The significance of the "Copernican Revolution" is that as soon you embrace the Sun as a star, you are immediately faced with the possibility that when you look out into space, someone or something is looking back. Before Copernicus most people thought the Earth was pretty much the whole Universe so the idea of aliens on other planets really creeped them out. The Jesuits had enough trouble deciding whether or not Native Americans had souls, let alone ET. Did each planet…Continue
Added by Brad Snowder on April 5, 2014 at 11:53pm — No Comments
There have been thousands of science geeks contributing to astronomy over the centuries and millennia. Here are a mere handful that have been selected from some of the most significant figures. Some of these people are real icons of human history, big thinkers. As Isaac Newton once said "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."…Continue
Added by Brad Snowder on March 22, 2014 at 10:52pm — No Comments
"The infinitude of creation is great enough to make a world, or a Milky Way of worlds, look in comparison with it what a flower or an insect does in comparison with the Earth." ~ Immanuel Kant
Galaxies are monstrous collections of stars, plus dust, gas, light matter, dark matter, and gray matter. In a fundamental way galaxies are…
Added by Brad Snowder on March 15, 2014 at 10:30pm — No Comments
"The drum in a dream pounds loud to the dreamer." ~ Carl Sandburg
Anisotropy: This term is frequently used to describe the temperature fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background. The word means not uniform, or not the same. Like if you dressed a calico cat with a plaid kilt then filled it with dark energy and exploded it for 13.76 billion years.
I must go down to the seas again,
To the lonely sea and the sky.
And all I want is a tall ship,
And a star to steer her by.
~ John Masefield
Suppose you lived in olden times and you joined a fleet of wooden ships and iron men. Or maybe it's wooden teeth and dirty old men. Whichever. But if you didn't know the basics of using a star to steer a…
Comets are essentially big dirty snowballs, the kind you throw at someone you really don't like. They are mostly made of muddy stinky ice, and bits of dust and little rocks.
Comets are about the size of cities and towns, sort of like frozen lakes in space. We've had a few that were the size of big cities like L.A. and one that was even bigger. But the majority are…
Johann Bode and Johann Titius were best buds and they made a rule about planets.
If you've ever thrown a baseball into the air, you probably noticed it quickly returned to the Earth. The harder you throw it, the…Continue
Snorri sounds like a real hoot. If the 13th century Vikings had a dictionary, and looked up the word "hoot" I bet Snorri's image…
If you haven't seen it, and want to, I'll tell you how. Call your local astronomy club. Those geeks will go on and on about it, and put you on a list to be called if someone sees it happening. You have to agree to receive the call at anytime of night because this stuff is very unpredictable and may only last half an hour…Continue
Added by Brad Snowder on January 26, 2014 at 12:03am — No Comments
The majority of asteroids are just silly little rocky bits of junk between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the crumbs that fell from the plate as those planets were served up on the solar dinner table. This crumby region is known as the Asteroid Belt.
[insert suspender joke]
There are other tribes of asteroids gathered here and there. For…Continue
24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? Well yeah, maybe. Or maybe not. It probably has something to do with those pesky ancient Babylonians and their obsession with overwrought symbolism. Somehow they got onto a kick about how magical the number 60 is, and how that divides nicely by 12, and then some of the grain stock got wet and smelly, and well I think you can…Continue
Meade 10" f/10 LX200 ACF
I'll start with that "ACF" part because that tells you what kind of a telescope I've purchased. It looks an awful lot like a Schmidt Cassegrain because the light path is "folded up" into a similar package to a Schmidt. The 10" f/10 suggests a 100 inch light path but the scope is…
One whole year ago my fellow NASA tweeps and I were at JPL in Pasadena listening to Allen Chen give us live play by play updates as Curiosity descended to the Martian surface and the famous seven minutes of terrible possibilities unfolded. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson has since admitted he had severe doubts about the Rube Goldberg landing scheme. You can get an…Continue
60mm, f/6.6, <0.5A H-α, BF15.
And here's what all that technical mumbo jumbo means.
The telescope is a refractor and the diameter of the lens is 60mm. The f/6.6 means the length of the scope is 6.6 times longer than it is wide which makes it 396 mm long (but everyone says…
Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian Surrier Truss Telescopes
A dobsonian telescope consists of optics which were designed by Isaac Newton in the 1660's, on a mount popularized by John Dobson in the 1960's. They say more than half of all amateur scopes are of this type and I believe it. Many people make their…
Did I ever tell you about the time I prevented a bombing? Okay forget I said anything, but here's what happened.
On July 11, 1991 in La Paz, Mexico there was a total eclipse of the Sun. The Keystone Astronomers were there.
Keystone Astronomers at Large is a quirky…
My first car was a white 1964 Barracuda. I was pretty proud of it. I suppose having my own car at age 16 helped me develop a proper sense of responsibility and independence. Those things are important. But that's not where this story is going.
One night I was on a camp-out fishing trip with some friends. The…
Added by Brad Snowder on July 6, 2013 at 10:03pm — No Comments