Monday, September 30, 2013

running rings around uranus

last sunday i ran my first half marathon (21 km/13 miles)... and survived!  there were many astronomer friends in sydney for the galaxy zoo conference taking place the next week, so we created team running rings around uranus for the event!  

the race began with a lovely trip across the sydney harbour bridge.  

view running across the harbour bridge (credit: darren croton)
of course we made t-shirts for the event, because how could you not with a team name like this!  ;)  thanks to heath van singel from the zooniverse team for the logo design.  

i felt great during the first 15 km of the race.  we meandered through the botanical gardens and around the city center at a good, steady pace.   i managed my best 15 km time, and was captured looking surprisingly happy in this photo at about the halfway point in the race!   

half marathon halfway point (credit: kyle willett)
it was around the 16 km mark that my jet-lagged body decided to question what i was trying to do to it. fatigue set in and i had to slow my pace for the next 2 km.  i finally started to see the signs for the final few kilometers of the 21 km half-marathon, saw the opera house during the final stretch of the race, and gritted my teeth to the finish.

nearly to the finish (credit: amit kapadia)
my goal was to finish in 2 hours, and i managed a 2:06.  i'm pretty pleased with this considering that about a month before the race, when my training had been going well, i came down with a nasty fever and cough that kept me from training for 2.5 weeks!  

half marathon survivor! (credit: kyle willett)
i like the half marathon distance.  i might have to try this race again in a year or two in order to break that 2 hour mark.... but i havent signed up for a specific date yet. 

the finish line  (credit: darren croton)
overall, it was a great day.  thanks, team!

some of team running rings around uranus

Friday, September 27, 2013

our fluffy universe

this image from ivan eder featured on APOD this week, shows the beautiful galaxy pair of M81 (left) and M82.   turns out if you expose a photo long enough, the universe looks a bit fuzzy!  

galaxies M81 and M82 through the milky way's haze (Credit: Ivan Eder

the fuzzy stuff that appears to be floating the space in the image is not associated with those galaxies at all.   after exposing for 25 hours, the photographer managed to capture the faint glow of the cirrus dust clouds in our own milky way galaxy.   beautiful!   

Friday, September 20, 2013

dotastronomy 5: timelapses and an exoplanet called colin

what a whirlwind week!!  i'm ready to leave cambridge, massachusetts after yet another inspiring dotastronomy conference.  the 5th dotastronomy conference was hosted at the microsoft new england research and development (NERD) center, a fitting location for the event, and the wifi didnt break under the pressure!

view of boston from the NERD center during dotastro5.

you can read the story of the three days of festivities through the twitter activity of the participants, which has been collated together here:  dotastronomy5 storified.

you can also read the live blogs that were created for day 1, hackday, and day 3.

my favorite video project completed in the 24 hour hackday event was this tale of an exoplanet getting a new name from the not-so-creative human species of earth.   niall deacon lead this effort, and it's truly fantastic!

i gave a talk on the third day about "communication strategies" which i officially titled:

how do you organize a party in space?   you planet.

because of that, i didnt dig too deeply into the video project that i originally wanted to do, but i have some great footage and i'll work on piecing it together over the next month or so.  that said, for some reason i got very excited around 2 am on hack day, putting together some of the timelapse footage i had collected during the first two days of the event.   before i realized it, two hours passed, it was 4 am, and i had produced this ;)   enjoy!

i'll post more of my impressions from this year's event, descibe some of the amazing hack projects, and summarize the content of my talk soon....

official group photo, after a near-deadly camera-falling incident ;)
but i have to fly 30 hours around the world first.  not sure why i made this masochistic decision, but i'm running a half marathon the day after i get back to sydney.  wish me luck!  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

dirty space news: solid as a rock

this earthly spire is excitedly reaching toward the milky way galaxy in today's dirty space news entry. the rock formation, called castildetierra, is located in bardenas reales, spain.  

Photo Credit: Maria Rosa Vila

why does the milky way arc like a rainbow across the sky in this photo, you might be wondering?  the image is a collection of 14 different shots that were added together for the final effect.  the photographer would have stood in a single place and taken photos in all directions to capture images of the entire sky. then she added them together and cropped the final image in post-processing.

i think the lack of any distortion in the final combined image is impressive! or maybe the universe is just naturally attracted to that 50 meter pillar of stiff rock ;)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

i believe in kissing

this is such a nice quote by audrey hepburn.  the artwork is by tracy fisher.

artwork by tracy fisher

Saturday, September 7, 2013

ill take "outer planets," alex

calvin and hobbes never gets old.


in case you want to search for a calvin & hobbes that addresses a particular topic, there is a C&H searchable database!   fair warning:  i have lost entire afternoons playing with that search engine.

Friday, September 6, 2013

adler planetarium

i'm visiting chicago's adler planetarium this week.   yesterday i recorded a "Night and Day" podcast, toured the museum, played with some cool technologies in their space visualization lab, enjoyed a song of galaxy karaoke inside the planetarium dome, and gave a science talk.  whew!

the adler planetarium lives out in a peninsula

for the rest of the week i'm working with the galaxy zoo quench team on a project that allows citizen scientists of any kind to go through the entire process of science!  together, the citizen scientists and science team will investigate why a unique group of galaxies have had their star formation abruptly turned off, and write a journal article describing the methods and results!  you're welcome to play along with the experimental project - start here!

otherwise, enjoy this image of a beautiful pair of spiral galaxies, flying toward each, about to clash.  is this a process that turns on a little burst of star formation before shutting it all off again?  stay turned...

colliding spiral galaxies: arp 271

Monday, September 2, 2013

reactions to technology

a friend pointed me to yet another great douglas adams quote, which rang very true as i tried to help my mom learn how to use her smart phone this weekend!

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.