Cosmos

    The length of a human life is around 80 years. You might get 100 if you’re lucky. The universe is about 13.7 billion years old. The vast difference between a human lifespan and the age of the universe can be difficult to grasp — even the words we use in attempting to describe it (like “vast”) are comically insufficient.

    To help us visualize what a difference of eight orders of magnitude might look like, Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh have created a scale model of time in the Mojave Desert, from the Big Bang to the present day.

    Building a Scale Model of Time

    Working through my blog archive to simplify categories and came across this post from almost 10 years ago. There’s nothing quite like a long night under the stars. Weeping to the Cosmos // Beardy Star Stuff

    What is Earth Made of

    One aspect of astronomy that I have grown to love and appreciate is the tie in to the other areas of science. For example, planetary geology which, in turn, ties into our study of our own Earth’s geology. Of course this also ties into chemistry. And biology. And on on and. This morning as I browsed Apple News1 I came across this very nice introduction to the geology of our planet.

    Read More

    Story of a sunset

    As the sun begins to set the world around me begins to dance. As my feet crunch along the rock road below, dragonflies spin through the air just above my head. There are so many of them feeding in the fading light of the day that they form a small swarm. Higher in the air the night hawks perform their own acrobatic maneuvers above the fields, also in search of an evening meal.

    Read More

    Earth — Shot on iPhone with Carl Sagan narration

    Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot is fantastic and this is a good use of it. See it on YouTube

    Downhill

    There was a moment in the early years of the universe when all of spacetime was a plasma. Particles and light had not yet gone their own way. Then they split. It’s been downhill ever since.

    Finishing the Herschel I program

    In the fall of 2012 I bought my first telescope since having one as a kid. I wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of it but I wanted to give it a go. I suspected I’d not regret the purchase. Within the first couple of weeks I’d become obsessed. I went out each clear night and sometimes stayed up till I started dozing at the scope which was often in the wee hours of the morning.

    Read More

    Looking at other galaxies

    One of the best things about living under really dark skies and having a decent telescope is viewing other galaxies. While I equally enjoy the many beautiful objects in our own galaxy such as nebulae and globular clusters, the hunt for distant galaxies has a meditative quality for me. Sometimes the finding is a bit of a let down. For example, last night I went looking for NGC 7042, a spiral galaxy.

    Read More

    When People Die

    I’ve got an aunt who will likely be dying in the next couple of days. My mom’s sister. Death is an interesting thing because it’s the one fact that we all share, one of only a few certainties and yet, it is something so many resist. We create religions, in part, to help ourselves deal with our mortality. We create all sorts of elaborate beliefs to that end. My approach to death might be best summed up by one of my favorite songs, “Fact of Life” by Poi Dog Pondering:

    Read More

    A Sentient Being

    Oliver Sacks on learning he has cancer I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

    Read More

    Seeing the cosmos all around us

    Cosmic Dance

    A few weeks back I wrote about viewing the supernova in M82. It was first observed around the same time that an article was circulating about the continuing and drastic decline of Monarch butterfly populations. I had both the supernova and the threat to the Monarch on my mind when I sat down to write about my observation of M82 but I couldn't quite make the connection I wanted to make.

    Read More

    A Reassuring Fable

    With the new Cosmos reboot coming, I present to you Part 3 of the Sagan Series.

    Lunch with Carl

    Lunch with Carl Sagan! Working our way through Cosmos in preparation for the new series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

    Weeping to the Cosmos

    Moon photographed with iPhone and Z12, February 5, 2013 We had a fantastic night last night in our group observation for the Eastern Ozarks Astronomical Society. It was the usual crew plus a couple of newbies. Of course Russ and Karen were there. Kaleesha made it back for her third time at the scope and with her Blueberry and Seth. It was Seth’s first time and he took to the scope very naturally.

    Read More