Monday, September 30, 2013

Governmental Humor

In light of the pending governmental shutdown, it's nice to see some people still have a sense of humor. These signs were up at NASA's Wallops Island facility recently.

Big Freaking Rock

Full-on Vesta. Let's go back!

Clouding Over

This is pretty interesting. We've imaged clouds.

On another planet outside our solar system.

Java Jive

Could you handle fifty cups of coffee each day? That appears to be what Honore de Balzac needed to keep himself going.
Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring. Think about it: although more grocery stores in Paris are staying open until midnight, few writers are actually becoming more spiritual.
More here.

Clear with a Chance of Showers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the Perseid Meteor Shower from Hopewell Rocks in Canada. Can you solve the mystery mentioned in the text?

Oblique Strategies

Waaaayyyy back at the dawn of time, I came across a copy of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies on the shelf of a store in New Brunswick. I cannot recall whether it was one record store (Cheap Thrills) or another (Half Thoughts, which also was a wonderful used book store), but I picked it up (and still have it many years later. Has this tool (of sorts) for music crept into the world of politics?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Death Star Has Cleared the Planet

In this picture taken by the hard-working Cassini orbiter, Saturn's moon Dione appears to have been speared by a destructive ray emanating from Saturn.

Birth Pains

In this concept painting of Sgr A*, asteroids and comets stripped from their home systems orbit around that supermassive blackhole, awaiting their doom. One asteroid makes the final death spiral towards the blue event horizon.

185 A.D.

An image of what is (so far) the oldest recorded supernova (detected by Chinese astronomers in 185 A.D.).

Saturn Space

Rhea and Titan together, Titan almost ghostly in appearance. What mad solar system.

Old Moon in the Arms of the New

A glimpse of the thin crescent Moon from the International Space Station.


As Dawn makes it's way to Ceres (the next major stop), scientists are comparing their previous telescopically-gathered data vs. mission results.

Let's Go A Rovin'

The latest from Mars, specifically Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory). Der's water in dem dere hills! Bonus! A new selfie!

Pattern Recognition

Eddies and flows stand out sharply on this hypothetical hybrid wing craft being tested in a wind tunnel.

What Is Truth?

What is science fiction? Is that still a good label? Is sci-fi a better label? What about fantasticka? As a result of this posting at SF Signal by genre author David Barnett and a blog posting by genre author Linda Nagata, and then a long series of tweets by various guilty parties (raises hand for being one of them), a column by Roving Ace Reporter Damien Walter has resulted.

Addendum: One of the eyes of the storm.

Two Oceans

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the tiny smudge of the Andromeda Galaxy stretching over the Adriatic sea. One ocean at hand, one ocean almost unimaginably distant.

Final Approach

Six hours after launch, the Soyuz carrying Expedition 37 on their six-hour journey to the International Space Station, makes its final approach.


The Chandra X-Ray Observatory views dramatic changes in brightness of a neutron star, IGR J18245-2452, in Messier 28.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Paired Galaxies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two members of our Local Group, Messier 31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and Messier 33 (the Triangulum Galaxy). I've only been lucky enough to spot Triangulum a few times (the Andromeda used to be an easy backyard naked eye target hereabouts, but no more).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From Birth to Death

Star birth in far Centaurus A is seen in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. In this image, the other end of a star's life: Eta Carinae, on the cusp of going supernova.


From the International Space Station, the eastern seaboard of the United States glows at night.

Helping Hands

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov reposition the Strela-1 crane on the International Space Station in preparation for new components. Interestingly, their Orlan spacesuits are equipped with NASA helmet cameras.


Apollo 9's Gumdrop (the Command Module) and Spider (the Lunar Module) meet in orbit during a test run.

Cosmic Vacuum

In this artist depiction, black hole IGR J17091-3624 siphons off lifeblood (gas) from its companion star.

John Glenn

From Friendship 7 to fifty years on. And, two crew members talk of memories on the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery.

Rocket Company

A view of the capsule and launch vehicle production lines at the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California. Busy!

Expedition 37

The crew of Expedition 37 at a press conference shortly before their launch. And, in this image, their launch vehicle leaps into the night skies on its six-hour jaunt to the International Space Station.


The images from multiple telescopes are combined to generate a view of M60-UCD1 (getting a hint of how many different astronomical catalogs there are out there?), an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy.


The Spitzer Space Telescope peers where we cannot see with our eyes and finds a jet coming off a young star, Herbig-Haro 34.

Barred Spiral

A barred spiral (a bar being a strong "structure" apparently across the spiral) in Doradus, NGC 1483.


The Hubble Space Telescope provides this view of the "young" (a mere few million years) star-forming regions in the 30 Doradus Nebula.

Cluster (No Eno)

Data from multiple ground- and space-based telescopes are combined in this image of Galaxy Cluster Abell 520. New structures bridging the abysses between the concentrations of stars appear.

81 vs. 82

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a image of galaxy-on-galaxy action. Messier 81 and Messier 82, both distorted by a encounter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Martian Layers

In this image from the Valles Marineris canyon system we see several generations of sediments.

Ikarie XB 1

Jonathan Coulhart on Ikarie XB 1. That's a film I've been questing after ever since reading a description of it in this book.

The End of an Era

No more VW campers? Man, what memories that brings back. We never owned one, but I did own a VW Matchbox car. And we saw a lot of them while camping as kids. I recently was stuck behind a VW Microbus (I couldn't tell if it was a camper or not) with California plates, definitely early 70's vintage. Great stuff, sorry to see them go.

Local Fluff

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "local fluff", what gas clouds we have in our neighborhood. Enough for a Bussard Interstellar Ramjet?

Building the Honorverse

Over at Adventures in Sci-Fi Podcasting, three episodes posted recently deal with David Weber and his biggest creation, the Honorverse. Part 01: Building a Militarily Authentic Space Opera. Part 02: Building a Navy (featuring BuNine). Part 03: Working with David Weber.

Trip to the Station

Over at The Atlantic Dot Com, a great series of photographs centered around Expedition 36 to the International Space Station.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pad Train

Expedition 37 to the International Space Station takes "flight" on the first leg to the International Space Station.

A Different Light

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory peered at the Sun in the Angstrom 131 wavelength and caught this view of a solar flare.

IC 342

The Spitzer Space Telescope views Galaxy IC 342 in infrared, giving a spidery view to the stellar mass.


An artist conception of solar system KOI-961, in the constellation of Cygnus.

Suit Exercise

Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford, crew of Gemini VI, suit up while getting ready for their flight.

Hidden Orion

The Orion Nebula shows hidden gems when probed in the infrared regions by orbiting observatories.

Cloud within a Cloud

A view of a stellar-forming region inside the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Boris the Spider

A view of the Tarantula Nebula courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope.


The Antares launch vehicle was recently successfully launched from Wallops Island. Before that launch there were many tests and dry runs. Here's a view of one of those tests.


The crew of Apollo 13. Spoiler for the movie: they live.

Night Flight to Moscow

A night shot of Moscow, from the advantage of Earth orbit.

Quadrant View

A very different view of the core of the Orion Nebula, viewing through the "lens" of the Spitzer Space Telescope.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die.

100 Billion or More

How many planets might our modest home galaxy contain? This will probably be a low estimate.

Making the MAVEN

Here's a picture of the assembly process for the soon-to-be-launched MAVEN probe to Mars.

Night Approach

Here's a view from the International Space Station as the ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle lines up for final approach.

Push 'Em Out!

In this shot, an Orion boilerplate test vehicle exits its carrying cargo plane. It's all part of the landing tests for the capsule (one result being shown here). Here's another test version, being readied for acoustic, vibration and other tests.

Towards the Center

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day points us towards the galactic center, in Scorpius, for the emission nebula known as IC 4628. Does this picture make you yearn for lemon and butter for some reason?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

50 Years

Click here for a huge (!) graphic depicting fifty years of space exploration.

A Day at the Office

Cosmonaut Sergei Volkov at his work place.

Chain, Chain, Chain

A view of the Snowman Crater chain on main belt asteroid Vesta.


A look back at the Atlas V carrying the Juno orbiter on a mission to Jupiter. Juno is almost to Earth! Wait? What?

Mars is a Place

A view of Endeavour crater as taken by the ever-trundling MER Opportunity. A second view of Endeavour. Gale crater, where MSL Curiosity landed, as viewed from orbit. Mars is a place.


Darned Earthlings.

Test Bed

A "boilerplate" Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (please drop that, NASA) undergoes integration with its Launch Abort System for testing. Another view here.

Thin Crescent

A fingernail-clipping thin Moon as viewed from the International Space Station. Too bad we're not visiting as well!

The Crowded Sky

A view from the International Space Station, putting emphasis on "international".

Hot Pink

A view from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory showing the x-ray sky. Data from the observatory led to the discovery of "volatile" black holes that can generate as much energy (in the x-ray wavelengths) as a million stars.

Reverse View

Here's a view of a spacecraft landing that we usually don't see: the International Space Station observes a shuttle landing.

Shimmering Sky

In this view from the International Space Station, the Aurora Australis dances across the sky.

Vacuum Test

The James Webb Telescope undergoes vacuum chamber tests in this view from the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Readying the Dragon

In this shot, the Dragon capsule is being attached to the second stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Phasing Loops

How do you get to the Moon if you don't have enough energy for a direct flight? Here's a fascinating look!

Canned Astro

A nice view of how far we've come: John Glenn enter's the Friendship 7 capsule.

Addendum: Gus Grissom climbs into the Liberty Bell 7. Just as tight a fit.

Night Flight from the Station

Atlantis touches down in the night at the end of it's final flight.

Receding View

The International Space Station moves into the distance during the final shuttle flight in 2011.

In the Belt

A comparative view of various asteroids now visited by Earth's ambassadors, from Vesta down to 25143 Itokawa.


The Sun loops across the sky in the space of a year's worth of photographic exposures in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Hammer of War

While I have gotten many (many) hours of fun out of board games, miniatures games and roleplaying games, "rules lawyers" drive me nuts. Luckily, there appears to be a cure.

Tunnel, Chute and Seating Tests

We sure do have a bumper crop of alternative means of getting into space under development (which beats the alternative of having all our eggs in one basket). Here the Dream Chaser vehicle (in mockup) gets ready to undergo wind tunnel tests. And in this image, the Crew Space Transportation capsule from Boeing undergoes chute tests in a practice landing. Finally, SpaceX's Dragon may be a cargo vehicle at the moment, but engineers are hard at work seeing how a crew and passengers (here seven in number) could be situated.

Putting Out Fires

Data from the Herschel Space Observatory suggests that galaxies with supermassive black holes at their cores produce fewer stars than those without. Those supermassive appetites need to be knocked back a notch!

Infrared Swan

In this image taken in the far infrared regions by the Herschel space telescope of Cygnus the Swan, the star-forming regions take on amazing detail and seem on fire.


Look inside the image that is inside this image and you'll see the Soyuz launch vehicle preparing to take Expedition 31 to the International Space Station.

Rings, Storms, Moon

A nice image from the hard-working Cassini orbiter showing edge-on rings, storms on Saturn and one of the gas giant's many moons, Tethys.

Addendum: Another spectacular image from the Saturn system. I know where I'd want to retire!

Dragon Interior

A shot showing the interior of the Dragon cargo vessel after it had docked at the International Space Station.

Sol 2951

Here's an image showing MER Opportunity's latest travels on Mars. Sol 2951. Pretty good for a vehicle that was only supposed to last 90 Sols!


In this image taken by NASA's Terra satellite, clouds form up in parallel rows over the Bering Sea.

Processing the MAVEN

NASA's next mission to Mars, the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft is seen here being readied for installation on its launch vehicle. Launch is scheduled for November 18, 2013.

Full Pinwheel

The light of four space-based telescopes (visible, infrared, ultraviolet and x-ray frequencies) are combined for this image of Messier 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.

Corpse Light

In this image from the Hubble Space Telescope, we see inside the realm of a dying star.

Wasp Factory

Now here's something I'd pay to see: Iain (no M. in this case) Banks' Wasp Factory as an opera!

Please Don't Throw It Away

What will happen to the International Space Station after the year 2020? One hopes that NASA (and the other bodies involved) don't just toss it away!


Is Lockheed's famous "Skunk Works" facility on the cusp of changing our energy future? Fingers crossed.

Run, Demon!

Harlan Ellison (in some original school shaky cam) talks about an adaption in graphic form of his classic Outer Limits episode of Demon with a Glass Hand. Wish Harlan had written his novel version of that story!

Old School

David M. Ewalt (who just happens to have written a book on the subject) argues that Dungeons & Dragons (and, by extension, paper roleplaying games in general) are better than videogames. Agree? Disagree?

Paging David Brin!

Is the Higgs boson the "smoking gun" behind the lack of Boltzmann brains in the cosmos? Where's Olaf Stapledon when you need him?

Golden Age

Courtesy of friend Winchell Chung, a website featuring several titles that Scholastic Book Services distributed during my misbegotten yut.

Rah, Rah, RAH(einlein)!

Years after his passing, Robert A. Heinlein continues to stir the pot. Here, Andrew Liptak takes a look at one of Heinlein's most controversial (and popular) novels, Starship Troopers. Patrick McCray looks at Heinlein's "harsh politics" (they evolved over his life, but does anybody end up where they start?). Brian Doherty looks at libertarianism and Heinlein.

Every few years somebody gets up on the soapbox and declares that Heinlein is dead and we ought to move on. Looks like he ain't dead yet.

Addendum: Spider Robinson's classic tribute. Worth reading again.

To the Stars

Neal Stephenson's got a new gig. He's thinking big! And bigger!

Addendum: Thinking outside the box by reading science fiction.

Conspicuous Consumption

A man charges $35.00 to sharpen pencils. Seriously.

Java Jive

Coffee's bad for you! Coffee's good for you! I'll just keep drinking same as ever, no doubt.

Atomic Attack

In light of the hysterical headlines about how North Carolina was almost a-bombed (why this is news when it is pretty well known as "history" is beyond me) (hint: if you can find it easily on Wikipedia, it's probably not "top secret") (hey, New Jersey was there first!), how about a cheerful film about New York City being a-bombed?

Classic Who

Over at Tor Dot Com, Rachel Hyland is looking at classic Dr. Who episodes (so many lost, damn it) with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton to start.

Retirement Party

Alas, all good things come to an end. The Deep Impact vehicle, which successfully explored Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, and then was "repurposed" to a new mission, has not been heard from in over a month. The biggest shame?
After losing contact with the spacecraft last month, mission controllers spent several weeks trying to uplink commands to reactivate its onboard systems. Although the exact cause of the loss is not known, analysis has uncovered a potential problem with computer time tagging that could have led to loss of control for Deep Impact's orientation. That would then affect the positioning of its radio antennas, making communication difficult, as well as its solar arrays, which would in turn prevent the spacecraft from getting power and allow cold temperatures to ruin onboard equipment, essentially freezing its battery and propulsion systems.
Thanks, Deep Impact! You had a fantastic run!

White Paper

You know what NASA and other space agencies really need to do? Stop writing white papers and start bending more tin.

Swamp Gas

The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) has detected no methane in the atmosphere of Mars. Indications of that molecule had been found in the past. So...false positive? Curiosity is wrong? Methane breaks down quickly on Mars? Or? The quest continues!

Off Kilter

We all have bad days. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, apparently has had some bad eons.


Apparently Tor Books is one month older than my marriage. Happy anniversary!

Loopcast's another one! More of a current events podcast. Worth listening to, given our ever-changing wacky world.

Angry History

I listen to podcasts. I drive too much. So, I listen to a lot of podcasts while I drive. The hours of "audio stuff" consumed piles up. I add podcasts, I drop podcasts. How can I avoid listening to a podcast called Angry History?


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Antares launch vehicle carrying the Cygnus cargo vehicle to the ISS. The picture is shot in infrared, giving an odd look to the scene. Click here for some background on the Cygnus.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Boy, that Wallops Island launch facility is getting busier and busier. From launching LADEE to the Moon they've now launched a test vehicle for the commercial space flight program, the Antares cargo vehicle on its way to the International Space Station.

Messier 45

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.
Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice shot of Messier 45, The Pleiades Star Cluster found in Taurus. They were well placed this morning during my morning constitutional.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Many Appendixes N

Black Gate Magazine covers the various iterations of "Appendix N", lists of fantasy (and non-fiction) works that inspired the creators of Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest. Lots of good titles to hunt down for your own reading. D&D Part 01. D&D Part 02. D&D Part 03. RuneQuest.

Cargo Cult

A comparison of the Dragon cargo vehicle from SpaceX vs. the Cygnus cargo vehicle from Orbital Sciences.


First hints of dawn from orbit.

Quiet...for the Moment

A view of Earth, pieced together to give us a nearly whole-world view in one glance. For now the oceans are relatively quiet and free of storms.

Interesting how this makes Earth look like Mesklin.


One of my favorite pictures of the late Neil Armstrong.

One Year Ago

The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) landing team celebrates touchdown on Mars (a bit more than a year ago).


A view of a Perseid meteor during the 2013 Perseid shower.

Command Deck

Looks like the Cupola, the room with the view on the International Space Station, has been spawning quite a few monitors and control modules.

Ellipse and Rays

An elliptical crater on Mercury, imaged by MESSENGER. The rays indicate a "young" crater (in terms of geological measure).

Reading in the Dark

A list of astronomy-related reads. Some good stuff here.

Canton Races File Miles Long

Hill Cantons is a blog about gaming. Some interesting stuff here; players of Empire of the Petal Throne or other Tekumel-based games will appreciate this entry, for example.

Red Tide

The great red crab migration. is strange at times!


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Abell 1689 a galaxy cluster (now, think about that for a moment) that has an effect on the light that passes nearby, causing light to bend and be visible as streaks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Like a Top

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is actually a short video showing something that we can't see: a rotating Moon. Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are put together to give us the total view.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


The Flame Nebula, part of the "hip" of Orion the Hunter, is imaged by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer.

X-Ray Fires

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory peeks at the non-visible portions of Messier 83.

All to Enhance Shareholder Value

The Hubble Space Telescope catches two star clusters in the process of merging. Is it peaceful? Or a hostile takeover?

David Dunlap Observatory

A beautiful shot from the Hubble Space Telescope of an object first spotted by a ground-based observatory. DDO (David Dunlap Observatory) 190, an irregular galaxy (torn out of shape by a close encounter or a collision with another galaxy?) in the constellation of Canes Venatici.

Bipolar Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of the many (many!) amazing shapes a planetary nebula can take. M2-9 has gas clouds not in a sphere or an irregular shell but as a pair of clouds expanding in opposite directions.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bug in Hover

Before Space Frog but after Space Bat we've had many other natural visitors to various launch pads. Such as...Space Dragonfly!


Rhea emerges from behind Titan. Rhea, Enceladus and Dione appear to shuttle like beads on the wire of Saturn's rings. A view from below. Enceladus in thin crescent, showing plumes of spray along the edge.

Central Peak

And speaking of the Moon, here's a dramatic sunrise shot of the central peak of Tycho crater.

Waxing Gibbous

A nice shot of the waxing Moon from a New Jersey-based amateur astronomer.

Blue Marble

A view of the third rock from the Sun courtesy of the Terra satellite.

Planetary Art

This view from orbit (taken in various wavelengths and processed in false colors to emphasize features) makes Alaska look like a bit of psychedelia.

Delta Vee

From the looks of things, the Nile Delta has gotten a tad built up over the years.


Cassie Sheets talks about writing like Haruki Murakami. Less an imitation of style than a quest to develop work habits.


A gallery of planetary nebula. I'm reminded of artwork produced by the Spirograph.

Groovy, Man

This image of a flame in space looks more like a prog rock band album cover.

Nesting Grounds

NASA's WISE provides this view of a place where stars are coming into being.

Night Flight from Baikonur Cosmodrome

A Soyuz vehicle lifts from Baikonur Cosmodrome at night on its way to the ISS.

Out of the Mists

A nice shot of a Soyuz vehicle being prepared for launch to the International Space Station.


Members of Expedition 34 pose in the latest fashions from Paris.

Command Figure

One of the many people to command the International Space Station.

Highly Energetic

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) (and an odd-looking vehicle it is!) is hard at work and has beamed down its first batches of observations.

Ponder on This

Eh, another solar eclipse. Not even a total! You've seen one...

Dude. Stop. That's a solar eclipse seen by one of our robotic ambassadors on Mars.

Star? Planet?

When is a star not a star? Where do the lines cross between what is and what is not a planet? (No, not the difference between a planet or a dwarf planet, but between a star and a planet.) NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is helping us understand the whichness of the why.

What Lies Beneath?

NASA is narrowing site selection for 2016's InSight (Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, now that's a mouthful!) mission to Mars to four potential areas. Alas, Valles Marineris did not win out (for good reasons!), but hopefully we'll land something in that spectacular area someday! (Where have I seen that lander before?)

Air Pump

Hubble snaps a picture of IC 2560, found in the constellation of Antlia (visible in the southern hemisphere). What is Antlia? Why, the Air Pump, of course! Antlia is one of many strangely-named constellations in the southern hemisphere. The name comes courtesy of European explorers and the tools that bubbled up in the new age of science.

Snap Shot

A nice image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Galaxies in collision? No, just a chance alignment of two vastly different objects (in terms of distance).


It appears that the landscapes of Sweden are littered with mechs, strange tech and...dinosaurs! A series of paintings by Simon Stalenhag, very evocative of the styles of both Syd Mead and Ralph McQuarrie.

ELE Prevention

What to do when that really big rock decides to head our way? Well, part of the way to survive is to detect it early enough. NASA recently solicited ideas for asteroid detection and exploration.

Tank Test

The Orion vehicle undergoes recovery tests (and training) in a water tank at Norfolk Naval Base. //drums fingers// So, when are we launching this thing? //drums fingers//


A snapshot of the 2013 Astronaut Class. Let's hope we do something exciting with them.

Addendum: Members of an earlier "class" of astronauts undergo survival training. Look! We have made fire!


A couple of items relating to the LADEE vehicle, now on its way to the Moon. Here's a picture of LADEE being placed in fairing of the nose-cone of the Minotaur VI launch vehicle. And here's a shot of the integrated launch vehicle and probe on the launch pad at Wallops Island. Finally, before being launched, or even placed in the fairing, the orbiter had to undergo a number of tests of systems and structure including the "spin test"!

Bone Dry

Man, the Moon really is dry, isn't it?

Orbital Hobbyists

NASA recently tested a component for a rocket engine in a "hot test" that generated 20,000 pounds of thrust. The component had been produced by a 3D printer. A 3D printer could be used on a long-duration mission (such as one to Mars or a flight to the asteroid belt) but I'm betting future astronauts will be printing off game pieces and model kits as well.

Galactic Swarm of Bees

The Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a group of more than 160,000 globular clusters found in a cluster of galaxies known as Abell 1689. Repeat after me: "He who cannot see gravity at work here has no soul." (Richard Feynman)

And They're Down

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day was covered earlier in the week: the landing of Expedition 36, returning from the International Space Station.

Kepler Update

The hard-working Kepler orbiting telescope was sidelined recently when two of its three reaction wheels (used to help precisely point the vehicle) failed. NASA "retired" the telescope but put out a call for ideas as to what could be done instead of just completely turning the observatory off. They have received forty-two "white papers" giving suggestions and are now assessing those.

Long-Term Storm

A storm that blew up on Saturn in 2010 is still going strong. Here's an infrared image of the storm as well as a visible light image (for comparison).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Strangers in the Night

The spirit (projection? seeing he was alive at the time and all) of Philip K. Dick visits Samuel R. Delany and discusses Dhalgren. Hilarity ensues.

Cutting Edges

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a before-and-after shot of our "twin" Venus going from a conjunction to an occultation to a conjunction with the Moon.

Cutting Across the Sky

In this image courtesy of the venerable Cassini orbiter, Saturn's rings cut across the sky. Imagine the view from the "ground" on Saturn (well, in the cloudtops)!


With a burst of flame from its landing rockets to give a final cushion, the Soyuz capsule carrying Expedition 36 returns to Earth after five and a half months in orbit.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Outside the Bubble

Voyager 1, still ticking away after all these (mark this word) decades, has entered interstellar space (!). And in fact, did so, it appears, a year ago.

Has it left the solar system? That's a subject for debate among scientists and those who play with semantics.

Cue jokes mentioning Star Trek: The Motion Picture now.

The sounds of interstellar space (MP3 file).


The Second Man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, makes a call for less of a space race than a concerted effort to explore and utilize space. Aldrin has been one of the more vocal astronauts on making more of an effort in space (see his classic cycler concept, he's also co-authored science fiction and non-fiction a plenty)

Yesterday's Tomorrow

Looking like something out of science fiction (and perhaps that is the only place some of these will ever be found), a collection of concepts for the space program when we were barely aloft with Project Mercury.

Corona Australis

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a great long-exposure shot of Corona Australis, showing reflection nebula (NGC 6726, 6727, 6729 and IC 4812) in this southern hemisphere constellation. How come the folks "down" there get all the nice ones, eh?

Space Frog!

One image from the recent launch of LADEE showed a surprise visitor to the launch pad. Since that was noticed, the frog has attained celebrity status both at Huffington Post and The Atlantic.

Godspeed, Space Frog, Godspeed.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Raymond Carver on writing. Wonderful stuff.
Isak Dinesen said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair. Someday I'll put that on a three-by-five card and tape it to the wall beside my desk. I have some three-by-five cards on the wall now. ''Fundamental accuracy of statement is the ONE sole morality of writing.'' Ezra Pound. It is not everything by ANY means, but if a writer has ''fundamental accuracy of statement'' going for him, he's at least on the right track.

I have a three-by-five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: ''... and suddenly everything became clear to him.'' I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that is implied. There is a bit of mystery, too. What has been unclear before? Why is it just now becoming clear? What's happened? Most of all - what now? There are consequences as a result of such sudden awakenings. I feel a sharp sense of relief - and anticipation.

Sky Streak

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the flight of the Minotaur V booster from Wallops Island towards our Moon. The Minotaur was carrying LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Water is Wet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to Gliese 1214b. Recent observations indicate that this "super-Earth" might have water on it. Well, maybe steam in it's atmosphere!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fractals and Pink

A short film narrated by the late Arthur C. Clarke and featuring the music of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. The subject? The amazing world of fractals and the Mandelbrot Set.

Morning Star

A look at a new "gaming platform" (game, books, etc.) involving some of the folks behind Halo and genre author John Scalzi.

Last Minutes

Any pet owner will find their eyes leaking over this video. And you non-pet owners as well. Fair warning.


Color Neil deGrasse Tyson skeptical when it comes to private ventures into space. Perhaps he's right...but perhaps private efforts will spur either a government effort or a combination of public and private efforts?


NASA launched the LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) last Friday. The launch was notable for two reasons: first, the vehicle used was a repurposed ballistic missile. Second, it was the first launch to the Moon from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Luckily, we had clear skies at launch and were treated with being able to see the rising vehicle (from New Jersey), including the burnout of a stage and the startup of the next stage!

No Direction Home

Veteran NASA Flight Director Chris Kraft has some harsh words about NASA's direction (or lack thereof):
"They're all leaving now. The leaders are leaving for a lot of other reasons also, but they're leaving because there's no future that they want to be involved in. And that's unfortunate. You've got to have a reason for people to give you their lives, which is what I did. I gave NASA my life not because they asked me to, but because I wanted to. I had a reason. But I just don't think that's there now."


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows RS Pup, a "nearby" Cepheid Variable. Such variable stars can be used by astronomers to measure distances throughout the visible universe as the variation of light proceeds along a remarkably rigid cycle.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stone Cold Forest

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the night sky over the "ice forest" in the Chilean Andes. Could be Mars! ("Mouseover" the picture in order to call up a constellation guide.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sag A*

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view of Saggitarius A* (yes, the asterisk is part of the name), the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Addendum (August 29, 2013): Not all material falls into a black hole! More on Sag A* in this piece as well.


It's interesting how people can view something differently.

Check and Mate

Samuel Beckett was fascinated by chess. Fritz Leiber was as well and wrote about the subject on occasion. Looking at the game pieces shown in this article, I wonder if Leiber and Beckett ever crossed paths striding across the floorboards of a stage somewhere (a real meeting or a metaphorical meeting).

A Wee Dram

A review of Raw Spirit by Iain Banks (no "M" in this one). What struck me in here was the mention of "...his joys in drunken urban climbing..." Remind you of anything?

A Blink of the Screen

A new book for Terry Pratchett, a collection of shorter works set on the Discworld. Have you read it yet? What, it came out in 2012? Ah, you see, this is an indication of how clueless the publishing industry is at times. This book is not available form a US publisher, despite Pratchett's popularity here (and elsewhere). Why? Because of a perception that short story collections "don't sell". Idiots.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cosmic Crab

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 1, the Crab Nebula. In 1054 A.D., a star in Taurus exploded. You're seeing the aftermath.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


An online friend put it this way: "That sound you hear is a nuclear bomb being dropped on the independent book store forever." Why? Read on.

North America and the Pelican

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful shot of the North American Nebula and the Pelican Nebula, both found in the constellation of Cygnus. These are both wide-field objects, best seen under dark skies and with a filter (I've only managed it a few times). The North American Nebula was featured on the cover of Analog for Joe Haldeman's Tricentennial.

Web World

And now comes the time of year when the spiders of the neighborhood build web, huge webs. We always seem to get a couple around our deck and screened-in porch; for three years running a spider built an amazing web between the porch and the rose bushes. Last night I noticed a spider shuttling back-and-forth like a bead upon an abacus (you remember those, right?) in a web that grew as I watched; stretching from the gutters to the ground and attached to the downspout, a distance of more than ten feet.

Walking around our usual route this morning, Miss Mocha and I saw many webs—running between a cable wire and a house, between a stop sign and a fence, from various trees to the ground, all bedecked with dew and looking like jewels in the misty morning light.

These structures are at best ephemeral, a stiff breeze will knock them down, or a running deer (of which we have more than a surplus), or a bad storm. Hurricane Sandy knocked out the web between the porch and the rose bush last year and that spider (or rather, the descendants thereof) have not returned this year. Maybe we'll have a quiet fall and the spiders will thrive.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Passing of a Giant

Word is coming in that Frederik Pohl, one of the "old guard" and a member of "first fandom" has passed away. Addendum: Pohl's impact on the field was great in many ways, especially as an editor. Here are two introductions he did, talking about one author he brought us—Cordwainer Smith.

He Came in through the Bedroom Window

Another month...another Ansible! Worth reading just to what what "is" and what "isn't" science fiction these days (Atwood, Bloomkamp & Larsson; a very strange law firm indeed).

The Dead Past. 50 Years Ago at the London First-Thursday pub meeting: 'ARTHUR C. CLARKE was in the Globe 5th September, en route to the States where he will receive on 16th October the 1963 Stuart Ballantine Medal of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia for "the early concept of the Communication satellite." Arthur had with him lumps of coral coated bullion salvaged from the coasts of Ceylon and a bag of silver coins from the same source.' (Skyrack 58, October 1963)

Addendum: While you're visiting Dave Langford's monthly news, how about some books? I especially recommend his collections of the reviews of Algis Budrys! Stellar quality stuff!

Still Life (with Diagrams)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the arch of the Milky Way over the late summer skies of Bardenas Reales in Spain. "Mouseover" the image to get a handy guide to the constellations!

Sunday, September 1, 2013