And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (From the prophet Joel 2:28-32, excerpted by Peter in his Pentecost speech as set forth in Acts, chapter two)
According to Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Apostles fasted after Pentecost before heading out on mission. And according to one of our Orthodox readers (WSIF), this Saturday, July 11th marks, on the old Orthodox (Julian) calendar, “the very last day of the Apostles’ Fast... On that same calendar, September 11th falls on the feast of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, which is one of very few “feast” days that are actually solemn fasts.”
Given that timing and context, it’s interesting that the Sun should, just this week, emerge from a sunspot drought unprecedented in the last century (which has likely been responsible for an especially chilly year worldwide, one likely to lead to crop failures, commodity price spikes and famine this winter.
A new Solar Cycle 24 sunspot emerged this past weekend, and seemed to start decaying on Tuesday. However, it now appears that the spot has returned with a vengeance. Sunspot 1024 has been growing today and is now nearly as wide as Jupiter.
Or as SpaceWeather notes as of today (Thurs., July 9th) (no permalinks)
Sunspot 1024 is approaching the sun’s western limb where it will disappear in 24 to 48 hours [i.e., by July 11th]. That will bring an end to the best display of sunspots in nearly two years. Fortunately for astrophotographers, sunspot 1024 is a member of new Solar Cycle 24 and it probably heralds more to come.
1024 is an interesting number for computer scientists: two to the tenth power. Not sure what that means, but have at it. I’m sure someone will have a theory.
Other sites (e.g., this one, out of Australia, Tuesday 7/7) describe it in more grandiose terms:
ASTRONOMERS are claiming that Earth is witnessing the biggest and most powerful Sunspot ever seen and the sunspot is yet to peak in intensity. The size of a sunspot varies, ranging from the size of the moon to 65 times larger than the size of earth and lasts for about a month then fades away. This newest sunspot is thought to be 60 to 80 times the size of Earth and has occurred on the side of the sun, which is in view of Australia… “Its flares have not yet been measured,” Owen Bennedick said, “but it is like hundreds of thousands of hydrogen bombs.” The flares have been so bright that NASA has had trouble taking accurate pictures of the sunspot. Mr Bennedick said the sunspot is still growing in intensity but predicts it could climax by today. The sunspot will cause the Earth’s atmosphere to heat up, potentially creating problems to powerlines, radio transmitters and delicate equipment such as mobile phones and computers. Mr Bennedick suggests powerline filters be installed on computers and people should put on extra sunscreen… The last sunspot happened two years ago and was the most powerful flare yet measuring x28. Most sunspot flares measure around x12 which is still considered powerful. The Sunspot two years ago was 45 times larger than the earth and lasted for 45 days. Since that sunspot, no more had been seen until Sunday, this latest one considered the most powerful yet.
More background on sunspots and some cool graphic simulations can be found over at Wired.
And speaking of the sun, as I mentioned in an earlier post, a major eclipse is coming up on July 22nd. This site describes it as “The Eclipse of the Century” (not to be repeated until everyone now living is dead, in AD 2132), linking to a VERY cool animation showing how it sweeps across some of the least-Christian portions of the globe. Notably, the timing means that it will bring a dark dawn to Pakistan, Iran and the Eastern tip of the Arabian penisula (e.g., Yemen).
And speaking of Iran, those who missed the ‘anemic’ lunar eclipse that symbolically swept across the heavily Catholic, heavily Obama-supporting U.S. Northeast just before dawn Tuesday 7/7, (at about the same time the Pope’s encyclical was coming out) might find the following fascinating also, from SpaceWeather (no permalinks):
BLUE MOON OVER IRAN: A severe dust storm so large that it is visible from space is blowing across Iran. Government officials have closed schools, cancelled flights, and warned the elderly and children to stay indoors. The only good thing about the storm is that it is turning the Moon a pleasing shade of blue… Amir H. Abolfath took the picture from Tehran on July 7th. “I thought blue moons were a myth,” he says, “but there it was.”
And finally, I’m not sure what to make of this constellation which is featured the night of July 10th (Hebrew 11th), but in the spiritually charged current context, it seemed interesting:
…face east and look high overhead for Corona Borealis, also known as the Northern Crown. This constellation looks like a half-circle, in middle of which is a white jewel of a star called Gemma… you will need a dark sky [power outage?] to see the faint semi-circle of stars composing this constellation.
The meaning of the Latin star name Gemma should be obvious. This star is the gem of the Northern Crown. But the star is also sometimes called Alphecca, from an Arabic phrase meaning the bright one of the dish. Gemma, aka Alphecca, is an eclipsing binary system. It consists of a smaller sun-like star that passes in front of a brighter star every 17.4 days, as seen from our earthly vantage point.
Thus says the Lord , who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the Lord of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord , then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord. Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord , when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord . It shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35-40)
Speaking of fixed order departing… if you’re looking for signs here on earth, try this.
“We are moving into Phase II of the Great Unwinding,” [Ambrose] Evans-Pritchard said. “It may be time to put away our texts of Keynes, Friedman, and Fisher, so useful for Phase 1, and start studying what happened to society when global unemployment went haywire in 1932.”
The latest results of the Associated Press’s monthly economic stress analysis of 3,100 U.S. counties show that the financial crisis continues to cause damage as unemployment, home foreclosures and bankruptcies increase. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score zooms past 11. In May, 36 percent of the counties scored 11 or higher, up from 34 percent in April.