The Universe: Death, Destruction, and the Planet Jupiter

The Universe: Death, Destruction, and the Planet Jupiter

cometcrash.jpgSo, I have to admit to being a bit remiss in blogging about the Universe series. I have a reasonably good reason: I like my husband. That may sound like a non sequitur, but you need to understand that after dating a long series of science and engineering types who all thought astronomy was great, I decided I needed to date someone who recognized astronomy could be cool, but just wasn’t all that into it. This change in strategy worked, and the first non-science and engineering doing, astronomy non-loving person I dated I ended up marrying. He is totally into blues guitars, works as a software guru doing work that in no way overlaps anything I use computers to do, and we are very happy. Unfortunately, since he really doesn’t care about astronomy, he really has no interest in watching “The Universe” with me. Robot Chicken just keeps winning over science. (Image credit: Don Davis / NASA)

So, I had to find a few hours when we weren’t both watching the TV together to try and watch “The Universe.” I hate to admit it, but the first spare hour I found, I totally fell asleep watching the episode “The End of the Earth” after doing a day’s hard yard work. Yesterday, I finally got around to watching two episodes, the end of the Earth episode as well as “Jupiter: The Giant Planet.”

Watching the shows in quick succession I had three thoughts: 1) It is always risky to talk about current events in things that are getting produced on either a magazine or television time scale, 2) if you are working on a small budget you can go a long long way using graphics available in press releases and from astronomy education materials, and 3) if you want to sell a television show, life finding or life killing science may be the best direction to go.

Read More

Redshifted Formaldehyde

Redshifted Formaldehyde

b0218hcc.gifI just finished taking a tour through the latest papers posted on the astronomy preprint server. In general, few things do more to attract a my attention than a good title. One title in particular stopped my casual scrolling dead on its pixels: Redshifted formaldehyde from the gravitational lens B0218+357. Now, I knew beforehand that formaldehyde – the chemical people who store dead things used to use to preserve their specimens – existed in clouds of interstellar material. Other than knowing it is out there, I have to admit that I really don’t know why anyone cares that it exists beyond the “Oh neat” factor. So… I stopped to read the paper. (Image: CASTLES Survey)

Read More

Random Thought 5

I just looked over my podcast stats (a self hating act if there ever was one). My numbers have been slowly creeping up about 10 readers per week since I went daily at the beginning of May. It is sad, but it is encouraging. I see growth. It’s just slow. If you guys could plug my little blog whenever you see an entry that you like, I’d deeply appreciate it.
And tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled onslaught on science.

Read More

Random Thought 4

Just last week, it seems, Venus was in Gemini and Saturn stood half a sky away in Leo. Seeing Venus and Saturn side-by-side in Leo the past couple days makes me wonder where the days have gone.

When you really watch the sky, it is truly amazing how fast things can move.

Read More

The Art of the Star Party

The Art of the Star Party

starparty.jpgLast night I attempted to give a star party for a group of about 50 girl scouts. It was a noble effort, but I have to admit that it devolved into learned old(ish) person speaking before a group of seated in rows youngish people. I’m generally opposed to this type of teaching, but I had run out of plans.

Plan A: Lots of telescopes all pointed at different objects allowing people to go from scope to scope, and binoculars with volunteers so that people can get a hands-on-guided tour of the sky. However, since I had only 1 scope and 1 helper, this was not an option.

Plan B: Bring a bunch of star wheels and red-flash lights and teach everyone how to find their way around the sky, and then have one person man a scope while whoever else is available circulates answering questions and giving pointers. Unfortunately, since it was cloudy and we could see exactly 1 Moon, 2 planets and 9 stars, this too was not an option.

Plan C: Pamela (that would be me) hands out star wheels and red flash lights, teaches everyone how to use them, and then apologizes profusely for the weather. Pamela’s wonder assistant shows kids the Moon through the telescope. Pamela does tap dance involving “If you look here and pretend real hard, you might be able to see the big dipper and you can arc off the big dipper to Arctaurus, which is here, and if it was clear you could spike to Spica (which is hidden in this cloud).” This particular dance number was followed by a soft-shoe involving Saturn, a merengue on how to measure the distance to the Moon with lasers, and then a quick retreat.

Clearly, I need more plans.

Read More
Now live! Expect the Unexpected.
Currently offline.