We know space is big, but trying to understand how big is tricky. Say you stare up at the sky and identify stars and constellations in a virtual planetarium, you can't quite fathom how far away all those stars are (previously, twice). Even if you could change your point of view and zoom around in space to really see 100,000 nearby stars (autoplaying ambient music, and there are actually 119,617 stars mapped in 3D space), it's still difficult to get a sense of scale. There's this static image of various items mapped on a log scale from XKCD (previously), and an interactive horizontal journey down from the sun to the heliosphere with OMG Space (previously). You can get a bit more dynamic with this interactive Scale of the Universe webpage (also available in with some variants, if you want the sequel [ previously, twice], the swirly, gravity-optional version that takes some time to load, and the wrong version [previously]), but that's just for the scale of objects, not of space itself. If you want to get spaced out, imagine if If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel, and travel from there (previously). This past March, BBC Future put out a really big infographic, which also takes a moment to load, but then you can see all sorts of things, from the surface of Earth out to the edge of our solar system.
Van Cleef & Arpels, purveyors of super fine jewelry, have created the Midnight Planetarium, which holds part of the solar system on your wrist:
This new Poetic Complication timepiece provides a miniature representation of the movement of six planets around the sun and their position at any given time. Earth and Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are set in motion thanks to a self-winding mechanical movement of great complexity: equipped with an exclusive module developed in partnership with the Maison Christiaan van der Klaauw, it contains 396 separate parts. The movement of each planet is true to its genuine length of orbit: it will take Saturn over 29 years to make a complete circuit of the dial, while Jupiter will take almost 12 years, Mars 687 days, Earth 365 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days.[more inside]
Is Science Fiction promoting pseuodoscience? Is it not really better than fantasy? Is it exhausted and dying, per Paul Kincaid (part 1, part 2), a sort of genre-writing version of completing a list of The Nine Billion Names of God? Does physics-bothering unrepentant space case Alistair Reynolds have a compass pointing the way forwards?
King of the Cosmos (A Profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson) by Carl Zimmer. (Via) [more inside]
To me that’s backwards! Humans, Autochthony, Earth, and a home for us all at the end of the Universe.
Time lapse videos can be breathtaking, lovely, and a joy to watch… but they can also show you something you may not have thought about before. Before I even read the caption for Murray Fredericks’ video called "IRIDIUM", I knew it was filmed in the southern hemisphere. Can you guess how? [more inside]
Incredible, stunning, beautiful and humbling. Time lapse videos from Hubble.
How is it possible for an individual to build a planetarium? In most cases it is impossible. One must first truly love the beauty of the night sky and be willing to share that love with others. Wisconsin Man Builds Planetarium in His Backyard. [more inside]
On July 17th, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite completed its first survey of the entire sky viewable from Earth. After just seven months in orbit, WISE -- a precursor to the planned James Webb Space Telescope -- has returned more than a million images that provide a close look at celestial objects ranging from distant galaxies to asteroids. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year, but in the meantime we can see some of the images and animations that NASA has released to date: Galleries (containing just a small selection of images): 1, 2, 3, 4. Videos and Animations: 1, 2 [more inside]
Through three giant images, the Gigagalaxy Zoom project reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth, then zooms in on a rich region of the Milky Way to reveal three amazing, ultra-high-resolution images of the night sky that online stargazers can zoom in on and explore in an incredible level of detail.
...the lyrics to that last song were basically taken from an encyclopedia written in the 50s, and since the 50s, some remarkable things have happened...In 1959, a number of songs about science were released on an album called Space Songs. One of these was later covered by the band They Might Be Giants: Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass of Incandescent Gas). Only one problem: it isn't--the song was based on an incorrect text from 1951. So they wrote an answer song to themselves: Why Does The Sun Really Shine? (The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma). Bonus link: see for yourself! (previously)
If extraterrestrial civilizations are monitoring our TV broadcasts, then this is what they are currently watching.
"The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage," said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet "more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the U.S. population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way." In these areas, people are effectively living in perennial moonlight. They rarely realize it because they still experience the sky to be brighter under a full moon than under new moon conditions. "Reducing the number of lights on at night could help conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health," astronomer Malcolm Smith of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. One study found an increased risk of breast cancer for women living in areas with the most light pollution (abstract). Some communities are embracing their dark skies, such as the New Zealand community of Tekapo, possibly home to first "Starlight Reserve," waiting on UNESCO's official approval. Not sure where to look in the vast night sky? Follow some guidelines, or check the view in Chile, Queensland, Australia, or Texas.
A time lapse video of the night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of the Milky Way is brightly displayed.
See Saturn this Saturday April 12 is the second annual International Sidewalk Astronomy Night, a worldwide event coordinated by the Sidewalk Astronomers. The group, founded in 1968 by John Dobson (subject of this documentary), is dedicated to a sort of guerrilla astronomy -- experienced stargeeks bringing their really good telescopes out to places where people are. So even on your way to the bars, the shows, and the honky-tonk you can see stuff like this and this - like these people did.
Under alien skies: Start with the simply stunning Exosolar, a flash-based interface for navigating through 2,000 nearer stars in 3-D, including all discovered planets outside our solar system. See what the skies would look like from other planets and suns. Explore star maps from many science fiction universes, from Star Trek to Dune. Watch the Big Dipper change its shape over a hundred thousand years. Zoom into a face-on map of the Milky Way that would cover 16 square meters if printed, and see the Atlas of the Universe. [prev. on extrasolar planets, prev. on star maps]
It's like Google Maps...for space. Wikisky is a draggable, zoomable, web-based star map. And if you click on a star or other object, it brings up a page with all the information you could want on it, including recent articles and astrophotos that contain that object. And it does lots more. Go explore.
The Sky At Night Every episode of the BBC science series made since the end of 2001 viewable online. Anything I know about the universe I learnt from Patrick Moore.
NASA says shuttle is ready for July 13 launch, but doubts remain. With two catastrophic failures marring the Space Shuttle's safety record, many people fear that the coming launch of the shuttle Discovery could turn in to a billion-dollar fireworks display. While NASA is optimistic about the coming mission, an independent panel of aerospace executives, academics and former astronauts are not. They concluded that NASA has failed to fully implement three of the fifteen return-to-flight recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) in August 2003. While we wish the astronauts a safe and uneventful journey, serious doubts remain as to NASA's competency to continue carrying mankind to the stars. Perhaps our best hopes now lie with private ventures such as Scaled Composites?
Another massive celestial object, with a companion star in tow, has been discovered hurtling through the Milky Way. Unlike similar discoveries confirming the bow shock theory of stellar dynamics, this week's phenomenon is considerably older, as it's an aftereffect of the galactic core's formation. The French and Argentine astromoners making the discovery believe what they've witnessed may be a black hole, though theoretically, the collasped matter may be a gravistar.
We are all made of stars. And Moby knows it.
A striking photo of The Sigma Orionis star cluster where the astronomers have found 18 "planets" which are not orbiting around any central star. On the same note, you may want to visit the new planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. My mother was not impressed by the New Hayden Planetarium when she visited NY this summer. I thought the Rose Center was a real life version of the Hawking book, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time. The book was a much better experience.
Farstar International is probably one of the best examples of bad Wed design ever, but obviously that's not the guy's bag. Apparently his bag is collecting really awesome pictures of galaxies and stars and other such spacey things. The shots aren't big enough for wallpapering, but might be neat source material for designy people. (The link isn't showing up in the preview, but here it is: http://www.cliffr.com/galaxies/banner.htm)