Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014


Here's a look at the 3D printer which was recently installed on the International Space Station (this is a pre-launch image). Vital for any long-duration crewed spaceflight, where it can be used (hopefully) to print spare parts, the first thing that the printer did on the ISS was to print a piece of itself.

Frosted Chaos

The ESA's Mars Express caught a glimpse into the crazed nature of the Hellas Basin (including one 3D image).


A supercomputer is used to model the effect of magnetic fields on the solar wind.

Phoebe the Visitor

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows Saturn's icy moon Phoebe (detailed view here). Phoebe orbits opposite other moons in Saturn's system and appears to be composed differently from the rest of the icy moons around Saturn, leading to the possibility that it is a visitor from another part of the Solar System.

Ink Stain

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a nice image (courtesy of Martin Pugh) of NGC 281 and IC 1590 in the constellation of Cassiopeia.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That's No Moon...

...that's a dwarf planet! Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a painting by Mark A. Gartick speculating what the surface of dwarf planet Pluto's moon, Charon, might look like. Pluto hangs large in the sky above.

Lunar Dance

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two of Jupiter's Galilean moons, Io and Callisto, as they pass each other in the same orbital plane, providing lucky observers from earth, with a chance to see a rare occultation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows how Dr. Henry Throop celebrated the launch of New Horizons. I was a tad more...restrained...

Red Lagoon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Messier 8 and Messier 20 in the constellation of Sagittarius. What is lurking in the lagoon? "Mouseover" the image to get a clue!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Star Stuff

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the disc containing names of 434,738 people who are "going" to Pluto.

Digital Overflight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing a simulated flyover of Titan's surface, compiled from images from various Cassini flybys of that moon of Saturn.

Next time you complain about your lack of a jetpack, think about that. We've been in the Saturn system long enough and flown by Titan so many times that we can digitally recreate a model of much of the surface.

Launch Day

Here's a time-lapse image of the Soyuz TMA-15M rocket taking Expedition 42 to the International Space Station.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Godel Escher Bach on Film

Borges, Escher and Brazil, oh my! Interstellar (the film) sounds interesting in so many ways (but fails in so many other ways). Now for a film based on Godel Escher Bach?

What's It Really Like Out There?

This article is going into the notebook for that eventual Hot Cup of Coffee Revolution short story I keep thinking about.

Lost Future

Two quotes that came to mind when thinking today of how good my Samsung Galaxy Tab is...but how far short it falls from some of the gadgets of science fiction. Then a second that came to me when I contemplated how many times I've been tossed out of a job vs. the potential that we have.

There was plenty to occupy his time, even if he did nothing but sit and read. When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-size Newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart , and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit’s shortterm memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was , far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “ newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour ; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the everchanging flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg. 


Bowman had been a student for more than half his life; he would continue to be one until he retired. Thanks to the twentieth-century revolutions in training and information-handling techniques, he already possessed the equivalent of two or three college educations—and, what was more, he could remember 90 percent of what he had learned.

Fifty years ago, he would have been considered a specialist in applied astronomy, cybernetics, and space propulsion systems —yet he was prone to deny, with genuine indignation, that he was a specialist at all. Bowman had never found it possible to focus his interest exclusively on any subject; despite the dark warnings of his instructors, he had insisted on taking his Master’s degree in General Astronautics— a course with a vague and woolly syllabus, designed for those whose IQs were in the low 130s and who would never reach the top ranks of their profession.

His decision had been right; that very refusal to specialize had made him uniquely qualified for his present task. In much the same way Frank Poole—who sometimes disparagingly called himself “General Practitioner in space biology”—had been an ideal choice as his deputy. The two of them, with, if necessary, help from Hal’s vast stores of information, could cope with any problems likely to arise during the voyage—as long as they kept their minds alert and receptive, and continually reen-graved old patterns of memory.

(Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey)

We live in a time of vast potential. We have a global information network that is constantly being crippled by governmental, non-governmental and corporate interests and concerns. Our education system is watered-down and over-priced. Our employment is constantly phased-our of existence or downgraded.

Never mind the jetpacks and flying cars. I want my free flow of information and endless chance to better myself.

No Pot of Gold

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day seemingly shows a tornado traveling down a rainbow.

Flight Infrastructure

The launch vehicle for Expedition 42 to the International Space Station makes the first steps on it's journey.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nice Eyewear

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the Student Dust Counter instrument on the New Horizons vehicle before installation. Members of the SDC team are rocking their protective eyewear (and outerwear) here.

Weather Eye

The International Space Station quietly passes near Hurricane Gonzalo in this image.

Overflight Image

Operation Icebridge is five years old! An ongoing effort by NASA to track how we're melting the poles, this image shows how the western ice sheets at the south pole are reaching the point of collapse.

Work Day Prep

Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore prepare for an outdoor excursion on the International Space Station. As an exercise for the student, research spacesuits on the ISS, airlocks on the ISS, how spacewalks are divided up, and credits/debits for same.

The Dark of the Fall

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view of a dark nebula (dust and cold unlit gas, star-forming regions not yet well-lit by young stars) in the constellation of Cygnus, LDN 988. A nice mixture of dense starfields and dark regions for Fall viewing in the northern hemisphere!

Click on the image get a version that includes labels for objects in the image.

How Social Is Your Media?

A while ago I came across a podcast called Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (pretty early on in it's run, if I'm right), hosted by Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws. It was a gaming podcast, mostly talking about their stuff. They were funny. They spoke well. They liked each other. They were knowledgeable about many subjects.

They were very good.

At that point I had been out of gaming for over a decade due to people moving away, work, family and such. My involvement in gaming was the occasional purchase of a "oh, shiny" book or miniature.

But these guys got me interested again. As a result, I eventually started running a game again (Call of Cthulhu) and have been in a few sessions of a game they were involved with (Ashen Stars).

I've also, as a direct result of the podcast, started buying (mostly digital, but also some physical) games that they've been involved in. Namely: Ashen Stars, Gaen Reach, Trail of Cthulhu, The Dying Earth. I've also bought games from their company (Pelgrane Press) or that they've mentioned on the podcast: Feng Shui 2, Dracula Dossier (for Night's Black Agents), Paranoia and TimeWatch (I may have missed a few, but you get the idea!).

That's what an effective and engaging "social media" strategy will do for you. Wish more companies would be better at it, rather than spamming me with promoted tweets or buying Twitter "trending" subjects.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pure Vacuum

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a computer simulation of how the dust in our solar system might be distributed. It gets in your eyes, you know.

Endless Mirrors

The reflections of the Big Bang echo even to this day.

Hands Across the Frequency

Do you see a hand stretching across the sky in this image from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory?

Deep Freeze

Way up there in the sky the James Webb Space Telescope will be exposed to temperatures that make this fine morning feel balmy by comparison. In this image the Integrated Science Instrument Module finishes 116 days of testing under temperatures of 40 degrees Kelvin. Brrrr!!!


The October 2014 partial solar eclipse is captured by the Hinode vehicle in X-rays. Hinode is a orbiting solar observatory in it's eight year of operation.

Engineering as Art

The YF-12 undergoes testing at the equivalent of Mach-3 and produces (in this image) some funky looking art.


The venerable (and still functioning!!!) Hubble Space Telescope brings us detail of one of our satellite galaxies, specifically the region known as the Tarantula Nebula.

Solar Flare

A nice view of our home star in a different light. Extreme ultraviolet frequencies reveals a lot of nice detail as well as one heck of a flare.

Bearing on a Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us Messier 81 in Ursa Major. Just down the block from us (11.8 million light years down the block).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

KBO Finders

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows members of the KBO search team which found an object to angle the New Horizons towards once Pluto has been encountered. The mission will (knock on wood) continue!

Frog Spawn

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows stars spawning in IC 410, The Tadpole Nebula, in the constellation of Auriga.

Kick It Up a Notch

The dynamic home star! It's been a good year for aurora for those in the northern latitudes.


We're inching closer to the flight test for Orion. Here's a view of the flight capsule being readied. And here's a view of the journey to the launch pad.

Morning in New Jersey

This is what it feels like outside right now. Polar vortex!

Titanian Sunglint

The hard-working Cassini orbiter has spotted "sunglint" off the seas of Titan. Think about that for a few seconds. A multi-year mission to Saturn, a ringed gas giant in our system has seen sun glinting through the thick organic-chemical clouds of a very cold Earth-analogue.

Sometimes we are just a tad blase about the times we live in.

Fifteen Years

Not as well known to the public as it's more famous "brother observatory" (the Hubble Space Telescope), the Chandra X-Ray Orbital Observatory has been space for fifteen years.


Dawn as seen from the International Space Station.

We Almost Lost Detroit

Can the lessons of warfare and counterinsurgency be applied to failing American cities?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Target Lock

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the three possible post-Pluto KBO targets that New Horizons may target.

Reading Matters

Chief military snarker Doctrine Man talks about reading. Nothing like a good book to tide you over while you're waiting on the range.

Clearing the Lanes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist depiction of what might be happening around HD 95086. New worlds forming!


Bolides (small asteroids that disintegrated in our atmosphere) mapped from 1994 to 2013. If they had been bigger, we might be communing with the dinosaurs.

Surface Features

A closeup (including part of the vehicle) of Philae's view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


Astronaut Reid Wiseman, recently resident on the International Space Station, snapped this image of Yellowstone from his vantage point.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Into the Swan

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day gives us another view of one of the northern hemisphere sky this time of year. Buried in Cygnus the Swan is Sh2-101, a complex mixture of gas and dust known as The Tulip Nebula.

At the Edge of the Dark

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a depiction of what the New Horizons encounter with a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) might look like. New Horizons hopefully will encounter one (or more) KBO's once it has finished with it's flyby of Pluto and Charon.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Leonids above an observation tower in Spain. We're in the middle of the Leonid meteor shower, which means, of course, I'm clouded over!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Eclipsing Active Moon

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows Jupiter's moon Io in eclipse. As imaged by the New Horizons vehicle on it's way to Pluto, cameras using various light frequencies captured the active geology of that tortured moon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

On the Surface

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one (hopefully of many!) picture from the surface of Comet C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Well done, Philae!

Radio Silence

Sorry for the radio silence, folks. A convergence of many things over the past few weeks. Will start retro-posting APOD's to catch us up, update The Year In Books, The Year In Shorts, etc.


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows our best views of Pluto...before our actual flyby with New Horizons.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Down Down Down Down

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a picture snapped by the Philae lander (dropped by the ESA's Rosetta probe) as it approached the surface of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Watch out for that first step!


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is the mission logo for New Horizons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Processing by Gendler

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows molecular clouds in the constellation of Orion. Processing by Gendler: Robert Gendler is one of the most amazing "amateurs" working in the field today.

Turn Turn Turn!

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the plutonian year. Oh, to be on Pluto at the height of the summer tourist season!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Crazy Years

Ansible is back! Chock-full of wackiness! Vindictive bees! Dancing (or is that doxxing) gamers! And more! All hail Dave Langford for his efforts to lasso all of this.

As Others See Us. Saving Grace Dept: from a review of Michael Faber's The Book of Strange New Things. 'While the bulk of the book takes place on another planet—a vividly drawn environment with green water, no moon and frequent, spiraling rainstorms—it doesn't read like science fiction, or like any genre.' (New York Times, 26 October) [CB]


Formation Mark

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a protoplanetary disk around HL Tauri. Solar system creation underway!

Crescent Moon

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows a crescent Triton as seen by Voyager 2 in 1989.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Coming of the Cosmic Cat

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us NGC 6543, a planetary nebula in the constellation of  Draco. Take a look at this previous APOD for a look at the structure of this object.


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows interior models for the various moons and dwarf planets of our Solar System. Interesting how many of these have been shown (or are theorized) to contain liquid water (as well as water ice). How big will the "habitable zone" become?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In the Guts of the Fish

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 660, the Polar Ring Galaxy, in the constellation of Pisces. A "irregular" galaxy, rather than the more familiar spiral or ellipitcal type, the shape was probably caused by a collison with another galaxy. See also: Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies for a whole catalog of strange shapes. What mad universe?

Time Shift

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows changes in the structure of Jupiter's atmosphere as imaged by the New Horizons vehicle as it used the gas giant for a speed boost.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Closeup: More New Worlds

With our first ambassadors out into the Solar System, the Mariners, Pioneers and Voyagers, we started to get views of the blurry dots that our telescopes could see and suddenly Mars Was a Place, etc. With the Gaileo and Cassini missions, not only have Jupiter and Saturn become Places, but so to their myriad of moons, ranging from asteroidal chunks to spheres that rival our own Moon.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings Saturn's moon Dione into the Realm of the Places: a map of it's surface. It is amazing to live in such times when discoveries are made every day!


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day focuses on the Radio Science Experiment mounted in the "dish" of the New Horizons vehicle.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In the Cave of the Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows nebula Sh2-155 in the constellation of Cepheus. More popularly known as the Dave Nebula, the region is an active area of star formation and complex molecules.


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a artist conception of the flyby of Pluto by New Horizons. Radio signals will be shifted by Pluto's atmosphere, allowing for a study of the planet's atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows frozen nitrogen. Pluto could be covered in this.

Different Face

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a "face" of the Moon that humans have not diretly observed since 1972. Courtesy of China's Chang'e 5-T1, which recently completed it's mission and returned to the blue marble in the upper left-hand corner of the image.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Baked Alaska

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a look at the creamy interior goodness of both Pluto and Charon!

Balancing Act

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day seemingly has one of Saturn's smaller moons, Epimetheus, balancing on the Rings. Beyond the circus act, engigmatic Titan.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Escape Velocity

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a diagram (including Lagrange points!) of the plutonian system depicting how atmosphere from Pluto might escape and spread throughout the area.

Sliding Past Mars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an (overexposed) Mars having survived a close encounter with Comet Sliding Spring (can you spot it?). All orbiting (and ground-based) Terran vehicles also survived this close encounter with the outer system visitor.