Looking Up! Meteors, Helium and Phobos=Almanac of Absurdities Flashback 8.18.2012

Click here for the Audio Almanac!

Looking up today! On this date in 1783 an Italian Natural Philosopher by the name of Tiberius Cavallo was hanging out on a Terrace at Windsor Castle in England when a remarkable sight appeared…a vast meteor, which apparently passed over the Eastern Coast of Scotland and England, and appeared to have broken up over the English Channel. He noted it in Volume 74 of a hot bestseller at the time, Philosophical Transactions, where he wrote: “Its light was prodigious. Every object appeared very distinct; the whole face of the country, in that beautiful prospect before the terrace, being instantly illuminated.” Others noted that the passage of the meteor took about 30 seconds to view as it passed. It’s referred to as the Great Meteor or Great Fireball of 1783. On this date in 1868, French Astronomer Pierre Janssen was in Guntur India, making observations of a total eclipse of the sun. Using a primitive spectroscope, he noticed a bright line at a particular frequency of light that did not correspond to any luminous element previously observed…which means it was a new element, but oddly, one that had not been previously found on earth. Because of that point, many scientists scoffed at the discovery, until October of that same year, when English Astronomer Joseph Lockyer noticed the same reading. He and a colleague decided to name the element “Helium” from the Greek “Helios” meaning “Sun.” Nobody Knows what Pierre Janssen might have called it. And on this date in 1877, American Astronomer Asaph Hall was at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington DC, continuing his observations of Mars. He’d already discovered Mars had a small moon, a few days earlier, which would eventually be named “Deimos” but on this date, he spotted it’s twin, “Phobos”. The science Master of Eaton, Professor Henry Madan suggested the names…they were twin servants and helpmates of Mars, the god of war. Deimos meaning “Dread” and Phobos, as you might guess, meaning “Fear.” If, by some off chance, we find another Moon of Mars, I vote we name it “Contractor.”

Album Notes:  Grateful Acknowledgments to Mike Koenig, and Drum 8.  Some Musical Motifs Written and Performed by Kevin McLeod,  Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0″ http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ and used here by permission, and with appreciation and thanks. Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War” from “The Planets” thanks to http://www.musopen.com.  Some audio may be used under the Fair Use Doctrine

About denniscmichael

Voice Artist, Writer, Journalist, even sometime actor. For 18 years the writer and voice for CNN's Hollywood Minute.
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