Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice which is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the start of summer. This is when the sun is farthest north for the year and begins its six-month return southward. Meanwhile, it also marks the shortest day for the southern hemisphere and the start of winter. This year, the solstice began earlier due to the fact that 2012 is a leap year, so I hope you all enjoyed the longest day of the year.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus

Today was the extremely rare opportunity to view Venus's transit across the sun. It will be the last transit in our lifetime. There are only two transits in our lifetime. One was today, and the other was in 2004. Therefore, it is quite an amazing experience to see this. Venus only appeared as a small dot on the sun, but it was quite cool. The transit began at around three and ended several hours later past sundown. Of course, it was only visible until the sun went down from our location though.

Today, I mostly had to settle for a webcast. I tried to use my pinhole projection box, but Venus was too small to be seen on it. Then, I tried projecting with a really cheap pair of binoculars, but they were even worse. Finally, I tried using my telescope. Under a low magnification lens, I was only able to see the light of the sun. Under high magnification lens, I saw an amazing view of Venus. However, it proved to be a bad idea. I think I may have directly my telescope too directly at the sun as the plastic part around my lens began to burn and melt. Luckily, I noticed after a couple of seconds, so it isn't really damaged. I believe and hope it works perfectly fine, but I can obviously tells something happened when I look inside. At least I noticed before anything too bad happened though, so I should be thankful. However, that is probably the end of my solar adventures using my telescope. I must be content with pinhole projection and webcast. Today, I used this link.

During the webcast, there was a lot of background told of this transit. It was supposedly used to help find the distance between the sun and the earth, which was a large ordeal back then. After it was discovered, it led to so many other discoveries.

Along the same lines of the transit, I discovered something quite interesting in my research. Being in marching band, the name John Philip Sousa sticks out like a sore thumb with him being the 'March King'. Therefore, I was intrigued upon reading this at this website:

"John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was very interested in the 1882 transit of Venus. In 1882-3 he wrote his 'Venus Transit March.' He didn't write it specifically to commemorate the transit itself, but wrote it to honor the great American physicist Prof. Joseph Henry who had died on May 13, 1878.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. asked Sousa to write this march for the planned unveiling of the statue of Henry in front of the Smithsonian Institution in 1883. The music was to be played while dignitaries solomnly walked from the museum to a special receiving stand in front of the Smithsonian. Sousa's Transit of Venus March remains a delightful, and rarely-played addition to Sousa's opus of compositions."

Somehow, this was just interesting to me since it somehow combined music and astronomy. Anyways, most of my research came from this site, since it was pretty informative on the transit. It also provided links to find more information. I found the information quite helpful for my viewing, and there were multiple links to webcasts  being conducted from different locations. In the end, I was glad that I was able to see this magnificent sight and will always be glad that I watched it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baking Adventures

Today was my usual relaxing, boring Sunday. I probably should have been using this time for studying, but I decided to try something else instead. I decided to try my hand at baking. I had helped my sisters with their baking before, but I had never done it on my own so it was an exciting experience for me. I wanted something to share with some of my friends at school, so I choose to bake cupcakes. I eventually decided to use half of this recipe for a vanilla cupcake with this buttercream frosting. Seeing how this was my first time on my own, I wasn't sure what to expect and chose to make only twelve cupcakes in case something went wrong.

I gathered the ingredients and mixed then together.

Then, I filled the cupcake liners.

Then, I put them in the oven.

Then, I set them out to cool.

Finally, I frosted them.

After all that work, I tasted one, and it was actually better than I hoped. The top was a bit dry, but the inside was still moist. The frosting was pretty good as it was not too sweet unlike some store-bought frosting, but it was a travesty trying to get it on the cupcakes. Also, I may have added just a bit more vanilla than I wanted.  Overall, they were pretty good even though I know there is room for improvement. It was actually pretty fun making these by myself, and now, I have some cupcakes to share with my friends.