Posts Tagged ‘moon’

Lunar Eclipse February 20, 2008

Posted: 21 February 2008 in Uncategorized
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Last night was the last total lunar eclipse for two years and it was quite good. Pittsburgh weather cleared long enough for me to snap a couple shots of the unobstructed moon with Regulus (the brightest star in the constellation Leo) bright above it and Saturn even brighter to the bottom left. There was still a light haze that I think made it difficult for me to get the focus right. I was able to capture the rich, red color while the moon was still exposing a sliver of sun-drenched rock. Then the clouds came in earnest and I was getting tired, so I went to bed, missing the full umbra. But at least I got to see some of it this time. Last time there was a lunar eclipse, I was completely out of luck.

Total lunar eclipse from February 20, 2008.  A sliver is still exposed to the sun. (more…)

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Moon in the Clouds

Posted: 28 January 2008 in Uncategorized
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I can stare at the moon on a clear night for quite a while. When I was very young, I felt like I could reach out and touch it. When I first got into model rockets (around 8 years old), I thought I could build one big enough one day to send it to the moon. My stepfather at the time (Greg) dispelled that notion, but not unkindly. Anyhow, I was looking at the moon tonight and thought it looked cool through the clouds. I took this picture with the flash on, so the shutter speed was fast. I tried taking several other shots with very slow shutter speeds, but the clouds blurred and the moon was overexposed. I used a tripod, but unfortunately when I snap the shot I cause a slight jitter. You can see there is a double-image effect going on here, which is the result of my movement after clicking the button.

The moon in the clouds

This T-shirt just cracked me up:

Finders Keepers

Of course, it actually could have been this way. I think the US even had a defacto assumption that the moon was ours. This is very much not the case. With the recent Japanese and Chinese probes to the moon, the upcoming German probe, and rumors of more probes and missions to the moon, there are many claimants. There was a Moon Treaty that was supposed to hand control of all heavenly bodies over to the international community (that is, the UN). However, this useless piece of paper was only ratified by the likes of Mexico, France, India, Chile, Australia, and the Phillipines (and several other small countries), none of which have a manned space program.

The moon is potentially a gold mine (or rather, a helium-3 mine). What it is not, is a waste of time. If we ever do manned exploration of other worlds, a lunar base would be a great base of operations. For one, it’s good practice. For another, the lower lunar gravity could allow people to reside there longer with slightly reduced health effects while still providing an easy base to launch from. Of course, the moon has its dangers. NASA is planning a new lunar base on the lunar pole, where danger from solar radiation is diminished while still allowing for energy gathering from solar arrays.

It will be interesting to see how things turn out on the moon. Will there be borders and bases manned by robots and people from many different countries? Or will we see international cooperation as we have seen with the space station? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

Earthrise

Posted: 13 November 2007 in Uncategorized
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One day our grandchildren will look into the morning sky and see this and think, I wonder what it’s like to live there…  This is the first high definition view of Earth rising over the moon.  It was taken by the Kaguya spacecraft put in lunar orbit by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). [source]

The
Credit: JAXA/NHK

New X Prize cooler than ever

Posted: 13 September 2007 in Uncategorized
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Buzz has been building over the past few days about what will be the next X Prize. If you don’t know what the first X Prize was all about, skip down a bit. The new Google Lunar X Prize was announced today. The prize purse is $20 million for the grand prize winner, $5 million to a second place winner and $5 million split amongst several bonus prizes. The goal is a soft-landing on the moon with a robotic craft which then must signal back to Earth. The rover must roam around for at least 500m before sending the “Mooncast”.

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Total Lunar Eclipse Blues

Posted: 27 August 2007 in Uncategorized
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Much to my sorrow, it looks like seeing the total lunar eclipse that is to happen early tomorrow morning is not in the cards. The eclipse will begin just after 4:51am. At that point, the moon will be 18 degrees above the western horizon, which means I’ll have a hard time getting to a place in Pittsburgh where I can view it free of buildings, mountains (hills), or trees. By 5:30am, when half of the moon is consumed by the partial eclipse, it will be a mere 12 degrees above the horizon. By the time the total eclipse starts, it will be about 6 degrees above the horizon and dawn will already be brightening the sky. If I lived in Los Angeles, the moon would be a whopping 36 degrees above the horizon when the total eclipse began.

At least I still have the Aurigids to look forward to this Saturday. We’re going to Donna’s mom’s house, in semi-rural eastern Pennsylvania. The viewing won’t be as good as my uncle’s location in Ohio, but it will certainly suffice. The Aurigids are a meteor shower caused by the passage of comet Kiess in 4 AD and later in 1911 AD. A trail of debris circles the sun in its path and the Earth occasionally passes into this trail. The great news is, it appears that this year we are poised to go straight into the heart of this debris field. The bad news is, it will again be mainly viewable on the west coast. The shower will peak around 4:30 in the morning in the west. The last Aurigid shower had mostly bright meteors that came in vivid colors. The next Aurigid shower won’t be in my lifetime.

NASA: “Strange Lights: The 2007 Aurigid Meteor Shower”

The Aurigid Meteor Shower Viewing Campaign

Update

There will be a team from the University of North Dakota travelling to Las Vegas to provide a live webcam feed of the lunar eclipse.

National Geographic has a nice graphic showing how much of the eclipse will be visible where.

Roasted coffee and German satellites

Posted: 21 August 2007 in Uncategorized
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Gmail features web clips over the menu bar that you can customize and often spew some sort of advertisement. One such is for the Coffee Fool. They make the claim that fresh coffee should be a sweet drink and that bitterness and flatness are a result of the roasting process. I’ve been very curious to try it out, but the price is anywhere from 50-200% more than Starbucks, which is already expensive enough. I might cave soon, though, as I have been given scientific justification to spend money (and frankly, the thinnest pretexts will do when it comes to spending money). So boffins have concluded that the bitterness is coffee is not due to caffeine as it had been supposed, but due to roasting. It seems the Coffee Fool knows what they’re talking about.

Battling Bitter Coffee: Chemists Identify Roasting As The Main Culprit

On an almost completely unrelated note, Germany will be deploying a satellite to go into orbit around the moon. The goal is to create a stereoscopic view of the moon and thereby produce 3-D images. It will also capture 3-D data of the moon’s magnetic field. All this is part of a drive to go back to the moon. With W‘s call for a manned moon mission by 2020, the world must surely be seeing a critical need to not allow the US to spread its hegemony there as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting the world thinks the US will be taking over the moon, per se, but that early influence will lead to American dominance of the birthright of all mankind (which is itself debatable, I know).

The moon is basically a giant nugget of gold protected in the deepest cave and guarded by a pack of crazy monkeys. It’s damn hard to get at, but whoever does will be rich. The moon is loaded with Helium-3, which — if fusion does become possible — will be the fuel. So there’s a bit of a chance here and potentially worth billions. Now we just need to get fusion working…

Mining the Moon: Not Just Pie in the Sky

Details on Germany’s Lunar Exploration Orbiter