Archive for January 1, 2014

An Astronomical Teaser

Posted in Cute Problems, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 1, 2014 by telescoper

For those of you who feel up to a little brain-teaser after last night’s revels, try this little problem which involves the use of everybody’s favourite type of astronomical measurement, the magnitude system. Answers through the comment box please!

A binary star at a distance of 100 pc has such a small separation between its component stars that it is unresolved by a telescope. If the apparent visual magnitude of the combined image of the system is 10.5, and one star is known to have an absolute visual magnitude of 9.0, what is the absolute visual magnitude of the other star?

To make an end is to make a beginning

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on January 1, 2014 by telescoper

So, it’s New Year’s Day again. I’d like to take the opportunity to convey my very best wishes to everyone who follows this blog and to thank you all for showing an interest in my ramblings.

The beginning of a new year seems an appropriate time to post something from T.S. Eliot’s remarkable poetic meditation on the redemptive nature of time, Four Quartets. This is the last section, Part V, of the last of the four poems, Little Gidding.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Little Gidding, Part V, the last of the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot.