Earth

Roadsides and Mountains, taken near Taos, NM by author
Roadsides and Mountains, taken near Taos, NM by author

“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down”   by The Doors from When the Music’s Over

Earth

Earth is the third planet from the sun and in reality it is the only place in our solar system that we can easily call home. Presently, this planet supports a human population of just about 7 billion people….That’s a lot of people……..Still, it remains to be seen if our quality of life can be sustained with this many people on board.

earth at night
earth at night

Earth

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(Synchronous) Orbit

The Man in the Moon as he orbits the earth
The Man in the Moon as he orbits the earth.

Synchronous Orbit

The moon displays Synchronous rotation, meaning it undergoes one rotation for each orbit around the earth. The result is that from planet earth, we always see the same side of the moon. This scientific explanation may explain how over time viewers from this planet have attributed human facial characteristics to the “face” of the moon.

The On-again Off-again Comet ISON Is Fading Away

Comet ISON as captured by Trappist of ESO
Comet ISON near its brightest on Nov. 15, 2013 as captured by Trappist of ESO

Adding To the Buzz

The day after Thanksgiving, the internet was all a buzz with news of the comet’s survival, as it passed around the sun on Thanksgiving Day. This is good news for comet watchers and stargazers everywhere and as a result I could not let the day pass without throwing in my two cents worth. Even though ISON’s resurrection may only be a temporary reprieve from death in outer space, the situation has definitely given us comet watchers something to talk about.

Comets and Cats

On Turkey Day, the official skywatchers were calling Comet ISON D.O.A. Then one day later, they were using the cat analogy to salvage their scientific opinion. Most likely this descrepency was not so much due to incompetence, but rather, it may be related to the much improved view that  spacecraft such as the Hubble and SOHO can now provide. Never before has modern man received such a superb picture of a comet as it sped across the other side the sun. Nonetheless, it is a very humorous situation to hear the experts backpeddle and use the cat analogy as a defense, even though the premise that comets like cats are unpredictable….has been circulating around the blogosphere for several weeks…..ever since ISON underwent a sudden brightening in mid-November. Also, a corollary has developed;  comets like cats, can have nine lies.

The Pros Get It Wrong, Then Right

Now than a new week and a new month has started, it looks like ISON was a doomed comet….that like Icarus….it flew too close to the sun and died. Still, there is a trail of dust (that used to be ISON) moving away from the sun, but it is way too small to be observed by the human eye or even small telescopic devices. Chances that this mass will revive itself into a visible comet are close to zero. Nonetheless, it’s been a fun ride with the general public now being more aware of those faraway visitors from the outer reaches of our solar system. And scientists have gained a little better understanding as to what happens when a comet swings around the sun.

This image is NGC 6543 known as the Cat's Eye Nebula.  (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)
This image is NGC 6543 known as the Cat’s Eye Nebula. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)

Monday Morning Writing Advice: Timely Quotes from Famous Authors

 The Southern Ring Nebula
NGC 3132: The Southern Ring Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing – Donald Waid

Encountering Written Advice

More often than not successful writers, tend to make mostly practical suggestions to newbie writers. Commonly these witticisms contain such mundane advice as don’t use too many adverbs or leave out such over-used words as very, far out or nowadays. Fortunately, every now and then, a lucky writer sneaks in a tidbit of literary comment that transcends these basic grammatical axioms. For example, Stephen King’s classic line, “kill your darlings” has been most likely encountered by just about every practitioner of the English language on at least several occasions.

Following are some of my favorite comments by writers. You have probably heard of most of these guys and gals , but you may not be aware of their cherished little snippets of words. Hopefully, at least a few of these timely lines of wisdom will sink into your brain and create a microburst of energy within your gray matter.

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Crescent Neptune and Triton
Image Credit: Voyager 2, NASA

The List

    1. Start as close to the end as possible. by Kurt Vonnegut

    2. Employ an unreliable narrator, preferably one who doesn’t know he is insane and has no recollection of such events as digging into a grave to rip out the teeth of his recently departed lover. by Edgar Allan Poe (note: this comment has been falsely attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, but still ranks as good advice)

    3. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever. by Ernst Lubitsch, screenwriter

    4. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go. by Billy Wilder, screenwriter

    5. It is always prudent to remember that one is not Tolstoy or Dickens. by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd

    6. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. by George Orwell

    7. Try never get drunk outside yr own house by Jack Kerouac

    8. Remember there is no such thing as nonsense. By Andrew Motion

Saturn Hurricane
Saturn Hurricane
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

In Conclusion

Every one’s probably heard of this Elmore Leornard quote, but I’ll include it anyway….Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

And last but not least! Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say. by Michael Moorcock

The Great Meteorite Processions of February 1913 and 2013

HerschelAnd900
Herschel’s Andromeda
Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz

Explanation of the Herschel

I hope you like the above infrared image of the Andromeda Galaxy. The picture was made from the Herschel, the European Space Agency’s equivalent of our own Hubble satellite. The Herschel was put into orbit in 2009 and features very sophisticated infrared technology.

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Herschel in space, close up on its mirror, photo from ESA

The Rediscovery of an Extraordinary Century Old Astronomical Event

Recently, a great astronomical event that occurred almost a hundred years ago to the day that the Russian meteors struck, has been making the rounds of the scientific press.  Spurred on by a painting made by an amateur astronomer and art teacher in Toronto, named Gustav Hahn, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has recently published an article about the spectacular meteor shower that lit up the skies from western Canada to Bermuda and even Brazil.

This spectacular display of fireballs took place over a 24 hour period with the most numerous sightings occurring in eastern Canada. On February 9th 2013, NASA prophetically described the 100-year old event in this way: “Although nothing quite like the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 has been reported since, numerous bright fireballs — themselves pretty spectacular — have since been recorded, some even on video”.

fireballprocession
This painting by artist and amateur astronomer Gustav Hahn depicts the meteor procession of February 9, 1913, as observed near High Park in Toronto. Credit: University of Toronto Archives (A2008-0023), © Natalie McMinn

The Reconstructed Image

The above image is a digital scan of the original picture, which was a halftone, hand-painted image that is now part of the University of Toronto archives.

Russian meteor
Still image from Russian videos, picture from the BusinessInsider

Strange Coincidence

Strangely enough, the NASA story appeared on its Astronomy Picture of the Day site just six days before the meteor exploded above the Ural Mountains of Russia, causing a spectacular view that was widely recorded on video and rapidly disseminated around the world. All of this just goes to prove that sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.

 

Happy Birthday To Nicolaus Copernicus

640px-Schema_Orloj_pragueorlojhzenilc
This astronomical clock in Old Town Square in Prague was constructed in 1410, some 60 years before Nicholas Copernicus was born in nearby Poland, from Wikipedia, photo by Hzenilc

Who Was Copernicus?

Copernicus was a Polish astronomer, who revolutionized the study of astronomy, when he theorized that the sun, and not the earth, was the center of our solar system. If Nicolaus were alive today he would be 540 years old. Copernicus’ observations were quite astounding for his day and age, even though they were not published until just a few months before he died in 1543.

Nikolaus_Kopernikus
Nicolaus Copernicus portrait from Town Hall in Toruń, Poland – (from 1580), image from Wikipedia – artisit unknown

The Copernicus Revolution

Copernicus first devised his revolutionary ideas in the 30 to 40 years before he died. Today, it is widely believed that the Polish scientist delayed publishing his heliocentric theory for so long to avoid undergoing the harsh criticism and ridicule that his ideas might precipitate. Strangely enough, his belief in a sun-centered solar system met with little opposition in the first few years following his death.

OrionGEMS_FINAL-580x578
This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of December 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. Gemini Observatory/AURA

Galileo Defends Copernicus

This situation soon changed and so for at least a hundred years, Copernicus was made the scapegoat of scientific theory, especially by the church in Rome. However, it was Galileo that took the brunt of the criticism some 90 years later, when he supported Copernicus’ theory. For this, Galileo had to face charges of heresy and eventually recanted on the idea that the earth orbited around the sun.

Finally, in 1835, some 300 years after Copernicus first considered the possibility that the earth revolved around the sun, did the Roman church finally drop their censoring of Copernicus and his revolutionary ideas.

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The old astronomical clock with the newly added (1800s) calendar of Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, from Wikipedia, photo by Krzysiu “Jarzyna” Szymański