Saturn and a snow

April has been a rather aberrant month this year. Here in Colorado, we've experienced a second winter of sorts with a pair of significant snowstorms in the past few weeks. April has also brought with it some unnerving events for many people in the United States, as well as around the world. Looking beyond our planet though, April is also host to a few enjoyable astronomical occasions.

[Thanks to Neave's Planetarium!]

Tonight, April 25th, the planet Saturn will rise within 4 degrees of the full moon. It will hug our celestial satellite throughout the night for a wonderful viewing experience. You may want to bring out your telescope or a pair of binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of Saturn's rings.

Don't worry too much, if you're unable to catch a glimpse of Saturn tonight, the planet will be visible in the night sky for some time to come. Most notably on April 28th when it will be in opposition (directly opposite the Sun) and at its closest distance to Earth. Long time readers know how much I enjoy astronomy, so it should be no surprise that I will definitely be finding a great place to hike with my telescope and witness the wonders of the night sky.

2013-04-26@08:00:00 MDT UPDATE: Added a photo from my viewing of Saturn's rings last night. Taking a photo through a telescope lens does the beauty of the rings no justice.


Water is necessary

What do you need? What is essential to every day of your life? In the world of instant gratification, global communication, and relative safety, you might find yourself thinking that you "need" more than truly necessary: Food, Water, Shelter.

When I wrote the survival series, it was about educating people whose basic needs are met in their daily lives. My hope continues to be that those articles can be a helpful resource and provide the knowledge which could save lives in unexpected situations. However, today is Earth Day and I'd like to take a more globally aware view.

URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:D-P005_Kein_Trinkwasser.svg

There are far more people in this world who live in a state of basic survival need everyday than those whose needs are met. People lacking proper nutrition, basic safety/security, and the most basic life need: water. In my articles about the human population reaching 7 billion, I mentioned some statistics about water and sanitation.
Lack access to safe drinking water (1.1 billion): 17.74%
Lack access to basic sanitation (2.6 billion): 41.93%

Years ago, I briefly shared a video from charity:water about their projects to bring clean drinking water to people around the world. Two years ago, I saw another video from them that I've been thinking about since.

URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCHhwxvQqxg

The necessity of water to life is unmistakable, so too are the detrimental effects on the people and communities lacking clean water. Now and again, some people in the developed world are shocked into a life without basic needs (e.g. New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, New England after Hurricane Sandy, the disastrous Carnival Triumph cruise ship). It's in those situations that basic survival skills become the focus of every moment; imagine living always in that state. As the video notes, the time spent trying to meet our basic needs is time that can't be spent on developing ourselves and our community.

Not everyone has the resources, desire, or freedom to lend to the needs of others, but we all feel stress when our needs are being threatened. By keeping an awareness and empathy about that stress, maybe we can each make an effort to recognize and connect with others, helping to improve the overall human condition with the simplest kindness.