August 31st, 2012

Dim Setsuled

The Ups and Downs of the Sky

This is from Wednesday night--a lightning storm I witnessed when I got out of class.

There was no audible thunder and, sadly, no rain, just a lot of lightning visible to the east and I had a good view because my college is up on a hill.

Of course these aren't lucky snapshots--I took video and then took screenshots from the video. I got about three and a half minutes of footage which I edited down to 45 seconds here;

The music is from Donar's (Thor's) big moment at the end of Das Rheingold. Picture Chris Hemsworth if you must.

It was nice seeing something so cool after astronomy lab, which was kind of a nightmare. For lunch I'd had a bean and rice burrito and a quesadilla--a place I've gone to for years where I've normally gotten just a bean and rice burrito because they're so huge suddenly started making them just the thin tubes of bean and rice much like Taco Bell, so I decided to supplement with a quesadilla, which is a main course at real Mexican places but a sort of entree at Taco Bell. This place I guess hadn't fully devolved yet because the quesadilla was still pretty big, which may be why I felt so dim and zonked all night. I still don't think that explains why I had so much trouble in astronomy lab.

We were working with a celestial sphere, which is like a globe except instead of Earth it's a spherical representation of the night sky. The lab assignment consisted of a number of questions that required the celestial sphere--after some difficulty, I at least understood that the right ascension and the declination were analogous to longitude and latitude, respectively, on an Earth globe. So I was able to find coordinates of stars easily enough. What I was never able to get my brain to absorb, all night, and even now I don't get it, is how I was supposed to tell, using the celestial sphere, whether or not particular stars would be visible in the night sky in San Diego that particular evening, August 29, and whether they would be visible in six months.

I was partnered with two people, a girl named Lucia and another girl whose name I never learned and who mostly just sat watching us. Lucia couldn't figure it out either, and neither could anyone else I asked except the teacher, who is a beautiful Russian woman named Irena. And she kept saying it was incredibly easy. She explained it to me--I had the impression she somehow, from the look of me, expected me to get this stuff instantly. She even said, "Correct me if I make any mistakes," which made me feel even worse that no matter what she said or did, I couldn't make it work in my head.

I saw her counting months and sets of hours as though that was supposed to mean something. She showed me a chart of a little man standing on a little Earth, pointing at the sky with the sun on the opposite side of the planet, and the signs of the Zodiac arranged around both, and looking at this chart I could certainly understand why certain constellations wouldn't be visible at night because they were in the sky during the day, when the light of the sun would overwhelm them. But I couldn't for the life of me see how I was supposed to use the celestial sphere to figure out when this was supposed to be.

The sphere has a line on it labelled with months indicating the position of the sun, and I figured out which constellations the sun would be blotting out in each month. But that didn't answer my question about San Diego. Or I suppose it must, I guess three hours just wasn't enough time for me to figure it out.

Oh, well. Japanese II seemed about this hard at first, maybe it gets better.

Twitter Sonnet #421

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