Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Eclipse-created Monochromatic Rainbow

During this past May 20, 2012, the citizens of the US experienced the second biggest astronomical event of the year (the first being the transit of Venus in June).  People were concentrating their eyes, cameras, and telescopes at the moon as it slowly moved in front of the sun. The highlight of the event was the annular eclipse in the western part of the US. People further away from this annular path were treated to a partial eclipse. But a very select few in the Midwest experienced a rarer visual spectre, a rainbow. But not just any rainbow. It was a monochromatic rainbow from an eclipsed sun.

To create a monochromatic rainbow, the sun has to near sunset so that mainly red light shines through. On the map, the eclipse was occurring during sunset in areas between the far left and far right red lines.  Next, if too much of the sun is eclipsed, there will not be enough light at sunset to create the already faint monochromatic rainbow. Areas below the light blue line have more than 80% of the sun blocked. The dark blue line is the path where an annular eclipse could be viewed. Finally, you need rain to create a rainbow but the storm should have a distinctive western edge were the sunset sun can shine through. The only place which all 3 elements is over the midwest (upper peninsula of Michigan, Illinois, and eastern Missouri). The regions in Ohio could have it but its likely that not much of the sun would be eclipsed at sunset. 

The photo above is a mosaic of frames from a video capture of the monochromatic rainbow over the Chicago skyline. I wish i could have gotten a better shot of it with my camera but its the best I could do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who's buried in Grants Tomb?

There used to be an old joke since the 1950s used as a low ball/easy question for a contest:
"Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" The expected answer is Ulysses S. Grant, but he is not buried there technically (he is entombed there). But where are US presidents buried?

Since Hoover, all presidents have been buried at their presidential libraries/ museums except for Franklin Roosevelt (at his home in Hyde Park, NY), John Kennedy (at Arlington National Cemetery) and Lyndon Johnson (at his ranch in Johnson City, TX). Those six are:
  • Herbert Hoover - West Branch, IA
  • Harry Truman - Independence, MO
  • Dwight Eisenhower - Abilene, KS
  • Richard Nixon - Yorba Linda, CA
  • Gerald Ford - Grand Rapids, MI
  • Ronald Reagan - Simi Valley, CA
But what about the rest? 

An obvious choice would be to be buried on the grounds of a family estate. For those presidents who had such large estates, this is usually the case for 9 of them:
  • George Washington at Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, VA)
  • Thomas Jefferson at Monticello (Charlottesville, VA)
  • James Madison at Montpelier (near Orange, VA)
  • Andrew Jackson at Hermitage (Hermitage, TN)
  • Andrew Johnson at the Andrew Johnson House (Greeneville, TN)
  • James Polk at Polk Place (Nashville, TN) but moved to the Tennessee State Capitol
  • Rutherford Hayes at Spiegel Grove (Fremont, OH)
  • Franklin Roosevelt at Springwood (Hyde Park, NY)
  • Lyndon Johnson at LBJ Ranch / Texas White House (Stonewall, TX)
There are other presidents with family estates but were not buried there (James Monroe's Oak Hill, James Buchanan's Wheatland, James Garfield's Lawnfield, Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill, and John Kennedy's Kennedy Compound). 

Several US presidents were of such importance during their lives that separate tombs and memorials were created. Surprisingly, there are only 5 such Presidents:
  • William Henry Harrison - William Henry Harrison Tomb and Monument in North Bend, OH
  • Abraham Lincoln - Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, IL
  • Ulysses Grant - Grant's Tomb in New York City, NY.
  • William McKinley - McKinley National Memorial in Canton, OH
  • Warren Harding - Harding Memorial in Marion, OH
Five US presidents have been buried in special locations, mainly churches or Arlington National Cemetery:
  • John Adams and John Quincy Adams - United First Parish Church in Quincy, MA
  • William Taft - Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA
  • Woodrow Wilson - Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC
  • John Kennedy - Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA
Nine US Presidents are buried in a cemetery near or in their hometowns. These graves can have monuments, masoleums, or tombs associated with them:
  • Martin Van Buren - Kinderhook Cemetery in Kinderhook, NY
  • Zachary Taylor - Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, KY
  • Millard Fillmore - Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY
  • Franklin Pierce - Old North Cemetery in Concord, NH
  • James Buchanan - Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster, PA
  • James Garfield - Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, OH
  • Benjamin Harrison - Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN
  • Theodore Roosevelt - Youngs Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay, NY
  • Calvin Coolidge: Notch Cemetery in Plymouth Notch, VT. 
There are four US Presidents who are buried in cemeteries somewhat close to their hometowns. 
  • James Monroe: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA with a cast iron cage-like tomb. 
  • John Tyler: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA next to James Monroe
  • Chester Arthur: Family plot in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, NY
  • Grover Cleveland: Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, NJ (born in NJ but lived in NY)
So what does the future hold? Apparently Jimmy Carter wishes to be buried near his home in Plains, GA and not at the Carter Center. As for the rest, we don't know.

In the end, there has not been a "standard" presidential burial. Some have small graves in a small cemetery. Otherwise are entombed on their large family estates. Surprisingly, most do not have large monuments or memorials to their memories. The last two US Presidents with a separate memorial may not be considered memorial by today's standards. However, a Presidential Library and Museum today could be considered a separate memorial. I guess we'll be seeing more and more of such monuments to US Presidents in the future. The days of a plain grave in a small cemetery are probably over. Coolidge was the last of them. He was quote as saying: 
"We draw our Presidents from the people... I came from them. I wish to be one of them again."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What was THE only Confederate Territory of America?

At the end of 1861, the first provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America met. The seal and flag of the CSA had 13 stars which include the 11 states who officially voted to secede from the Union (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, Al, MS, TN, AR, LA, and TX) as well as MO and KY who never seceded but had factions in them that were pro-CSA.

So the Confederacy that most of us know about is this:
But something odd happened down in the southwestern part of the US, in the New Mexico Territory. That territory was the only region in the "South" that the Confederate States of America could try to claim. But things were already brewing in that territory, back in 1854. Governing large territories like New Mexico can be difficult as populations are spread out. The populous town of Tucson was far the capital, Santa Fe, and without governmental support. Therefore, New Mexico wanted to create a separate territory. They petitioned Congress to act but nothing was done.

Several version of how to divide New Mexico were created. The New Mexico Legislature wanted a north-south border at the 109 deg W meridian. The people around Tucson pushed for an east-west border at the 33 deg 45 minute line from California to Texas. But these suggestions were not accepted by the US Congress. As the Civil War began, frustration with the federal government had been on going for at least 10 years. In Mesilla, they voted to seceded from the US and join the CSA. Their "Ordinance of Secession" lists their greivances: failure to provide protection against savages, denied them the right to form a government to administer laws, and loss of mail service. But official recognition from the CSA would take an invading Confederate army lead by John Baylor to remove Union forces near Mesilla. On August 1, 1861, Baylor proclaimed the area of New Mexico south of the 34th parallel as the Territory of Arizona for the Confederate States of America. It was proclaimed by Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA, on February 14, 1862. 

The US Congress attempted to invalidate the CSA claim to this territory by creating its own Arizona Territory in February 1863 by dividing New Mexico along the 109th deg W meridian. This effectively split the CSA's territory in half and not recognizing it. There were no delegates from Southern states to block its creation. 

The CSA Arizona territory would collapse with Union troops moving back into the area in 1862, the CSA government would flee from Mesilla to San Antonio. However, it did keep its Congressional Delegate. It would "officially" disappear with the collapse of the CSA at the end of the Civil War. 

The Confederacy had hoped to reach California and gain access to its resources and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. While this plan was not successful, Arizona should be remembered with the other 13 states as being part of the Confederacy as show in this map:

But this odd link with the Confederacy does not stop there. The people of the Arizona Territory were allowed to join the Union as a state with their enabling act in 1910. While forming their state constitution, one contentious topic was the ability of voters to recall judges. However, the state constitution with this provision was approved by delegates (on party lines) and the territorial voters. It was then vetoed by President Taft in 1911. By December 1911, an amended state constitution without the judge recall clause was approved. It was now approved for statehood. Apparently, some Arizona settlers hoped to be admitted into the Union on February 12th which was the birthday of President Lincoln who had help create the territory in 1863. However, Taft was apparently "busy". Internet searches indicate he spoke about the need for national parks,visited the Essex Troop Armory in Newark, NJ, and spoke at a Lincoln Day dinner of the NY Republicans (discussed the dangers of the Progressive movement). Anecdotely, Taft did not want to sign proclamation of state on the 13th as it was bad luck. Therefore, it was signed on February 14, 1912 and Arizona became a state. Rebelliously, these new citizen restored the recall of judges into their constitution in November 1912. 

As for this link with the Confederacy, the date of statehood (Feb 14, 1912) is fifty years to the day that President Davis proclaimed its existence. An accident, I'm sure...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The most important Twelve Miles in the US.

When peering at the various boundaries throughout the US, there is one that stands out for an odd reason: the Pennsylvania - Delaware boundary. It's almost circular.

How did such a thing come about? When looking at this arc, its center is not at Wilmington, which is the capital of Delaware. It is New Castle, which is located 12 miles from this border. This arc has also been called "The Twelve Mile Circle".  When William Penn received a charter for his new Province of Pennsylvania on February 28. 1681, his new province was:
"bounded on the East by Delaware River, from twelve miles distance Northwards of New Castle Towne unto the three and fortieth degree of Northerne Latitude... The said Lands to extend westwards five degrees in longitude, to bee computed from the said Easterne Bounds".

This boundary by New Castle was described as:
"a Circle drawne at twelve miles distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude"

There was confusion if the the circle was supposed to have a diameter, radius, or circumference of 12 miles around New Castle. In the end, a radius of 12 miles was used. In fact, this extends all around New Castle including the border of New Jersey. In fact, there are parts of land attached to the NJ side of the Delaware River that are technically in Delaware because it falls within 12 miles of New Castle. Most websites and blogs stop there. But where did this 12 mile distance come from?

The area was originally colonized by the Dutch and the Swedes. One of the main forts in the area was in New Castle. Eventually, the British would win control over this region (and the Hudson River valley). Charles II granted all the land west of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay to his brother, the Duke of York, in 1664. The region of present day Delaware was outside this. Since, the Duke was given the Dutch claims along the Hudson River, the Duke exertrf control over other Dutch areas, those on the west bank of the Delaware Bay.  

But if you look further back, this area was given to Lord Baltimore in his Charter of Maryland in 1632. The northern boundary of this new colony was at the 40th degree latitude. The land included all parts west of the Delaware Bay up to the mouth of the Potomac River and up to the headwaters of the Potomac. As shown on the right, this would include present day Delaware. Lord Baltimore tried to claim that his grant included the region that the Dutch had settled. Lead by Augustine Herman, the Dutch countered that Baltimore's claim includes land that had not been settled which was not the case for the west bank of a Delaware Bay. Hence, that region should be excluded. In the end, the two parties decided to divide the peninsula in half but such a line was not marked until Mason and Dixon surveyed it in the 1760s. So there is no mention of 12 miles in this part of the story. 

When William Penn attempted to form a colony in the area, the grant mentions the southern boundary to be at the 40th degree latitude. In those days, there was a variation of interpretation for this. Some what draw a boundary line at the start of the 40th degree. Others would try one at the end of the 40th degree. This amount of variability could leave Philadelphia in Maryland or Baltimore City in Pennsylvania. The agents for the Duke of York thought the 40th degree was about 20-30 miles north of New Castle (so outside of this newly acquired region). William Penn and the head of the Privy Council (Lord Chief-Justice North) thought it was about 12 miles north of New Castle. So this is the origin of this particular distance. The supposed southern border of Pennsylvania would approach the west bank of the Delaware and get as close as 12 miles from New Castle. The best outcome would be the 40th degree latitude would meet at the top of this circle. In the end, the 40th degree was too far north and further negotiations would lead to the present day boundaries. 

But there is one more tidbit. In 1682, Penn would "rent out" the "Lower Counties on the Delaware" to provide more access to the Delaware Bay. Eventually, those living in this region would want to have their own government that was not linked to Philadelphia.  This was somewhat granted in 1701 where there would still be a single governor but the local representatives would function independently from Philadelphia. After the Declaration of Independence was signed, these three counties quickly organized into an independent state with the creation of its own constitution in September 1776. Eventually, it would be the first state to ratify the new US Constitution in 1787. So, first state in this new Federal union wasn't even an official British colony.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Changing when the Seasons Start...

There are four main dates in the calendar that relate to the environment we live in: the December and June solstices, and the March and September equinoxes. Seasons have been defined by certain periods of time in a year. Seasons usually indicate changes in amount of daylight and the weather. But there are regions of the world where the daylight does not change much during the year but the weather can: e.g. monsoon season or rainy season. But we'll stick with the typical temperate zone seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Popular media will use those dates to indicate when a season "starts" as in winter starts on December 21 or 22 in the northern hemisphere. But seasons can be defined in different ways.

An astronomical POV could be used where it is the position of the sun in the sky that determines the seasons. In this case, solstices and equinoxes would be the middle of the seasons. For example, the June solstice is the day the sunrises the earliest and should be in the middle of northern hemisphere summer (not the start). Therefore, astronomical seasons start in between a solstice and equinox. Some call these dates cross-quarter days, or days halfway between a solstice and equinox. In the northern hemisphere, this would be on Feb 1 or 2, May 1, Aug 1-2, and Oct 31-Nov 1. This is similar to using the amount of sunlight received (insolation) to determine various quarters of the year.

Another way to look at when the seasons start is based upon the weather (or temperature). When using average temperatures for a particular hemisphere, the starts of the seasons are March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1. In general, the temperatures changes typical for those seasons have not started at these dates (possibly due to so called thermal lag).

So where does that leave us?

Astronomic February 1,2May 1August 1,2October 31,November 1
Meteorologic March 1June 1September 1November 1
Popular Media March 20,21June 20,21September 22,23December 21,22

Can we improve upon these definitions?

Why not take the sunlight approach but disregard the need to have seasons with similar number of days. Using Chicago as an example, below is a graph of the sunrise and sunset times:
The amount of daylight varies from 9:08 to 15:14 throughout the year. We can divide the amount of possible daylight per day into 4 sections: 9:08 to 10:39:30, 10:39:30 to 12:11, 12:11 to 13:42:30, and 13:42:30 to 15:14. There will be 2 sections of the year that each of these daylight ranges would occur. Therefore, we could define winter as the 2 sections with the least daylight while summer would be the 2 sections with the most daylight. Spring and Fall would occur in between. If we do that, what do the seasons look like?

So spring is from February 16 to April 22. Summer goes until August 18. Fall ends at October 24. Winter continues through February 16. The solstices and equinoxes are in the middle of their respective seasons. But the length of each season is different: Summer and winter are about 16 1/2 weeks each. Spring and fall are about 9 1/2 weeks each. 

But there is another way to define a season: using the sunset (or sunrise). Excluding daylight savings, sunset varies from 16:19 to 19:30. Like the hours of daylight, you can divide that up into quarters and assign seasons based upon what range of sunset times occur.  

Using that idea, spring would start on February 2. Summer starts on April 24. Fall starts on August 20. And winter begins on October 16. But if you add daylight savings and assume the latest sunset is at 20:30, things are little more interesting. Spring would start on February 9. Summer begins on April 11. Fall starts on August 30. And winter begins on November 4. So wehre does that leave us?

Astronomic February 1,2May 1August 1,2October 31,November 1
Meteorologic March 1June 1September 1November 1
Popular Media March 20,21June 20,21September 22,23December 21,22
Daylight Duration February 16April 22,23August 18October 24,25
Sunset February 2April 24August 20October 16
Sunset w/ Daylight Savings February 9,10April 11August 30November 4

Anyway, that's just me. So what do we use? The best combination of seasons would be the one with long summers, not as long winters, and spring happening earlier. And using the sunset times with daylight savings fits those requirements: Spring starts 6 weeks early. Summer is 20 weeks long. Winter starts earlier but only lasts 14 weeks. Maybe this should be called the socioeconomic seasons? Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Which way to the Republic of Indian Stream?

Marking boundaries was not a big deal in the early history of the US. Typical these boundaries were in the uninhabited frontier. After the Revolutionary War, a boundary between the US and British North America (Canada) was defined in the "Article 2nd" of theTreaty of Paris 1783. For the region of Maine to New York, the international boundary would start:

"along the said Highlands which divide those Rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost Head of Connecticut River; Thence down along the middle of that River to the forty-fifth Degree of North Latitude; From thence by a Line due West on said Latitude"

An early map of New Hampshire from 1799 is on the right. Zooming to the area in question on the left.

But a little question arose between the two countries: where is the northwestern most head of the Connecticut River?
Great Britain had the boundary going through the Connecticut Lakes (starting at the Third and Fourth Lake). Not surprisingly, the US thought the northwestern most head water was at the start of Halls Stream. Therefore, there was an overlap of land claims, shown in green in the above map. Both countries apparently sent tax collectors to the settlers there. Also the British tried to enlist them into the British military and to tax them for importing goods. 

On April 6, 1829, the citizens in the area declared their independence from Great Britain and the United States and named their new country, the Indian Stream Republic. They created a government, constitution, and bill of rights. This was done in the main town in the region, Pittsburg. Also a 40 person militia was created to protect the settlers. Several small skirmishes occurred over the next 7 years. Many of these were arrests of pro- or anti-Canadian residents either in Canada or the Indian Stream Republic. One main incident occurred in 1835 when a settler was arrested in Canada for an unpaid hardware store debt. Other settlers went to Canada and shot up the house of the judge in charge of that case. To help further quell any antagonism between the two countries by these settlers, the New Hampshire militia invaded the region. The Republic voted to be annexed by the US in 1835. Negotiations between the two countries resulted in Great Britain giving up its claim to the land in January 1836. The US then annexed the area in May 1836. It was made official in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (November 10 1842) where this northern boundary starts:

"down along the said highlands which divide the waters which empty themselves into the river Saint Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the head of Hall's Stream; thence, down the middle of said Stream, till the line thus run intersects the old line of boundary surveyed and marked by Valentine and Collins previously to the year 1774, as the 45th degree of north latitude,"

The independent Republic of Indian Stream only lasted from 1832 to 1836. It  wasn't the first of the breakaway republics since the US was founded (that was probably the Independent Republic of West Florida), but it was one of the longer lasting ones because of a valid disagreement in an international treaty.

But the oddities do not end there. In 1836, that main town, Pittsburg, ended up annexing all of the land that was part of the Republic of Indian Stream. In doing so, the town now covered 291 square miles, the largest town in America, and it still is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does Illinois share a border with Michigan? (Or How Nathaniel Pope Screwed up US Geography)

Most of us learned about the 50 US states some time in grade school. Some of us were even able to recognize the shape of the states. But something odd happens to the shape of states around the Great Lake. I'll use Illinois and Indiana as an example.

Now 5 states were formed from the old Northwest Territory, a region north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. (Parts of it did become Minnesota.) The guidelines for how the states should be created from the NW Territory is contained in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. One part of this ordinance states the region could be divided into northern and southern states by a boundary

"which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan"

If those words were followed precisely, then the states of Illinois and Indiana would look like the graphic on the right. Chicago would have ended up in Wisconsin and the shapes of those 2 states would obviously be different.

So how did these states end up with different borders? There are well known stories about how the northern borders got extended further north than the southerly end of Lake Michigan.

Indiana supposedly wanted more usable lakeshore. Using the original guidelines, they would not have any access to Lake Michigan. So the state extended the border 10 miles north when its boundaries are described in its state constitution. Congress followed suit on June 23, 1836 when they agreed to this 10 mile northerly deviation. But what about Illinois?

The change in the Illinois northerly boundary is attributed to Nathaniel Pope, the states first delegate (Territorial) to the US Congress. While Congress was debating the Act to admit Illinois as a state into the Union, Pope suggested that the northern boundary be moved from the southernly end of Lake Michigan to a parallel at 42 degree 30 minutes.

Various reasons were given to move the boundary. Politicians then were already concerned of a potential rift in the Union between Northern and Southern states. Pope may have argued that isolating Illinois from Lake Michigan would force the state to use the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers for commerce which would make it dependent on Southern States. By having access to Lake Michigan, it could form relationships with other northerly states such as New York or Pennsylvania. The Annals of Congress (April 4, 1818) describe Pope arguing that giving Illinois access to Lake Michigan would connect it to northern states and "would afford additional security to the perpetuity of the Union". He also argued that the new northern border would include Chicago in a state and increase the interest of creating a canal between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River next to Chicago. Congress agreed to the changed boundary.

So how did this change screw up US state geography taught in school? Well, the shapes of the states around the Great Lakes is wrong. Because the northern boundary of Illinois and Indiana are extended north, their boundaries actually extend into Lake Michigan. These added area of Lake Michigan should also be included in the shape of those states. So the shapes of the Great Lake states go from this:
to this:

But I doubt anyone will learn them this way. Most lakes are not big enough to cause a significant change in the boundary of states. The Great Lakes are the exception. States extend into them. So if you're drawing the state of Illinois, don't forget the piece the sticks out north and east of Chicago. Besides Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, Illinois also borders Michigan. It just happens in the middle of Lake Michigan.
And blame Nathaniel Pope for creating that odd shape. At least, Illinois got Chicago in the deal. It could have been in Wisconsin.