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What on Earth is Sun-Earth Day?

Image Credit: Sylvie Beland/NASA

Today is Earth Day, the internationally designated time to pay extra-special attention to human impact on Earth’s ecology. But in addition to your Earth Day observances, why not join NASA scientists this year in celebrating Sun-Earth Day, an astronomically educational holiday designed to recognize special moments between Earth and our Sun?

Past Sun-Earth Days have celebrated everything from Sun watching in culture (like ancient Egyptian pillars to the sun god Re and the Wijiji Great House in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico) to space weather, magnetic storms, and eclipses. In accordance with NASA’s annual declaration, Sun-Earth Day falls on a different day every year, coincident with some special solar event between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

The Transit of Venus

NASA announced the first Sun-Earth Day in 2004, to celebrate the Transit of Venus – a rare celestial event in which Venus passes between Earth and the Sun, briefly casting its shadow over the latter. The event is different than a solar eclipse, which—caused by the moon passing between Earth and the Sun—blocks the Sun from our earthling view. Because Venus is much farther away than the moon, its shadow appears as a tiny dot moving across the solar disk.

Before June 8th/Sun-Earth Day 2004, the Venus Transit hadn’t occurred since 1882. The event caused a huge stir in the U.S. at the time—John Phillip Sousa even composed a march for the occasion. The hype began with Venus’ previous transit of that cycle, in 1874, when Hawaiian King David Kalakaua invited astronomers from all over the world to view the event on Hawaii, where the unobstructed 360-degree equatorial view provided one of the best vantage points on Earth. This historic transit allowed American astronomer Simon Newcomb, building upon hundreds of years of astronomical research, to triangulate the approximate distance between the Earth and the sun, a measurement known as an Astronomical Unit.

This year, the Transit of Venus is happening again: June 6th, 2012, at around sunset Eastern Time. Make sure to mark your calendars and get your safe viewing gear in order, because Venus won’t transit again until 2117. Best Sun-Earth Day ever!

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travel
The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, Top10RealEstateDeals.com reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Top10RealEstateDeals.com]

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