Monday, December 31, 2007

A Year of Spectacular Comets

Credit & Copyright: Bob Nanz (San Diego Astronomy Association)
Explanation: Two spectacular comets graced Earth's skies during 2007. Both comets became bright enough to be seen by the unaided eye of the casual sky enthusiast. Early in 2007, Comet McNaught grew brighter than any comet in 40 years, displaying a beautiful dust tail that flowed across the sky. Comet McNaught (c/2006 P1) became known as the Great Comet of 2007, sported unusual striations in its expansive dust tail, and showed unexpectedly complex chemistry in its ion tail. Toward the year's end, normally docile and faint Comet Holmes brightened suddenly and unexpectedly to naked eye visibility. Remarkably, Comet 17P/Holmes stayed bright for weeks even though it lies beyond the orbit of Mars. No distant comet in recent history has remained so bright for so long. In this view, a white Comet Holmes was photographed in early December posing with the Heart and Soul Nebulas.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Beautiful Boomerang Nebula

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, J. Biretta (STScI) et al., (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA
Explanation: This symmetric cloud dubbed the Boomerang Nebula was created by a high-speed wind of gas and dust blowing from an aging central star at speeds of nearly 600,000 kilometers per hour. The rapid expansion has cooled molecules in the nebular gas to about one degree above absolute zero - colder than even the cosmic background radiation - making it the coldest known region in the distant Universe. Shining with light from the central star reflected by dust, the frigid Boomerang Nebula is believed to be a star or stellar system evolving toward the planetary nebula phase. This Hubble image was recorded using polarizing filters (analogous to polaroid sunglasses) and color coded by the angle associated with the polarized light. The gorgeous result traces the small dust particles responsible for polarizing and scattering the light. The Boomerang Nebula spans about one light year and lies about 5,000 light years away toward the constellation Centaurus.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Earth at Twilight

Credit: ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA
Explanation: No sudden, sharp boundary marks the passage of day into night in this gorgeous view of ocean and clouds over our fair planet Earth. Instead, the shadow line or terminator is diffuse and shows the gradual transition to darkness we experience as twilight. With the Sun illuminating the scene from the right, the cloud tops reflect gently reddened sunlight filtered through the dusty troposphere, the lowest layer of the planet's nurturing atmosphere. A clear high altitude layer, visible along the dayside's upper edge, scatters blue sunlight and fades into the blackness of space. This picture actually is a single digital photograph taken in June of 2001 from the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of 211 nautical miles.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jib Jab Sendables

This is really hysterical. You can import head shots of family and friends into 'sendables' which can then be emailed. It's really funny, try it:

Note: some are free, others must be paid for with 'credits' - you get 50 free credits when you join, and can buy more if needed...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stars and Dust through Baade's Window

Credit & Copyright: Stephane Guisard
Explanation: Billions of stars light up the direction toward the center of our Galaxy. The vast majority of these stars are themselves billions of years old, rivaling their home Milky Way Galaxy in age. Together with interstellar dust, these old stars combine to create this yellowish starscape. Although the opaque dust obscures the true Galactic center in visible light, there is a low density hole in the dust on the right of the image. The region, named Baade's Window for the German astronomer who studied it, is used to inspect distant stars and to determine the internal geometry of the Milky Way. Baade's Window lies toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comment of the Week

Here's a great comment, hat tip The Merry Widow:

"Ignorance is lack of knowledge, stupidity is usually genetic, but foolishness is a refusal to learn! Ignorance can be cured by teaching, stupidity can be forgiven as it is something the person can't control, but foolishness is an obdurant and defiant refusal to look at reality!"

Psalm 14:1
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

So, I guess the opposite states would be educated, smart and wise.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stellar Nursery W5 + Adams Quote

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
John Adams
US diplomat & politician (1735 - 1826)

I wonder what he would think of our music? Painting? Poetry?

Anthony Flew

I've ordered this book, by Anthony Flew (converted atheist) - Should be interesting:>D Here's a good joke for a chuckle or two (hat tip mom):

Have you heard about this case? In Florida , an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, 'Case dismissed!'

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, 'Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah...yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!'

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, 'Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists' holiday!'

The lawyer pompously said, 'Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?'

The judge said, 'Well it comes every year on exactly the same date---April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as 'April Fools Day,' consider that Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mount Shasta Glaciers Defy Global Warming, Grow

by John Iander
MOUNT SHASTA (CBS13) ― The debate over global warming has taken a pretty odd twist in Northern California. Up on Mount Shasta, the glaciers are not behaving like you'd expect.

Big mountains often produce their own weather patterns. Mount Shasta, at 14,162 feet seems to have a mind of its own these days. Shasta has seven glaciers. The biggest is the one on the middle, Whitney Glacier. What has surprised scientists about the glacier is that if the theories about global warming are true, the glacier ought to be shrinking, but it's not.

"Unlike most areas around the world, these glaciers are advancing, they are growing. Thirty percent in the last fifty years," says scientist Erik White.

White and mountain climber Chris Carr are Shasta experts.

"Every year it's a little bit different. But the glacier changes dramatically, year to year," says Carr.

So why are the glaciers larger today than they were a century or more ago?

"Mount Shasta is right at the very northern end of areas influenced by El Nino and were at the southern end of areas affected by La Nina. So between the two we get to see the benefits of that which means more snow and rain in this area," says White.

Snow scientists have been tracking the glaciers' size by comparing photos from a century ago to those taken decades later, and then using satellite data and computer modeling to determine the rate of growth.

Those models predict Shasta will continue to receive more than normal snowfall, but if the temperature continues to rise, the glaciers will begin to recede.

For now, the growing glaciers are good news to the town of Mount Shasta which hosts the thousands of tourists who come to here to experience the thrill of ice climbing.

You can climb mountain Shasta all the way to the glaciers to see for yourself, but, you'd better have good hiking equipment and be in good shape too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sometimes in April

I watched a really good movie today called "Sometimes in April" about the Rwanda massacre. You should rent it if you can. What a slaughter. Surprisingly, there was little liberal BS in it. The only 'good' people in the movie were the Christians. Christians who sheltered the Tutsi, Christian school girls who all chose death rather than betray their Tutsi counterparts. It was a beautiful movie.

After watching it, I wondered who was the greatest murderer in the 20th Century, based on killing people at the highest speed. Turns out it was Stalin who killed 7 million in the Ukraine by forced starvation in 1933. Rwanda was in second place killing 800,000 in 3 months. In a way, Rwanda seems worse though because every day ordinary citizens turned into blood-thirsty murderers overnight.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Global Warming Cycle

A Complete Solar Cycle from SOHO
Credit: SOHO - EIT Consortium, ESA, NASA
Explanation: Every eleven years, our Sun goes through a solar cycle. A complete solar cycle has now been imaged by the sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft, celebrating the 12th anniversary of its launch yesterday. A solar cycle is caused by the changing magnetic field of the Sun, and varies from solar maximum, when sunspot, coronal mass ejection, and flare phenomena are most frequent, to solar minimum, when such activity is relatively infrequent. Solar minimums occurred in 1996 and 2007, while the last solar maximum occurred in 2001 Pictured above is a SOHO image of the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light for each year of the last solar cycle, with images picked to illustrate the relative activity of the Sun.