Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Neighborhood Map

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the structure of our "local" area. Still a lot of guesses there. (Does Alpha Centauria have a similar structure of an Oort Cloud, and if so, does it overlap with us?)

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.


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is an artist conception of the view sunward from the surface of Pluto. Alas, no landing on the New Horizons mission!

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.

Lucky Quarter

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows a Florida state quarter being installed on the New Horizons vehicle.

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

SWAPping It In

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the installation of the Solar Wind Around Pluto instrument onto the New Horizons vehicle. This will give you a good idea of the relative size of the vehicle once the media starts throwing around "washing machine sized" terminology.

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

Hidden Gems

In the latest episode of The Three Hoarsemen, we ride along with Fourth Hoarseman Sarah Chorn and discuss overlooked works of fantasy.

The Worlds of Galileo

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the four Galilean moons of Jupiter as imaged during the New Horizons gravity boost flyby.

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).

Another Family Tree

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows size comparisons between planets, moons and sampling of Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNO's). I never knew that Texas counted as an astronomical object, but given the state's reputation for boasting...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows a Hubble Space Telescope image of Pluto and Charon and (at that point) newly-discovered moons Nix and Hydra.

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).

Sunday, September 21, 2014


What mad universe, indeed! If a vampire planet wasn't strange enough, how about a Thorne–Żytkow object, a celestial Russian nesting doll where a neutron star hides inside a red giant? It appears that we may have finally found one of these!


Like something out of a Poul Anderson story, how about a star that is being prematurely aged by one of it's own planets? What mad universe!

Grain of Salt

You know that spectacular picture of the space shuttle being launched through a cloud bank? When you see something that spectacular, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

Iluminated Limb

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the limb of Neptune's moon Triton during the 1989 Voyager 2 flyby.

Ring World

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn, Lord of the Rings, with his rings aligned with the Sun.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows lighting (as well as other features—note the Io Flux Tube which sound like a object of super-science from space opera if there ever was one!) on Jupiter during the New Horizons gravity boost flyby.

Arch of the Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Milky Way in the direction of the galactic center.

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.

Full Scale

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows a full-scale model of the New Horizons vehicle on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum "annex".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More Testing

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons vehicle. The camera captured Hydra, Pluto's outermost (known) moon.


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

Tightening the Belt

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is an artist conception of the Kuiper Belt, ranging from 30 astronomical units (1 AU = the distance of the Earth's orbit from the Sun) out to 50 astronautical units in depth.


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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Double Crescent

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a montage of Jupiter and volcanic Io as imaged by New Horizons during its 2007 gravity assist flyby.

The Cruel Sky of Everest

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day could be a view of the cruel rocks of Everest or another Earth-bound mountain. Instead it is a view of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko as viewed by the ESA's Rosetta vehicle, here 67 kilometers away. Announced today: the landing site for the Philae probe.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

110 Stories

110 Stories by the much-missed John M. Ford. Anything I could say today will not equal the impact of his thoughts about 09/11/01.

An Ambiguous Heterotopia

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows Neptune's moon Triton as imaged by Voyager 2 in 1989.

Another Thing I've Never Seen

Unfortunately, due to the light-soaked skies of New Jersey, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is something I've never seen around here: the zodiacal light or "false dawn". "Mouseover" the image to get a guide. (Here's another thing I never see around here: the gegenschein!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Full Rise

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video (with music) showing the rise of the Full Moon.

On the Cusp of Ansible!

Having survived LonCon3, your man-in-the-street, Dave Langford brings us another issue of Ansible with all the con news and more besides.

This year's Hugos were enlivened by organized voting for the lengthy 'Wheel of Time' fantasy sequence (as a single just-completed novel) and for Larry Correia's 'Sad Puppies' slate of supposedly right-wing candidates. None did well, though only Vox Day received the special accolade of being ranked below No Award. Correia accepted the vote results with good grace, though author Dave Freer continued to froth: 'NO AUTHOR FROM ANY COUNTRY, OF ANY ETHNICITY OR ORIENTATION, who is openly anything but left wing can get onto the ballot, let alone win and that this situation has persisted for the better part of the last twenty years, by the most generous interpretation.' (Madgeniusclub.com, 20 August) Any counterexamples should be sent to him, please, not to me.

I weep in sadness.

Assemble By Numbers

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows technicians installing the ALICE ultraviolet imaging spectrometer on the New Horizons vehicle.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Deep Atmosphere

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows one of the images obtained by New Horizons as it used Jupiter's gravity well to slingshot it's way out towards Pluto. Bonus science while testing instruments!

Towards the Core (003)

I guess it's a week of core samples on the Astronomy Picture of the Day! Today we have a beautiful "rich field" or wide angle view of the Sagittarius star cloud regions.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wall Chart

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the largest known Trans-Neptunian Objects in comparison to the big blue marble we live on.

Sliding Spring

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) passing through the rich star fields of the Small Magellanic Cloud, 47 Tucanae and NGC 362. Siding Spring is on it's way to a close encounter with Mars.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mounting Power

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows technicians installing the radioisotope thermoelectric generator assembly onto the New Horizons flight vehicle.

Towards the Core (002)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another view towards our galactic center. Messier 6, an open cluster in the constellation of Scorpius, is framed by dark and light nebula. Can you see the shape that gives Messier 6 it's popular name of "The Butterfly Cluster"?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ripples of Time and Space

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the night sky over Tibet. Ripples in the airglow, aurora and starfields.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

An interview with Mr. Winchell Chung, designer of the "look" for Ogre, Warp War and several of my other (still) favorite games.


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the Atlas V launch of the New Horizons vehicle in 2006. It moved faster than any crewed mission, going from the Earth to the distance of the Moon in well under a day. However, the rest of the journey took from 2006 to (coming up) 2015.