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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #238  (Vol. 5, No. 42)  This edition is for the week of October 11--17, 2004.

Book Review: "The Florida Night Sky" by Elinore DeWire
 by Will Moriaty
"Team America: World Police"
 by Mike Smith
Concert Review: THE PIXIES, w/The Thrills
  by Terence Nuzum
Fanzine Memoirs, Part 6, the Final Chapter....Desperate Housewives Score....TV Commercial Hall of Fame...Zombie 2004 Injection Remix
  by Vinnie Blesi
Professor Paul Bearer II: Post-Show Retrospective....Duran Duran New CD Release: "Astronaut"....Goodbye Rodney and Christopher....Rebecca McKinney
 by Andy Lalino
The Future is the Illustrious Five
 by Brandon Jones
The Lesbian Chronicles....Meanwhile, in the Batcave
 by Matt Drinnenberg
No Costume Needed....Good-Bye Cami....Oscar Note....Favorite Concerts....Meet The Beatles, Part 38
 by Mike Smith
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Book Review:
“The Florida Night Sky”
by Elinore DeWire
2002, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida, 385 pp.

One of my fondest memories is that of visiting the St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College) campus off of 66th Street South in St. Petersburg to attend its planetarium shows back in the early 1980's.

I would arrive on Friday nights when the college offered free showings to the general public. In the early fall, when the Friday shows would begin, not long after school sessions were resumed, I would arrive while the sun was reasonably high in the western sky. By the late fall and winter, I would arrive when the sun was setting or even slightly after dark.

A delightful gentleman, who was a transplant from Ohio, hosted the planetarium at that time. Complete with his eccentric bow tie wardrobe, I will always cherish his initial welcoming speech:

"Good evening and welcome to the St. Petersburg Junior College Planetarium.

First of all, let me tell you the difference between a planetarium and an observatory. An observatory is building where you have a telescope aimed at the night sky. And inside that observatory you have one man, looking through one telescope at one star. We have an observatory on the top floor where after the presentation you can observe the objects of the night sky with members of our staff.

A planetarium is a sky theater. Above you is the night sky where our theater show is about to begin, and below you are the seats in this sky theater. Aren't they comfy seats? Once the doors close for our presentation you will not be allowed back in if you have to leave for any reason. For the entertainment and enlightenment of those attending tonight, I ask that you please not talk to yourself or to the person next to you."

Initially the lights were still on in the planetarium. He would next flick a switch and a bright round ball of light would appear on the top of the dome shaped ceiling.

"This is how the brightest star in the sky, our sun, appeared today at high noon. High noon in St. Petersburg is at approximately 2 P.M. E.D.T. As the earth continued its rotation eastward the sun continued to move westward." (at this point, the ball of light is trailing westward and downward on the dome wall)

"At approximately 7:12 P.M. this evening, the sun began to set beyond the westward horizon." (the ball of light begins to lose its intensity) "Sinking ever further past the horizon, the sun begins to fully disappear from view. Then, something magical and delightful begins to happen." (the ball of light disappears, and a beautiful orange-red glow encircles the bottom half of the dome wall) "Soon the light of day begins to vanish. Once the sun sets, we enter a time called twilight where the sky changes from blue to cobalt blue to purple to dark gray, (now the planetarium is dark) and now something as delightful as the sight of the setting sun appears as one by one the stars begin to appear, heralding the night sky."

Next the planetarium becomes pitch black and thousands of stars brightly illuminate the dome wall as the host proudly proclaims: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you the night sky of St. Petersburg, Florida as it appears this very night!"

At one showing in October 1983, when I was with one of my dearest friends Ron Malone of Clearwater, the projected setting sun and on-setting night sky were so brilliant, that my mind was literally tricked into thinking that I was actually outside! Chills ran up and down my spine at the clarity of that breathtakingly incredible sight.

Regrettably, I have forgotten the name of that wondrous host and educator at St. Petersburg Junior College who made the night sky even more fascinating to me and provided me with so many wonderful hours of entertainment on Friday nights some two decades ago. He made me remember astronomical terms such as celestial equator, celestial meridian and ecliptic, making my observations of the night sky, which had always been of a more spiritual quest, now a bit more academic.

I thought for years that such a person associated with astronomy in Florida could never be surpassed or equaled, (Jack Horkheimer comes very close of course) but lo all these years later, I stumbled upon a book by author Elinor DeWire that brought back the magic and majesty on the subject of the night sky that I had been missing all these years.

For the novice sky watcher, this book is a must as Ms. DeWire breaks down many complex astronomical matters and terms into easily understood fascinating facts. She discusses where Florida is in relationship to what we will see in the night sky throughout the passing of the night itself and the seasons. She expands our awareness of the night sky to our nearest neighbor, the Moon; then its off to the solar system; then to the Milky Way galaxy and beyond.

You will learn about light years (LY); astronomical units (AU); how to measure degrees in the sky with your hands; declination (DEC) and right ascension (RA); how and where to look for heavenly objects; keeping logs on the changing night sky; the sun and its associated sunspots, coronas, halos, sun dogs, green flash and polar lights; zodiacal light; lunar occultation and eclipses; the planets; opposition, conjunction and quadrature; constellations; comets; meteors; nebulae; asteroids; apparent (m) and absolute magnitude (M); galaxies; Messier; black holes; supernovas; collapsed stars; red giants and red dwarfs.

Filled with incredible photos and illustrations, this book is essential not only for the lover of the Florida night sky, but for the astronomer, amateur and professional alike.

Don't wander your whole life through not even knowing the wondrous characters that populate our night skies. Pick up a copy of "The Florida Night Sky - - A Guide to Observing from Dusk to Dawn" and see the world, the universe, and your place in it, in a new and wonderful light.

Who knows?

Maybe you can then teach a new generation the meaning of the words celestial equator, celestial meridian and ecliptic!

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.