Monday, April 27, 2015

Discovery of Planets

The other day the news featured a bit about Pluto, and is it or is it not a planet? This is a controversy that goes back a while, and the planet is so far away that it is hard to truly document its path. In 2006, Pluto was demoted, by recent debate says it IS a planet. In the next few months, the New Horizon probe spacecraft, will "visit" Pluto and we will have an answer...maybe.

Anyway, I looked into 18th Century info on the planets, and find the following:
Sir Frederick William Herschel, a German-born British scientist/astronomer first reported the discovery of Uranus on April 26, 1781. It was initially believed to be a comet. He also, in 1787, reported 2 satellites orbiting Uranus, Titania and Oberon. we later reported four more.
From August to November 1789, he noted two moons of Saturn, Mimas and Enceladus.

Herschel became interested in astronomy in 1773, constructing his own large telescope in 1774, spending nine years doing sky surveys. In 1781 he realized that Uranus was a planet and not a star. It was the first discovery of a planet since antiquity, and he himself became a star (celebrity) overnight. King George III appointed him as "Court Astronomer", and he was elected to the Fellows of the Royal Society, and given grants to develop new telescopes.

Later, His catalog of nebulae were published in 1802, including over 2,500 objects flying around "out there", and another 5,000 by 1820. He also discovered the existence of infrared radiation. He was knighted in 1816, and died in 1822. His only son, John, continued his work.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

HMS George - A Sad End; A Lasting Tribute

Yesterday I read an article about recently found treasure recovered from a sunken ships. As many as we find, especially with today's technologies, there are still more out there. Planes, too, from the different war conflicts as well as passenger carriers. It's sad. As a matter of fact, yesterday, April 15, once more marked the sinking of the Titanic. I saw the exhibit about fifteen years ago, with all the artifacts that were recovered at that time. Personal effects, like a wallet, or pair of glasses, are the most poignant to me.

Looking into 18th Century maritime disasters, I found one of the worst for Great Britain and the Royal Navy, dated August 28, 1782. HMS Royal George, a 100 gun ship of the line, met with disaster upon its return from North America. It was due to accompany famed HMS Victory  (Lord Horatio Nelson's ship at Battle of Trafalgar) to Gibraltar when it capsized of Portsmouth Harbor. It sank while undergoing routine maintenance, with the loss of over 900 souls, among them 360 women and children who had boarded to visit with friends and family. It turned on its side and the sea quickly ran in through open gun ports.

Built in Woolwich Dockyard, it was launched in February 1756, the largest warship in the world at the time. It saw service during the Seven Years War, taking part in the Battle of Quiberon Bay and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, two major confrontations. It lay in these dock waters for 50 years, until two divers, from 1834 to 1836 devised a plan to remove it so it was out of the way of the entrance to the harbor. Though they failed to salvage the ship, they discovered the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII's lost ship.

From 1839-44, Royal Engineers savaged many of the bronze cannons from The George which were later used to craft part of the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square in London, a tribute to Lord Nelson! To rid the harbor of the obstruction, the engineers planted an explosive in the ship's remains, and Boom! It was gone! The explosion actually shattered windows ashore as far as three miles away.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Glorious Work of Musical Art!

With Orthodox Easter (or Pascha, as it is better known) on its way, I like to listen to some religious music as I drive along.
I do have some Byzantine chant discs to play, but I am hearing these lovely and moving hymns in church each evening. So, by day, I turn to the glorious liturgical works of Wolfgang Mozart! Today I have his Great Mass in C minor in the car, and it is so beautiful! Cataloged as K427/417a, it was composed in Vienna in 1782-83, when he was no longer the church musician of the Salzburg Cathedral. The work, formally called a missa solemnis (solemn mass) that is sung in Latin, for two sopranos, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and a large orchestra.
In a letter to Leopold, his father, Wolfgang wrote that he vowed to write a mass when he brought his wife Constanze to Salzburg. She sang the "Et incarnates est" (He was made flesh) at the premier.The first performance took place on October 26,1783, which included the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus portions.

Give it a listen, and I think you will agree that you are transported!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Elementary, my dear Glover!

Here's an interesting bit concerning The Battle of Waterloo:

Recently, archeologists have identified the skeletal remains of a man who died at the Battle of Waterloo. If scientists are correct, these remains are those of an unknown soldier who died near the Lion's Mound in 1815. Historian Gareth Glover is credited with cracking the case using artifacts buried around the body, and the remains of a soldier from 200 years ago. The remains supposedly belong to Friedrich Brandt, a 23 year old soldier who served with the Kind's German Legion of George III at the time of his death.
The remains were found in 2012, and there was also found a ball from a musket at rest in the area of the ribcage! Unlike the recent discovery and formal burial of Richard III, Brandt did not have any living blood relatives to call on for DNA comparison.
Glover dug deep, as it were. He was able to track troop formations that fought on the fateful day, and determines that the soldier was Hanoverian trained and likely fought with the British to liberate portions of the homeland that had come into Napoleon's control. There were only two soldiers who had "CB' as initials in their name, and the remains in particular had an "F' that was faded with time. Glover also used payroll records and coins found near the remains to determine that the money was likely one week's pay. That's very Sherlock Holmes of him, don't you

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Easter Tradition

With Easter just upon us, I looked into 18th Century traditions, and found the following:

The "Easter Bunny", or Osterhase, is a product of 18th Century Germany, one of the ages greatest pleasures for the children. Children would decorate brightly colored nests in quiet areas of the house. The Oster Hase would lay eggs in it for them, if they were good! Eventually the nest became a basket, and has been used ever since, not really for eggs, but for candy and small Spring-themed gifts.

My favorite tradition is the baking of the Hot Cross Buns. Since medieval times, marking bread with a cross was a common thing to do, warding off evil spirits that could affect the bread, making it not rise, or go moldy. A round bun was formed, and the cross divided it into 4 lunar quarters. These were known as Good Friday or Cross buns, but the first written reference to "Hot Cross Buns" came in 1733.  

These buns are sweet and spiced, and include currants or raisins, and traditionally eaten in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South Africa, India and Canada. The sun never sets on the Hot Cross Bun!