Wednesday, February 26, 2014

sam i am

green eggs and ham is one of those fabulous dr seuss books that i love, but can only read a couple times before going a little crazy, unlike most kids i've read it to, who insist on several reads per sitting.

the solution has arrived!  just sit them down with this wonderful reading of green eggs and ham by british author neil gaiman, which was so surprisingly enthralling - i actually listened twice in a row!?!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

painted stone: asteroids in the SDSS

the sloan digital sky survey is a large astronomy project that has looked at a huge area of the sky several times over the last ~15 years.  from this data comes the ability to identify objects that move position over time.

the video below shows the orbital positions of 100,000 asteroids in our solar system observed by sloan. fantastic visualization by astronomer alex parker.  enjoy!

Painted Stone: Asteroids in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey from Alex Parker on Vimeo.

the details:

Over 100,000 asteroids and their colors, as seen by a single remarkable survey telescope. 
This animation shows the orbital motions of over 100,000 of the asteroids observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), with colors illustrating the compositional diversity measured by the SDSS five-color camera. The relative sizes of each asteroid are also illustrated. 
All main-belt asteroids and Trojan asteroids with orbits known to high precision are shown. The animation is rendered with a timestep of 3 days. 
The compositional gradient of the asteroid belt is clearly visible, with green Vesta-family members in the inner belt fading through the blue C-class asteroids in the outer belt, and the deep red Trojan swarms beyond that. 
Occasional diagonal slashes that appear in the animation are the SDSS survey beams; these appear because the animation is rendered at near the survey epoch. 
The average orbital distances of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter are illustrated with rings.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

what a leader can do

a quote by david foster wallace about what it means to be a "leader" and how coming across a real leader makes you feel.  i've known a few true leaders and this is right on.

Quote by David Foster Wallace.  Print by Debbie Millman

Monday, February 17, 2014

COSMOS revisited

many of you might remember the original COSMOS book and tv series brought to us by carl sagan and ann druyan.  i'm certain it inspired many of my peers to get interested in astronomy.  the content of the original series is still excellent, but the visuals are a bit outdated and now there are whole new branches of astronomy with exoplanet detections and dark matter/energy searches.

luckily, new generations can now board the Ship of Imagination as the series has been rebooted and modernized. the sydney launch of the updated series happens tonight at the opera house with special guests neil degrasse tyson (who stars in the new series) and ann druyan (who produced and wrote much of it)! here is the trailer:

i was originally surprised that this will air on fox, but i think it's a good choice. and while i personally find neil degrasse tyson a bit annoying, i cannot deny his enthusiasm or the brilliance of the original COSMOS series. i hope it inspires many more for years to come.

the series premieres officially in march this year. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

silhouetted against the moon

this photo has been making its way around recently - an image precisely timed to capture the international space station passing in front of a full moon.   it's beautiful.

unfortunately, i havent seen many people giving the credit deserved to the photographer.  it was taken by thierry legault in france in 2010. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

colourful star trails

if you set your camera still and leave the shutter open to capture a long exposure, the earth will rotate around its axis and the stars will move around that axis, creating bright lights behind them.  this technique produces gorgeous great circles of light in the sky, as demonstrated in this colourful image.

star trails by lincoln harrison
but in another image by lincoln harrison, he produced star trails that do not make great circles, but appear to fan outward.   how is this possible?

i havent actually talked to the photographer about his techniques, but i think he set up a dolly that slowly moved the camera toward the church during the exposure(s) used to create the final image.  then used a single shot to get the foreground in focus.  wonderful effect.

and then what about this one?  

i'll leave that one for you to figure out.   what a lovely series of shots!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

astounding mathematics

this numberphile video shows a fun phenomenon of mathematics that completely blows my mind every time:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + ... = -1/12


first of all, infinity is crazy.   we use infinity as a tool to understand physics, but we dont really get answers that are infinite.  well, i would describe to someone that the universe is infinitely large, but that doesnt mean i'm completely satisfied by it, it's just the best way to describe it right now.

this quote from dennis overbye in his new york times article on the video puts the issue slightly differently:

"Cosmologists do not know if the universe is physically infinite in either space or time, or what it means if it is or isn’t. Or if these are even sensible questions. They don’t know whether someday they will find that higher orders of infinity are unreasonably effective in understanding existence, whatever that is."

we dont understand existence; we dont understand consciousness; we dont understand infinity.   but we do understand a lot about physics - enough to gravitationally slingshot little robots around some planets in order to land on and explore other planets.   that's awesome.   

let's keep exploring and pushing the boundaries of existing knowledge!

Monday, February 3, 2014

the colors of orion

i've been talking to david malin quite a bit recently about archiving his incredible photography collection within the AAO database.  david is a legendary astrophotographer - having developed several photographic processing techniques, including making the gorgeous true-color astronomical images from combining black and white photographics plates taken in three separate colors.

i have just come across this fascinating image of the orion constellation.  you can vividly see how different stars have different colors!

Orion star colours revealed by defocusing during successive images as earth rotates under the stars, 1985. (Credit: David Malin)
(still hoping for the bright orange betelgeuse to explode as a supernova **any time now!)

here is a normal view of orion in the sky with lines connecting the constituent stars - you can always look for the three stars that line up in orion's belt to find this constellation!

** in astronomical terms, "any time now" is somewhere between tomorrow and the next ten thousand years or so!   still hoping....