Television à la carte

I don’t have much time for television. Seldom more than 2-3 hours per week, most or all of it on PBS Wisconsin. I usually watch Washington Week, Here and Now (Wisconsin news), and Amanpour & Company each Friday evening, and quite a few of the Nova episodes.

Once or twice most Friday and Saturday evenings, we’ll flip through the broadcast television channels we are able to receive from Madison some 39 miles to the east, and if we’re unusually lucky we’ll happen upon something worth watching. Usually not. And then there’s the damned commercials. I’m sure wherever you are you’ll find as I do that at any given moment, most of the television stations (except for PBS) are airing commercials. Ugh!

When we travel and stay at a motel, we often flip through the cable channels they offer, and once again seldom find anything worth watching (except, perhaps, for PBS and C-SPAN), even though there are dozens and dozens of channels. Here, too, at any given moment, most of the cable channels (except for PBS and C-SPAN) are airing commercials.

I have an aversion to advertising of any kind, and will go to great lengths to avoid watching anything that is interrupted by commercials during the program. Some of you might not be old enough to remember that when cable television first came out, a big selling point was that by abandoning free broadcast television and paying for cable TV, you could watch programs free of advertising. Well, we know how long that lasted. The number of commercials we have to endure has increased dramatically since the “golden age of television” in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

In my opinion, almost all of the television stations offered on both broadcast TV and cable are garbage. I have not subscribed to cable TV since the early 1980s, and have never been a satellite TV subscriber.

The only way I would ever subscribe to any kind of television service (cable, satellite, or internet) is if I they gave customers the ability to pick and pay for only the channels you want. Television à la carte, in other words. And the list to choose from should be huge, including multiple PBS channels, documentary film channels, reputable news channels, foreign English-language channels (or at least with English subtitles), classic movie channels, and, yes, NASA TV. And, please get rid of the advertising except—if need be—in between programs. I would pay extra for this option.

I am also frustrated by not being able to watch many newly-released documentaries (or documentary series) without subscribing to a service. Why should I subscribe to a service when all I want to do is watch one program? Why not charge $12 (or whatever) for each program a person wants to watch?

There is a case to be made for “flipping through the channels” and happening upon a documentary, movie, or television program of interest that you might not discover otherwise, but until some company offers television à la carte with a wide selection, my local PBS station is going to get all of my television dollars. I am delighted that—with the advent of digital television—we now have four PBS Wisconsin television stations to choose from!

Satellites and More – 2021 #1

Edmund Weiss (1837-1917) and many astronomers since have called asteroids “vermin of the sky”, but on October 4, 1957 another “species” of sky vermin made its debut: artificial satellites.  In the process of video recording stars for possible asteroid occultations, I frequently see satellites passing through my 17 × 11 arcminute field of view.

I’ve put together a video montage of satellites I serendipitously recorded during the first half of 2021.  Many of the satellites move across the field as “dashes” because of the longer integration times I need to use for some of my asteroid occultation work. A table of these events is shown below the video. The range is the distance between observer and satellite at the time of observation. North is up and east is to the left.

North is up and east is to the left; field size 17′ x 11′

Interestingly, four of the satellites above (2, 9, 12 & 13) are in retrograde orbits, that is their orbital inclination is > 90˚ and their east-west component of motion is towards the west instead of the east. However, one of these retrograde satellites (#12) appears to be orbiting prograde. This is Japan’s GCOM W1 environmental satellite, which is in a sun-synchronous orbit. Now, if you look at the very next satellite in the list (#13) you’ll see that it has very similar orbital elements (retrograde, sun-synchronous), I observed it just 5 days later, and it appears to be orbiting retrograde as you would expect (unlike GCOM W1). This is NASA’s Aqua environmental satellite. GCOM W1 and Aqua have orbital inclinations of 98.2082˚ and 98.2090˚, respectively.

There is also a prograde-orbiting satellite (#5) that appears to be orbiting retrograde. This is OneWeb-0056, a broadband internet satellite that is part of the OneWeb constellation, a competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Last summer, I saw this same behavior with OneWeb-0047 which has a very similar orbital inclination to OneWeb-0056 (87.5188˚ and 87.8802˚, respectively).

Apparently, satellites with orbital inclinations within a few degrees of 90˚ (polar orbit) can sometimes appear to move in the opposite sense than their orbital inclination would indicate, when seen from the ground. I suspect that it must have something to do with where the satellite is in the sky and the vector sum of the line-of-sight motion of the satellite and the Earth’s rotation, but I have not yet found an expert who can confirm this or provide another explanation.

Satellite #11 is faint and makes a brief appearance in the extreme lower right corner of the frame. If you don’t look there you’ll miss it!

There were two satellites I was unable to identify, shown in the video below. They are either classified satellites or, more likely, small pieces of space debris that only government agencies are keeping track of. Note that the first unidentifiable satellite was moving in a retrograde (westward) orbit. The second satellite could be CZ-3A satellite debris (2007-003Q), but I think it was moving too fast to be that satellite (range 3,018.9 km, perigee 511.7 km, apogee 37,523.8 km, period 671.13 minutes, inclination 24.9940˚, eccentricity 0.7287013).

Unidentifiable satellites

During this period, I recorded one geosynchronous satellite, JCSAT-3. It is no longer operational. Here is the video, followed by the satellite information, followed by the light curve. As you can see when you watch the video and look at the accompanying light curve, this satellite gradually got brighter as it crossed the tiny 17′ x 11′ field of view of the video camera. Amazing!

Geosynchronous satellite JCSAT-3 moves slowly across the field and slowly brightens
JCSAT-3 brightens as it crosses the field

Occasionally, I record other phenomena of interest. Meteors during this period are described here, and you will find a high energy particle that “zapped” the CCD chip in the middle of the following three consecutive video frames. The red circles identify a spot and a pair of spots located some distance away that “lit up” when the high energy particle hit the chip. Events like this are fairly common, but what’s unusual here is the wide separation of the two regions that lit up.

Hughes, D. W. & Marsden, B. G. 2007, J. Astron. Hist. Heritage, 10, 21

Classics by Request

One of the joys of my life right now is tuning in to “Classics by Request” on Wisconsin Public Radio each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This program has been on the air at WPR since 1980, and Ruthanne Bessman has been superbly hosting the program since 1999. When Ruthanne is away, Anders Yocom fills in and he is outstanding as well.

What makes this program work is that it occurs at a convenient time for most people, is a live call-in request program, offers a web form for your request with an area for a short narrative that can be read on air, and allows you to use the web form or call in at any time in advance of the program. And, importantly, the host reads your first name and city immediately before and after each request is played.

During a lifetime of listening to classical music, I’m bursting at the seams with great music I’d like to share with others, so I’m a regular contributor to “Classics by Request” and identified on air as “David in Dodgeville”.

We should never take for granted our classical music stations. During my years in central Iowa 1970-2005, WOI-FM 90.1 in Ames was one of the best classical stations in the country. I will never forget Doug Brown, Jake Graves, Mike Gowdy, Karen Bryan, Curt Snook, Hollis Monroe, and Rachel Jeffries, and the profoundly positive effect they had on my life and my love of classical music. I fondly remember the live request program on WOI-FM where they devoted an entire evening each week (7-11 p.m.) to classical music requests and played entire works and not just excerpts. Tragically, the WOI-FM I knew and loved is no more. It was absorbed a few years ago into Iowa Public Radio and the special magic is gone. A few listeners have tried to pick up the pieces and recreate some of the magic of the original WOI-FM on KHOI-FM Community Radio 89.1.

In my opinion, every metropolitan area and geographic region should have a radio station that primarily plays classical music and has at least one “local” on-air classical music host. (Depending on a national feed for all of your music depersonalizes the experience for me and many other listeners.) Each of these stations should have a “Classics by Request” program.

To be most effective and enjoyable, a “Classics by Request” program should have the following features:

  • Air at one or more convenient times for most people (Saturday or Sunday mid-morning to early afternoon, or Monday-Thursday evenings)
  • Be long enough so that an entire work can be played in addition to movements or sections of a work
  • Web request form that includes a section for notes about the work being requested (WPR has a great example of this)
  • Offer both phone-in and web-form options during a live call-in program, and at any time before the program
  • Play any particular work no more often than once per month
  • Identify the requester on air before and after the work is played, by first name and city, unless the requester wishes to remain anonymous
  • Include relevant and accurate information about the work and composer that the requester provides, on-air
  • The requester should know when their requested work will be played (date and program)

As I prepare to move to Tucson, Arizona to be closer to family and an active classical music scene with volunteer music education and symphony support opportunities, I am disappointed to see that Arizona Public Media Classical 90.5 FM does not appear to have a call-in request program. Hopefully, I can successfully encourage them to add such a program. If not, I’d be interested in working with others to create a listener-supported classical music station in Tucson that frequently features requests, including recordings provided by listeners. I’d also like to host an on-air program each week, and I have a large classical music library to draw upon for that program.

Here is a list of U.S. classical stations that have request programs.

WFMT • Chicago, IL
Saturdays 8-9 a.m.

Interlochen Public Radio • Interlochen, MI
Saturdays 9 a.m. – noon

Illinois Public Media
Saturdays 9-11 a.m.

Wisconsin Public Radio
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (noon during Metropolitan Opera season)
Plays shorter works or portions of longer works
Host: Ruthanne Bessman (sometimes Anders Yocom)

WFYI, HD2 • Indianapolis, IN
Sundays 6-7 p.m.

KHOI • Ames, IA
Mondays 8-10 a.m.
Rebroadcast Sundays 6-8 a.m.
“Paul is the one Morning Masterpieces host who will take music requests during live shows. He likes to play music by living composers, obscure works of classical music, and works that push the boundaries of ‘classical music’.”

WRTI • Philadelphia, PA
Wednesdays 12-3 p.m.

Radio Kansas • Hutchinson, KS
Fridays 9 a.m. – noon

Nebraska Public Media
Fridays 1-4 p.m.

KVNO • Omaha, NE
Fridays 2-4 p.m.

Minnesota Public Radio
Fridays 3-7 p.m.

WWNO • New Orleans, LA
Weekdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WSMC • Collegedale, TN
Southern Adventist University
Weekdays 12-1 p.m.

KUSC • Los Angeles, CA
Weekdays 3-5 p.m.

KFMA • Austin, TX
Weekdays 6-7 p.m.

WCPE • Wake Forest, NC
Fridays 9-10 p.m.
Saturdays 6 p.m. – midnight

WNED Classical • Buffalo, NY
Weekdays 7:30 a.m. – one “Off to School” request
Weekdays 5 p.m. – one “Oasis of Sanity” request

Iowa Public Radio
“On the last Friday of the month IPR Classical plays requests”
1-5 p.m.

KDFC • San Francisco, CA
“Due to the volume of requests, unfortunately, we won’t be able to let you know when your request will be played.”

Interior Asteroids

139 asteroids have orbits that lie entirely within Earth’s aphelion distance from the Sun (1.016725 AU). That number reduces to 50 inside Earth’s semimajor axis distance (1.000001 AU). That number further reduces to 26 inside Earth’s perihelion distance (0.983277 AU). Those 26 asteroids are listed below.

Only one asteroid lies entirely within Venus’s orbit (2020 AV2), and none are known inside Mercury’s orbit…so far. Asteroids inside of the Earth’s orbit are extremely difficult to detect since their angular distance from the Sun is never very large, and the glare of the Sun interferes. This is especially true for any asteroids that might exist inside of Mercury’s orbit.

An asteroid is given a provisional designation when it is discovered that begins with the year of discovery. After the orbit of the asteroid has been sufficiently well-determined, it is given a number. Then, eventually, the numbered asteroid is given a name.

Only 6 of the 26 asteroids entirely within Earth’s perihelion distance have received numbers, and only one of these has been given a name: Atira.

Interestingly, 12 of these 26 asteroids have been discovered since 2017, including 4 so far this year.

In the table below, i is the orbital inclination relative to the ecliptic plane, e is the orbital eccentricity, q is the perihelion distance, a is the semimajor axis distance, Q is the aphelion distance, and P is the orbital period. The table is listed in order of aphelion distance, smallest to largest.


Brahms – Symphony No. 3

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

If I had to choose a single favorite composer, it would have to be Johannes Brahms. Among his many works, he wrote four symphonies, and every one of them is an absolute treasure. The only other composer that wrote at least four symphonies that shares that distinction, in my opinion, is Robert Schumann. Every one of Robert Schumann’s four symphonies is also a treasure. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen carefully to all eight of these symphonies. Robert Schumann’s profound musical influence on Brahms is frequently evident.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 1 in B♭ Major (1841)
Symphony No. 2 in C Major (1846)
Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major (1850)
Symphony No. 4 in D minor (1841; 1851)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1855-1876)
Symphony No. 2 in D Major (1877)
Symphony No. 3 in F Major (1883)
Symphony No. 4 in E minor (1884)

One of the joys of collecting classical CDs for many years is going back to some of the older recordings in the music library and falling in love with them all over again. This week, it was a 1983 Deutsche Grammophon disc (410 083-2) of Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic performing the Brahms Third Symphony, and the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. The premiere of the Brahms Symphony No. 3 was 100 years earlier by this same orchestra, on 2 December 1883. The conductor was Hans Richter.

The Brahms Third Symphony is a masterful work by a mature and confident composer, full of interesting musical ideas and—if you listen carefully—some adventuresome idiosyncrasies.

In the first bars of the first movement, the symphony’s noble main theme is introduced, profound and inspired.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: I. Allegro con brio (beginning)

Ambivalence resolves to tenderness at the conclusion of the second movement.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: II. Andante (ending)

This excerpt from the third movement shows how Brahms moves gracefully from one musical idea to the next, propelling us forward to unexpected places and always holding our interest. It has been suggested that the rhythmic dissonance of the “bouncy” passages was inspired by Brahms’ fondness for Romani (gypsy) music.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: III. Poco Allegretto (excerpt)

At the end of the symphony we return to the theme introduced at its beginning, now gloriously transformed, and surely transformative for the listener.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: IV. Allegro (ending)

This fine CD by Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic concludes with the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, written ten years earlier, in 1873. Notably, this work also received its premiere by the Vienna Philharmonic, on 2 November 1873, conducted by Johannes Brahms himself.

Unknown to Brahms (or anyone at the time), the “Chorale St. Antoni” theme upon which this work was based was probably not written by Joseph Haydn. Its origins remain a mystery.

The “Chorale St. Antoni” theme is followed by eight variations, and then a finale. The sixth variation is my favorite:

Brahms – Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op. 56a, Variation VI: Vivace

Video Meteors 2021 – I

During the first half of 2021, I serendipitously captured six meteors on my telescope’s 17 x 11 arcminute video field of view while observing potential asteroid occultation events. I used the method described in There’s a Meteor in My Image to determine the radiant for each meteor. Here they are.

Sporadic meteor 13 Jan 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 608-039379 in Gemini
Each frame is an exposure of 0.13s

A sporadic meteor is any meteor that does not come from a known radiant.

Possible Gamma Normid 7 Mar 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 500-006926 in Taurus
Each frame is an exposure of 0.27s
Sporadic meteor 2 Apr 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 567-009871 in Taurus; bright!
Each frame is an exposure of 0.27s
Sporadic meteor 2 Apr 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 427-054880 in Virgo
Each frame is an exposure of 0.13s (meteor is fast and in upper right of field)
Sporadic meteor 3 Jun 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 362-184510 in Sagittarius
Each frame is an exposure of 0.13s
Sporadic meteor 16 Jun 2021 UT; Field location UCAC4 339-117085 in Sagittarius
Each frame is an exposure of 0.27s

If you have trouble seeing any of these meteors, you may want to use the full-screen button at the lower-right-hand corner of each video.


International Meteor Organization, 2o21 Meteor Shower Calendar, Jürgen Rendtel, ed.

The Day After

Last night I watched a movie that somehow I missed when it was broadcast on ABC on November 20, 1983. It is the most compelling dramatization I have seen of why we need to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. Frankly, this movie is terrifying, but as stated at the end, a real nuclear war would be far, far worse. This movie ought to be required viewing for every American over the age of 12. Though the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more, and the two Germanys reunited, the threat of nuclear warfare is just as relevant today. In fact, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is closer to midnight now than it ever has been—even during the height of the Cold War.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, among them the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 and 1985, respectively. I encourage you to donate regularly to both of these organizations as I do.

What else can we do? Here in the United States, we must reject and oppose tribalism at every opportunity. Our political system is dysfunctional, both in practice as well as structurally, and it needs to be dramatically reformed. Our politicians are completely unable to address the many existential crises currently facing our nation and the world, and most citizens feel powerless—or worse yet—dispirited, apathetic, or willfully ignorant. At the same time, we must root out lies and misinformation, and rely upon facts and hard-earned expertise.

Globally, we must work toward establishing a global “supergovernment” that enacts and enforces binding international laws that are in the best interest of all the world’s peoples. Individual nations will have to give up some sovereignty in order to effectively address global threats such as nuclear weapons, warfare, human rights violations, pandemics, climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity. Whether the United Nations can be strengthened to serve in this role or a new organization created will need to be explored.

The Day After is available through Netflix and Amazon.

Perseid Outburst of 14 Aug 2021

The Perseid outburst of 14 Aug 2021 exceeded the regular peak!
(Meteor Radio Station Wickede, Germany, courtesy of Andreas Pietsch

The Earth passed through an unexpected filament from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, causing a spectacular enhancement of the Perseids on Saturday morning August 14 beginning around 0700 UT and continuing at least until 0945 UT when morning twilight began interfering with our observations. This is some 35 hours after the traditional peak (filament was at solar longitude ~141.5˚, whereas the traditional peak is at 140.0˚ – 140.1˚). Paul Martsching and I were observing NE of Ames, Iowa and saw single-observer observed rates of 40 to 60+ meteors per hour for an extended period. Many were bright (0th and 1st magnitude, some brighter). Paul’s peak hourly rate was 64 Perseids during the hour 0845 – 0945 UT.

Visual Observed Hourly Rates from Story County, Iowa (Data from Paul Martsching)

The dip in the meteor counts around 0830 looks to be real, and appears to be corroborated by the radio meteor counts from Germany (shown at the top of this article). This could be due to a dip in the brighter meteor rate (but not the fainter ones we couldn’t see), or perhaps it was a dip in the overall rate as the Earth passed through two “strands” of the meteoroid filament.

The IMO website reports the following:

“CBET 5016 (Jenniskens, 2021) states the peak was reached on Aug. 14, 08h02m UT (solar longitude 141.474 ± 0.005 degrees (equinox J2000.0)), with maximum ZHR between 130 ± 20 (calculated from CAMS Texas and California networks) and 210 ± 20 (calculated by K. Miskotte (DMS) from Pierre Martin’s visual observations) in good agreement with values calculated by H. Ogawa of the International Project for Radio Meteor Observation from radio forward scatter meteor observations. According to Peter Jenniskens (MeteorNews (b)), this probable filament may have been crossed over the last years, especially in 2018 (ZHR ~ 25 at solar longitude 140.95°) and 2019 (ZHR ~ 30 at solar longitude 141.02°) .”

Paul Martsching kept a detailed visual record of the outburst. He writes, “Apparently the ZHR was around double what we actually saw. The brightness index indicates a lot of faint meteors.”

15-minute-interval counts (Paul Martsching)

Paul writes, “The rate went up to ~ 60/hour for nearly an hour; then fell back to ~ 40/hour for 45 minutes; then went back up to ~75/hour for 45 minutes; then seemed to be declining as morning twilight was interfering.”

Paul’s detailed log sheets are shown at the end of this article.

Meteor outbursts like this are rare, but they do occur from time to time. In the future, it would be nice if some of the automated meteor camera systems around the world could do some real-time processing in order to immediately alert visual observers of any outburst in progress, similar to what has often been done for auroral displays

Paul uses a talking clock and a steno pad to record the details of the meteors he sees, observing conditions, etc., without taking his eyes off the sky or needing to use a flashlight. He rolls a rubber band down the page to act as a guide for the pencil.

I have used a digital tape recorder with an external microphone that can be turned on and off for each event, and a talking clock. Unfortunately, I lost all that equipment in the Houston Memorial Day Weekend flood in 2015.

I am looking for a digital voice recorder that records the time each activation of the external microphone occurs. In other words, when I later play back each meteor description audio “snippet”, I want to be able to know exactly what the time was when the audio was recorded, thus eliminating the need for a talking clock. Does any such device exist?

A number of automated meteor cameras captured this outburst, but nothing can compare with seeing it visually under excellent conditions! I hope many others saw this event, but I suspect most visual observers did not go out, since it was after the predicted peak nights of Aug 11/12 and 12/13. A nice surprise, and on a weekend, too!


Do stars made of antimatter exist in the universe? Possibly.

One of the great mysteries of cosmology and astrophysics is that even though equal quantities of matter and antimatter appear to have been produced during the “Big Bang”, today there is only a negligible quantity of antimatter in the observable universe. We do not appear to live in a matter-antimatter symmetric universe.

If antimatter stars, “antistars”, do exist, how could we distinguish them from stars made of normal matter? The light emitted from an antistar would look identical to the light emitted by a normal-matter star.

But if normal matter were infalling upon an antistar, the contact between matter and antimatter would generate an annihilation spectrum of gamma ray photons that peaks around energy 70 MeV (half the mass of a neutral pion) up to a sharp cutoff around 938 MeV (mass of the proton).

A recent analysis of data collected by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope found fourteen possible antistars. These fourteen point sources produce a gamma-ray signature indicative of matter-antimatter annihilation.  These point sources do not exhibit the characteristics of other known gamma-ray sources.  For example, they are not, ostensibly, pulsars, active galactic nuclei, or black holes.

The positional error ellipses for these fourteen point sources range from 11×10 arcminutes up to 128×68 arcminutes (95% confidence). Here are optical images of these sources from the Palomar Digital Sky Survey, in order of right ascension (epoch 2000 coordinates).

4FGL J0548.6+1200
5 48 38.8 +12 00 10
29.6’×23.6′ error ellipse
field of view 48.5′, Orion
bright star near crosshairs is HD 38797
4FGL J0948.0-3859
9 48 03.6 -38 59 57
53.7’×45.9′ error ellipse
field of view 48.5′, Antlia
bright star near crosshairs is TYC 7693-3238-1 ;
nebulous streak through the field is unidentified, 11˚ from the galactic plane
4FGL J1112.0+1021
11 12 03.1 +10 21 31
128.3’×67.9′ error ellipse
field of view 1.63˚, Leo
brightest star in field is HD 97502
4FGL J1232.1+5953
12 32 06.1 +59 53 03
15.4’×13.0′ error ellipse
field of view 24.11′, Ursa Major
brightest star in field is TYC 3847-229-1 ;
the galaxy is LEDA 2595040
4FGL J1348.5-8700
13 48 30.7 -87 00 47
10.6’×9.7′ error ellipse
field of view 11.99′, Octans
4FGL J1710.8+1135
17 10 50.5 +11 35 57
30.7’×26.7′ error ellipse
field of view 48.49′, Ophiuchus
brightest star near crosshairs is HD 155411
4FGL J1721.4+2529
17 21 24.7 +25 29 25
36.4’×25.2′ error ellipse
field of view 48.49′, Hercules
brightest star in field is HR 6455
4FGL J1756.3+0236
17 56 21.2 +02 36 52
19.0’×14.1′ error ellipse
field of view 24.11′, Ophiuchus
4FGL J1759.0-0107
17 59 03.7 -01 07 11
25.7’×22.8′ error ellipse
field of view 24.11′, Serpens
brightest star in field is HD 163914
4FGL J1806.2-1347
18 06 14.7 -13 47 36
19.2’×11.5′ error ellipse
field of view 24.11′, Serpens
4FGL J2029.1-3050
20 29 09.6 -30 50 06
31.0’×21.4′ error ellipse
field of view 48.49′, Microscopium
brightest star in field is HD 194640
4FGL J2047.5+4356
20 47 32.0 +43 56 33
58.9’×34.0′ error ellipse
field of view 1.63˚, Cygnus
brightest star in field is 56 Cyg ;
behind it is the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070)
4FGL J2237.6-5126
22 37 39.4 -51 26 05
20.7’×16.8′ error ellipse
field of view 24.11′, Grus
brightest star near crosshairs is TYC 8452-1160-1 ;
the edge-on galaxy is LEDA 92766
4FGL J2330.5-2445
23 30 35.6 -24 45 15
28.5’×20.5′ error ellipse
field of view 48.49′, Aquarius
brightest star near crosshairs is HD 221258

Since there appears to be no known way to distinguish a star made of antimatter from one made of matter—except for the gamma-ray signature of matter infalling onto the antimatter star, a higher-resolution gamma-ray telescope or interferometer (10 – 1000 MeV) needs to be developed to localize these candidate sources to within a few arcseconds. Higher spectral resolution will help as well, allowing a more detailed characterization of the gamma-ray spectrum.


S. Dupourqué, L. Tibaldo and P. von Ballmoos. Constraints on the antistar fraction in the solar system neighborhood from the 10-year Fermi Large Area Telescope gamma-ray source catalog. Physical Review D. Published online April 20, 2021. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevD.103.083016.

M. Temming (2021, June 5). Antistars could lurk in Milky Way. Science News, 199(10), 8-9.

Iowa Intercity Bus Service

Another pandemic casualty: intercity bus service. The Dubuque – Waterloo – Cedar Rapids – Marshalltown – Ames bus route shown on the 2015 map below is no more. When I called Burlington Trailways yesterday, they told me that this bus route will not be coming back after the pandemic. What a shame.

Not everyone who would like to ride a regional bus has no other transportation option, though that demographic is sizable and certainly needs to be served. Some of us like to ride a bus because we simply don’t want to drive long distances, especially alone. I lived in Ames, Iowa for nearly 30 years, and go back periodically to visit friends and family. I currently live in southwest Wisconsin, and prior to the pandemic, I was able to board a bus in Dubuque at 10:55 a.m. on any day, and would arrive in Ames on the same bus at 5:00 p.m., in time to pick up a rental car at Enterprise before they closed for the day. On the return trip, I could return the car in the morning, after Enterprise opened, board the bus in Ames at 9:45 a.m., and would arrive in Dubuque at 3:30 p.m. It was all very convenient.

Now, your only choice for using public transportation from Dubuque to Ames is the following:

  • Board the bus at Dubuque at 3:50 p.m.
  • Arrive at Davenport at 5:05 p.m.
  • Layover at the Davenport bus station until 6:55 p.m. (1h50m)
  • Transfer to a new bus and leave Davenport at 6:55 p.m.
  • Arrive in Des Moines at 11:10 p.m., with a 20 minutes layover
  • Transfer to a new bus and leave Des Moines at 11:30 p.m.
  • Arrive in Ames at 12:10 a.m. (no rental car companies open at that hour of the night)

The return trip is even worse.

  • Board the bus at Ames at 10:20 p.m.
  • Arrive in Des Moines at 11:05 p.m.
  • Transfer to a new bus at Des Moines
  • Arrive in Chicago at 5:35 a.m.
  • Transfer to a new bus in Chicago
  • Leave Chicago at 6:30 a.m.
  • Arrive in Davenport at 9:55 a.m.
  • Transfer to a new bus at Davenport
  • Leave Davenport at 10:10 a.m.
  • Arrive in Dubuque at 11:25 a.m.

A parenthetical note about this trip. The eastbound bus arrives at the Davenport Flying J’s Travel Shop, 8200 Northwest Boulevard at 1:55 a.m. Instead of going on to Chicago, you could take a 16-minute cab ride the 7 miles to the Burlington Trailways bus station in Davenport at 304 W River Dr. and then wait at the bus station for the 9:55 a.m. bus to arrive that will take you on to Dubuque. Or rent a motel room to sleep for a few hours first.

This is crazy! Who would put up with this unless they were desperate and had no other travel option? Certainly not a good way to build demand for public transportation across a broader demographic, is it?

Public transportation has been underfunded for decades in the United States and it shows. We ought to be ashamed. We really do need a much better bus and passenger rail network, with good intermodal connections.

Sadly, there was not a single news article on the internet that announced or lamented the cancellation of the Burlington Trailways bus route from Dubuque to Ames (and beyond). I guess intercity bus service isn’t deemed newsworthy, as many bus passengers are considered to be second-class citizens at best.

Another sign of the times: neither the bus companies nor anyone else posts bus route timetables on the internet, and even the Amtrak ones are hard to find these days. They all want you to enter your origin and destination on their website, but what if you want a “big picture” timetable for the entire route? You’re usually out of luck.