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Sky Action 

Weather influences everything people do.  The health of every person on the planet is directly affected by changes in the weather.  The sun burns millions of the earth’s human inhabitants every day.  During a wild winter ice can lead to all kinds of mishaps, from broken hips to multi-car crashes.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and floods hurt and kill thousands of people.  At the same time, without rain, sun or wind life on earth couldn’t survive.  Plants we eat convert sunshine into edible energy through photosynthesis; people and all animals rely on these plants and each other for food.  From hiking to skiing, from surfing to golf, from flying to fishing, everything that people do is dependent on the weather.  Technology to measure and predict what the weather will do has improved, but scientists cannot foretell when the next storm will hit.  Weather repeats particular patterns.  While meteorologists can give general information about what weather systems will do, they cannot be exact.  There are too many factors that play into how these systems develop, which makes prediction impossible.

The movement of celestial bodies has been more dependable; they have been the basis of navigation, time telling, and myth making.  The Sun marks days and hours; the Moon, months.  Planets move across the sky, changing positions with each day.  Early explorers used constellations and other objects to guide themselves through unknown oceans.  Without careful observation of planets and stars, physics discoveries that have shaped how people think would never have been discovered.  Galileo, Newton and Einstein had to have these objects to construct their physical theories.  Ancient cultures from all over the world used stars and planets as a basis of myths about creation and the natural world around them.   The Romans called “the red planet” Mars, their god of war.  A Cherokee myth has the sun, moon and earth as characters in a family squabble.

For most people, birds and skies are inextricably intertwined.  Like clouds, the sun, moon and stars, many animals are connected to the skies.  Birds, bees, bats and butterflies, among thousands of others, fly through the skies.  Most evolutionary biologists believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs.  Today, there are more than 9000 species of birds all over the world.  Though a few different species of birds don’t fly—penguin and ostrich, for example—most do.  To fly, birds rely on special physical adaptations like hollow bones and feathers.  With neither bones nor feathers, bees still have wings that propel them.  Of the 20,000 species worldwide, the honeybee is the most familiar to Americans.  Honeybees pollinate all kinds of plants and create honey.  In the United States California, Florida and South Dakota are tops in commercial honey production. Like bees, bats don’t have feather, but they have bones and hair.  They are the only mammals that fly.  There are almost 9000 species of bats that live on all continents but Antarctica.  Of these only three drink blood.  Most bats eat insects, particularly mosquitoes.  Bats also eat butterflies.  More than 20,000 species of butterflies and moths live around the world; around 3500 in North American.  Smaller butterflies can live only as long as a week.  Monarchs might live up to nine months. 


People fly too.  From the Wright Brothers 1903 flight to present, when thousands of planes and tens of thousands of passengers fly in a day, people have been fascinated with flight.  Like George and Wilbur, this fascination led many men and women to learn to fly.  In 1921, Bessie Coleman earned her pilot’s license, becoming the first African-American to do sClyde Ice, Famous SD Aviatoro.  She moved to France for pilot training because of racism in America.  Lt. General Benjamin Davis, the first African-American general in the U.S. military, suffered under a racist system, but persevered to graduate from West Point and lead the famed Tuskegee Airman in World War II before rising to general later in his honor-filled career.  Closer to home, Joe Foss shot down 26 enemy planes over the Pacific during WWII; he was decorated as one of the country’s best aces.  In the skies over Europe and North Africa, former senator George McGovern flew 35 missions in his faithful B-24, Dakota Queen.


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