Saturday, April 2, 2011

James Webb Telescope FAQs

No caturday today, because of the April Fools post. But, I found a short little video on the James Webb Space Telescope:

The video talks about some differences between the JWST and Hubble, what JWST will be looking for, and neat information. Besides, when you think NASA Astrophysicists, you rarely think of someone like Dr. Amber Straughn, who does a great job in this video.

Passing 300

Ugh, I wish this had come at a better time. Right in the middle of writing this I learned that my grandmother has only about 2 days to live. She has signed the papers for life support to be cut off. She's been in the hospital the last couple days and had a pacemaker put it, but she just doesn't look like she's gonna make it. So my whole family is heading up there for this. I know you all will understand that all updates and everything are put on hold, and I am going to turn off comment moderation so that way I don't have to constantly check it. Anyways, here is what I had written about passing 300:

I passed 300 followers! (A shout out to cool_cicler for being number 300.)

It feels pretty awesome to know so many people have an interest in astronomy. I have also enjoyed the comments and support I have received. I plan to keep going with blogging, who knows where it will take me.

You guys are what it's about though. The chance to bring some new ideas and perspective to people. I like trying to answer your questions when you have them. And then just the general following of astronomy news and relating it to others. I really have been trying hard to produce interesting content for anyone who reads this blog.

Future Blog Plans: somethings to look forward to.

-Template. Work on getting perhaps a more official/professional look to the 'HZs of the Internet'. Some people have said it's fine when I show it to them, but I like to nitpick at this sorta thing.

-Advertise! Of course that is how you get more readers. I just need to find an effective way to do so. 'Grassroots' seems to have been working, but there's only so far. I am going to look into Carnivals, in particularly astronomy/space related ones.

-A banner. I am tired of just having text. I need an image to associate with this blog. This may also come with a button too. So if any kind soul would like to donate some time into making me a banner, I would appreciate it. Also, if you really need it, I'm sure some form of compensation could be determined, I would definitely advertise you as the banner creator.

-Address. Getting a web address that isn't a seems like a good idea and could have wider appeal. Eventually there is a goal in my mind to move this entirely off of blogger, perhaps through wordpress or something. Blogger is a nice place, but I see it more as a petri dish for testing things out. This blog is still less then 2 months old, I am learning how things work.

-Astrophotography. With my own camera on its way, and the couple of images I have been posting from the HCAS, I plan to increase astrophotography. Bringing you all more great images of the night sky.

That more or less wraps things up. I have a regular post going up to. As I said in the beginning, this isn't the best time for me. In addition to that, there isn't a good internet connection or cell phone reception where my grandma lives, so it will be quite physically impossible for me to do much. I will be back though, don't give up hope on that, even if it might take a week. I have really enjoyed this experience of writing.

Thanks for reading and may you have pleasant skies.
~ Tim

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 2011 Highlights

We are firmly into spring, even though it doesn't look much like it here, cold and wet still. But, in the northern hemisphere, April brings the promise of warmer weather! There is still the problem of 'April showers,' which can hassle astronomical observations, but hopefully the weather won't interrupt to many events this month. April has been designated Global Astronomy Month by the Astronomers Without Borders, so your local astronomy club might be up to something fun.

This month will see Venus continuing to be bright in the morning sky; and Saturn will rise shortly after sunset, reaching opposition (closest approach to Earth) early in the month, it will be bright. I try to keep this to planets and stuff that you can visually see, so no need for a telescope. Unfortunately, most of the planets are early morning this month. So unless you are an early riser, or really late sleeper, you'll probably miss out.

Here is more you can look forward to:


Everything about life as we know it has been turned on its head! It turns out there has been a group of aliens living among us throughout the entirety of human civilization. They have lived hidden and infiltrated almost every level of society. Secretly gathering information for their alien masters. Who are these alien creatures?


After the genetic code for cats was completely mapped, scientists began to notice huge anomalies. This genetic code has some fundamental differences from normal Earth DNA. DNA is thought to be made up of only four base pairs, cytosine, adenine, thymine, and guanine. Cats have a fifth base pair, dubbed nomonine, thought to influence cat behavior, it replaces guanine in the feline genetic structure, dubbed C.A.T.NOM.

Some scientists have long suspected cats as being alien life forms, as their behavior is strange for most mammal species here on Earth. Some of the behaviors scientists point to are:

-Climbing trees: It is believed that the alien home planet is very forested and the trees help relieve the alien cats of their homesickness.

-Tempers and mood changes: The despicable aliens are prone to raging tempers and mood changes, unlike humans. One minute they are sleeping in your lap, the next they are hissing at you. This may be caused by unnoticeable changes in atmosphere, or commands from their home base.

-Authority: The aliens may believe they are in jeopardy when confronting figures of authority. This also goes back to the temper issue. But more often, their best course of action is to completely ignore the authority figure.

-Litter box: Aliens refuse to embarrass themselves with human toilets and use primitive methods such as the traditional litter box. Privacy is also a concern, so they won't just go anywhere.

-Sleeping in odd places: The kitchen sink and other hard, cold surfaces remind the aliens of their sleeping quarters aboard the mother ship. Sleeping on people is also a sign of superiority and conquest.

-Leaving 'presents': Often a human will mistake an alien's intention when it leaves the remains of its hunt on the human's doorstep. This should serve as a warning, it is not a 'present,' these aliens can be homicidal if provoked. Your best course of action is to give the alien some form of treat.

Please treat these alien invaders as you always have, we do not want them to be alarmed. There is no indication that they have a full grasp of our language yet. Interceptions of alien messages have shown to be full of poor spelling and grammar in regards to Earth languages. Astrobiologist will take this time to continue to study the alien species without provocation.

The worse case scenario if the cats become alerted is that tigers will go on a murderous rampage. At this current time, there is no known way to prevent a tiger assault. A tiger is capable of killing 12 out of 10 people and results in 30 million deaths world-wide every year.
P.S. April Fools!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dark Life

So, this was just to cool to not share! Dark matter could make planets habitable. I saw the article from the detailing the theoretical idea of two astrophysicists from Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. The actual science paper can be found here, on astro-ph.

The basic idea is that dark matter could be collected inside of a free-floating planet, a planet that has lost the star which warms it. This dark matter would generate enough heat to maintain liquid water on the surfaces.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eskimos, Ghosts, Messengers, and Discovery.

On Sunday, in between writing the two halves of the moon list, I went up to the Harford Community College Observatory. This is where the Harford County Astronomical Society is based, a small dirt road, some way into the woods next to a community college in Maryland. Anyways, we have a pretty decent set up with a mount and telescope, and a small group of us from the club (five in total) decided to try some imaging.
Eskimo Nebula. NGC 2392. HCAS.

We aren't the best group at it in the club, but we figured what the hey, worth a shot. It was a learning experience. Our targets were NGC 3242 (the Ghost of Jupiter) and NGC 2392 (the Eskimo Nebula). Both are planetary nebula, meaning they are created by shells of gas being ejected from stars late in their life.
Ghost of Jupiter Nebula. NGC 3242. HCAS.
These images are unfiltered and just stacked together by one of the guys in the club. They pale in comparison to Hubble images of these objects, but I'm proud to have helped take them none the less. I also ordered my first and own telescope camera as a bit of a late birthday present, an Orion StarShoot IV. So, hopefully I'll be posting more of my own images soon.

First Image Ever Obtained From Mercury Orbit. NASA.

In other news, yesterday NASA released the First Image Ever Obtained from Mercury Orbit. Taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft, confirmation that this has been a truly successful mission. Today they went ahead and released some 1,500 images that MESSENGER has already taken in just the few days it has been there! Universe Today has a good run through of some of the best ones, check it out.

One last, sadder piece of news, pictures have been released of the Space Shuttle Discovery's transition into retirement. The shuttle is to disassembled and cleaned to be made ready for public display. Click here for the pictures.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Expansion of the Universe

So, this last poll had some of the best results, with 24 votes. I was kind of hoping to do asteroids, but the expansion of the Universe won with 9, which is totally cool. There were also a couple of good suggestions that will be up in the new poll, which should be up, so go vote!

The expansion of the Universe is an intricate topic, not exactly easy to dump a massive load of information and have it be understandable. In order to help present this on as basic a level as possible, I am busting out some of my old astronomy books for reference. The most helpful will probably be my old Astronomy 111/113 textbook: Universe, 7th edition. I managed to dig it out of a box in my closet. I'll also provide some Wikipedia links if you want to read more. So, lets begin!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 12 Moons of The Solar System (THE MOON RULZ #1 )

Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

The winner of this from the start has clearly been the Moon. Not just any other moon, it is our Moon. Life as we know it would not exist without the Moon. On top of that it is the only astronomical body humans have ever visited (a sad fact in my mind at this point). Even if it is a sad fact, it has been 50 years (Kennedy's speech was in 1961) since we started and the amazing technological feat is still jaw dropping and the is mouth watering for more.
Crater Daedalus from the far side of the Moon. (Apollo 11, Crater 308)
We all want more space. I know people who deny it and say we should focus on problems of the Earth. But, my training and understanding of the issue, I make my arguments. There are few people who deny my arguments. You cannot just count on government and politicians to focus on fixing problems. You have to make good. Make amazing events that WOW the world. There is so much greed in the United States government, NASA is one of those few groups that remain selfless and suffer for it. Their budget reflects it, they are always one of the first on cutting block. I hate it when anyone says that it isn't part of the American future or dream. Space is clearly the Human future and dream. To say you disagree is to hinder yourself and your culture.

Top 12 Moons of The Solar System (Part 2)

Part deuce of the top 12 moons. Part one here, in case you missed it. As you learned in the first post, there is a huge amount of diversity among the moons in our solar system. There are big ones, there are small ones, there are wet ones, there are dry ones, ones made out of rock, ones made out of ice.

They are pretty crazy, and for the most part, each moon has its own personality. Just like say, you were sitting in a lecture hall with 170 students. They would all be students, but different in their own ways. This list is just a fraction of all these moons, and volumes could be, and have been, written about each one of them. These are just some of my favorites, just like a professor might have his favorite student. Or a blogger might have his favorite followers.

So without further bantering, lets finish my list:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Top 12 Moons of The Solar System (Part 1)

There are at least 170 known natural satellites, or moons, in our Solar System. A number growing as discoveries are made. This excludes those orbiting small Solar System bodies, such as comets and asteroids. These moons vary across a wide range of size and features, making a number of them extremely unique places. 19 of them are large enough to be considered planets or dwarf planets if they directly orbited the Sun.

The large variety of moons make them one of the more interesting subjects in astronomy. Some of these moons may even have life or conditions similar to an early Earth. So, I figured I'd give you all a two-parter post of my "Top 12 Moons of The Solar System." Here is the first half, with plenty of pictures: