All posts by Bob Berman

Methane: Blue flames and the green planet

Methane: Blue flames and the green planet

When the universe’s first- and fourth-most-abundant elements combine, the result is often a gas that, surprisingly, has recently cleaned up our air. It’s methane. Most folks call it natural gas. It’s also known as marsh gas and swamp gas, since it’s released by decomposing plants.

Equivocally equinoctial: The first moment of fall

Equivocally equinoctial: The first moment of fall

The Autumnal Equinox takes place on Friday afternoon, Sept. 22, at 4:02 p.m. At that moment, Earth will angle perfectly sideways to the Sun. Neither pole will tip toward or away from that favorite star of ours. And therefore, as the media never tire of reminding us, days and nights should theoretically be equal. We’ve often pointed out that this is never true.

Observing the great eclipse

Observing the great eclipse

Monday, August 21: For the first time in nearly four decades, a total solar eclipse sweeps a path across the mainland US. Most backyard astronomers have never seen one. No surprise; they’re rare. For any spot on Earth, totality happens once every 360 years on average. Some places, like Los Angeles, will wait more than a millennium. Even if you can’t make it to the path of totality, there will be an eclipse-viewing party at Red Hook’s Linden Avenue Middle School and another at Rhinebeck’s Starr Library. Don’t forget your goggles!