Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 22, 2015

MVNews this week:  Page 14



 Mountain Views News Saturday, August 22, 2015 


Using a powerful new imaging device, 
astronomers have espied a Jupiter-like exoplanet 
100 light-years distant in the constellation of 
Eridanus. Unlike most planets found around 
other stars, 51 Eri b has been seen directly. The 
instrument employed to make the discovery 
has also made a spectroscopic analysis of the 
light reflected from the planet, and has detected 
gases similar to those in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

 “This is the first exoplanet discovered with 
the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), one of the new 
generation instruments designed specifically for 
discovering and analyzing faint, young planets 
orbiting bright stars,” says Franck Marchis, 
Senior Planetary Astronomer at the SETI 
Institute and member of the team that built the 
instrument and now conducts the survey. “GPI 
is far more sensitive than its predecessors. In 
fact, the 51 Eri system had been observed by 
four previous-generation instruments that all 
missed the planet completely.”

 The host star, 51 Eri, is very young, a mere 
20 million years old, and is slightly hotter than 
the Sun. The exoplanet 51 Eri b, whose mass is 
estimated to be roughly twice that of Jupiter, 
appears to orbit its host star at a distance 13 
times greater than the Earth-Sun distance. If 
placed in our own solar system, 51 Eri b’s orbit 
would lie between those of Saturn and Neptune.

 “51 Eri has everything we’re looking for in a 
target star,” notes Eric Nielsen, a postdoctoral 
fellow at the SETI Institute. “It’s relatively close 
and young. Indeed, the last dinosaur died 40 
million years before this star was even born.”

 Because GPI not only images exoplanets but 
also spreads their light for chemical analysis, 
astronomers can search for such common gases 
as water and methane in their atmospheres. 
Researchers had expected to see methane 
in directly-imaged exoplanets based on the 
temperature and chemistry of these worlds, but 
had failed to detect these molecules in large 
quantities using earlier instruments. However, 
the observations of 51 Eri b made with GPI 
have clearly revealed a methane-dominated 
atmosphere similar to that of Jupiter.

 An extraordinarily complex instrument the 
size of a small car, GPI is attached to one of the 
world’s biggest telescopes—the 8-meter Gemini 
South instrument in Chile. It began its survey of 
stars last year.

 “This is exactly the kind of planet we 
envisioned discovering when we designed GPI,” 
says James Graham, a professor at the University 
of California, Berkeley and Project Scientist for 

 Astronomers anticipate that 51 Eri b will be a 
benchmark for future atmospheric studies that 
seek to understand how planet formation in 
these extrasolar systems might be similar to the 
birth of the gas giants in our own system.

 “Any planetary astronomer that inspects our 
data will conclude without the need of complex 
computer modeling that this is indeed a planet 
like our own Jupiter. We have found its first 
distant and younger cousin,” said Marchis.

 “51 Eri b is the first one that’s cold enough 
and close enough to the star that it could have 
indeed formed the same way Jupiter did,” 
adds Bruce Macintosh, who spearheaded the 
construction of GPI and now heads up the 
survey. “This whole planetary system could be a 
lot like ours.”

You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@



A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder

By Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of the 
newly-released “Nuts and Berries 
of California,” and other books. 
He leads regular ethnobotanical 
workshops and field trips. He 
can be reached at Box 41834, 
Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.] 

 Though generally regarded as a desert plant, the 
prickly pear cactus is actually rather widespread. Perhaps 
the only area where you won’t find it is in the higher 
elevations where it could not survive prolonged periods 
of cold or snow. It can be found on the cliffs overlooking 
the beaches, in chaparral, in the urban backyards, in the 
interface between the urban sprawl and the wilderness. It’s 
a survivor and you can find it where you least expect it. 

 The prickly pear cactus is perhaps one of the most 
widespread of the cacti, and easy to recognize. 
The pads are covered with spines as they mature, and at 
the base of each spine is a cluster of tiny glochids, which 
tend to be more miserable than the spines when they get 
into your mouth and tongue and lips. As you become 
more familiar with the many Opuntias, you’ll see that 
some of the pads are less spiny than others, and therefore 
easier to collect, clean, and work with. 

 The Opuntias flower in the spring, and then the oval 
fruits develop. They fruits are first green, and then, 
depending on the species, the fruits mature green, yellow, 
orange, red, and purple. The peak of fruit ripening is 
generally September. They each have their own unique 
flavor and if you are a connoisseur of subtle flavor, you 
can use thesse different cactus fruits in different recipes to 
great advantage. My preference is the large yellow fruit, 
and the very tasty orange fruits. 

 To collect the fruit, I bring sturdy plastic tubs, dish 
washing gloves which extend as close to the elbows as 
possible, and long metal salad tongs. Sometimes I also 
carry a long knife. 

 In some of the thickets where I collect, I have had to 
make paths into the cactus so I can move and collect 
without bumping into millions of spines. 

 When I begin to collect, I put on my gloves and then 
pick each fruit by grabbing it with the tongs, and then 
gently twisting it to remove it from the pad. Then I 
carefully place it into my plastic tub. I do this until I have 
nearly a full tub. I put the fruits in carefully so they are not 
all mushed up and impossible to clean when I get home.


 At home, I turn each fruit a few times over a flame on 
the stove and then put them into the sink where I will rinse 
each fruit and gently brush with a mushroom brush. Once 
I am certain they are all cleaned, I cut each fruit in half, 
and scoop out the inside fruit, which readily separates (in 
most cases) from the skin. If I am not going to use these 
right away, I freeze them. 

 Usually, whether I am going to freeze or use right away, 
I will put the fruits into a blender and blend it all into a 
slurry. I pour the slurry through a sieve which separates 
out all the seed. I will freeze the slurry in small yogurt 
containers or even plastic bags. I found that when I used 
to freeze in bulk in larger containers, I had to thaw out 
more than I often wanted for one recipe. It’s much easier 
to freeze in smaller containers. In fact, one small yogurt 
container of nothing more than frozen cactus slurry 
makes an excellent snack on a summer afternoon. 

The cactus slurry can be mixed 50/50 with water for a 
delicious drink. You could make jams, jellies, pies, and 
various desert items with the cactus pulp. 

 My wife Dolores used to make a delicious pie with cactus 
by mixing the de-seeded fruit with tofu and perhaps some 
yogurt. This was blended to make a pie filling, which she 
poured into a whole wheat pastry shell. These cactus pies 
were better than anything we ever purchased at a store or 
restaurant, and were always a hit at our wild food classes. 
Unfortunately, I have never been able to duplicate her 
recipe. Some have come close, but there was something 
she did that made it “just so.” (Unfortunately, Dolores 
passed away in 2008 and took her secret with her!). 

 Eating prickly pear has long been regarded as a folk 
medicine way to deal with diabetes. Now, modern 
medicine has confirmed that eating the prickly pear 
cactus pads (or making juice of them) can help those who 
suffer from diabetes. (For additional scientific data, see 
“Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine” by Ran Knishinsky. This 
book provides the scientific evidence that prickly pear 
cactus fruits and pads are useful for treating diabetess, 
cholesterol, and the immune system.) 

 According to my teacher and mentor, Dr. Leonid 
Enari, the entire Cactus Family is a very safe family for 
consumption. He would quickly add that some are much 
too woody for food. A very few are extremely bitter – even 
after boiling -- and you’d not even consider using them for 

 If you choose to experiment, just remember that 
palatability is the key. Don’t eat any that are too woody, 
and any that are extremely bitter. Any that have a white 
sap when cut are not cacti, but look-alike members of the 
Euphorbia group. 

 Occasionally, people have experienced sickness after 
eating certain varieties. In some cases, this is due to a 
negative reaction to the mucilaginous quality. There may 
be other chemical reasons as well. So despite this being 
a very commonly used food historically for millennia, 
we suggest you start with very little and monitor your 


I cannot tell you how many times the Gracious 
Mistress of the Parsonage has explained the 
difference between things to remember and 
things to be forgotten. Without boasting, I 
believe I could give the lecture back to her 
word for word.

 I know some things are better put into 
that black abyss called forgetfulness, to be 
remembered no more, not even when they 
would help win an argument. According 
to my wife, forgetting some things is more 
important than winning an argument. Not 
that I would know. I never win an argument.

Also, certain things, which, if forgotten, will 
bring great stress, particularly to Yours Truly.

 I could not agree with her point of view 
more. I know some things should be forgotten 
while other things should be remembered. 
After all, it only makes sense. Nobody should 
forget everything and certainly, nobody 
could remember everything. It would simply 
be impossible. Anybody in his or her right 
mind should know this. This gives me an out. 
I cannot remember when I have ever been in 
my right mind. So, you know what is left.

 Here is my problema. I know some things 
are to be remembered, other things are to be 
forgotten, but for the life of me, I do not know 
which ones are which. What do I forget and 
what do I remember?

 For example, my wife wants me to 
remember her birthday, but forget how old 
she is. I cannot tell you how many times I have 
reversed this situation. I am prone to forget 
her birthday, but remember how old she is. 
In fact, there are those rare moments when 
I have added a few years to her age. If you do 
not think this has gotten me into trouble, you 
have not done any serious thinking in a long 

 I know the birthdays come every year, but 
in spite of their predictable regularity, I seem 
somehow to forget.

 I learned an important lesson in life. It is 
one thing to forget a birthday, but it is quite 
another animal to forget your wedding 
anniversary. However, here is the rub. Unlike 
birthdays, not only am I to remember the 
date, but the number of the anniversary, as 

 Even though my wife and I share the same 
wedding anniversary, I forget to remember 
the date.

 I have used a variety of excuses to cover up 
for this mental delinquency on my part.

The first year I forgot our wedding 
anniversary I come up with a classy excuse, 
“My dear, you do not look a year older and so 
I forgot. How am I to remember time goes by 
when with you, time stands still?”

This worked the first year, but it has not 
worked since. Not that I have not tried, 
believe me.

 Another excuse I tried that did not work 
out very well was, “Honey, I deliberately 
forgot our anniversary because I did not want 
to remind you how old we really are.”

I thought if I included myself in the age 
category I could get away with it. Let me just 
say, it did not work.

 One year, I bought my wife her anniversary 
present in June. However, I had forgotten all 
about it and just happened to run across it one 
Saturday in October. Since our anniversary is 
in August, this did not help me at all.

 This year we are celebrating our 44th 
wedding anniversary. It is a little confusing 
to me because if it is the 44th anniversary 
my wife was five when we got married. It is 
amazing to me how her birthday does not 
keep up with our anniversary. I think I have 
figured it out. For every three anniversaries, 
she gains only one year on her birthday. How 
else can I explain it?

 I still have a problem, though. Now that I 
remembered our anniversary this year, what 
do I buy her for a present? After 44 years, I 
have simply run out of ideas. Actually, I 
ran out of ideas after the 10th anniversary. 
What do you get someone for his or her 44th 
anniversary present?

 To remember our anniversary and to 
forget to buy a present is the greatest faux pas 
any husband can make.

I wanted to get a cake with candles, but the 
fire department considers it a fire hazard. 
Of course, everybody knows that kind 
of candlepower really adds to the global 
warming effect.

 It is times like this I wish I had written 
down all the anniversary gifts I have given 
over the last 44 years. Perhaps I could see a 
pattern developing and just follow through 
with the pattern.

 My concern is if I buy her something 
expensive, she might become suspicious and 
wonder what I did that I do not want her 
to know about. If I buy something rather 
cheap, she may suspect that I do not take the 
anniversary seriously.

 I think I have come up with an answer. 
Since my wife is into crafts, I decided to make 
her anniversary gift myself this year. I must 
confess, I am not as crafty as she is — on a 
multitude of levels, but then as she always 
says, “It’s the thought that counts.”

 Then I turned to the Bible and read, 
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good 
thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” 
(Proverbs 18:22).

 Every great marriage is based upon 
forgetting and remembering the right things.

 Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family 
of God Fellowship, PO Box 831313, Ocala, FL 
34483. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver 
Springs Shores. Call him at 1-866-552-2543 or 
e-mail or website www.