Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and Las Cruces

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited currently runs just three days a week between New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles, CA. There continues to be a lot of interest in making this a daily train, and I hope that happens soon.

The Sunset Limited stops at 22 cities and towns. These are listed below, with stops having a station building and waiting room shown in bold.

New Orleans, LA
Schriever, LA
New Iberia, LA
Lafayette, LA
Lake Charles, LA

Beaumont, TX
Houston, TX
San Antonio, TX
Del Rio, TX
Sanderson, TX
Alpine, TX
El Paso, TX

Deming, NM
Lordsburg, NM

Benson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Maricopa, AZ
Yuma, AZ

Palm Springs, CA
Ontario, CA
Pomona, CA
Los Angeles, CA

As you can see, the Sunset Limited makes only two stops in the great state of New Mexico, and both of them are small towns (Deming 14K, Lordsburg 2.4K) without a station building.

Las Cruces, home of New Mexico State University, is by far the largest city in southern New Mexico, with a population of 103K and a metro area of 218K. It is not served by passenger rail.

Currently, if you want to utilize the Sunset Limited from Las Cruces, you need to board a Greyhound bus in Las Cruces at 1:20 a.m., and after you arrive at the Greyhound station in El Paso at 2:30 a.m., you need to take a cab or walk 0.4 miles in the middle of the night to the Amtrak station where you’ll have to wait until 1:22 p.m. to catch the westbound train or 3:10 p.m. to catch the eastbound train. Or later, if the train is not on time.

Returning to Las Cruces from El Paso involves arriving by train westbound at 1:22 p.m. or eastbound at 3:10 p.m., taking a cab or walking the 0.4 miles to the Greyhound station, and then waiting for the 3:25 a.m. bus to Las Cruces, where you will arrive at 4:30 a.m.

How’s that for convenience?

Would it be possible for the Sunset Limited to make a stop at Las Cruces between El Paso and Deming? Yes, but…

In order for the Sunset Limited to make a stop in Las Cruces without building a new rail line, it would have have to leave Union Pacific track and take BNSF track to Las Cruces, then on to Rincon, where it would take Southwestern Railroad track through Hatch and down to Deming where it would rejoin the Union Pacific track, adding 41 miles and some additional time to the trip both eastbound and westbound.

Other option would be to connect Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to the Sunset Limited by adding a new passenger route between Albuquerque and El Paso, with stops in Socorro and Las Cruces along the way. The rail between Albuquerque and Belen is owned by NMRX, and between Belen and El Paso by BNSF. Alternatively, the new passenger route could run entirely on BNSP track if you took the Rail Runner Express from Albuquerque to Belen with the new passenger route running between Belen and El Paso.

Yet another option would be to add a short passenger route like Rail Runner between Las Cruces and El Paso along 42 miles of BNSF track.

The best non-rail option would be to have a dedicated Amtrak thruway bus between Las Cruces and El Paso that would be in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule and take you directly to and from the Amtrak station in El Paso. (The wonderful Van Galder bus service that runs multiple times per day between Madison, Janesville, South Beloit, Rockford, and Chicago serves as an excellent model as to what can be done by a well-run bus company.)

Finally, a shuttle between Las Cruces and El Paso in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule could be offered, similar to the RoadRunneR shuttle that runs between Lamy and Santa Fe for the Southwest Chief stop at Lamy.

Extreme Gamma Rays

The highest-energy gamma ray photon ever recorded was recently observed by the Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) on Haizi Mountain, Sichuan province, China, during its first year of operation.

1.42 ± 0.13 PeV

That is 1.4 petaelectronvolts = 1.4 × 1015 eV! The origin of this fantastically energetic photon hasn’t been localized, but possible candidates are the Cygnus OB2 young massive cluster (YMC), the pulsar PSR 2032+4127, or the supernova remnant candidate SNR G79.8+1.2.

The LHAASO observatory, in China, observes ultra high-energy light using detectors spread across a wide area that will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Institute of High Energy Physics/Chinese Academy of Sciences

How much energy is 1.4 PeV, actually?

We can calculate the frequency of this photon using

\textup{E}=h\nu


where
h = Planck’s constant = 4.135667696 × 10-15 eV·Hz-1
ν = the photon’s frequency
E = the photon’s energy

Solving for ν, we get

ν = 3.4 × 1029 Hz

Next, we’ll calculate the photon’s wavelength using

c=\lambda \nu

where
c = the speed of light = 299792458 m·s-1
λ = the photon’s wavelength

Solving for λ, we get

λ = 8.9 × 10-22 m

To give you an idea of just how tiny 8.9 × 10-22 meters is, the proton charge radius is 0.842 × 10-15 m, so 1.9 million wavelengths of this gamma ray photon would fit inside a single proton! An electron has an upper limit on its radius—if it can be said to have a radius at all—between 10-22 and 10-18 m. So between 1 and 2000 wavelengths of this gamma ray photon would fit inside a single electron.

Using Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2 we can find that each eV has a mass equivalent of 1.78266192 × 10-36 kg. 1.4 PeV then gives us a mass of 2.5 × 10-21 kg. That may not sound like a lot, but it is 1.5 million AMUs (Daltons), or a mass comparable to a giant molecule (a protein, for example) containing ~200,000 atoms.

This and other extremely high energy gamma ray photons are not directly detected from the Earth’s surface. The LHAASO detector array in China at 14,500 ft. elevation detects the air shower produced when a gamma ray (or cosmic ray particle) hits an air molecule in the upper atmosphere, causing a cascade of subatomic particles and lower-energy photons, some of which reach the surface of the Earth. It is the Cherenkov photons produced by the air shower secondary charged particles that LHAASO collects.

References
Conover, E. (2021, June 19). Record-breaking gamma rays hint at violent environments in space. Science News, 199(11), 5.
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/light-energy-record-gamma-ray

Z. Cao et al. Ultrahigh-energy photons up to 1.4 petaelectronvolts from 12 γ-ray Galactic sourcesNature. Published online May 17, 2021. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03498-z.

Retirement Challenges

I retired from my full-time position on May 21, and am now working three hours a day, Monday through Friday, for the same company, 100% remote. It is intense work, but at least it is only 15 hours per week now, and the pay is good.

There are a lot of potential projects that present themselves for an encore career, but I’m finding that I live in the wrong place to do any of them. Some are going to be impossible to do without substantial help from others.

One thing I’ve learned, especially during the pandemic, is that I need to be with people in the work that I do. A 100% remote interaction with others is unsatisfying, and I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that.

The project I am most excited about is Mirador Astronomy Village. Nothing like it has ever been done in the United States before.

Mirador would be a residential community that is astronomy-friendly, and the majority of that residential community would be permanent residents (in other words, not vacation homes for the wealthier among us). Mirador would have no dusk-to-dawn lighting, and no one living there will ever have to worry about a neighbor putting up a light that trashes their view of the night sky or shines into their home. Mirador would have a public observatory and provide regular astronomy programs. Mirador would also have private observatories for research, astrophotography, and visual observing.

Ideally, Mirador would be located where it is clear most nights and winters are mild. New Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas immediately come to mind.

The challenges? Mirador is going to need a land donation and a group of people who can take some financial risk to build it without jeopardizing their personal economic stability. Astronomy is such an important part of my life that I am willing to move, even to a remote location, for the opportunity to live in an intentional community of astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts. What I don’t know is whether there are even 20 others in the entire United States who would make the move for such an opportunity. Running a classified ad in Sky & Telescope for a year accomplished nothing other than “great idea, let me know when you get it built.” Well, even though I have passion, knowledge, and leadership skills to make this project a success, I do not have financial resources beyond providing for myself and my family. I can’t personally fund a development.

Many other projects and activities interest me. None of them can I do in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

  • Provide astronomy programs at a public observatory
  • Volunteer at a classical music radio station, perhaps even hosting my own classical music program, or at least providing recordings and commentary
  • Volunteer for a symphony orchestra
  • Bring the best music of new and neglected classical composers to a wider audience
  • Passenger rail
  • Paved off-road bicycle path
  • Develop a comprehensive outdoor lighting code/ordinance that has support, will get enacted, and will be enforced

One current activity related to classical music is necessarily 100% virtual. Back in April, I created a groups.io discussion group called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites. I posted a note about it to the hundreds of people I am connected to on LinkedIn and Facebook, and that garnered only a single subscriber. Since then, I’ve been working diligently to find interesting and accessible classical music to feature. I am pleased with the results so far, only no one else is posting anything. Still only one subscriber besides myself. There must be at least 20 people in the entire world who have a passion to seek out and champion the best classical music that is not yet commercially available. How do I reach them?

Currently, my astronomical work is focused on stellar occultations by minor planets for IOTA. I spend about 20 hours per week running predictions, recording the events from my backyard observatory, analyzing the data, and reporting the results. My backyard observatory is wholly dedicated to this work. Wherever I end up living, I would like to continue these observations. This adds the complication that I will need access to a dedicated observatory for occultation work—either my own or one that I share with other occultation enthusiasts. That observatory should be within walking distance of where I live.

I would like to live closer to my daughter and her family in Alpine, TX. Even though I would prefer to live somewhere not too far from civilization (thinking quality health care, mostly) with a unpolluted night sky, I am beginning to consider moving to a larger city like Tucson or Las Cruces where I can better pursue my classical music interests in addition to astronomy. Tucson has direct Amtrak access to Alpine (a huge plus), but Las Cruces has no connection to Amtrak. The Sunset Limited needs to come to Las Cruces (between the El Paso and Deming stops), or at least there needs to be a bus that takes you directly to and from the train station in El Paso.

I am concerned about the direction this country is heading, and that is entering into my future plans, too. I am a non-religious progressive who believes that local, state, and federal government should be strong, competent, and efficient. There can be no higher calling than a life dedicated towards public service. I am pro-government, pro-tax, pro-education, pro-science, and anti-gun. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere where Trump got the majority of the vote in 2020. If the current Republican insanity continues (and they have most of the guns), we progressives may be forced to consider forming our own country. Or moving out of this one. Before things get any uglier. Living in an enlightened and compassionate society requires giving up some of your liberty and freedoms for the health and well being of everyone. That’s a given.

James Clerk Maxwell

Today we celebrate the 190th anniversary of the birth of Scottish mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell (13 Jun 1831 – 5 Nov 1879). Between 1864 and 1873, Maxwell developed four important mathematical equations that describe the behavior of electric and magnetic fields and their interrelated nature. He showed that any oscillating electric charge produces an electromagnetic field, and that this electromagnetic field propagates outward from the oscillating charge at the speed of light. He then correctly deduced that light itself is an electromagnetic phenomenon, and proposed that since electric charges can oscillate at any frequency, there should be a whole spectrum of electromagnetic waves of which visible light is only a small part. We now know that the electromagnetic spectrum does include many other types of “light”, namely gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, infrared, microwave, and radio waves. They are all exactly the same phenomenon, differing only in their properties of frequency, wavelength, and energy.

Email Overload: “Digest” It

Like many of you, I have more than one email address. One of those email addresses I use as a catch-all for nonprofits, political organizations, and commercial entities.

Over time, the volume of email I’ve received at that address has increased exponentially. Many senders subscribe me without my having ever opted in, and many senders send multiple emails a day (or per week)—and they don’t always give you the option to opt down. I unsubscribe from many every month, but the emails I receive daily keeps on growing.

I’m tempted (often), to unsubscribe from everything, but every once in a while I get an email that is important enough or useful enough that I’m glad I got it.

What to do? I am making a conscious effort to cut all of the insidious time wasters out of my life (this becomes much more important as we get older), freeing up precious time for what is most important. Email is one of the worst offenders.

Many online discussion groups have a “daily digest” option with all of the posts for the day being assembled into a single email, with a topical index at the top. I would like the ability through my email service provider to batch together emails from a variety of senders into a single daily email. It would work something like this:

  1. Create a list of email domains that you want batched (facebookmail.com, ewg.org, onefairwage.org, etc.)
  2. Activate the digesting service so that all emails coming from these domains gets batched into a single daily email with the subject line and sender of all the emails listed in the top section, followed by the full contents of the emails in sequence below that.

You’d have the option to receive the email sorted by time received in either ascending or descending order. You’d also be able to add or remove email domains from your list at any time.

Sure, it is going to be one long email for many of us, but it would go a long way towards reducing the clutter in our inboxes.

Another option would be to have an email service provider (unfortunately, digest.com is already taken) that will provide you with a pass-through email address that does this digesting for you, then forwards the daily email to the email address of your choice. You would update your senders with the pass-through email address. Let the digesting begin!

We’re on a Collision Course with a Gas Cloud

Smith Cloud

A giant cloud of mostly hydrogen gas with enough material to make over a million suns is heading towards our Milky Way at a speed of 45 miles per second. Called the Smith Cloud (after Gail Bieger-Smith who discovered it in 1963), this 9,800 × 3,300 ly high velocity cloud (HVC) is about 40,000 ly distant and is expected to slam into our Milky Way galaxy in about 27 million years, causing the birth of many new stars a quarter-way round the galaxy from us.

Smith Cloud is located in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle

The Smith Cloud is located in the constellation Aquila, and has an apparent diameter around 11° across its long axis. It is only visible using radio telescopes (spin-flip transition of neutral atomic hydrogen), or by detecting hydrogen absorption lines Doppler shifted and superimposed upon the spectra of more distant stars that are shining through the cloud.

The origin of the Smith Cloud is unknown. It may have originated within the Milky Way galaxy itself, or it may be extragalactic. The upcoming collision may not be the first time the Smith Cloud has encountered the disc of the Milky Way. It may be embedded in a large halo of dark matter which would have kept the cloud from being completely disrupted during any past encounters.

The Smith Cloud is a great example of an object that would never have been discovered were it not for radio astronomy. Felix J. Lockman, who has published extensively on the Smith Cloud, has created Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe for The Great Courses. Dr. Lockman’s engaging lecture style, his clear explanations, and thorough knowledge of the subject matter makes this the perfect introduction to the subject. Highly recommended!

Incidentally, Jay Lockman discovered a region in Ursa Major that is relatively free of neutral hydrogen gas and dust, thus affording a clearer view into the distant universe. It is named, appropriately, the Lockman Hole.

References

Alig, C. et al. “Simulating the Impact of the Smith Cloud.” The Astrophysical Journal 869 (2018): 1-6.
arXiv:1901.01639 [astro-ph.GA]

Hu, Y. et al. “Magnetic field morphology in interstellar clouds with the velocity gradient technique.” Nature Astronomy (2019): 1-7.
arXiv:2002.09948 [astro-ph.GA]

Lockman, F.. “Accretion Onto the Milky Way: The Smith Cloud.” Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 11 (2015): 9 – 12.
arXiv:1511.05423 [astro-ph.GA]

Quit Saying a Low Birth Rate is Bad News! It Isn’t.

I subscribe to The Week which does a good job summarizing news events of the past week from a number of sources. In the May 21, 2021 issue, they quote an article from Noah Smith on Bloomberg.com that tells us, once again, how bad it is that the U.S. birth rate is declining.

Birth rates need to decline everywhere in the world because population growth is the cause of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and increasing poverty, conflict, suffering, and inequality. It is obvious by now that if we want to avoid a dystopian future for the human race, we’d better start encouraging people to have fewer children (one or zero is enough). That is the only humane way to reduce human population. Why would any sane person want to reduce our population through any other means?

Quoting from the article, “America’s declining birth rate”,

A “baby bust” points to “a grim economic future” for America, said Noah Smith.

Not as grim as the economic future that awaits us as the world’s resources are rapidly depleted and the natural world collapses due to too many people on our planet.

U.S. births fell 4 percent in 2020 to their lowest rate since World War II, the federal government reported last week.

Is it any wonder? The pandemic has upended all of our lives. That would have been reason enough, but add to that the toxic politics of this country which is like a horribly abusive marriage from which there is no escape. Then, add the host of existential crises facing the world, plus powerful manipulators constantly lying to us and distracting us to keep us from doing anything about these problems, and you have a country that clearly is on the verge of open warfare, if not collapse. Why would anyone want to bring a beautiful child into such a hopeless future?

“This puts an increasing financial and physical burden on the young,” who must pay the soaring costs of Social Security, Medicare, and caring for their own aging family members.

We have no one to blame but ourselves for the world’s most expensive medical care that for many is no longer of the highest quality. We need a non-profit, single-payer system such as Medicare for All.

“In 2010, the number of working-age adults per older adult was 4.8; by 2060, it’s projected to be only half that”—meaning that the tax burden on workers will need to double.

We are not paying enough taxes as it is. This is especially true for the wealthiest among us, including large corporations. And spending less on the military would help a lot, as it already consumes an obscene percentage of our federal budget.

The graying of the population will also lead to lower productivity and economic stagnation.

It depends on how you measure productivity and economic growth. Many seniors are highly productive members of society, even when they are not paid for their work. These encore careers allow many seniors to contribute directly to the betterment of society in more substantial ways then when they were traditionally employed.

If humans are to survive on this planet, we must transition away from an ever-increasing-consumption approach to economic growth and towards one of sustainability and improving everyone’s quality of life (not only materially).

Per-capita productivity will increase if we build robots and other machines to do the most unrewarding and dangerous work that humans now do. People can be retrained for more interesting work and more service-oriented careers.

And it will put the U.S. at a marked disadvantage in our competition with China, which has four times our population.

So what? Why must we continue to take this “us vs. them” approach? We need to think, and act, globally.

Increased immigration would help, but it’s not enough to keep our population growing.

Why must our population grow? Growth is killing us and this planet. We need a new economic system where progress isn’t equivalent to unbridled growth.

“Americans need to have more children,” and surveys show they want to—but are held back by the high costs of housing, education, and child care.

Well, then don’t vote Republican. And one child is enough.

America has a choice to make: to be a graying nation in decline or a great nation, “confident enough in ourselves to believe that there should be more of us.”

This is nonsense. Since when is a graying nation in decline? Let’s value every individual for who they are and what they can contribute, regardless of their age. And who cares about a “great nation”? I’m more interested in a “great world”. And making a “great contribution” of my time and energy to others.

We need a new economy. Where everything is recyclable. Where everything is built to last. Where everything is repairable. How are we ever going to get to that without strong government regulation to encourage needed behaviors and discourage harmful ones? And binding international laws?

For more information…
Population Connection

Star Stuff

The elements that make up the stars also exist here on Earth. In fact, our Earth, and indeed all the planets, were created from the dust and gas produced by previous generations of stars that existed before our Sun and solar system formed. We truly are made of stardust!

Stars are made up almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Here is a table of the most abundant elements in our Sun.

Element% by atoms
Hydrogen92.2%
Helium7.7%
Oxygen0.0473%
Carbon0.0272%
Neon0.0130%
Nitrogen0.0065%
Magnesium0.0033%
Silicon0.0030%
Iron0.0028%
Sulfur0.0013%
Most abundant elements in the Sun

It is not a trivial matter to determine the abundance of elements in the Sun. For most elements, astronomers have to look at the strength of spectral absorption lines in the photosphere. Some elements, like fluorine, chlorine, and thallium, require looking for their spectral lines inside of sunspots, which are cooler-than-average regions of the photosphere. Other elements require that we look at spectral lines in the solar corona, or capture and analyze the solar wind. And some elements we are simply unable to detect.

The region of the photosphere that is amenable to spectral study represents only about 2% of the mass of the Sun. Since the Sun’s formation 4.6 Gyr ago, some gravitational settling of heavier elements and diffusion of hydrogen towards the surface means the Sun is not uniform in composition. Fortunately, the relative abundances of the elements heavier than helium are probably similar throughout the Sun.

Lithium, the third element in the periodic table after hydrogen and helium, is the odd element out. It has a relative abundance in the solar photosphere that is only 1/170th that found in meteorites. The Sun’s original supply of lithium has largely been destroyed by the high temperatures inside the pre-main-sequence Sun, and today at the hot bottom of the Sun’s convection zone.

Light pollution is a problem here on Earth, but on the Sun we have a problem with “line pollution”. There are so many spectral lines that the weak signatures from some elements become difficult or impossible to isolate and measure. There is much blending of overlapping lines, and some elements—most notably iron which is the ninth most abundant element in the Sun—are “superpolluters” with hundreds to thousands of spectral lines from both excited and ionized states.

Sometimes, the spectral lines of interest are in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum (ultraviolet, for example) that can only be observed from space, and that creates additional challenges.

Notably, the noble gases helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon have no photospheric absorption lines that can be observed, and we must look to coronal sources such as the solar wind, solar flares, or solar energetic particles for information about their abundances.

Helium—the second most abundant element in the Sun—requires an indirect approach combining a theoretical solar model and observational helioseismology data to tease out its abundance.

The following elements are undetectable in the Sun: arsenic, selenium, bromine, technetium, tellurium, iodine, cesium, promethium, tantalum, rhenium, mercury, bismuth, polonium, astatine, radon, francium, radium, actinium, protactinium, and all the synthetic elements above uranium on the period table.

Interestingly, helium was discovered in the Sun before it was discovered on Earth! That’s why this element is name after Helios, the Greek god of the Sun.

The energy source that allows stars to shine steadily, often for billions of years, is fusion. Fusion in a star can only occur where both the temperature and pressure are very high. Usually (but not always!), this occurs in the core of the star. When the element hydrogen fuses into helium, a huge amount of energy is released in the process. Lucky for us, fusing hydrogen into helium is difficult to do in a one-solar-mass star. On average, any particular hydrogen atom in our Sun has to “wait” about five billion years before having the “opportunity” to participate in a fusion reaction!

In order for sustained fusion to occur in the core of a star, the star must have sufficient mass so that the core temperature and pressure is high enough. Present thinking is that the lowest mass stars where sustained fusion can occur have about 75 times the mass of Jupiter, or about 7% the mass of the Sun.

References

Lodders, K. 2020 Solar Elemental Abundances, in The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science, Oxford University Press
arXiv:1912.00844 [astro-ph.SR]

Best Jacket Ever

Little did I know at the time, but a decade (or was it two?) ago, I purchased a jacket at the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center store that is the best, most comfortable, most durable jacket I have ever owned. And, as often is the case with the most extraordinary products, it is no longer available.

Best Jacket in the Known Universe
Kitt Peak logo on the front of the jacket

Port Authority made the jacket in Sri Lanka, but a search of the Registered Identification Number RN 90836 indicates that San Mar Corporation is the owner. The product ID is Port Authority J-755.

Port Authority made the jacket in Sri Lanka
Port Authority style number J-755, registered identification number RN 90836

My jacket has faded quite a lot over the years, as demonstrated by the upturned collar below.

Though the Kitt Peak Port Authority J-755 jacket is, sadly, no longer available (wish they would bring it back!), as of this writing I was finally able to find something fairly close: the Port Authority J754 Challenger. I ordered one from A2Z Clothing (True Navy/Grey Heather) and will report back here after I’ve had a chance to evaluate it.

Update May 14, 2021

Received the Port Authority J754 Challenger in the mail yesterday from A2Z Clothing. I’m very happy with their service. This jacket is similar enough to the Kitt Peak jacket that I’ve ordered two more. (I’ve learned in recent years that it is a good idea if you find an article of clothing you like to order two more right away for later use, because there’s a high probability that when you need to replenish, it won’t be available any more.)

There are some differences. The collar of the new jacket is 22″ wide and 4″ deep. The Kitt Peak jacket collar is 19″ wide and 3″ deep. I prefer the less substantial collar of the Kitt Peak jacket.

The new jacket is made in Vietnam, and the old jacket was made in Sri Lanka.

Old Jacket
shell: 100% nylon
body lining: 75% polyester, 25% rayon
sleeve lining: 100% nylon
inter lining: 100% polyester resin coated
J-753, RN 90836

New Jacket
shell: 100% nylon
lining: 100% polyester
sleeve lining: 100% nylon
insulation: 100% polyester resin coated
J-754, RN 90836

The Invaders

Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent

The Quinn Martin television series The Invaders premiered on January 10, 1967 and ran for two seasons, the forty-third and final 51-minute episode airing March 26, 1968. If I ever saw an episode of this series at the time it was aired, I sure don’t remember it. What I do remember watching at the time was Lost in Space (which ran for three seasons from September 5, 1965 through March 6, 1968) and Star Trek (which also ran for three seasons from September 8, 1966 through June 3, 1969).

Obviously, the target audience for Lost in Space was kids, and being ages 9-11 during its run, I regularly watched it. Looking back on it now, I see the show could have been so much better than it was. The Robinsons, Major Don West, the Robot, the Jupiter 2 spacecraft were all really cool (I still think so!). But as fine an actor as Jonathan Harris was, the Dr. Zachary Smith character just ruined the show. And I could have done without the (often) unbelievably cheesy aliens and bad science.

When Star Trek launched on September 8, 1966 (when I was 10), I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t like it as much as Lost in Space and missed most of the episodes. Boy, did that ever change! Once Star Trek went into syndication in the early 1970s, I saw all the episodes and became a lifelong fan, and it remains today my favorite science fiction television series.

Somehow, I totally missed The Invaders at the time, but having just finished watching the series on DVD (without ads!) from beginning to end, I am amazed at how good of a show it was. First of all, Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent is truly outstanding. He makes the show a success, no question about it. Next, the scripts are phenomenal. Exceptional stories that keep you on the edge of your seat more often than not. And a fabulous array of guest stars further strengthen the show. Let’s not forget to mention the remarkable photography by Andrew J. McIntyre.

If you are unfamiliar with The Invaders, the basic premise is that alien beings from a dying world come to Earth with the goal of eradicating humanity and making it their new world. On Earth, they can assume human form, and infiltrate society in their quest for domination. David Vincent learns of their plans and embarks on a lonely and dangerous quest to convince those in power that their threat is real and must be stopped.

All of the episodes are worth watching, but here are my favorites:

  • Doomsday Minus One [Season 1, Episode 8]
  • Moonshot [Season 1, Episode 15]
  • Wall of Crystal [Season 1, Episode 16]
  • The Ransom [Season 2, Episode 15]
  • The Vise [Season 2, Episode 22]