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A Warm Spot on Cool Mornings and a Smaller than Typical Full Moon

By: Dr. John Smetanka
Posted Mon., December 3, 2012

Dupre Pavilion Fall Evening 

At the end of this month the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion will be totally completed. The fourth phase, which encompassed a renovation of the west building of the complex and a new observatory on the hill next to the tennis courts, will be finished for the beginning of the Spring semester in January. While the construction will finish soon, a number of surprises can continue to be discovered as you explore this award-winning building. For example, next time you walk through the pavilion, try to locate the newly installed plaque for our certification at the LEED Gold level.

Dupre Pavilion Multiple Suns 

The sub-freezing temperatures during the morning walks to class in the late Fall or early Spring semesters can be jarring. A pleasant surprise and another interesting feature of the Dupré Pavilion is created by the lower angle of the sun in the Southern sky during the late fall and early winter. This chance alignment produces a warm spot on the plaza each morning. Because of the curve of the south-facing atrium the sun can be reflected multiple times to one spot in front of the newest building on campus. Each of the frames of glass can catch the sun when it is low in the sky raising the temperature at a single spot on the plaza to a refreshing 70 or 80 degree Fahrenheit. As the sun moves through the sky so does the warm spot.  Right now that “magic” spot is in front of the arched entrance at about 9:45am – in time for the changes of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The picture above shows six reflected suns just outside the entrance last week. While the air temperature was about 40 degrees everywhere else, the multiple suns made that spot seem like a toasty tropical beach. Only at certain times will the sun be aligned and low enough on the horizon to have the entire atrium reflect the sun to one spot. We are at that time of year right now, so take a few moments to enjoy the warmth at a time when we need it the most.

Two Moons May and November 

Finally, I hope you had an opportunity to see the full moon last week. On Wednesday, November 28 the full moon was joined in the sky by the planet Jupiter just a few degrees to the upper left.  The largest planet, Jupiter, is the brightest star-like object in the evening sky right now, rising in the east as the sun sets.  What most casual observers did not realize was that November’s full moon was the smallest full moon of 2012. You might remember the publicity in May about the “Super Moon” – the largest full moon of 2012, in fact the largest in several years. This is caused by the elliptical (non-circular) orbit of the moon. Once every orbit the moon is closest to the earth while about 15 days later it will be farthest away. The difference is about a factor of 1/6th or about 17% in both distance from earth and in apparent size of the moon. Occasionally the full moon occurs when the moon is closest to the earth – this was the situation in May for the “Super Moon”. Last week’s full moon happened to coincide with the moon being furthest from the earth. This has been nicknamed the “Micro Moon”. I certainly didn’t notice much of a difference, but as the images of the full moons from May and November show, there was definitely a difference.
 

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Dr. John Smetanka,
Academic Affairs

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January, 2008.