Archive for November 16th, 2010

Leonid Meteor Shower

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

The annual Leonid Meteor Shower will be at its height this Wednesday and Thursday morning (November 17th & 18th) with best viewing taking place about three hours before sunrise.  This year expect “light showers” of about 15 to 20 meteors per hour.  Telescopes and binoculars are not required for this type of event, but a few pieces of equipment may make your viewing more enjoyable.  A lawn chair will allow you to lean back and look up without getting a crick in your neck, while a sleeping bag will help keep you warm in the pre-dawn hours.

The Leonids are so named because they seem to emanate from somewhere in the vicinity of the constellation Leo.  They are actually debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle; and because they orbit the sun in a direction opposite to our own planet, they enter the atmosphere almost straight on at speeds of roughly 45 miles (72 kilometers) a second.  That speed helps to create the intense streaks of light and long trains associated with the Leonid Meteor Shower.

For more information check out this article on the Leonid Meteor Shower at and our in-depth post by guest blogger Jeff Bowell on last year’s shower (this one has some great viewing tips, too).

Or, for a more musical explanation of meteors watch the video of “What is a Shooting Star?” by They Might Be Giants from their fantastic CD / DVD entitled, Here Comes Science.

Save the Words

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Big news, everyone: I just adopted! Not a child, or a dog, or a stretch of I-25, but a word. Through the wonderful adoption agency that is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I’m the proud new mama of siagonology: the study of jaw bones.

Save the Words” is a website run by the OED that’s goal is to prevent the extinction of words currently endangered by their lack of use. Language is always changing and evolving (“impact” has been turned into a verb, and I’m trying to come to terms with that), but that doesn’t mean that old words should just be chucked out the door because they don’t have value. Expanding your vocabulary is always a good thing, and there are some doozies of words just looking for a new home inside someone’s brain.

How about a great biology word like veprecose (full of prickly shrubs or bushes), oncethmus (the loud and harsh cry of a donkey) or frutescent (having the appearance of a shrub. Huh, there’s a lot of shrubbery words up for grabs). Or maybe a history word like vectarios (belonging to a wagon or carriage), scandiscope (a device for cleaning chimneys) or vitamin G (the original term for riboflavin – hey, it’s history and science!) would be a better fit. No matter what you like, there’s a word out there for you.

And once you adopt a word, take the pledge to keep it alive.

I hereby promise to use this word, in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible to the best of my ability.

So get out there and adopt a word or ducenarious (two hundred) and, just like with pets and children, taken them out, show them off, and use them at least three times in a sentence and they’re yours (that last part really doesn’t apply to pets or children, but you get the point)!

And if you do adopt a word, pop by the comments and introduce it to us. Maybe we can organize a play group.

November 2010

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