The GOP’s Bestest, Brightest, most stable genius

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See the celestial object on the left? That’s Mars. See the one on the right? That’s the Moon. They are not part of each other. The President of the United States in 2019 does not know this.


The Republican Party in the 21st century has given us George Bush and Donald Trump. While I always thought Bush was not the brightest bulb in his family’s chandelier, I always assumed he had a basic knowledge of how things were. With Trump, one wonders if he ever learned anything over his lifetime other than how to get rich cheating contractors, the government, and banks.


Donald J. Trump. The best the GOP has to offer. Putin approved, protected by McConnell.

Hey, Donnie? Going to Mars *IS* rocket science, so lets leave it up to the rocket scientists to figure out the best way to get there. It’s clear they’ve decided the Moon is an important waypoint in that journey, so we go there first.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the Moon is 238,000 miles away, and Mars is 34 million (at it’s closest approach). The Moon is not part of Mars. And it’s not made of green cheese. Just thought you’d like to know.

#Mars hooey making rounds on #Facebook. Again.

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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.

Moon watching 2012

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Apollo 17 / NASA

The Moon.  It’s a real place.  A world of it’s own, that hangs in our sky.  It may be the very reason life exists on this planet.  Formed when a planet the size of Mars collided with the (then smaller-than-now) Earth, the results of that chaos formed the (more-properly designated) double-planet system we see today.  We often talk about the Moon orbiting the Earth, but it doesn’t, not really.  The Earth and the Moon both orbit around a common center of gravity.  That center is some miles below the surface of the Earth, but it is not the center of the Earth.  The Moon is considered the largest satellite (even though it’s not, not really) of a planet, relative to the primary’s size, in our solar system, with the possible exception of Pluto/Charon.  Now that Pluto has been downgraded from planet status, the Moon may hold that title without challenge.

I took my telescope out into the back yard tonight, and had a look-see.


Space Cadet Jimmie Joe Sees His First Lunar Eclipse. At 54.

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So I’m standing outside in 28 degree weather, watching the Moon being swallowed by Earth’s shadow.  I’m standing there thinking, “I wish I had a decent camera to capture this with…  the iPhone just doesn’t have the oomph, and my other camera probably wouldn’t either, even if I had fresh batteries for it.”

Then it dawned on me…  “Jim, you’re as dense as neutronium!  YOU’VE GOT A TELESCOPE!”  A quick run into the house to get it, and back out and set up in minutes.  By the time I got it pointed at the Moon, two things conspired to prevent a good shot.  One, the Moon was almost completely in shadow, and the iPhone just isn’t up to that, and two, the next door neighbor’s spotlight on the garage came on!  Still, I managed to get these to shots, by simply holding the iPhone camera over the lens and moving it around until something came into focus.  Better than nothing, and now I know how to make it work, and I will try some other shots some other time.  Look out Jupiter and Saturn…  you’re next!  Space Cadet Jimmie Joe is now itching for some astro-shots!

Terra, and Luna. From Orbit.

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Photo by Ron Garan, Space Shuttle astronaut.

Lunar Geek: Is the Moon Too Wet?

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Photo art: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Science marches on.  New studies of lunar material might call into question the collision theory of lunar formation.  If a Mars sized object struck the Earth early in it’s history, then today’s Moon might be too wet.

It’s odd to think of the Moon as too wet, or indeed, to think of it as wet at all.  Recent discoveries have indicated there is a lot of water there.  Some very recent work has indicated, however, that the Moon may be too wet!


SuperMoon Today! Run for your lives!


It’s Super Moon! It’s tonight!

Tsunamis!  Earthquakes!  Werewolves!  Really bad news reports!

The world may come to an end!

Or not.

The full moon that makes it’s appearance tonight will seem about 14% bigger than when it’s at it’s furthest distance from the Earth.  The tides will be affected by maybe an inch in most places, and up to 6 inches in some geographically odd locales.  Beachfront residents might want to move the chaise lounges back a foot, just to be safe.

It didn’t cause the recent Japanese earthquake.  Any quakes that happen today won’t have been caused by it’s nearness.

There’s something you need to remember about the Moon, tonight’s super fullness, and the effect it has on the Earth.


Apollo 11


41 years ago.  Today.  I was watching it live on television, glued to the set.  Possibly the most exciting thing, the most promising, the most noble thing that ever happened in my life, before or since.  This one event will be the first thing remembered about our time centuries from now.  The wars, the changes, the technological advances…  all those will pale before these few days in 1969.

Watching it then, I expected Moon bases, space stations, and a mission to Mars by now.  The politics of the 60’s and 70’s ended those dreams before they were enacted, and the promise of my future off the planet was stillborn.  I’m still disgusted by the petty nonsense that ended those dreams, and replaced them with the chronically underfunded NASA programs that led to the Shuttle and International Space Station.  While the ISS is a good thing to have, and I’m glad we did it, it was done for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.  The Space Station should have been a jumping off point for the Moon bases and Mars.  We’re doing a lot of good research there, and it’s important, but it’s not what I was expecting.

I should have been writing this blog from my apartment at Luna City, instead of my couch in Visalia.   Born too soon, I guess.

Does Size Matter? Well, it depends….

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