Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where's the Pot of Gold?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a atmospheric rarity: a full circle rainbow. If there is no end, can there be a beginning?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Collecting Rocks

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows some of the rocks that Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is finding as it makes its way towards Aeolis Mons (popularly known as Mount Sharp). Spherical rocks? Crystal spiders? Mars is a place.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shall We Dance?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two supermassive black holes locked in a death dance at the center of active galaxy 3C 75. When they merge, it will not be gentle, but a heck of a bang.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arisia and Eddore

Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other. A couple of hundreds of millions of years either way do not matter, since at least that much time was required for the inter-passage. At about that same time—within the same plus-or-minus ten percent margin of error, it is believed—practically all of the suns of both those galaxies became possessed of planets.

There is much evidence to support the belief that it was not merely a coincidence that so many planets came into being at about the same time as the galactic inter-passage. Another school of thought holds that it was pure coincidence; that all suns have planets as naturally and as inevitably as cats have kittens.

Be that as it may, Arisian records are clear upon the point that before the two galaxies began to coalesce, there were never more than three solar systems present in either; and usually only one. Thus, when the sun of the planet upon which their race originated grew old and cool, the Arisians were hard put to it to preserve their culture, since they had to work against time in solving the engineering problems associated with moving a planet from an older to a younger sun.

Since nothing material was destroyed when the Eddorians were forced into the next plane of existence, their historical records also have become available. Those records—folios and tapes and playable discs of platinum alloy, resistant indefinitely even to Eddore's noxious atmosphere—agree with those of the Arisians upon this point. Immediately before the Coalescence began there was one, and only one, planetary solar system in the Second Galaxy; and, until the advent of Eddore, the Second Galaxy was entirely devoid of intelligent life.

Thus for millions upon untold millions of years the two races, each the sole intelligent life of a galaxy, perhaps of an entire space-time continuum, remained completely in ignorance of each other. Both were already ancient at the time of the Coalescence. The only other respect in which the two were similar, however, was in the possession of minds of power.

Since Arisia was Earth-like in composition, atmosphere, and climate, the Arisians were at that time distinctly humanoid. The Eddorians were not. Eddore was and is large and dense; its liquid a poisonous, sludgy syrup; its atmosphere a foul and corrosive fog. Eddore was and is unique; so different from any other world of either galaxy that its very existence was inexplicable until its own records revealed the fact that it did not originate in normal space-time at all, but came to our universe from some alien and horribly different other.

As differed the planets, so differed the peoples. The Arisians went through the usual stages of savagery and barbarism on the way to Civilization. The Age of Stone. The Ages of Bronze, of Iron, of Steel, and of Electricity. Indeed, it is probable that it is because the Arisians went through these various stages that all subsequent Civilizations have done so, since the spores which burgeoned into life upon the cooling surfaces of all the planets of the commingling galaxies were Arisian, not Eddorian, in origin. Eddorian spores, while undoubtedly present, must have been so alien that they could not develop in any one of the environments, widely variant although they are, existing naturally or coming naturally into being in normal space and time.

The Arisians—especially after atomic energy freed them from physical labor—devoted themselves more and ever more intensively to the exploration of the limitless possibilities of the mind.

Even before the Coalescence, then, the Arisians had need neither of space-ships nor of telescopes. By power of mind alone they watched the lenticular aggregation of stars which was much later to be known to Tellurian astronomers as Lundmark's Nebula approach their own galaxy. They observed attentively and minutely and with high elation the occurrence of mathematical impossibility; for the chance of two galaxies ever meeting in direct, central, equatorial-plane impact and of passing completely through each other is an infinitesimal of such a high order as to be, even mathematically, practically indistinguishable from zero.

They observed the birth of numberless planets, recording minutely in their perfect memories every detail of everything that happened; in the hope that, as ages passed, either they or their descendants would be able to develop a symbology and a methodology capable of explaining the then inexplicable phenomenon. Carefree, busy, absorbedly intent, the Arisian mentalities roamed throughout space—until one of them struck an Eddorian mind.

[E.E. "Doc" Smith, Triplanetary (the novel version, not the original serial version)]

Arc of the Diver

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the launch of the Falcon IX and Dragon X capsule to the International Space Station earlier this week. From first stage to second, with a view of the "soft splash" of the first stage into the ocean.

The Future's So Bright

The future as seen in 1976 by Isaac Asimov and artist Pierre Mion. We took a different path, but perhaps we'll see these colonies just a bit further down the road than predicted.

Friday, September 26, 2014

All the Colors of Mars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of the initial images from the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiter now at Mars.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Digging into the Sand

Ah, another rabbit hole to fall into. Lucien's Library, dedicated to the Sandman series from Neil Gaiman and various artists.

Next Door Over

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us NGC 206, not only in the constellation of Andromeda, but part of Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Towards the Core: The Lagoon Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another stunning image towards the core of the home galaxy. In the constellation of Sagittarius, visible to the naked eye as a smudge, is this beautiful intersection of gas, dust and stars (Messier 08).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Quiet Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day depicts a wonderful night sky. Aurora, a light pillar from a volcano, backlit clouds and the night stars ("mouseover" for some constellation guidance).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

That's No Moon...

Actually, they are moons! Four moons, around two gas giants: Europa, Ganymede, Titan and Enceladus. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows not only the vast diversity of the moons in our solar system but names four likely places where life might be found.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hieroglyph

Nice to see The New York Times talking about science fiction. It's especially nice when they highlight a new anthology, in this case, Hieroglyph (edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn), featuring stories by the likes of Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Madeline Ashby and more!

A Room With a View

Sometimes a low power, wide angle eyepiece is better than more magnification. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, encompassing the Cocoon Nebula in Cygnus and surrounding regions, is the proof in the pudding.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Aurora

The Sun has gotten a lot more active recently. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows auroral activities over the skies of Maine.