Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cold, Clear Water

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice capstone to how our understanding of Mars has evolved since the 1920's. From a desert planet with canals to a bone-dry dead planet with nothing of interest, to a cratered landscape, to a complicated world with canyons and mountains and a world that appears to have a potentially significant amount of water under the surface and even water flowing, on occasion, on the surface!

As Kim Stanley Robinson put it: Mars is a place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the April 2014 lunar eclipse as the Moon moved across the sky and shifted through all phases of the eclipse.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is all about the cheese-and-fries combination of the lunar eclipse combined with a "supermoon". Alas, I will be employing a cloud filter.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Comparing the Local Group

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows both Messier 31 and Messier 33, both members of the Local Group (of which the Milky Way is also a card-carrying member). Messier 31 is better known as the Andromeda Galaxy and can be seen (under darker skies than mine, although as few as ten years ago I could still spot it) with the naked eye (and it's a wonderful binocular or relatively low-power/wide field of view telescopic object). Messier 33 is also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, or, probably more popularly, the Pinwheel Galaxy.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ink Blots

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows dusty molecular clouds in the constellation of Cygnus, part of the Great Rift or Northern Coalsack. "From dark sites the region can be identified by eye alone." (I do not live in such an area!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Old Man's War

Over at Tor Dot Com, several of us speculate on the future direction for John Scalzi's Old Man War series. (When I was asked to do this, I thought it was just for a private blog, I must have missed the "it'll be posted at Tor Dot Com bit!)

On London

Iain Sinclair (who's books really ought to be more widely available!) and John Foxx discuss London (and mention Quatermass and more) .


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day compresses a half-hidden solar cycle over the frozen skies of the southern polar region.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Phase II: The Alternate Reality

I still remember how excited I was when it was announced that Star Trek was going to return to television as one of the key components to a fourth network being created by Paramount. Well, that never came to be (the project eventually became Star Trek: The Motion Picture, still the film that I think most accurately captures the spirit of the series).

Here's a link to an article talking about elements of that failed series. I also suggest you seek out the "Making of" book that came out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as either of the books written about the failed series.

Off Kilter

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Leo. What caused the beautiful spiral shape to become distorted?

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn's moon Enceladus. The hard-working Cassini orbiter has determined that a globe-spanning ocean probably lies beneath the surface ice. What else is there? Life? It's amusing to see how the "Goldilocks zone" keeps getting redefined!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mike Drop 01

Just when you thought you had seen "everything" that the New Horizons vehicle could provide, it sends another stunner. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an image that was downloaded from that hurtling vehicle and released yesterday. Amazing stuff.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us a portion of the very beautiful (and impossible to see under my skies!) Veil Nebula in the constellation of Cygnus. Being in the circum-polar region, it is well placed to be seen much of the year from my locale but requires dark (and steady) skies as well as a emission filter to tease out details.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Resolution Awaits

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the best view yet of the mysterious bright spots in the crater named Occator on Dwarf Planet Ceres. Ice? Another material? The answer awaits a lower orbit by the Dawn vehicle and more scrutiny from additional instruments.

Monday, September 14, 2015

In His House at R'lyeh

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Cthulhu Regio area of Pluto, as imaged by the New Horizons vehicle. Will these (so far) temporary names be "official"? One can hope!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows not one, but two, transits of the International Space Station across the face of our home star.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 1316 and NGC 13176, two galaxies post-collision. What happens when galaxies collide? As "Doc" Smith said, they mostly just pass through each other, but the interacting forces and clouds of matter can distort (or completely "tear") a galaxy. Some galaxies swallow other galaxies (our own may have swallowed three or more).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Green Flash

I've been told that the only way to see a green flash is to be looking at the sunset through the bottom of a Heineken bottle, but today's Astronomy Picture of the Day seems to contradict that assertion.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Shark Nebula in the constellation of Cepheus in the circum-polar skies of the northern hemisphere. "Mouseover" the image for a guide to the different parts of the nebula. Any Jets? Or jets?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rocket Arc

A lot of arcs in the sky of late! Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day does not bring us the arc of the Milky Way, but instead the arc of a vehicle slipping the bounds of gravity: An Atlas V carrying a communications satellite into orbit.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Arc and Glow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us the arc of the Milky Way again: this time we are in the southern skies and in addition to the Milky Way, the sky is illuminated by Airglow Australis.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Spiral, Smear, Spikes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 4725, Arp 159 (from Halton Arp's catalog of peculiar astronomical objects) and some stars with spikes. Has J.J. Abrams been about?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Bowl of the Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the night sky and the arc of the Milky Way. Off to one side is a flare of light, sunlight reflecting off the immense solar panels of the Iridium series of communications satellites.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015