Two days before my 19th birthday. Incredible images to follow the successful Viking 1 lander in July. What a summer!
September 3, 2014
August 27, 2014
Since most people know more about astrology than astronomy (and, no, they’re not the same thing), this nonsense has been making the rounds on Facebook recently. Needless to say (at least to anyone who paid attention in junior high school science class), Mars will not appear to be as big as the Moon.
The absolute closest distance the Earth and Mars can theoretically ever come to each other is 33.9 million miles. We’ve never observed that, due to the elliptical nature of the orbits of planets. An approach that close requires a coincidental alignment of orbits that is exceedingly rare. So rare, that it’s not been observed in human history.
For comparison, the orbits of Venus and the Earth can come within 24 million miles of each other. The diameter of Venus is 3,032 miles, while Mars is 4,212 (not much difference in the grand scheme of planets). Earth’s diameter is 7,918 miles. (give or take. It’s a bit more at the equator, less at the poles, due to the spin of the planet on it’s axis.) Venus, even at it’s closest approach, 10 million miles closer than Mars ever gets, never appears as more than a bright star in the morning or evening sky, so the idea that Mars will look like our Moon is, simply, hooey. Never going to happen.
If you ever do see something in the sky as big as the Moon (that’s not the Moon), we’re in deep shit. That’s either the Death Star, or Gallifrey.
Either one of those, and we’re screwed.
August 24, 2014
July 14, 2014
I seldom remember my dreams. They fade as I wake, if I recall them at all. Today I awoke remembering the dream that just ended, and it starred my old CB radio.
I own a Cobra CAM 88 Citizen’s Band radio. It’s a 23 channel, tube type AM transceiver, and I have a Silver Eagle D-104 power mic connected to it. I bought the radio used in the mid-to-late 1970’s from my buddy Marc Cooper, who I believe got it from his uncle. It’s probably a mid-60’s radio.
In my dream, I was showing the radio to a friend, and hooked it up to try it out. Now, I haven’t even turned on a CB radio in probably ten years or more, let alone keyed one up and talked. But I did in this dream, and heard distant stations coming in by skip. (skip is when a radio signal bounces off the ionosphere and travels much farther than normal. When sunspot activity is high, you can hear stations from the east coast easier than you can hear locals. High power amplifiers add to the noise factor!)
The odd thing about this dream is More
May 31, 2014
I first became aware of William Shatner in 1972. I was in 8th grade, and a new local television station was airing reruns of 60’s television programs, including a “Wagon Train to the stars”. Every day after school I would get home, burn through my homework, and be ready to watch when it came on. I would have watched it in prime time during it’s time on network television, but Dad had control of the one TV in the house, and he was a western show guy. I never had a chance back then!
My teen years included daily sessions with Mr. Shatner and the crew, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen each episode. Bill has been a fixture in my life, and I’d love to have a chance to see him in person.
I live in Visalia, California, just down the road from property he once owned (or still does?) in Three Rivers. I would hear stories from locals who had met him, and was always a bit envious. (I’ve worked at the Sheriff’s Department 9-1-1 dispatch for 20 years, and got to hear some stories from the resident deputy and his wife. Having him host a show about 9-1-1 was icing on the cake!)
At any rate, Mr. Shatner, I’d love to meet the man behind the characters. I’ve heard it’s a great show, and I look forward to being in the audience.
Contact me, Jim Reeves, at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m on Twitter as @KC6YRU, and have been a follower of Mr. Shatner on Twitter for some time now.
April 15, 2014
A Lunar eclipse occurred last night, with the Moon slipping into the Earth’s shadow. The refraction of light through the Earth’s atmosphere created the reddish hue, not quite darkening our sister planet. (The Earth and Moon are more accurately a binary planet system, rather than a primary and satellite system.)
The term “Blood Moon” seems to be the result of the media glomming onto a doomsday prophet, ‘end of the world’, God is coming book seller. It doesn’t seem to have any historical relevance, but since it’s caught the fancy of reporters around the world, we’re stuck with it. Some have gone so far as to claim it’s a sign from God, warning President Obama (about something… pick a wingnut cause and use that, for all the sense they make).
Several more of these eclipses will happen in the next few years, just as they’ve happened ever since the Moon reached it’s current orbital distance from the Earth. (the Moon used to be much closer to Earth, but tidal friction and orbital dynamics have been moving it further away ever since it formed. Using devices left on there by the Apollo missions, we can measure that movement precisely.)
Space Cadet Jimmiejoe contributed to this blog.
April 6, 2014
To give you a sense of scale, here’s the Curiosity’s twin on Earth:
(and, as an aside… if NASA can take pictures like this from orbit, and release them, can you imagine what spy satellites are capable of these days? It boggles the mind. Next time you’re outside, look up, smile, and wave. It’ll give the CIA and NSA guys something to wonder about!)