In Search of the Moon

In Search of the Moon

161399main_orion_lander.jpgTonight I decided to whiplash my brain. After a nice dinner with friends, my husband and I settled in to watch TV. In preparation for the holiday weekend, we rented some DVDs, including the turn of the century classic Fight Club. At the end of that violent, twisted, pre-9/11 movie, I decided to break my brain by switching on “The Universe: The Moon,” a violent, straight-forward, current TV show. This latest episode of the History Channel’s television series has a few really scientifically confusing images, but does a really nice job mentioning all the possible ways the Moon could have formed. (Astronomy Cast also covered this topic in this episode.)

At the very end of the episode, they made a brief mention of the current White House’s New Vision for Space Exploration Program. The gist of this plan goes something like this:

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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.

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Astronomy and MySpace

One of the things I work to do is keep track of new communications trends. I don’t always succeed, and I have to say that Phil Plait and Fraser Cain often provide me tips to tech that I might find as fast on my own. MySpace is an old social network trend that has found a new popularity in old media (weee, that was a fun clause to write). I’ve been working with several others to create a MySpace page for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy. In doing this, I’ve been noticing what a strong presence astronomy has. Each planet in our solar system has 1 or more profiles, and many observatories and telescopes have official pages. I find something extremely heart warming in the idea that people want planets as friends.

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Stanczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk

Stanczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk

er02112matejko.jpgMy favorite painting is currently on display at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and I was just able to get my own framed copy of it for my office! Part of the traveling, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland,” exhibit, this painting by Jan Matejko depicts the Polish jester Stanczyk in deep despair after receiving word the stronghold of Smolensk had fallen. In the background, a royal ball merrily goes on while out the window a comet is seen marking oncoming tragedy. (see zoomable image here).

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Random Thought 3

Just watched the first episode of “The Universe.” It is accurate and so totally unlike anything I’ve seen on PBS that I’m at a loss for words. Take every cool image of the Sun you’ve ever seen, combine them with talking heads that are on sound stages instead of in university offices, and mix with high speed CGI animated content. Blend all on high for 45 minutes. This is not a bad thing, but it was not your Daddy’s science special. Clearly, this was science for the ADHD, digital generation – Not a single pause long enough to SMS “The Sun” was to be seen. With that audiance in mind, the only thing I could complain about is the lack of explaining what all the images of the Sun actually meant (okay, so that’s kind of big, however…). They somehow combined everything I address in 2 lectures on the Sun and its stellar evolution into 45 minutes, so I guess something had to get left out and everything else had to go fast. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom kind of fast. The History Channel is showing the episode over and over right now. Try catching it twice to catch the content, and then visit SOHO to find out what the solar images mean.

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“The Universe” on TV

“The Universe” on TV

theuniverse.JPGA new player has emerged on the science special scene. The History Channel is premiering “The Universe” tonight. You can watch “The Universe” Tuesdays at 8pm/9c. The first episode is on “The Sun.” Here is what they plan to talk about:

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