Sky scene tomorrow, and another Instar

The planets are still mostly in the morning sky.

Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, in order downward, and Mercury lowest, descending from its Jan. 1 greatest westward elongation (farthest separation from the Sun).

Uranus and Neptune are on the evening side, and Venus barely, having arrived there on Jan. 9 by passing behind the Sun, so that it is still only a few degrees out and sets minutes after the Sun. It happens to be today at the aphelion of its orbit (its greatest pjysical distance from the Sun).

There are slight improvements to “Astronomical Calendar 2018” (see the tab at top), and the dates of meteor showers will be added soon.

I’m glad that Dave K. asked “What do you mean by using the word ‘instar’?” for these modified versions, and that David Stroud answered, so that I didn’t immediately have to launch into my essay on the cluster of ideas.

There are two such words in English, though I hadn’t known of the existence of one of them. It is a verb, has stress on the second syllable, was coined by poets as far back as 1592, and means “to make something into a star” or “to adorn something with stars.” We could say that the astronomer Conon instarred Queen Berenice’s hair, by making it into a constellation.

The other word is a noun, with stress on the first syllable, and is a borrowing of a Latin word that came from the root of stare, “to stand.”  In Latin it meant a “form” or “likeness,” or something that stood for something else – instar montis equum, “a horse like a mountain” – but it was introduced by entomologists in the late nineteenth century as a term for a stage in the metamorphosing life of an insect or other arthropod.  An insect or spider is a first instar, or is in its first instar, after it hatches; is in its second instar after it first sheds its exoskeleton; and so on.  The next instar can be not only larger but wonderfully different.

I once worked as a library cataloguer (of a rather specialized kind). We had to be careful, when making an entry for a book, to distinguish between its printings and reprintings and editions. Sometimes these categories slid into each other. I became even more interested in this terminology when composing what I thought would be a series of treatises about library science – of which only the first, about a spiral building, got printed. In the treatise on cataloguing, I would have had a lot to say about the subtleties of printings and editions.

But all this fits the situation in which books are printed in runs of 100 or 12,000 copies.  There came  the technology of “print on demand,” in which you can get a few copies, or one, printed only when needed. And, after that and before the next is needed, you can make changes. This might be called a new edition, if there are many changes; but not if there are few, or one. Nor is it a distinct printing, since you may get a copy printed today and more a few days later. But something needs to be printed in the book to record that there are differences in it. So I decided to use “state.” “State 2017 Jan. 31.”

This is exactly parallel to the way the term is used in talking about prints made from woodcuts or lithographs, on which the artist continues to work after pulling some prints.

And now we come to electronic entities that may not be printed at all. “Versions” of software programs. Documents like “Astronomical Calendar 2018,” which exist only in the ether and flit from screen to screen, are not unlike mayflies. So I think they develop from instar to instar.

3 thoughts on “Sky scene tomorrow, and another Instar”

  1. Thanks Guy. Here in San Francisco we’ve had a lot of cloudy weather recently, with predictions of rain that mostly dry out before any actual rain arrives.

    But the sky was clear Friday night, Saturday morning, and all day Saturday. Friday evening I checked in on Uranus’ glacial prograde movement west of omicron Piscium and I was please that Mira has become visible to the naked eye, even through urban light pollution. Saturday morning before dawn I walked up the hill to check the progress of the morning planets, and I was struck by a big beautiful curve of stars and planets, from Spica a bit west of due south, through Zubenelgenubi, Jupiter, Mars, delta Scorpii, and Antares (no sign of Saturn).

    And, because of a serendipitous last-minute change in plans, I was able to attend the Women’s March on Saturday, marking one year since our dangerous idiot president was inaugurated. It was good to be out with 100,000 motivated, conscious, hopeful people. It was a lovely day, and I had a good walk from my home to the Civic Center for the rally and the march down Market Street to the Embarcadero, and then out Pier 14 to look at the Bay, and home via the SF Museum of Modern Art (nice free restrooms), a rest break at Yerba Buena Gardens, and Rainbow Grocery to pick up some food for the coming week. 12 km round trip, and I didn’t burn any fossil fuel.

    And then, last night and this morning, we got a good rain storm.

    1. Glad the San Franciscoian had a clear sky to obvserve. Not so in the valley..clouds, fog which doesn’t fog my mind about our President.. why insert your anti President remarks in a otherwise informative input. I don’t feel I need to post for/anti comments on our country, govt when I’m in an astronomy fourm.

      1. Dear Reba — It’s Guy’s blog and I will defer to his judgment about which comments are appropriate or inappropriate. I respect your wish not to discuss our country or our government in this forum (although now you have entered into discussion about them). These larger political issues seem relevant to me: if Trump hadn’t been elected and inaugurated there wouldn’t have been a Women’s March, so I wouldn’t have had that lovely walk on Saturday.

        Despite our political differences, I hope you have clear skies soon.

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