Archives for posts with tag: space

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Sorry about the echo chamber, blog; we’ll start shoveling in the coals again soon.


It’s not a typo.

Today, in Shamelessly Stolen, I read an article on Bad Astronomer about breathless rumors of an imminent supernova at everyone’s favorite supergiant— Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse! It’s been known to be shrinking for a while and, when it goes, it’ll briefly be two and a half times brighter than the moon.

Some guy, soapboxing on a Life After The Oil Crash forum, said his son knew somebody who knew somebody who said the latest observations from Mauna Kea showed a rapid shift to an oblate, non-spheroid shape, purple monkey dishwasher. Bad Astronomer kind of shits all over the idea it’s going to blow (rightfully so with the attribution available, anyway), but here’s where the Shamelessly Stolen bit comes in:

One of the top comments on reddit for the story pointed the way towards the website for the SuperNova Early Warning System— specifically, its mailing list, where you can sign up for automatic emails announcing a rapid increase in neutrino flux. When a star undergoes Type II core collapse, its infalling matter becomes dense enough for electrons and protons to overcome their mutual hatred and merge, giving birth to neutrons and neutrinos. Neutrinos are the ninjas of the subatomic particle world— small, electrically neutral and moving near the speed of light, they whiz around and through ordinary matter mostly unmolested. (Count to one. 50000000000000 neutrinos from Sol just moved through your body.) Fleeing the dying star, they’ll be our first sign that a nearby star is about to buy the farm. As long as it’s not close enough to fry us with gamma rays, it should be one of the singular events of the next millennium.

But please— do yourself a favor and check out the press gallery for this Hubble 20th celebration. There’s a lot more than just the feature photo. It’s a nice time to be a space person

In 2003, while I was still living in the dorms, there was a weekend night I couldn’t sleep. About 2 in the morning, I heard a big commotion outside and brushed it off- closing time, drunks going home. It was only later I found out I’d missed my chance to see a huge bolide that streaked across three states.
Thanks, Yesterday’s Big Midwest Fireball, for reminding me to continue kicking myself.

We spruced up the page some— including fixing some nerdy stuff you don’t care about and adding links to some pretty pictures (up top) you might.

Also, they found spinel on the moon. I think (and Wikipedia confirms) that spinel, besides being a metamorphic mineral, shows up in chemically primitive mantle rocks, like peridotite, so it makes a little sense to show up on the volcanic, olivine-rich moon but, still, not something they were expecting to see.

Spinel, from Wikimedia Commons (through NASA)

In other not-expecting-to-see news, I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the future but, for some reason, it appears that even though they redshift as expected, quasars don’t show time dilation. That sentence should make cosmologists uncomfortable six ways from Sunday.

Here’s a real email I received at 7:56 today, the first day of labs for the quarter.

“(My name),

I made a very bad mistake thinking my lab was thursday and just realized i missed the first day, so I was hoping that you could tell me what I missed and where to go from here, possible even meet sometime to get what i missed. I emailed Dr. (Professor) already, so i could appreciate if there’s anything you could do for me or what i need to do. THank you, (his name)”

And here’s a completely real event I heard about for the first time today.

Later that decade, Davis led a quasi-covert operation that recorded the vaginal contractions of ballerinas with the Boston Ballet and other women, then translated this impetus of human conception into text, music, phonetic speech and ultimately into radio signals, which were beamed from M.I.T.’s Millstone radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other nearby star systems… The Air Force soon found out about the million-watt Poetica Vaginal broadcast, as Davis calls it, and shut it down.


“The images of humans placed aboard the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft show impeccably groomed men that lack any facial and body hair,” Davis hoots, “and women with no external genitalia.” Poetica Vaginal was in part a response to this curious censorship. “By making this attempt to communicate with the other,” he explains, “we’re really communicating with ourselves.”