Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, November 1, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:3



Mountain Views-News Saturday, November 1, 2014 


Astronomers have observed the expanding 
thermonuclear fireball from a “nova” that erupted 
last year in the constellation Delphinus. The 
observations produced the first images of a nova 
during the early fireball stage and revealed how 
the structure of the ejected material evolves as 
the gas expands and cools. The results of these 
observations, carried out by a collaboration of 37 
researchers from 17 institutions and led by Georgia 
State astronomer Gail Schaefer, are published in 
the current issue of Nature.

 A nova occurs following the buildup of a 
thin layer of hydrogen on the surface of a white 
dwarf—a highly evolved star with the diameter of 
the Earth and the mass of the Sun. The hydrogen is 
provided by a close companion, which is a normal 
star, in a binary star system where the two stars 
orbit about their center of mass. 

 As shown in the accompanying artist’s concept, 
the normal star sheds a small amount of its mass 
through a stream onto the white dwarf’s surface 
that gradually builds up a hydrogen “ocean.” 
When that ocean is about 650 feet deep, the 
enormous surface gravity of the white dwarf 
produces pressures at the bottom of the hydrogen 
layer sufficient to trigger thermonuclear fusion—
essentially a stellar H-bomb.

 In a typical nova, the light from the explosion 
will significantly exceed the star’s normal 
brightness and the object may suddenly appear to 
the naked eye in a location not previously noted 
to have a bright star. Over ensuing weeks, the star 
slowly fades as the fireball expands, cools and 
dissipates. Surprisingly, this seeming cataclysm on 
the white dwarf’s surface has no real effect on the 
star or its companion, and the flow of material will 
resume so that the detonation will likely repeat at 
a future date.

 Because these objects are generally very faint 
until the explosion occurs, they do not appear on 
classical star maps. Instead, a “new” star suddenly 
appears where there was none before. The famous 
16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe 
described this sudden appearance of a star in his 
1572 book De Stella Nova, and the Latin “nova” for 
“new” became attached to this phenomenon.

 On August 14, 2013, the Japanese amateur 
astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered a “new” 
star that was promptly named Nova Delphinus 
2013. Within 15 hours of the discovery and within 
24 hours of the actual explosion, astronomers 
at Georgia State University’s Center for High 
Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) 
pointed the telescopes of the CHARA Array, 
located on the grounds of historic Mount Wilson 
Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of 
Southern California, toward Nova Del 2013 in 
order to image the fireball and measure its size 
and shape. The size of the nova was measured on a 
total 27 nights over the course of two months; the 
first measurement represents the earliest size yet 
obtained for a nova event.

 The CHARA facility uses the principles of 
optical interferometry to combine the light from 
six telescopes to create images with very high 
resolution, equivalent to that of a telescope with 
a diameter of 1,000 feet. This makes it capable of 
seeing details far smaller in angular extent than 
traditional telescopes on the ground or in space. 
It has the power to resolve the size of a U.S. nickel 
on the top of the Eiffel tower in Paris from the 
distance of Los Angeles, California.


 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@ 

Artist’s conception of a nova with a stream of matter being drawn from the donor star (right) to the compact white dwarf (left). © David A. Hardy /


Our lawmakers, 
in their infinite 
continue to 
tinker with time. 
the clocks and 
we can trick 
the people into 
saving energy. 
And twice a 
year, Sierra 
Madre residents are all subject to the changes and 
inconveniences that occur as a result of the springing 
forward or falling back. We have to quickly adjust. 
It is part of our annual ritual, our relic from the past, 
where we go back to standard time from daylight 
savings time. And now we are expected to extend 
this “better” time a few more weeks.

 But are there real and tangible benefits from doing 
this? Must we continue to do so?

 Daylight savings time is a manipulation of the 
basic solar time within each time zone’s standard. It 
was said to be an idea of Benjamin Franklin, and was 
begun in the United States during world wars one 
and two, and eventually became “official” in all but 
two states. That right! At least two states have said 
“No, thanks, we’ll stick to standard time.”

 Indeed, daylight savings time is like a quaint 
tradition of a bygone era that refuses to die. It is a 
pointless habit with little recognizable merit. Michael 
Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual 
Madness of Daylight Savings Time,” demonstrates 
that the clock-change saves energy in theory only, but 
not in practice.

 David Letterman once asked the question to 
his audience during his monologue: “Why do we 
practice daylight savings time? It’s so the farmers 
have more light,” he laughed, answering his own 
question. “But how does that give the plants more 
light?” That’s a Letterman joke for you, but there 
is a truth hidden under his humor. Most people 
queried on the street don’t know why we have 
daylight savings time, and fewer still experience 
any tangible benefits from it.

There are two often-cited reasons for the use of 
daylight savings time. One is so that the children can 
have more light going to school in the morning. But 
consider: the children have an hour more of morning 
light in late October, when the clock is set back (“fall 
back”) to standard time. That is, it is the very use of 
daylight savings time which creates a darker morning 
as the days get shorter and shorter. The “falling back” 
an hour merely puts us back in sync with the local 
time zone. It is the use of daylight savings time that 
created the problem of less light in the morning, and 
only in that sense can you say that the “falling back” 
to regular time gives children that extra hour of light. 
In other words, this is a problem caused by daylight 
savings time. This is not a bonafide benefit from 
daylight savings time.

 My grandfather, and all my uncles on my mother’s 
side were farmers. I have some knowledge of the 
schedule of farmers. There is not one that I know 
who does not arise at the crack of dawn, if not sooner. 
There is no other way to function as a farmer. You 
then proceed to work as long as needed, and as long as 
you are able, daylight savings time or standard time. 
The manipulation of clocks in no way affected how 
much work they got done, or not done. 

 I have talked to many people about daylight savings 
time. Some like it, some do not. Some are annoyed 
by it, some find the long afternoons of summer very 
enjoyable. Everyone has arrived late (or early) on 
the first Sunday (even Monday in some cases) after 
the changing of the clocks. Daylight savings time 
thus gives millions of people a quasi-valid excuse for 
lateness at least once a year.

Let’s end daylight savings time entirely and adopt a 
year-round standard time.

 Those who wish to start school or go to work 
earlier can do so! Such voluntary time alterations 
are fine if those individuals and businesses choose to 
do so. It may even make the freeways less crowded at 
rush hours. But keep the standard time year-round.

Yes, this is a small thing in the context of a world at 
war, with hate and suspicion in all political camps, 
and endless economic hardships all over the world. 
In that big-picture sense, this is just a little issue. But 
this is still an issue that should be resolved, and dealt 

 Since daylight savings time is a state-by-state 
decision, we can begin with California. Write to 
Governor Brown and ask him to implement year-
round standard time. You can write to Brown at 
Office of the Governor, State Capitol, Sacramento, 
CA 95814, or phone at 916) 445-2841, or on-line at

 Take a poll of your friends and acquaintances 
before you write to the Governor. See if you can find 
anyone who derives tangible benefits from daylight 
savings time. Secondly, there is always the initiative 
process where a Proposition can be put on the ballot 
to be voted on by the people. This is a process that 
would take an organized effort and cost at least a 
million dollars, and probably more.


[Christopher Nyerges writes a regular blog at www., posts regular YouTube 
videos, and has led outdoor trips since 1974. He is 
the author of How to Survive Anywhere, Extreme 
Simplicity, Foraging California and other books. He 
can also be reached via School of Self-Reliance, Box 
41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]