Thursday, February 23, 2006

Astronomer Lovecraft: The Real Deal

Lovecraft as a teen was deadly serious about astronomy. His math skills were weak - and would get worse - but his intuitiveness and studiousness was quite astounding.

In his Pawtuxett Valley Gleaner article of September 26, 1906: "...such an occulation happens ... when the moon, a large crescent, hides the star called "X2 Sagittarii" .... these occulations are among the most important occurences in astronomy, as they are the means of finding out that the moon has no dense atmosphere."

Lovecraft devoured everything he could get in the library, his star books, Scientific American , and what Dr. Winslow Upton (of Brown U. and the Ladd Observatory) loaned him.

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* Occulation of a star on 25th of this month, an interesting phenomenon, Collected Essays: Volume 3: Science, Joshi, Hippocampus.

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Interestingly, this week at science news astronomers report that they used the transit of a star passing behind Charon to determine its size and other physical properties just as Lovecraft knew scientists did with the moon.

"In the Jan. 5 Nature, two teams report that Charon's radius is 606 kilometers. Combined with Hubble Space Telescope measurements of Charon's mass, the new size estimate reveals that the moon has a density 1.71 times that of water—and about one-third the density of Earth.

"The lack of a substantial atmosphere supports the theory that Charon was released when an object struck Pluto. Scientists have similarly proposed that Earth's moon formed when a giant object struck the young Earth. "

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