Friday, November 30, 2012

The Stars, Like Dust

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of dusty nebulae and stars in the region of Cygnus. During late summer to early winter, this is one of the more rewarding regions for an amateur astronomer to explore.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini vs. Maxi

No, no, I'm not talking about any product here, technological or otherwise! In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day we see the real difference between a "micro" Moon and the so-called "super" Moon. Did you see the full Moon last night in conjunction with Jupiter? Beautiful, wasn't it? Clear view of the features for me. That was a "micro" Moon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the dance between Jupiter and one moon, Io. Jupiter is moving into "opposition", where you can draw a line from the Sun to Earth to Jupiter, so it will be visible all night long (of course, this is a slow process, it has been visible for part to most of the night for months now!). Get out your binoculars or your telescope (if you have one) and take a look!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, a few items of interest: Jeff Foust looks at the future of the Reusable Launch Vehicle. The USAF may succeed where NASA has failed. Billie Holladay Skelley looks back to when a aviation pioneer could have...but did the Mercury 13. And Jeff Foust returns for a book review of Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us.
Jupiter Pass

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has Jupiter in Taurus. Look to the West and you shall see it! And to the East, Venus!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Death Ribbon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of a few wisps from the Veil Nebula, in and around the constellation of Cygnus. It is a remarkably difficult object to see under our increasingly bright suburban and urban skies, but it marks a "bubble" of expanding gas from a star that went supernova.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Gaps. Brief Bursts.

I had been hoping to be getting back to more regular blog postings once power was restored after Sandy, but things have not turned out that way. This is due to a combination of craziness at work (increased demands on a decreased workforce are leading to just plain fatigue and low morale) and the fact that my past few weekends (and one weekday when I was "off") have been filled with helping people in my state affected by Sandy.

So, long silences filled with short bursts of "catching up" until "normal" becomes a state of being again.
Sandfalls on Mars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a shot taken by the MRO, currently doing amazing job in orbit around Mars. The spring Sun melts carbon dioxide ice, causing sand to fall and expose darker interior grains. This results is a strange-looking set of images such as this.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Diamond in a Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 1365, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Fornax. If you look closely at the upper right/center around the central core, you'll see a set of brackets showing a recently-discovered supernova in that galaxy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dense Field of View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful combination of dark nebula, bright nebula and dense starfields: the regions around the so-called Pipe Nebula.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Long Trail

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of a single Leonid meteor trail. This one stretches practically from horizon to horizon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad Luck = Good Sight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another shot of the recent solar eclipse. Bad luck in the form of clouds led to a good sighting of another eclipse phenomena: shadow bands.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Moon with a halo around it. The halo is caused by ice crystals in high thin clouds (from the ground it sometimes looks as if there are no clouds at all). Snow coming?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, a few items caught my eye: Jeff Foust looks at the grim budget outlook for the planetary exploration programs (and how history may guide). Vidvuds Beldavs and Jeffrey Sommers look at similar themes: how to escape the downward spiral and get to real economic growth again. Jeff Foust reviews Caleb Scharf's recent non-fiction work, Gravity's Engines.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Leonid meteor shower over Monument Valley.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Archway of Diamonds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a combined series of images from the Hubble Space Telescope showing one of the most massive stars known plus a vast star-forming region. (For some reason this reminds me of images from 1980's shows such as Buck Rogers.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shine On

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a shot of the solar eclipse, this time in the partly-cloudy skies over Queensland, Australia.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your Hat's On Fire

Excellent in-depth look at one of my favorite books, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.
Time Passages

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse, from partial phase as the Sun cleared the horizon, to totality and back to normal. Fantastic sequence!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Darkness Falls from the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the eclipse in Queensland. Beautiful shot of Bailey's Beads!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day compresses life, the universe and everything into one minute. It really all did start with a big bang!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful composite of ground and sky.
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, we have: Jeff Foust looks at the rumblings in the press about NASA's plans to return to the Moon...sort of. Is the L1 "Gateway" an actual plan or speculation based on old plans? Michael Listner (Part 01) looks at space debris (all together now: Send up the Toybox!). Alan Stern and Geoff Marcy look at Uwingu, Kickstarter (as it were) for science (a better name is needed, folks). And Jeff Foust reviews Gary Westfahl's The Spacesuit Film (who can identify the image used on the cover?).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bailey's Beads and Rings

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a new depiction of Bailey's Beads. Horizontally compressed image of all the beads from a eclipse in 2008 creates art.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mergers and Acquisitions

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 660, a galaxy in the constellation of Pisces. The odd shape may have been caused by a "collision" (merger or passing through by another galaxy) or other close encounter.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Heart of the Heart

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows emission nebula Melotte 15. This structure lies in the larger nebula known as The Heart Nebula (IC 1805).
On Reading

We who pride ourselves in reading much and widely forget that the printed page serves us in a similar fashion as the drug serves an addict. After a short time away from it we grow agitated and begin to pine, by which time anything will do: a bus timetable, a telephone directory, an operating manual for a washing machine. "They say that life’s the thing," said Logan Pearsall Smith, a littérateur of distinction but now almost forgotten, "but I prefer reading." For how many of us—avid readers, that is—has the printed page been a means of avoidance of the sheer messiness, the intractability, of life, to no other purpose than the avoidance itself? It is for us what the telenovela is for the inhabitant of the Latin American barrio, a distraction and a consolation. We gorge on the printed page to distract ourselves from ourselves: the great business of Doctor Johnson’s life, according to Boswell and Johnson himself. Or we read to establish a sense of superiority, or at least to ward off a sense of inferiority: "What, you
haven’t read Ulysses?"

Once, staying overnight at an airport hotel in Los Angeles, I found myself without a book. How this happened I can no longer recall; it was most unusual, for by far the most useful lesson that life has taught me, and one that I almost always heed, is never to go anywhere without a book. (In Africa, I have found that reading a book is an excellent way of overcoming officials’ obstructionism. They obstruct in order to extract a bribe to remove the obstruction; but once they see you settled down for the long term, as it were, with a fat book, Moby-Dick, say, they eventually recognize defeat. Indeed, I owe it to African officialdom that I have read Moby Dick; I might otherwise never have got through it.)

(Anthony Daniels, The Digital Challenge: I: Loss & Gain, Or The Fate of the Book )

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Tail of the Tadpole

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Arp 188, popularly known as The Tadpole's Tail. Galaxies interact and create beauty.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the reason I've been posting these retroactively. Hurrican Sandy. If you look closely, you can see my house.

Interesting bit on reading Dune at the age of 13. Good to see the kids are still reading the old stuff, these days.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day puts me in mind of the science fictional locale of Jinx (Larry Niven's Known Space tales). The universe is stranger than we can imagine: that's Methone, right here in our own solar system. Another great image from Saturn's tiniest "moon", the Cassini orbiter.

Addendum: January 1975 Analog cover. See what I mean?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Where Was Moses When the Lights Went Out?

Kewpie doll to the first that correctly links that to a movie I'm thinking of.

Hurricane Sandy came to call last week. We lost power at around 1900 hours on Monday and did not get it back until around 1200 hours Saturday. And we're fortunate: a few trees down, our fence probably will need to be replaced, I had to bail out the sump hole in order to keep the basement from being flooded (40 gallons of water, initially every 30 minutes, eventually slowing to every 3 hours, all day and night). Many are still without power, many have lost everything they owned.

So, this might be a good time to contribute to a charity that will help those who were affected!

Blog was knocked out by loss of power, internet, and all those other hallmarks of civilization. I'll start posting APOD and more again, soon, going retroactively. Stay tuned.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot (courtesty of the still-operating Cassini orbiter, long may it function!) of Saturn's heavily-cratered icy moon Dione.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

There's a Bad Moon on the Rise

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "Hunter's Moon" rising over the Alps. Hmmm...full Moon in October. Europe. Where wolf? There wolf!

Friday, November 02, 2012

At the Bottom of a Hole

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a peek at what we can't see directly: the black hole that resides at the center of the Milky Way.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Toil, Toil...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a reflection nebula, IC 2118 (but more commonly known by the nickname of Witch Head Nebula!) casts spells near Rigel in the great constellation of Orion.

Another month, another Ansible. Rejoice and be glad!

Paul Krugman, introducing the Folio Society edition of the Foundation trilogy, has an Atwood Moment: 'Maybe the first thing to say about "Foundation" is that it's not exactly science fiction – not really. Yes, it's set in the future, there's interstellar travel, people shoot each other with blasters instead of pistols and so on. But these are superficial details, playing a fairly minor part in the story.' [PDF] [KMacL]

As Others See Us. Coverage of the new Red Dwarf X offers a hauntingly nostalgic sense of déjà revu: 'The show has an obsessive fan base, which stereotype would suggest is mainly men in their thirties and forties with a penchant for sci-fi and gaming – see how I'm subtly avoiding the provocative words "nerd", "geek" or "unsuccessful with women" here?' (Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 4 October) [MPJ]