The Galilean Moons

In the year 1610, it was commonly believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe, that all bodies rotated around the perfect planet, placed by god with the heavens around it.  Galileo Galilei dealt a major blow to this idea, by using an early telescope to improve his vision and look up at some surprising dots. These dots formed a line that went straight through the bright planet Jupiter.  As Galileo looked again and again, night after night, he noticed that they not only persisted, they moved.  Their motion was predictable, and Galileo realized that they were orbiting Jupiter, just...

Relative Time: Photography Year 2

Last year after getting a Canon DSLR camera, I spent as much time as I could doing some basic astrophotography.  I took photos of stars, planets, the Moon, and even did some star trails.  One thing I quickly realized is that there are limitations if you don’t have a tracking mount or a telescope adaptor.  The tracking gives you a method for taking longer exposures, and the telescope adaptor as expected gives you the ability to zoom in on distant objects. Even with these temporary limitations (I hope to invest in them someday) there are still a lot of options...

Motivation Monday: Situation Variation

Why is it hard to keep a long term goal? Logically, if you complete 1/365th of a task every single day of a year, you will complete your goal.  When I started my year of blogging, I thought it would be easy to commit 30 minutes every day, in the morning, to writing a post, and then after a year I would have 365 posts.  How it actually happened was a few weeks of consistency, a few days of nothing, a few days of double, triple, or even quadruple posting to catch up or get ahead, and no regularity or discernible...

The Unpopular Meteor Shower

Everyone in Canada looks forward to the Perseid meteor shower each August.  The weather is warm, the skies are clear, and they have a high zenithal hourly rate (ZHR).  But once they are done, it’s not long before the weather starts to cool down, Canada moves into Autumn and eventually the deep freeze of winter sends our fine nation into hibernation.  But if you do feel like coming out of your fort this weekend, in an unseasonably warm December, you will be treated to what has often been the best meteor shower of the year: The Geminids. Under ideal conditions,...

Massive Ice Cloud on Titan

Titan is the most interesting body in the solar system from a weather standpoint.  It has a thick and robust atmosphere, a liquid cycle of methane and other hydrocarbons, and it has seasonal variations in these patterns.  It’s essentially a cold and oxygen-deficient version of Earth.  Because the seasons on Titan take 7.5 years to pass, we have few opportunities to study them up close with the Cassini spacecraft.  So as long as Cassini is operating, we are using our time wisely to see how Titan is changing.  The first major change is a giant ice cloud that has formed...

NASA Discovery! Flowing Water on Mars!

After an epic weekend of eclipse talk, NASA came out with a press conference that overshadowed much more than just the Moon.  The announcement, as many had speculated, revealed that conclusive evidence shows there is flowing water on Mars.  Like seasons on Earth, warmer conditions cause water to flow down steep hills and into valleys. The speculation came due to the invitation of Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology to the NASA panel.  Ojha noticed strange features on Mars as an undergraduate student in 2010, while looking at images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)’s High Resolution Imaging Science...

Polar Seasons

A few days ago we passed the Autumnal Equinox, and said goodbye to Summer in the northern hemisphere, as the southern hemisphere welcomed Spring.  This is all due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis at 23.5 degrees.  As it orbits the Earth, the tilt alternately points the hemispheres toward direct sunlight, bringing summer during that time and winter 6 months later. But what about the North and South pole? What happens there? In summertime, because the North pole is actually tilted toward the Sun, the region receives direct sunlight for 6 months! The Sun just never sets!  Check out...

An Observer’s Dream: Venus and Jupiter Unite

What is the brightest object in the sky? Why the Sun of course.  Second brightest? The Moon.  Most people are able to answer this question quite easily, but what is the third brightest? The fourth?  Many people will confidently say Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, or Polaris the north star.  The answer is that the planet Venus is third and the planet Jupiter is fourth.  It shouldn’t be that surprising that planets hold these positions.  They are much closer than the distant background of stars, and the human species has been observing them since the dawn of recorded...

The Moons of Pluto: Chaotically Unpredictable

As we are approaching the New Horizons bypass of Pluto just over a month from now, there is a lot of focus on the Plutonian system, from its strange Moons to its enigmatic surface.  As we wait for the first ever high resolution images of the surface of Pluto, we can look to Hubble data to give us our fix.  The best image of Pluto taken up to today, by Hubble, is blurry and at best can lead us to speculation about what we are seeing. But Hubble, as always, produces valuable science, and has given new insights into the...

Motivation Monday: Excuses

Canadians always complain about the weather.  No matter what time of year it is. In winter, we get ‘It’s too cold,’ ‘wow is it ever damp outside,’ and ‘I hate the lack of sunshine.’ Yet when we come around to the exact opposite weather, we get summer complaints of ‘It’s so hot outside, it’s uncomfortable,’ ‘It’s too humid, it feels sticky,’ and ‘There’s too many bugs.’  The only happy medium for us is a 20 degree clear day with a slight breeze and moderate humidity, though I’m sure someone would find fault with it.  Complaining is fine once in awhile,...