Let me share a story. When I was an eclipse lecturer there in 2006, the Egyptian owner of the tour company (with whom I grew so close that I went to his wedding a year later) told me how universally hated Mubarak was. His brother had built up a successful automobile dealership, and one day Gamal (Mubarak’s son) came by with his bodyguards and announced that he was now a “partner” – meaning that my friend’s brother had to give him a large payment each month to stay in business. It was like the mob, the Mafia. This is how the country has been run the last 30 years. No wonder Mubarak’s family stashed away $70 billion. Egypt has been ruled by thugs. Hopefully, the country will be able to reclaim it all – which would amount to $1,000 for every citizen.
February: Yes, an old-fashioned winter. We had a classic negative NAO (North Atlantic oscillation) pattern that kept storms heading our way and cold locked in place over us. That pattern is finally ending – hopefully for keeps. On the bright side, February is when the Sun comes flooding back. We gain 72 minutes of daily sunshine during this short month. Equally important, the noonday Sun climbs ten degrees higher, from 30 to 40 degrees between February 1 and 28. That’s 20 sun-widths higher! Since solar intensity is a direct function of height, it’s very noticeable on the skin.
More Extra-Solar Planets: Two weeks ago, the Kepler mission found more than 1,200 brand-new ones, including 50-odd planets of approximate Earth-size. I hope that this finally quiets the endless boring headlines about “other Earths,” which are driving astronomers bonkers. We’ve known for decades that there are at least a million Earth-sized planets with comfortable temperatures in our galaxy. We also know that we cannot detect life on any of them, if it exists. We can’t ever go there (it would take 100,000 years), nor determine anything interesting from here.
There. That’s the whole story. How much more is the media going to milk this “other Earth” business? Once we learned that there were lobsters in the Atlantic, was it really fun to name each one individually? It’s a big universe. It’s time to move on to the next topic.
Bright Lights Made Easy: The brightest star in the west before 8 p.m. is Jupiter. The sky’s brightest star from 8 p.m. to midnight (it’s blue and in the south) is the Dog Star Sirius. The brightest star before dawn (it’s in the east) is Venus.