Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Lucky Test

An amateur astronomy and a test of a new camera results in the images making up today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Victor Buso caught a supernova, apparently in the very early stages of eruption, in NGC 613, in the constellation of Sculptor. Due to the size of the observable universe vs. the availability of "professional" equipment, amateur astronomers (many with equipment that would make professionals of the past weep with envy) are still at the forefront in observing the planets, variable stars, and finds in events like nova. Only relatively recently have the machines taken over the lead finding comets (mainly the hyper-productive satellite named SOHO!)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Three Rivers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a river of water, a river of light (the Milky Way) and a river of dust (zodiacal light). The third is created by dust from comets passing near Jupiter. That is a lot of comets!

Monday, February 26, 2018


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video taken from a perijove (close encounter) by the Juno orbiter currently observing the largest planet of our system. Imagine this as the view from your (very radiation hardened) cockpit window!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Flame On!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us variable star AE Aurigae and the Flaming Star Nebula. Try to catch a glimpse of it (even in a modest telescope) in Auriga, as it is well placed in the northern hemisphere this time of the year.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Full View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows spiral galaxy NGC 6946 (the "Fireworks Galaxy"). Face on to us, we can see structures hidden to us in our own galaxy due to dust and gas clouds. A beautiful view!

Friday, February 23, 2018

South Massif

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view from Lunar Module Challenger and features Command Module America as the Apollo 17 landing was underway. Now, where are my 3D glasses?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Roses Are Red

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2237, 2239 and 2246, which, combined, make up the Rosette Nebula. This image combines images in a few narrow edges of the spectrum, to see the red rose, either "mouseover" the image in the link or see this.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Red Jupiter

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope of Jupiter taken in the infrared frequencies of light. Take a special note of the Great Red Spot, some are saying that it will be completely gone within ten years.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dragon Bite

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a partial solar eclipse over Farallon Island in the waters near Buenos Aires. Has a dragon taken a bite?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Satie's Formations

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video (soundtrack courtesy of Erik Satie!) depicting galaxy formation in the early universe.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Into Orion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day peers deep into the interior of Messier 42, the Great Nebula in Orion to look at variable star LL Orionis and the stellar wind it causes.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Not Quite the Hayden Planetarium

I remember as a kid going to the Hayden Planetarium where they had painted the skyline from Central Park around the edge of the dome and watching a star show (years later I returned to listen to Pink Floyd and watch lasers). Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows today's sky over New York City: a few scattered star trails and a lucky ISS pass, but the lights drown out all else!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Spot the Comet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a bit of a puzzle. Can you spot Comet C/2016 R2 PanSTARRS? You probably could if this was a "naked eye" view through a low power/rich field telescope, but thanks to the light-gathering power of the digital camera used, the sky is almost "too busy" to find the comet. (Hint: examine the lower left corner!)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Moon that Skates

Seeming to be skating on an ice rink, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day actually shows Enceladus (and those jets of vapor!) and the rings of Saturn. Caught in "saturnlight" is another moon, Pandora. Image courtesy of the Cassini orbiter.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Deep in the Heart

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings IC 1805 in the constellation of Cassiopeia to showcase the holiday (Valentine's Day).

Mocha: 2008 (Adoption) to 2018

I will say more when I can, but yesterday we had to say goodbye to our friend Mocha. My heart has broken and I can write no more. Born 2006 (our guess), adopted 2008, died February 13, 2018.

All our dogs have been rescue dogs: Java, Saffron, Cosmo, Mocha. All were wonderful dogs. Do a rescue dog a favor. Adopt a lonely rescue dog.


It’s difficult to talk about it. She developed what is called a “soft tissue sarcoma”, essentially a cancer inside a bone. It’s a very bad cancer in animals, life expectancy is very short, even with aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy and amputation, neither of which was really recommended for her at the point we finally figured out what was going on.

She had trouble walking, until she developed a way of doing a “bunny hop”, we also had a sling for her to get up and down the steps, made four beds for her in various rooms so she could lie down wherever she wanted to, bought a lot of high-end food (she lost about 40 pounds before we figured out a combination of drugs and food to counteract the pain and the way the disease was eating into muscle mass), and had her on several different pain medications.

It was clear as of last week that we were talking days, weeks if we were lucky, not months after we had our last conference with the vet. In fact, to be honest, at that point they were amazed that she had lasted that long.

The weekend had more drama in the extended family. And even more drama by today, so, I went home at noon to make sure Mocha was all right and to give her the noon prescription.

When I sat down next to her, I noticed an odd smell, then looked at her leg and saw that a patch we had noticed there had turned into an infected area, specifically gangrene. Which is hard enough to treat normally without a person or an animal being as sick as she was. She was also panting heavily and shivering, seeing that she was on so much pain medication already, I knew that she must have hit a new level and even six different prescriptions were useless.

So, we called the vet’s office and brought her over. They couldn’t have been nicer (we’ve been going there for about twenty years, this is our third dog who has been a patient of theirs). They had a room prepared with blankets to make her comfortable and explained the procedure and gave us time to say goodbye.

This is the first time, other than a week between Java (our first dog) and Saffron (our second), that we haven’t had one or more dogs in the house. They’ve all been great dogs, but Mocha was very special to us. She had a wonderful personality, was always happy, always wagging her tail, even at the sickest, in the most pain, and to the end.

It’s been very hard to handle.

Am not going to argue whether a machine can "really" be alive, "really" be self-aware. Is a virus self-aware? Nyet! How about oyster? I doubt it. A cat? Almost certainly. A human? Don't know about you tovarishch, but I am. Somewhere along evolutionary chain from macromolecule to human brain self-awareness crept in. Psychologists assert it happens automatically whenever a brain acquires certain very high number of associational paths. Can't see it matters whether paths are protein or platinum.

("Soul?" Does dog have a soul? How about cockroach?)
 (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Part 1, That Dinkum Thinkum, Chapter 1)

"Do dogs have souls? Maybe not in the sense we reserve for ourselves, but in other sense: memory. That's where they go, and it's good enough for them...I thought of some other dogs I've known, and how it's necessary to recollect them from time to time, and thank them for the honor of holding their ghosts until you relinquish your own." (James Lileks)

"I know of no reason why I should not look for the animals to rise again, in the same sense in which I hope myself to rise again—which is, to reappear, clothed with another and better form of life than before. If the Father will raise His children, why should He not also raise those whom He has taught His little ones to love?

"Love is the one bond of the universe, the heart of God, the life of His children: if animals can be loved, they are lovable; if they can love, they are yet more plainly lovable: love is eternal; how then should its object perish? Must the love live on forever without its object? or, worse still, must the love die with its object, and be eternal no more than it?

"Is not our love to the animals a precious variety of love? And if God gave the creatures to us, that a new phase of love might be born in us toward another kind of life from the same fountain, why should the new life be more perishing than the new love?

"Can you imagine that, if, hereafter, one of God's little ones were to ask Him to give again one of the earth's old loves—kitten, or pony, or squirrel, or dog, which He had taken from him, the Father would say no? If the thing was so good that God made it for and gave it to the child at first who never asked for it, why should He not give it again to the child who prays for it because the Father had made him love it? What a child may ask for, the Father will keep ready."
 (George MacDonald)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Electric Shuttle

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another image of Starman in a Tesla, orbital view courtesy of the recent test of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picasso's Blue Period

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows blue-tinged Comet C/2016 R2 (PanSTARRS) "approaching" (apparently) the Pleiades cluster, encased in blue nebulosity.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Love it or hate it, there seems to be no middle ground. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is the payload for the test of SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy launch vehicle: a Tesla Roadster (with an instrument panel reading DON'T PANIC in large, friendly letters) with a mannequin named Starman.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dual Eclipse

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a pretty incredible processed and composited image of the 2018 lunar eclipse and the 2017 solar eclipse rolled into one!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tree of Stars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows star trails (caused by long photographic exposure) over a lonely tree in Hebei Province in China.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spiral Clouds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day comes courtesy of the far-sighted Hubble Space Telescope: NGC 7331, a magnificent spiral galaxy in the constellation of Pegasus (well suited for early evening viewing in the northern hemisphere).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shells and Streams

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of those you see and have trouble grasping because of the visual confusion. NGC 474, an elliptical galaxy, seems to emitting shells of matter. What causes this? (Zoom in on the image: how many other galaxies can you spot?)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Taken in 2012, our next view of such an event won't be until 2117.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Shadow and Hive

No, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is not the title of a new work by Gene Wolfe. Instead we have a sequence of the eclipsed Moon (from January 31) passing near Praesepe (Messier 44), popularly known as The Beehive.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Setting Eclipse 01

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the setting Moon over the mountains of Arizona. The first full Moon of the year was also the first lunar eclipse of the year.

Image courtesy of...Mr. Eclipse (!).