Totally Random

Random 1: Tomorrow I fly out to Boston for a meeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. I’ll be their until mid day Sunday. If you want to get together, let me know. I may be planting myself at a pub on Sunday to work and chat. Random 2: There is an interview of yours truly over at Books and Ideas with Ginger Campbell, MD. Give it a listen 🙂 Random 3: I was traumatized by tricker-treaters tonight. Over 200 kids in 3 hours. We went through 8 bags of candy, and reduced our selves to pulling out our personal candy stashes, and when we were bombarded with 15 kids at once and only had 5 pieces of candy left, they got snack bags of potato chips. We then turned off all our lights and hid. And this was night 1! Our town has TWO nights of...

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Return to the Moon

The last time man walked on the moon I wasn’t alive. Hopefully I won’t be able to say that for too much longer. Several different nations are gearing up to make manned assaults on the surface of the Moon. Before the people, there is a wave of explorer bots. (The good kind, not the bad spam bots like I regularly war upon.) On September 14, 2007  Japan launched the SELENE mission, which is an imaging mission. On October 24, 2007 the Chinese launched the Chang’e-1 lunar orbiter mission. And in April, India will follow up with its own mission. The next phase, human landings, may begin in 2012 with a Russian manned mission and a NASA manned mission is planned for no later than 2020. I have to admit, I’ll believe it when I see it, but…...

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Comet 17P/Holmes

If the Sun is down and you are in the northern hemisphere, look at the finder chart here and then go outside and look at this object. Now. This website will still be here when you get back. Hi there. Have a good time? No one quite knows what happened. This normally bland, boring, not visible without a fairly large telescope comet suddenly decided to flare into something that can be seen from big cities. Personally, I can’t wait to see the science on this one.  One of the best collections of data I’ve seen so far is here. There is an annulus of material (from an outburst? from a tail seen face on? from both?), jets, and evidence of molecular carbon in the tail. Why? No idea. Go look again :-)  Will discuss this more when the science papers...

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Death to Bots

As a web administrator I spent a frightening amount of time trying to prevent spam from cropping up on this site and some of the other sites I maintain. I don’t always succeed, and occasionally spam creeps into my comments. A have tools to ban specific words and I personally keep an eye on things, but I am outnumbered in this battle at least 10,000 to 1. I spent my weekend warring on evildoers. In my case, evildoers is defined as porn bots, drug bots, and every other kind of web bot that is out there waiting to invade a hapless website. I maintain the International Year of Astronomy website and forums and we’ve had a problem with invaders posting all sorts of stuff that really, well… makes me question if humans are on average good or evil. And...

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Space Carnival

It is starting to reach that busy time of year when people can’t quite keep up with everything that needs to get done. If you, like me, are looking for ways to procrastinate on writing reports, preparing Halloween costumes, or preparing for a mid0term (writing it or studying for it), then I have the procrastination tool for you: a Space Carnival! It’s a small one this week, so you’ll be able to get back to more fruitful ways of procrastination (like cleaning your desk) quickly. A Babe in the Universe: The Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment (LLRE) told us that the Moon still has a liquid core, verified that Newton’s G is indeed constant, and provided one more test of General Relativity. LLRE also found a huge but little-known anomaly in the...

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