Mars: Top Ten Fun Facts


One of the first images taken by Perseverance on Mars!

Do you remember when I had the good fortune of chaperoning Team Mercury to the Kennedy Space Center? My daughter, along with her team of high school Space Exploration students and their teacher John Yi, took a trip to the KSC when they won NASA’s App Development Challenge. We watched the launch of a rocket, NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2, toured the building where rockets are built, the Vehicle Assembly Building, built our own rockets, stood under the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and learned about NASA’s work to get Perseverance to Mars through lectures and participation in the Mars Experience.

On February, 18, 2021, Perseverance landed on Jezero Crater on Mars, and the excitement of the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was palpable. Perseverance, which launched from Earth on July 30, 2020, will stay on Mars at lease one Mars year (657 Earth days) with a goal of seeking “signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” Hon, did you watch the landing? Want to view raw images from Mars? Click here.

Top Ten Fun Facts About Mars

  1. Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
  2. Mars is red because of rusty iron in the ground.
  3. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  4. There are signs of ancient floods on Mars, but now water mostly exists in icy dirt and thin clouds.
  5. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes.
  6. A year on Mars is 687 Earth days because it takes a lot longer than Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun.
  7. Mars has two moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos.
  8. Based on the make-up of the planet and atmosphere (iron, magnesium, sulfur, acids and CO2), researchers have concluded that Mars smells like rotten eggs.
  9. Mars is home to the highest mountain in our solar system, a volcano called Olympus Mons, which is about three times the height of Mount Everest.
  10. The first spacecrafts to land on Mars were the Viking Landers, which touched down on the surface in 1976.

Sources: NASA Science Space Place, Australian Academy of Science, National Geographic Kids

Top Ten Unexpected Positives in 2020

Happy New Year Hon!

Thinking about the holiday events we’d be attending and hosting if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, my mind turned to silver linings. In 2020, believe it or not, there was actually amazing news (Polio has been eradicated in Africa) as well as mundane news (Flour was in high demand.). Focusing on how the pandemic effected everyday life and in no particular order, here are the…

Top Ten Unexpected Positives of 2020

  1. Dogs were happy. Very happy. “Shelters, rescues and breeders report increased demand as Americans try to fill voids with canine companion” (Washington Post)
  2. Kids rode bikes to socialize. “How the pandemic has inspired some teens to get off their laptops and go outside” (Washington Post)
  3. Walking was a pastime. “Why Walking is the Ideal Pandemic Activity” (National Geographic)
  4. People stayed outside, even in the cold and rain. “Why You Should Brave the ‘Bad’ Weather” (The New York Times)
  5. Books sales increased. “A Surprisingly Strong Year of Book Sales Continues” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  6. Comfy clothes took over closets. “Dressing for success these days means ‘Athleisure'” (CBS News)
  7. Home cooked meals promoted healthier eating. “Home cooking is the new normal.” (Smart Brief)
  8. Families sat down to dinner together. “The return of family dinner” The Boston Globe
  9. Exercise classes were more accessible than ever. “Virtual workouts have exploded in popularity—and they’re here to stay.” (MindBody Business) And…
  10. Grandparents learned how to FaceTime! “Grandparents, thank you for FaceTiming and learning how to use Zoom during this quarantine” (Motherly)

Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles

Enormous snapping turtle spotted on a walk in the South Mountain Reservation a few weeks ago.

Box Turtle found in my garden.

Despite the Turtle Back Zoo being a local attraction, I’ve only seen turtles in the area a few times. There are the small turtles that sun themselves on logs in Diamond Mill Pond in the South Mountain Reservation, the box turtle that showed up in my garden, and the box turtle who peed a gallon on me when I picked it up by The Waterfront. Compared to the “Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs,” in which chipmunks, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, moles, opossums, turkeys and foxes are common, turtle sightings are scant.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I spotted a prehistoric-looking creature a few feet from the road!

It was an enormous snapping turtle whose shell was about 2 1/2 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide. Add in its head and long tail and it was about 3 1/2 feet long. People were gathering and the turtle didn’t look happy. Hon, you know what I had to do once I got home? Look up snapping turtle facts, of course!

Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles:
  1. Turtles have a hard plate that covers the stomach, called a plastron. But, a snapping turtle’s plastron is small, so they can’t pull their head and legs into their shell for protection. They make up for this lack of body armor with an aggressive temperament.
  2. In the wild, snapping turtles are estimated to live up to 30 years, and in captivity, they can live up to 47 years. Once they reach a certain size there are few natural predators of snapping turtles.
  3. A snapping turtle’s tail has sharp ridges running along its length, and is nearly as long as the shell. Their necks, legs, and tails have a yellowish color and the head is dark. A snapping turtle’s mouth is shaped like a strong, bony beak with no teeth. Their skin is rough with characteristic bumps, called tubercles, on their necks and legs. The feet are webbed and have strong claws.
  4. Turtles lack teeth. Most are mute, but they have keen senses of smell and color vision.
  5. Living only in fresh or brackish water, snapping turtles prefer water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation so that they can hide more easily. They spend almost all their time in water, but do go on land to lay their eggs in sandy soil.
  6. They like to bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying is used to surprise prey.
  7. Snapping turtles have a small growth on the end of their tongues that looks like a wriggling worm. To capture fish, the turtle opens its mouth to make the “worm” visible. When a fish comes to the worm, the snapping turtle grabs it with its strong jaws.
  8. Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on dead animals, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. They kill other turtles by biting off their heads.
  9. Snapping turtles are solitary. Even though many turtles may be found in a small area, their social interactions are limited to aggression between individuals, usually males.
  10. Snapping turtles communicate to mates with leg movements while the turtles face each other. Snapping turtles also use their sense of smell, vision, and touch to detect prey. They may sense vibrations in the water.
Source: BioKids

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

Stonehenge

Hon, hope you had a nice July 4th weekend!

This year, though our friends’ holiday bbq was nixed, we still got together, socially distancing of course. Since our school district doesn’t let out until late June, July 4th feels like the official start of summer. But what does this summer hold? Will I return to work or not? Will Elegant Lifestyles publish a September issue? Is it safe to visit family in different states? Will one of my daughters have to quarantine when she returns home after four months away? Will my younger daughter’s college hold classes? The questions go on and on. One thing we can do is travel…virtually. This is a list of places I’d love to go one day. Where would you like to go?

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

David Attenborough leads you on an interactive tour underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Through interactive time-lapses, videos, and weather maps, the tour shows you the Earth’s most bio-diverse ecosystem.

All the while, a tracker notes miles traveled, total sailing time, and the effects of climate change during your “exhibition,” making this a great educational tour for adults and kids alike!

2. The Great Wall of China

China’s most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.

3. Iceland

Welcome to Iceland 360 VR!Select one of hundreds of locations around Iceland in the search field, panorama location list or location map or try out our location basedand themed virtual tours!

4. Taj Mahal, India

Our online virtual tour enables visitors to interactively explore the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the Taj Mahal at Agra in India. Visitors may tour 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360° panoramas, maps, narrated mini-movies, music and text.

5. Alaska

Experience virtual tours and in-depth educational videos of Kenai Fjords National Park. Journey into the beautiful landscape of Alaska to discover the wonders of the glaciers, local wildlife, geology and so much more!

6. Ireland–25 Virtual Tours

In an attempt to bring those of you that want to be here a little closer to Ireland, we’ve created a guide that’s packed with virtual tours (and 360 photos) for some of Ireland’s best-known attractions.

7. Scotland

“Immerse yourself in the amazing history, cities and landscapes of Scotland from the comfort of your own home…virtual tours of Scotland, including fascinating documentaries and Scottish museums that offer online tours. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual journey through Scotland.

8. Safaris, Africa

Get up close with some of the world’s most amazing animals from the safety of your sofa.

9. Israel

Coronavirus messing up your plans? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a virtual tour of the most beautiful places in Israel with our popular series, Postcards from Israel.

10. Redwoods, California

Join an interpretive ranger in series of VR episodes about some of the natural and cultural history of the park. Move your mouse, handheld device, or wear VR glasses to experience this in 360 degrees.

 

 

Top Ten Patriotic Desserts

1. Red, White & Blue Chocolate Covered Strawberries, yummyhealthyeasy.com

Compulsive Baking

That’s what one of my daughters (shout out to Hannah) and I are doing during quarantine. Need a break from work? Bake! Stressed out? Bake! Family of 5 wants dessert? Bake! (Hon, guess who’s going to need to go on a post-quarantine diet? Me!)

In preparation for the unofficial start to summer, here are the Top Ten Patriotic Desserts. Click on dessert names under the photos for links to each recipe.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day originated?

HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY care of History.com

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees and declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday.

2. Berry Ricotta Cake-Gluten Free, thoroughlynourishedlife.com

3. Flag Cake, tasteofhome.com

4. Berry Financier, familycircle.com

5. No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits, ymmyhealthyeasy.com

6. Vanilla-Raspberry Sundaes with Spoon-Shaped Cookies, marthastewart.com

7. Patriotic Bark, delish.com

8. Patriotic Pops, tasteofhome.com

9. Berry Spritzer, marthastewart.com

10. Fireworks Cookies and Cream Cookies, insidebrucrewlife.com

Happy Holiday, hon!

Sources: insidebrucrewlife.com, tasteofhome.com, delish.commarthastewart.com, yummyhealthyeasy.com, familycircle.com, thououghlynourishedlife.com, history.com

 

Top Ten Facts About the Opossum At My Door

At my door!

Over a year ago, I saw a coyote in my backyard and  posted Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. The other night, when I checked on Midnight-the-Outdoor-Cat, something scooted from Midnight’s food dish and hid behind the snowblower. A little face peered at me–it was a baby opossum! Its eyes were black and shiny, its head had a gray stripe, its body was brownish-gray, and its tail was long and bald. It was pretty cute until it opened its mouth, which was full of jagged teeth! Yikes!

Midnight sauntered about unfazed. Lucy barked like crazy inside the house. Cat? Opossum? Let me out!

When I told my son about the nighttime visitor, he said, “Mom! You know they’re rodents, right?” Are they? I needed more info. Presenting…

Top Ten Facts About the Opossum At My Door

(In North America, opossum and possum are used interchangeably and refer to the Virginia opossum, but in Australia, a possum is a different animal.)

  1. Opossums are marsupials–not rodents–mammals that carry and nurse their young in pouches, and they are the only marsupials in the United Stated and Canada. Their babies are called joeys just like kangaroos. Aww!
  2. Newborn opossums are the size of bumble bees. They crawl to their mother’s pouch, latch on to one of thirteen teats, and remain attached until ready to leave the pouch in about 11 weeks. Double aww!
  3. Opossum ancestors can be traced back about 65 million years to similar animals that lived in the time of the dinosaurs. Wow!
  4. Opossums, unlike other mammals that carry ticks and spread Lyme Disease, gobble up 90 percent of the ticks that attach to them. A single possum consumes 5000 of the parasites per tick season. Good news!
  5. Its’ long, bald tail is prehensile, which means it can be used like an extra arm. Its’ tail can carry grass and leaves for building nests or grip the sides of trees to provide extra stability while climbing. Baby possums can use their tails to hang from branches upside down, “But it’s a myth that possums sleep this way: Their tails are only strong enough to hold them for a short amount of time.” Cool!
  6. Opossums are nocturnal and “generally live in burrows and cavities that they find ready-made rather than create themselves. They seek shelter underground, in trees or anywhere in between.” Opportunistic!
  7. “While possums aren’t totally immune to rabies, finding a specimen with the disease is extremely unlikely. Marsupials like possums have a lower body temperature than the placental mammals that dominate North America—in other words, their bodies don’t provide a suitable environment for the virus.” Whew!
  8. Opossums are immune to snake venom (the one exception being the coral snake), taking “advantage of this adaptation by chowing down on snakes on a regular basis.” Help yourself!
  9. Virginia opossums eat almost anything, from bird eggs to acorns, from slugs and frogs to fruit. And cat food!
  10. You’ve heard of “playing possum?” Since almost any predator can outrun the opossum, whose top speed is 7 miles per hour, the animal’s defense is to play dead. “When the animal experiences intense fear in the face of danger, it seizes up and flops to the ground where it can remain for hours staring blankly ahead and sticking out its tongue. Possums have no control over when they play dead or for how long they do it: The comatose-like state is an involuntary reaction triggered by stress. No acting lessons needed!

Sources: Michele Debczak for Mental Floss.com and Roger Di Silvestro for National Wildlife Federation

Top 10 Family Halloween Costume Ideas

My youngest dressed as an Easter Bunny, circa 2013.

Halloween Fun!

A friend, her hubby, and three young kids are dressing up as characters from the Wizard of Oz. (Shout out to Sherry!) As a tribute to her fun family idea and anyone else out there who is trick-or-treating or dressing up as a unit, here are my favorite Top 10 Family Halloween Costumes, discovered on LDS Living.

Hon, has your family ever coordinated costumes? I’d love to hear from you!

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

Plains Lubber Grasshopper

In my last post, Tarantula Territory, I lamented that I didn’t see any tarantulas on a hike but, guess what I did see? A Plains Lubber Grasshopper! The approximately five-inch insect caught my attention–how could it not?–and I had to get a closer look. I looked at her and she at me. We bonded.

I can’t believe I got such a clear photo of her awesome exoskeleton, which protects her against predators and prevents dehydration. (Come to think of it, that could be a great pick-up line. “Excuse me, but you have an awesome exoskeleton.”) Plains Lubbers are native to southern and central USA and Northern Mexico.

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

  1. A Plains Lubber can’t fly because its wings are too small.
  2. A lubber has a pod that holds approximately 20-35 eggs. After incubating in the ground during the colder months, or for as long as two years, the eggs hatch in May or June.
  3. It uses two pairs of eyes (simple and compound) to see.
  4. It uses its bluish-brown antennae to feel and smell.
  5. The tympanum, or round membrane located on either side of its body near its legs allows it to “hear” or detect sound waves.
  6. To breathe, it has spiracles, or tiny holes located all along the abdomen.
  7. A lubber is capable of jumping from several inches to several feet using its oversized hind legs.
  8. A young lubber will molt its exoskeleton five times at roughly 15-day intervals before reaching adulthood.
  9. Bright coloring and patterning on a lubber’s shell warns predators that it’s unpalatable to downright poisonous. A lubber ingests substances in the plants it eats that, although harmless to humans and the lubber itself, are toxic to many predators. These chemicals may kill smaller creatures such as birds or leave larger animals quite ill after ingesting a lubber.
  10. To protect against predators, a lubber can secrete a noxious foam while making a loud hissing sound. It can also regurgitate a dark brown liquid (commonly called tobacco spit) as a defense.

Hon, which category are you in? Cool or ewww?

For all of the ewww’s, consider the photos below as visual palette cleansers.

Peace along the path.

I “heart” hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching for the sky.

Sources: The Big Zoo, American Orchid SocietyWikipedia, 

Top Ten Patriotic Desserts

1. Red, White & Blue Chocolate Covered Strawberries, yummyhealthyeasy.com

In preparation for the unofficial start to summer, here are the Top Ten Patriotic Desserts. Click on dessert names under the photos for links to each recipe.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day originated?

HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY care of History.com

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees and declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday.

2. Berry Ricotta Cake-Gluten Free, thoroughlynourishedlife.com

3. Flag Cake, tasteofhome.com

4. Berry Financier, familycircle.com

5. No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits, ymmyhealthyeasy.com

6. Vanilla-Raspberry Sundaes with Spoon-Shaped Cookies, marthastewart.com

7. Patriotic Bark, delish.com

8. Patriotic Pops, tasteofhome.com

9. Berry Spritzer, marthastewart.com

10. Fireworks Cookies and Cream Cookies, insidebrucrewlife.com

Happy Holiday, hon!

Sources: insidebrucrewlife.com, tasteofhome.com, delish.commarthastewart.com, yummyhealthyeasy.com, familycircle.com, thououghlynourishedlife.com, history.com

 

Top Ten April Fool’s Pranks, Part 2

Welcome to Top Ten April Fool’s Day Pranks, Part 2.

I’d love to hear if you have a favorite.

I must add a retraction to yesterday’s post.

Correction: Hubby pranks our kids. Example: Our youngest daughter scheduled an interview with the owner of a restaurant for a school project. Hubby told her a pipe burst at the restaurant and it would be closed for the month. “Oh no!” said our daughter. “April Fool’s!”said Hubby.

6) Subway Car Surfaces, 2001

Residents of Copenhagen who visited the square in front of the town hall were greeted by a strange sight. One of the subway cars from the city’s new subway, which was under construction, appeared to have burst up through the pavement. The subway car actually was a retired vehicle from the Stockholm subway. It had been cut at an angle and loose bricks were placed around it, to give the illusion that it had crashed up from below.

The stunt was sponsored by Gevalia Coffee, whose advertisements had an ongoing theme of vehicles popping up in strange locations, with the tagline “Be ready for unexpected guests.”

Real crash or subway car cut at an angle?


7) $99 Flights to Mars, 2009

Vacation at a real hot spot.

Internet-based travel site Expedia.com announced it was offering flights to Mars for only $99, which it calculated to be a savings of $3 trillion for travelers. “In this economy, you can’t afford NOT to go!” it declared.


8Kids Fly Free, 2004

Fly free?

Visitors to the website of discount airline RyanAir were greeted by the news that as a special April Fool’s Day offer kids would be allowed to ride free. A few seconds later the announcement added the second part of the offer: “For as long as they can hold on.”


9) King’s College Choir Uses Helium, 2014

The renowned King’s College Choir is not known for farce. This made it noteworthy when they released a video announcing that complex regulations had made it impractical to continue featuring young boys in the choir, and that they had been forced to find other ways to replicate the high pitch of the boys’ preadolescent voices. Because the older choral scholars had vetoed the “surgical solution,” the choir leaders had finally adopted a suggestion made by a colleague in the Chemistry Department — use helium. The video, demonstrating the use of helium during a performance, generated over 2 million views on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukDAfF0-8q8


10) Eau de Chlôrine, a perfume that makes you smell like a swimming pool, 2017

USA Swimming just put out this ad: Eau de Chlôrine is an exhilarating race of the senses that never lets up. It starts off strong, fast and soggy. A cannonball that bursts with a lasting and immense feeling of amusement. Buoyed by the passions of a life spent floating through love, happiness and chlorinated water. Eau de Chlôrine is a powerful, heady scent that leaves an impression — both in and out of the pool.

The tag line: With spring upon us, now is the time to swim in our scent.

Related Post: Top Ten April Fool’s Pranks, Part 1

Sources: Hoaxes.org, Washingtonpost.com, Youtube.com, theverge.com