Skywatch for Sept. 2014: Longer Nights and the Equinox

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When September arrives, the hours of darkness grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere, while day-length decreases. The shorter daylight hours trigger all kinds of biological events, such as animal migrations and fall leaf color changes. The longer nights bring greater opportunities for skywatchers to view the wonders of the night sky. Meanwhile, September 22nd this year will mark the time of the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at precisely 10:29 pm EDT. This marks the moment when the Sun appears to cross the Celestial Equator, appearing to move below or south of it. Earth’s tilt and its constant annual motion around the Sun cause this each year. This means that we are heading towards winter. Winter’s cold is still months away and September nights are very comfortable for getting outside.

During an equinox, the Earth's North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth's surface. (Wikipedia)

During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth’s surface. (Wikipedia)

Saturn the beautiful ringed planet stays above our southwestern horizon all month, but it is getting lower each night. In the first week of September it is 20 degrees above the horizon one hour after sunset, with Mars just 5 degrees to its left. Both are down to magnitude 0.6, but Mars appears reddish-orange, while Saturn is more yellowish. By the end of September Saturn will only be 10 degrees above the horizon an hour after sunset, while Mars will appear to move much faster against the background stars all month because it orbits the Sun much faster than Saturn. This motion will take Mars east, or left, of Saturn out of Libra, across Scorpius, and into Ophiuchus. On September 27th, Mars will pass just 3 degrees above Antares, a red star and the brightest star in Scorpius. Saturn will be to the right, or west of Mars that evening, and the waxing crescent Moon will be seen just 0ne degree to the right of Saturn! Two nights later on the 29th, look for the Moon to be directly above the pair of planets.

In the early morning eastern sky we can find Jupiter at magnitude –1.8 rising about 4 am local daylight time in early days of September. During the month it will rise sooner and appear higher above the horizon. Venus may be spotted in early September, rising around 5 am and appearing even closer to the horizon. But with a good clear view to the horizon, we can spot it easily because it is so bright — -3.9 magnitude. By the end of the month it will be only a few degrees from the Sun and be lost to us in its glare.

The Full Moon this month will be on the 8th; Last Quarter on the 15th; and New Moon will be on the 24th.

The Easton Yankees: Baseball of Yore

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It’s summertime and thoughts turn to baseball, our national pastime.

When some of us attend Major League Baseball games at Camden Yards in Baltimore or Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC with children and grandchildren, we naturally think back to our childhood when watching baseball meant cheering our favorite players, nagging our parents to buy us food and more food and eyeing all the other people enjoying a ball game.

We may recall an incredible play at third base by Baltimore Orioles great, Brooks Robinson, or a home run by another Orioles hero, Frank Robinson. Mainly, we remember a time of innocence; baseball provided a soothing feeling in our lives.

Summer and baseball seemed synonymous. We eagerly awaited both.

Sixty-six years ago, the Class D Eastern Shore League had a presence in Easton. The Easton Yankees, a farm team for the famed New York Yankees, played at Federal Park on Federal Street on a field now occupied by St. Marks Village.

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Undated photo. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society

For parts of three decades beginning in the 1920s and lasting until 1949, Class D teams played at different times in Cambridge, Centreville, Crisfield, Dover, DE, Easton, Federalsburg, Laurel, DE, Milford, DE, Northampton, VA, Parksley, VA, Pocomoke City, Rehoboth Beach, Salisbury and Seaford, DE.

Easton teams carried names such as the Farmers, Browns and Cubs. From 1939-1941 and 1946-1949, it was the New York Yankees which owned and operated a minor league team on Bay Street.

In 1947, Easton was second to last place in the league with 45 wins and 90 losses. In 1948, the Easton Yankees occupied third place behind Salisbury and Milford and ahead of Cambridge, Rehoboth, Seaford, Federalsburg and Dover. Its record was 71 wins and 50 losses.

According to the “Eastern Shore League Record Book 1937-1948, “The Easton Yankees fielded the hardest hitting club in the league. They scored more runs and banged out more hits than any rival. A so-so mound staff, supported with none too stable defense, ate up the pennant mileage of the third place Little Yankees.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees.  Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

“Casualties also took their toll on the Easton roster. Don Maxa, who established a league record for the highest batting percentage of .382, was in and out of the lineup several times with ailing feet. Crawford (Dave) Davidson, a .352 hitter, and author of 21 homers, wrenched a knee during June. He was sidelined for four valuable weeks. Jerry Stoutland, considered by many as the league’s top catcher, rode the bench occasionally because of a sore arm.”

If the quotations sound as if a sports writer authored them, that indeed was the case. Ed Nichols, sports editor of “The Salisbury Times,” edited and published the lively and colorful record book.

In 1948, Walter J. Claggett, an Easton attorney, was the business manager of the Little Yankees. The caption under his picture, besides citing his college degree gained at Washington College and his law degree at the University of Maryland, said, “Walter is a fellow well met—congenial, cooperative, and always eager to talk baseball.

Raised in Baltimore, I never knew a rabid New York Yankees fan until I moved to Easton in 1976 and met Jack Anthony, who in the years since never has apologized for his loyalty to the sometimes hated Yankees. I learned not too many years ago the reason for this Eastern Shore native’s passion for the pinstripers. His father, J. Howard Anthony, preceded Walter Claggett as the volunteer business manager for the Easton Yankees.

Only one farm team remains on the Eastern Shore. And that is the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Single-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate in Salisbury.

The baseball tradition continues on the Shore. Not as widespread, however. While times change, baseball still rivets our attention.

Paddle Through Miles River History September 4

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From 9:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 4, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is teaming up with the Sultana Education Foundation to offer an interpretive paddling program on the Miles River.

Participants will join Sultana Vice President and naturalist Chris Cerino as he explores the history and environment of the museum and its surrounding creeks, marshes, and beaches by water. Participants will learn about the Miles River of today—and 400 years ago—as they seine, search for arrowheads and navigate St. Michaels’ Fogg’s Cove and Miles Point.

Participants can bring their own kayak, or one will be provided. Children ages 12 and up must be accompanied by a parent in a personal tandem kayak. The cost is $35, with space limited and pre-registration needed by contacting the Sultana Education Foundation at 410-778-5954 or online at www.sultanaeducation.org.

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.

Skywatch for Aug. 2014: Close Encounters & a Super-Moon

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The sky’s two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will give us a terrific conjunction of the both of them in mid-August. It is rare for these two consistently bright planets to appear to join in the sky, but before dawn on August 18th (Monday) they will be within 0.2 degrees of each other! Do not wait until the 18th to view these 2 planets however, start about a week before then, looking east-northeast. Venus rises at about 4:30 am, which is some 100 minutes before the Sun, while Jupiter rises at about 5:00 am. On August 12th Jupiter will be seen about 6 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Each morning thereafter the gap will close until on August 18th the separation of the 2 planets will be half of the diameter of the Full Moon. Venus will be the brighter of the two; at magnitude –3.8, while Jupiter will be at –1.8.

Remember that both Venus and Jupiter will be fairly close to the horizon so we will need a clear view to the horizon. Looking across the street into the neighbor’s tree-filled yard will not reveal the horizon very well. After the conjunction the two planets will separate, but the waning crescent Moon will pass close to them on the morning of August 23rd.

Mars and Saturn will form another conjunction this month, but this one will be in the evening sky. On August 10th, Mars will be some 9 degrees west(right) of Saturn in the southwestern sky. By August 20th, the two will be only 4 degrees apart; remaining at about the same distance apart until the 29th or so. Neither are any where nearly as bright as Venus or Jupiter, but are still bright. Both are around +0.6 in magnitude with Mars appearing an orange-red hue and Saturn yellowish-white. The waxing crescent Moon will form a tight triangle with the 2 planets on August 31st, and all three will set around 10:30 pm.

The Full Moon will put a damper on the Perseid Meteor Shower this year; the Perseids being one of the most consistent showers all year. The peak of the shower is August 12/13 which is just two days past Full Moon. So the Moon will brighten the sky enough to cut down on our ability to spot meteors. But the Full Moon in August is the closest Full Moon to Earth for 2014. Recent culture has started to mention “Super Moons’ in recent years. This simply means a Moon that is the closest to the Earth in a calendar year.

The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical; that is an oval-shape, so each month there is a point where the Moon is at its farthest from Earth (called APOGEE), and a point where is is closest to Earth (called PERIGEE). These points do not always coincide exactly with the Full Moon phase, but when they do, we get the super moon. The August 10th Full Moon will be 221,765 miles from Earth. To give that some meaning, the farthest Full Moon from Earth was on January 15, 2014, at 252,607 miles. This difference of 30,842 miles translates to a 26% brighter Full Moon this August.

The TV, print, and internet media will hype this event; so lets join in and enjoy it too – and hope for clear skies on August 10th!

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side ("perigee") about 50,000 km closer than the other ("apogee").  Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon's orbit seem extra big and bright. Credit: NASA

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side (“perigee”) about 50,000 km closer than the other (“apogee”). Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon’s orbit seem extra big and bright. Credit: NASA

Skywatch for July 2014: Summer Nights

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The planet show we have been enjoying over the last several months fades a bit for us in July. Yet good evening views of Mars and Saturn will be possible and the morning eastern sky will feature our two innermost planets, Venus and Mercury.

Mars may be found in the southwestern sky as soon as it gets dark all month. On July 1st it will be only 5 degrees (above and right) from Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Its reddish-orange color will make a nice visual contrast with the blue-white color of this star. Only July 5th, the 1st Quarter Moon will be seen between Mars and Spica; being only one degree from Mars! Mars and Spica, due to Mars’s orbital motion, will appear to draw closer to each other all month. Indeed, they will be only one degree apart on July 12th! Thereafter, Mars will move past Spica throughout the month.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland's Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Astrophotographer Scott Hoggard sent in a photo of the Milky Way over route 404 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Queen Anne County, taken June 16, 2013.

Saturn may be found east – or to the left – of Mars. They will appear to draw closer to each other too, throughout the month, dropping from 28 degrees of separation down to just 12 degrees. In late August they will be only 4 degrees apart from each other —— something to look forward to seeing then.

Mercury makes a brief appearance in the pre-dawn sky of July and reaches greatest eastern elongation angle from the Sun on the morning of July 12th. What this means is that it will be about 21 degrees in front of the Sun and about 7 degrees above the east-northeast horizon, 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise. Mercury will also be just to the lower left of brighter Venus then, which will be a guide to finding the dimmer Mercury. We will, however, need a clear, un-obstructed view down to the horizon to see Mercury since it remains quite low and it will be seen in a sky already getting lit-up by approaching dawn.

Summer nights provide comfortable temperatures for viewing, but because summer day lengths are greater, it does not get completely dark until nearly 9:30 pm during July. Moreover, the warm summer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, and often does. It is what we call humidity. And humidity can sometimes give us hazy skies, which can muffle the lights of stars we seek. Despite this, when it is clear, and we can avoid street and house lights around us, the summer Milky Way spread out before us in regal splendor as we look toward the center of it in July.

Beginning due south between Scorpius and Sagittarius, the Milky Way appears to arch up toward the zenith, through Aquila the Eagle, past Cygnus the swan, and then descends toward the northeast through Cassiopeia the Queen, and on to Perseus the hero, and down to the northeast horizon.

Every summer since I was 10, I have looked at the Milky Way through binoculars, slowly tracing the path I just described, never tiring of the splendid, wide field view I see. Countless more stars and glowing gases than can be seen with the unaided eye are revealed, giving just a hint of the the vastness of space. Try it yourselves. You will be hooked!

Moon phases: 1st quarter/July 5; Full/July 12; Lat Quarter/ July 18; New/July 26.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Why We Love Bird Dogs

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In this installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andrew McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, is back in the field, but this time with his new bird dog Boone. In a case of “this dog can definitely hunt,” Andrew sets Boone off to show off his extraordinary hunting skills.

This video is approximately three minutes. Gibson Anthony is the videographer.

Return of Movies in the Park: Summer of Stars, Under the Stars

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The Chestertown Recreation Commission announces the beginning of a Summer of Stars …under the stars, with the return of its program of Movies in the Park.

This Friday June 20 will be the opening night of a season of family friendly films to be shown outdoors in downtown Chestertown with the classic, “The Princess Bride”.

The movies will be shown at the Foot of High Street on the Custom House lawn.

“The Princess Bride”, directed by Rob Reiner in 1987 and became an instant classic with its tale of brave Westley and his quest to save his Princess Buttercup from the clutches of the Evil Prince Humperdick. One of the most quotable and beloved films to come out of the decade the film stars Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn.

All Shows start at dusk, (approximately 8:15 – 8:30) and are free to the public.

The CRC will be on hand most nights to offer popcorn. Bring blankets and lawn chairs, (low seated are preferred)
The rest of the summer schedule of movies will be on alternating Fridays, beginning with following week, June 27 with another 80’s classic, “The Goonies”.

Further screenings include July 11- The Karate Kid, (1984), July 25th “The Muppet Movie”, (1979), August 8- Space Jam, Aug 22- TBD and September 5- “The Lego Movie” and a special Halloween showing of “Ghostbusters“ in October.

Rain dates will be the following Friday evenings.

The Chestertown Recreation Commission is a official branch of the Mayor & Council’s office charged with improving recreational opportunities, programming and facilities in the town. Anyone interested in being involved can reach Bill Arrowood, chair, at chestertownrec@yahoo.com for more updates, residents are encouraged to check the CRC’s Facebook page.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Winter Wheat with Andrew McCown

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Winter wheat is a powerhouse producer for local Eastern Shore farmers, but the story doesn’t stop there. As Echo Hill Outdoor School’s Andrew McCown points out in the latest edition of Cool Outdoor Stuff, this remarkably resilient crop plays many roles in the life of the Shore and the businesses that depend on it.

This video is approximately three minutes long.

Videography by Gibson Anthony 

Adkins Takes Big Step with New Facility

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It took me about 30 seconds to remember why I love the Adkins Arboretum.  As I walked across the new entry bridge, I stopped twice for large bullfrogs, once when a large deer splashed through the marsh, and another three times to listen to the “plonks, poinks” and “BRAAPS” of other native frogs. So much life is down below that bridge! I was half tempted to go grab my boots and climb down in there.

But I was there to tell the story of their campaign, not to frolic with marsh creatures.

Delmarva’s treasured living museum, the Adkins Arboretum, kickstarted their capital campaign last week with a goal to raise a final $3,000,000 to complete their facility upgrade. As the only outdoor center on Delmarva to highlight our region’s unique ecosystem, the organization intends to raise 60% of the construction costs needed before putting a shovel in the ground in the fall of 2015. Led by Peter Steifel’s $1 million gift, over 50 organizations and foundations have joined hundreds of other donors in raising $4,500,000 so far.

The opportunity is great. With only one tiny multi-purpose room to serve as a gallery, classroom, seminar and conference room, the organization has managed to serve thousands of children and adults each year with opportunities to experience Delmarva’s unique natural heritage.  New infrastructure including a gallery, an open air classroom and a new multi-purpose pavilion will increase student participation in outdoor education by 500%. And that’s critical, in a time of heightened emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) in our region’s school districts.

The new space will allow the Arboretum’s extensive collection of books and publications to come out of a storage facility on Kent Island and be placed in the public eye – accessible to visitors and scholars. An outdoor classroom and open pavilion with seating for 200 will extend the organization’s ability to provide multiple offerings at one time. From musical performances to lectures, the new space will inspire with broad views, open access and handsome natural materials. The new gallery will allow for more art, more accessible to all.

Architect Andrew Hertig of Lake/Flato Architects presented his architectural designs on Thursday to a crowd of some 3 dozen supporters gathered in the small classroom that is the Arboretum’s entire public space at present. Describing the newly revised plans for gallery space, walkway, classroom and gardens, Hertig said that the re-design keeps all the functionality while addressing the new economy. His designs are inspired by nature and showcase the special place that is Adkins Arboretum.

The new facility will enable this organization to continue to nurture the environmental, cultural and social health of the region, connecting us all with wild Delmarva. From conservation landscaping seminars to nature walks, community lectures, art and native plant education, Adkins Arboretum has proven to be a Mid-Atlantic treasure. This is a cause to support.

You can learn more about the Arboretum here, see upcoming events and programs here, and support the campaign to build this living legacy for our community here.

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Caroline Pavilion

The Caroline Pavilion

 

The Marion Price Art Gallery

The Marion Price Art Gallery

Phase 1 Building Program