Saturday, December 4, 2010

Astrophotography, right in the middle of Chicago

Joe Guzman, astronomer extraordinaire and all-around really nice guy, shot some awesome pics of Saturn and Venus the other night. I love how supportive and encouraging the astronomy family is in Chicago - whether you're an Adler employee like Joe or just wanting to ask a hundred questions about a telescope before you buy it (ahem), these guys are so great. As a bonus, star parties are an extremely frequent event here in Chicago.

Even if you're not a local, you should check out Chicago Astronomer. Many of the posts there deal with observation information that is also relevant to the rest of North America,  the pictures are pretty, and the support is trememdous.

All photos by Joe Guzman

Wisconsin man builds backyard planetarium.

I want to be this guy's next door neighbor/BFF.

Story found over at the Chicago Astronomer - thanks for the tip, fellas.
Going to have to make a trip to this one.

Wisconsin Backyard Planetarium

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Well, it's not 9' tall aliens carrying a cookbook disguised as a manual for peaceful coexistence, but...

it's still pretty damn cool.

Piltdown Man, War of the Worlds, Energia's SpaceDyson©

     The ole BS detector is overheating on this story. 

     A quick Google search reveals that this story has been picked up by every major news outlet in the free world. From Australia to Zimbabwe, the headline blares that Energia is developing an orbital pod which will push space debris into a decaying orbit. It will, they breathlessly report, run on nuclear-powered ion drives.

     Of course it will.
     And it will convert dark matter into tasty, tasty Skittles.

     The outlet which "Roscosmos" used to announce this groundbreaker? A Facebook page administered by a couple of French citizens who happen to be space fans. The Facebook page contained just a few sentences and cited no official sources regarding the story. Contrary to what many, many major news outlets are reporting, this Facebook page is in no way an "official" Roscosmos page, and a 10-second investigation could have helped them determine that.
     Being somewhat of a giant dork, I am a not-infrequent visitor to the Roscosmos website. After reading this story on CBS News, I realized I hadn't seen anything about it from the, ya know, Russians, so I went over to Roscosmos and searched for "space debris", "space junk", "energia", and several other keywords to no avail.
Their last news item mentioning space junk? January of 2010, when Yuri Makarov represented Russia at the perfectly boring annual meeting of the International Committee on Space Debris. There is nothing on Energia's website. A search for news on Interfax or anywhere else which does not use the Facebook source is circuitous and futile. I don't know - news like that? You'd think it'd be on Energia's homepage, not just on a private Facebook page. You'd think they'd be (justifiably) bragging about it on every news station.
     If true (ahem), fantastic. I believe space debris is the most pressing space-related issue today.
     If the Frenchies just punked the worldwide media, zut alors and sacre bleu!

    Also, LMAO.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

That's not a wheat sheaf or a weeping willow or a stalk of broccolini.

That's a dumbbell*!

*If you squint. And are drunk.

This? This looks nothing like a beetle headed towards New Mexico.

OMG seriously I'll just do everything, NASA.

The Dandelion Nebula, or, as it's formally known, NGC6751.

Was that so hard?

Edge, seat, etc.

Name That Moon

For some time, I have been thinking that our moon needs a better name. I mean, Jupiter has moons named Io, Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, Amalthea, Himalia and Leda; and Saturn has Titan, Enceladus, Hyperion and Phoebe. Mars has Phoebos and Demos (Latin for fear and panic); Neptune has Triton (not to be confused with Titan), Galatea and Larissa; and Uranus has Juliet, Cupid, Portia, Belinda, Miranda and Margaret.

We are stuck with "moon." I realize that all those other planets have many, many orbiting satellites, but I don't see why we can't have one with a cool name. Ancient civilizations called it Luna and Selene, but we don't have a pretty name for it now. Just moon.

I guess maybe renaming it would play havoc with popular music, but I still think it would work. I'm liking "Garrett."

From the book I'm reading. I LOL'd.

"Collapsing wave function" is one of those phrases that physicists just toss around, along the same lines of, "computing the eigen values of the Hamiltonian" or "staying home alone on a Saturday night." 
We're just so used to it that it might never occur to us that it needs additional explanation.*

*Not that "staying home alone on a Saturday night" really needs much additional explanation. Enjoy the rest of the book, nerd.