Interesting Spider Web Facts

Spider webs are constructions built by spiders. The webs are made of silk which the spiders produce through spinnerets. The silk is made of proteins, and is both stronger and more flexible than steel of the same weight. Many medical research centers study the microstructure of this silk, as it has the potential to be used in protective gear like bulletproof vests, and even artificial tendons.

Though the term “spider web” generally implies that the web is in use, while “cobweb” suggests that it’s been abandoned, the two in fact mean the same thing. The term cobweb comes from the Old English word “coppe,” meaning spider.

In ancient European medicine, cobwebs were used on wounds to discourage infection, promote healing and reduce bleeding.

Cobweb paintings are an old art form that originated in the 16th century in the Alps. Today, fewer than one hundred of these paintings can be found, most of which are kept in private collections and are not open to the public.

How Hubble Works: Part 3

The Hubble Space Telescope is in orbit around the earth, completing one orbit every 97 minutes. At 5 miles per second, the speed at which Hubble is orbiting, it would be possible to travel the span of the entire United States in just 10 minutes. During its travels Hubble’s mirror catches light from space and passes it into several different scientific instruments.
Contrary to the belief by many that telescopes work by magnification of objects, the real power of telescopes is in their ability to collect more light than the human eye can collect unassisted.  The size of the mirror in a telescope determines the amount of light that the telescope can capture. The larger the mirror, the more light is captured, and the better the telescope can see. Although there are ground-based telescopes with mirrors larger than Hubble’s 2.4 meter diameter, because Hubble is above and outside of the earth’s atmosphere, Hubble is able to view the universe with unsurpassed clarity.

Hubble is outfitted with several different instruments which examine the incoming light from space in different ways. Together the information gathered from the many instruments on Hubble can give a more complete picture of the universe, extending and expanding our knowledge astronomically.

Hubble’s Discoveries: Part 2

The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating twenty years of exploration and discovery of the vast universe in which we are just a small part.  Until Hubble allowed astronomers to probe into the deepest reaches of space, cosmologists could only guess the age of the universe to be somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years. With the help of Hubble the age of the universe is now given a much more accurate figure of 13-14 billion years.

Many key features of the universe have been discovered with the unique visualizing abilities of Hubble, such as dark energy, a mysterious force which accelerates the speed with which the universe is expanding. With the help of Hubble our understanding of how galaxies form has been advanced, as well as how solar systems and planets are born. Other planets have been observed orbiting their own suns in their own solar systems, proving that our solar system is not at all unique in the universe, something that was always conjecture, but never before actually visualized.

The amount of information spewing forth from Hubble is enormous, allowing astronomers to publish, as of today, over 6,000 articles based on data from Hubble. The Hubble Space Telescope has made a revolutionary difference in mankind’s understanding of the universe.

Perseids Perform Positively Perfectly

Did you see any shooting stars in the past few nights? If you did it was because the earth once again passed through the dust-tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle in its annual orbit of the sun, creating a wonderful show of meteors burning up high above our heads in the beautiful summer sky.

Don’t feel bad if you think you missed it, because the earth is actually in the dust of the comet for several weeks, and shooting stars, or meteors, will be  visible during the entire time, until about August 24th. Although the peak time for viewing is on Wednesday night until Friday morning, August 11-13, you can still enjoy a breathtaking sight by finding a dark spot with the minimal amount of light pollution, lying back on a blanket, and staring up at the night sky. With luck you should be able to see about 60-80 meteors/hour.

The reason this meteor shower is called the Perseid shower, is because the majority of meteors will appear to be originating in the constellation called Perseus. Percy Jackson fans, please take note.

Perseids Visible with No Moon in Sight

This year we are lucky that visibility for the annual Perseid meteor shower will be ‘stellar.’ That is because the shower, which always falls from the 11th to 13th of August, this year will not have a moon ruining the visibility, which can sometimes happen. Where will the moon be, perhaps you are asking. Well, the phases of the moon are well known by all; the fact that the moon starts out each month as a tiny crescent resembling the tip of a thumbnail and grows to be a bright, full circle two weeks later, and then shrinks again until the moon disappears altogether is noticed by all. But what many people do not pay attention to is that the moon rises and sets later and later each night. When the moon is small, at the beginning of the lunar month, the moon sets about the same time as the sun. About two weeks later the moon is full, and rises at about the same time as the sun sets, and sets at about the same time as the sun rises. That is why, when the moon is full we see it  the entire night.  At the end of the month you would need to wake up just before sunrise to witness the moonrise, and the only time the moon is in the sky is during the day, when it’s view is washed out by the brightness of the sun.

This year the Perseids happen to fall during the first few days of the lunar month, and the moon will have set shortly after the sun, and will no longer be visible in our nighttime sky. Watch for it this Thursday evening, August 12th, setting in the west an hour or two after the sun has set. It will just be a tiny crescent, but it will be there.