Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stars of Joseph

The dreams of Joseph is a  known episode from the bible (Genesis 37 9): "Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”" (The quote is from NKJV but you can see many other translations here")

An interesting question, from an astronomer's point of view is just which eleven stars Joseph saw in his dream (If you are a soccer/football fan you can probably think of your favorite team). I didn't find much discussion on this or an answer so I will suggest my own interpretation to the text.

My attempt is to give the dream a realistic meanning. The first thing to notice is that Joseph could not see the sun and moon and the stars together. While it is possible to see the sun and the moon together it is impossible to see stars during daylight (surly not 11 stars). So the dream is not a single moment but span over some time. Another  thought is that Joseph saw the planets but at that time in the ancient world only 5 planets (beside the sun and moon) were known which leaves us with six unidentified stars. Another option is to choose the brightest stars in the sky (seen from latitude 32 North), However what is the meaning of a bowing star, and the brightest stars are not seen at the same time or even in the same season, and it seems just to be random stars which is quire meaningless.

Lets consider the action of "bowing". Bowing is a gesture in which one falls down and then rise up again, and this reminds me of a setting or rising star. A setting star performs the bowing and the rising star gets up from that same bowing.

Pondering all these points, here is my  suggestion. Joseph saw 11 stars setting or rising, together with the sun and the moon. The number 12 is a famous one. There are 12 months in the calendar and there are the twelve tribes (Sons of Jacob) and there are the 12 constellations which represent the different months. Let us assume that each star is actually the brightest star in one of the Zodiac's constellation (or the complete constellation) so Joseph saw all 11 constellations. This is possible every night if you observe from sunset to sunrise.

Joseph's dream spanned over an entire night. Immediately after sunset Joseph saw the little moon crescent sets as well and than saw some constellations set and some rise. The old Jewish scholars also paired between each tribe and a month/constellation so which constellation Joseph didn't see? His own constellation of course which is either Aquarius or Pisces (according to different Jewish traditions).

Notice that the moon sets immediately after the Sun (and before the stars) so the time was a new Lunar month which is the beginning of a new month in the Hebrew calendar. Taking that information a leap forward and calculating the age of Joseph (17 at that time) from the creation we find that the dream happened in the beginning of the 11 or 12 Lunar month of year 2216 from Adam which in converting to our Gregorian calendar will be circa January or February 1544 BC (the conversion formulas are not accurate to give a specific day). I
I find it interestng that such intepretation can lead to an actual date.

Also I find the intiutive solution to the dream to be wrong. Jacob, Joseph's father interpret the 11 stars as Jospeh's brother and sister while he is the sun and Josephe's mother (poor Rachel which has passed away alread) is the moon. I suggest to think about the 11 stars as eleven years that passed on Joseph in Egypt with 2 more years until he was released from prison. The sun was an important god for Egypt and the fact that all celestial objects bows to him means that he will have some control over the nature as he had some lter during the drought years.

Joseph dream
Joseph's dream - Unknown artist from Henry Davenport Northrop book 1894

For some reason this well known picture of Vincent van Gogh "Starry Night" reminds me of Joseph's dream.
Starry night - Van Goch
Starry night - Van Goch 1889 -  (MOMA New-York)
A huge moon and 11 stars and maybe the tree seems a bit like a bonfire which resemble the sun...

The painting gave inspiration to Don McLean with his version of "Starry Night" in the song "Vincent"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Almost occultation of Aldebaran

It was very near, but no occultation from my place. After five days of rains I almost forgot from this event but as I looked at the moon I noticed a bright star so close to it. I knew there wont be an occultation from my place but I forgot that it will be that close.
So I took my camera (Canon SX50 HS) out and this is how it was 2030 (UTC) about 45' apart (from edge of moon). Taking both objects in one shot is not simple as the moon is about 10000 brighter. Aldebaran is in the lower left
Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29
Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29

About an hour later the moon gets nearer (The moon moves, Aldebaran is fixed) and as a bonus a bird fly in front of the moon) 

Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29
Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29
After another 45 minutes the moon is really close. So close that I can't see Aldebaran with the naked eyes anymore and needs binoculars. However the camera sees it perfectly and just 30 minutes more to the closest point.
Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29
Moon and Aldebaran 2015-10-29

As it turned out, a huge cloud came and rain again so no chance for more photos, so good night (0030 here) until the next chance...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Planets conjunction 09-Oct-2015

The planets are aligned very nicely this morning (09-Oct-2015) with the crescent old moon in the East. Venus and Jupiter (which starred earlier this year) together with Mars in the Leo constellation. You can almost draw a straight line between the planets as they are all lay on the same plane the ecliptic.

This month events are (I added illustrations for event with more than 2 celestial objects)
9-Oct-2015 - Venus Old Moon Mars and Jupiter
17-18/Oct - Jupiter and Mars less the 30' apart (less than a full moon width)
27-28/Oct - Jupiter Venus and Mars creates a close traingle
3/Nov - Venus and Mars together
7/Nov - Jupiter, the old Moon Venus and Mars

Here is an illustration
The old Moon, Jupiter Mars and Venus 7-Nov-2015 simulation
The old Moon, Jupiter Mars and Venus 7-Nov-2015 simulation
Here is an illustration

Jupiter Mars and Venus 27-Oct-2015 simulation
Jupiter Mars and Venus 27-Oct-2015 simulation

Planets' conjunction 09/10/2015
Planets' conjunction 09/10/2015
This is an illustration of the View from Israel. US watchers will see the moon further down and closer to Mars.
The brightest planet is Venus and the second one is Jupiter. Mars is quite dim but you will able to see its red tint in the photos. Mercury rises as well but it is very low and dim so you need a dark place with no obstructions in order to see it.
Planets' conjunction 09/10/2015
Planets' conjunction 09/10/2015
 And here is a wider photo in which the entire Leo constellation is visible.  I used Canon 700d with 28-80 lens and was able to capture the entire LEO group (Leo-B Denebolla is at the bottom left)

 This photo is not related but I wanted to see if my knew wide Lens can capture the entire winter hexagon. It can! From Sirius through Rigel and to Castor and even Capella is there, but this is a matter for another post

Monday, September 7, 2015

Carnival of Space #422

Hello everybody and welcome to the #422 edition of Carnival of Space.  I am getting ready to the last total lunar eclipse in the current tetrad. Hope that you will be able to see it wherever you are. Another thing I am waiting for is the movie based on the book "The martian" I am sure it will look great in 3D.
Carnival of Space
Carnival of Space

Saying all that let's go right down to buisness with these week articles

From Universe Today
From Planetaria
  • Back to the ice giants: proposed new mission would re-visit Uranus or Neptune (or both!)
  • Testing panspermia: searching for ‘bubbles of life’ in the galaxy
From NextBigFuture
  • NASA Glenn Research Center, GRC, currently has several programs to advance near-term photovoltaic array development. One project is to design, build, and test two 20 kW-sized deployable solar arrays, bringing them to technology readiness level (TRL) 5, and through analysis show that they should be extensible to 300 kW-class systems (150 kw per wing). These solar arrays are approximately 1500 square meters in total area which is about an order-of-magnitude larger than the 160 square meters solar array blankets on the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS has the four (pair) sets of solar arrays that can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity. Each of the eight solar arrays is 112 feet long by 39 feet wide and weights 2400 pounds. There were space missions involving astronauts working in space to install and deploy the ISS solar panels. Alliant Technical Systems, ATK, was selected in 2012 by NASA's Space Technology Program under a Game Changing Technology competition for development of a promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. The MegaFlex™ engineering development unit, EDU, was tested at NASA GRC Plumbrook facility this year. See below for the ATK deployment of the demonstration unit. Use of high-power solar arrays, at power levels ranging from ~500 KW to several megawatts, has been proposed for a solar-electric propulsion (SEP) demonstration mission, using a photovoltaic array to provide energy to a high-power xenon-fueled engine.
  • NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.
  • Researchers have developed a method for printing optical holographic lenses that could greatly simplify their fabrication. Because the method can be performed quickly and easily, it could potentially be used by astronauts to print lenses while in space for holographic lens telescopes. While current holographic lens fabrication methods are often expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive, the new printing method can produce a lens in just a few seconds using only a single step. The method uses a nanosecond laser pulse to create interference patterns on a transparent substrate coated with light-absorbing materials.
  • Axanar is the first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film. While some may call it a "fan film" as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see. Axanar is in pre-production now and will start filming in October 2015 with an anticipated release in the first half of 2016.