Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bad science in space movies.

How does your favorite space movie rate?
Star Trek isn't on the list since it's science is way too screwed up. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Apollo 8 Christmas

William Anders 
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Jim Lovell 
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Frank Borman 
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."  

-- Apollo 8, December 24, 1968

Jupiter from Hubble? No.

...just another amazing shot from Damien Peach.  Some people manage to find places on the planet where the atmosphere is lacking (I guess Barbados is the place), very thin or maybe just more skilled (lucky?) than any other amateur astronomer on the Earth.
Be sure to click to enlarge the photo and notice that you can see details on the moons also.
Now I put my socks back on and pick myself up off the floor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weekend on Mt. Lemmon with Adam Block.

Those are BIG mirrors
Earlier this month I took a few days off from work and "snowbirded" myself south to Arizona like a silver haired retiree (but without the motorhome and small dog) for some sun and clear skies.  I did find what I was seeking with about 78 degrees and blue skies, while Seattle got pounded with inches of rain and flooding.
The main reason for going south was to attend a session of Adam Block's CCD Imaging Workshops.  This was 3 nights and 4 very full days of imaging, stacking, registering, normalizing, deconvolution, and a whole lot of other stuff.....and of course use of the big 32 inch Shulman RC scope.  Wow!  What a fine piece of optics that thing is. 5,500 lbs of scope which slews around the sky with barely a whisper of sound.  Adam is a lucky guy to have access to that - for public outreach and hard-core guys like us!
Where my brain filled up
The weather could have been a little better, we had some high clouds passing through, but down there if you don't like the sky, take a break and wait an hour or two.
At the start of the trip, we were taken on a tour of the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab where we saw where some of the mirrors for the largest telescopes on Earth are made.  The mirrors for the GMT (or Giant Magellan Telescope) are being built here.  The lab is on the side of the University of Arizona's stadium.  The location reminded me of the Manhattan Project where the first atomic bomb was being developed under the University of Chicago stadium seats.
Observatories in the moonlight
We later went up to the top of Mt. Lemmon and unpacked our computers and luggage into the dorm rooms.  The place we stayed in was a former military facility where there used to be radar searching for nasties which they would then direct Titan missiles to launch (another museum I'll have to see down there another time).  The place is nice, and still has a little military feel to it, the dorm style rooms were very comfortable and the restrooms just down the hallway.
I need one of these.
We spent most of the time in the classroom where Adam taught us a lot of his secrets to processing images using CCDStack and Photoshop.  A little was review, but most of the methods were new to me (or at least a different way of doing it that I never knew), so mental saturation did happen quickly.  Adam does publish some good CDs describing his methods so I did buy that from his website.  He can't sell the disks at the workshop, since it conflicts with the U of AZ, but I was sold on going to his site and ordering one for myself!
Photons collected here
We did get to use the big 32 inch Schulman telescope.  Mostly for imaging, but the last night we had finicky weather so we just did some visual observing.  Despite the hazy skies, I have never seen M42 look as nice as it did through the that scope.  You could easily make out the wispy details around the Trapezium and see way out along the edges of the nebula.  I wish I could have taken a few exposures of that to play with!
Rooms, plenty of good food (thanks Beth), and a ride from the airport and back where included in the cost of the workshop.  If you are interested in this kind imaging, I would highly recommend Adam's workshop.  I would say this was an intermediate to advanced workshop.  So I'd suggest that you know something about stacking, darks, flats, and have had some good practice with Photoshop before attending or you may get a bit overloaded.
Grade: A+
Far left dome is the home of the Schulman scope
NGC 157 sample image we processed
M 76 another practice image we used

NGC 1555.  From actual data we captured.

| Mt. Lemmon Sky Center |
| Adam Block's web page - Caelum Observatory |

Monday, December 20, 2010

Science fiction to reality.

 Phil Plait is doing his "Top 10 photos for 2010" on his blog site today.  I liked the comparison he had between these two photos.  We are still a long way from from grandma in space though!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome to Santa Maria.

It's been a while since we had anything new from Mars from rover Oppy other than just flat dunes.  The little rover has just arrived at "Santa Maria" another large crater on Mars.  No view peeking into the crater just yet, but that will come!
Very cool new image.  (Credit to Ant103 on Unmannedspaceflight.com for the image creation)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Home in the ISS

ISS commander Scott Kelly gives a tour of his tiny closet home on board the ISS.   I like how he mentions he does his banking from space on his internet laptop.  Probably not too good for a multiplayer game of Halo or streaming Netflix movies though!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

100 years of licensed women pilots.

Not astronomy related this time, but just something I did last weekend that was pretty darn cool.  2010 is the 100th anniversary of the first woman to get a pilot's license.  The local airport just down the hill from my house was trying to become the "most woman friendly airport" and the goal was to fly 154 women and girls.
I volunteered to fly and give rides.  We had about 6 planes on wheels, 2 on floats and a helicopter giving rides.  I took up about 33 people on 11, 15 minute flights about 7 miles out and back.  Former 5 time space shuttle astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar even stopped by with some Museum of Flight goodies (There. I maintained the space theme of my blog!) .
Karlene Petitt, a Delta Airlines Airbus 330 pilot, organized the event and it all worked out very well other than a little confusion now and then which way we should taxi our planes back into the parking area to swap passengers! 
I took a few friends from work up on rides, and did get a ride in the helicopter at the end of the day. Good fun, good weather, and good exposure for general aviation.
THAT is an excited girl exiting my plane!

Rainier came out at sunset for an appearance.

All seats filled and heading toward the runway