Time Will Stop for a Second

Time will stop in the night of June 30 and July 1, but don’t worry: It will only be for a second. Researchers will add a sliver of time—a leap second—to the world’s clocks. Just as leap years keep our calendars lined up with Earth’s revolution around the sun, leap seconds adjust for Earth’s rotation. This kind of fine-tuning wasn’t much of an issue before the invention of atomic clocks, whose ticks are defined by the cycling of atoms. Cesium-based clocks, one kind of atomic clock, measure the passage of time much more precisely than those based on the rotation of our planet, so adding a leap second allows astronomical time to catch up to atomic time. With the leap second on June 30, coordinated universal time (UTC) will move from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60, and then to 00:00:00 on July 1. Most of us won’t notice the addition unless we deal in timescales shorter than a second, or if we use a computer program that crashes because it can’t handle the leap second. The last leap second was added at 23:59:60 UTC on June 30, 2012. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service continuously monitors our planet and will recommend adding leap seconds to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU makes the ultimate decision on whether to add a leap second or not. The last leap second was added in 2012, but in the early 1980s, time scientists […]

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Makar Sankranti Is Not Uttarayana

We celebrate January 14th as Makar Sankranti — the day on which the sun begins to rise in the Makara Rashi (Zodiac Capricorn), Sankranti meaning entering. There is a common misconception that Makara Sankranti is the Uttarayana (winter solstice). From time immemorial, the days on which the sun touches its northernmost and southernmost points are noted. These are called solstices — winter or summer. In Sanskrit, the journey southwards is called Dakshinayana, and the one northward is called Uttarayana, ‘dakshin’ and ‘uttar’ being south and north respectively. The winter solstice falls on December 21st, and hence Uttarayana begins on that day, while the summer solstice falls on June 21st, when Dakshinayana begins. While the exact day on which the winter or summer solstice occurs remains steady (within one day error), there is a slight change in the way the Earth’s rotation axis is aligned to the sun. Due to axial precession of the earth, the date of Makar Sankranti is shifting away from the actual season. In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body’s rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation. Every year equinoxes slide by 50 seconds i.e. approximately 1 day in every 70 years due to precession of equinoxes, causing Makara Sankranti to slide further. As a result if Makar Sankranti is considered as Uttarayana then as it is […]

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Winter Solstice Doesn’t Mean Early Sunrise From Next Day

Today, the northern hemisphere is experiencing the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice marks the shortest daylight period, but it’s not the day of the latest sunrise or earliest sunset. In the mid-latitudes the earliest sunset occurs in early December, while the latest sunrise is not until early January. This misalignment occurs because of a discrepancy between “clock time” (which is based on 24 hours), and “solar time” (the time it takes for the sun to appear in the same position in the sky from one day to the next). In fact, it is 24 hours only four times a year, and never in December. It is at its shortest around 23 hours 59 minutes and 30 seconds, in early September, and at its longest around 24 hours 30 seconds in December. The Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees, and the Earth’s speed varies because it moves in an elliptical orbit around the sun, accelerating when it is closer to the sun’s gravitational pull and decelerating when it is further away. The sun therefore in effect lags behind the clock for part of the year, then speeds ahead of it for another. In December, these two factors combine in such a way that our days are actually a few seconds longer than 24 hours – as seen by the amount of time it takes to cross our local meridian (longitude) from one day to the next. In effect, this cumulative shifting pushes the […]

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Supermoon 2014

Today’s Sunday night is lit up by a supermoon. The moon tonight is closer to the earth that it has been in over 20 years, 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. The reason is because the moon is at lunar perigee.  This means the moon is about 30,000 miles closer to the Earth than normal. The August supermoon was the closest of all supermoons this year.  The moon will not be this close again until the full moon on 28 September 2015. The scientific name for a “supermoon” is a perigee moon, perigee meaning “closest point to earth”. It refers to the phenomenon when the moon is in its “full moon” stage, and at its closest point to earth during its yearly orbit. With the moon being closer, it appears far bigger and far brighter. This Sunday’s supermoon is estimated to be over 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. The moon was closest to the earth at 9:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m. UTC) and was 356,896 km away. The supermoon on Sunday was the second in a trio of supermoons this summer, with one having happened on 12 July and the next one due to appear on 9 September. To have three in such close proximity is very rare and it is not expected that this will happen again until 2034. In general, supermoons occur on average every 13 months. Today is Rakhi Purnima. I wish everyone Happy Raksha […]

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A Mountain Named Mt. Sinha

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The United States has named a mountain in Antarctica in honour of an eminent Indian-American scientist Akhouri Sinha, adjunct professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota, whose pioneering biological research expedition during 1971-72 has provided critical data about animal populations. Sinha was a member of a team that catalogued population studies of […]

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Temi Tea Garden

We planned to visit Char Dham in Namchi. We left the hotel early after having our breakfast. The road to Namchi from Gangtok is via Temi Bazar. The road cuts from the National Highway at Singhtam. The scenic beauty is excellent on the sides of the road. Temi is famous for its internationally renowned tea, which is sold under the name Temi tea. We stopped at the garden, which is about 60 kms from Gangtok. One can savour the breathtaking view of temi tea garden from the road. It’s one and the only tea estate in Sikkim, which produces top quality tea in the international market. Temi tea garden is considered one of the best in India and in the world. The garden is laid over a gradually sloping hill. The tea produced in this garden is also partly marketed under the trade name “Temi Tea”. There’s a restaurant selling hot momos and tea. Momo is a type of dumpling native to Nepal, and in some communities in Tibet, Bhutan. We enjoyed the lovely tea with hot momos and fale. Fale (falay) is another Himalayan cuisine but not as popular as momo. Fale is Tibetan style puff pastry filled with minced goat/lamb meat. Then we drove towards Namchi.

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Banjhakri Waterfalls

Banjhakri waterfalls is a popular tourist spot near Gangtok in Sikkim. We decided today to visit Bankjhakri waterfalls with him due to its proximity to the city of Gangtok. It’s around 4 km from Gangtok. The falls is set amidst dense greenery and the theme park itself is littered with ethnic sculptures and figurines of the Jhakri culture. We visited Gangtok for a couple of days with Jaya’s father. He wanted to see the institute of Babai and the place too. We reached Gangtok yesterday. The waterfall roars down from a height of say 70 feet. Enough facilities have been provided for the tourists to go closer to the waterfall. The word ‘Banjhakri’ means a forest shaman. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. These shamanistic practices are depicted via the figurines in this theme park. Some of these depict rituals, some healing ceremonies and others the initiation process in the life of a shaman. Sikkimese style bridges have been built over the water streams and that lead to small view points from where one can get great shots of the waterfall. Baba couldn’t walk up the stairs to reach the waterfall area, so he sat near the stairs leading to the waterfall and was watching some local boys catching fish in […]

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Tsomgo (Changu) Lake

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Jaya & I visited our son Babai for three days. On Monday, March 17 we decided to visit Tsomgo Lake and hired a cab through hotel. We asked the hotel on Saturday to arrange for the trip and the inner line permit needed to visit there. Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 […]

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Rain Holiday in Baghdad

For the last few days, we were having some rains in Baghdad. The city witnessed torrential rains yesterday. It's rainy day today A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on Nov 10, 2013 at 5:47am PST Torrential rains are quite uncommon in Baghdad. There were a few such occasions last year too. The city is not equipped to handle torrential rains and there were water-logging in many areas. The water on the roads made street movement difficult. Last night, it was declared a public holiday in Baghdad due to heavy rains in the city causing a lot of inconvenience to the general public. In India we are used to heavy rains during monsoons and cyclones. So, we don’t get any such public holiday because of rains. We have to manage through the flooded streets and traffic blockades there. As the holiday is declared for Baghdad only, all our branches elsewhere are open. Therefore,  Ibrahim and Mustafa came to office today for providing support to non-Baghdad branches. I also walked down to office for some time during the day. Sometimes I feel great to be in Iraq as I can have the luxury of enjoying rain holidays.

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