The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Pluto tomorrow

New Horizons zips past Pluto in the early hours of the morning U.S. time tomorrow:

Last night at 11:23 p.m. EDT (this morning at 4:23 a.m. BST), New Horizons moved within one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of Pluto, speeding towards the dwarf planet and its five moons at 30,800 mph (49,600 km/h). It will arrive tomorrow at 7:49 a.m. EDT (12:49 pm BST), although owing to the vast distances involved and a one-way communications time of 4.5 hours, we won’t know if it has been successful until the end of the day. The first signals and data are expected back at 8:53 p.m. EDT Tuesday (1:53 a.m. BST Wednesday).

Despite the long journey time, the flyby will last just over two hours. The best images can be expected on Wednesday, but it will take 16 months for all of the data taken by the spacecraft to be sent back to Earth. This is due to both the distance and the low bit rate of the spacecraft, which has the ashes of its discoverer Clyde Tombaugh on board.

The spacecraft is the fastest-moving human-made object in the universe. This is how it got to Pluto in only 9 years, with the trade-off that its visit will be so short.

Scanning for life-forms...

Astronomers have discovered compelling evidence of alien life on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko:

Evidence of alien life is "unequivocal" on the comet carrying the Philae probe through space, two leading astronomers have said.

[Astrobiologist] Chandra Wickramasinghe said: "What we're saying is that data coming from the comet seems to unequivocally, in my opinion, point to micro-organisms being involved in the formation of the icy structures, the preponderance of aromatic hydrocarbons, and the very dark surface.

"These are not easily explained in terms of pre-biotic chemistry.

"The dark material is being constantly replenished as it is boiled off by heat from the Sun. Something must be doing that at a fairly prolific rate."

Welcome to the future.

Chicago sunrise chart, 2015-2016

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart . (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx .)

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2015
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 20:00 14:07
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:50
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:03 12:32
16 Sep 7pm sunset 06:32 18:59 12:27
23 Sep Equinox , 03:21 CDT 06:39 18:47 12:10
26 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:42 11:59
3 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:30 11:39
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:15 11:15
22 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 17:59 10:48
31 Oct Latest sunrise until 1 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Mar 6th
07:22 17:47 10:24
1 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Mar 2nd
06:23 16:46 10:22
7 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:31 16:38 10:07
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:40 16:30 9:49
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:14
21 Dec Solstice , 22:48 CST 07:15 16:23 9:07
2016
4 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:13
28 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:01 9:52
5 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:11 10:10
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:40 17:30 10:49
27 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:39 11:08
12 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 17th
Earliest sunset until Oct 24th
06:07 17:55 11:47
13 Mar Daylight saving time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 16th
Earliest sunset until Sep 18th
07:05 18:56 11:50
16 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
07:00 19:00 11:59
19 Mar Equinox 23:30 CDT 06:54 19:03 12:08
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:20 12:50
12 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:15 19:30 13:15
22 Apr 6am sunrise 05:59 19:41 13:41
10 May 8pm sunset 05:35 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:35
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:13
20 Jun Solstice 17:34 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Today is the longest day of the year

No, really. Today will have 86,401 seconds in it, as opposed to the usual 86,400 seconds that every day for the last 18 years has had.

Because the earth interacts with lots of other gravity sources in the universe—most notably the moon—its rotation sometimes speeds up and sometimes slows down. Over the last 18 years or so, the planet has lost an entire second because of these perturbations, requiring us to update our most accurate clocks to compensate. Of course, when those clocks get updated, there's a trickle-down effect, because so much of what we do in the 21st Century requires really, really accurate timekeeping.

So, this evening in Chicago, the 6pm hour will have 3,601 seconds in it as the master clocks all over the planet add their leap second at 23:59:60 UTC.

Enjoy your extra second.

Where's the weekend?

Between unpacking, preparing for a party (which encourages the unpacking), and the regular business of working, I didn't have time to write this weekend. I still don't, but I did want to catch up on a couple of things.

First, a coronal mass ejection over the weekend is producing large aurorae today, which could be visible in Chicago, New York, Dublin, and Seattle—way farther south than usual.

Second, Rhianna Pratchett, Sir Terry's daughter, says the next Discworld novel will be the last:

The author, videogame and comics writer told a fan last week that her late father’s forthcoming novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, featuring teenage witch Tiffany Aching, would be the final Discworld book. And asked by a fan if she would be continuing the series herself, she ruled out the possibility.

“No. I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad,” she wrote on Twitter. “That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.”

She added: “To reiterate – no I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so.”

Good for her. As blogger A.J. O'Connell wrote today, "Forty-one stand-alone novels are an amazing gift to give a fanbase, and I feel like it would be greedy to ask for more."

More later. Back to a deck that's due this afternoon.

Two unrelated stories about ostriches

First, because NASA's reputation is such that climate-change deniers have difficulty refuting the agency, Republicans in Congress are trying to get NASA out of the discussion:

As has been widely reported, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee recently approved a bill that would cut at least $300 million from NASA's earth-science budget. This comes after the head of the Senate committee overseeing NASA claimed the agency should stop doing earth-science and focus only on space exploration.

Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA?

Then, closer to home, a group of residents in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood really don't want a Whole Foods Market in their back yards:

The grocery giant's current Lakeview store, at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. opened in 1996 and is 31,500 square-foot—a speck compared to the labyrinthine, 79,000 square-foot Whole Foods located near North Avenue. That is why the company plans on opening up a 75,000 square-foot store one block away, at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. The building will feature 300 parking spots on the first floor and the basement, and a full store on the second story.

Speaking for the Melrose Street Concerned Residents, Tricey Morelli summed up the fears of the locals:

"Subconsciously, you see a big building like this and there's no windows into the building, so it makes you think, like, 'Why aren't there windows on the main floor? Are they fearful that someone's going to bash the windows? Is there going to be crime?' It kind of almost makes it look a little bit like a mean street."

This woman is speaking about a Whole Foods store in Lakeview, which has us confused. Are there roving bands of recent college graduates and moms with strollers running around, smashing windows and defacing property? We certainly can't discount the possibility.

I really don't understand what it's like going through life afraid of fantasies...

Marée du siècle

The French abbey Mont-Saint-Michel was completely cut off from land yesterday as once-in-a-century tides flowed into the English Channel:

Tens of thousands of curious visitors have crowded historic Mont Saint-Michel and other beauty spots along the French coastline with the promise of a ‘tide of the century’, but it may not have lived up to everyone's expectations.

Anticipating a wall of water that could equal the height of a four-storey building, tourists and locals staked out positions around the picturesque landmark last night and again today, including the partially-washed out causeway as the tide retreated.

They travelled to France’s northern coast for the first giant tide of the millennium, with experts predicting that it could reach as high as 14 m - 5½ m above normal - thanks to the effects from yesterday’s spectacular solar eclipse.

And once the tide flowed out, people had the rare opportunity to walk across the salt flat to the Mont. The tides were so high that UK authorities closed the Thames barrier for the 175th time in its 30-year history.

According to the Daily Mail, "the last 'tide of the century' occurred on March 10, 1997 and the next will take place in March 2033."

Oregon considering year-round standard time...eventually

This happens all the time, so to speak, but every winter there are proposals to scrap daylight saving time in various state legislatures. The latest one that passes the laugh test is Oregon's, especially since it wouldn't take effect until 2021.

It probably won't go anywhere. Once people start thinking about 4:30am sunrises in June with 7:30pm sunsets, daylight saving time makes more sense. But we'll keep watching.