- The brightest star in a constellation is called the alpha, which is also the first letter of the Greek alphabet. The next brightest star is called beta. So Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky, and which is located in the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog, is called Alpha Canis Majoris.
- Magnitude measures the brightness of stars. The brightest stars are called 1st magnitude, and second brightest are 2nd magnitude, and so on. Venus is so bright it has a negative magnitude of -4 magnitude!
- The light from the nearest galaxy, Andromeda Galaxy, takes 2.6 million years to reach us. When you’re looking into space, you’re looking back in time.
- The Perseids meteor shower can have as many as 80 meteors an hour. Some meteors have what seems like very short paths in the sky, and that is because they’re coming almost right at you.
- The seasons have to do with the tilt of the earth’s axis, not how close/far away we are from the sun.
- Asteroids are big rocks that orbit the sun. Some asteroids even have their own moons!
- Jupiter is 318 times the size of the earth. And yet, it moves very fast, making one rotation in 9 hours, 55 minutes, 30 seconds. In fact, it rotates so fast it bulges at the equator and flattens at the poles in an oblate shape!
- The sun produces the energy of 92 billion 1-megaton nuclear bombs every second.
- Red giant stars are not only larger than our sun, they can be as large around as the entire orbit of the earth. Red supergiants can be 1000-2000 times larger than our sun and extend past Jupiter, if put in the sun’s place.
- Some physicists theorize that contents of a black hole have left our universe.
- Star parties are where groups of people gather in the countryside, bring their telescopes, and look at stars all night long. Many groups have guest speakers, music, dancing, and movies. There might be a star party near you!
- Some Jamaicans believe that the deceased person’s duppy rises on the third day and wanders around the house, collecting belongings, and then leaves on the ninth night. Sometimes an all-night vigil is held on the ninth night to help make sure the duppy gets to heaven safely.
- Duppies are believed to live in the roots of cotton trees, bamboo thickets, and abandoned buildings.
- If you feel a sudden gust of warm air, a duppy may be present.
- If you are outside and hear a stick break, it could be a warning from a dead relative that the area is unsafe.
- If you tie a lime leaf to your head, you will cure a headache.
- If a ladybug lands on you, you’ll have good luck.
- If you hear frogs croaking, very heavy rains are coming.
- The national food dish for Jamaica is ackee and saltfish. A recipe is here.
- Jamaica has a lot of different ethnic groups: African, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, and European. The major native Indian groups are Arawak, Carib, South American, and Taino.
- More information on mento music can be found here.
Iowa and Geology
- Caledonia, IA is a ghost town.
- Northeast Iowa has the largest concentration of erratics, which are thought to come from central Minnesota and Canada.
- Most erratics are worn and rounded in appearance, because in their glacial journey they were scraped against other rocks or the bedrock.
- The heartwood of Basswood trees decays quite easily, creating a hollow home.
- Iowa has many, many landscape features – not just cornfields!
- Here’s an interactive site condensing the earth’s history to one calendar year.
- Tectonic plates move at the same rate as the growth of a fingernail.
- Today’s ocean floors are young – only 200 million years old. Some of the older ocean floors can be found in the Appalachian Mountains and the Alps.
- Some of the oldest bedrock in North America can be found in northwestern Iowa, which is estimated to be about 2.9 billion years old.
Anderson, Wayne. Iowa’s Geological Past. IA: University of Iowa Press, 1998. Print.
Maran, Stephen. Astronomy for Dummies, 3rd Edition, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print.