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Eternity (constellations) April 16, 2009

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, poetry, writing.
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The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program chose Seeing in the dark : how amateur astronomers are discovering the wonders of the universe by Timothy Ferris for this year’s book as a tie in for the IYA. So I read it. And I got a bit of a surprise near the end, when I came across the line “…contemplation of one’s death is perhaps the mainspring of astronomy and other human strivings.” He goes on from there to talk about the timelessness of astronomy, about the things that take so long, they give us a sense of immortality. Here is a poem I wrote several years ago.

Eternity (the constellations)

They are constant, familiar,
Their names and stories are passed down through generations
They tie me to my ancestors
Their shapes are eternal on human timescales
Immortal, and unchanged when I have turned to dust

Second Life – Astronomy Brown Bags January 30, 2009

Posted by aquillam in education, Second Life.
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The Wolverine Community has “brown bags” every Friday on Wolverine Island. This semester, we’ll be doing some theme-semester realted tours of astronomy places in SL.

The fist of these tours will be next week, Feb 7 at noon. Here’s the announcement:

Astronomy sites in Second Life: Astronomy Exhibits by Roger Amdahl
Members of the Wolverine community can gather at the telehub before we head to astronomy exhibit on Primrose.
Non-members can meet us at about 12:10 at
To become a member of the Wolverine Community, you must have a uniqname. Instructions on creating a uniqname for alumni are here: https://accounts.www.umich.edu/create/alumnirec/ Instructions for getting a uniqname for guests is here: http://www.itd.umich.edu/accounts/uniqname-processes/
Instructions on joining and getting access to Wolverine Island are at

Second Life and IYA January 10, 2009

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Second Life.
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The Astronomy2009 island is open in SL. http://slurl.com/secondlife/Astronomy%202009/123/131/44

The exhibits right now are heavily image oriented, so if you have a slow network or computer, you’ll have to have patience. There’s an exhibit based on the IYA Special Project The World at Night:  http://www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/specialprojects/worldatnight/, and another based on the Cornerstone Project From the Earth to the Universe: http://www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/cornerstones/fromearthtotheuniverse/.

There’s also a gallery featuring the works of members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA)

My favorite though is the exhibit that can’t be done on a website.  There’s a sort of igloo-shaped building with a couple different exhibits. One is Galileo’s courtyard, which has the nicest telescope I’ve seen so far in SL.  To use it, rt-click and choose “sit here” (I kept trying to sit on the box or “touch” the telescope.  You can see a couple objects like the picture of Saturn here.  The images are similar to what they would have looked like to Galileo.  The other exhibit  is on light pollution, a “night-wise” street. It shows the difference between good and bad lighting.  Of course, there’s no blinding glare in SL, so it’s not as bad as a street with that lighting would really be.

arrived in St Louis May 30, 2008

Posted by aquillam in Uncategorized.
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I’m in St Louis for the AAS/ASP/ Preparing for the Internaitonal Year of Astronomy meeting.

The trip was as uneventful as everyone said it would be.  I felt like the most disorganized person in the airport, but I made it with all my stuff in tact (and I didn’t have to check anything!) The flight was a little turbulent, which thrilled the little girl sitting behind me, but not exceptional.

A little while before we started the descent, I noticed that there were a lot of small creeks and streams cutting across the landscape.  They all had actual starting points, and all wandered pretty straight in one direction.  Then the plain banked and I could see further in that direction.  They were all running to the Mississippi, which is, in fact, huge.  I can actually see it from my hotel window, and it took me a little while before I figured out what I was looking at.

When I was a kid, I didn’t actually realize that the expressway and the streets around the hospital actually crossed a river, because it was too hard to see the river from the car.  I don’t think I could make that mistake here.