Saturday, May 31, 2008

stormtroopers vs. london police

the game begins.... my money is on the stormtroopers.

order of the empire found at kiku's on tumblr.

the moon thru an old telescope

I took some family members up to see UT's old 9-in refracting telescope while they were in austin. we discovered that the tower was lit up in honor of all 2008 graduates! congratuations graduates!

i hadnt previously tried to capture the view of the moon thru the telescope, thru my digi-cam, but the results were pretty successful, as you can see! on each image, there's a dark line toward the top right and a dot to the left, showing stuff stuck on the telescope's eyepiece lens.

the first image is a little darker so you can see the details of the lines that stretch out from each crater on the surface of the moon, marking where ejecta shot out in every direction after the impact that created each crater.

the contrast of the second image highlights the texture toward the top right of the image, showing the depth of the craters at the edge of the moon. thats my favorite part of looking at the moon thru a telescope!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


here's an entertaining homemade video for a song about a particular difficulty in academia...

spotted by old grimy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

happy not 30th birthday to me!

you know its going to be a memorable birthday when you wake up with a chilled keg in your room! (?)

and from xkcd today:

Monday, May 26, 2008

make a donation

if the information on this site interests you, intrigues you, or otherwise inspires you and you would like to make a donation to astropixie, please use one of the options below to make a contribution. the amount you donate is entirely up to you.

why donate? amanda wants to spend her time sharing with people the knowledge and inspiration she has gained while studying the universe. she wants to help people directly by creating new blog posts, articles, podcasts, and videos; and by speaking to worldwide groups. if you want to support amanda in her mission to supply people with the tools to appreciate the astronomical phenomena that affect all humans equally, and the inspiration to think critically about their surroundings, please make a contribution. any amount is appreciated!

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thank you very much for your support and encouragement!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

exciting may weekend!

we have an exciting weekend ahead, over our heads! not only is monday my birthday, but many entertaining astronomical events are occurring as well!

if youre up early either saturday or sunday morning, you'll see the bright planet jupiter rising close to the waning gibbous moon. look to the south about an hour before sunrise:

the international space station (ISS) is currently orbiting the earth just near the line that splits night and day, which provides a continuously beeming bright ISS shooting across the sky every hour and a half! check out the heaven's above website to figure out when the bright ISS passes over your head.

finally.... the phoenix mars spacecraft will be landing on the surface of mars near the mysterious north pole region this sunday!! you can watch the event LIVE on NASA tv from 3:00 - 8:00 pm (i think thats pacific time?). you can also head over to mars live, where chris lintott and doug ellison will guide a guaranteed-to-be-entertaining live tour!

Friday, May 23, 2008

keep amanda weird

there exists a fantastic tradition among the astronomy graduate students at UT: when a person earns a PhD, the rest of the students honor that person by creating a special t-shirt which includes photos, memories from grad school, inside jokes and his or her dissertation research. the t-shirt is informally presented and explained at the official PhD party.

i don't know for certain how long ago this tradition started (any deas?), but the original t-shirts had a single plot from the dissertation and that was all! the rise of photoshop and gimp have initiated the development of quite intricate shirts over the years.

i admit i was super excited to join the PhD club *and* receive my official shirt at my party last weekend. it's a rite of passage, really, and i'm so pleased with the result!!! the front of the shirt generally shares random events from the grad school years, usually presented thru some sort of a theme. since the students found so many pictures of me from this blog and other sources, they chose to show pictures of me eating and drinking in all the places i've traveled to and spent time during grad school with the theme: on the road again!

the top left is me trying hard to keep my beer out of the water during one of our many boat parties on a lake just outside of austin. below that is "flat amanda" followed by my advisor pouring me a margarita while we were in mexico celebrating the wedding of former UT astronomers. on down the line.... drinking in brasil and eating homemade empanadas in chile. the right side features me eating a huge plate of meat in a viking-themed restaurant in sanitago, chile, and drinking a larger-than-my-head-sized mug of beer at the oktoberfestival while wearing my bona fide dirnd'l!

they also thought to include my evolving modes of transportation. although i've never owned a volkswagen, i've always been affiliated with people who have, and joined the austin aircoolers vw gang pretty much immediately after i moved to austin. i owned a car for a couple years, but upgraded to a scooter and a bicycle at some point. several months ago, i sold the scooter so now i'm down to my bike and the city bus system... and i love it (although its definitely summer now in texas so i'm little sweaty whenever i arrive somewhere by bike!)!

the back of the shirt is themed after the astropixie blog! the subtitle comes from cleverly changing a very popular phrase around here: keep austin weird, to "keep amanda weird"!! haha!

if you've been to austin, maybe you've noticed that it's a little weird in general, but the basis of the "keep austin weird" project is to support local stores and style so people can sustain their independent businesses, and the city can retain its unique subtlety without be run over by big money superstores that are frankly.. no fun at all!

the shirt superbly ties in so many memories from grad school, and even includes a tiny little plot from my research on the right.... just under the "science: it works, bitches" banner! as a play on the cartoon that i have at the bottom of the blog, they included several pictures of me "in disguise." they joked that they found way more pictures of me in costumes than they had room to include on the t-shirt... so i guess it's fair to say that i enjoy dressing up ;)

thank you so much amy, marty, andrea and everyone else!!

yippeee :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

living on another planet

here's the astronomy picture of the day today. it depicts what the environment might be like on the surface of the planet (uncreatively named) Gliese 876d. APOD explains:

On planet Gliese 876d, sunrises might be dangerous. Although nobody really knows what conditions are like on this close-in planet orbiting variable red dwarf star Gliese 876, the above artistic illustration gives one impression. With an orbit well inside Mercury and a mass several times that of Earth, Gliese 876d might rotate so slowly that dramatic differences exist between night and day. Gliese 876d is imagined above showing significant volcanism, possibly caused by gravitational tides flexing and internally heating the planet, and possibly more volatile during the day. The rising red dwarf star shows expected stellar magnetic activity which includes dramatic and violent prominences. In the sky above, a hypothetical moon has its thin atmosphere blown away by the red dwarf's stellar wind. Gliese 876d excites the imagination partly because it is one of the few extrasolar planets known to be close to the habitable zone of its parent star.

this dramatic image was created by Inga Nielsen and it's worth visiting her website and checking out some of her other digital art. here are some of my other favorites.

galaxy rise

far behind the skies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

animated grafitti

this is one of the coolest pieces of urban art ever... created in argentina and found at

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


this weekend my grandparents gave me a book called everyday wisdom, by dr. wayne w. dyer. i just opened to a random quote that reads:
there's nothing to worry about --- ever!!
either you have control or you don't.
if you do, take control; if you don't,
dismiss it. don't waste your energy on worry.

over the last several months, i'd say i spent a fair bit of time worrying about the outcome of my dissertation defense, but as the quote points out... i had control over my destiny. i agree that worry over things i have no control over is pointless, but i feel this goal was something i had control over. focus energy on things that are possible to change.......

phoenix landing

the phoenix spacecraft will be landing on the surface of mars next sunday, may 25th. here's a nice video from JPL describing the landing and what to expect. i'm excited for this event!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

beginning aftermath

the night before my big day... just after i had finally gotten to sleep, a gigantic thunder boom woke me up and completely scared me! the storm last for a while, dropped texas-sized hail and the wind blew the trees around like crazy. i couldnt get back to sleep.... until approximately 6am! turns out that the storm knocked down trees and branches all over town, killing electricity to over 20,000 austin residents! as i walked thru campus the morning of the big day, the atmosphere felt like a twisted fall season where the leaves forgot to turn colors before they fell off the trees to the ground!

i was feeling pretty nervous before my talk started.... but ready to go and get it all over with!!!

insert a successful talk and 1.5 hour closed door session... and then i'm off to the bar to celebrate with my wonderful family!!

tonight is my official party night! cant wait!! woohoo!

reality of doctor-hood is slowing sinking in. what an absolutely amazing feeling! not only the satisfaction of the accomplishment, but the clarity of thought as my mind finally connects all the pieces of info together from all the things i’ve learned and studied over the last many years!

thanks to everyone for all the kind words :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

just call me doctor!

dr. bauer

dr. astropixie

dr. banana

aunti doctor

doctor amanda

keep 'em coming! i'm so thoroughly thrilled and extremely exhausted. incredible!!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

tomorrow is *the* day!

the big day... defense day... i cant wait for it to happen... and be over! i'm excited and nervous and anxious and ultimately.... ready!!!

many family members are coming into town to support me and celebrate with me, which is so humbling and exciting! thanks to everyone for all the encouraging words. i'll be back to my regular blogging frequency soon!!! yippee!

Monday, May 12, 2008

everything's bigger in texas

yesterday, i saw some texas-sized hail!!

it was a nice (loud) break from this....

(the work, not the beer.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

space walker on colbert

current international space station resident, astronaut Garrett Reisman, spoke with stephen colbert recently in an excellent interview. and just so you know stephen... my offer is still open.

thanks universe today!

grin and bear it!

an intersection about a mile from where i grew up in cincinnati, ohio.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

eat food, mostly plants

a couple things i've learned from my own experience and from micheal pollan, author of in defense of food:

i enjoy real food! i love eating with family and friends. i'm most satisfied when i cook my food!!!!

i try not to eat anything my great-grandmother wouldnt recognize (i read ingredients... if there are more than about 5, i usually dont know what they are!)

i dont eat on the go... in a car.... while walking... i like to sit down and appreciate my food!

when i moved back to austin, i joined a locally-grown food delivery service called greenling. every week they deliver a huge box of veggies and fruits, grown on central texas farms to my front door!!!! i absolutely LOVE it! the fresh food tastes wonderful, i pay about $35 a week for whatever has been harvested in the last week, the food lasts me the entire week, i think my allergies have reduced immensely due to eating local foods, i've learned how to cook many new foods that i never would have bought on my own at the grocery store, i havent been sick since i moved back, in general i feel healthy... i must say its one of the best things i've ever done!! and since i am carless, it's amazingly nice to not have to grocery shop with a backpack to carry stuff home!

i walked to the farmers market when i lived in chile and enjoyed learning about new foods that were grown at farms just down the valley, and now i feel like i'm getting a glimpse of what farmers in my area around austin are actually doing. it's great.

anyway, here's micheal pollan speaking at google. the video is an hour long, and it's completely worth it...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

dissertation word cloud

an excellent suggestion from chuck, the lab lemming, inspired me to create a word-cloud of the last chapter of my dissertation... in its current state.

created at

i take it as a good sign that only one reference creeped in there, although the latex command i use for calling references, citep, sure did! can you tell i study galaxy formation and evolution?? thats another good sign!! one week and a few days left until the defense... thanks for the distraction, chuck!

i used tag crowd to create my word cloud.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

battlestar democratica

its a clear play on the clever battlestar galactica summary of the first three seasons called what the frak is going on?... nonetheless, here is a 7 min video that summarizes the democratic race to the official nomination...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

carniva of space - anniversary edition

an amazing selection this week at the one year anniversary of the carnval of space hosted by why homeschool.

i contributed the discussion of some fantastic images of saturn and iapetus.