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Saint Nicholas Day, observed on December 5/6 in Western Christian countries and December 19 in Eastern Christian countries, is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. It is celebrated as a Christian festival with particular regard to his reputation as a bringer of gifts, as well as through the attendance of Mass or other worship services. In Europe, especially in “Germany and Poland, boys would dress as bishops begging alms for the poor.” In Ukraine, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows provided that the children were good during the year. Children who behaved badly may expect to find a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows. In the Netherlands, Dutch children put out a clog filled with hay and a carrot for Saint Nicholas’ horse. On Saint Nicholas Day, gifts are tagged with personal humorous rhymes written by the sender. In the United States, one custom associated with Saint Nicholas Day is children leaving their shoes in the foyer on Saint Nicholas Eve in hope that Saint Nicholas will place some coins on the soles. – Wikipedia
Fabry graduated from the École Polytechnique in Paris and received his doctorate from the University of Paris in 1892, for his work on interference fringes, which established him as an authority in the field of optics and spectroscopy. In 1904, he was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Marseille, where he spent 16 years.
In optics, he discovered an explanation for the phenomenon of interference fringes. Together with his colleague Alfred Pérot he invented the Fabry–Pérot interferometer in 1899. He and Henri Buisson discovered the ozone layer in 1913.
In 1921, Fabry was appointed Professor of General Physics at the Sorbonne and the first director of the new Institute of Optics. In 1926 he also became professor at the École Polytechnique. He was the first general director of the Institut d’optique théorique et appliquée and director of “grande école” École supérieure d’optique (SupOptique). In 1929, he received the Prix Jules Janssen, the highest award of the Société astronomique de France, the French astronomical society.
Fabry was the President of the Société astronomique de France from 1931-1933.
During his career Fabry published 197 scientific papers, 14 books, and over 100 popular articles. For his important scientific achievements he received the Rumford Medal from the Royal Society of London in 1918. In the United States his work was recognized by the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (1919) and the Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute (1921). In 1927 he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences.
Mountains are home to 15% of the world´s population and host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development and is part of Goal 15 of the SDGs.
World’s finest ground-based observatories are located at high altitude. The trend started in the late 19th century when the nascent atmospheric research allowed us to realize that starlight is less distorted at high altitude. When the advances in infrared detectors opened a new wavelength window for astronomical observations, the high altitudes became imperative. The advent of microwave astronomy further reinforced the need to locate observing facilities on high mountains. A respectful and mindful presence of astronomers in some of the most pristine mountainous locations is closely linked to conservation efforts.
Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from climate change and overexploitation. As the global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The rising temperatures also mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people.
This problem affects us all. We must reduce our carbon footprint and take care of these natural treasures.
The increasing attention to the importance of mountains led the UN to declare to 2002 the UN International Year of Mountains. The first international day was celebrated for the first time the following year, 2003.
Its roots date back to 1992, when the document “Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development” (called Chapter 13), was adopted as part of the action plan Agenda 21 of the Conference on Environment and Development.
2020 Theme: Mountain biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity is the theme of this year’s International Mountain Day, so let’s celebrate their rich biodiversity, as well as address the threats they face.
Mountains loom large in some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. Their unique topography, compressed climatic zones and isolation have created the conditions for a wide spectrum of life forms.
Biodiversity encompasses the variety of ecosystems, species and genetic resources, and mountains have many endemic varieties. The differentiated topography in terms of altitude, slope and exposure in mountains offers opportunities to grow a variety of high-value crops, horticulture, livestock and forest species.
For example, mountain pastoralists in Pakistan have a highly treasured livestock genetic resource pool with special traits bred into animals, such as disease resilience, which can help adaption to changing climate. Nearly 70% of mountain land is used for grazing and provides manure that enhances soil fertility. Livestock not only produces food items such as milk, butter and meat, but also valuable by-products, such as some of the most precious yarns, like cashmere wool.
However, climate change, unsustainable farming practices, commercial mining, logging, and poaching all exact a heavy toll on mountain biodiversity. In addition, land use and land cover change, and natural disasters, accelerate biodiversity loss and contribute to creating a fragile environment for mountain communities. Ecosystem degradation, loss of livelihoods and migration in mountains can lead to the abandonment of cultural practices and ancient traditions that have sustained biodiversity for generations.
The sustainable management of mountain biodiversity has been increasingly recognized as a global priority. Sustainable Development Goal 15, target four, is dedicated to the conservation of mountains’ biodiversity in consideration of its global relevance. Biodiversity in all ecosystems is in focus, as the United Nations has declared 2021 to 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and governments prepare to negotiate the post-2020 global biodiversity framework for adoption this year at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Celebrate this International Day 2020 with your community and friends preparing an event or joining the conversation on social media using the hashtag #MountainsMatter. Pass on some of the key messages, or share about the biodiversity in the mountains near you, or a photo of your favorite mountain. – International Mountain Day on UN.org
Image Credit: Grand Teton Mountains – Bob Trembley, 2009
Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish: Virgen de Guadalupe), is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a series of five Marian apparitions in December 1531, and a venerated image on a cloak enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world’s third most-visited sacred site. – Wikipedia
Image Credit: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1436070
Next period of activity: December 4th, 2020 to December 17th, 2020
Peak: Dec 13-14, 2020 – the Moon will be 0.2% illuminated.
The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year and meteor enthusiasts are certain to circle December 13 and 14 on their calendars. This is the one major shower that provides good activity prior to midnight as the constellation of Gemini is well placed from 22:00 onward. The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored. Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen. These meteors are also seen in the southern hemisphere, but only during the middle of the night and at a reduced rate.
Data from the American Meteor Society.
Interactive animation from MeteorShowers.org.
Saint Lucy’s Day, also called Lucia Day or the feast of Saint Lucy, is a Christian feast day observed on 13 December. The observance commemorates Lucia of Syracuse, an early-4th-century virgin martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution, who according to legend brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs, wearing a candlelit wreath on her head to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible. Her feast day, which coincided with the shortest day of the year prior to calendar reforms, is widely celebrated as a festival of light. Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as a precursor of Christmastide, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ in the calendar on Christmas Day. – Wikipedia