I’m returning to you after a long absence. No whiny explanations or self-pity, this time. Just straight up acknowledgment that not posting was incredibly lame and I need to do better in the future – especially since I want to publish more work.
Lots of cool space stuff happening lately, especially with the reemergence of “Cosmos”, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Check out The Wire’s write-up of the most recent episode. Tyson doesn’t sound stoned like Sagan did, but he has a direct and calm delivery style that suits the subject matter and educational aspects of the show. The writing is excellent – two thumbs up from this semi-evolved primate.
And on that happy note…back to work!
There’s an amazing amount of astronomical stuff to check out this week. First off, if you haven’t seen Cassini’s pictures of Earth from Saturn’s orbit, you need to look at them now. Our pale blue dot is stunning and incredibly delicate as seen from a billion miles away.
Earth as seen from Saturn’s orbit
Next up, have a look at the stunning eclipse of an extrasolar planet, as seen by astronomers at the Chandra Observatory:
Chandra Observatory shows view of extrasolar gas giant eclipse
NASA found a giant hole in our sun:
NASA’s SOHO finds giant hole in the Sun
And then NASA decided to catch a thief. Er…asteroid.
NASA plans to catch asteroid and tow it to the Moon
In other news, a Canadian company plans to begin streaming a live feed from two cameras on the International Space Station. There will be one fixed viewpoint camera offering a panoramic view as the station cruises around the planet, and there’ll be a second camera that people can use to zoom in on objects as small as one meter. However, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of zooming in on something in particular…
BC company plans live feed from the International Space Station
And finally, we have a bunch of cool stuff visible in the night sky over the next month:
Sky charts for August 2013 – Jupiter and Mercury and Mars, oh my!
Hope you enjoy everything. More flash fiction coming this week!
Found a lovely article on Iapetus as I was wandering through today’s news. Great picture, eh?
Iapetus, courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
In case you’re wondering, Iapetus is one of Saturn’s moons. It also happens to be one of the coolest moons thanks to the fact that it has a geological feature that’s unique in our solar system. And yes, the article refers to the poor thing as “Saturn’s walnut moon”.
If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see it – it looks like a small ridge around the moon’s equator thanks to the photo resolution, but that ‘ridge’ stands higher than our Himalayan mountains. Imagine someone building an icy Great Wall of China on an airless moon, except that the ‘wall’ is around 12.4 miles tall and about 124 miles wide. And it extends more than 3/4 of the way around the equator.
There’s a few theories on why Iapetus has that ridge, and I’d like to take a moment to explain why this makes me so damn happy. There are a few competing theories on how that ridge developed, and none of those theories will be rejected unless someone investigates, performs research and experimentation, and determines whether those theories are possible.
I love science. I love the fact that there are so many curious and intelligent people out there trying to figure out how the world (and our universe) work. I am in awe of their curiosity and their desire to explore both macro and micro domains. I greatly appreciate their explanations of natural phenomenon and their ability to turn the unknown into the know. I love the fact that true scientists don’t shrug things off as miracles or magic – they can willingly admit they don’t know something. And then they’ll go see what they can do to figure out the answers.
You know why they’re able to do this? Because they’re honest. They are honest with what they know, how they know it, and what they can tell us. We should respect that honesty and not dismiss people who use their skills and smarts to show us how and why things work the way they do. They deserve better.
We have a long way to go before we’ll be able to say with certainty how that ridge developed. What we can say is this: that ridge is there, and we will eventually figure out how it got there. Thank you, Science.
We’ll be able to see the planet Mercury real soon now (depending on which hemisphere you live in):
Mercury, courtesy of NASA
We don’t often get so many planets visible in the sky all at the same time. Currently, Venus, Mars, and Saturn are hanging in view, and we’re still getting a small glimpse of Jupiter as well. Thanks to its petite and dainty size, Mercury won’t be terribly big or bright, but the linked article tells you when and how you can spot it on the horizon.
I think it’s amazing that the ancient Greeks figured out it was a planet. I grant you that planets, stars, and moons have very different patterns, but the Greeks didn’t exactly have modern optics and telescopes to use when checking out our stellar neighborhood. I wonder how many people sat outside observing the skies at all hours of the day or night just so they’d have an excuse to avoid their families.
Anyway, enjoy your view of Mercury. I’d love to travel there some day, but I think it’d be a one-way trip. Imagine the engines you’d need in order to escape the sun’s gravity well – probably not something humanity will be capable of engineering anytime soon.
It’s a gorgeous sunny day that’s inspired me to wonder how much daylight we’d find on other planets – and how bright and what colour that light would be. This week’s prompt will be this lovely picture from NASA’s image gallery:
Daylight on Mars.
So many small details change the quality of the light. Everything that goes into an atmosphere (or the lack of one), the planet’s/moon’s distance from its star, whether it’s a planet or a moon, whether there are any other orbital bodies in the vicinity, the planet’s/moon’s surface, etc.
Mars is farther away from the Sun, lacks atmosphere, and has sand with a different mineral/metal content than anything found on Earth. The luminous red reflects back up from the planet, making it appear as though it does, in fact, have an atmosphere – a reddish one. What would it take to create an actual atmosphere that appeared red to the unaided eye?
I don’t know the answer to that off the top of my head, but I’m fairly confident that I don’t want to attempt to breathe it.