Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cleanup in Universe Aisle Six

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxies in collison (or merging): NGC 6745 is actually two galaxies currently as one rather misshapen mass.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The incomparable Tony Halles (we are not worthy to carry his filter case) provides today's Astronomy Picture of the Day with this beautiful image of NGC 7023, The Iris Nebula.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

I seem to be perpetually behind on listening to podcasts, even at sites where I contribute to the podcasts, so it wasn't until this morning that I started to listen to Patrick Hester's excellent interview with one of my favorite writers, Jay Lake.

And, then I shut it off as it seemed more important to actually be able to see the fricking road that I was driving on than crying from emotional reaction to this very brutally honest discussion.

Both my father and father-in-law died after very long and protracted illnesses. Both of these overlapped the other, with my father dying first, then around a year later, my father-in-law dying. Along that timeframe we had the birth of my daughter, 09/11, a loss of a job of fourteen plus years, unemployment for a year, part-time work for several years, full-time employment at a fraction of what I had previously made, sacking of over 50% of the people I work with, illness of my mother-in-law and associated events in trying to move her, and more.

My father did not die of cancer, but of conditions related to dementia and Parkinson's Disease. My father-in-law did die of cancer, he had cancer upon cancer upon cancer which lead to other problems which lead to long-term secondary illness which lead to dementia which lead to heart failure...

The cost—financial but also—often overlooked—personal to a family is tremendous. I drove thousands of miles to visit my parent's to try and help out. I drove hundreds of miles on errands for my in-laws, including trying to get my father-in-law to the doctor or to chemotherapy. The illnesses exhausted me (I can't imagine how it was for my mother or mother-in-law) and frayed relations with family members both in terms of my siblings and my siblings-in-law (the fact that only one sibling-in-law, and that by marriage to a brother-in-law bothered to call or send a card on my father's death irks me to this day; I can understand that they were dealing with their own problems with my father-in-law, etc., but somehow I managed being hip-deep in two parental illnesses to function, sigh).

I can't imagine what Jay is going through. Or his child. I pray that they both have the strength to carry on.

I'll eventually listen to the podcast, but right now, it is too much. As with anything vaguely related to 09/11, or certain stories written by David Drake and set in the Hammer's Slammers sequence, or even the pillory scene with Jack Aubrey in the Patrick O'Brian tales...this just hits too close to home, hits too much of an emotional chord.

Cancer sucks. Parkinson's sucks. Arthritis sucks. Illness sucks.
The Empty Square

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows what is (to the naked eye) a pretty empty part of the night sky: the "great square" of the constellation Pegasus. With sufficient light-gathering ability...things look different!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stars and Smoke

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the stars of Corona Australis and very smoke-like nebular clouds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Horror of It All

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a perfectly good working spacecraft, about one-quarter to one-half through its expected useful life, being sent into retirement.

What the heck is wrong with us?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dried Fruits

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a closeup taken by MER Opportunity (you know, one of the other rovers on Mars) of blueberries...the rocky "fruit" that was first found by it and MER Spirit when they first touched down on Mars. These are not like the earlier spheres, so we have found a new process at work on Mars.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celestial Pencil

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us NGC 2736, more commonly known as the Pencil Nebula. Supernova shockwaves!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day continues the fling into Fall with views of the Sun over one location from the solstice to the equinox to the solstice!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another Analemma

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us another analemma, this time a complete cycle!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Unquiet Sky

Astonishing shot in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. We've had quite the active star recently!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a analemma (a series of images of our Sun, tracing its course over a year or part of a year) from a sequence of sunrise shots. Look carefully at the upper solar images for a visit by a planetary body.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Viva Las Vesta!

No dusky natives, no waving palms, but possibly a future oasis in space. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us the place where Asimov once stranded his character's and the setting of a thousand other science fiction tales: the asteroid (minor planet) Vesta, as the asteroid explorer Dawn departs on the way to asteroid Ceres.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen

The tavern keeper looked at the girl who was re-lacing her bodice. He shrugged sympathetically. "The English, yes? Mad. All mad. Heretics. Mad." He made the sign of the cross to defend himself from the heathen evil. "Like all soliders," the tavern keeper said. "Just mad."

(Bernard Cornwall, Sharpe's Rifles)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Say, "Cheese"!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us that tourists are the matter where they are.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Quiet Sun

Like yesterday's entry, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is something that you will have a hard time believing is reality: our "quiet" Sun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Op Art

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn, the rings and Tethys. There are some things you see that just make your mind wonder if it can be real.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ring Sketch

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful rendering of Messier 57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Despite the spread of more and more advanced means of imaging (equipment, software) at lower and lower prices, amateur astronomer's are still encouraged to take up sketching as it helps to train the eye to observe fine detail.

Friday, September 14, 2012

One of These Things is Just Like the Other

Hard to believe on first glance that today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is showing two of the same thing. Yes, that almost star-like object is a galaxy (Messier Object 60), as is the more obvious spiral to the side (NGC 4647). Ellipticals are odd ducks, many of the so-called Arp objects, catalogued by astronomer Halton Arp as sites of interesting goings on.

Beyond that, take a look at the image. How many other galaxies can you spot? The constellation of Virgo is an absolute swarm of galaxies and a great "hunting ground" for amateur astronomers.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cocoon Through Wide Eyes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wide shot of one of the more interesting places in the night sky (at least for us Northern Hemisphere types) to hunt through: the area around the Cocoon Nebula in the constellation of Cygnus. Note the "dark nebula", the red filaments and the eye-popping Cocoon Nebula itself.

(Other interesting places? For me, the whole area around Scorpius and Saggitarius. The Orion nebula. Taurus. Any sweep along the path of the Milky Way.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cluster (No Eno)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of open cluster Messier 7 in the constellation Scorpius.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Snaphots into the Light

I was doing pretty good avoiding coverage and messages until I saw this. Now tears are running down my checks as the memories come back strongly.
Beehives and Archway

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the arch of our home galaxy, The Milky Way, hanging above the Bungle Bungles, beehive-like structures in western Australia.

And here we are again. An anniversary that I would really absolutely freaking like to forget.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Reports are starting to trickle in that Jupiter may have been hit by an object, presumably a comet such as Shoemaker-Levy Nine. As it rises in early morning skies, I'm sure amateurs (and professionals, if they can hijack the observing time!) are focusing to see if the impact scar can be seen in the atmosphere.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a view of MSL Curiosity's explorations of Mars. Just starting the journey!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Whispy Horse

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the fantastic detail around one object that I've found very (very!) difficult to detect with my crappy, light-polluted skies: the "Horsehead" nebula in Orion.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Passing the Edge

At what point do the Voyager probes (still ticking!) go from being "in" the Solar System" to being "in" interstellar space? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day gives us one clue.

Friday, September 07, 2012


Ever taken a class on motivational speaking? Ever gotten one from your employer? I'll bet it wasn't even a tenth as motivating as this one.
Who's Up for Seafood?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows IC 4628, the "Prawn Nebula". Praaaawwwwnnnsss...

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Skyglow Redux

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day visits skyglow again, this time over the skies of Italy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows not auroras...but skyglow. Faint bands of green appear over the skies of German. "Mouse over" the picture to get a constellation guide.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Long-Term Outlook

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows paths of hurricanes from 1851 to the present. Notice anything odd?

Monday, September 03, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Pleides Star Cluster, Messier Object 45, in the constellation Taurus (the "spot" on the bull's "shoulder").

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

(Locksley Hall; Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

And the Hugo Goes To...

SF Signal wins for best! And John DeNardo mentions all of us!

Holy six degrees of Kevin Bacon, "I" won a Hugo!

Alas, I am not watching any more of the ceremony because UStream took down the stream when clips of nominated television shows were shown...with permission of their creators...violating DMCA according to UStream's bots.

How stupid is that?

Addendum: Ustream said they were looking into the things wound up (too fracking late!). Here's how I voted. Here are the results (via Tor Dot Com).
Night Flight to Radiation

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent night launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes satellite pair.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Once In A...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a blue moon. No, not colored blue, but just an indication of supposed rarity.