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Aug. 18th, 2013

Okay... they are really long hours.

This *points to icon* is what I do with Photoshop. [personal profile] yuuo encourages me.

May. 26th, 2011

Several Astro Things...

Births and Deaths of Robots )

Also, I wrote a couple of things for Three Weeks of Dreamwidth that I intend to continue and post to LJ and IJ. OSIRIS-REx changes a few things about what I said, since before it was 'and if NF3 is A or B, then...'. So I'll mention when I edit/post those.

* It's in the southern hemisphere, so the noontime Sun is in the northern sky in the winter.
** Astronomers love their acronyms.
*** We get indirect ones all the time from meteorites. But it's a lot better when you know what the rock looks like before you chuck it at Earth, let alone sit it on the ground until someone finds it.

Sep. 19th, 2010

International Observe the Moon Night

Yesterday, I helped out at the Fuertes Observatory's International Observe the Moon Night. And I'm still tired from it.

It wasn't worth taking the bus when I'd still have to hike across North Campus (or up from the gorge), so I just packed my telescope and tripod up and walked it. The first hour was setting stuff up and getting everyone assigned. We didn't have nearly enough volunteers early in the evening, when it was still light and we could do outside demos.

Dan (my fellow grad student) and I were doing rocketry. Well, Alka-seltzer rockets. Basically, you take a film canister and put Alka-seltzer and water in it*. The carbon dioxide is enough to launch the canister (and a rocket made around it) into the air -- six feet if you're lucky. I was bad at following directions, so the kids I supervised didn't get that kind of height. Anyway, originally Dan was launching the rockets and I was helping kids make them. Then Dan had to go give a talk, so I got left alone. Laura, who was doing a demo nearby on cratering, helped a bit, and then we got Dan-the-tech-guy and Nancy (the department's education person) to help.

We were very popular, and a lot of kids were disappointed when it was too dark to do rockets any more. Mosquitoes were bad -- I found a bunch of bug bites this morning. Strangely on my side, where my shirt and pants met, rather than, say, on my arms or neck.

After that, I spent an hour or two hanging out near the small telescopes and helping to keep them roughly moonward and in focus. Clouds were coming in then, so around 9 PM, we switched to Jupiter in the east. I wish I had advanced notice, because Uranus was actually pretty close to Jupiter last night -- to the point where you could see it in the same (wide) field of view. It's also about the same brightness as Jupiter's moons, IIRC, which I could see in my little telescope and were shockingly clear in the bigger telescopes the observatory had.

I'll check on Monday, if I can find a good star chart. At astronomy camp in high school, I took pictures of Uranus and Neptune, but never seen them with my eyes. It would add my total planets seen directly to seven. (Plus some moons -- ours, the four Galileans and a few of Saturn's.)

(Galileo is recorded as having accidentally seen Neptune, but he was more 'huh, funny moving star near Jupiter' and didn't realize it was a planet. But no one had known that there could be planets past Saturn -- even when William Herschel discovered Uranus, he thought it might just be a peculiar new type of comet that was round and kind of solid-looking. Until folks noticed the orbit was like a planet's and not at all like a comet's.)

* Parents were amazed we had film canisters in this age of digital photography.

Jun. 29th, 2010


After traveling back from Portland, I'm wondering if I should get an e-Reader. My reasons are threefold:

1. It would be easier to travel with one piece of electronics rather than 4-6 paperback novels while traveling. Around Ithaca, I normally just keep a book in my purse, but that's not workable when I'm out. And I do read a lot when traveling, and like traveling light.

2. I have a lot of PDF gaming books and JPG scanlations of manga*. Being able to bring them to games or read manga away from my computer would be nice.

3. I could do both with the laptop, but it's big and the screen can make me motion sick. I'm told e-ink is a bit easier on the eyes, and playing with Cassie's Nook seems to indicate it might be.

Which means figuring out which brand to by. I'm a bit peeved at Kindle thanks to Amazon's hissy fit with McMillan last year. Both Barnes & Nobles and Borders have deals with e-readers to give out a gift certificate for free books with the purchase of an e-reader. The Kobo is a bit lighter, but is slightly smaller in memory (though it is 1GB with support for memory cards), and with fewer usable file types. I'm also slightly incompetent with touch screens, which the Nook has.

The downside to an e-reader would be that I'd have to buy (or pirate) copies of books I own in print. Probably buy, since I can afford it and I like encouraging publishers to do the work for me, so I don't have to mess with finding book scans.

Anyone with e-readers have an opinion on whether an e-book reader is worth it and about brands? (I should ask Dad, but he'd probably just talk about his iPad, which is very nice, but if I wanted an iPad, I'd get that... or possibly a Linux netbook, so I'd have a keyboard.)

Also, Voyager 2 just had its 12,000th day of continuous operation -- that's almost 33 years. Yeah, it doesn't have much to do out beyond Neptune, besides watch the miles go by and look for the edge of the solar system. But it still works and can talk to Earth.

* Mostly stuff that was never commercially translated to English, though I also have some Basara that I spent years looking for the English volumes, since they had tiny print runs. (Still looking.)

Apr. 20th, 2010

First Light

So, last month I got a telescope. I finally got to test it out.

First off, it was a Galileoscope, which meant it cost $30 and I had to assemble it myself. It's also tiny -- as in, I can carry it and my tripod bag in one arm. This is a change from my telescope in high school, which was a 6" Newtonian on a Dobsonian mount*, which took two people to carry outside (one to take the telescope tube, and one to take its mount). It's a good telescope for travel, though, since I could probably stick it in my checked bag. Maybe even my carry-on. (First I need to get a lens cap. Or possibly just a sock).

The other downside is that anything high in the sky involves me kneeling and craning my neck to see it. I need a star diagonal, really. (A star diagonal is pretty much a L-shaped tube with a flat mirror in it, to let you change the viewing angle by 90°.) My old telescope spoiled me, since Newtonians have their eyepieces sticking out from the side of the tube, so they are usually less awkward when looking up. (A bit more awkward near the horizon, though.)

On the other hand, the Moon looked gorgeous both under low and high power. Venus was pretty, but it's small and nearly full right now. I didn't try Mars, since Mars is tiny right now, or Saturn -- I could definitely resolve Saturn, but the rings are nearly invisible from Earth this year, and I wasn't sure if it was dark enough to see Titan yet.

Tomorrow the Moon will be near the Beehive cluster, so I might try again -- take a break from Crafty Chat to look up. And I got the hang of pointing it, though I'd want a more stable mount for real star-hopping. (I'm not allowed to get a bigger telescope until I have somewhere better than my apartment to keep it. At least a porch and a backdoor.)

* Which is pretty much a plywood box on a turntable. Dobs are designed to be the type of thing that are large and unwieldy, but robust and as idiot-proof as you can get when dealing with telescopes.

Aug. 29th, 2009

Moons of Uranus, Earth, and their Mixed-up Lovechild

This post is mostly for [info]padparadscha who asked to pick my brains about a planet with an 80°+ axial tilt. On the other hand, it means I can write about something that came up at work recently, so I thought I'd combine things.

So, I recommend What if the Moon Didn't Exist: Voyages to Earths that Might Have Been (by Neil Comins), since one of the chapters features a variant-Earth with a tilt like Uranus. On the other hand, I just realized that chapter got one of the details wrong: the status of our moon.

More than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Phase of the Moon )

Jan. 29th, 2009

Science, Writing, and Science Writing

I sometimes wonder if I should practice my science blogging skills by writing up the weekly colloquiums that my department holds, or at least the ones I don't fall asleep in. So far, it's been a good semester, despite both presentations being on interstellar dust. Then again, the first presenter was a researcher from our department with a good speaking style so he can make something like 'crap in space'* interesting. The second guy also had a good send-up and it was partially interesting to me since he was using some of the same techniques that I use for Saturn's rings on the Interstellar Medium.

* This is my friend Cece's nickname for the Interstellar Medium back in undergrad. We had a whole semester talking about it, thanks to Nebraska offering three astronomy courses, all of which an astro-focused person needed to take. Well, technically four, but the fourth was removed from the coursebook my freshman year after they realized that no one could teach it, and that had been the case for years. So everyone took 'Stellar Atmospheres and Interiors', 'Galactic Astronomy' and 'Physics of the Interstellar Medium' after they did the 'Astronomy for Majors' and 'Astronomy Lab'. It wasn't that bad, since you can get a lot of basic astronomy out of what's going on, and meant that I've had more repetitions of radiative transfer than any sane human being really wants.

So, anyone want to hear about what I learned about Crap in Space? It's interesting, I promise.

Writing is going well. I got back some concrit on the Cordelia/Aral story, and want to take a looksee at the story for editing. I'm also breaking a normal habit. Normally, I write drabbles in a universe first before I try to do full-length fiction. Well, except for Yuletide, where I don't get a choice, or when I crazily sign up for a ficathon. But, now I'm trying to write my first Firefly story, when I haven't ever written for that fandom before. Mostly because it came out of the Random Fanfic Prompt Generator I wrote. It's weird.

(Speaking of Bujold, the latest book came out on Tuesday. I need to go to the bookstore and pick it up.)

Also drawing. I have two exchange pictures due, then I promise I'll start work on those meme pictures. I haven't forgotten. Expect an art dump soon.

Nov. 30th, 2008

In Memory

I'm not looking forward to going to work tomorrow. Not because of anything I have to do -- I'm in the 'advisor wants a report that we can start editing into a paper' stage, which is a good one. Plus, I'm already starting on another project, or picking up an old half-finished one, rather. I had planned to have both of these done, so I could do the final bit for my thesis over my fifth year (possibly edging into my sixth if I had to). I think I also have a meeting for student government but that just means I have to spend an hour and a half talking about money and eating free food.

But, I happened to have an office across from Ed Salpeter, an emeritus professor, and he passed away over the holidays. He was a pretty nice guy -- I mean, the man was in his eighties and officially retired, but he still hung around the department and went to functions. And, since we worked in the same place, he would say hello to me occasionally. The grad student group hosted a dinner for him just last month and he and his wife sat down and talked about the history of the department. She also asked us to do something about the Styrofoam cups the department used, because we're in 2008, and they should know better.

Read more... )
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Nov. 18th, 2008

I'm better now!

So, feeling much better. Enough to go to work, though I might end up setting up shop in the cafe instead of going into my office before noon. (What?) We also had our first 'snowfall' of the year, or at least the first one that has stayed on the ground. It is truly a winter wonderland.

For you music geeks, Cornell put up the concert the orchestra (plus IC's orchestra) did of "The Planets", with the visuals folks at the Astronomy department did. (I helped with Saturn, though Matt H. did most of the work!). I'd be interested to see what you guys thought of it. The link is here though I can't get the plugin to work, and had to use the 'download video' link. Since it's a camera and not the original movie files, the quality is a bit lower, but it's still pretty awesome. Also, kudos to the orchestra. Sadly, this doesn't include the original piece that a local composer wrote for Cassini's Saturn (called "Anillos" -- rings), but I guess he might not want the first recording of it available for free over the internet. Holst's work has been in the public domain for a while now, so it's not like most people will care that a university orchestra is playing this.

(Also there are some planets that can be real pains in the butt to find pictures off. Mercury's was assembled before a lot of MESSENGER data came down, and includes a lot of Sun footage. Uranus and Neptune also are pains in the neck.)

Also, since Holst was more into astrology than astronomy, and wrote the piece before Pluto was a speck on Clyde Tombaugh's photographic plates, it's seven pieces (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).

Also, I made my Thanksgiving plans. I'll be in the Boston area from Tuesday around noon until Friday (though most of Friday-in-Boston will be spent waking up and getting on the bus to Logan Airport). Also set my Christmas plans -- Lincoln, Nebraska from 16 December to 5 January. My sister works in Omaha now, so it makes flying a bit cheaper if I can arrive and depart sometime close to when she works -- Mom refuses to use the Omaha airport if possible, since the interstate around Omaha is possibly the most confusing thing known to mankind, and she can't drive well after dark/before dawn. (There's a part in Good Omens where the demon Crowley notes that he made sure a certain part of the British highway system was built in the shape of a satanic symbol to generate increased ire from drivers. Yeah.)

Oct. 7th, 2008

Astronomy of the day

What determines how big a planet gets? )

Oct. 6th, 2008

The Art and Music of Astronomy

So, this weekend, the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Science is having its annual conference in town. In addition to giving a poster presentation* as part of my work, and listening to talks and 'networking'**, the conference organizers organized some events.  )

Jul. 15th, 2008

Where's my flying car?

I can't seem to get the hang of posting on one topic. Oh, well.

I played softball today. We had a grand total of six people show up, and we got our butts kicked. Though not as badly as we could. I still am batting 0.000, unless you count the time I got on second by fielding error. (League rules is if the opposing team throws the ball out of bounds, you can advance one extra base -- mostly to cover situations where the ball gets thrown into the bushes and it takes a bit to retrieve.) On the other hand, I'm getting better at fielding -- I managed to hold one to a double. I'm still hindered by my inability to throw hard enough to get it to the infield.

So, question for you all, blog. So, over on Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait posts a quote from Buzz Aldrin, where Buzz says that the unrealistic expectations created by science fiction makes people less interested in the real accomplishments of the space program. Phil disagreed -- he thinks that science fiction spurs us on and inspires us.

I'm biased -- I was a space nut before I learned how to tell SF from horror. Every time I saw the crew of the Enterprise beaming down to a planet, or read novels about imaginary moon colonies, I wanted to work all that more to go there. Or at least learn as much as I could about the real thing.

So, what do you all think?

Planets and Costumes

So, I'm trying to think of a Halloween costume. Here are my criteria, in order from strongest to least strong:

1. No wigs. Hats are okay, and makeup is okay, and I might even go for hair extensions, but I don't feel like putting down the money for a quality wig. (And I don't want to deal with a cheap wig -- someone else can tell the story about how Integra Hellsing suddenly developed short, dark hair because my cheap wig gave up the ghost around lunchtime of Day I of AnimeIowa)

2. Something I can wear to CJAS's cosplay contest. Which means anime or manga character. Maybe video game. Probably not anything from Western fandoms or webcomics.

3. Something that is recognizable as something* by the mundanes, in case I go out with my work friends, or decide to wear the costume to campus or something. By which, I mean, they might not recognize Kenshin Himura, but the sword and outfit look like 'samurai'.

* Something reasonably specific, not 'what the hell costume is that?'

Current Ideas )

Also, I found this blog post by Mike Brown that pretty much sums up the whole planet debate. It makes the point that scientists had two classifications: 'round & geologically varied (plus the gas giants, which are round and atmospherically varied with interesting interiors)' versus 'not round and & impact-dominated geology' and 'single objects in distinct orbits' versus 'clouds of similar objects in similar orbits'. Both are useful, and a scientist might deal with one more than the other (a geologist cares more about the first, to the point of even throwing in moons, while a dynamicist the second), and asking 'which is a better classification scheme' is silly, because they are both good and useful things. The IAU wasn't asked that -- they were asked, which classification scheme should be used as planet versus not-a-planet. Which is really a judgment call.

I was thinking the same thing, but this post explains it better. I was thinking about it because I noticed Dr. Bell (Martian geologist) has a 'Save Pluto' bumper sticker pinned to his bulletin board. In retaliation (I assume), Dr. Margot (asteroid and Kuiper Belt dynamicist) put up a 'Save Pallas' sign on his bulletin board. (Guess what both of them think of the IAU's definition? Go on, guess.)

We also have a new official dwarf planet -- Pluto, Ceres and Eris can welcome Makemake (mah-keh-mah-keh) to their numbers. First dwarf planet named after a non-Greco-Roman god, also! (Makemake was the creation deity of Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island) -- Makemake was discovered near Easter, and informally called Easterbunny.)

Mar. 24th, 2008



I didn't realize three of my classmates kept a Mars blog.

So, click to learn about Mars!

(The really weird thing is that I learned about this via the Planetary Society's blog, via the Bad Astronomy site. People I know are Internet Famous.)

Does this mean I have to give in to Ryan and Briony bugging me to give a lunch talk, since their blog is more widely read than mine?

Mar. 22nd, 2008

Best bang since the Big one...

Yes, this is a tasteful post. Not surprising, if you know me.

Cut for SCIENCE! )

Mar. 3rd, 2008


So, here are two pictures I saw today. Both were taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, orbiting Mars. And reconnoitering.

And it found an avalanche by accident. It's spring on the northern hemisphere of Mars, and the ice caps are receding. Which means that you can get landslides. And this one happened to occur when HiRISE was looking.

(Statistically speaking, since we have crazy amounts of pictures of Mars, it had to happen sooner or later.)

And this, which is not Mars. Yes, that is the Earth and Moon. Yes, it was taken from Mars. Isn't that cool?

(Sadly, when we take pictures from Saturn of the Earth, it looks like a pale blue dot. NASA loves Mars more. ;_;)

Feb. 25th, 2008

RL (plus, be helpful at astronomy) Oh, and there's also an initiative to map the light pollution in the sky this fortnight (today until March 8, while the Moon isn't visible in the sky). And you all can help, provided you can find Orion in the sky. Go

I didn't get anything I wanted to do done over the weekend. Bah.

Oh, and there's also an initiative to map the light pollution in the sky this fortnight (today until March 8, while the Moon isn't visible in the sky). And you all can help, provided you can find Orion in the sky. Go here for more info.

I want you all to do this. It'll maybe take an hour of your time, and it's a good excuse to go stargazing and learn one constellation.
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