Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bare Survivor

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the fall of Comet ISON towards the Sun. ISON appears to have survived...barely. It is significantly diminished in magnitude and even form.

Friday, November 29, 2013


A nice gallery of of shots from the long-running Cassini orbiter: Saturn, the rings, the mini-system of moons and more.

Sun Diver

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet ISON doing it's deep dive around the Sun. Initially reported as completely destroyed, it now appears that the comet survived, greatly diminished.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another Nebula in Orion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows another nebular cloud in the constellation of Orion, "south" of the more famous Messier 42, the Great Nebula in Orion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing Comet ISON in the dawn sky. Will ISON survive it's plunge towards the Sun?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shock and Awe

I have somehow managed to read seventy-two books so far this year (and the year isn't over).

I work with people who rarely read, some manage one book every several years. This is my own technological singularity, how the heck can you not read?

Luckily, there are still readers out there. For example, these folks who are active in the arts.

This is how I want to live. No room for books at home? Visit a library! Our future depends on people with active imaginations and well-furnished minds.

On Point

Neil Gaiman on NPR's On Point. Some good stuff here.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a "cap cloud" over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mothership is coming!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Missing are Deadly

George Eliot's portable writing desk is still missing. Have you seen this desk?

Multiple Bams

The Hubble Space Telescope has caught sight of a second supernova explosion in spiral galaxy NGC 6984 (located in the constellation of Indus).

Addendum: What a supernova remnant looks like. NGC 6946, known as the "Fireworks Galaxy" has played host to a number of stellar explosions.

Active Region

Glowing gas in the Sagittarius arm of the home galaxy.


New evidence has been discovered for the presence of a jet of high-energy particles emitting (blasting) out of the supermassive black hole at the core of our galaxy. It's a dangerous place out there.

Addendum: This is a view from NGC 4945 showing a view into the central region of that galaxy.

Pine Island

This Large Image from NASA shows the Pine Island Glacier in the process of separating from the continent of Antarctica. Foolish humans! How long before the Primordial Ones can escape from their frozen sleep?


Peanut butter and jelly. It's all about the racism.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Hale-Bopp over the skies of Joshua Tree National Park (California) in 1997.

It's Origin and Purpose are Still a Mystery

A short documentary from 1966 exploring the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Have we gotten the opening line of Beowulf wrong, lo, all these many years?

Mr. Sandman

A gallery of Dave McKean art for Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Gaiman and McKean discuss how Sandman came to be. Gaiman on libraries.


Susan Sontag to Jorge Luis Borges, books and more.

Eldritch Horrors

Scouting New York (a great site) discovers H.P. Lovecraft's eldritch horrors of New York City.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

15 Years On

How big has the International Space Station grown since the first module was launched fifteen years ago? Take a look.

Addendum: An infographic (downloadable) of the ISS. Image from the initial stages of on-orbit construction.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video taken by the STEREO-A spacecraft. Comet Encke (which has survived the trip many times) and Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) are falling ever closer to the Sun. Will ISON survive?

Daily Grind

A new book takes a look at the odd daily rituals of the writing class. Sex, drugs and rock and roll and much more.

Death and Beyond

Happy 50th Anniversary to Doctor Who! The show that was once cancelled and revived, growing in popularity in the U.S. (where you can find Doctor Who in Hot Topic) and beyond.

Friday, November 22, 2013

California Dreaming

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a portion of the sky (see the image of the Moon for a guide to how big a portion) between the constellations of Taurus and Perseus. Given sufficient light-gathering power you would be treated with this view.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cubesats Away!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows November 19's launch of a Minotaur 1 rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. The vehicle was carrying a cargo made up of twenty-nine "cubesats" (many built by high school students). This makes the third launch from Wallops that I've been able to see from my backyard

Addendum: And more cubesats on the way!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Wallet Cringes

In the latest episode of The Three Hoarsemen, we help you empty the money from your wallet.

Blade Runner

Gaff: Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte!

[Deckard gestures to Sushi Master for translation]

Sushi Master: He say you under arrest, Mister Deckard.

Deckard: Got the wrong guy, pal.

Gaff: Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!

Sushi Master: He say you blade runner.

Deckard: Tell him I'm eating.

Gaff: Captain Bryant toka. Meni-o mae-yo.

Deckard: Bryant, huh?

Blade Runner as a series of watercolors. You're welcome.

Bigger Than Worlds

A visualization of Larry Niven's Ringworld. When's the movie?

On the Edge

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist conception of the strange space around a black hole. 4U1630-47 displays jets of energy coming from it's poles. What causes this?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful shot from the Hubble Space Telescope showing globular cluster M15 in the constellation of Pegasus. This is one of the relatively few globular clusters you can observe in the fall or winter sky. In a "amateur" instrument it takes on the appearance of a swarm of bees or a sprinkling of diamonds.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Murray Ridge

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity settles into it's winter work area, Murray Ridge, on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars. Opportunity's ninety-day (Sol) mission started in 2004. Think about that. That is one hell of a return on investment. I wish my car would work that long between repairs!

Arc of the Diver

Expedition 38 to the International Space Station launches from it's pad and arcs gracefully into space.


The Atlas V launch vehicle with NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) vehicle perched on top is lit by searchlights on this, the eve of it's first launch window.

Full McNaught

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet McNaught (the "Great Comet" of 2007) and it's highly-extended tail. Will Comet ISON rival this sight?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comet ISON

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "positive" and "negative" image of Comet ISON from November 15. The comet has undergone a dramatic jump in activity (and brightness) and is clearly visible with a low power/high field of view device (binoculars, for example). A bit more of a jump in brightness and it should be visible (in dark skies).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flash! Aaa-aaa!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another (very different) view of the recent eclipse: at the moment of totality, a diffraction grating is used to capture the Sun's spectrum.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the World shows NGC 1097, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Fornax. The galaxy displays four jets, all centered on the galaxies central black hole (but possibly not coming from there).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Launch Prep

The MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft undergoes launch preparations in this image from NASA. First launch "window" is on November 18, from 1328 to 1528 Eastern Standard Time.

In the Shadow of the Rings

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn and it's rings. And...if you look closely ("mouseover"), Mars, Venus and the Earth-Moon pair.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tailed Rock

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Asteroid P5 in our own asteroid belt. Which has unexpectedly spawned multiple tails. Light pressure? Multiple hits from smaller rocks?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Many-Layered Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another (unique) view of the recent solar eclipse. Images from multiple orbiting observatories (working in different spectrum's of light) are combined to show Sol at the eclipse.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lovejoy Amongst the Beehive

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) one of four comets that you can see (given optics and dark skies) among the stars of the morning sky. Here it "zooms" past Messier 44, the Beehive Cluster, in the constellation of Cancer.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse from Uganda. At the moment of totality, the corona and the prominences appear.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's the Map, It's the Map, It's the Map

Jason Thompson is recreating classic D&D adventures on maps. The Slave Pits of the Undercity! The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (say that five times fast)! The Isle of Dread! Ravenloft!

High View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse from a unique perspective: 44,000 feet high and above the obscuring clouds.

Neigh! Neigh!

So, I'm on a podcast! Actually, I've been on more than one podcast, but now I am (along with Jeff Patterson and John Stevens) one of The Three Hoarsemen (subtitled "of the Apocalypse" or "in the Balcony" at various times).

Past episodes (and a link to the feed page):

The Three Hoarsemen Cometh! Get Off My SF Lawn!

The Three Hoarsemen Ride!

Life Gets in the Way of Fandom.

And...our current episode (and our first in-depth book coverage): The Three Hoarsemen Discuss Samuel R. Delany's NOVA.


Ernst Stuhlinger tackles the question: Why (spend money on) explore space?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013


(I somehow overlooked the e-mail, so I'm posting this retroactively!)

It's Movember! Time for a new issue of Ansible from Dave Langford!
It's more than science fiction: "Sir Ben Kingsley argues that the Ender's Game film has qualities that mere sf fans won't appreciate: 'I think there's a much bigger audience than just your science fiction fans – we'll get them as well – but we'll also get people who want a philosophical journey, that journey of spirit through the film.' (, 23 October) [MPJ]"
It's not science fiction: "Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five was cleared by the Sunday Times literary tribunal of any horrid genre taint: 'The cultish Vonnegut's part memoir, part study of psychosis and escape is not the sci-fi it's often dismissed as.' ('100 books to love', 6 October) [LC]"
Always worth a read.

New York Sunrise

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an eclipsed Sun rising over New York City.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Double Shadow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a composite of a 2005 solar eclipse that morphed over location from total to annular, giving different views of coverage.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Three by Three

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a recent shadow transit of the shadows of three moons (Callisto, Io and Europa) across the face of Jupiter. I've been lucky to see three shadows in one night, but never lucky enough to see three (or four!) at once.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7841 in the constellation of Frustriaus. What's really interesting (other than the beautiful structure) about this nebula is it's location. Howdy, neighbor!