We are about to watch a rare science spectacle in Australia tomorrow night. This moon can be seen in other parts of the world, but we get the best seat.
A total lunar eclipse will occur on Wednesday, January 31, and it’s also being called many other lunar things, from a Blood Moon to a Blue Moon and a Super Moon.
So what is really going to happen tomorrow night? Here is a good guide to the eclipse from The Conversation.
This is the first time in three years that we have the chance to see a total lunar eclipse from Australia, and the Moon will spend just over three hours passing through Earth’s shadow.
Last year, on August 21, there were a lot of excitement and media coverage of the solar eclipse across America.
The continent-spanning wave of instruments from home-made pinhole cameras to the most sophisticated telescopes followed the eclipse across the U.S.A.
We also had two super moons so far in a close space of a year. The total lunar eclipse – and third supermoon. A note here as well that there won’ be any full moon in February – but we have two in January. Moon’s appearances are interpreted by many cultures in different ways, and the moon also affects festivity seasons, food harvests and traditional rituals.
I haven’t photographed with my macro lens in a long while, but tonight I was surprised by this macro praying mantis when I tried to make myself a cup of tea. It sat there on my water jug which had not been boiled yet. A closer look; Max as we shall name him or her, is adorned like a gorgeous African queen with matching coloured skirt to her large stud earrings. This little brown insect is not more than ten centimetres long without its wings.
It was very still when I took the photos, but because a hungry gecko was nearby, I lifted it away from the jug and placed him high in the ceiling. That’s all I could do. Praying mantis were part of my early life when I spent hours in the bush and gardens with my grandma. We have a song which we sing when we see one, and it actually makes them dance. I didn’t try the song tonight or make Max dance, but I tried to save Max, knowing Max had too many predators around.
Fun Fact from National Geographic:
The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long “neck,” or elongated thorax.
The Tasmanian Oak, is a robust, proud and resilient tree.
Years of wisdom engrained; it stood tall amongst trees of heights and sizes. Fibres of complexity, the oak tree held gave it presence.
Guarding at a gateway, the oak remained alert at all times.
When it stormed, travellers sought refuge under its wide, branched embrace where other travellers often stop. But they all braved the gateway – seeking better life. Many stories were told and left behind, under the oak.
While the tree was secretive, and always remained in silence, the Tasmanian Oak absorbed and collected these stories, one at a time for many years and became a tree of knowledge. The stories were; wisdom of great learned, adventures and lives torn, and tried and forgotten escapades. Some of these stories were of sad and glum kismet. Then one day, it stormed far away. The rains brought an unusual traveller, an exotic wild orchid. Delicate in nature, soft in physique and with light form, the orchid floated by the gateway in the rough tide. Brief glimpses and words were exchanged between the Tasmanian Oak and the orchid.
After the orchid’s journey far beyond the seas, tides changed and
once more, the gateway passage became a meeting place for the tree and the orchid. This time, the orchid floated too close and was caught by the root of the oak tree.
Days went by and the orchid clung on for safety, and unable to free itself, it grew roots. The oak remained tall, aloof and on watch and unaware of the life growing at its ‘feet’.
The orchid grew beyond the gateway canopy and above the shadows. It loved its new place and wanted to say thank you to the oak tree. Where the sun rays played and the birds greeted each other warmly the orchid grew into the Oak’s hollow. This place was warm and dry. As days turned to weeks, the orchid felt warm and safe and finally where the oak tree felt the softest, the orchid budded and flowered. In gratitude, the orchid continued to offer the the tree with its beautiful offerings of bloom, one season after another.
At first the Tasmanian Oak was intrigued and enthralled by the beauty of the orchid’s flowers. It felt proud that it could provide a safe haven for the orchid. More days slipped into weeks and months.
The Tasmanian Oak once more became fully engaged with the travellers and their stories. With all effort, the orchid rooted in the tough stringy bark and climbed higher and held on with all its might. It tried to grow new shoots after the flowering but the bark became harder to get close and grow into. The oak tree could not see the orchid anymore as its branches also grew and eventually covered the sunlight and stopped rain water from falling through.
One day, the winds blew and became very strong. It grew into a big storm. It shook both the orchid and the tree. With its delicate nature and roots not planted well enough into the Oak’s bark, it was too hard for the orchid to hang on. The orchid tried to grab onto the bark, branches and even the roots of the Oak tree, when it fell, but the winds were too strong. Once the winds ripped and threw the orchid back into the rough tides, torrents quickly tumbled and washed the orchid away from the tree. And once more, the orchid was swept out into the open seas leaving the Tasmanian Oak, at the gateway.
Nature’s beauty is its simple mystery. How can a Heliconia Sexy Pink as they call it, get from the colours in the picture above to the colours in the image below when it is aging? I don’t know, but I really like the contrast. I took these pictures in my mother’s garden in Lae, Papua New Guinea. They were taken from the same bush before my mother pruned the ginger plant. The kurakum (pidgin word for red ants) really appreciate the aging flower. That is another mystery.
A life of contentment in the rainforest. The Korowai People of West Papua in Melanesia.
Living in the trees is natural for the Korowai and Kombai people in the southern eastern Papua. These tribal Melanesians are one of the last people on the planet who survive purely on their natural environment. The Korowai’s are also referred to as the Kolufo and have become known to the world through pictures and documentaries as one of the most amazing architects of tree houses.
The tree house builders survive in the basin of the Brazzan River in large areas of deep rainforest and swampy lowland. They are hunter-gatherers and horticulturists who practice shift-cultivation and have a very rich and an extraordinary oral tradition. They live together in small communities.
The higher they built a house, the more prestigious it is. The reason behind this amazing architecture which often reaches up to 100 feet or more off the ground is to avoid floods, insects and diseases. It was also a way to spot tribal enemies as the Korowai themselves had practiced cannibalism in the past.
The Korowai people build their houses high above the forest floor, and deep in the swampy lowland jungles of Papua.
In the BBC documentary below, you can watch from start to finish, how a Korowai tree house is built.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to the world’s largest butterfly – the “Ornithoptera alexandrae” or Queen Alexandra birdwing. Its wingspan can grow to 25cm. Queen Alexandra only breeds and lives in the Managalas Plateau in Eastern PNG or Oro Province. The butterfly numbers are unknown, and its habitat is increasingly disappearing. There are also concerns that the number of the large butterflies are depleting.
The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is on the red list of threatened species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its international trade is banned. From the perspective of species conservationists, the butterfly satisfies all of the criteria to make it a critically endangered species.
Walter Rothschild discovered the species in 1907 and named it after Alexandra of Denmark. The first European to discover the butterfly was one of Rothschild’s employee, Albert Stewart Meek during their expedition to Papua New Guinea.
Unusual Reproductive Biology
The threatened butterfly is vulnerable because of its unusual reproductive biology. The female lays its eggs exclusively on a poisonous vine called Aristolochia. Once the caterpillars have hatched, they ingest the plant’s toxic leaves, making them unpalatable for potential predators.
The Aristolochia winds its way up into the crowns of jungle trees, which can grow to heights of up to 40 meters (131 feet). The butterfly would be lost without the vine, so propagating the Aristolochia is one of the main goals of conservationists.
Mathilde Roussel is a French artist. Based in Paris, Roussel works in various materials for her sculptures but one of her most remembered work is the Living Grass. This collection shows the transformation of soil wheat and seeds, fabric and recycled material to show the effects of transformation of material as a metaphor of the human body. After installation, the figures transform over the period of exhibition showing. Time sculpts the forms, makes them change and then decay.
For more of the grass sculptures. The artist’s statement can be read here
One of the blessings of our home is we live amongst the Queensland wildlife. Three months ago I counted three Squatter pigeons in the low branches of the Brazilian Cherry, a hardy evergreen fruit tree outside our house in Bellbowrie. We have several rows of the trees to give shade and provide privacy. The pigeons were a new addition to the varied birdlife on our property. Two of these birds were small parcels of light brown, white and grey feathers. The third bird had black, white and grey feathers. They had dainty little, pale, pink feet which seemed odd for their size. I thought these three may have been a family. I was not sure. The birds were extremely shy, and they took their walks in my garden when they thought no-one was home. I watched them from the large windows of our old semi-modern Queenslander. Most of their time was spent in the thick growth of the Brazilian Cherry trees, in the back part of our property. Occasionally, when returning home from work or the shop, the pigeons were at the front of the property. They would try to run as fast as their little feet carried them, across the driveway, before they lifted into the Wattle trees on the driveway. I preferred to stop metres away to let them cross the driveway gently on foot, but sometimes if I did not see them first, and disturbed them, they would run for a few metres and fly into the low branches. Their feet never seemed to be much use.
Three weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening about 6:45pm, I saw a blue station wagon stopped in the middle of the road with its high beam on. The car was on our street, near my gate, and a middle-aged caucasian woman waved at me. I thought she had car-trouble and I slowed. As I approached, I also noticed ‘him’ crossing the road casually. Using its beautifully patterned full body length in a sleepy manner, the young male python slowly took up a third of the width of the road as its slithering trunk headed towards the nearby catchment.
“Hi!” the woman in the blue car called out and waved.
“Hi”, I said.
“I am letting him pass; he is one of the good guys”, the woman said, smiling. I nodded.
I knew the snake was crossing into the catchment to get to the main river. This pocket of land was full of wild life and un-farmed land. We let a two-metre Eastern Brown off into these woods and it had disappeared in seconds. The place was part of the Brisbane City Council’s declared gateway for wildlife. Sometimes it felt like having a small wild-life sanctuary in our front yard.
The woman in the blue car and I both waited in our cars, engines running, while we let the snake cross. When the snake had passed, I drove to my night class, turning up 15 minutes late. I made a joke about stopping at the ‘Python Crossing”.
After my class, I returned home and warned my family, we had another specie addition to the wild life. I wanted everyone to be extra careful with our chickens. We all had been through and scarred from The Duck War. Every night since the python crossed, the chickens were counted and locked in their pen safely.
This morning I noticed, two chicken eggs had gone missing from the nest I discovered the last week. Click Here. The slithering one that crossed the road three weeks ago, became my Number One suspect. But I did not want to alarm anyone in my family. I made a mental note to do some investigative work later.
After my day in the office, five hours ago, I returned home and parked the car. I walked around my gardens as I usually do after work. Everything looked good. Rain from the storm that wrecked Brisbane City homes a few days ago, had put some life back into my dying garden beds. The flowers and vegetables thrived. The poinciana tree was majestic with her red crown of flowers. All my frangipani trees were blooming in various shades of colour and the lawn started to green again. I crossed our front yard into a small section of the property, under the Brazilian Cherry trees where the pigeons lived. I had a few orchids and ferns in the tree branches and I was slowly creating a sitting place inside the treed spot by planting. I watered the rock orchid. My eyes caught two small, short, beautiful, black and white feathers lying in awkward positions. The feathers stood out amongst the dead ground cover. I took the next step and stopped. More feathers. Alarmed, I looked down and checked every inch of leaves and dead branches around my feet. My eyes went back to the pile of feathers, all shapes and sizes, scattered, yet familiar. In seconds, I recognised them. My heart sank. Most of the delicate light grey down feathers were caught in the small tree branches where moss, and the pale green lichen called Usnea grew. Some grey feathers hung off my golden-yellow orchid stems at the low branches. I felt sick and very teary at the same time. The bird must have put up a good fight to throw its feathers this far.
Tomorrow I hope, I will see two pigeons. The young python won’t be crossing to the river tonight. It knows, there is more food.
Dragonflies are loved by most humans. They are very fast, roam free, and live for a short time. They make the most of their lives; something we humans are not often known for. I absolutely love the insect myself. I have done numerous studies (as in art form) on dragonflies, and in the process of researching dragonflies, found a lot of interesting information about them. They are said to be lucky omens in some cultures. I wanted to share this story from Andrew Handley about dragonflies, although, his article implies the insect is monstrous. See the YouTube video for more insight into their habits.
That example did serve a purpose though—dragonflies are incredibly efficient at what they do, bringing in close to 95 percent of the prey they set out to capture. For comparison, sharks, one of nature’s fiercest predators, only manage to catch about half of the prey they hunt. Lions, the shark of the land, are lucky to get their claws on a quarter of their targets. See, even lions don’t calculate to intercept—they chase, zigzagging through the savanna in response to the movement of their prey. If dragonflies were large enough to eat gazelle, lions would be starved into extinction through sheer inefficiency.When a dragonfly sets its sights on a target, it will almost always end up with a meal.
The dynamics of capturing an object in mid-air are staggeringly complex, so much so that it’s usually something that’s only done by animals with complex nervous systems, like seagulls, or humans. To intercept something moving with its own velocity, you have to be able to predict where it will be in the future. When researchers began studying dragonflies in 1999, they found that rather than “track” their prey—follow it through the air until they caught up with it—they would actually intercept it. In other words, dragonflies ensure a kill by flying to where their prey is going to be. That indicates that dragonflies calculate three things during a hunt: the distance of their prey, the direction it’s moving, and the speed it’s flying. In the space of milliseconds, the dragonfly calculates its angle of approach and, like a horror movie monster, it’s already waiting while the hapless fly stumbles right into its clutches.
Read more from the link below: http://listverse.com/2013/04/18/10-surprisingly-brutal-facts-about-dragonflies/