NASA Image of the Day for Jan. 1

 Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights

WISE, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, has a new view of Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, that is awash in bright green and red dust clouds. Interstellar clouds like these are stellar nurseries, where baby stars are being born.

The green ring is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud in the center is most likely made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. HD 278942, the bright star in the middle of the red cloud, is so luminous that it is the likely cause of the surrounding ring’s glow. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

Regions similar to this nebula are found near the band of the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. This nebulas is slightly off this band, near the boundary between the constellations of Perseus and Taurus, but at a relatively close distance of only about 1,000 light-years, the cloud is a still part of our Milky Way.

The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA


Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan. 1

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 1
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

To Fly Free in Space


Explanation: At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured above, was floating free in space. McCandless and fellow NASA astronaut Robert Stewart were the first to experience such an “untethered space walk” during Space Shuttle mission 41-B in 1984. The MMU works by shooting jets of nitrogen and has since been used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an MMU is heavy on Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.

Feng Shui for Winter Nights

Feng Shui for Winter Nights

  • Betsy Stang

Red is not just for Christmas! Red is the color of warmth, of fire, of yang. It is the antidote for the cold yin nights of winter. Warm your nights with just the right chi by practicing these feng shui tips for winter colors, light, warmth, safety and sharing.

Winter Colors and Light

Replace some of your summer blues with reds and oranges. Think pillows, quilts and place settings. You will feel warmer and less depressed. A cozy red or burgundy throw on the chair or on the bed will make you feel wonderful, and cut down on the need to turn up the heat.

Cook orange. Pumpkins and squash are plentiful and give you the good carbohydrates and nutrients that you need for winter.


Light up the Night
Get at least one full spectrum light for a reading area. The complete spectrum will relieve seasonal affective disorder and help your eyes. Plants love full spectrum light so you can put some greenery nearby, and create a small winter garden that will cheer you up and help provide oxygen for your rooms.

Long evenings mean it is time to replace light bulbs. Think energy conserving compact fluorescents, especially for outside lights and accent areas. Your pocket book and your planet will thank you. There are even energy conserving Christmas lights that are now standard in Canada. Solar path lights won’t go all night at this time of year, but they probably are on sale and will light your way home in the evening with no strain on the environment. Additionally, in February, as the days lengthen, they will glitter most of the night, even in the snow, and will make you smile for years to come.


Warm up your Windows
Check to make sure all windows shut well. If you have single paned glass which lets the cold wind into the house, find some cheerful thick fabric, valances or drapes, which can cut your heating costs all winter and is a terrific way to change the feel of a room. The Victorians covered their windows for a reason; their homes were drafty! When you feel an uncovered window on a cold night, it’s cold! So think warm and add fabric.

Remove or cover your air conditioners. If removal is difficult get some wonderful natural fabric from your local fabric store and create a cover. Tip: Double-sided Velcro is amazing for the sewing challenged!

Watch For Fire
It is the time to have your boiler and fireplace checked and cleaned. Too many house fires or clogged boilers are caused by the lack of taking this step. All combustible materials create residue which in time builds up, so be safe, be warm and be pro-active. This expense could save you thousands.

Pay Attention to Your Floor, Your Grounding
Remove any dangerously slippery bath mat. The backing does disintegrate, and think about a cozy rug for your bedroom or sitting area. Please think about natural materials so you are not creating a toxic environment. Artificial rugs off-gas and pollute a closed environment; you could expose yourself and your family to illnesses. Look for Tibetan or other tribal rugs made from natural fiber and plant dyes.

Tell Stories; Share with Others
Get some good books. The wintertime has always been storytelling time among all traditions, so let the indoor time give you a chance to expand your mind, either for sheer pleasure or to learn something new you have been meaning to get to but haven’t had the chance.

Lastly, share your home with your friends. Long winter evenings are great for sharing food and conversation. Being with those you love will remind you of how much you have to be grateful for.

And as your gratitude increases take some of your old clothing and household goods to a local shelter or Goodwill and spread some cheer around. You will also get rid of your clutter and make room for the new.

Herbs, Yoga and Feng Shui for Sleep

Herbs, Yoga and Feng Shui for Sleep

By Jennifer Lang, Natural Solutions

Americans spend billions on prescription sleep aids each year, even though the drugs produce a number of unwanted side effects. Natural sleep remedies, on the other hand, are generally side effect-free. For the most part, they help you fall and stay in deep sleep without relying on sedatives. And because they’re muscle relaxants, they also help alleviate pain and may even improve libido. Some to consider:

L-theanine, an amino acid (protein) derived from green tea, improves deep sleep and helps people maintain a calm alertness during the day. It also plays a role in the formation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s critical for sleep. Take 50 to 200 mg at bedtime; L-theanine can also be used for daytime anxiety.

Hops reduce hot flashes in menopausal women, studies show, and they also reduce anxiety and help muscles relax enough for you to fall asleep. Take 30 to 120 mg at bedtime. Often used in combination with valerian and lemon balm, hops have to be dried to have any medicinal effect–the hops in beer, however tasty, provide no sleep benefit.

Passionflower (Passiflora) is an herb commonly used as a calming agent. Take 90 to 360 mg at bedtime.

Valerian helps reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep you get–without next-day sedation. Take 200 to 800 mg at bedtime. (Valerian causes wakefulness in some people; if that’s the case for you, take it during the day to reduce overall anxiety.)

5HTP (hydroxytryptophan) is what your body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin. One downside: It can take up to six weeks to start working. Take 200 to 400 mg at bedtime. If you also take serotonin-raising medications (for example, antidepressants), make sure your holistic practitioner supervises the use of the 5HTP to keep serotonin levels from going too high.

Melatonin retrains your circadian rhythm so you become sleepy when the lights dim and wake up more alert at morning light. Take 3 mg at bedtime for three nights and gradually increase to 6 mg if necessary. Melatonin is not recommended for teens, however.

How Yoga Helps Insomnia
�Most insomnia has to do with �restless mind syndrome,�� says Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, a physical therapist and author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times (Rodmell Press, 1995). Because the mind is always spinning, you need to do something physical to allow the central nervous system to come into balance. This quiets the mind and lets the parasympathetic nervous system dominate while you sleep�crucial for the body to restore. Three poses to help you drift off–and stay asleep:

Before bed: Savasana
This is the gold ring of relaxation poses, says Lasater, because there’s no stretching at all. Lie down on the floor with a blanket folded under your head and neck, another blanket rolled under your knees, a soft cloth over your eyes, and a blanket to cover your body. Stay in the pose for 15 to 20 minutes or longer if possible. Use a breathing practice with a long, slow inhale and a slightly elongated exhalation; the exhale helps stimulate parasympathetic nervous�system dominance, prompting your body to go into “rest and repair” mode.

Can�t fall asleep? Halasana
Also known as Plough Pose, this legs-over-head pose is especially helpful if you have trouble winding down. A modification: Lay on the floor and rest your thighs on a padded chair, so thighs and shins are parallel to the floor.

For midnight awakenings: Side-Lying Savasana
“Side-Lying Savasana is a position of emotional comfort,” says Lasater. “It’s great when you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, pulled in all directions.” Lie on your left side and put a pillow or bolster under your right knee, right arm, belly, and head so you feel completely supported.

Feng Shui for Fostering Sleep
The ancient art of feng shui seeks to maximize the flow of life force energy, or qi, through environments, homes, and other structures. Five guidelines to set your bedroom up for good sleep:

• Place your bed diagonally across the room from the entrance, so you can lie in it and still have a full view of anyone entering.

• Try not to position your bed so you look directly through other doorways (to the bathroom or closet, for instance). If that’s unavoidable, shut the door at night.

• Don’t set up your bed directly beneath a window, otherwise you�ll lose vital energy during the night.

• Keep clutter to a minimum; it can agitate the flow of energy in the room.

• Add objects that help stimulate the movement of qi, such as mirrors, plants, and stones or statues, and remove overstimulating items, such as the stereo, computer, and TV.

Daily Feng Shui Tip for January 1

Happy New Year! And just to make sure that this is your happiest year yet, let’s start it by employing some tried and true Feng Shui that guarantees happiness! First move 27 things around your living space today. This might be a bit harder than it sounds, but this single cure promises an easier existence once you get all that good mojo moving. On this day wear red in order to bring a bright and sunny future and don’t forget to put away the knives and the scissors to keep from cutting off your future fortunes. Don’t cry, speak of the past or cut your hair. Pay down a debt, give some money away without condition or recognition and eat some sort of round foods in order to make the most of the magical manifestations open to you on this one day! Happy New Year, indeed!

By Ellen Whitehurst for

The Meaning of the Number 9

The spiritual meaning of number Nine bring us to the very height of vibrational frequencies in this number sequence. Nine represents attainment, satisfaction, accomplishment, and our success to achieve an influence in our circumstances. The spiritual meaning of number Nine deals with intellectual power, inventiveness, influence over situations and things. Nine beseeches us to recognize our own internal attributes, and extend these abilities out into the world to make a positive, influential difference.


The Spirituality Meaning of Numbers

Your Daily Number for Jan. 1: 9

Today brings with it a grand opportunity for healing your mind and body. Get rest, and treat yourself to a massage or some other rejuvenating ‘time out.’ You may have a conversation later in the day that helps you strengthen your bond with another.


Fast Facts

About the Number 9

Theme: Encompassing a love for all, Compassion, Patience, Selfless
Astro Association: Virgo
Tarot Association: Hermit


Today’s I Ching Hexagram for January 1 is 32: Endurance

32: Endurance

Hexagram 32

General Meaning: Endurance is fostered when inner constancy is coupled with external flexibility. Long-distance runners must adapt readily to changing conditions, while maintaining an inner determination and strength of purpose. Two trees growing near each other adapt to enhance each other’s survival. A strong image of durability is a stable marriage of intimate partners striking a dynamic balance between involvement in the outside world and nourishment in the home.

True endurance is not based on rigidity, for endurance implies movement, not immobilization. Only by adapting to change can we stay in the race; but only by deepening our sense of purpose can we develop the fortitude to win it.

Continuity is achieved through movement, not by keeping still. That which has ceased to grow is close to death. Stay active, but allow yourself time to stay in touch with your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Today’s Runes for January 1 is Berkana

Today’s Runes

Gold Runes are most commonly used for questions about business, career, and property. Berkana represents the birch tree. The birch is frequently symbolic of renewal, rebirth, birth, growth and fertility. This rune is a joyous one, representing good outcomes from ventures undertaken. It is the rune of the family and of a good household.

Today’s Tarot Card for Everyone:

The Fool

This Tarot Deck: Aquarian

General Meaning: Pamela Coleman-Smith’s artful rendition of an “innocent Fool” archetype (Rider-Waite deck) is often used to represent Tarot in general. Early classical versions of the Fool card, however, portray quite a different character — a person driven by base needs and urges, who has fallen into a state of poverty and deprivation.

In some instances, he is made out to be a carnival entertainer or a huckster. In others, he is portrayed as decrepit and vulnerable — as the cumulative result of his delusions and failures. Not until the 20th century do you see the popular Rider-Waite image of the Fool arise — that of an innocent Soul before its Fall into Matter, as yet untainted by contact with society and all its ills.

Modern decks usually borrow from the Rider-Waite imagery. Most Fool cards copy the bucolic mountainside scene, the butterfly, the potential misplaced step that will send the Fool tumbling into the unknown. Don’t forget, however, that the earlier versions of this card represented already-fallen humanity, over-identified with the material plane of existence, and beginning a pilgrimage towards self-knowledge, and eventually, wisdom. The Fool reminds us to recognize the path of personal development within ourselves — and the stage upon that path where we find ourselves — in order to energize our movement toward deeper self-realization.