helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Happy valentines day!

NGC 1999 in Orion
(brought to my attention by resident astronomer [livejournal.com profile] invaderxan)
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Mercury's apparent retrograde motion lasts 2-3 weeks. Venus retrograde lasts one month or thereabouts. Mars retrograde lasts for about 3 months. These time differences are to be expected given the distances and positions with respect to the sun and earth. But look at all the other planets. Jupiter's, Saturn's, Uranus's, Neptune's and Pluto's all last around 5 months. I'm sure there's a mathematical explanation for why the apparent backwards orbit of the outer planets are the same length no matter how far away they are, but I'm not sure what it is.

Edit: Clearly I can't count. Jupiter's is four months. Saturn's is 4.5. Uranus's is 5.0. Neptune's is 5.0. Pluto's is 5.5. Still, the outer planets are puzzling, since they are at vastly different distances. Maybe their actual orbital speeds are different, but I'm not sure that accounts for it.

Here's the schedule:

Date	        Planetary station	 Exact degree

Dec 31, 2008	Saturn turns retrograde	 21Vir46
Jan 11, 2009	Mercury turns retrograde 07Aqu45
Feb 1, 2009	Mercury turns direct	 21Cap44
Mar 6, 2009	Venus turns retrograde	 15Ari27
Apr 4, 2009	Pluto turns retrograde	 03Cap18
Apr 17, 2009	Venus turns direct	 29Pis11
May 7, 2009	Mercury turns retrograde 01Gem44
May 17, 2009	Saturn turns direct	 14Vir54
May 29, 2009	Neptune turns retrograde 26Aqu28
May 30, 2009	Mercury turns direct	 22Tau52
Jun 15, 2009	Jupiter turns retrograde 27Aqu01
Jul 1, 2009	Uranus turns retrograde	 26Pis37
Sep 7, 2009	Mercury turns retrograde 06Lib13
Sep 11, 2009	Pluto turns direct	 00Cap39
Sep 29, 2009	Mercury turns direct	 21Vir36
Oct 13, 2009	Jupiter turns direct	 17Aqu09
Nov 4, 2009	Neptune turns direct	 23Aqu41
Dec 1, 2009	Uranus turns direct	 22Pis42
Dec 20, 2009	Mars turns retrograde	 19Leo41
Dec 26, 2009	Mercury turns retrograde 21Cap47
Jan 13, 2010	Saturn turns retrograde	 04Lib39
Jan 15, 2010	Mercury turns direct	 05Cap33
Mar 10, 2010	Mars turns direct	 00Leo17
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Wellp, we went to the 'star party' at the Morgan County Observatory - it was very nice to be able to see the milky way and dozens of constellations with no problem. The night was pretty clear with only a few cloud wisps here and there, and after around 9:30 the air was relatively still. The first people to arrive (besides us) were from Baltimore - they'd come to Morgan County for the weekend to get away from the crowds. Several people commented that there was "nothing here". I tended to disagree - there were a lot of stars, there was a big open field surrounded by woods, there was an observatory dome, and there was a telescope. Definitely a lot more than "nothing"...

Finally the person who engineered and runs the whole thing showed up. He was kind of a character, and he talked about his efforts to convince various local politicians that funding the observatory was a good idea, and he talked about how some friend of Senator Byrd convinced the Naval Research Lab that donating the telescope to Morgan County and placing it near the elementary school was also a very good idea. He seemed about 45% finagler and 55% geek, which percentage varied with necessity.

He hosts training sessions in January for operating the telescope (finding things in the sky is the hardest part - this scope was built well before there were automatic GPS starfinders in telescopes). Throughout the evening, he managed to locate Jupiter, the Hercules Globular Cluster, Andromeda, the Ring Nebula, and the Albireo double star system. The telescope was not cooperating in allowing him to locate the Trifid Nebula in Lyra or epsilon Lyrae, a "double-double" star system in Lyra, though. Outside he used a green laser to point out various stars and constellations. It was remarkably effective at pointing out individual, barely visible stars. A number of us played a game where we matched constellations with their names, and there was a movie about the history of the observatory.

The dome itself is kind of an amazing piece of work. He would pull a lever and the whole roof would begin to rotate (with a rather startlingly thunderous noise) until it came to rest at a certain coordinate. Then another lever would rotate the scope into position. After that was the hard part of trying to pinpoint the second of arc where something was located at a given moment in the earth's rotation. Once it was located, the earth tracker would be activated to correct for the earth's rotation.

It was rather fun and disturbing to see how this thing was actually allowed its existence through the geekery/finaglery and perseverance of one person. I may join to support them. I'm not sure if I want to let myself in for becoming an operator. I remember those nights in January trying to find some elusive object with the Celestron 8s. I was no good at it whatsoever (I need the auto-GPS kind of telescope, sadly).
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
This is from 2/24, taken at 6:00 pm by NASA (http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/)


That's one very large magnetic storm going on... The green one looks like Godzilla to me I see a lizard eye and a lizard mouth and everything. Weird.


Jan. 10th, 2005 10:32 am
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Hey, there's a comet out there that's close enough to reach it with a rocket ship by the 4th of July this year. They're planning to drop a 1300 pound copper probe onto it to penetrate the core so they can see what's in it.


A comet that's close enough to reach with a rocket ship by the 4th of July. Earth's escape velocity is 11 km/s. So lessee. There are approximately 18,144,000 seconds in 7 months (we've already used up ten days of that, so it's less than that). Times 11 km/s = 199,584,000 kilometers.

So the thing is like 200 million kilometers away. This is about 124 million miles. A little farther away than the sun. Assuming the rocket travels at the escape velocity. I don't see a reason why it would speed up or slow down in space once it escapes the earth's orbit, with no resistance to slow it down. However, maybe after escape, additional rocket engines will fire and make it accelerate (I don't actually know). Maybe it's a lot closer than that. It would have to be to see it with the unaided eye as the article says (I think). As I said, I don't know...

Anyway I enjoy scaring myself, so thought I'd start early....
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)

Computer-generated 3-D model accounts for geological magnetic field evidence.
Model successfully explains how the magnetic field keeps regenerating instead of decaying over time, and actually accounted for periodic reversals. From what I understand, the field of the outer core appears to be the reverse of the inner. I suppose that when the field flips, the two reverse (maybe - I'm no geologist). But what gets it started up again once it goes to 0 is a question. The model seems to account for that - in the model version, the field regenerated after it zeroed out and the flip occurred.

One thought that occurred to me is that the world is a giant millworking...

For reference, a "millworking" is a magical technique in which an outer circle is set to spinning clockwise by having seated participants grab the edge of a non-physical Well and move it clockwise. The reflected Well in the Underworld spins counterclockwise. The interaction between the two creates a column of energy from the Underworld to the Overworld, with this realm being the connector. Or maybe it creates a field that loops around like Van Allen belts in the earth's magnetic field...

Hey I wonder what would happen if a ring of people at various points around the globe did a millworking that connected in with, spanned, and reflected the spirit of the earth.


Oct. 29th, 2004 03:15 pm
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Cassini finds evidence Titan (one of Saturn's moons) may be geologically alive.

Also, check http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7043
There's also evidence of water vapor on another one of Saturn's moons:

Different subject (Huge Snakes):

And anyone who has the fool idea in their heads to get a Burmese python, read this first:

They're Just Too Big to keep as pets. Too Big. They can grow 25-30 feet, they weigh 3-400 pounds, and they can kill a person. So people ditch them in the everglades, just like they ditch all their trash in all wooded areas.

Baby Burmese pythons are sold at small pet shops all over. I'm not in favor of regulating this, either. People should regulate themselves. I'm tired of paying for other people's sheer stupidity with even more idiotic regulations. Evolve or die.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Mikulski Calls New Hubble Report "Enormously Encouraging"
Wednesday July 14, 2004


Senator Calls Hubble "The Greatest Scientific Instrument Since Galileo's Telescope"

Yay! They might not take it down after all! I hope not! I've been fighting to keep it alive for a year now.


Apr. 8th, 2004 05:48 pm
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
This is one of my favorite pictures of an interstellar object:

It would be disconcerting to see that rising every morning (yet another reason to appreciate the sun)...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
For astronomy buffs and stargazers:


Shiny universe...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)

Kind of pricy to join ($50/year) but very nifty.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Things are looking up - they're re-evaluating. The petition garnered 30,858 signatures so far. Not many really, considering the overall population, but better than nothing. Let's hope that the "outside evaluation" doesn't consist of appointees with prescribed Hubble-eliminating proclivities.

This morning I got this letter from the people at http://www.savethehubble.org :

> Dear Fellow Petitioner,
> 30,000 strong and counting, our petition to pressure NASA to reevaluate
> their decision regarding the fate of Hubble is having the desired
> effect--recent news articles as posted on www.savethehubble.org report that
> Congress has required NASA to seek outside validation of their decision by
> the National Academy of Sciences.
> Best regards,
> Michael Paolucci
> Slooh.com
> Savethehubble.org
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)

Don't know how effective this will be but it's a place to start.

http://www.oaklandtribune.com/Stories/0,1413,82~1865~1924919,00.html - Pressure grows to save Hubble (YES!)

http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2004/01/30/nasa_to_review_decision_on_fate_of_hubble/ - NASA to review decision on fate of Hubble (I hope they do a lot more than just review it - like stuff it where the stars don't shine).

The Hubble is the best thing since sliced bread. So ok, that sounds dumb. But it just is. No arguments, end of story. Don't mess with my Hubble.

More Info: (Dead Link)

I didn't know that the decision to axe Hubble, that Eye across time and space that has provided untold insights into universal origins and outcomes not to mention riveting intergalactic displays, was prompted by the space shuttle blowing up. What better way to get people to abandon their dreams than to scare them.

But what scares me the very most is the abandonment of dreams.

April 2010



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