The Great Pumpkin of Fall 2020

[October 14, 2020] We have 3 winners of the Great Pumpkin Guessing game! Their guesses were the 3 closest to the final weight of 47.69 kg. They each receive on of the new t-shirts “A Solar Spill is Just a Nice Day“.
– Regina Baratta – Middle School Science Teacher, North Carolina
– Marin Jeong – student, La Crescenta, CA
– Woody Williams – retired teacher, Long Beach, CA

the Great Pumpkin Weigh-In
The final weigh-in at 47.69 kg.

I honestly was oblivious that my wife Dena had scored some Big Max pumpkin seeds in the Spring and planted a few in one of our garden boxes. Unlike the recent winner at the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off in Half Moon Bay (1066 kg), we did not water it 10x each day nor add extra fertilizer. Just a small bit of drip irrigation daily watering. This was by far the largest pumpkin that has emerged from our garden..ever.

To weigh this behemoth made us scratch our heads. We couldn’t put it on a normal household scale because we wouldn’t be able to see the numbers. The shipping scales we had only went to 70 lbs (~32kg) and we thought it would weigh more than that since we couldn’t lift it. We ended up using a balance beam, finding the center of gravity to balance on, then balancing it again. First we put the pumpkin on one end. Then it was Tor’s turn to see who weighed more. Tor won (~ 100kg). Then it was Dena’s turn. Dena Won (~ 61 kg). Then we individually weighed a series of concrete tiles we had nearby, added a box of books, and finished with a pan and some water to tune it to the final weight. Adding up the weight of all these items = 47.69 kg (or 105.15 lbs). We used our calibrated shipping scale for reference to weight the tiles, books, and water. This same technique can be used to measure smaller items in your classroom for a student activity. The conversion factor is 2.2046 lb = 1 kg.

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Summer Solstice 2020

Greetings !It’s a few days late, but I wanted to share this ‘Cosmic Relief’ from kindred spirit Joe Jordan about the Summer Solstice. Since meeting Joe at a Solar Conference many years ago, Joe has shared his astronomical knowledge with enthusiasm at numerous Solar Schoolhouse events.  Enjoy!- Tor

We could all use a little “cosmic relief” now and then — especially these days! … So, here’s some for you. …..

TODAY (Sat.,6/20), at 2:44 PM Pacific Daylight Time — our hero “Mr. Sun” will be directly overhead for some lucky fish (or maybe boat) in the ocean … ~ 200 mi. NE of the Hawaiian islands — at the farthest-north latitude where the sun can EVER be seen straight UP ( so you have NO SHADOW ! ) : ~ 23½ degrees N.

In Santa Cruz, CA., the sun at that moment will be a little to the west of south, already past its peak of the day here. But today, at OUR “SOLAR NOON” when the sun’s at its peak for the day, the sun will also be at its high-point for the whole year: the highest in the sky that it can ever be seen FROM HERE — just 13½ degrees down DUE SOUTH of our OVERHEAD POINT, or “ZENITH”. (So today’s high-point will be higher up in the south than all other daily high-points.)

Today this solar-noon peak for us comes at 1:10 PM local time (Pacific Daylight). … (Wondering why this “solar-noon” high-point-for-the-day occurs more than an hour after 12-o’clock noon? That shift is mostly an effect of our being on Daylight Savings Time — an hour later than “standard” time.)

The word “solstice” basically says that “the sun [‘sol’] is ‘standing still’ [‘stice’, like ‘stasis’ or ‘stationary’].” A lot of folks assume that means standing still in time — in the sense that, e.g., the time of sunset stops getting later from one evening to the next, and now starts its return to earlier times. THAT WILL HAPPEN, soon — BUT NOT THIS EVENING ! Surprisingly, the latest sunSET for the whole year doesn’t happen until the 27th of June — about a week from now! And likewise, the earliest sunRISE already happened, about a week before this solstice day! Nevertheless, total duration of daylight (or, sun-above-horizon time) for the whole year is still at its maximum, today. … I’ll write more later, about this topic of why “solstice” does NOT refer to extreme (“folding”) points of the sun’s setting and rising times.

The “turning-around” (and coming to a halt for just an instant, as when an upward-thrown ball reaches the very top of its trajectory) to which “solstice” refers, is much more directly & simply a spatial thing (involving direction, not time — the stuff of ~ Stonehenge).

The high-point-for-the-day of the sun is always when its direction is DUE SOUTH (as seen in this part of the world). Every day for these last six months (since the winter solstice) the sun-at-solar-noon has been climbing up that “MERIDIAN” (vertical-plane north-south “stairway to heaven”), crossing it higher and higher from day to day — until today when it begins return to descent from day to day. Correspondingly, the sunset position along the western horizon (AND sunrise position along eastern horizon) are at their farthest-north extreme-points TODAY, and come to a HALT in their northward progress (“solstice”) as the sun starts to “fly south for the winter” ! ***

Many other interesting things to tell you about this — but, hey, time flies when you’re having fun! ***
Joe Jordan.
(originally posted on Planet Watch Radio)

Joe Jordan (left) and Tor Allen