004. It embarked on an odyssey of nearly seven years and more than eight billion kilometers that included 15 trips around the sun, along with several gravity-induced speed boost flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself. It finally slipped into orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, the first mission to ever do so.

The mission plan called for MESSENGER to spend one Earth year at Mercury, but when early findings raised new questions, NASA granted two mission extensions for a total of three additional years. Mission engineers also found ways to save fuel, such as maneuvering the spacecraft with a technique called solar sailing, which allowed an extra month of operations in orbit.

The only previous expedition to see the planet up close was Mariner 10 in the 1970s. It provided valuable scouting reports, but since it only flew by, it left large gaps in the images of Mercury’s surface. MESSENGER not only filled in those blank places on the map, its suite of powerful instruments delved deep into the small world’s many mysteries.

Mercury is not the garden spot of the solar system. It’s a small, airless sphere, only slightly larger than Earth’s moon, with stark and foreboding landscapes. Daytime temperatures can reach about 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius) and drop to -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius) at night.

But MESSENGER brought to light the intricacies of an intriguing world. The mission discovered a surface rich in diverse chemistry, including volatiles. It sensed a bizarrely offset magnetic field. It photographed strange “hollows” where material seems to have boiled away into space under the scorching sun. It mapped vast volcanic deposits, found that the entire planet has shrunk by as much as 7 kilometers in radius, and, of all things, uncovered deposits of water ice in the depths of polar craters where the sun never shines.

When MESSENGER disappears behind Mercury’s horizon for the last time, no spacecraft will scan its strange surface until the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission arrives in the 2020s. But for many years to come, planetary explorers will be pouring over the gigabytes of information that MESSENGER sent home.

On the Web: 

Messenger Mission Pages

Mercury Messenger

Journey’s End: Follow along with MESSENGER during its final orbits, and count down its top discoveries and engineering breakthroughs.

Facts About the First World: Pay a virtual visit to Mercury and see some of the best images of this odd and intriguing world.

The Trailblazer: Meet Mariner 10, the first spacecraft to explore Mercury.

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#ThrowbackThursday

throwback-thursday

1955 : James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of movie ''Giant''. Photo by Sanford Roth

1955 : James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of movie ”Giant”.
Photo by Sanford Roth

1926 : A policewoman chases a gang of little skinny dippers down the street at Hyde Park, London

1926 : A policewoman chases a gang of little skinny dippers down the street at Hyde Park, London

Nov 1977 : Racehorse trainer Tommy Woodcock with his champion racehorse 'Reckless' on the night before running second to Gold and Black in the Melbourne Cup of 1977, Flemington, Australia Reckless had won the Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane cups and the 73-year-old trainer liked the stallion's chances in the 1977 Melbourne Cup.  Horse and trainer died within months of each other in 1985.

Nov 1977 : Racehorse trainer Tommy Woodcock with his champion racehorse ‘Reckless’ on the night before running second to Gold and Black in the Melbourne Cup of 1977, Flemington, Australia
Reckless had won the Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane cups and the 73-year-old trainer liked the stallion’s chances in the 1977 Melbourne Cup.
Horse and trainer died within months of each other in 1985.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis  1935 : Jackie's favorite photo of herself (age 6) with her father, at a Long Island horse show, New York

Jacqueline Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Bouvier (Kennedy-Onassis)
1935 : Jackie’s favorite photo of herself (age 6) with her father, at a Long Island horse show, New York

1919 : A pack of five collie puppies perch atop a hill near Edinburgh, Scotland

1919 : A pack of five collie puppies perch atop a hill near Edinburgh, Scotland

1954 : Two young Inuit boys and a dog as they pose for photographer Ivan Dmitri by the beach in Alaska. Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. In the United States and Canada the term "Eskimo" was commonly used to describe the Inuit tribe.

1954 : Two young Inuit boys and a dog as they pose for photographer Ivan Dmitri by the beach in Alaska.
Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. In the United States and Canada the term “Eskimo” was commonly used to describe the Inuit tribe.

1920 : Canadian born Hollywood film star Mary Pickford with a dog and a kitten.

1920 : Canadian born Hollywood film star Mary Pickford with a dog and a kitten.

Frank Sinatra at age 10, looking as suave as you would expect - 1925

Frank Sinatra at age 10, looking as suave as you would expect – 1925

Robin Williams, 18, as a senior at Redwood High School - 1969.

Robin Williams, 18, as a senior at Redwood High School – 1969.

Robert De Niro, aged 7 in the year 1950.

Robert De Niro, aged 7 in the year 1950.

Paul McCartney, 8, with his father on a day trip - 1950.

Paul McCartney, 8, with his father on a day trip – 1950.

Fashionable ladies of the early 1900's.

Fashionable ladies of the early 1900’s.

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Crash Course: Little Known History – Lily Elsie, Most Photographed Edwardian-Era Woman

Picture Perfect: One of many photos of Lily Elsie.

Picture Perfect: One of many photos of Lily Elsie.

When Lily Elsie took the stage in 1907 in the leading role of “The Merry Widow,” London audiences and theater critics swooned.

The operetta was such a hit it ran for 778 performances, making the lovely Elsie a bona fide star whose beauty was so captivating she’s known as one of the most photographed women of the Edwardian Era.

In 1910, the Chicago Examiner declared: “She is famous above all for two things — for having been photographed more frequently than any actress ever on a London stage, and for having had more proposals of marriage. It is said she has been photographed at least once every week day in the year. Even then the insatiable demands of the photographic firms were not satisfied. They could not obtain enough of her photographs to supply the enormous demand.”

Exhausted by the public attention and newly married to a man who wasn’t interested in her working, Elsie retired soon after her “Merry Widow” run ended. The rocky marriage later dissolved, and Elsie, who had been plagued with chronically poor health, spend the last part of her life in a sanitarium and died in 1962. Her obituary described her as “the most glamorous figure of the theatre world, whose portrayal of Sonia in Lehar’s The Merry Widow in 1907 took London by storm.”

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#WarriorWednesday: Task Force 99 and 58, Rear Adm. Tyson and the USN’s Good Conduct Medal

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Warrior Wednesday strives to honor those who worked and continue to work to make freedom possible through their dedication, sacrifice and bravery.

In 1944, following the support of the Hollandia landings, Task Force 58 begins a two-day attack on Japanese shipping, oil and ammunition dumps, aircraft facilities, and other installations at Truk. Japanese naval aircraft counterattack on U.S. formations.

USS Tang (SS 306). The submarine's Commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Richard H. O'Kane (center), poses with the twenty-two aircrewmen that Tang rescued off Truk during the carrier air raids there on 29 April-1 May 1944. The photograph was taken upon Tang's return to Pearl Harbor from her second war patrol, in May 1944.

USS Tang (SS 306). The submarine’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Richard H. O’Kane (center), poses with the twenty-two aircrewmen that Tang rescued off Truk during the carrier air raids there on 29 April-1 May 1944. The photograph was taken upon Tang’s return to Pearl Harbor from her second war patrol, in May 1944.

TBF “Avenger” aircraft in flight formation over Norfolk, Virginia. Photograph received September 1942. National Archives photograph, 80-G-426849. TBF aircraft helped to sink Japanese sub I 174 on 29 April 1944.

TBF “Avenger” aircraft in flight formation over Norfolk, Virginia. Photograph received September 1942. National Archives photograph, 80-G-426849.
TBF aircraft helped to sink Japanese sub I 174 on 29 April 1944.

Nakajima B6N2 “Jill” Torpedo Plane begins to burn from A.A. fire hits during an attack on TG 58.2 off Truk. Seen from USS Monterey (CVL 26). Undated, probably taken 30 April 1944, during raid on Truk by TF 58. National Archives photograph: 80-G-366985.

Nakajima B6N2 “Jill” Torpedo Plane begins to burn from A.A. fire hits during an attack on TG 58.2 off Truk. Seen from USS Monterey (CVL 26). Undated, probably taken 30 April 1944, during raid on Truk by TF 58. National Archives photograph: 80-G-366985.

USS MacDonough (DD 351). At sea in December 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives: 80-G-276746. USS MacDonough helped to sink Japanese submarine I 174 on 29 April 1944.

USS MacDonough (DD 351). At sea in December 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives: 80-G-276746.
USS MacDonough helped to sink Japanese submarine I 174 on 29 April 1944.

Vought OS2U "Kingfisher" floatplane, from USS North Carolina (BB-55). Off Truk with nine aviators on board, awaiting rescue by USS Tang (SS-306), 1 May 1944. The plane had landed inside Truk lagoon to recover downed airmen. Unable to take off with such a load, it then taxiied out to Tang, which was serving as lifeguard submarine during the 29 April-1 May carrier strikes on Truk. National Archives photograph: 80-G-227991.

Vought OS2U “Kingfisher” floatplane, from USS North Carolina (BB-55). Off Truk with nine aviators on board, awaiting rescue by USS Tang (SS-306), 1 May 1944. The plane had landed inside Truk lagoon to recover downed airmen. Unable to take off with such a load, it then taxiied out to Tang, which was serving as lifeguard submarine during the 29 April-1 May carrier strikes on Truk. National Archives photograph: 80-G-227991.

In 1942, the US Navy‬’s Task Force 99, which consists of USS Wasp (CV 7), USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) and USS Wichita (CA 45), plus four destroyers, sail from the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, as part of the mixed U.S.-British force “Distaff.”

Hvalfjord, Iceland. U.S. and British warships in the harbor May-June 1942, seen from a USS Washington plane. Washington is the ship at left, with USS Wichita (CA 45) and a British Southampton Light Cruiser astern. Heavy cruisers at right are HMS London and HMS Kent (with three stacks). Ship in foreground is probably HMS Norfolk. National Archives photograph, 80-G-24832.

Hvalfjord, Iceland. U.S. and British warships in the harbor May-June 1942, seen from a USS Washington plane. Washington is the ship at left, with USS Wichita (CA 45) and a British Southampton Light Cruiser astern. Heavy cruisers at right are HMS London and HMS Kent (with three stacks). Ship in foreground is probably HMS Norfolk. National Archives photograph, 80-G-24832.

USS Wichita (CA 45), rides out a winter storm off Iceland in 1941-42. Note the PBY patrol plane on the deck of the seaplane tender from which the photograph was taken. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 97885.

USS Wichita (CA 45), rides out a winter storm off Iceland in 1941-42. Note the PBY patrol plane on the deck of the seaplane tender from which the photograph was taken. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 97885.

Photo # NH 93309  Navy leaders onboard USS Wichita (CA 45), April 1942.

Photo # NH 93309
Navy leaders onboard USS Wichita (CA 45), April 1942.

USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37). Moored in Scapa Flow, April 1942, while she was operating with the British Home Fleet. The British heavy cruiser London is in the background. National Archives photograph: 80-G-12018.

USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37). Moored in Scapa Flow, April 1942, while she was operating with the British Home Fleet. The British heavy cruiser London is in the background. National Archives photograph: 80-G-12018.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Nora W. Tyson was nominated to be Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, San Diego‬, California http://1.usa.gov/1HkO8QO

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The watercolor is of Rear Adm. Tyson when she was the first two star woman Commander, Strike Group Two embarked with USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Mediterranean with U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet. (Image courtesy of U.S. Navy Art Gallery by Monica Allen Perin, Navy Reserve Watercolor, 2011)

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The Good Conduct Badge was established by the Secretary of the Navy on April 26, 1869. The badge was a Maltese cross with a rope-ringed circular medallion at the center. Along the rim of the medallion were the words ‘Fidelity Zeal Obedience’ and at the center, ‘U.S.N.’ Made of nickel and measuring about 31mm wide, the cross hung on a half-inch wide red, white and blue ribbon. On the back, the Sailor’s name was script-engraved. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

 

Second only to the Navy Medal of Honor, the Good Conduct Medal is the oldest award the U.S. Navy has continuously presented to deserving Sailors.

Prior to the Civil War, when a Sailor completed his enlistment, his commanding officer would certify his time, his trustworthiness at sea, and his proficiency with gunnery. If he wanted to go to sea again, his discharge acted as his references. Back then, “good conduct” was as much about skill than just behavior. A Sailor would enter a recruiting station with his “Good Conduct” report and reenlist. Enlistments worked differently back then compared to today when recruits may have little to no experience sailing.

“[The badge] was established by the Secretary of the Navy [on April 26, 1869] for award to any man holding a Continuous Service Certificate, who had distinguished himself for obedience, sobriety, and cleanliness,” according to John Strandberg and Roger James Bender in The Call of Duty: Military Awards and Decorations of the United States of America.

Given the reputation of Sailors back then, one could be forgiven for believing the bit about sobriety made the badge difficult to obtain, but there are no statistics available today about what percentage of 19th century Sailors were actually presented the badge at discharge.

The badge, which seemed a lot like a medal, was a Maltese cross with a rope-ringed circular medallion at the center. Along the rim of the medallion were the words ‘Fidelity Zeal Obedience’ and at the center, ‘U.S.N.’ Made of nickel and measuring about 31mm wide, the cross hung on a half-inch wide red, white and blue ribbon. On the back, the Sailor’s name was script-engraved.

If and when a Sailor received three such awards after consecutive enlistments, he merited promotion to a Petty Officer.

On the back of the 1896 version of the medal was inscribed, among other things, the discharge date and continuous service number. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

On the back of the 1896 version of the medal was inscribed, among other things, the discharge date and continuous service number. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

The badge underwent some redesigns in 1880 and again in 1884. Then 27 years to the day after the certificate became a badge, the badge became the Good Conduct Medal in 1896. In addition to this, by order of General Order 327, the time criterion was set at three years for a Sailor to earn it.

A straight bar clasp was used to attach the circular medal to its maroon ribbon.

“Subsequent enlistments were recognized by the addition of a clasp attached to the suspension ribbon,” relate Strandberg and Bender. “These clasps […] were engraved on the front with the duty station or ship upon which the recipient served and the discharge date and continuous service number on the reverse.”

Over the next several decades, the Navy changed the medal’s appearance numerous times, but the criterion for receiving it seems to have remained the same.

For a brief period during World War II, the Navy stopped awarding the medal to conserve metal and free the clerks from the paperwork they mandated. Instead, notations were made in the person’s service jacket.

Not until the 1950s did the Navy settle on something permanent. The clasps were done away with in favor of 3/16 inch bronze stars denoting multiple enlistments, names on awards were dropped for all but posthumous recipients, and the ribbon was changed to a solid red color.

Nowadays, the rules for earning the medal are a little more complex, but generally if Sailors go three consecutive years with “a clear record (no convictions by court-martial, no non-judicial punishment (NJP), no lost time by reason of sickness-misconduct, no civil convictions for offenses involving moral turpitude)” they are eligible for the Good Conduct Medal.

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Art Wednesday: George Barret – Irish Painter

Landscape with a Watermill - Oil on canvas, 50 x 59 cm Private collection The painting shows a finely delineated watermill, with figures to one side and cattle to the other outside a barn; overhead the sky is overcast and brooding. The influence of Jacob van Ruisdael cam be noted, and it can be assumed that Barret had seen some of Ruisdael's watermill landscapes which served as the inspiration for this particular work.

Landscape with a Watermill

Oil on canvas, 50 x 59 cm
Private collection
The painting shows a finely delineated watermill, with figures to one side and cattle to the other outside a barn; overhead the sky is overcast and brooding. The influence of Jacob van Ruisdael cam be noted, and it can be assumed that Barret had seen some of Ruisdael’s watermill landscapes which served as the inspiration for this particular work.

The son of a tailor, George Barret first trained as a staymaker but then found work colouring prints for Silcock, a publisher in Dublin. In 1747 he was awarded first prize at the Dublin Society’s School, where he studied under Robert West.

Among Barret’s earliest works is a group of landscapes (National Gallery, Dublin) painted for Joseph Leeson, later 1st Earl of Miltown, in the 1740s and 1750s as architectural decorations for Russborough House, Co. Wicklow, built in 1742-55 by Richard Castle. They are rather stiff Italianate views, with somewhat contrived compositions. In the 1750s, perhaps through the influence of Edmund Burke, Barret embarked on a series of topographical paintings of the Dargle Valley, Powerscourt, Castletown and other locations around Dublin. These works established his reputation, and he moved to London in 1763.

Landscape with an Approaching Shower - Oil on canvas, 58 x 63 cm Private collection The painting depicts two figures by a stream in a landscape with an approaching shower.

Landscape with an Approaching Shower

Oil on canvas, 58 x 63 cm
Private collection
The painting depicts two figures by a stream in a landscape with an approaching shower.

The following year he won a 50-guinea premium for a painting exhibited at the Free Society of Artists, and he was soon taken up by English patrons. In 1765-67 he made ten views of the park and house at Welbeck Abbey, Notts, for William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland. After becoming a founder-member of the Royal Academy in 1768 he carried out a similar commission for Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, recording the mountainous scenery of Dalkeith Park, Lothian, in such pictures as A Rocky River Scene (private collection), which were shown at the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1771.

Despite his success, it seems he was incompetent in managing his money. By the end of the 1770s, he was close to bankruptcy but was supported in these straits by William Locke who paid his debts and commissioned a decorative scheme for Norbury Park to be executed in collaboration with Sawrey Gilpin, Cipriani and Benedetto Pastorini. Burke also came to the rescue using his position as Paymaster General to appoint him official painter to the Chelsea Hospital.

Barret died in 1784 and is buried in Paddington Green Church.

On the Web:

George Barret, Sr. – Wikipedia

George Barret, Landscape Painter – Library Ireland

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Art Wednesday: Lilla Cabot – American Poet & Painter

Open Air Concert 1890 Oil on canvas, 101 x 77 cm Museum of Fine Arts, Boston This canvas is one of the three plein-air compositions, painted at the home of friends with whom the Perrys resided for the summer in Milton, Massachusetts near Boston. Perry frequently used her three daughters as models: Margaret (born 1876) shown here playing the violin, Alice (born 1884) between her two older sisters, and Edith (born 1880) looking out at the viewer.

Open Air Concert
1890
Oil on canvas, 101 x 77 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This canvas is one of the three plein-air compositions, painted at the home of friends with whom the Perrys resided for the summer in Milton, Massachusetts near Boston. Perry frequently used her three daughters as models: Margaret (born 1876) shown here playing the violin, Alice (born 1884) between her two older sisters, and Edith (born 1880) looking out at the viewer.

One of the first American artists to embrace Impressionism during the late 19th century, Lilla Cabot was actually better known for her artwork with her four volumes of poetry.

Although she had no formal art training until age 36, Lilla Cabot Perry became a professional painter and a devotee of French Impressionism with a formidable body of work. She developed a solid reputation during her lifetime as a painter, helping to promote Impressionism in the U.S. and Japan.

Monet's Garden at Giverny c. 1897 Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 cm Private collection

Monet’s Garden at Giverny
c. 1897
Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 cm
Private collection

In 1874, she married Thomas Sergeant Perry, a Harvard alumnus scholar and linguist, and added his name. After marrying, Perry and her family traveled widely, living in Paris from 1887 to 1889, where Lilla studied painting. She also trained in Munich and copied old-master paintings in Italy, England, and Spain. It was in 1889, when she was 41 years old, that Perry saw her first Impressionist painting (a work by Claude Monet). Perry sought out the artist and became his close friend. For nine summers the Perrys rented a house at Giverny, near Monet’s, and although he never took pupils, he often advised Perry on her art.

Self portrait, The Green Hat 1913 Private collection

Self portrait, The Green Hat
1913
Private collection Image courtesy of WahooArt.com

Between 1898 and 1901, the family resided in Japan. This experience gave Perry a rare opportunity to study the sources of Impressionism notably Japanese fabrics and prints in depth. There, she produced some 80 paintings; she continued to be prolific throughout her life.

Landscape in Normandy c. 1890s Oil on canvas Newark Museum, Newark

Landscape in Normandy
c. 1890s
Oil on canvas
Newark Museum, Newark

Perry exhibited her work at the Paris Salon and the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and won medals for her paintings at important exhibitions in Boston, St. Louis, and San Francisco. She was active in numerous arts organizations and published four well-received volumes of verse.

On the Web: 

Lilla Cabot Perry – National Museum of Women in the Arts

A Portrait of Edith – Antiques Roadshow

Lilla Cabot Perry and Perry family papers

Lilla Cabot Perry – Wikipedia, including more background, photos, and additional artwork

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Crash Course: Little Known History – The Girl Paul Revere

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

On April 26th in 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode almost 40 miles by horseback in the middle of the night to gather American militia and warn the countryside about the British approaching. 

A young American patriot, Sybil Ludington is the female counterpart to the more famous Paul Revere.  Born in 1761 in Connecticut, Ludington was the eldest of twelve children.  Soon after her birth, her family settled in Dutchess County, New York.

In addition to being a farmer, Ludington’s father held various positions within the small town and served in the military for over sixty years.  He was loyal to the British crown until 1773, when he joined the rebel cause.  He was quickly promoted to Colonel and led his local regiment.  Colonel Ludington’s area of command was along a vulnerable route that the British could take between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.

When British troops and British loyalists attacked a nearby town, Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777, a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them and ask for the local regiment’s help.  At the time, the Colonel’s regiment was disbanded for planting season, and all of the men were miles apart at their respective farms.

The rider was too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, so he asked his barely sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back.  Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles (a significantly longer distance than Revere rode), and because of her bravery, almost the whole regiment was gathered by daybreak to fight the British.

After the battle at Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help. After the war, Ludington married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden; they had one son.  She died in 1839.

Although Ludington never gained the widespread fame that Paul Revere did in America’s history, she was honored with a stamp by the Postal Service in 1975. There is a statue of her by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York, and there are historical markers tracing the route of her ride through Putnam County.

Fun fact: Ludington’s journey was over 30 miles longer than Paul Revere’s famous ride.

On the Web:

To introduce your children to this inspiring and under-recognized hero of the Revolutionary War, see “Sybil’s Night Ride,” a picture book for children 4 to 8 and “Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride,” an early chapter book for readers 6 to 9.

Sybil Ludington was also the focus of an episode of Liberty’s Kids, the animated educational historical fiction television series, which you can view on YouTube

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#MilitaryMonday: The Evolution of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

Aircraft carriers are often revered as the “powerhouse of the fleet” because of their size, strength, capabilities and importance to our national security. For nearly 100 years, the aircraft carrier has continued to evolve alongside the technological advancements of America’s Navy.

The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1), was converted from the collier USS Jupiter (AC 3) and recommissioned March 20, 1922. Lagley had a displacement of 11,500 tons and measured 542 feet in length. She could travel at a speed of 15.5 knots (17.8 mph) and boasted a crew of 468 personnel. Though Langley was not the first ship with an installed flight deck or the first ship from which an airplane had taken off, her service marked the birth of the era of the carrier. She was also the sight of the first carrier catapult when her commanding officer, Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting, was catapulted from her deck.

Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79) – US Navy CVN 21 Future Carrier Program, United States of America.

Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79) – US Navy CVN 21 Future Carrier Program, United States of America.

In his book “U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History,” Norman Friedman noted that the Langley did not have a hangar deck in the modern sense because aircraft were not stowed ready for flight. They were actually assembled on the upper deck, loaded into the single elevator, and then hoisted onto the flight deck. She was also equipped with two lift cranes, two flight-deck catapults, and carried 36 aircraft. And according to Norman Polmar in his book “Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and its Influence on World Events”, the arresting gear on Langley consisted of “wires running fore and aft suspended about 10 inches above the deck” to which the hook of an aircraft would attach to slow the landing. He added that this system of fore-and-aft wires was used on U.S. carriers until 1929 when the Navy began developing a hydraulic arresting gear that could handle high-speed aircraft landings.

In 1927 the Lexington class aircraft carriers, USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Saratoga (CV 3), were commissioned. Originally designed as battlecruisers, these carriers were much more efficient than Langley. At 888 feet in length and with a displacement of 37,000 tons, the Lexington class carriers traveled at a speed of 33.3 knots (38.3 mph) — more than double the speed of Langley. According to Siegfried Breyer’s “Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970,” the Lexington class carriers featured a new bow called the bulbous bow which reduced water resistance by an average of six percent, supported the forecastle and reduced bending stress on the hull. A proper hangar, two elevators and one aircraft catapult housed and handled the 78 aircraft that Lexington class carriers were designed to carry. By 1942, these carriers accommodated 2,791 personnel.

How US Navy carriers have evolved over time in this infographic.

How US Navy carriers have evolved over time in this infographic.

USS Ranger (CV 4), commissioned in 1934, was the first ship of the U.S. Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. She had a displacement of 14,500 tons, measured 769 feet in length, traveled at a speed of 29.3 knots (33.7 mph), and supported a complement of 2,461 personnel as built. At her maximum, she carried 86 aircraft and was equipped with three elevators and three catapults.

Immediately following Ranger was the Yorktown class, whose lead ship, USS Yorktown (CV 5), was commissioned in 1937. USS Enterprise (CV 6) and USS Hornet (CV 8) were also part of this class. The fast and versatile Yorktown class carriers had a displacement of 20,100 tons, measurement of 809 feet in length, traveling speed of 32.5 knots (37.4 miles per hour), and a complement of 2,919 personnel. They carried up to 90 aircraft and were equipped with three elevators and two flight deck catapults. Yorktown was actually the first carrier to use hydraulic catapults. The Yorktown class carriers suffered heavy losses during World War II, but its sole survivor — Enterprise — went on to become the most decorated U.S. ship of the war.

First commissioned in 1942 with the USS Essex (CV 9), Essex class carriers included an impressive fleet of 24 ships and served as the core of the U.S. Navy’s combat strength during World War II. Better design features made Essex class carriers more resilient and efficient. For example, simultaneous launch and recovery operations became possible when Essex class USS Antietam (CVA 36) made her debut as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier. Additional features of Essex class carriers included bigger hangar space; better machinery arrangement and armor protection; a portside deck edge elevator [originating from her predecessor, USS Wasp (CV 7)]; advanced radio and radar equipment; and the incorporation of the “long-hull” or “Ticonderoga class” Essexes. The long-hull Essexes were constructed with a lengthened bow above the waterline which provided deck space for two quadruple 40mm mounts. The flight decks were also shortened forward to provide better arcs of fire. Continuous improvements to the Essex class carriers enabled them to serve through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and assist in the space program until 1973.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. (Photo: USN)

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. (Photo: USN)

In 1943, the smaller and faster Independence class carriers followed the Essex class, but design plans had been underway for a carrier with an armored flight deck that could accommodate more planes than any other carrier yet. So when USS Midway (CV 41) was commissioned in 1945, it was no surprise that it became one of the longest-lasting carrier designs in history. Midway class ships retained their strength at the hangar deck level and the armored flight deck was part of the superstructure. The original design of the Midway class supported up to 130 aircraft, but coordinating that many planes would be ineffective and problematic. All three Midway class ships underwent modernizations in the 1950s and were fitted with angled decks, steam catapults and mirrored landing systems that allowed them to accommodate the new, heavier naval jets.

The 1950s marked the development of the U.S. Navy’s “supercarriers” beginning with USS Forrestal (CVA 59), commissioned in 1955. Ships in this class measured 1,036 feet in length with a displacement of 56,000 tons and a fully integrated angled deck. They could carry up to 90 aircraft and had the most spacious hangar and flight decks. The Forrestal class was succeeded by Kitty Hawk class supercarriers with only minor changes, followed by the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), commissioned in 1961. At 1,101 feet in length, she is still the longest naval vessel in the world.

Following Enterprise was USS Kennedy (CV 67) which was originally designed to be the fourth Kitty Hawk class supercarrier, but because so many modifications were made during construction, she formed her own class.

The USS George H.W. Bush, shown here in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2014.

The USS George H.W. Bush, shown here in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2014.

Finally, the Nimitz class supercarriers are a group of 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently in service. These carriers use the catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) system for faster launching and recovery. Additionally, the flight deck is angled at nine degrees to allow for simultaneous launch and recovery. Nimitz class carriers utilize only two nuclear reactors compared to the eight on Enterprise. According to Norman Polmar’s “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet”, this improvement allows Nimitz class carriers to carry 90 percent more fuel and 50 percent more ordnance compared to the original Forrestal class.

The aircraft carrier continues to evolve as the needs of the U.S. Navy change, and the next evolution of the carrier will be revealed when the Ford class carrier makes its scheduled debut in 2016. With a displacement of more than 90,000 tons, length of 1,092 feet, speeds capable of more than 30 knots (35 miles per hour), and the ability to support 4,297 personnel, she doesn’t seem much different than her predecessors. However, enhancements in the designs will allow her to operate even more efficiently. According to the U.S. Navy Fact File on Gerald R. Ford class carriers, “each ship in the new class will save more than $4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the Nimitz-class.” Furthermore, the ship will be able to operate with fewer crew members, require less maintenance, and allow for 25 percent more sorties per day.

On the Web: 

List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy

Aircraft Carrier – The US Navy Aircraft Carriers

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Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Mon 27 Apr thru Sat 02 May

A stunning image of NGC 6960 – The Witch’s Broom by Robert Franke (USA)

A stunning image of NGC 6960 – The Witch’s Broom by Robert Franke (USA)

mon

Monday April 27

Step outside and look south an hour after sunset, and note the Moon at 9+ days in waxing gibbous phase, just below Leo’s brightest star Regulus directly to our south. Jupiter is near by moving slowly eastward through the center of Cancer. Our solar system members move through the twelve Zodiacal constellations, which include Leo and Cancer.

tue

Tuesday April 28

The predawn morning sky gives us a nice view of two star systems in Cygnus, Omricon Cygni 1 and Omricon Cygni 2. In binoculars they appear as three stars of contrasting colors. Omricon Cygni 1 is also called 38 Cygni, an eclipsing binary with a primary being an orange supergiant and its partner a hot blue-white star. Omricon Cygni 2 is a red giant, just over 1 degree away from the other pair. This is a very nice binocular view!

wed

Wednesday April 29

Due west after sunset, you’ll find Gemini the Twins standing straight up, its two brightest stars Pollux and Castor easy to pick out between the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter.

thu

Thursday April 30

Mercury and the Pleiades put on a show after sunset tonight, low on the western horizon in Taurus. They are separated by under two degrees, and will fit well in a binocular view. To their east you’ll see bright Aldebaran, the red giant star that is the eye of Taurus the bull. Venus is riding night tonight, between the bull’s horns, close to the star Elnath, one of the rare stars that shares two constellations (Auriga and Taurus).

fri

Friday May 1

The Moon and Spica team up in tonight’s twilight sky, just about 5 degrees apart. The Moon is waxing gibbous and 97 percent illuminated at nearly 13 days old.

With the moon this big, it is so bright that it will likely obliterate all the stars in Virgo except brilliant Spica.

Earlier in the week the moon was close to Regulus in Leo. Both Regulus and Spica are near the ecliptic, the path of our Moon and planets.

sat

Saturday May 2

Are you ready for summer? You can get a jump on it looking directly overhead this weekend. Vega, the brightest star in Lyra is virtually dead overhead, at zenith. The star and constellation bring with them the summer constellations, and summer Milky Way. Can you find Deneb and Altair too?

The three bright stars make an asterism called the Summer Triangle. If your skies are dark enough, you’ll see the Milky Way slicing past Deneb and Altair. Now that May is here, summer skies are just around the corner!

Happy viewing!

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Sacred Sunday: 11th and 12th Century European Cathedral Architecture

Interior view c. 1050 Photo San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Interior view
c. 1050
Photo
San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Italy remained closest to the classical language of architecture. San Miniato al Monte in Florence uses Corinthian columns and marble veneer.

Exterior view c. 1080 Photo Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

Exterior view
c. 1080
Photo
Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

This Romanesque church was built in the middle of the twelfth century in honor of St. Nectaire by the monks of La Chaise-Dieu. It was built on the site of the shrine erected by Nectaire Auvergne on Mount Cornadore. It features 103 magnificent capitals. In the mid-nineteenth century, the church was still surrounded by walls, a cemetery, a castle and a small chapel. These parts were destroyed shortly after, at a church restoration. Now surrounded by forests, the church was in the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, at the heart of a densely populated region, where wood was scarce.

The building is a typical church of the Auvergne, with an octagonal crossing tower and a round apse with radiating chapels.

Pantheon of the Kings of León 1063-1100 Photo Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

Pantheon of the Kings of León
1063-1100
Photo
Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

The Royal Pantheon in the basilica is a funeral chapel of the kings of León. It is one of the examples of surviving Romanesque art in León. The columns are crowned with rare Visigothic capitals (re-used Roman capitals), with floral or historic designs. The 12th century painted murals are in an exceptional state of preservation and consist of an ensemble of New Testament subjects along with scenes of contemporary rural life.

Chapter house c. 1100 Photo Monastery, Osek

Chapter house
c. 1100
Photo
Monastery, Osek

The Cistercian monastery in Osek was the spiritual centre of the region of Northern Bohemia between Decin and Karlovy Vary. It has a history of more than 800-year.

The picture shows the chapter house where the abbot presided. The administrative matters were settled here.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

The 12th-century Romanesque church at Conques, in central France, was a stopping-place on the road to Compostela. The church contains the relics of Sainte-Foy, which arrived in Conques through theft in 866.

The original chapel was destroyed in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy caused the pilgrimage route to shift from Agen to Conques. The second phase of construction, which was completed by the end of the eleventh-century, included the building of the five radiating chapels, the ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir without the gallery and the nave without the galleries.

The third phase of construction, which was completed early in the twelfth-century, was inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago Compostela. Like most pilgrimage churches Conques is a basilica plan that has been modified into a cruciform plan. Galleries were added over the aisle and the roof was raised over the transept and choir to allow people to circulate at the gallery level.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade c. 1150 Photo Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade
c. 1150
Photo
Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

The façade of the church bears witness to the presence of Roman temples in the vicinity.

Interior view 1140s Photo Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

Interior view
1140s
Photo
Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

The picture shows the east end of the abbey church of Saint-Denis. The technique of Gothic architecture allows spaces to flow freely into one another instead of being compartmentalized.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Durham

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral was built between the late 11th and early 12th century to house the bodies of St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD) (the evangelizer of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede (672/3-735 AD).

It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. The Cathedral lies within the precinct of Durham Castle, first constructed in the late eleventh century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

Interior view 1100-20 Photo Cathedral, Durham

Interior view
1100-20
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral has thick circular piers with incised (and originally painted) patterns and one of the earliest rib-vaults in Europe.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. It has a cruciform plan with central crossing tower, and it was likewise one of the largest buildings under construction north of the Alps at the time.

The construction was started in 1081 and was completed in the 1180s. The 66 m high west tower of the cathedral represents the last, profusely ornamented, stage of Romanesque. The porch and upper parts are already Gothic.

Interior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Interior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view c. 1150 Photo Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Exterior view
c. 1150
Photo
Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Maria Laach Abbey is a Benedictine abbey situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See (Lake Laach), in the region of the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. The church exemplifies a particular German form of Romanesque with apses and round towers at both east and west ends.

Exterior view c. 1160 Photo Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

Exterior view
c. 1160
Photo
Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great) is a church in Toro, Spain. It was begun around 1100, and was finished in the mid-13th century. It is one of the most characteristic examples of transitional Romanesque architecture in Spain. The crossing tower is a Spanish specialty – an octagon of repeated arches with four tourelles at the corners.

Refectory 1180-1200 Photo Monastery, Alcobaça

Refectory
1180-1200
Photo
Monastery, Alcobaça

Monasteries were places of peace and order in the disturbed medieval society, organized round a routine of liturgy, work, study, and regular meetings, in which a man could spend his whole life. In the refectory, during meals a monk read from the raised pulpit.

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