Astronomers have discovered that a red dwarf and a brown dwarf (a binary system known as Scholz's star) passed through our Solar System's Oort Cloud a mere 70,000 years ago.
Despite Western anxieties over Muslim conquest, traditions of Islamic astronomy and the portability of ritual space in Islam find Muslims at home among the stars. [more inside]
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.
Astronomers discover that our galaxy is a suburb of a supercluster of 100,000 large galaxies they have called Laniakea
Ever wondered why your favourite movie star is now in straight-to-video hell? What the hell happened? is a series of articles about the career ups and (mostly) downs of contemporary actors, actresses and directors who were once Hollywood stars (but who stumbled at one point) or serious contenders for stardom (but who did not make it). While the articles are made of known material and rather-matter-of-fact ("...but it got terrible reviews and bombed at the box office"), they offer a singular perspective on what it takes to reach the A-list and stay on it. [more inside]
Why are Stars Star-Shaped? A SLYT of one of the innumerable little educational youtube channels explaining something that always fascinated me. [more inside]
Various outlets are reporting that, over the past month, Chase Bank has sent out letters to American porn actors that their Chase accounts will be closed as of May 11. One actress describes discovering her account had been closed without notice. Chase Bank has remained quiet about their actions (other than to tell the customers that their accounts were considered "high risk"), leaving many to wonder why this has happened, seemingly out-of-the-blue. There are indications that the DOJ may be involved.
Stellar fusion in 2048 style. Not quite just another 2048 clone. (of which there have been many many many versions, most discussed here). This version follows the fusion path of a main sequence star challenging you to create a stable isotope of iron.
Mickey Rooney the former child star, who made his stage debut at the age of 18 months and was in show business for over 8 decades, died Sunday, aged 93. He was known for his relationship with MGM where he played such roles as Andy Hardy and starred in several pictures with Judy Garland. For a period of two years, he was considered the top star in Hollywood. [more inside]
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]
"Last week, Arcade Fire swooped in and took a Canadian-sized shit all over this year’s CMJ. They totally ruined it."
O’Bryan walked me slowly down the steep side of the mesa, to the desert floor, so I could see Star Axis in its entirety. The work’s centrepiece is a 10-storey staircase that lets you walk up through the rock of the mesa, your eyes fixed on a small circular opening that cuts through the top of the pyramid. The first section of the staircase is roofless and open to the sky, but the end of it has a stone overhang that makes it look and feel like a tunnel. This ‘star tunnel’, as Ross calls it, is precisely aligned with Earth’s axis. If you bored a tunnel straight through the Earth’s core, from the South Pole to North Pole, and climbed up it, you’d see the same circle of sky that you do when you walk through Ross’ tunnel. Gazing up through it in the afternoon glare, I saw a patch of blue, the size and shape of a dime held at arm’s length. But if the sun had blinked for a moment, fading the heavens to black, I’d have seen Polaris, glittering at the end of the tunnel, like a solitary diamond in the void."Embracing the Void," Ross Andersen, Aeon.
Paper Matrix is a blog that gives instructions for cool papercraft objects, "reinterpreting the Danish tradition of woven paper hearts and ornaments." Cut paper in the prescribed ways and weave it together carefully to make a mobile of colorful hot air balloons, gorgeous and complex boxes; simple but satisfying pennants and much more... including a full theater for performances by paper dolls.
Easy Star All-Stars released (previously) their reggae and ska infused cover version of Radiohead's OK Computer, "Radiodread" way back in 2006.
Anne Helen Petersen, the voice behind "Scandals Of Classic Hollywood" (previously) and "doctor of celebrity gossip" gives us an academic rundown of the hows and whys of the last hundred years of Hollywood Star Making, celebrity, PR, marketing, fandom, and scandal management.
According to Yelp reviews, a Chicago-area Taco Bell is one of the best dining experience in the city people on r/Chicago over at reddit call it "magical.
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?
100,000 Stars [SLInteractive3DVisualization] (Seems to run best on Chrome or Safari and a decent graphics card)
Hubble's hidden treasures "Hubble has made over a million observations since launch, but only a small proportion are attractive images ... but the vast amount of data in the archive means that there are still many hundreds of beautiful images scattered among the valuable, but visually unattractive, scientific data that have never been enjoyed by the public. We call these pictures Hubble’s hidden treasures, and a few months ago, we invited the public to look through Hubble’s science archive to help us find them."
Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”
Astronomer’s Paradise - A beautiful time-lapse video of Paranal Observatory in action.
Temporal Distortion "What you see is real, but you can't see it this way with the naked eye. It is the result of thousands of 20-30 second exposures, edited together to produce the time lapse. This allows you to see the Milky Way, Aurora and other Phenomena, in a way you wouldn't normally see them." More info here.
King of the Cosmos (A Profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson) by Carl Zimmer. (Via) [more inside]
A collection of timelapse night photographs, beautifully edited to demonstrate light pollution, complete with Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," ISS, the Milky Way and a lot of spendy Nikon cameras.
“Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good,” Mark Zuckerberg said recently. “They are 100 times better.” Bull hockey, says Bill Taylor in the Harvard Business Review: great people are overrated. See also Great People are Overrated, II and Malcolm Gladwell's 2002 take on the same theme, The Talent Myth.
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.
A visitor to the Rotten Tomatoes site can check out the data for individual Hollywood careers—that's how Tabarrok came up with the Shyamalan graph—but there's no easy way for users to measure industrywide trends or to compare different actors and directors side-by-side. To that end, Rotten Tomatoes kindly let Slate analyze the scores in its enormous database and create an interactive tool so our readers might do the same.
From wide-eyed Ze Frank comes a new useless-and-joyful social thingy called Star.me that's like Farmville if Farmville involved giving people stars that look like animals. Sign up for an account with the promo code "sportsracers", offered by Ze on The Show::Replay, which celebrates The Show's five-year anniversary with added commentary.
"Not a sun rise, but a galaxy rise. A morning filled with 400 billion suns. The rising of the Milky Way." Beautiful time-lapse of the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe.
Ever wondered how the Twelve Colonies of Battlestar Galatica fit around a single star? Then gaze upon a lovely map of star clusters that is the BSG universe, designed by writer Jane Espenson and science advisor Kevin Grazier
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]
With only three of the ten nominated best pictures in this years Oscars having big name leads and last year's top five earners in the film business being directors, is this the end of the big name, big earning, Hollywood star actor?
Starlight - (late) Friday Flash Fun.
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.
Love Carol Channing? The Hollywood magazine Daeida has done The Carol Channing Issue - available online.
Star Viewer ― merging Google Earth (Sky) with Hubblecast videos to learn more about what you're seeing in the night sky. [more inside]
Time to turn off the lights. "Cities needlessly shine billions of dollars directly into the sky each year and, as a result, a fifth of the world's population cannot see the Milky Way. Malcolm Smith explains why a dark sky has much to offer everyone." [Via]
The Most Serene Republic, quite possibly the most underrated of all the acts on the Arts & Crafts label, create music in a similar vein to fellow Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire, Stars, and Broken Social Scene. Experience their explosive, big-band, polyphonic, experimental flair by listening to their 3 releases in full: Underwater Cinematographer (2005), Phages EP (2006), and Population (2007). A few video music videos as well: The Men Who Live Upstairs, Oh God, Content Always Was My Favourite
Starshine - catch the stars with your comet by clicking on the centres of gravity at the right times. Short, relaxing, charming Flash game.
Everyone knows hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds. So how do you extend this to more than four suits? Stars are a natural choice, although they sort of ruin the red/black symmetry. You could appeal to gaming history by making a six-suited deck with crowns and anchors. Or you could just double everything and come up with a whole four extra suits.
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.
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