Christmas on Mars

Christmas on Mars is like most other days on Mars: Dry, cold, and dusty.  However, as the Curiosity rover works its way across the ancient Martian surface, it sees changes in the terrain that are very interesting to investigate.  It’s at 1200 sols (Martian days) of roving around the planet as of Monday, and it continues to make its way to the primary target, Mount Sharp.  a Christmas photo shows how far the rover still has to go, but proves that it still has it’s sights set on the lonely mountain. The rover has travelled far since it’s landing, and...

Happy Solstice 2015!

The Winter Solstice is a strange time of year in Canada.  It’s often forgotten being so close to Christmas and the end of the year, and even though the astronomer in me recognizes the significance of the event, it’s so dark and dreary outside that I curse it!  The good news is that the Solstice, being the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, means that the days will get a bit brighter from here on in.  Even though the coldest months of January and February are still to come, I’m glad to have made it past the darkest day....

A Solar Flare vs. All the Holiday lights on Earth: Which has more energy?

I’ve talked at length about Solar Flares.  They are massively energetic, and due to the Sun’s 11 year maximum period of activity, we have seen a lot of powerful ones this year.  With the holidays in full swing, sometimes the Universe can put up its own lights.   Which is More Powerful? A Solar Flare or all the Lights on Earth during the season? First of all, we need to figure out how much energy lights produce, and roughly how many homes put them up, and for how long.  We will have to make some assumptions, but we will start...

Holiday Lights Make Cities Visibly Brighter from Space

With the extra lights shining in cities across the world at this time of year, we are outputting a significant number of photons into Space.  So many that Satellites in orbit have been able to see the difference.  In the maps below, the areas in green are locations where the brightness has increased by as much as 50%. Being able to see the difference from Space is amazing.  The maps also exist for Caribbean nations, where much of the population celebrates Christmas. Now I’m not avoiding any one particular holiday in my use of the phrase ‘holiday lights,’ because it turns...