Cirrus cloud striations, an interview with Will Dowd on the impending fate of the moon, the ancient art of origami and cutting edge space technology.
Hi Cloud Lovers!
Exciting news - fascinating! now features as a monthly column in India’s first lifestyle magazine in Braille, White Print! It has been eye opening to learn about the dearth of accessible literature for the visually impaired and while your photographs will not make it to the magazine, please keep your amazing observations and questions coming in so that collectively we can bring some fun atmosphere based writing to our White Print friends.
Without further ado, let’s float right in!
Taken en route while traveling from Santa Fe to Taos on the high road scenic byway. The incredible amalgamation of clouds above the vast desert expanse left me breathless.
- Nasrah Omar
Nasrah asks, ‘So intrigued by the striations of cirrus clouds, what causes them?’
The streaky, wispy clouds in the bottom half of your photograph are mesmerising indeed and illustrate very well why cirrus are often referred to as ‘mare’s tails’!
This genera of clouds are found at higher altitudes (typically between 16,500 - 45,000 feet) and comprise of ice crystals, given that the further away from the earth’s surface you move the colder it gets.
Similarly, wind speeds increase the higher up in the atmosphere you go. Think jet streams and why flights are shorter when you fly from west to east!
While these clouds may not look it because we don’t experience it directly, they also produce precipitation with their ice crystals falling towards earth.
Given the change in temperature, wind speeds and also humidity at the different levels of the atmosphere; the cirrus clouds’ striations can be attributed to the fact that the crystals are falling through varying atmospheric conditions thus appearing as streaks in the sky!
Sources: NASA Earth Observatory, National Geographic, The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, UCAR Center for Science Education, World Meteorological Organisation
The sky was changing colours every few minutes on this cool, dry season evening. I loved the combination of pink, purple, grey and blue. - Cindy Liu
Nature's Canvas - Swati Gupta
I N T E R V I E W: The Fate of the Moon with Will Dowd
As the author of The Lunar Dispatch, a fortnightly newsletter about all things moon, I’ve been amazed by how your deeply researched writing spans a breadth of topics from science, history and philosophy. I have to ask, how did the moon become an area of interest for you?
Most children believe that the Moon follows them around, turning its face to watch them as they run the length of a beach or duck under dark foliage. When she was young, Zora Neale Hurston got into an argument with her friend over whom the Moon really chased. To settle the point, the two girls stood back-to-back and ran in opposite directions. Both claimed victory.
Poets are essentially adults who retain a childish way of looking at the world. (You only have to look at their bank balance to know this is true.) So the Moon has always been an area of interest for me—because it loves me the best.
What about the moon keeps you ever curious?
I enjoy writing about the ubiquitous, the cliché, the eye-rollingly poetic. It's a problem with no known cure.
Why the moon, specifically? Maybe all poets unconsciously worship an ancient moon goddess, as Robert Graves suggested. Or maybe I'm drawn to the Moon because of the imminent construction of a permanent lunar base, which will usher in a new era of moon colonization, commercialization, and resource-mining. I, for one, want to take a good look at the Moon before it's lit up like a garish Christmas tree in a department store window.
How much time have we left till the moon is garishly lit up?
It’s difficult to say. NASA has officially proposed 2028 as the date for its establishment of a permanent lunar base, but this timeline seems unrealistic. The Artemis mission, which is slated to land the first woman and person of color on the moon, has just been pushed back to 2025. Considering the still-rippling effects of the pandemic and the forthcoming collapse of the global economy, I expect these dates will recede further into the future.
Consulting my crystal ball, I'd wager the first lunar retirement community for the uberwealthy will have its ribbon cutting around 2060. And the whole thing will be a coruscating strip mall by this time next century.
Will they, in an unlikely act of consideration for humanity, consider building on the dark side of the moon so our view doesn't change all that much?
How would ancient folklore (and the rabbit on the moon) change in the wake of rapid changes on the moon's surface?
I used to think, once it was colonized, the moon would lose its symbolic potency. All its romance and folklore would be drained away and we would think of it with as much reverence and wonder as we think of Greenland.
But now I'm not so sure.
In November 2021, the Chinese lunar rover (called Yutu 2 in an allusion to the Moon goddess's pet rabbit in Chinese myth) spotted a bizarre cube-shaped structure on the far side of the moon. This robot rabbit is now rolling toward the "mystery hut" to investigate.
So now I think the moon will stay enchanted through a merger of folklore and technology. A troubling merger, to be sure, but perhaps inevitable.
Accepting the fate of the moon being 'a merger of folklore and technology', what is the best version of this weird gaudy moon habitat that we'll get to see when we look through our telescopes in the not-so-far future?
Ideally, the moon would resemble Antarctica—an untouched desert dotted with small, self-sustaining settlements. These colonies would be populated by eccentric scientists and artists who are committed to leaving a light footprint in the lunar dust. And of course, in this dream, I would be among them.
Will Dowd is a writer and artist based in the Boston area. His poetry, essays and art have appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, NPR, Writer's Digest, and elsewhere. His first book, Areas of Fog (Etruscan Press), was named a Massachusetts Book Awards Nonfiction "Must Read." He earned a BA from Boston College, an MS from MIT, and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University.
There was a sudden burst, giving an impression of the clouds being squeezed into drain water. - Alwyn Fernandes
November 21st, 2021 at 6:48PM. The clouds display a slight yellow-orange hue. Very pleasing to the eye! - Ancila John
In the right place at the wrong time. - Abhimanyu Dey
It had been rainy and dark all day, when all of the sudden the clouds parted and a rainbow appeared directly in front of my 5th floor balcony. - Chris Trinh
The ancient art of Origami and cutting edge space technology!
Before I sign off, here’s something that blew my mind recently.
The James Webb Space Telescope, that was launched on December 25th 2021 from near Kourou in French Guiana; is a great infrared science observatory on a mission to explore the origins of the universe, evolution of galaxies, formation of stars to planetary systems, and physical-chemical properties as well as life in planetary systems.
An ambitious collaboration between NASA, ESA and CSA; the telescope is the largest of it’s kind in space and 100 times more powerful than it’s predecessor, the much loved Hubble Telescope.
It’s sheer size is why scientists had to turn to the ancient art of Origami to transport the observatory in sections to it’s orbit, 1.5 million kilometers away from earth, after which these components were designed to unfold and snap themselves into place! 🤯
You can watch the (now completed) deployment sequence here:
Hope you enjoyed reading this issue, until next time - keep looking up!