Sunday, March 31, 2019

Chain Chain Chain

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the heart of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, focusing on Markarian's Chain. Even a "amateur" telescope can peek into wonders like this.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dimensional Iceberg

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a anaglyph (three-dimensional) image of Comet 1969 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, courtesy of the ESA's Rosetta probe. Want more? There's a catalog of 1400 such images. Break out your red-green glasses!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dusty Details

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us an image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing the interior structures of Messier 104 (popularly known as The Sombrero Galaxy).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Parallex View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day peers into Messier 15, a globular cluster in the constellation of Pegasus. Look carefully. Do you see the sparkles? The animated image highlights so-called RR Lyrae stars, variable stars with shifts in brightness (sometimes quite dramatic shifts) of less than a day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Flaming Star Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us IC 405, the Flaming Star Nebula and the star that gives the area it's name, AE Aurigae.

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video bringing us into globular cluster Terzan 5. Click on the play button in the link for a journey to the cluster!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Eye of Sauron?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has the full Moon apparently hovering over four towers in Spain. Where have we seen this before?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Winter Skies

As we move into spring in the northern hemisphere (and fall in the southern), today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us the winter skies over Lake Superior. Zodiacal light, auroral activity, far galaxies and the arch of our own home galaxy are on display.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Conflict" Simulation

A look at using wargames to think about hypothetical situations: an invasion by Russia into the Baltic. The article focuses on "professional" wargames (exercises by governments), but does mention some possible uses of commercial games as a source of research.

The problem that I see here is that professional wargames comes with professional price tags. They also take a long time to roll out. Maybe a better approach would be a combination of large-scale professional wargames plus easily obtainable commercial games?

Commercial games can be a valuable teaching tool. Not only do you (by a process of osmosis) learn history, but you can learn to think about hypothetical situations (such as the one that opens the above article). Rather than get stuck in an endless development cycle to try and attain the standards listed in the above article, maybe use something like this game to get leaders at all levels thinking about the implications of actions at a tactical, strategic or operational level?

Here's a review of one such commercial game, Empire of the Sun, designed by Mark Herman and published by GMT Games. One interview with the designer spoke about how he played the game with an actual practitioner (at around one hour, three minutes) of the naval craft. The admiral in question may have been mystified by the game at first (cardboard counters), but knew how to play the "game" of running fleets and implementing a strategy.

Through the Lens of Einstein

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy cluster Abell 370. Why do the galaxies bend?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Light and Dark

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day focuses on one of my favorite things in the winter sky of the northern hemisphere: the Orion Nebula, Messier 42, in the constellation of Orion. Nestled within the larger complex is a dark nebula known as the Horsehead. Also can be seen the Flame Nebula, the Running Man Nebula. Can you find any shapes?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Active Center

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us Messier 106, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Canes Venatici. M106 is a good example of a Seyfert Galaxy, an island universe with high levels of activity.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dust Sculpture

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us NGC 3324 in the constellation of Carina. Cosmic winds have shaped dust and gas into the nebular complex that we see.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Viewing the Pinwheel

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is entry 101 in the Messier Catalog, found in the constellation of Ursa Major. It is particularly well situated for observing this time of year in the northern hemisphere.

One famous observer in the northern hemisphere was the Leviathan of Parsontown. If you get a chance, look up some of the drawings by Lord Rosse.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Last View

From May 13, 2018, some of the final images transmitted by MSL Opportunity. A panoramic view of Perseverance Valley, Mars.

Addendum: It appears that this is also today's Astronomy Picture of the Day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Marathon Skies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us the highlights of the Spring 2019 for the Northern Hemisphere. Early spring, during the dark of the Moon is when amateur astronomers lose sleep and try to tick off as many items as they can for the Messier Marathon. (If you don't think sitting outside for an entire night of a northern hemisphere early spring isn't an endurance test, give it a try!).

A view from the southern hemisphere is below.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video (in the link) of JAXA's Hayabusa2 landing (well, touching down and bouncing off of) on asteroid 162173 Ryugu. The vehicle has already fired a "bullet" into the asteroid to see if it is possible that a larger "bullet" will be able to collect a sample, has extensively imaged the asteroid, may land again, and will hang around for most of the year before meandering back to Earth with the collected samples.

Exciting times for robotic exploration!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Starburst Pathways

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day combines images from the SOFIA airborne observatory, the Kitt Peak National Observatory on the ground and the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope to study the inner workings of Messier 82, the Cigar Galaxy. Signs of the galactic magnetic field are captured here, linked to the "galactic wind", showing how both help the circulation of newly created stars from where they are created and out into the rest of the galaxy.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Traffic Jam

Over at Nature, Jamie Morin talks about spaaaaaaccceee!

It's actually becoming a serious problem. There are more than hundreds of thousands artificial objects in space. Many are working satellites, ranging from scientific platforms (Hubble) to communications satellites (channeling everything from what you read on the internet to what you watch on your television) to GPS providers (getting you around strange places).

In addition to working vehicles, there are many pieces of debris. These pose a serious hazard as they could not only knock a hole in a crewed vehicle, but could knock out a vital piece of global infrastructure. The nightmare scenario would be the so-called Kessler Effect/Syndrome, where a cascade of debris creates more debris, and further more debris...until the orbital infrastructure is seriously compromised and the ability to launch (or service what is left) may not happen.

What can we do? There are solutions (but they will require serious plans and serious funds). Will we ever be able to send up the Toybox?


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows our Moon rising through the shadow cast by Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. (Look for the description of a similar sight in Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise.)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dust Lanes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 78, dust clouds and nebula found in the constellation of Orion, one of my favorite regions to explore in the winter night skies of the northern hemisphere.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Inhabitant of the Cosmic Ocean

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day focuses on the region of the constellation Gemini, riding high in the northern hemisphere skies this time of the year. Sharpless 249 is on the left and cosmic sea inhabitant IC 443, the Jellyfish Nebula, is on the right. IC 443 is related in origin to Messier 1, The Crab Nebula in that not only do both have oceanic nicknames but both were born from supernova events.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Quiet Sun

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a relatively clear and quiet solar face. Where have all the sunspots gone? Far, far away.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tiny Bubbles

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows bubbles in the structure of galaxy NGC 3079. What created them? One theory is interaction with a supermassive black hole within the galaxy. "Mouseover" the image in the link to see how everything lines up.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Double Arch

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an arch of planets (and our Moon) above a arch of rock on the shores of Sicily. "Mouseover" the image in the link for a guide to the planets and one star.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Friday, March 1, 2019

Riding the Chariot

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1) in the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. The greenish color is from the presence of diatomic carbon molecules (but I still opt for a more sinister reason).