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YouTube Videos & Photograph From Last Weekend’s Historic Snowball Fight In Dupont Circle
|| 2/10/2010 || 2:19 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

The video above contains four short video clips I recorded from my Canon SD750 on February 6th, 2010 in & around Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. The video clips show the what the snowball fight looked like when I arrived, a dance party, a fallen tree on New Hampshire Avenue, and an SUV pulling a snowboarder. The camera is rather beat up and there is a noticeable dark spot on camera lens– sorry!


This is my favorite video of the snowball fight. It was filmed from a building overlooking Dupont Cirlce:


At least there were no guns.



The Noyes Armillary Sphere Described In The Historic American Buildngs Survey #532
|| 2/9/2010 || 2:00 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

National Park Service Photograph of the Noyes Armillary Sphere in Meridian Hill Park in the District of Columbia taken in the 1965

National Park Service Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

According to page 39 of the Historic American Buildngs Survey #532 published in 1987 [PDF via the Library of Congress]:

The sculpture which contributed most sucessfully to the architectural design [of Meridian Hill Park] was the 6′ high armillary sphere. Money for the construction of the sphere was donated by Bertha Noyes, a well-known Washington artist and founder of the Washington Arts Club, in memory of her father and her sister. Paul Manship had constructed a model for an earlier proposal for an armillary sphere. For lack of funds, that sphere was not realized, later when the Noyes Armillary Sphere was constructed by Carl Paul Jennewein, he based his design on the earlier Manship model. The sphere was located in the exedra on axis with the cascade, south of the reflecting pool. This location was proposed by Ferruccio Vitale, and the foundation was designed by Horace W. Peaslee. Congress approved the location within Meridian Hill Park on June 10, 1932, subject to the final approval of its location within the park by the Commission. The sphere, which was of great interest conceptually as well as visually, was described by historian James Goode as follows:

In spite of its seemingly contemporary design, the armillary sphere is, in face, an ancient astrological instrument. The armillary sphere was frequently used in Europe in the seventeenth century to illustrate the Ptolemaic theory of a central earth; it used metal rings which illustrated the nine spheres of the universe. The usual device, a skeleton of the celestial globe with circles arranged into degrees for angle measurement, represents the great circles of the heavens. The latter includes the horizon, meridian, equator, tropics, and polar circle. The Noyes Armillary Sphere includes a series of bronze rings on which are also found the symbols of the zodiac and the hours, given in Roman numerals. A bronze arrow forms the axis, and, in the center, a small winged genie greets the sun. (James M. Goode, The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C., The Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974)

The armillary sphere suffered serious damage during the late 1960s and was removed for repair. Its whereabouts is presently unknown. The armillary sphere was worked in bronze, and placed on a green granite pedestal. Other significant park embellishments were wrought in iron. For example, at the north end of the park, a wrought-iron fence is decorated with small armillary spheres, reflecting the significance of the Noyes Armillary Sphere.


This article and photograph was obtained from the Library of Congress and is in the public domain. They are being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to advocate for a replacement armillary sphere in Meridian Hill Park.



Armillary Sphere Donated to ‘Federal City’ by Author; Ancient Astronomical Device Links Early Chinese to Modern Americans – The Washington Post, November 10, 1936
|| 2/7/2010 || 1:37 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

No one knows where the Noyes Armillary Sphere is today. Over the last few years I have personally called the Smithsonian & the National Park Service inquiring about the sculpture’s existence, but all have said it is lost. I genuinely find that difficult to believe because its not a small sculpture, but a rather large one. Some day in the future I would like to see this sculpture replaced and over time I hope to post more photographs and articles about this lost sculpture of Washington, DC.

According to the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System:

The sculpture originally consisted of two equal rings representing the Meridian and Equator, intersecting to form a sphere. Each intersecting ring was divided into areas representing the equinoxes and the Arctic and Antarctic regions. A wide bronze ring was adorned with the signs of the zodiac…. The base of sphere designed by Horace Peaslee, the architect of Meridian Park. The sphere was accepted by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in 1929, and was purchased with funds donated by Bertha Noyes, founder of the Washington Arts Club, in memory of her sister Edith. The sphere was vandalized during the 1960s and was removed from the park for repair. During this time, the sphere disappeared, with only the small winged figure of a child remaining.


National Park Service Photograph of the Noyes Armillary Sphere in Meridian Hill Park in the District of Columbia taken in the 1930's

National Park Service Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Armillary Sphere Donated to ‘Federal City’ by Author; Ancient Astronomical Device Links Early Chinese to Modern Americans.


The bronze sphere, 16 feet in circumference, bears the words: “Given to the Federal City, MCMXXXVI, for Edith Noyes.” It is the gift of Bertha Noyes, noted Washington artist, in memory of her sister.

Although the origin of the armillary sphere as an astronomical instrument is shrouded in mystery, its invention is usually credited to China, where it was first in use in approximately 200 B. C.

The Noyes memorial was designed by C. Paul Jennewein, New York sculptor, whose other works in Washington include the statue of a nude with fawn in Judiciary Square which was erected in memory of Joseph James Darlington, a District Supreme Court justice. Its placement in 1922 stirred a heated controversy.

Mounted on a granite pedestal three feet in height, the sphere has the signs of the Zodiac in relief on the outside of the great circle, within which are cleverly contrived the hours of the day marked in Roman numerals. In the center is a winged figure of a child greeting the sun.

At the base is a tablet, also of bronze, which corrects minor variations of the dial at different times of the year. Adjustments were made by a Columbia University astronomer in order that the instrument might be scientifically exact.


This newspaper article was obtained from the Washington Post historical newspaper archives. This article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to advocate for a replacement armillary sphere in Meridian Hill Park.


Related Armillary Sphere Entries:



The Snow-Covered Washington, DC Area Is Today’s MODIS Satellite Image of the Day
|| 12/22/2009 || 7:18 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 12/20/2009
Resolutions: 250m (reduced)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Credit: Jesse Allen, NASA’s Earth Observatory

I was looking for satellite images of last weekend’s blizzard and found that today’s MODIS Satellite Image of the Day just so happens to be of the Washington, DC area. MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a key instrument aboard the Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) satellites that documents changes on the surface of the earth. Terra’s orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon. Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS are viewing the entire Earth’s surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands, or groups of wavelengths that are used for numerous scientific purposes. You can view these satellite images in real-time and see exactly what has happened on the surface of the earth within the last 48 hours.



15th Street on YouTube || North Meets South || A Game of Locational Awareness [part 2]
|| 12/3/2009 || 2:50 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

click image above to view

On August 5th, 2008 I made the first version of this mashup, East Meets West and with the newly created contraflow bicycle lane on 15th Street NWDC, I decided to make the second version, North Meets South.

The two videos were taken from one continuous video recording that I conducted while riding on my bicycle from U Street & 15th Street to Massachusetts Ave & 15th Street and back. At home I split the videos into North & South and used the crosswalks as the starting & ending points. The object of this video mashup is to find the exact time when the two recordings pass each other on opposite sides of the street.


A few notes:

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2010 Cartographic Calendar [Color Edition]
|| 11/30/2009 || 11:48 am || 3 Comments Rendered || ||

Front cover of the Color Edition of the 2010 Cartographic Calendar by Nikolas Schiller

This unique wall calendar contains 12 maps of the Washington originally published in the newspapers of the District of Columbia between 1887 and 1909. There are two editions of the calendar available: one with the original black & white scans and the other with colorized maps (below). Each calendar is on sale for $25 + shipping until January 31st, 2009.

Below are the pages from each month of the Color Edition of the 2010 Cartographic Calendar:

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2010 Cartographic Calendar [Black & White Edition]
|| 11/29/2009 || 9:47 am || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

Front cover of the Black & White Edition of the 2010 Cartographic Calendar by Nikolas Schiller

This unique wall calendar contains 12 maps of the Washington originally published in the newspapers of the District of Columbia between 1887 and 1909. There are two editions of the calendar available: one with the original black & white scans (below) and the other with colorized maps. Each calendar is on sale for $25 + shipping until January 31st, 2009.

Below are the pages from each month of the Black & White Edition of the 2010 Cartographic Calendar:

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Hallway view of the first edition of the New & Arabesque Map of the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
|| 10/14/2008 || 7:43 pm || Comments Off on Hallway view of the first edition of the New & Arabesque Map of the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden || ||

The other day I realized that posting maps here in digital format doesn’t show perspective well. For the image above I decided to switch it up and show the newly framed map from the perspective of looking down my hallway. Click here to read the original entry on New & Arabesque Map of the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

Below is the original photograph of the new map:

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A New & Somewhat Accurate Map of the Tropic of Gemini and the Tropic of Sagittarius
|| 9/4/2008 || 7:11 pm || Comments Off on A New & Somewhat Accurate Map of the Tropic of Gemini and the Tropic of Sagittarius || ||


For the last month I’ve been working on a slightly strange map above. It’s based on Johannes van Loon’s “Scenographia systematis mvndani Ptolemaici” (1660), which includes an “Axis Zodiaci” that shows the signs of Gemini and Sagittarius being slightly more illuminated than Cancer & Capricorn (see below). This shading possibly indicates that the author was aware of natural movement of the earth since the time of Ptolemy (~125 A.D.).

A new & somewhat accurate map of the Tropic of Sagittarius and the Tropic of Gemini was created using two maps of the Tropics from Wikipedia. I added the glyphs of the Zodiac over the meridians, but unlike the antique map below, I moved the signs backwards. The word “tropic” itself comes from the Greek tropos, meaning turn, referring to the fact that the sun appears to “turn back” at the solstices. I have read that in 1989 the Tropic of Gemini moved into the constellation of Taurus, which technically means it should be the “Tropic of Taurus,” but to keep the circle of animals in exact opposition, I kept the tropic in Gemini, hence “somewhat accurate.”

Close-up detail of A New & Somewhat Accurate Map of the Tropic of Gemini and the Tropic of Sagittarius

For hundreds of years cartographers have included the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer on nearly all globes and world maps. Yet with the natural movement of the earth through space & time, the solstices are not located in the constellations of Capricorn or Cancer anymore. So why do cartographers continue to label the maps & globes using this incorrect information? Does cartographic tradition trump astronomical observation? Should contemporary maps be changed to reflect the passage of time? Are there any antique maps that place the Tropics in any other constellations? Leave your comments below.

Johannes van Loon’s “Scenographia systematis mvndani Ptolemaici” (1660)



Postscript: I believe I was incorrect in my analysis above. I failed to take into account the sideral.


Related Antique Entries:

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Tabvla Festorvm – Table of important Catholic dates from Opera Mathematica
|| 8/13/2008 || 6:32 pm || Comments Off on Tabvla Festorvm – Table of important Catholic dates from Opera Mathematica || ||

Page 394 in the Fifth Volume of Chrisopher Clavius’s Opera Mathematica (1612)
Courtesy of the Mathematics Library at the University of Notre Dame

One of the chief architects of the Gregorian Calendar was Jesuit mathematician & astronomer Chrisopher Clavius. In his “Romani calendarii a Gregorio XIII restituti explicatio” (Rome, 1603) he explained the process behind the creation of the Gregorian Calendar. The table above shows the contemporary dates of the Pentecost, Septuagesima, the Paschal Full Moon as well as some other calculations that are hardly used today. Shortly after his death in 1612, this explanation was republished in volume five of Opera Mathematica.

This volume, known as the explanation of the Gregorian Calendar, literally features hundreds upon hundreds of charts like the one above that show the Roman Calendar going thousands of years into the future. Seriously, its truly amazing how far into the future his tables go! If I had some more time to dabble around with his calculations, it would be neat to see how far they are off after nearly 400 years.


Related Calendar Entries:

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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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