The Largest Neutron Star in Existence

Neutron stars are the most extreme objects in the universe that have been proven to exist.  Black holes are very likely, but we’re still not 100% sure about them.  A black hole is like a giant squid in the ocean.  We’re pretty sure they exist, but nobody has caught one.  The neutron star on the other hand is like a blue whale, everybody knows they exist, and they are massive, rare, and beautiful.  Of course, once we know something exists, the next logical step is to figure out how it behaves, to characterize and generalize it, and to identify where it’s...

Cryovolcano on Pluto

Cryovolcano is a cool word, literally and figuratively.  You hear about it a lot when talking about solar system moons like Enceladus, and it’s one of those words that would make a heck of a great Hollywood disaster movie title, like ‘Sharknado’ or ‘Armageddon.’ I do not, however, endorse either of those movies, they were both terrible.  At any rate, a real cryovolcano seems like an interesting thing.  It’s a volcano in the sense that it looks a little like a mountain and spews out material when the pressure builds from beneath the surface, but it’s not your traditional Earth-like volcano...

More New Horizons Images!

After focussing all of its energy on taking science data during closest approach, New Horizons has been slowly but surely sending back the stream of information collected on the Pluto system.  This long process of returning the data to Earth has meant periodic updates for humanity, and a rekindling of excitement for the newest secrets revealed about the dwarf planet.  Here is a video of the region of Pluto imaged in high resolution, followed by some of the best still along the way. This is the closest and most detailed view of Pluto that humanity will have for decades.  We...

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...

Precision and the Prime Meridian

The Prime Meridian is the imaginary line of zero longitude, the geographic starting point for any East-West degree measurement of any place on the Earth.  It was selected by an international delegation that convened in 1884 in Washington, DC.  It’s a North-South imaginary line that run right through the Airy transit circle at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.  This is also where we get the measurement of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). As our ability to measure position and time improves with the Global Positioning System (GPS), the precise position of the prime meridian has actually changed, moving 102 meters East...

SpaceX Wants to go to Mars, and they are Marketing it!

Its no secret that Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, and if he keeps steering the ship of amazing work done by SpaceX, he will have full support.  He has been candid about mistakes, honest about goals, and modest about successes.  So with Mars on the horizon in the future, here are some tourism posters made by SpaceX. All images courtesy of SpaceX. They have such a retro 50s sci-fi feel, which I love.  It’s making fun of all those old campy posters, but there is a decidedly romantic feel to them, especially for anyone who has dreamed of...

Do You Weigh Less When the Moon is Above You?

Everything in the universe that has mass, has gravity.  It’s easy to understand that the Earth has gravity and pulls on us all day every day.  It’s just as easy to understand that the Moon and the planets and the Sun have gravity too, and they are all pulling on us. It’s much harder to understand that every person on Earth has gravity too.  You exert a force on the Earth, and on every other human.  You also exert a force on every rock, tree, and creature that roams the Earth, and they all exert a force on you.  The...