Comet Pan-Starrs

Trails: Deteriorating.

Like science institutions around the Earth, we at Crossroads at Big Creek are eagerly anticipating the appearance of a comet in March. Our friends from the Door Peninsula Astronomical  Society have given us a literal heads-up,  suggesting that Comet Pan-STARRS (which is already visible in the Southern Hemisphere ) should be seen bythose of us in Door County between March 10-16.

Dr. Ray Stonecipher, of DPAS suggests : “Look directly where the sun sets a short time after sunset. The view will be improved with a pair of binoculars.”  (Safety reminder: Never look at the sun through binoculars.)

Coincidentally,  March 10th is the first day of Daylight Savings Time, which means on that Sunday, sunset in Sturgeon Bay will be at 6:48PM.  To view the comet, find an unobstructed western horizon on a cloudless night (in March? well, let’s hope.) at twilight.  If it is clear on Wednesday, March 13, the comet will be just under the crescent Moon, but actually, viewing might  be better earlier in the week before the moonlight will make the comet harder to see.

Scientists simply do not know whether the comet will be awesome or a dud.  According to the wonderful NASA website,, , ” in early March, the comet will pass about 100 million miles from Earth as it briefly dips inside the orbit of Mercury. At that time it  is expected to brighten another three-fold to 2ndmagnitude, about as bright as the stars in the Big  Dipper. Whether Pan-STARRS will actually be visible to the naked eye through the glow of the nearby  sun remains to be seen;  Whatever  happens, observers in the northern hemisphere will  have a front row seat as the comet crosses the celestial equator on March 12th. Stay tuned!”

Stay tuned indeed, and if you want to Prepare for Comet Pan-STARRS, Crossroads will sponsor a free multi-media program for learners of all ages on Saturday, March 9, at 2:00 in the Collins Learning Center.  Expect an appearance of the Comet Chef during this event.

To those afflicted by March Madness, “Invasives vs. Biodiversity” might sound like a tournament match-up, but to the Wild Ones of Door County, invasive species are a genuine threat to the environment.  On Wednesday, March 14, at 2:00, Wild Ones will offer a public lecture by Dr. Peter Sigmann  on invasives.  Actually, if you listen to the radio this month, you most certainly will hear phrases which apply both to basketball and invasives.; “competitive edge”….”fast break”….”zone defense”…”height advantage” and on and on.

What makes a plant an invasive? Think of plants as competitors, as indeed they are. And keep in mind, it’s not “Win or Go Home”; it’s “Survive or Die”. Plants  from all over the world are now living in Wisconsin. Most of these aliens just establish themselves, become a part of the landscape and play nice. But some plants have significant competitive advantages. Lacking natural enemies, they thrive to the point that they crowd out the native plants.

So what sorts  of thing makes a plant competitive?  Let’s look at some examples. Think of dandelions. The leaves of the plant look like the teeth of a lion–hence the French name “dent-de-lion”.  And those leaves, which start growing the very first thing in spring, grow in a wide circle around the flower stalk, shading out any competing plant. (It doesn’t hurt that dandelions can grow in just about any habitat and that they  have a remarkably successful seed distribution strategy.)

Spotted knapweed is that purple flower that some people call “Door County Heather”. It’s really competitive. The roots of this plant releasea poison into the soil so no other plants can grow around it.  Buckthorns?  These trees start so early  in spring and grow so late in the fall, that they  can grow twice as fast as anything around them. Buckthorns can simply choke out the competition  and besides that, the tree  produces fruit  from which viable seeds are spread far and wide by birds.

During his talk, Dr. Sigmann will  discuss the methods and properties used by invasive plants that facilitate their spread and  upset biodiversity. The program is free and open to the public.

Our Sunday afternoon Community Ski Program  will continue as long as snow conditions are adequate. The recreational equipment may be borrowed between 1:30-3:30 and may not leave the Crossroads property. We do have skis and boots in all sizes, but they are loaned on a first come first served basis.




Comments are closed.