Saturday, May 16, 2009

O'Hare Astronomy Exhibit

As part of the International Year of Astronomy, the fabulous Adler Planetarium and the less-than-fabulous O'Hare International Airport have teamed up to participate a worldwide exhibit of astronomy photographs. From Earth to the Universe looks like a swell way to kill some time, even though it has a really silly name.
Today, visit From the Earth to the Universe.
Later, check out From my Bathroom to my House, and From Times Square to New York City and From an Empty Cranium to Paris Hilton's Head.

At O'Hare, the photos are located in the pedestrian tunnel near the CTA platform.
Hey, that's, like, 50 feet from my desk, y'all!

Find out if your town is involved by clicking here.

UPDATE: Well, I went to take a look at the exhibit. It's fabulous - really, really great photos and a little bit of info on each object.
As a bonus, I got to come back and tell the guys I work with, "Hey, they've got a big picture of Uranus down by the CTA platform."

Sorry, Mom.
Apparently, I'm never going to grow up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Song

The inaugural "Friday Song" is a catchy tune by Jerry Engler and the Four Ekkos called
Sputnik (Satellite Girl).

This song came out RIGHT AFTER Sputnik 1 was launched. Ol' Jer must have had the song ready to go and just been crossing his fingers that they'd name it something with two syllables so it would fit into the chorus. Jerry Engler was the first American* to have a Space Race-themed song. Dozens upon dozens would follow.

Not only is this song fun to dance to, it also contains a prophetic opening couple of lines:

The fun has just begun
We're on Sputnik Number 1.

You have to hand it to Jerry Engler. At a time when the mere mention of reds in space would send schoolchildren ducking and covering and otherwise sane people into pork n' beans-laden homemade bomb shelters, Jerry was all, "WOOOOOOOOOO! SPAAAAAAAACE! FRICK YEAHHHHHHHHH!"


*And the last American to correctly pronounce "Sputnik."

The only WW1 flying ace to ever become an astronaut.

May marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 10, which featured the Snoopy lunar module and the Charlie Brown command module.
According to Charles Schulz's son, the selection of those two names for such an important piece of American history was "one of the all-time highlights of his career."
Several people warned Schulz about including the names of his two most popular characters in what, if things went wrong, would have been a great American tragedy.
Do you know what Charles Schulz said?
"If the astronauts can risk their lives, I can risk my characters."
Here's to Charles Schulz.
Not only did he create the most adorable, hilarious, timeless cartoon character ever - he had quite a bit of character himself.

Below: A mission control console during Apollo 10. And possibly Charlie Duke? Hard to say.

The son of Charles Schulz at the Snoopy statue at KSC.

The Snoopy LM, as photographed by John Young aboard Charlie Brown.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Like Icarus, minus a few million miles.

Astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault snapped a killer image of Atlantis and Hubble transiting the Sun yesterday.
(Click to enlarge, natch.)

A fond farewell... the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, otherwise known as WFPC2, otherwise known as "wiff-pik-too."

WFPC2 not only saved the Hubble after a disastrous beginning

,it went on to bring us almost all of the HST's most spectacular and memorable images:

The Spirograph Nebula

The Crab Nebula

The Hubble Deep Field

The Pillars of Creation

the Shoemaker-Levy collision with Jupiter

and finally, the last official "pretty picture" from WFPC2 - Planetary Nebula Kahoutek 4-55, located in Cygnus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A graph I made after watching CNN today.

I always just kind of assumed it was The Universe's 5th Grade Science Fair Project.

There is a supabad program on The Hitlery History Channel right now called How the Earth was Made.
Apparently, it's been on for a little while now, but as usual, I'm the last one to the party. (I've still never seen one second of "24".)

It is a series of shows about the creation of a few specific locations on earth. So far, episode subjects have included Hawaii, Krakatoa, Iceland, New York, Yellowstone, and the Marianas Trench. They call it "Mariana", though. That's annoying, like people who say HAR-rassment and Sa-CA-gawea. I learned it as Marianas, Marianas is prettier, and I'll be damned if I'm going to change now. Sod off, History Channel.


All of the episodes are interesting, but my personal favorites have been the ones on Krakatoa and Hawaii. Ever since childhood, volcanoes in general and Krakatoa specifically have scared me. ("Thrilled" scared, not scared-scared.) I did find myself yelling at the TV though because the narrator kept insisting that Krakatoa erupted and "caught everyone by surprise" and that "no one had any idea that anything bad was going to happen."

Excuse me, History Channel, but Discovery Channel begs to differ. In the excellent program "Krakatoa: Volcano of Destruction", the diary of Johanna Beyerinck of Ketimbang plays a starring role. From the time the pre-eruption earthquakes began and all through the minor eruptions in the summer of 1883, Johanna was pleading with her husband to get the family out of there. He didn't listen to his silly wife, of course, and Johanna's 14-month old infant died and the rest of the family barely escaped when Krakatoa erupted for the final time.

The Hawaii program was fascinating and, for someone whose brother lives on Maui, pretty nervewracking. Let me just say something: Hawaii. is. a. freaking. timebomb, y'all.
Hawaii is to natural disaster as Michelangelo is to ceiling painters.
Hawaii, like so many other beautiful places on earth, is beautiful because it was created by chaos and destruction and wackiness. My favorite part of the program dealt with the famous Wailau Landslide which created the world's steepest sea cliffs and (bonus!) a tsunami 2,000 feet high.
25 miles of Molokai just broke off one day, and the landslide was so huge and moving so fast that it tumbled out 120 MILES offshore. Not only that, the last 80 MILES of its journey was UPHILL, climbing 900 feet out of the Hawaiian Deep. As the geologist on the program said, "1,400,000 years ago was a very bad day in Hawaii."
And sometimes my hair gets frizzy in the Florida humidity.

Watch this show, and then go curl up in a ball in the corner to await your inevitable annihilation. Thanks for nothing, Earth.

Above: Beautiful Molokai