Broadcast 3591 Dr. Jay Pasachoff

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Guest:  Dr. Jay Pasachoff; Topics:  Art and Science, astronomy, comets, mythology, artists and comets, cultural history, sunspots, climate change, CO2, astronomy history, famous astronomers and their work, famous artists of astronomy subjects plus more.

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We welcomed Dr. Jay Pasachoff to the program for a two segment 95 minute discussion of art with science, astronomy, comets, history plus other astronomy and science related topics.  Visit Dr. Pasachoff' s website, for more information along with his long list of publications.  Note that we spent considerable time on his recent book with Roberta Olson, "Cosmos: The Art and Science of he Universe."  Much of our discussion was focused on art history regarding astronomy, solar eclipses and comets. Dr. Pasachoff referenced many historical books and publications, famous paintings by Giotto and others, the works of Galileo, Babylonian history, and more modern art and cultural history surrounding these topics.  As I have done with previous programs, I will summarize the discussion by repeating the tags/key words as they accurately reflect discussion topics and the order discussed on the program.  I will move on to highlight interesting listener phone calls and emails.

Tags/key words: Williams College, astronomy, "Cosmos: The Art and Science of the Universe," astronomy, solar eclipse, lunar eclipse, comets, art and comets history over time, Roberta Olson, Giotto, Galileo, Nuremberg Chronicles, 19th century artists, combining art and science, Comet Hale Bopp, Comet Neowise, art and science university classes, art examples per this discussion, Saros Cycle, Chaldeans,  Babylonia tablets, Delta T, Haley's Comet, Astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, Cepheid variables, measuring astronomical distances for stars, Dava Sobel, The Glass Universe, sunspots, CO2 atmospheric increases, sunspots and Earth's climate temperatures, greenhouse gasses, climate change, 11 year sunspot cycles, CO2 and Covid-19, Scripps CO2 Program, The Keeling Curve, solar corona, eclipse viewing from SOFIA or another plane, astronomy innovation/changes for text books, Babylonians and math for astronomical predictions, Stonehenge, eclipse observation via balloon, upcoming US solar eclipse, solar eclipse tours. 

Dr. Pasachoff introduced us to the topic of art and astronomy per the above referenced material.  Our art and astronomy tour started centuries ago with Galileo, then going through recent times by the end of the program.  Listen to  the art, artists, and books mentioned.  Todd got in an early email wanting to know about both the ease and success regarding merging art and science, especially around the current topics of solar eclipses and comets.  In the response by our guests, we also talked about myths, prophets of dooms and such.  We then took a question asking about lunar eclipses along with the solar eclipse.  Our guest explained why the solar eclipse was more significant, especially since he said a solar eclipse was both "dazzling and spectacular." Linda brought up Hale Bopp and cults around it leading to group death events.  Our guest mentioned the recent comment in our skies, Neowise, which he said did not bring it with the same cult like events as Hale Bopp.  As part of his response to these emails, Dr. Pasachoff said he has and will be continuing to teach a class, "Science and Pseudo-Science."

Marshall was our first caller.  Marshall brought up the Saros Cycle of solar eclipses.  Marshall and Jay went back to the ancient Babylonians and their tablets, the long cycle based on the fact that the earth does not rotate in a completely regular manner.  He talked about the error caused by the irregular rotation of the Earth, Delta-T (per Wikipedia, Delta T is a "measure of the cumulative effect of the departure of the Earth's rotation period from the fixed-length day of atomic time).  Babylonian tablets from 4,000 years ago were mentioned with questions about art and math from the time.  Marshall has several questions about the ancients and the math.  Before Marshall ended his call, I asked about his background and interest in these and other topics.  He talked about his study of history and reading all issues by a certain date of Scientific American.

We started the second segment with a discussion concerning stars and the evaluation of other stars in books and over time. Jay then introduced us to the American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt from about a hundred years ago as she noted the variation in the brightness of stars.  Later her work was named by the IAU as Leavitt's Law.  Check this out at  In addition, Jay introduced us to the work of Dava Sobel and "The Glass Universe."

I took the liberty of asking our guests a few sunspot questions.  I wanted to know why we would be reporting record temperatures when we were in a solar minimus regarding the sunspot 11 year cycle.  Don't miss this important discussion.  Jay explained why he did not agree that sunspots influenced temperatures on Earth. He also talked about the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere and climate change as the reason for the rise in temperatures. He said this was a long term trend even if there were short term dips in the CO2 graph.  This comment was the result of a listener email asking about the dip of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the pandemic and the shutdown of so much industry around the world.  Jay referenced a Scripts CO2 chart and website which you can check out here:

Fremont John called to discuss amateur astronomy with our guest.  He talked about sketching that which was being examined through the telescope eyepiece but with the move to photography, he wanted to know if astronomers still did sketching.  Don't miss their discussion on this topic.  John also asked if Jay did anything with the art of Chesley Bonestell.  The answer was no but he mentioned some excellent work regarding the recent Neowise comet.  The subject of the solar corona came up plus the next solar eclipse on Dec. 14, 2020.  Our guest has plans to go to Argentina or Chile but may not be able to do so due to the pandemic.  We then talked about observing the eclipse from a plane such as SOFIA.  Be sure to hear what Jay said about eclipse observing from a plane platform.

Another listener email that caught my attention came from Jeff wanting to know the innovation and new information update interval for astronomy given he noted five editions to Jay's astronomy text book "The Cosmos."  Don't miss what Jay said was the innovation and new discovery rate of change for Astronomy.  You might be surprised by what he had to say.

Our final listener email came in from Kim in Mexico.  Kim wanted to know how the Babylonians used math for their celestial predictions.  Don't miss what Jay said in response to Kim's question. Jay also referenced Stonehenge in his response along with Galileo and his famous sunspot work.  Jay was asked about observing solar eclipses, even by balloon.  Jay mentioned his solar eclipse trips for tourists.  If you want info on that, email him at the address he gave out as the program was ending.  Before the conversation ended with Kim, she mentioned a painting she had seen in Canada.  Jay said he did think he was familiar with it so Kim was sending it to him.  She also copied and posted it on the blog.  Make sure you see her blog post with a photo of the painting.  Amazing!  So glad Kim called and mentioned this excellent painting and that she posted it on the blog for us all to enjoy and appreciate.  Special thanks to Kim for doing this.  Before ending the discussion, Jay provided us with a short summary, talked some more about viewing solar eclipses and his hoping to be able to visit the one coming up in December of this year. 

Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this program.  You can reach Dr. Jay Pasachoff through me, his above website or his faculty pate at Williams College located in Williamstown, MA.




Astronomy and Art - see links posted on the blog

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18 Oct 2020 Dr. Jay Pasachoff
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