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Flu, RSV and COVID-19 are especially tough on those with impaired lung function

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Our experiences over the past several years with COVID-19 have increased our awareness of how chronic ailments can make us more vulnerable to the consequences of acute diseases circulating in our communities.

For those with chronic obstructive lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, as well as those who smoke and vape, the consequences of the flu, RSV and COVID-19 are especially severe.

The good news is that we can do a lot to improve our lung function by exercising, eating a plant-based diet with a focus on fruits and vegetables, expanding lung capacity with an incentive spirometer, and quitting smoking and vaping, which damage the lungs (1). Studies suggest that everyone will benefit from these simple techniques, not only people with compromised lungs.

Do antioxidants improve asthma?

In a randomized controlled trial, results show that, after 14 days, asthma patients who ate a high-antioxidant diet had greater lung function than those who ate a low-antioxidant diet (2). They also had lower inflammation at 14 weeks. Inflammation was measured using a c-reactive protein (CRP) biomarker. Participants in the low-antioxidant group were over two-times more likely to have an asthma exacerbation.

The good news is that there was only a small difference in behavior between the high- and low-antioxidant groups. The high-antioxidant group had a modest five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit daily, while the low-antioxidant group ate no more than two servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit daily. Using carotenoid supplementation in place of antioxidant foods did not affect inflammation. The authors concluded that an increase in carotenoids from diet has a clinically significant impact on asthma in a very short period.

Can increasing fiber lower COPD risk?

Several studies demonstrate that higher consumption of fiber from plants decreases the risk of COPD in smokers and ex-smokers.

In one study of men, results showed that higher fiber intake was associated with significant 48 percent reductions in COPD incidence in smokers and 38 percent incidence reductions in ex-smokers (3). The high-fiber group ate at least 36.8 grams per day, compared to the low-fiber group, which ate less than 23.7 grams per day. Fiber sources were fruits, vegetables and whole grain, essentially a whole foods plant-based diet. The “high-fiber” group was still below the American Dietetic Association’s recommended intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories each day.

In another study, this time with women, participants who consumed at least 2.5 serving of fruit per day, compared to those who consumed less than 0.8 servings per day, experienced a highly significant 37 percent decreased risk of COPD (4).

The highlighted fruits shown to reduce COPD risk in both men and women included apples, bananas, and pears.

What devices can help improve lung function?

An incentive spirometer is a device that helps expand the lungs when you inhale through a tube and cause a ball (or multiple balls) to rise in a tube. This inhalation opens the alveoli and may help you breathe better.

Incentive spirometry has been used for patients with pneumonia, those who have had chest or abdominal surgery and those with asthma or COPD, but it has also been useful for healthy participants (5). A small study showed that those who trained with an incentive spirometer for two weeks increased their lung function and respiratory motion. Participants were 10 non-smoking healthy adults who were instructed to take five sets of five deep breaths twice a day, totaling 50 deep breaths per day. Incentive spirometers are inexpensive and easily accessible.

In another small, two-month study of 27 patients with COPD, the incentive spirometer improved blood gasses, such as partial pressure carbon dioxide and oxygen, in COPD patients with exacerbation (6). The authors concluded that it may improve quality of life for COPD patients.  

How does exercise help improve lung function?

Exercise can have a direct impact on lung function. In a study involving healthy women aged 65 years and older, results showed that 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise three times a day improved FEV1 and FVC, both indicators of lung function, in just 12 weeks (7). Participants began with a 15-minute warm-up, then 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise on a treadmill, followed by 15 minutes of cool-down with stretching.

Note that you don’t need special equipment to do aerobic exercise. You can walk up steps or steep hills in your neighborhood, do jumping jacks, or even dance around your living room. Whatever you choose, you want to increase your heart rate and expand your lungs. If this is new for you, consult a physician and start slowly. You’ll find that your stamina improves quickly when you do it consistently.

We all should be working to strengthen our lungs. This three-pronged approach of lifestyle modifications — diet, exercise and incentive spirometer — can help.


(1) Public Health Rep. 2011 Mar-Apr; 126(2): 158-159. (2) Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):534-43. (3) Epidemiology Mar 2018;29(2):254-260. (4) Int J Epidemiol Dec 1 2018;47(6);1897-1909. (5) Ann Rehabil Med. Jun 2015;39(3):360-365. (6) Respirology. Jun 2005;10(3):349-53. (7) J Phys Ther Sci. Aug 2017;29(8):1454-1457.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit or consult your personal physician.


Welcome to the 21st edition of Paw Prints, a monthly column for animal lovers dedicated to helping shelter pets find their furever home!


Meet Audrey



The iconic Audrey Hepburn once stated, “They say love is the best investment; the more you give, the more you get in return.” Starring in her own love story, meet Little Shelter’s fair lady Audrey, an eight-year-old Chihuahua mix. Much like her namesake, she is gracious, charming, optimistic and kind. Slightly awkward on her stilt like legs, she is nonetheless completely endearing and you’ll fall head over heels at first glance, despite her housebreaking issues! Always stylishly outfitted and ready for breakfast at Tiffany’s, her favorite spot is tucked under your arm, right next to your heart. Stop by to meet this little funny face and welcome Audrey home. 631-368-8770, ext. 21


Meet Reed

Calling all Shepherd lovers! Meet handsome and intelligent Reed! This sweet boy came to the Brookhaven Animal Shelter as a stray in August and sadly no one came to claim him. This 100 lb hunk is approximately 4 years old and is full of energy. He loves to go for walks and knows several commands. He would do best in a home with children 16 years and does well around other dogs but he is NOT a fan of his feline friends. If you would like to meet Reed, please apply through the shelter’s matchmaker application at 631-451-6950


Meet Smokey

Sweet senior Smokey was adopted from the Smithtown Animal Shelter as a kitten  in 2009 and returned when his mom fell on hard times and had to move. This brown and white tabby is all affection all of the time. He is as gentle as he is handsome and has lived with another cat in the past. Smokey has a clean bill of health and just wants to be spoiled in his golden years. Will that be with you? 631-360-7575


Meet Cash

Cash in on Cash! Currently up for adoption at Save-A-Pet in Port Jefferson Station, this 2.5 year old sweetheart has been through a lot in his short life. He was born with bilateral luxating patellas (knee issues) which an orthopedic surgeon repaired. He has been recovering in foster care for the last few months and is now looking for a lifelong loving home of his own. Cash is 100% housed-trained. He knows many basic commands and is easily redirected. He learns very quickly and just wants to be your best boy. He loves being outside and playing with his toys — he  even plays fetch! 

Cash would do best with a family who has a fenced in yard and who will make sure he gets enough exercise and stimulation. He’s great on the leash and polite on walks and while meeting neighbors. He gets along great with other dogs and leaves the cats alone. Don’t miss your opportunity to add this phenomenal pup to your family! 631-473-6333,

Meet Mickey Mouse

This is Mickey Mouse, 1-year-old charming little guy at Little Shelter who’s looking for his forever family. He has an outgoing, sociable personality and enjoys being the center of attention. Despite his small size, he’s overflowing with character and loves to be in the midst of all the fun. Come by and say hello to him today! 631-368-8770, ext. 21


Teachers Pet event

Did you know? The Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, 300 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven hosts a “Teacher’s Pet” event through the month of September. All animals that are of “school age” (4 years and up) are free. For more information, call 631-451-6950.

Check out the next Paw Prints in the issue of  October 12.

Paw Prints is generously sponsored by Mark T. Freeley, Esq.



Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that optical illusion with the vase and the two faces? If you’re looking at the outline of the white object, you see a vase, but if you look at the white as the background, you see two faces.

Is it possible that we might, at times, be missing something in our lives?

We drive from one event to another, often ignoring the people in the car next to us at a stoplight, at the birds resting on a telephone wire or at the last few rays of the sun as the light disappears over the horizon.

Instead, we’re focused on getting where we’re going, giving our mind a chance to wander to important things, like what we’re going to say to the coach of our son’s little league team, to our boss who wants to know why we’re late, or to that person at the deli counter who starts preparing our sandwich before we even order.

Along the way, we might be missing signs that could stimulate or enrich our mind in unexpected ways or that could provide the kind of unanticipated signs that serve as clues about our lives. Sure, some people read horoscopes for such help, they ponder the pithy poetry of fortune cookies, or they visit a psychic, who asks them if they’ve ever known a person named John or if they’ve ever gone with a date to a movie or like to take walks on the beach.

But, with our heads down, living on our phones, focusing on events and people far from us, is it possible that we might miss something akin to a puzzle piece in the mystery of our lives?

Sure, telemarketers are frustrating and annoying, offering us products we don’t need, asking us for personal information, and assuming a far-too-familiar tone.

What if those telemarketers, who are even more unpopular than used car salesman, journalists and politicians, offered us something between the lines of their scripts that might be of use to us? We don’t have to stay on the phone long with them and we don’t have to buy something we don’t want, but maybe we can give them half a minute, listening to them and politely declining their offer for more life insurance, a time share in the Everglades, or a chance to earn money as a personal shopper.

Maybe something they say will remind us of a task we wanted to accomplish, a phrase a friend or relative used to use, or a responsibility we haven’t yet met for ourselves. In a world in which there are no accidents, perhaps they can remind us of something we value.

Along the same lines, the scenery that flies by while we’re on a train, a bus or in a car could remind us of a picture we drew from our childhood, a tree we used to climb, or a friend who might need to hear from us but hasn’t felt strong enough to ask for help.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago, people looked to the skies for the kind of signs that might help them.

When we shut ourselves in our homes, disconnect from the people in the room or from the environment, we close down the opportunity to see or consider any signs from the world around us or to get out of our own limited physical, mental and emotional headspace. We also lock ourselves in to a particular way of thinking, removing the opportunity to consider whether today is a day to see the vase or the two faces.

By getting away from our computer screens, cell phones, and cubicles, we give ourselves a chance to see what the world offers, and how those cues affect the way we think about our lives.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. Now I’m not one of those happy people who awaken with the dawn, but I will say that my first thought after I open my eyes is usually breakfast. It used to be that I had to get up and walk the dog, but that’s history. Now, as soon as sleep is over, I am hungry.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I don’t eat past dinner, and that my dinner usually ends by 7:00 p.m. or even earlier. That means I have been fasting for at least 12 hours, maybe even 14, so my lustful appetite would seem valid. I start thinking about what I am going to make for breakfast while I am brushing my teeth. It’s almost never what you might expect.

I guess the traditional American breakfast is eggs and toast, and maybe some sort of meat, like bacon or ham. Or people start the day with cold cereal and milk in a bowl or hot oatmeal, with maybe some fruit on top. That’s if they have time to fix breakfast. 

Many people just run through the kitchen, put on their jackets and rush out the door to work or to school. Perhaps they might snag a roll or a piece of fruit on the way out, maybe even a cup of coffee if they remembered to plug in the pot the night before and to push the button on the way to the bathroom in the morning. Incredible as it sounds to me, I even know some people who eat nothing until dinner—a big dinner that then stretches right up to bedtime.

So what do I eat?

I might eat an egg with some veggies thrown in if it’s a weekend and I have time to cook. I particularly like English muffins with Irish butter and one of any number of different jams I harbor in my fridge. More often I will heat up some green lentil pasta that I prepared in advance, top it with low sodium spaghetti sauce and a couple of spices, and munch away. (Don’t Yuk! Just try it.) The green lentil flour, which comes in a box, is loaded with good nutrients: 11 grams of fiber; 25 grams plant-based protein. My favorite shape for the flour is rotini; it makes me think I am eating wheat pasta. And by the way, it’s made in Italy.

Or, I might finish off the previous night’s leftovers. That could be anything from shrimp, which I love, or a kind of white flaky fish like branzino or salmon. Now you might be taken aback by the nonconformist choices I make in the morning, so I will explain. I have had the pleasure of traveling to a number of different countries and eating their traditional breakfasts, so I am not in the least put off by eating my leftover sushi that I brought in the previous night. It makes me think I am in Bali.

On rainy mornings, I have the urge for pancakes because my mother, when I was a child, often made silver dollar pancakes for breakfast when it rained, especially if it rained really hard. The wonderful smell would fill the kitchen and bring us quickly to the table. I never put butter or syrup or powdered sugar on them; they were just delicious straight from the pan. I confess, though, that now I hardly ever have time to make them. I’m too busy looking for an umbrella.

Instead I grab a smoothie, filled with frozen fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, like baby bok choy and baby kale, that is pre-made in the refrigerator and carry it to my office, where I sip it through a straw for a couple of hours.

Another unorthodox breakfast that I enjoy is a salad, one with cucumbers, tomatoes, pears and walnuts, perked up with a little balsamic vinegar. I don’t care for iceberg lettuce much, preferring romaine and mixed greens.

I have learned that only some 35 percent of Americans eat breakfast every morning. How about you?

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The traditional dishes served year after year at your family’s holiday gatherings may bring comfort and a sense of nostalgia, but you can open your loved ones up to a whole new world by incorporating recipes from around the globe.

People of all different cultures across the Earth are often connected by food, whether it’s a classic holiday dish or a unique take on a traditional dish, like this raisin-infused Challah. While the dishes themselves may drastically differ, using similar ingredients can be a unifying thread.

For those looking to pull off worldly cuisines this holiday season, consider a familiar and nearly universal ingredient like raisins, an innovative and delicious addition incorporated in culturally diverse dishes. On top of their versatile flavor, Sun-Maid Raisins offer a better-for-you whole fruit option with no added sugar per 1/4-cup serving.

Crown Raisin Challah

Crown Raisin Challah

YIELD: Makes 3 loaves



2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

3 cups warm water

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup olive oil

2 extra-large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup Sun-Maid raisins

3 cups bread flour

6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Egg Wash:

2 extra-large eggs

2 tablespoons sugar


In big bowl, mix yeast, sugar, honey and warm water. Let yeast bloom about 7 minutes. Add cinnamon, oil, eggs, egg yolks and salt. Mix well. Add raisins. Add flours and mix until sticky. Dough should be creamy yellow. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead 12-15 minutes, or until smooth. Oil bowl, place dough back in bowl and cover tight with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch dough down, cover and let rise another 45 minutes. Punch down again and cut into three equal pieces. Let rest about 10 minutes then roll each piece into snakes about 30 inches long; taper at one end. Starting with thick end, roll each snake into spiral shape like snail shell. Use a little water and stick tapered end onto body of spiral. Mold into place with hands.

Oil loaves lightly, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until poofy, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. In small bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Gently brush loaves with egg wash, taking care not to deflate them.

Bake 45 minutes, or until loaves are golden. Let cool completely before serving.


Consider these global recipe ideas enjoyed at holiday gatherings around the world.


  • Apple Strudel: Quite possibly one of the most famous German desserts of all, raisins add a delicious chewiness to this traditional strudel.
  • Lebkuchen: A traditional German cake similar to gingerbread that’s full of sweet spices, walnuts, dates and raisins.


  • Cuccidati Siciliani: Typically at their most popular during the holiday season, these Italian fig cookies feature raisins inside the deliciously fruity filling.
  • Panettone: Also a holiday favorite, Panettone is a towering round of sweet bread speckled with raisins, citrus and almonds.


  • Fruitcake: Traditional fruitcake is chock-full of dried raisins, golden raisins, cherries, dates, pineapple and apricots soaked in dark tea overnight.
  • Bread Pudding: This English staple uses stale bread, spices, sweetener and raisins to create a dense and delicious cake.


  • Cinnamon-Raisin Rugelach: These flavorful pastries are characterized by a melt-in-your-mouth cheese-based dough with a sweet cinnamon, raisin and walnut filling.


  • Christopsomo: Considered sacred in many Greek households and translating to “Christ’s Bread,” this revered dish is usually prepared the day before Christmas Eve and is served with nothing but bare hands at the table. Raisins, nuts, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are all found throughout the loaf.


  • Ghapama: A baked pumpkin stuffed with partially cooked rice, raisins, nuts, cinnamon and honey.


  • Irish Soda Bread: The cakey texture of this Irish favorite is complemented by sweet, chewy raisins throughout the loaf.

Visit to find more recipes perfect for holiday gatherings.


Getting a good night's rest helps keep your mind and body healthy. METRO image
Sleep apnea may increase your risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Our physical and mental wellbeing depends on getting quality, restful sleep; however, many of us struggle to achieve this. For those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), quality sleep is particularly elusive.

Sleep apnea is an abnormal pause in breathing that occurs at least five times an hour while sleeping. It can have an array of causes, the most common of which is airway obstruction. Some estimates suggest that about 30 million people suffer from sleep apnea in the United States (1).

OSA diagnoses are classified as either mild, moderate or severe. It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of moderate and severe OSA sufferers are undiagnosed.

After family history, most risk factors for OSA are modifiable. They include chronic nasal congestion, excess weight or obesity, alcohol use and smoking (2).

Symptoms of OSA include daytime fatigue, loud snoring, breathing cessation observed by another, impaired concentration, and morning headaches. While these are significant quality of life issues, OSA is also associated with an array of more serious health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Fortunately, we have an arsenal of treatment options, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices; oral appliances; lifestyle modifications, such as diet, exercise, smoking cessation and reduced alcohol intake; and some medications.

How does sleep apnea affect cardiovascular disease risk?

In an observational study of 1,116 women over a six-year duration, the risk of cardiovascular mortality increased in a linear fashion with the severity of OSA (3). For those with mild-to-moderate untreated sleep apnea, there was a 60 percent increased risk of death; for those in the severe group, this risk jumped considerably to 250 percent. However, the good news is that treating patients with CPAP considerably decreased their risk by 81 percent for mild-to-moderate patients and 45 percent for severe OSA patients.

Another observational study of 1,500 men with a 10-year follow-up showed similar risks of cardiovascular disease with sleep apnea and benefits from CPAP treatment (4). The authors concluded that severe sleep apnea increases the risk of nonfatal and fatal cardiovascular events, and CPAP was effective in curbing these occurrences.

In a third study, this time involving the elderly, OSA increased the risk of cardiovascular death in mild-to-moderate patients and in those with severe OSA by 38 and 125 percent, respectively (5). But, as in the previous studies, CPAP decreased the risk in both groups significantly. In the elderly, an increased risk of falls, cognitive decline and difficult-to-control high blood pressure may be signs of OSA.

Does OSA increase your risk of cancer?

In sleep apnea patients under age 65, a study showed an increased risk of cancer (6). The greater the percentage of time patients spend in hypoxia (low oxygen) at night, the greater the risk of cancer. The authors believe that intermittent low levels of oxygen, caused by the many frequent short bouts of breathing cessation, may be responsible for the development of tumors and their subsequent growth.

Does OSA affect male sexual function?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may also be associated with OSA and, like other outcomes, CPAP may decrease this incidence. This was demonstrated in a small study involving 92 men with ED (7). The surprising aspects of this study were that, at baseline, the participants were overweight, not obese, on average and were only 45 years old. 

In those with mild OSA, the CPAP had a beneficial effect in over half of the men. For those with moderate and severe OSA, the effect was still significant, though not as robust, at 29 and 27 percent, respectively.

An array of other studies on the association between OSA and ED have varying results, depending on the age and existing health challenges of the participants. Some study authors have postulated that other underlying health problems may be the cause in some patient populations.

Can diet help address OSA?

For some of my patients, their goal is to discontinue their CPAP. Diet may be an alternative to CPAP, or it may be used in combination with CPAP to improve results.

In a small study of those with moderate-to-severe OSA levels, a low-energy diet showed positive results. A low-energy diet implies a low-calorie approach, such as a diet that is plant-based and nutrient-rich. It makes sense, since this can help with weight loss. In the study, almost 50 percent of those who followed this type of diet were able to discontinue CPAP (8). The results endured for at least one year.

If you think you are suffering from sleep apnea, you should be evaluated at a sleep lab and then follow up with your doctor. Don’t let obstructive sleep apnea cause severe complications, possibly robbing you of more than sleep. There are many effective treatments.


(1) (2) JAMA. 2004;291(16):2013. (3) Ann Intern Med. 2012 Jan 17;156(2):115-122. (4) Lancet. 2005 Mar 19-25;365(9464):1046-1053. (5) Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012;186(9):909-916. (6) Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Nov. 15. (7) Sleep. 2012;35:A0574. (8) BMJ. 2011;342:d3017.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit or consult your personal physician.

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Pixabay photo

Earlier this year, the Town of Brookhaven took a gamble, hedging that the market rate of natural gas would climb.

That hedge proved unsuccessful, and town residents have paid the price ever since.

Brookhaven launched its Community Choice Aggregation program in May, partnering with Manhattan-based Good Energy for a fixed rate of $0.695 per therm on natural gas.

The logic was simple. Given the volatility of the international energy economy — with costs fluctuating to the vicissitudes of geopolitical unrest and natural disaster — the town agreed to lock its consumers into a fixed rate, shielded from the variability of the market.

At the time of the negotiation, that price seemed reasonable. In January, the default supply rate from National Grid was $0.792 per therm — 14% higher than the Good Energy rate. As part of the bargain, all Brookhaven National Grid consumers were automatically opted into the $0.695 per therm supply rate.

Unfortunately, every month since the CCA took effect, National Grid has offered a cheaper rate than Good Energy. That includes the month of September, as the rate is now $0.297 per therm. 

Simply put, far too many Brookhaven residents are paying more than they should for their natural gas supply. And despite the urgency of the moment, the Town Board and Good Energy have acted with unusual calm.

We hear so often from Brookhaven officials about the need for fiscal responsibility. Where is the fiscal responsibility for ratepayers? Why hasn’t the town had a more aggressive public outreach and education campaign?

The town’s CCA webpage — — still considers the program a means to “provide annual savings and rate stability for participating residential and commercial consumers by fixing the gas supply of the natural gas rate.”

This messaging is possibly misleading unsuspecting residents to remain opted in. Messages like these can do a disservice to the hardworking residents of this town, who should not have to bear such unnecessary costs.

The Town Board should confront its constituents, explaining the faults in this CCA program and encouraging consumers to opt out immediately.

A day may come when the National Grid rate exceeds $0.695 per therm. When that happens, we will give the Town Board its due credit and encourage all residents to opt in again.

But that day has not arrived.

With skyrocketing costs everywhere, elected officials must do everything possible to safeguard their constituents from further financial strain. Now is not the time to save face but to lead.

To every Brookhaven natural gas consumer, please opt out of the CCA until further notice. And please watch the rates.

Visit and follow the directions at the top of the page to opt out.

Pixabay photo

By John L. Turner

As described in the article on navigating the night sky in winter (Nature Matters/November 2021), which used the constellation of Orion as a starting point, it’s equally important to have a beginning point for learning the stars and constellations of the summer sky. The best object? Without a doubt it’s the Big Dipper, which, surprisingly, is not a constellation itself (being what’s known as an asterism) but part of a larger constellation of the Big Bear or Ursa Major. 

Start by learning the outline of the seven conspicuous stars that comprise the Big Dipper (four make up the bowl and three the handle). Two of the stars of the bowl — the two furthest from the handle — form the “pointer stars” which lead to finding the North Star which is the base of the handle of the Little Dipper, also an asterism. 

The North Star is in a straight line about five times the distance the pointer stars are apart. Knowing the North Star will always help you if you get lost! If you move back a bit toward the Big Dipper you’ll see the four stars that comprise the bowl of the Little Dipper, if it’s sufficiently dark.  The brightest of these stars, Kochab, is also known as the “Guardian of the Pole”. 

If you continue on a line through the North Star but bend it slightly to the right you’ll come to a distinctive constellation that is shaped like the letter “w” or “m” or “e” or number “3” depending on the time of night.  (I stayed up late to watch the Perseid meteor shower in mid-August and watched over many hours as the constellation went from a “w” to the number 3 to the letter “m”).  You’ve arrived at the constellation of Cassiopeia, the Queen. 

If you have a very clear sky you’ll notice that the constellation is within a fuzzy band of countless stars that make up our very own Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers tell us that our solar system is situated about halfway out on one the galaxy’s spiral arms about 26,000 light years from its center. 

Speaking of galaxies you can use Cassiopeia to locate another galaxy — the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. If you visualize the constellation being oriented like the letter “w,” locate the two lower stars of the letter. The lower star to the south or to the right is a little bit lower and fairly bright. This is the star Schedar. If you drop a line about the width of Cassiopeia and a little to the right you should see a fuzzy patch. If you do, congratulations! as you’re looking at the Andromeda Galaxy — the most distant point the unaided eye can see in the universe — about 2.5 million light years away. Said another way that’s about 5.8 trillion miles away multiplied by 2.5 million. If I did the math correctly that’s 12,936,000,000,000,000,000 or 1.29 x 10(15th power) miles away or 1.29 quadrillion miles. That’s a long trip on your bicycle, no? 

Going the other way — arcing from the handle of the Big Dipper “arcs you to Arcturus,” the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman or Hunting Farmer.  Whoever saw a herdsman from this pattern of stars in which Arcturus forms the right knee must have been imbibing a bit too much as I can’t begin to make out anything resembling a person. Arcturus is spectacular, a red giant — a senior citizen among stars — with a diameter about 25X as large as our sun’s.  Arcturus is Greek for “keeper or follower of the bear”, a reference to its proximity to Ursa Major, which as mentioned contains the Big Dipper.  

I think Bootes looks much more like a kite or especially an ice cream cone (who doesn’t think of ice cream on summer nights, right)? with a small dollop of ice cream on top. Why a small dollop? Because much of the ice cream has fallen off the left side of the cone in the form of a small half circle of stars known as the Northern Crown or Corona Borealis. Native Americans report this constellation reminded them of a camp circle. 

And what constellation in the form of a strongman lies next to this fallen scoop of ice cream? Hercules, of course, made strong from eating so much of the tasty stuff.  This constellation doesn’t have any especially bright stars but, by his left shoulder, lies the Great Cluster of Hercules, which appears in ideal conditions as a milky smudge, visible with binoculars. It consists of about 100,000 stars! The cluster was discovered in 1714 by Edmond Halley, of Halley’s Comet fame. It is a mere 25,000 light years away. 

If you look to the side of Hercules away from the Corona Borealis you’ll see a very bright star — Vega, in the constellation of Lyra, the Harp. Vega is the brightest star in the summer sky and forms one of the three points of the other famous summer asterism — the Summer Triangle, which forms a pretty good rendition of an isosceles triangle. Deneb in Cygnus, the Swan and Altair, in Aquila the Eagle form this highly noticeable triangle.      

Let’s close by looking south. If you are in a place where you can see pretty low in the southern horizon you should be able to see two constellations that resemble their names — Sagittarius, the Archer (also known as the Teapot) and Scorpius, the Scorpion. In Sagittarius the handle of the teapot is to the left and the spout to the right. The teapot is boiling over and the stream of steam in the form of a milky band you see emanating from the spout is our Milky Way galaxy. If you view this constellation as an archer, he is shooting to the right aiming at the Scorpion.

Speaking of the Scorpion, its stinging tail is near Sagittarius and its pincers further away.  The brightest star, Antares, is quite visible and appears to have a reddish hue. Like the aforementioned Arcturus it is a red giant too, making it a senior citizen among stars, nearing the end of its life. It is estimated to be 300 times larger than our sun!     

While the weather is warm and comfortable, get outside and become starry eyed! There’s so much to see and behold in the heavens over your head.

A resident of Setauket, author John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

METRO photo
A Column Promoting a More Earth-Friendly Lifestyle

By John L. Turner

John Turner

Make your next pet kitten an indoor one…

According to the American Bird Conservancy and other researchers, the number one cause for wild bird mortality  is by free ranging outdoor cats each year. Experts estimate that upwards of 2.5 billion (yes billion with a “b”!) wild birds are killed annually by cats including many species that frequent bird feeders such as cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Additionally, several billion small mammals— such as voles and mice— which form the base of natural food chains and webs, are also killed, reducing the availability of these animals for predators such as hawks and owls which depend upon them.  

While it can be very difficult to turn a current outdoor pet cat into an indoor pet cat, this is not the case with a new pet that has no expectation or habit to go outside. Being an indoor cat has other obvious benefits to both the cat and cat owner — no worry about being hit by a car, getting into a fight with another cat or animal, or picking up a disease. 

A significant majority of dog owners don’t let their dogs run free because of the havoc they can cause. If cat owners embrace the same belief and responsibility not only will their pet benefit but many types of wildlife will be much better protected, allowed to live out their wild lives free from the risk of pet cat predation.  

A resident of Setauket, author John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

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Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

The region of Provence sits along the Mediterranean coast at the southern end of the Rhône Valley, east of the Languedoc region. Wine has been made here for around 2,600 years, with grapevines brought by the Greeks, thus making it the oldest wine-producing region in France.

Mediterranean vegetation, described as a combination of brush, piney shrubs, spicy herbs, and fragrant plants, such as juniper, lavender, rosemary, and thyme, referred to as garrigue, grow along the limestone hills.

The refreshing rosé wines of Provence, long popular among dwellers and visitors to the French Riviera, are popular throughout the region, especially in famous gastronomic cities such as Nice and Marseilles. In 2022, over 150 million bottles were produced, accounting for almost 40 percent of France’s rosé production.

In Provence, where both red and white wines are produced, rosé makes up almost 90% of the wine and is produced in all nine appellations. While there are dozens of grapes grown in Provence, the most important white grapes are Clairette, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne. The most important red grapes are Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and the local Tibouren.

Some wines I recently tasted are…

2021 Château Miraval “Côtes de Provence” Blanc. (Made from Rolle grapes.) Pale straw color with a bouquet and flavor of apples, pears, almonds, and citrus. Clean tasting with hints of chamomile, herbs, and minerals.

2022 Château de Berne “Inspiration,” Rosé. (Made with organic grapes.) Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Syrah grapes. Light pink color with a perfumed aroma of apple blossoms, lavender, and orange peel. Delightfully fruity with flavors of citrus, peach, clove, and tart berries. There is a hint of fennel in the aftertaste.

2022 Château de Berne “Romance,” Rosé. (Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, Syrah, and Merlot grapes.) Salmon-colored with a faint floral bouquet of berries, flowers, and spices. Full flavors of honeysuckle, tart orange, and citrus. Very smooth finish, with an aftertaste of honeydew melon.

2022 Château de Berne “Ultimate,” Rosé. (Blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Rolle grapes.) Pale coppery color with a fresh bouquet of raspberries, tangerine, and some spices. Full in the mouth with flavors of strawberry jam and citrus. There are hints of jasmine, white pepper, and geranium.

2017 Domaine de La Bégude “Bandol.” (Mostly Mourvèdre grapes.) Deeply colored with a bouquet and flavor of blackberry, cranberry, licorice, clove, and plums. It is quite tannic with a spicy oak aftertaste.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].