Once in a “No Moon”?

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January 2018 featured two full moons (on the 1st and 31st), both “super moons,” with the second also featuring a total lunar eclipse visible from the Western US. But given the fact that the time between two consecutive full moons is 29.5 days, and February only has 28 days in a non leap year, January’s full moon boon has led to February’s bust. That’s right, February 2018 has no full moons, and, to add insult to injury, March 2018 has two full moons. That’s two blue moons in a single year, something that is not rare, but certainly an interesting consequence of our calendar system. The last time February was ripped off in this way was 1999, and the next time it will happen will be 2037. This 19 year “Metonic” cycle is due to a cyclical pattern in solar and lunar calendars. February is definitely not a good month for werewolves – unless you’re trying to avoid howling.

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Seeing Stars in a Different Light

 

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Father Angelo Secchi (June 29, 1818 – February 26, 1878)

When discussing the relationship between astronomy and religion one often recounts the tension between Galileo and the Catholic Church in the 17th century. But the Vatican has hosted its own astronomical observatories for many years, and some of the discoveries made in these facilities have changed astronomy forever. A case in point is the work of Father Angelo Secchi, who died on this day in 1878. Father Secchi was a pioneer in the study of the spectra of stars. By passing starlight through a prism, astronomers can divide the white light into its constituent colors, allowing us to determine what stars are made of. Father Secchi did his work before spectra could be photographed. Hence his spectra were captured by the eye and hand, put onto paper through watercolors or colored pencils. His scientific papers were not only brilliant, but beautiful to look at.arcetri_scheda_5a

Father Secchi developed one of the very first spectral classification systems, as illustrated above. While large photographic surveys led to new classification systems, his work was an important first step in our understanding of stars, and for this reason we remember and honor Father Secchi on the anniversary of his death.

Meet Our Amazing Students!

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Astronomy Minors Angie Colella (L) and Sara Poppa (R) volunteering at a local rock and mineral show.

Students interested in astronomy have the option of Minoring in either Astronomy or Astrobiology at CCSU. While most students pair this with a major in Earth Sciences or Physics, there are other options available. On our sister blog, CCSUGeologyRocks, we are currently highlighting some of our awesome students. Please take the time to get to know some of the stellar students minoring in astronomy and astrobiology!