Saturday, April 30, 2016

Edge Case

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the (currently unnamed) moon of dwarf planet Makemake in silhouette around Makemake. Let's pay a visit!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dust in the Stellar Winds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Angel Nebula, a dusty "galactic cirrus cloud" (can you imagine the scale of such a thing?) in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 6872, a "barred spiral". It is described as "a conventional barred spiral in which severe tidal interaction took place" (you think?).

I thought that perhaps NGC 6872 might have been a galaxy listed by Halton Arp in his famous Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, but it does not appear to be there.

What it most puts me in mind are some of the "stargate sequence" images from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, created with drops of ink and resembling exploding stars, globular clusters and galaxies.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Top of Spaghetti

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a fantastic composite image of a supernova remnant that (if visible to the naked eye) would cover the sky in the equivalent of six full moons. What subtle structures are out there, waiting to be exposed!

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a very iconic image from the Hubble Space Telescope, featured in the news and popular culture (including film): Messier 16, a portion of the Eagle Nebula, popularly known as the Pillars of Creation.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Canyon Dreams

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a long-term exposure from Jabul Shams in Oman. Rugged landscape, lunar light and Milky Way all in one.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7635, a planetary nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia. A wonderful Hubble Space Telescope image!

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows solar system object Comet C/2014 S2 (PanSTARRS) sweeping past deep sky object Messier 97, a "planetary" nebula.

Field Rations

Everything is on the internet. Or, at least, You Tube. Including "unboxing videos" for military field rations.

Potato Moon

Should a crewed expedition to Mars actually go to Phobos instead? What would be the advantages? The disadvantages? There's no money in it yet (let alone tin being bent), but people are (again) thinking about this.


Yes, another list! This time: military SF. Some good picks here, but we always seem to have the same titles over and over again. What of...C.J. Cherryh? And...others?

Gaming for Knowledge

A professor finds that his students are disengaged, introduces a new technique, and gets them excited about learning.

The students are military officers commanding hundreds of troops, the college is not your ordinary institution, and the tools used are not what many might consider. There are a few bumps, a few things to change, but what an interesting way of teaching? Can it be utilized elsewhere in the military? What about in other schools?

(Addendum: And here I thought every officer read this sort of stuff...)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Split Ring

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an Einstein Ring. One galaxy allows the light of another (more distant) galaxy to bend around it, allowing the fortuitous imaging of objects that would otherwise be missed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an enhanced Messier 31 (the Great Andromeda Nebula) rising over the skies of Columbia. Wouldn't it be wonderful is such astronomical sights really were naked eye visible like this?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Engineering Marvel

It's often been called the largest engineering project ever (of course, that label is often applied to many things on Earth). Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the International Space Station as imaged by the crew of Space Station Atlantis in 2010.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the proposed Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System. 100 Astronomical Units in 10+ years!

Sounds like something that Robert L. Forward would write about. Good to see his spirit living on.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tranquility Base

An image from the LROC on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shows where humanity first stepped onto another sphere. See that nasty-looking crater to the right? The Eagle almost came down along the rim, possibly ending the mission in disaster.

Back to the Approach

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an image from the hard-working Cassini orbiter on approach to Saturn. Cassini is approaching the end of mission (and nothing is lined up to replace it). It'll be a sad day when we're not getting new images from the Lord of the Rings.

On the Edge

The Kepler space observatory (which successfully completed its primary mission) was being aligned to observe a new target when it seems to have gone into emergency mode. Fingers crossed!

Update: Recovered!

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the green flash. I've been told you only see this through the bottom of a Heineken bottle.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lonely Dwarf

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte, a lonely dwarf galaxy. Named for three astronomers, one of the three has a connection with science fiction.

Gentlemen, We Have A Problem

Gentlemen, we have a problem. We behave badly. And when people point this out to us, we behave worse.

We need to do better. Like our hobby? Share it. If we keep it to our circle of white males, our hobby will die.

Also: Behave better when people point out our problem. There seems to be a lot of hissing online in reaction to this. Would you say some of those things to somebody face-to-face? Would you say some of those things and behave in such a fashion to your sister or mother or wife or partner? If so, grow up.

We need to be more tolerant and less of a tantrum-throwing toddler.

Here's the post that created the "controversy" and pointed out how we behave (not a secret, but too long we have ignored that behavior or supported it).

Luckily, there are some white males who are also pointing out our problem. It's a start. More of us need to confront this behavior and take it out.

(There's a reason I stopped going to gaming conventions. There's a reason I've been very careful with how my daughter interacts online and at events. We need to do better.)

Addendum: Another good podcast discussion of the issue, courtesy of The Dice Decide.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Electron Gun

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a very graphic illustration why crewed exploration of Jupiter space will be so difficult. A lot of shielding is going to be needed to keep that crew alive!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Beyond Venus

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing what exoplanet Cancri 55e might look like. Larger than Earth, tidally-locked and possibly the home of a gigantic diamond?

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Powers of Tim

It's always nice when somebody discovers a good author.

It Looks Easy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a pretty nifty story of ingenuity, patience and persistence on the part of photographer Arnar Kristjansson! ("Mouseover" the image in the link for a constellation guide.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7635, a.k.a., the Bubble Nebula, in the constellation of Cassiopeia. A relatively easy telescopic object, it's nice to see what that antiquated Hubble Space Telescope can tease out here.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Month(s) in Reading: February and March

I started to do this monthly update in January and naturally fell out of it at the beginning of February and March. So maybe every other month?

For a long time it seemed like the needle was stuck in terms of reading. This seems to happen with me whenever I have a productive year of reading: the next year seems to be one where I just can't get any traction. Luckily, it looks like I'm finally making some movement towards the annual goal of at least sixty books and three-hundred and sixty-five short works.

The Year in Books, as of the end of March: Ten! And up from that as of the time of this posting.

The Year in Shorts, as of the end of March: 142! The logjam here was broken between picking up some classic anthologies and reading for the Hugo nominations.

As you can see from the last list, the books in progress have changed. A number of titles have shuffled off (completed), even more have shuffled on. Many are the same (stalled progress). Pretty typical for my reading plan that is never a plan.

In progress are: (01) Poul Anderson: The Dancer from Atlantis. (02) Jorge Luis Borges: Ficciones. (03) Ben Bova and Les Johnson: Rescue Mode. (04) John Brunner: The Jagged Orbit. (05) Apsley Cherry-Garrard: The Worst Journey in the World. (06) C.J. Cherryh: Chanur's Homecoming. (07) C.J. Cherryh: Downbelow Station. (08) Bernard Cornell: Sharpe's Rifles. (09) Alexis A. Gilliland: The Revolution from Rosinante. (10) Robert E. Howard: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. (11) Stanley Karnow: Vietnam. (12) Damon Knight: In Search of Wonder. (13) Fritz Leiber: Smoke Ghost and Other Apparitions. (14) Fritz Leiber: Swords and Deviltry. (15) Michael Lewis: The Big Short—Inside the Doomsday Machine. (16) George R.R. Martin & Co.: Wild Cards 01. (17) George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois: Old Venus. (18) Melcher Media & Microsoft Corporation: Future Visions—Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft. (19) Michael Moorcock: Elric—The Stealer of Souls. (20) Nisi Shawl & Bill Campbell (editors): Stories for Chip—A Tribute for Samuel R. Delany. (21) Thomas Pynchon: Gravity's Rainbow. (22) Greg Stafford: King of Sartar. (23) Allen Steele: Sex and Violence in Zero-G: The Complete "Near Space" Stories (Expanded Edition) (Revised Edition). (24) Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age. (25) Jonathan Strahan: Meeting Infinity.  (26) Howard Tayler: The Teraport Wars. (27) David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope: A Call to Arms. (28) Roger Zelazny: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 01—At the Threshold.

Cold Anaglyph

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us a three-dimensional look at the stark plutonian landscape. Get out your red/blue glasses for this one!