Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Star Above The Bug

Today I’ve got an astronomy thing to talk about and a bug thing. They’re not really related, but what they have in common is that they’re both kind of cool things that are easily visible if you keep on the look out.

Today’s post is more jambled than I’d like because I’ve been kind of tired and distracted lately. I keep getting up early to look for Comet Lulin, and I’ve got a lot on my mind with my house up for sale. [Just yesterday I got yelled at by a local politician because I threw out too much trash for the garbage men to take at one time. So I had to get more tired by shuttling two-thirds of the heavy stuff into my garage to put out gradually over the next three trash days.]

Crescent Venus

Just about everybody must have seen Venus very bright and very white in the western sky after sunset. But there is something almost magical about Venus right now. If anyone has a telescope—any kind of telescope, even a small one—a telescope reveals Venus to actually look like this. Venus right now is crescent Venus.

All through March, in fact, Venus will be moving closer to Earth and the crescent will be getting thinner and thinner. Toward the end of March only something like two or three percent of Venus will be illuminated. Oddly, as the crescent of Venus becomes ever thinner Venus only becomes slightly less bright.

March is a great month to check out Venus. There’s something almost magical in the odd beauty of the simple white glowing crescent.


About a week ago I was walking home from the local library. At a busy intersection I stopped to wait for traffic and I found myself looking around, thinking something was odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I looked at a bush right next to the sidewalk. There was one dried leaf blowing on an empty branch. I stepped closer to the leafless bush and looked more closely at the one dried leaf.

It wasn’t a leaf at all. It was a cocoon!

It looks almost exactly like this.

It’s a bagworm cocoon. Right next to a busy sidewalk—right next to where school buses pick-up and drop-off kids—a bagworm larva built a home and now a bagworm moth is growing up inside there, waiting for the warm weather to start so it can come out and be a pest.

Even though bagworms are ‘pests’ I’m pulling for the moth. I’m hoping the kids don’t notice the cocoon and wreck it or bring it indoors where the heat may cause it to hatch prematurely. I’ll do a post later in the spring if I notice the cocoon has opened.

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