Thursday, March 25, 2010

NGC 2442: A distorted galaxy

Click on the pic, or read about it here.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Sun halo over Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tethys Behind Titan: Two moons of Saturn

Thursday, December 31, 2009

NGC 7293

The Helix Nebula and its clouds of glowing dust. Thanks to Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Gloria in excelsis!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roy Prol's gift to the rest of us.

Thanks, Roy!

And thanks to Melinda for the referral.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

NGC 4921

From the Hubble Advent Calendar, 2009. Of course, you should click on this to see the much bigger version, or go to the Big Picture site. This is for December 17.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

NGC 6302

Monday, December 07, 2009

Comet McNaught over Australia, 2007

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

NGC 2818

Click on the pic, from this year's Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Bright Sun and Crescent Earth

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud

See the page at Astronomy Picture of the Day for an explanation; or click the pic for a better view.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Name that planet!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

This is your planet -- Moon over Sobreda, Portugal

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You can make a real contribution to the exploration of the universe

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Monday, October 19, 2009

Opportunity on Mars

If we were a sensible species, we'd be building new countries in the sky instead of blowing up the ones we already have.

Image: See APoD for an explanation of the pic and the mission (not a euphemism for "war" in this case).

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Star-forming region Sharpless 171

For a bigger view, click on the pic, or here. Thanks to NASA and Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Galactic center, Milky Way

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ramadan crescent moon, Amman, Jordan

Thursday, August 27, 2009

M42, the Great Nebula in Orion

Plus M43 and NGC 1977.

Thanks to Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Click for a larger image.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Big Picture hits it out of the park


This image:
Mount Fuji from space.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

NGC 6240: Merging Galaxies

From Astronomy Picture of the Day. Click on the pic for a good view.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will McLean on the Great Enterprise

Some years back -- it was probably while I was teaching Ancient Civilizations -- it occurred to me that we owe most of what we know about the physical universe to patient efforts over the centuries by observers who watched the sky and made careful marks on solid objects, so that others would not have to start from scratch. (Actually, later lovers of the sky did start from scratch, the scratches made by their predecessors.)

Yesterday, Will McLean, thinking about the collective enterprise of passing knowledge down through writing over vast stretches of time -- at least in human terms -- said much the same thing, only more specifically and eloquently, so here it is.
IThe Great Enterprise

Reading of the chain of observations from Hipparchus and Ptolemy through al-Battani and Arzachel to Copernicus, I'm struck by the temporal scale of the shared undertaking. Hipparchus was working between about 147 and 127 BC. Ptolemy died around 168 AD. Al-Battani died in 929, Arzachel/Al-Zarqālī in 1087. Copernicus died in 1543.

During these long centuries the great orrery of the solar system spun against the stars according to its own laws. The equinoxes precessed at about a degree every 72 years. With the instruments available to Copernicus and his predecessors, getting a reasonably accurate value for that rate required going back to the work of observers working centuries before, a great Dead Astronomers Society sharing observations across hundreds of years.

Dead men talking: the awesome power of the written word. We take it too much for granted, so take a moment to appreciate the wonder of it.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Machaut: a 14th century poet/composer remembered on Mercury

A towering talent, Guillaume Machaut dominated French poetry and music in his time. (Bigger than the Beatles?) This is a new, more detailed view of the crater on Mercury named after him, taken by the MESSENGER probe, part of a new picture collection on the Big Picture.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

One-armed spiral galaxy NGC 4725

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hubble over the Cape Verde Islands, from Shuttle Atlantis

And work in progress in the light of a crescent Earth:

Both from the Big Picture.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturn seen through the haze of Titan's upper atmosphere

From the Cassini spacecraft and The Big Picture.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sharpless 308

A blue, massive Wolf-Rayet star, possibly pre-supernova, inside a 70,000 year-old nebula. From APoD.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saturn transits: four moons, two shadows

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Orion's belt

Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, L to R, and a bunch of nebulae.

I can see these stars outside my front door, every clear winter night.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fallen from the sky

A while back Darrell Markewitz at Hammered Out Bits said he knew of no swords made out of meteorites. Specifically, he said:

"I should note that the whole 'streaks in the sky to rocks on the ground' connection was actually NOT made until the middle 1800's. The whole concept of a 'sky stone' would have been completely unknown (and unthinkable) to the Medieval mind. This is a fiction created by modern fantasy writers."

Well, as Darrell himself tells us, apparently someone in Mughal India in 1621 did make the connection, and used a meteor to create this knife for the Emperor Jahangir. Quite a specimen. More details and links here.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

This is your planet

As so often, The Big Picture has some spectacular space photography -- this time of planet Earth. I never knew how much of our land surface looks like Mars.

Image: Irrigated landscape south of Khartoum.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hoag's Object

An unusual galaxy, documented by the Hubble, included in The Big Picture's Advent Calendar, 2008.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

The conjunction over New South Wales

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Jupiter, Venus, and Luna over LA

It has been so cloudy here for so long that I have been unable to see this conjunction!
From Astronomy Picture of the Day. Click on the picture to get a really large view.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hubble telescope Advent calendar

The Big Picture started running yesterday an Advent calendar of astronomical delights from the Hubble. Since I missed the initial announcement, there are now two offerings here.

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Monday, November 17, 2008


IOZ reflects on our annual reacquaintance with the cold of space.

Image: Enceladus, one of our fellow travelers in Sol's system.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Southern Lights and Milky Way over Antarctica

From The Big Picture. Click for a larger version of the photo.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008



Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Suffering under an early, heavy snowfall, it's consoling to realize that it's even colder in the orbit of Saturn.

Actually, it doesn't help at all.

Image: The rings and their shadows and some "seasonal coloration." The big satellite is Titan.
From Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stars over Ravenhill Farm, Labour Day Weekend 2008

Instead of an APoD from NASA, a picture made (thanks Eirik!) at my own house in the country.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What does this have to do with the 14th century and robots?

Will McLean explains.

Image: the crater Machaut on Mercury, from a NASA site.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Moon Rays over Byurakan Observatory, near Yerevan, Armenia

From Astronomy Picture of the Day. As usual, click the image for a bigger, more beautiful version.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

A direct image of an extra-solar planet

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In the vicinity of the Andromeda galaxy

From APoD, the satellite often called M110. More details here.


Monday, August 25, 2008

NGC 1232 -- grand spiral galaxy

From Astronomy Picture of the Day where you can read all about it.

Stop by this post and see evidence for dark matter
while you are at it.

Don't forget that by clicking on these APoD pictures, you (usually) get access to a bigger and more colorful version than appears here. The picture above is huge in its original form. With a big enough screen, or your projector, you could cover a wall.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three more beauties from APoD

Once in front of a computer, one of the first things I did was go to the Astronomy Picture of the Day site and look at what I missed. Much better for the mental health and joy quotient than reading the international news. Here are three of the best:

The planet Jupiter over the ancient city of Ephesus

High Cliffs Surrounding Echus Chasma on Mars

IC 4406: A Seemingly Square Nebula


Return to the Near North

Though I spent most of the last few weeks outdoors or in tents, returning to my rural home is still a big transition. To celebrate, I'm including an Astronomy Picture of the Day showing the Milky Way over Ontario. It's usually not so dark in my neighborhood, and the stars are not usually this spectacular, but this is consistent with our sky experience.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

NGC 7331 and the Deer Lick Group

Island universes galore! Another beauty from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Click on the picture for a better view.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Big Picture

is a photojournalism blog by Alan Taylor. Here's a sample: The Sky from Above (one of a series of 15 stunning photos. Thanks to Nicholas Tayor at Rough Type for the link.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer arrives

at the Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion, Greece. From Astronomy Picture of the Day.