More Visions of the Future

When it comes to science communication, the most important thing to keep in mind is the perspective of the layperson, what someone will see, think, or understand if they have no prior knowledge.  When you have some expert knowledge in science it can be hard to put it aside, but imagining the thought-process of a beginner gives you valuable information about how you are communicating, and can make a huge difference in your effectiveness. Which is why I am always thrilled to see things that communicate real science, yet stimulate the imagination.  NASA, being a publicly funded organization, has to...

Valentine’s ‘Holiday’

I think valentine’s day is a waste of time and money.  It’s great to show someone that you love them, but do we all have to buy a bunch of stuff on one particular day because ‘it’s the norm?’ I am not single, but when I was, I spent just as much time loathing this pointless day.  So in the spirit of saying no to a useless commercial ‘holiday,’ here is a picture of a lonely star, instead of some heart-shaped astronomical object. The star pictured is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, and although it is part of a...

Galactic Hide and Seek

Remember the big picture of Andromeda that showed 100 Million stars? That image resulted in a ton of new galaxy discoveries.  Most of these new galaxies were once hidden beyond the Andromeda galaxy, but with the super high resolution image, astronomers and the public were able to look straight through and see far more distant objects. Most images of galaxies have what we call ‘field stars’ in them.  These are some of the 400 Billion stars of the Milky Way that are far closer than the galaxy we are imaging.  For this reason, galaxy images tend to look very cluttered...

A Ticking Time Bomb

There are many types of objects in space that just can’t be seen with visible light, and many more that have very different features when observed across the electromagnetic spectrum.  A prime example of the former is a molecular cloud.  Cold, incredibly huge, and full of low density Hydrogen, these clouds are the raw material for star forming galaxies.  If stars begin to form within them, they can be seen as gorgeous nebulae, but when alone in the darkness of space we need to look for the dim signature of radio waves they emit. The Smith cloud, named after it’s...

Motivation Monday: Acquiring Knowledge

This past weekend, I participated in a speech contest, the theme of which was education.  I do have a lot of experience with education, but for this speech I tried to think more broadly about the topic, to find something that can relate to anybody.  It led me to think about education as more than just going to school or reading a book.  The acquisition of knowledge is about openness to new ideas and experiences, and having the bravery to try new things in order to learn.  This post is excerpts from my speech, and an analogy to education that...

15 Years of ISS Astronauts

It has been 15 years since November 2nd, 2000, when Astronauts first occupied the International Space Station.  Since then, it has been inhabited continuously by a team of up to six people.  220 citizens of Earth from 17 nations have flown with $100 Billion station over many 45 minute orbits of our planet. The men and women who have spent time aboard the station have had a view of our world that so many people have never experienced.  Seeing the planet as a planet, one of countless other worlds in a dark empty void dotted by stars, it changes your perspective on...

Astrophotography Reflections

I was doing my daily check of some astronomy and space news sites to see what was happening today, as I do every morning before I decide what to write about in my daily blog post.  I looked at today’s astronomy picture of the day, a gorgeous work of astrophtographic art showing Mt.Rainier and dozens of meteors, all in front of the sharp filaments of gas of the Milky Way. As a newbie in the world of astrophotography, I look at this picture and try to think about how it was done.  Did he take a foreground shot to get...

1000 Things You Didn’t Know About The Universe #2: Galaxies are Everywhere

Welcome to a new series of posts that will characterize 1000 amazing facts about the Universe.  There is so much out there that we have yet to learn, and every day, astronomers across the globe are using their research to reveal the deepest secrets of the cosmos.  This series will look at the strangest, coolest, most exciting facts that we have discovered in hundreds of years of modern science. Fact #2: There are more Galaxies than you could possibly count. Our night sky is jam-packed with stars.  If you’ve ever left the city to go far beyond the reach of...

A Great Year of Perseid Meteors!

I’m back from vacation! And what a time it was up north seeing the Perseid meteor shower this year.  With no Moon and the best dark skies I have had all summer, the shower did not disappoint, with at least 50 per hour and perhaps as many as 80 where I was viewing!  I saw a few great shots on Reddit’s Astronomy sub. I didn’t catch any meteors in my photos, and not for lack of trying.  I am still a rookie astrophotographer, so I had some trouble getting the settings right on my camera, even though I spent two...

Motivation Monday: The Dark Side of the Self

Pop Culture is saturated with the old story of a Hero’s journey.  The Hero is a great person, capable of so much good, but their strength also leaves them capable of great evil.  They undergo a journey of great struggle and are tested, seduced by the darkness, the easier path.  In the end they always come out on the side of good.  Star Wars was a perfect example of this, but you can find the same lines of thought in most heroic adventures. But our fascination with the light and dark sides of the self are because of our intimate...