Well, after a 10 month absence, I’ve decided to get back to work on this blog. I do so because I love astronomy, and want to continue learning about it and sharing it with people. If you’re wondering why I stopped, the answer is that I left Primland resort in order to start a new life with my beautiful wife. It was an honor and privilege working at the resort, and if you get a chance to go, I definitely recommend it. I simply chose to look at the stars somewhere closer to home. That said, this blog will continue and I will post weekly whenever there is an astronomical event that sparks my interest.
I found a great video from DeepSky Videos.com, where an astronomer probes the depths of a beautiful dwarf galaxy that is encircling our own like a comet. Only recently has NASA been able to penetrate this galactic cloud, and here are some of the facts about this unique object:
Magellanic Clouds (and Apollo 16) – Deep Sky Videos
That’s right, you heard me. Only a few hours ago, pop star, activist, and all around weirdo performance artist Lady Gaga, confirmed that she will be the first artist to perform IN SPACE, as part of the Virgin Galaxy’s maiden voyage in 2015. This will also mark the first ever commercial flight into space, which is certainly cause for celebration. I for one am enthusiastic about this new artistic presence in space. and glad that they picked someone as out-of this world as Gaga. For one thing, if the ship is commendeered by aliens, she’ll probably speak their langugage 😉
For more info on Gaga’s flight, please click here: http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/132316/Lady-Gaga-Confirms-She-WILL-Become-First-Artist-To-Perform-In-Space
For more info on the Virgin Galactic Flight Project, click here: http://www.virgingalactic.com/
Today the GOCE European Space sattelite came crashing down to the South Atlantic Ocean! Scientists caution that there is a huge garbage dump of sattelites orbiting our planet and that this could happen again at any moment. The lesson here appears to be: “Space to Earth, CLEAN UP YOUR SKY!”
Tonight is the second night of the Harvest Moon, the time when the Moon rises earlier than ever before, right before the Autumnal Equinox.
As I mentioned in “The Tale of the Lucky Red Moon,” Harvest Moons have a profound cultural significance. China has its own Mid Autumn Moon Festival that tries to unite cultures under one Moon. You can read about this in a wonderful article at Earthsky.org
So get out tonight and enjoy this rare Harvest Moon! I plan to take a few pictures with the telescope if it’s not too cloudy here at Primland.
Hello fello triscadecaphobs! In case you wonder what that big word means, it means “fear of Friday the 13th.” An estimated 17 million people fear this very day. There is actually a long and complicated history to the fear of this day, especialy in our own culture, and I set about trying to lay this fear to rest using my knowledge of history, mythology, and of course, astronomy.
Cultural/ Historical significance of Friday the 13th.
The number 13 itself is considered unlucky for a number of reasons, especially in Western Christianity- in the Bible the disciples and Jesus add up to 13, which eventually led to the betrayal and death of the leader, (which occured on a Friday). In addition, on October 13, 1307 the Pope ordered for the murder of the hallowed Knights Templar, the most powerful Christian knights in the world.
The fear of Friday the 13th itself might have formally begun in the 19th century, with the death of Rossini, the celebrated composer of “The Barber of Seville.” On his death bed, the composer remarked that he always regarded Fridays and the number 13 as unlucky. As is often the case, this quote probably got repeated over and its influence multiplied into a whole superstition. By the way, wikipedia lists a number of famous people who have died on Friday the 13th, including Julia Child and Tupac Shakur.
So, what does this have to do with Astronomy?
Richard Beveridge, in his paper “Friday the 13th and the Mathematics of the Gregorian Calendar,” points out that there is an innate fear of Friday the 13th built into our culture from the fact that we base our time tables around the number 12- the 12 months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, etc. This creates a feeling of otherness and other worldliness to the number 13. In addition, with the way we add leap years every four years, Friday the 13th occurs at random intervals, and it is very difficult to predict. Again, we fear things we can’t predict or control, which is why we fear even a date on the calendar.
Good news about Friday the 13th.
NASA recently predicted an asteroid would pass harmlessly over the Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2029. If this asteroid would pass too close, it could destroy an area the size of Texas! So I suppose you could say that some good things can come on Friday the 13th, even if they are things that don’t happen.
Well, that’s what I know about Friday the 13th. Hope some of your fears are allayed.
Tonight will be an excellent opportunity to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.with very little Moon out tonight, it should be spectacular!
For a little sneak peak, click here..
Well, I’ve been away from my blog and from Primland for a while, but I had a good reason- I got Married! The wedding was beautiful and my new wife and I are very happy. For our honeymoon, we went to Hawaii, which in addition to being gorgeous and a tropical paradise, also has a lot to offer me as a historian and stargazer. I kept hearing stories and facts about Hawaii’s connection to the stars, so to demonstrate what I’ve learned, I’ve decided to devote this week to Hawaiin astronomy and astrology, which includes my trip to the Mauna Kea Observatory, the tallest observatory on Earth!
Stay tuned for new entries each day starting with a new Picture Of the Week!
Happy Stargazing and Aloha!
Not only is this the biggest Moon of the year, it’s also one of the most interesting. June 23rd’s full moon is classified as a “Strawberry Moon,” or “Rose Moon” It was called Strawberry by the Algonquin Native Americans because they knew this full moon was an ideal time to gather fruit. To learn more about this particular full moon, I’ve posted a link to a video created by the good folks at “The Farmer’s Almanac”, a trusted astronomy resource for over 100 years.
So I hope to see some of you down at Primland to look at this beautiful full moon. I know I’ll be training the telescope on it!
Like most of us in this economy, NASA has had to make some budget cuts. When they released their 2014 budget, it cut over $55 million from the previous year. Planetary studies have been hurt the most with 300 million cut from the budget. Looking at this, it’s clear that studying our solar system is just not a priority anymore; NASA is taking new directions with its research and some of its new plans are quite exciting.
For Example, NASA is increasing its funding to support Earth science; tracking man made and natural changes to our planet, including pollution and climate changes. The idea is that hopefully learning more about how to protect our planet and to protect ourselves.
In addition, there is also a program in place to start manned missions into space once again. I’ve written about this before when I mentioned the Orion Spacecraft, the first manned spacecraft designed for interplanetary orbit in 30 years. NASA is already building the space capsule, and the whole project should be finished by 2021.
BUT, there is one item on the NASA budget that seems right out of science fiction- The capture and mining of ASTEROIDS!
That’s right, President Obama approved a new project designed to send a special craft out into space for the purposes of finding and capturing a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), and then bringing it back down to Earth to study, and eventually mine it for its contents. This might sound like something out of a James Cameron movie, but it really is part of the NASA budget, and the project is getting underway as we speak.
So why mine asteroids? To answer this question, I’ll break down the arguments and, (to continue with the Sci-Fi theme I’ve begun), I’m going to list them one by one, and name them after some awesome Sci-fi movie titles.
1. The Abyss/ Avatar-
According to scientific estimates, one asteroid may contain over $20 TRILLION dollars worth of precious metals, as well as iron, nickel, and cobalt. Ultimately, it might improve NASA’s budget and the world economy greatly to invest in asteroid mining. Plus, unlike Avatar, all of these asteroids would be uninhabited, making mining comparatively easy from a socio-political standpoint. Still, as you can see from the video above, to make this plan economically viable on a large scale we would need to develop vastly superior rockets, to keep the cost of sending rockets up into space all the time lower than the profits reaped from the asteroids themselves. As far fetched as this idea may seem, companies are already working to make it a reality. Imagine NASA beginning a new industry as unlimited as the universe itself!
2. Titan AE
If our planet were to suffer a cataclysm, (which could literally happen any day now), we will need to find a new way of getting water, oxygen, and the ingredients to create plant life. In addition to precious metals, asteroids also contain all of these. Bits of oxygen and hydrogen are locked up within the rocks. In addition, we know that asteroids contain ingredients for life, since 3.5 billion years ago, they helped develop life on our own planet. Therefore, if we ever need to leave the Earth, it makes more sense to mine our raw materials from asteroids, rather than taking everything with us. Of course, getting us off the Earth, is a much bigger problem:
As the Russian meteor explosion grimly reminded us, Earth could literally be hit by an asteroid at any time without warning. This is why the primary goal of the Asteroid Retrieval project is to study asteroids and determine how best to combat a potential threat. Lest we forget, an asteroid destroyed entire species on our planet 65 million years ago, and we need to be careful to make sure it doesn’t happen to us (cue the dramatic music).
So there you are, the major reasons why it’s a good idea to find asteroids and bring them back here. We eagerly await NASA making this project a reality, so that they make space a safer and more profitable place to live. As one more treat, here is a NASA animation of how the project might look, with dramatic Hollywood music underscoring for good measure.