I’m A Gramps!

Meet my first grandchild, Emmet Lee Williamson.  Born at 6:43PM 12/8/2106, 8lbs 10oz and 21 inches long!


Astronomy Pic of the Day


The Pleiades open Cluster (M45)

The Pleiades Star cluster is a loosely grouped cluster of hot B-type stars found in the constellation of Taurus.  The cluster is one of the closest star clusters to each (425 light years), and has been used as a standard candle in distance calculations because of the ability to determine the cluster members distance.

In Greek mythology, the Pleiads were  were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and half-sisters of the Hyades, whose mother was Æthra.  Orion was enamored of them and chased them for seven years.  As a result of pleas of the sisters to Zeus they were placed in the sky to escape Orion.  Later Orion was also placed in the sky behind the Pleiades, symbolizing the chase.

The cluster itself as been used for centuries both as a test of the sky conditions as well as a test of sharpness of sight: being able to see all of the sisters (the brightest stars in the cluster) can be trying on hazy nights with good eyesight and difficult for those with dimmer vision.

Credit and Copyright: Copyright ©2009 FotisRizos

Craig Claiborne’s Incredible Yoda Stew



  • 3 pounds lean lamb or other meat [Chuck roast works well]
  • salt to taste, if desired
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons oil (light corn, vegetable, or other)
  • 6 cups finely chopped parsley
  • 3 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon finely choppedd seeded hot green or red chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 pounds fresh spinach, well rinsed, tough stems removed

[I like to add potatoes and carrots to this to make it more of a beef stew – 2
or 3 medium potatoes cubed and 3-4 carrots sliced. RW]


1) Cut the meat into 1″ cubes; add salt and pepper to taste.
2) Heat half the oil in a heavy skillet and add the meat until the pieces
turn brown on all sides.
3) Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven or heavy casserole and add parsley,
onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, untill the onions are wilted.
Add the meat, coriander, cloves, cumin, tumeric, ginger root, chilies,
cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.
4) Add water to cover, bring to a boil and cover tightly. Let simmer about
2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is quite tender.
5) [If adding potatoes and carrots, do so after the stew has simmered for about
an hour to an hour and 15 minutes]
6) Meanwhile, drop the spinach into a kettle of boiling water with salt to
taste, and let simmer about 5 minutes. Drain well and run under cold water.
Drain thoroughly.
7) Squeeze the spinach to remove all excess liquid. Place the spinach on a
chopping block and chop coarsely.
8) Add the spinach to the stew and stir. Let simmer together about 5 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings.

Astronomy Pic of the Day

Horsehead Nebula

Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula, embedded in the vast and complex Orion Nebula, is seen in this representative-color image from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii. The dark molecular cloud, roughly 1,500 light years distant, is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against another, brighter nebula. The prominent horse head portion of the nebula is really just part of a larger cloud of dust which can be seen extending toward the bottom of the picture. Credit and Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian Starlight, CFHT

Astronomy Pic of the Day

Eagle Nebula image from Hubble

Messier 16: The Eagle Nebula –  From the Hubble 20th Anniversary collection

Eerie, dramatic pictures from the Hubble telescope show newborn stars emerging from “eggs” — not the barnyard variety — but rather, dense, compact pockets of interstellar gas called evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs). Hubble found the “EGGs,” appropriately enough, in the Eagle nebula, a nearby star-forming region 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens.

Astronomy Pic of the Day


Messier 45 – The Pleiades

The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (Messier object 45), is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky.

Always one of my favorite objects to look for on a clear night anywhere.  The Pleiades were used as a sight test, as being able to see all 7 of the brighter stars is an indication of good eyes.  Mostly, they seem to be a sign of good seeing 🙂

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Cat's Eye Nebula

NGC6543: The Cat’s Eye Nebula – Hubble Image (NASA, AURA, STScI)

NGC6543 is one of my favorite Planetary Nebula.  So called because early telescopes could not resolve them well enough and they seemed to resemble a planet, these nebulae are actually the ejecta from the explosion of the outer layers of a star.  You can see the remaining star in the center of this image, and is called a “white dwarf” because of it’s coloration and size.  The white dwarf will over time cool down and stop emitting, as it is only a remnant of the pre-cursor star.  As the star dies, so too the nebula will stop glowing, so a planetary nebula is a relatively short-lived phenomena as astronomical times go!

I did a study of the spectra of this nebula as an undergrad, and found it to have a highest metallicity of any planetary then known  [Metal = anything heavier than hydrogen in astronomer-speak :)].

Astronomy Pic of the Day

Hubble Deep Field

The Hubble Deep Field (HDF) is an image of a small region in the constellation Ursa Major, constructed from a series of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. It covers an area 2.5 arcminutes across, two parts in a million of the whole sky, which is equivalent in angular size to a 65 mm tennis ball at a distance of 100 metres. The image was assembled from 342 separate exposures taken with the Space Telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 over ten consecutive days between December 18 and December 28, 1995.

I have a print of this image, signed by my co-workers from when I worked at Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.  The amazing array of galaxies really gives you a true sense of how insignificant we are.  I have heard that you can find galaxies shaped like every letter of the alphabet in this picture (I doubt it; the physics involved would be, shall we say, “complicated”).

Astronomy Pic of the Day

The Beehive

Messier 13:The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Burali, Tiziano Capecchi, Marco Mancini (Osservatorio MTM)

I like this cluster because in a dark sky it is almost a naked eye object.  You can see a fuzzy patch in the constellation Hercules that even with binoculars can be resolved into pin points of light.

Why tomswifty?

I get the question occasionally, “Why Tom Swifty”?

Well, Tom Swift was a character in juvenile fiction that was a great inventor.  He always was inventing something new.  The books were released in the 1910s-1930s and then in the 50’s was resurrected as Tom Swift Jr., who was supposed to be the original Tom Swift’s son, who also invented.

The books were written by staff writers at the publishing company under the pseudonym Victor Appleton.  The prose in the books is sometimes hilarious as such:

“I know who turned off the lights,” Tom hinted darkly.

Examples such as this gave rise to a series of puns call “Tom Swifties” where the quote and the description combined for a moan-causing pun:

“I’m wearing my wedding ring,” said Tom with abandon.
“I caught two hares,” said Tom abrasively.
“The number of people not attending class today really bothers me,” said the professor absent-mindedly.

I collect Tom Swift books as a hobby, so being a “Tom Swifty” suits me fine 🙂