Letters to the Editor
Dear Bay Weekly:
I would like to call to your attention some errors in the Sky Watch column [Vol. XI, No. 18, May 1).
The first and most important concern is the transit of Mercury. The date and time are both wrong. The transit occurs on Wednesday, May 7, and it occurs in the morning at sunrise, not in the evening at sunset. The transit is already in progress by the time the sun rises on the East Coast, so only the end of the event will be visible. Mercury will leave the suns disk about one-half hour after sunrise. In addition to solar filters, it is also necessary to view this event through a telescope. Mercury is just too small to be detected without magnification under these circumstances. To say that it can be viewed with a welding mask is misleading.
Also, the column suggests looking for the crescent moon on Sunday. Under good weather conditions, the crescent Moon will certainly be visible on Saturday and somewhat thinner so why not look then? It may even be visible on Friday, although it will be a difficult object on that day.
The title of the column is Phases of the Sun and Moon. The sun does not have phases.
Im glad to see that Bay Weekly has a Sky Watch column to stimulate interest in astronomy, but I hope that the author will check his facts more carefully in the future.
Patricia C. Totten, Dunkirk
Writer J. Alex Knoll responds:
Sky Watch is the 10-year-old column I began when co-founding Bay Weekly. I have in those many weeks, strived for an astronomy column useful to the lay person, the amateur who probably doesnt have a telescope but who would likely enjoy learning more about the science, history and mythology associated with the skies above.
My apologies to all for a typing transposition listing Mercurys transit at sunset instead of sunrise. However, just as Mercury in darkened skies stands out as bright as all but Venus in her prime, the fleet planet is visible enough to spot with proper eye protection as a small speck in transit crossing the suns face. Binoculars and, yes, a telescope used in conjunction with a polarizing filter will provide a bigger and better view of the transit.
The point, as written, for spotting Sundays waxing moon was not its thinness or its newness, rather its proximity to Saturn, making an easy way for many sky watchers to positively ID a naked-eye planet.
As for phases of the sun, in Celtic legend, the seasons of the year were divided into four Quarter Days vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox and winter solstice and four additional Cross-quarter Days. These days correspond to modern day Groundhogs Day, May Day, Labor Day and Halloween. For a people living by natures calendar, these Quarter Days and Cross-quarter Days marked changes in the seasons or phases of the solar year, changes that directly affected their lives.
No More Wye Oaks for Now
Dear Bay Weekly:
A few years ago I bought seedlings from the Wye oak, but now I am moving and would like to have a couple more Wye oaks Can you help? Is there any way I can grow cuttings from my trees? I bought my seedlings from a nursery in Harmons, Md.
Editors reply: Our source on Wye oaks is Dr. Francis Gouin horticulturist and professor emeritus, University of Maryland who propagated clones of the historic tree.
He says that no Wye oak seedling remain available. The Wye oak stopped producing acorns in 2000 and was blown over by a storm in June, 2002. It is not possible to root cuttings of the Wye oak.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources is in the process of establishing an orchard from the Wye oak clones that I have propagated by grafting, and seedlings of the Wye oak should become available in about 10 years. Hopefully by then local nurseries will be
propagating clones of the Wye oak under the National Heirloom Tree Series.
Gouin is also working with commercial nurseries interested in growing clones of Grand Champion Trees including the Wye Oak for a National Heirloom Series.
We welcome your letters and opinions. We will edit when necessary. Include your name, address and phone number for verification. Mail them to Bay Weekly, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 E-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.