Friday, August 31, 2007

dark lunar eclipse

from all accounts that i've heard, the lunar eclipse late monday night was a "dark" one. the moon appeared especially dark red as it passed thru the earth's shadow.

here is what the moon saw as the earth passed in front of the sun.... a solar eclipse from the moon!

astronomical geometry

one of my earliest memories of the night sky is from a weekend camping trip i took with my elementary school. one night, we hiked out into a clearing in the woods and chomped down on a certain flavor of lifesavers that shot of sparks inside our mouths! then we listened as our counselor told us three different interpretations of the constellation, orion, that originated from different cultures. i found these stories fascinating and i think this experience may have sparked my interest in space!

one reason that so many star patterns have different interpretations from various human cultures all over the world, is that our eyes are extremely good at recognizing patterns... especially those that form simple geometric shapes. orion is one of the most easily recognizable constellations in the sky because of the straight line formed by the three stars that form his belt, or depending on your culture, these three stars form the magi, the saucepan, the shepherd of anu, shen, the long sash, etc.... there are probably many more interpretations out there that you all are familiar with and i am not!! orion appears just before dawn in the southeast right now. it will be visible for more of the night as winter approaches.

another simple geometric form and easily recognizable shape is a triangle. the moon is two days after full and still illuminating the sky, but the summer triangle is easily visible right now! almost at the zenith (directly overhead) for many is the bright star vega. this is the brightest star in the summer triangle constellation which consists of deneb to the northeast and altair to the southeast. since most of us cannot clearly see the milky way galaxy where we live, the summer triangle will be much easier to identify than this picture would lead you to believe... but i thought it was a cool shot and wanted to display it!!

next, our eyes recognize a huge square low in the east. the great square of pegasus... one of the largest constellations in the northern sky! from the sky map below, you can find the square, follow the left corner star to see the streamers flowing behind the kite (or however you want to interpret it)... and try to find andromeda! this massive neighboring galaxy should be easily visible with binoculars, but maybe not with your eye until the moon shine decreases next week.

happy hunting!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

ever looked thru a telescope?

i just looked at my calendar to figure out what the date is for next friday, when i realized i was looking at the wrong *year*!! i managed to move the calendar from my old office, which was set at august 2006 when i left austin, all the way to my new office and onto the wall above my desk before realizing today that the year was wrong! oops. now i feel silly, and i dont have a 2007 calendar!

anyway, i was looking up the date for next friday because it's the first night that i will be operating the 9-inch telescope on the campus of the university of texas at austin! this fall, starting next friday, sept 7, i will be conducting public viewing nights on top of painter hall (map)... just next to UT's tower.

every friday and saturday night from 7 to 9 pm (weather permitting), i'll be opening the dome of the ~70 year old telescope to show folks mountains on the moon, jupiter and its moons, the andromeda galaxy, nebulae, star clusters, and anything else that seems interesting in the fall sky!

i'm very excited about this opportunity because i feel a sense of awe every single time i look at a planet through a telescope and i like talking to people about astronomy. i can't wait to show my friends and strangers the wonders of the universe thru the eye of a telescope that uses absolutely no electricity when it tracks objects across the sky!

this event is absolutely FREE for anyone of any age! you can call 512-232-4265 as the sun sets to see if the weather is good enough for viewing. if there is rain or snow, super strong winds or more than half the sky is covered with clouds, the night's viewing will be cancelled. also, if there is a UT football game on saturday that starts after 6pm, the viewing will be cancelled.

otherwise.... come up, say hi and see the night sky!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

when sleep is necessary

i've moved all my stuff into my new place. i dont have as much as i thought i did, but i still need to get rid of a lot! anyone in austin interested in a small tv and/or dvd player? as i slowly open boxes and discover stuff i havent thought about in over a year, i also discover some specific objects that i didnt even realize i dont currently own.... like last night when i finally collapsed in my bed, i realized that i dont own a pillow! hahaha! i balled up my fleece jacket, like i do when i'm camping, and it turned out to be a perfectly comfortable temporary solution. the only problem is that it was so comfortable, i didnt hear my alarm trying to wake me up to see the eclipse. big dud. i missed it! my body and my mind are extremely worn out right now so i guess i just needed the sleep.

anyone else see it? how did it compare to previous ones? any pictures??

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

lunar eclipse tonight!

tonight we will be treated to a total lunar eclipse!!!! this occurs when the sun is on one side of the earth and the moon is directly on the other side. the moon is full during a lunar eclipse since the sun illuminates it entirely from our view on earth. the three bodies line up in a perfect line, so that the shadow of the earth, created by the sun, passes right over the full moon.

the picture below (that came from stardate) shows the path of the moon thru the shadow of the earth. the darkest part of the shadow, the umbra, is shown as the dark red circle. the penumbra shows a ring of partial shadow. when the moon passes thru this area, it shows a faint orange color.

the challenge with this lunar eclipse is that it starts at 3 am!!! by 5am, the moon will be fully immersed in the umbra region and this portion of the total eclipse will last until about 6:30am. so you can either stay up super late or wake up early to see this astronomical phenomenon. enjoy!!

there's more info at NASA's eclipse page and an animation i found from a 2003 eclipse....

Saturday, August 25, 2007

home sweet home

home.... provides instantaneous familiarity no matter how long you've been gone. it was exciting to experience a whole new night sky when i moved to the southern hemisphere, but i feel like i've jumped back to my home planet when i stand outside on these warm austin nights under the northern constellations. i miss the exotic southern cross hanging overhead, but the presence of the big dipper comforts me like the neighbor from down the street who has always seemed like an old man even when i was very young! the summer triangle created by vega, deneb and altair, shines brightly overhead. cassiopeia... the hardest constellation to spell... but an easy "W" to find in the sky!

there's a lot of talk this week about google earth's new feature, google sky. it seems cool enough, but i still prefer to go browse thru the astronomy picture of the day archive or go directly to the hubble heritage project site. and better yet... just print out a star chart from sky maps and explore the sky with my own two eyes!

Friday, August 24, 2007

review of the universe

i hadnt seen this before but i like it a lot.... a review of the universe - structures, evolutions, observations, and theories. it talks about many many fundamental objects in the universe from small to big to really huge to teeny tiny.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

what's the difference...

between the words "beneath" and "underneath"??

3 days in austin

safe and sound back in austin. that was a lot of traveling and a lot of fun! i'm between laptops right now so i wont have any pictures to share for another week or so, but thats alright as i need to get back in the swing of working!

i'm furiously looking for a place to live in austin so hopefully i can move before i start teaching next week. i'm borrowing my friend's scooter for a few days so i can search the neighborhoods where i want to live and check places out. wow, i missed driving a scooter! they're so much fun!! i dont think i have enough money saved up to buy a car right now, but i may invest in a scooter!

my first day back in austin was fantastic... went to one of my favorite spots on the greenbelt that runs right through the center of town. you enter a trail in one of several neighborhoods and then walk for 10 minutes or so to an isolated area with big rocks to jump off of into the clear green warm water. amazing! i forgot how nice it is just to sit in warm water. and i forgot the feel of slimy moss on my fingers. this is definitely one of my favorite places in the world! i took these pictures several years ago when i first arrived in austin.

on day 2, i went to campus and back to work to sift thru my gigantic pile of snail mail and to say hola to old familiar faces. its amazing how i havent thought about the little things, like going up the elevator in RLM to the 16th floor. i stood in the elevator realizing that it hadnt changed a single bit and it felt just as familiar as ever eventhough it hadnt passed through my mind in almost a year.

after work i drove thru the sunny neighborhoods looking for "for rent" signs. i eventually got bored and headed off to a friends house.... just at the moment that the sky darkened and a wall of rain fell on my exposed body! i quickly turned off the road and drove the scooter under a tree. too late... i was already pretty wet. the feel of rain was nice though.... it rained twice that i saw the whole time i was in chile!! after a few minutes, the rain slowed so i got back out on the street again. within three blocks, a strong and painful burst of heavy raindrops fell, so i pulled off the road again and under some trees. i sat there for about 15 minutes, waiting and watching as the raindrops from the tree fell and soaked me completely! i enjoyed watching the wind patterns via the gushes of rain that fell over the parking lot. eventually, i made it back on the road and to my friend's house! dry drivers inside their cars were as friendly as possible to my soaking wet frame as i cautiously turned on my turn signal to switch lanes!!

DAY 2 UPDATE: i forgot to mention that the moon was bright and near jupiter this night. a beautiful sight.

today is day 3. i'm back on the scooter again and it will probably rain at some point, but oh well... i'll get a little wet again in the warm rain!

DAY 3 UPATE: i think i found a cool place to live. details later!

as i drove the scooter home excited that i found a potential place, i looked east and saw dark rain clouds with visible streams of rain falling to the ground. i thought... mierda... vamos!!! i still had to drive thru downtown to get to casa de garret. i made it all the way to south congress and mary before the looming clouds dropped their first drops. i was going strong towards home but then caught the light at oltorf! as i sat there, a heavy wall of rain fell on me. i noticed the dry patches of road beneath the cars around me. i shrugged at the driver next to me as water drops fell from my helmet. three blocks later i rushed the corner and pulled into the garage... soaking wet... again... just as the next burst of storm fell to the ground.

damn beautiful refreshing wet rainy season!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

viva chile, mierda!

it's so hard to believe that 8 months has passed since i began my adventures on this crazy continent. tomorrow i start my journey from here...

Viva Chile Mierda!!

to here....

America, Fuck Yeah!!

similar flags but oh so different places. thank you to everyone i met along the way. i've learned many things during this journey and i can confidently say i'm a different person than who i was when i arrived. i'll miss everything from the endless avocado and peeled tomato salads to the interesting translations to the random treasures in the andes... and most especially the empanadas!!

goodbye chile... for now. hello again austin!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

tats for nerds!

carl zimmer at the loom blog is collecting pictures of
scientists and their tattoos. i think this is so cool! i've been checking it out all day for updates!

i've been wanting another tattoo for a while now and i have an idea mixing around in my head. i've wanted another tattoo ever since i got my first one at 18. the problem is that i've never had the idea, the location and the money together all at the same time and these are the 3 critical things for getting a permanent thing placed on my body!

the science tattoo thing has given me another idea.... and i think i might have it done... at some point ;) i've been a little leary about getting a tattoo in a bold location because of the prospect of having to apply for jobs over and over again in the world of academia. but really, would i want a job from people who think having a tattoo reflects negatively on my ability to do good science? NO!

so probably this fall or if not... definitely when i finish my degree next year... i'll be showing off a new tattoo. hee hee!

Friday, August 3, 2007

space reading?

there are many many interesting articles to choose from at this week's carnival of space.... so go have a look!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

scorpion kick

rene higuita es un genio y un loco! he's the craziest goal keeper i've ever seen and i can't believe i'm just hearing about him now!

watch at 1:14.... the purely awesome scorpion kick!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

dream home

i mean, other than living in a real tree house.... what could be better than a low environmental impact hobbit house???

martian blueberries

the informative put together a list of the top 10 most amazing things discovered by the mars rovers, spirit and opportunity. everyone likes their lists and i think it's great that there's finally one about my favorite robots!

items included on the list are the first meteorite ever found on another planet and the possibility that mars smells like rotten eggs from all the sulfur on its surface!! my personal favorite discovery by the rovers was definitely the blueberries! these are little ball-shaped rocks that were named for looking the blueberries in blueberry muffins.

Scientists aren't completely sure what causes these little rocks to have such spherical shapes and pure contents, but they have a good theory. the BB-sized spheres are mostly made of hematite, an oxide of iron. if the martian spheres are formed similarly to blueberry stones found on earth in utah, then over time, water seeped through cracks, spaces and pores in the martian rock and dirt.... eventually, the water swept the materials (like iron and other minerals) to a different location with different chemistry. the iron flowing with the water reacted differently to the new surroundings and got stuck somewhere. over time more iron stuck, creating a layered spherical ball. weathering of the surrounding area after many many years blew away loose dust and left the erosion-resistant blueberries grouped together... as they were found on mars.

so this would mean.... that there was once flowing water on mars, which definitely deserves a number 1 ranking on the list!!

cool stuff. i havent read much more about these blueberries recently. anyone else seen articles about them dated later than 2004? anyway, neat top 10 list and finally some good press for NASA!