So You Want to See the Total Solar Eclipse This August

By JOE CHILDERS

Chances are you’ve heard that a rare astronomical event is happening on August 21; a total eclipse of the Sun.  Not only is it rare (there hasn’t been one visible from the Miami Valley since 831 CE), it is also spectacular!  Indeed, eclipse expert Fred Espenak,  who has been under the moon’s shadow more than twenty times, says “In rating natural wonders, on a scale of 1 to 10 a total solar eclipse is a million.”

 

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Total Solar Eclipse In France 1999   (Luc Viatour/wwwLucnix.be)

 

From Dayton this August we’ll see a deep partial eclipse—close, but no cigar.  We will get to see a total (or totality) solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, but if you’re impatient or don’t want to risk bad weather, you’ll want to travel down to Kentucky or Tennessee to see this year’s eclipse.

Here are three things you need to know:

  1. Do not expect to find a hotel, campground, or any other kind of accommodations whatsoever within driving distance of the eclipse path.

When it’s been forty years since the last American total solar eclipse, people who have been looking forward their entire lives to this got their reservations in early—up to three years ago!  So plan to sleep in your car, if at all.

  1. Do expect that traffic will be horrible that morning.

Everyone else who realized at this late date that there are no accommodations available will be driving in the morning of.  The eclipse happens around 2:30 p.m. or so in the afternoon, varying a little by location. You want to get into the path of totality many hours before that, lest you risk being stuck in traffic outside of totality.

  1. Do know that the eclipse is definitely worth taking a day off work, pulling the kids out of school, and putting up with nasty logistics to go see in person!

One cannot overemphasize how impressive a total solar eclipse is.  Photographs like this one do not do it justice.  Everyone has a limited number of opportunities to see a total solar eclipse in their lifetime, and everyone who sees one remembers it for the rest of their life!

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                        Solar Eclipse Map Across Kentucky                       (GreatEclipse.Com © Michael Zeiler 2014)

So my suggestion is this: plan to drive down in the pre-dawn hours of August 21, map out state highways that are less likely than interstates to be congested, and plan to see the eclipse from a box-store parking lot or a similar easily-accessed location.  But if you decide to stay in the Miami Valley, come on down to the Boonshoft Museum that day for all sorts of fun, eclipse activities for our partial eclipse!

Visit https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com for more on this topic.

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Falcon Cam Update – April 21, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

The falcon eggs hatched!

On Saturday, April 15, egg shells could be seen on the ledge, but the female spent almost all her time on the nest preventing a view of what was beneath her. By Wednesday, we were able to get a good view of the chicks and all four eggs have successfully hatched!

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Falcon Shells to the Side

The chicks seem to be doing well, and both parents have been very attentive, feeding and keeping the chicks warm.  When they are not able to be seen they are safely tucked under the female.  She broods the chicks, keeping them warm with her body until they are about a week old and they can maintain the correct body temperature on their own

She has special featherless brooding patches that allow the warm skin of her body to press right up against the chicks and keep them warm.  This behavior is easy to see from above.  It looks like she is wiggling quickly back and forth, but she is snuggling her brooding patches down on the chicks.

Falcon Cam Update – March 30, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

Surprise! The female falcon laid her eggs out of view on a ledge located on the southeast side of the building.  The falcons had been visiting the nest box during the first two weeks of March and even built a scrape, a loosely constructed nest, but ultimately chose a different location to lay their eggs.  Four eggs were noticed on this ledge on March 24.

The earliest date eggs have been laid in the past was March 17 so all eyes were on the nest box starting on this date.  During this time the falcons were mysteriously absent in the box but still present around the Liberty Savings Tower.

Upon further inspection of the building, the eggs were found on a ledge on the side of the building that can only be reached by rappelling down from the roof.  The eggs seem to be in good condition and the falcons are tending to the eggs.  The falcons have laid eggs on this type of ledge before but unfortunately, a lack of protection from the weather caused the eggs to fail on the ledge in 2011.

A drain is present on the ledge to remove rainwater but there is no protection from the weather from the top like there is in the nest box.  We are in the process of attempting to point a camera down on the nest so the eggs can be monitored with little disturbance to the nest.  Check back for updates on the falcons and their eggs.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dramatic Impact on the Sciences and Space Travel

By MICHAEL L. SAMPSON

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

There is an interesting story told about how actress Nichelle Nichols, famous for playing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, was influenced by Dr. King. Nichols had begun her career in show business singing with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She believed the Broadway stage was her true calling until an unforgettable encounter with King convinced the talented actress to remain on the popular sci-fi show.

Nichelle Nichols as “Lieutenant Uhura” in the original Star Trek television show. fuzzyundertones.com

After informing Gene Roddenberry of her intentions, she directed her steps towards Broadway. Roddenberry was the brilliant creator and producer of the Star Trek series. Before leaving, however, she had a historic moment during a chance conversation with the noted civil rights leader. During the 1960s, there were no other Black females on television in non-stereotypical roles. Lieutenant Uhura, as the communications officer for the Starship Enterprise, became a role-model for African Americans. In addition, her unique Star Trek portrayal was an inspiration for women and other minorities.

King, an avowed Trekkie himself, explained to Nichols that she could not give up her positive presence on the award-winning television show. He exclaimed, “You can’t, you’re a part of history!” To Dr. King, her presence was influential, inspiring a generation of young people to shoot for the stars.

Thanks in large measure to her trailblazing television role, Nichelle Nichols gave hope to many that careers in space exploration and the sciences were dreams that were achievable. She became a successful recruiter for both NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AMA (Analytical Mechanics Associates).

The first woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, and the first African American woman in space, astronaut Mae Jemison, were both recruited by Nichols. She also recruited Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator.

Other African American space pioneers include Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford the first African American in space; Joan Higgenbotham, who has flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for over 12 days in space; Dr. Ronald McNair, who was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Stephanie Wilson, a flight engineer logging over 42 days in space where she operated her ship’s robotic arm.

Dr. King’s vision was a gentle nudge that continues to pay dividends for all of humanity. As we educate and utilize the skills and abilities of all, we confidently blast-off to a place “where no man has gone before.”

View the interview when Nichols recalls her conversation with Gene Roddenberry and the encounter with Dr. King.

Sky’s The Limit For Spruce, Cypress, Willow & Sequoia!

All four falcon chicks have fledged!  Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have taken their first flights without any reports of trouble.  Daniel is working hard to bring food to the juveniles wherever they are perched.  At this age they are not skilled hunters and still depend on their parents to provide meals and will vocalize loudly if they need food or assistance from their parents. Go this website to hear what the vocalizations of a peregrine falcon sounds like:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/sounds

Within the next few weeks they will be able to capture food on their own.  The young peregrines are difficult to tell apart from their parents but can be seen perching on the Liberty Savings Tower or nearby buildings in downtown Dayton.  This is the first time Dayton and Daniel have raised four chicks.  At this time Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have passed many hurdles and this nesting season can be considered a success.  With the state delisting of the peregrine as a threatened species in 2015 the young peregrines are now part of the success story of the recovery of the peregrine falcon population in Ohio.  The Dayton nest is part of a sample monitoring program in Ohio and data from the FalconCam will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife including the continued presence of the pair at the Dayton nest, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs hatched, and the number of offspring that fledge.  As long as none of the young peregrines need human assistance they will stay in the area until the end of summer.  When the youngsters have enough skills they will leave Daniel and Dayton to find their own territories and hopefully one day raise young of their own.

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The FalconCam stream will be turned off soon but if any significant events occur they will be posted.

A special “thank you” to our sponsor for their support with the 2016 Falcon Cam season.

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Up Up and Away!

The juvenile falcons are starting to take their first flights!  The two older chicks were the first to take to the roof behind the nest box.  Last week they spent time on the roof behind the next box stretching their wings.  The two juveniles that hatched a few days later than their siblings left the nest box soon after and began practice hops and stretching their wings on the roof behind the next box.  Names were selected for the chicks through a contest on the Boonshoft Museum Facebook page and the winning names are Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia.  On Tuesday one of the juveniles made it to the ledge near the 17th floor of the Liberty Tower.

FalconLedge

Dayton and Daniel still remain close by and provide food for the juvenile birds and protect them.  Once all the young falcons have taken their first flights they will be in flight training.  Dayton and Daniel will assist them as their flight instinct is developed.  Practice flights with parents nearby to keep the area clear of predators allow the youngsters to develop their skills.  The young birds will practice hunting with their parents passing pre-caught prey to them to help them to refine their skills.  Visits to the nest box will be infrequent and the birds will only rarely be seen in the nest box.  This is a good time to visit the nest site downtown as the birds can be seen in their practice flights over the Liberty Savings Tower in downtown Dayton.   The young peregrines are about six weeks old and are beginning to practice the skills they need to survive independently in the future.  They have passed their first hurdles but are still inexperienced.  The fledglings are as large as their parents and are hard to differentiate from Daniel and Dayton by their appearance while in flight downtown.  Dayton, Daniel and their four young falcons are all doing well and we continue to have no reports of any problems.  If the young falcons have gotten into any trouble they have been able to solve it themselves and are one step closer to being independent of their parents.

Four Eggs For Dayton’s Falcons

Dayton and Daniel have four eggs in the nest!  Peregrine falcons lay an average of four eggs in a clutch with each egg laid a few days apart.   Dayton laid her first egg on March 10.  This is earlier than in previous years, possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather.  Last year she laid her first egg on March 18.  Incubation of the eggs starts toward the end of egg laying and the eggs will synchronize to hatch around the same time.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.  Dayton started closely sitting on the eggs by March 14 so hatching could take place as early April 11.  For now Dayton spends all of her time warming the eggs and turning them.  She is observant of any dangers outside the nest but Daniel is nearby protecting their territory.  Occasionally he will come to the nest to relieve Dayton of her incubation duties and provide her with food.

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Click to view the Falcon Cam

The falcons can be observed wiggling on the eggs to press the bare skin on the chest, called the brood patch, down on the eggs to keep them warm.  In species where only the female incubates the eggs the male doesn’t develop a brood patch.  Male and female peregrines both have brood patches because they share incubation of the eggs.  If you watch the Falcon Cam you’ll see the adult peregrines rock side-to-side as they settle on the nest.  This rocking opens the feathers that have curled over the brood patch and puts their skin in contact with the eggs.

Dayton turns the eggs every hour or so during the incubation process.  Both parents will work to maintain the ideal temperature of 99.5 F. Occasionally, the eggs may be left alone for short periods, but one of the birds will always be nearby keeping a close watch over them.

Dayton and Daniel are typically very successful raising their chicks but sometimes the young peregrines run into trouble later on.  Recently one of their chicks from last year, a male named Harrison, was injured and needed help.  Harrison was brought to the Glen Helen Raptor Center where he spent time recovering from wounds on one wing.  Harrison made a full recovery and was able to be released in Springfield in a territory not already held by other peregrines.  To learn more about Glen Helen Raptor Center go to this link:

http://www.glenhelen.org/#!raptor-rehab/clog