Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Come out to the George for Astronomy Day November 8!

This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CDT on November 1, 7 pm CST on November 15, and dusk on November 30.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high in the west.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest, with Mars to its left.   Pegasus, the Flying Horse, is high in the east.  To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CDT on November 1, 7 pm CST on November 15, and dusk on November 30. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
The Summer Triangle is high in the west. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest, with Mars to its left. Pegasus, the Flying Horse, is high in the east. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

This month, Mars remains in the southwest at dusk this month as it pulls away from the teapot of Sagittarius. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind

Jupiter is now higher in the east at dawn; it is the brightest thing there. 

Venus is passing behind the Sun and thus out of sight this month. Superior conjunction (Venus in line with the Sun, on the far side of the Sun) was on October 25.

Saturn is also out of sight behind the Sun this month. Conjunction with the Sun is on November 18.

The Summer Triangle now shifts towards the west as the Great Square of Pegasus appears higher, approaching the zenith. As the autumn ‘intermission’ in between the bright stars of summer and winter continues, Houstonians with a clear southern horizon can try to find a star that few Americans get to see. Due south and very low to the horizon at about 10:00 pm in mid-November is Achernar, 9th brightest star in the sky. It marks the end of the river Eridanus, one of the dim watery patterns that fill the southern autumn sky. If you can find it, Achernar will seem of average brightness because it is shining through so much air. Still, it is a good way to remind yourself that the stars we see depend on our latitude, and that the sky on the Gulf Coast is similar to, but not the same as, what most Americans see. 

Moon Phases in November 2014:
Full: November 6, 4:22 pm
Last Quarter: November 14, 9:17 am
New: November 22, 6:31 am
1st Quarter: November 29, 4:06 am

Our annual Astronomy Day at the George Observatory is this Saturday, November 8!  On Astronomy Day we have activities from 3-10 pm, and all of the telescopes, even the ones that normally cost $5 to look through, are free.  What’s more, the weather looks just great so far!  Surf to www.astronomyday.net for more information.

Click here for the Burke Baker Planetarium Schedule.

On clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement. 

Scientist who discovered oldest skeleton in the Americas comes to Houston November 12

The controversy over who settled the Americas, and when, has been raging for some time. Combatants have lined up on every side to stake intellectual territory. Every point is debated. For historians, the use of the word “America” is even problematic. 

However, as human remains begin to surface and DNA studies are undertaken, new knowledge is leading us to new understanding. Tomorrow’s history books are being written based on new findings made by marine archaeologists in Mexico.

FIRST AMERICANS

 

FIRST AMERICANS

The complete, well preserved skeleton of a young girl from over 12,000 years ago was found in an underwater cave on the Yucatan Peninsula. The chamber where her remains were found is now known as “Hoya Negro,” or Black Hole. Nicknamed “Princess Naia,” her remains are among the oldest yet found in the Americas. Her discovery is reshaping our understanding of human migration into the Western Hemisphere.

Princess Naia’s discovery is undoubtable one of the most significant and exciting finds in for those researching Paleoamericans.

Marine archaeologist Dr. Dominique Rissolo, the expedition coordinator, will announce the latest scientific findings from the project at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on November 12. This lecture is cosponsored by AIA – Houston. Reserve your advance tickets today, available online and at 713.639.4629—you’ll be able to say you heart it in Houston before it is featured in the January issue of National Geographic Magazine.

Dr. Dominique Rissolo rappels into a Mayan cenote. Photo Credit: Sam Meacham

Learn more about Princess Naia in “Most Complete Ice Age Skeleton Helps Solve Mystery of First Americans, Ancient bones provide glimpse of the New World’s earliest inhabitants” by Glenn Hodges for National Geographic, May 15, 2014.

 

Archaeology in Houston? Uncovering Memorial Park’s History

Did you know that the US Army set up camp on the banks of Buffalo Bayou — where Houston’s beloved Memorial Park is today?

Memorial park Archaeology 1

Yes, Camp Logan was built as an emergency training center in World War I built in 1917 with the capacity to house 44,899 troops at a time.

“As you walk or run through Memorial Park now, it’s hard to imagine a huge sprawling military base on its grounds, but historic photographs of the camp depict row after row of tens on raised wooden platforms along graded streets near mess halls and latrines – and many of those foundation features are still visible in the wooded areas of the park,” comments historian and archaeologist Louis Aulbach.

The streets in Camp Logan were unpaved or surfaced with oyster shell or cinders. A 600-ton deep water well south of Washington Avenue serviced the camp, producing over 1 million gallons of water per day.

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“The thing that surprises us is how little you will hear or read about Camp Logan in any of the books dedicated to Houston’s history,” says Linda Gorski of Houston Archeological Society, “Most of the residents of River Oaks have no idea that Camp Logan extended across Buffalo Bayou and that horses and men paraded on grounds that are now their front yards.”

Little was recorded about Camp Logan so historians and archaeologists Louis Aulbach and Linda Gorski have been piecing the history back together from archaeology work conducted in Memorial Park, postcards from soldiers and maps.

They will present this unique story of Houston history at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on November 4 at 6:30 p.m. This lecture is sponsored by the Houston Archeological Society. Following the lecture Aulbach and Gorski will sign copies of their newly published book “Camp Logan: Houston, Texas 1917-1919.”

This presentation will be a tribute to the soldiers who trained at Camp Logan—including nine Medal of Honor winners and seventy one African American soldiers who won the French Croix de Guerre. Visit www.hmns.org/lectures for more information. Advance tickets are available online and at 713.639.4629.

Memorial park Archaeology 3

Historians Linda Gorski and Louis Aulbach on Buffalo Bayou near Memorial Park.

Attention Movie Lovers: Now you too can spend a “Night at the Museum” with overnights at HMNS!

Editor’s note: This post was written by Julia Russell, HMNS Overnight Program Coordinator and Curator of Education Collections.

Movies have the power to entertain and transport us, and yes, maybe even teach us a thing or two. We laugh, we cry, we… go to museums?

Over the past decade, movies have increasingly inspired moviegoers to follow their intellectual curiosity out of the theater and into the museum. With the release of movies like Lincoln, National Treasure, Night at the Museum, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, museums across the country have seen a fairly dramatic increase in attendance over the past 10 years.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois had a 7.7% increase in visitorship following the release of Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie Lincoln. The National Archives saw an increase of 200,000 visitors after National Treasure hit theaters in 2004. Though, I would bet that a good number of those visitors were probably trying to get ahold of the Declaration of Independence. (There’s a treasure map on the back, you know! Or maybe there’s not…) The American Museum of Natural History in New York City had a 20% increase in attendance after the release of the first Night at the Museum movie in 2006 as did the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. after the second Museum movie came out in 2009.

Overnights 1

These movies have reignited an interest in history, science, and culture in the American public. They’ve also resulted in museum staff hearing questions like “Okay, so when does everything in this museum come to life?” on a daily basis. Audiences across the country are leaving movie theaters wanting to know more about the political savviness of Abraham Lincoln, the secrets of the Declaration of Independence, the ferocity of Tyrannosaurus rex, and the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt. And where are they turning for the answers? Their local museums, historic houses, aquariums, and zoos! Zoos and aquariums certainly aren’t immune to the “movie bump” that’s happening across the country. Dolphin Tale increased visitorship to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium almost tenfold after its release in 2011!

Museum goers can satisfy their movie-induced curiosity by visiting a museum to see Lincoln’s original stovetop hat or dinosaur skeletons in the flesh…well, sort of, maybe it’s more like seeing dinosaurs in the fossil. These Hollywood blockbusters have also given museums a chance to provide some unique opportunities for their visitors. Many museums across the country are letting visitors get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their institutions after hours. Lucky for you, HMNS is one of them

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The Overnight program at HMNS actually started back in 2004 even before Ben Stiller saw the treasures at the Museum of Natural History come to life for the first time. Since the start of this program, we’ve had thousands of children and adults spend a night at the museum. This program gives people an opportunity to see one of their favorite Houston landmarks in a new light (or in a new dark, actually)!

For more information about HMNS’ Overnight program and how you and your group can see HMNS after hours, click here or email overnights@hmns.org. Maybe you can spend a night at the museum and finally answer the question, “Does everything come to life at night?” You never know, our objects could speak to you in a whole new way.