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Monday, February 6, 2012

Moon Shadow

Do you remember that old Cat Stevens (who has now changed his name to Yusef something or other...) song, Moon Shadow?

It has a really great melody....but have you ever really listened to it?  It talks about losing body parts along the way ....

Stuff like:
If I ever lose my hands....I won't have to work no more.  If I ever lose my eyes and my colors all run dry....I won't have to cry no more. 

I don't get it. 

Must have been a hippy 60's/70's thing.  Maybe it has all sorts of hidden the Garden Party song by Ricky Nelson....or You're So Vain by Carly Simon....or the Day the Music Died by Don McClean.

Anyway, the chorus on the Cat Stevens is about being followed by a Moon Shadow......Moon Shadow, Moon Shadow.....  That is the part of the song that I have stuck in my head and it was what I sang to myself and my children ad nauseum as we have started studying, the Celestial Almanack, February 2012 by Jay Ryan.

This is an e-book product that even if you are on a tight Dave Ramsey-ish budget you can afford.  It is $3.00 for a 19 page book crammed with loads of astronomy facts and figures.....and I do mean....crammed!

For $3.00, Mr. Ryan is producing monthly almanacs that are specific for each month because, the earth and the celestial bodies are in constant, for instance the February sky is different than the May sky....which is different than the October sky. 

The February almanac covers:  Astronomical Calendar; Signs of the Seasons; Seasonal Skies-Evening; and, Dance of the Planets.

Mr. Ryan started out by explaining our calendar and how Leap Year came to be.  Interesting stuff.

Do you know what an analemma is?  There was one used in the movie, Cast Away to help Tom Hanks keep track of time while he was stranded on the island.  I love real life examples like this....well, okay, I guess a movie isn't exactly real life....but, it makes it somehow more relatable.

I think our favorite part of this e-book was the maps of the night skies and the notes where things would be positioned on certain days and times.  It was sort of a key to the sky....instead of staring around saying stuff like, "Well, I think that is the Big, wait....I think that is it over there.  Well, maybe that is the Little Dipper then....and that really bright one....I am pretty sure that is Venus....or is it Mercury?"

You could take his book and say with authority, "See those 3 stars right there?  That is Orion's following the belt down and a little to the right....that is Rigel....and down to the left is Sirius....part of Canis Major.  There is the Big straight over from the ladle part is the star Polaris"

See the difference?

Mr. Ryan also has different kinds of assignments or challenges for you to try when you are out gazing at the night sky.  Who knew that winter star gazing has some of the prettiest skies?

On February 3rd, we tried, unsuccessfully, to locate our "moon shadow"....the inspiration to good old Cat Stevens earlier.  It was too cloudy for us.  But, if it hadn't been....we could have seen that our moon shadow would be just as long at around 9:00 p.m. as our sun shadow would be on the longest day of the year....or the summer solstice.  You could even measure it with a tape measure and check to see if it worked.

The moon shadow activity is rated as a one star activity - because it is really easy.  An example of a harder one would be finding the constellation Pegasus....which is a lot easier to find during the fall months.  Finding Pegasus is a three star activity.

Mr. Ryan does refer to another one of his products in this almanac quite a bit, called Signs & Seasons....which, apparently, just gives a lot more detail than he can cram into 19 pages.

His other products can be found here at Classical Astronomy

Most of the things in this almanac you can find with your naked eye...but we also have a telescope (remember....weird homeschool family....) so it was fun to try to find things with our naked eyes and then see what it looked like with a telescope. But, the point is that you do not need to have anything fancy to be able to see this cool stuff.

I printed off the 19 pages and put it in a 3 ring binder, because I wanted to be able to have the maps outside with us when we were looking, and do not like to read on a screen - if I can help it.  So, my night sky maps were a little stripey looking because of my ink situation....but, I am still glad I printed it to have and that I have it in a binder for refer back to, if needed. 

I can't tell you how excited the kids are about the possibility of heading out each night to take a look at the night sky.  We haven't been able to go out every night....because of clouds....or we have been other places, but there really is just a genuine sense of excitement when it starts getting dark.

You can get the February issue for just $3.00.

See if any other TOS reviewers have anything else to add to my thoughts. 

Our family received the February Celestial Almanac for free in exchange for an honest review of the product.