Monday, December 31, 2018

But It Isn't Halloween!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a spooky sight, The Witch Head Nebula, in the constellation of Orion. Possibly more appropriate for Halloween than New Year's Eve, maybe this witch can tell us our galactic future?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Galaxy Tree

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a confluence of composition and randomness; a tree's growth and pruning, the evolution of the galaxy, and some patience. "Mouseover" the image for a guide. It kind of puts me in mind of Freeman Dyson's galactic trees.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Barred Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us NGC 1365, a barred spiral galaxy (a galaxy that shows a prominent bar across the arms and bulge) in the constellation of Fornax. What role does the bar play in the evolution and life of a galaxy?

Ultima Thule

In just a few short days, we'll be visiting a Kuiper Belt Object, nicknamed Ultima Thule.

This is courtesy of a extension to the mission for New Horizons 2015, the vehicle that brought us our first clear view of Pluto and Charon. Stay tuned to see what new wonders will be unveiled!

Afterwards? That depends on fuel, funding and power. And possible targets. Our vehicles have often proven more robust than we expect, so we night eventually see something even more "ultima"!

Dream Mighty Things

Once upon a time, we flew to the Moon.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Southern Jewels

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us NGC 3372, The Great Carina Nebula, in the southern hemisphere constellation of Carina. This vast star factory is also home to Eta Carina, a supernova in the making (from our perspective; it's possible Eta Carina has already gone "boom" and we haven't seen the event yet!).

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Clawed Nursery

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Lobster Nebula, in the constellation of the Scorpion. This complex of interacting gas, light, gravity and magnetic fields is the birthplace of massive stars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Grand Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an image courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope, Messier 100, a grand spiral galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices.

It's A Wonderful Life

At the opening of the classic film It's A Wonderful Life, we're treated to some talking astronomical objects. Did you know that they are known as Stephen's Quintet, a cluster of "interacting" (colliding) galaxies in the constellation of Pegasus?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Fifty Years On (02)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "remastered" image from the first crewed orbital mission to visit our Moon. Apollo 8, fifty years ago. Why haven't we been back?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Fifty Years On (01)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "video reconstruction" of the famous Earthrise seen by the crew of Apollo 8, the first humans to circle our Moon, fifty years ago. When are we going back?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Winter Radiant

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows winter skies over the Czech Republic. Geminid meteors streak away from their central radiant.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Red Green Blue Show

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet 46P/Wirtanen as it cruises through the rich star and nebula fields of Taurus, the Pleiades and the California Nebula. Chesley Bonestell would be thrilled!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Sky Streak

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the trail of a Geminid meteor as it burns up in our atmosphere. Different elements in the bit of asteroidal grit show up in this image as different colors. Gone in a flash, the trail of the doomed visitor can already be seen spreading out in our atmosphere.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows frozen bubbles of methane trapped in the ice of Lake Baikal in Russia. Astoundingly, the lake contains 20% of the world's fresh water.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Mirror Image

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy. What does the Milky Way, our home galaxy look like? Many think it looks a lot like M31.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Meteors and More

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a time exposure capturing the Geminids, along with the Orion Nebula, various stars and one cometary interloper.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Asteroid Anaglyph

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a red/blue anaglyph of Asteroid 101955 Bennu as imaged by the OSIRIS-REx vehicle. Stay tuned as we explore more and more of this piece of the primordial solar system and even attempt to get a sample

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Galactic Metamorphosis

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us number 188 in Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, known also as the Tadpole Galaxy in the constellation of Draco. A tadpole will change into a frog or toad. What does a galaxy that has undergone...interaction...become? Still a galaxy, but it can visually be very different!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Activity Over Norway

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the skies of Norway. Auroral activity and infalling meteors over the quiet snowy landscape.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Tiny Planet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a spherical image timelapse video of a "tiny planet" view from Grandes Pines Observatory in North Carolina.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Approach of the Cometeers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet 46P Wirtanen over the skies of Spain. The comet is (today) close to the Seven Sisters or the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus. (Naturally that means I have cloudy skies!). If you have a good dark sky, get out there and take a look!

Why the title of this post?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Galactic Boooooommmm

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a nice astronomical view of several galaxies, noteably NGC 1055 in the top of the field and Messier 77 along the bottom right (and several stars of varying color scattered around and at least one galaxy in the distance). The unchanging sky has changed, however. Messier 77 has brightened as a star in one of its arms has gone supernova!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Return to the Alliance-Union

After too long a time, C.J. Cherryh is returning to the series that got me started reading her stuff: the Alliance-Union series that includes novels such as Downbelow Station (cover pictured above), Merchanter's Luck, Cyteen and so much more! The new title is Alliance Rising and has the promising sub-title of The Hinder Stars I.

Rosie’s Pub was Alpha-based spacer turf. It was where you went on the Strip to spend time, to talk with shipmates, friends, and other ships’ crew who were regulars at Alpha Station.

And like other bars on the Strip, Rosie’s maintained, half-lost in the glassware and the bottles of liquor on the shelves above the bar, a sched­ule board—a list of ships coming in, ships leaving, ships currently in dock. Widescreen, three separate displays: interstation FTL'ers, mainte­nance insystemers, and on the far left, the sub-lighters, those two remain­ing links to Sol Station and Earth, one ship coming, one going, on their ten-year-long voyages—Sol being the only star outside the jump range of the faster-than-light ships: ironic proof, some said, that there was a god.

That part of the screen rarely changed: two ships, two destinations, no surprises there. The other two sections, with FTL'ers listed in the center and insystemers on the right, ebbed and flowed with the tides of commerce—shifting but generally predictable.

Until three hours ago, when the words in arrival had flashed above the listing of FTL ships and assigned berths.

In arrival. With no name or origin, just an ominous blank where both ought to appear.

Three hours and counting, and still no update.

Nobody remembered that happening. Ever. FTL ships dropped in at system zenith and sent ID before the first vane pulse, so ID arrived nearly simultaneously with the entry wavefront. In arrival always, always, came with a ship name attached. Period. That information kept honest folk from flashing on Beta Station...and the ghosts of stationers who had just disappeared, back at the dawn of all the star-stations, when the sub-lighter Santa Maria had come into Beta Station, at Proxima Centauri, and found..nothing. No remains, no explanation, no clue.

No one visited Proxima, ever, after that. Alpha Station, at Barnard’s Star, the first station outside Sol system itself, developed daughter stations in the opposite direction, and thrived.

Until FTL changed everything.

I forget exactly where I first came across Cherryh, but it was pretty early on. I still remember the excitement of reading Downbelow Station. Shortly thereafter, Mayfair Games came out with a boardgame based on the book and the author was invited to be a guest at Origins (back when it was a traveling show). I remember meeting her when I was volunteering at either the Game Designers' Workshop or the Steve Jackson Games booth, walking around and looking bemused at another wacky fandom.

As time went by, I read other books in the series (and other books by the author, but these remained my first love). There was the time that I had saved up a couple of the Chanur books and read them while sitting on hard plastic chairs in a uncomfortable waiting room to fulfill my obligation to serve on a jury (I never was called, so I got a lot of reading done that week). There was the time, relatively early on in the commercial internet, when I found a C.J. Cherryh mailing list. That led to a lot of discussion, timelines, and even some wonderful stellar software (sadly withered and abandoned) that allowed you to see the positions of the stars in the books, the possible jump routes and the like.

May this book be the first of many more!

What's Up for the Winter?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us what you can see (for the northern hemisphere) in the night sky this winter. Get out and take a look!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ansible! Ansible!

Man, it's been too long since I've dipped into and posted a few nuggets from Dave Langford's Ansible!

Kids These Days: "ARTHUR C. CLARKE featured in the 27 November Jeopardy quiz: 'This 
Space Odyssey author: 'I predict that a new species could well appear 
on Earth—what I call Robosapiens.' No one could supply his name. [AIP]"

Ring of Confidence Dept. 'Val's face was more confident now that 
he had sphincter control.' (T.G. Bass, Half Past Human, 1971)

Death Spirals

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video from a computer model showing the interaction of a pair of black holes. Stay tuned for a related posting tomorrow@

Sunday, December 2, 2018


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope image of The Eagle Nebula (Messier 16). Take a good look, the nebula is evaporating!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dual Hunters

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day combines a long exposure to show Orion in the sky and in a river. Look at all that light pollution along the horizon! Those people will never see what you're seeing in this image.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Southern Crown

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Corona Australis, a rich complex of stars, gas and dust and even (by accident of alignment) a globular cluster. Imagine that as a view from your front porch on a new planet!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Warthog Wednesday

Happy Warthog Wednesday, everyone. How can anything so ugly be so beautiful (to a ex-armor crewman)?

Situational Awareness

"All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us...they can’t get away this time” —Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller.

That reminds me, I have a book to read.

Late Night Radio

Back in the days of my misbegotten yut, we listened to podcasts transmitted "over the air".

Set the Controls

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us into the depths of the heart of the Soul Nebula, IC 1871, found in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Cold gas and dust coming together, hot young stars flying apart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

First Image

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the first image transmitted by NASA's InSight lander from the surface of Mars. The lander (based on the design used in the polar-exploring Mars Phoenix mission and Mars Polar Lander) will emplace instruments on the surface and beneath the surface to get a better picture of what the interior of Mars is like.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Launch to Orbit

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the launch of a cargo vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome as seen from the International Space Station. Where have I seen that before?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Falling Potato

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an image of Phobos, one of the two moons of Mars, courtesy of the Viking 1 Orbiter. Take a good look, Phobos will not always be with us.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Infalling Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a Leonid meteor over the skies of the Black Forest. "Mouseover" the image in the link for a constellation guide.

On this morning's walk with our dog, I observed a meteor, the International Space Station and Venus. You can see some amazing things with even just the "naked" eye!