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The 2011 Geminid Meteor Shower – NASA Science December 13, 2011

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Science.
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The 2011 Geminid Meteor Shower – NASA Science.

The Geminids are usually one of the nicer meteor showers, but the cold of December makes them rather less popular than the famous Perseids.This year, a bright waning moon adds interference.

If you’re wiling to brave the cold and the Moon, and you have an iOS device, you can help NASA and other planetary scientists. Download the Meteor Counter app from the app store, and become a citizen scientist for the night.

More information on the app (including screen shots and instructions) are available at http://meteorcounter.com/

Earth Images for Earth Day April 20, 2010

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Science.
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In honor of Earth day, the folks at iSciences have an image contest running.  Now through April 22, you can vote for your favorite image of Earth.

When I’m looking for a  picture of Earth, one of two images always spring immediately to mind.

One is the classic Apollo 17 picture of Earth with Africa centered.  I’m not sure why this one is always the first to come to mind.  Africa isn’t normally what we think of to place at the centers of our maps or drawings, but there is something so perfectly Earth-like about that image, with the brown and green land and dark sea, and a large weather system, that it seems to hold all the right pieces  to say “this is Earth”.

The other images that always springs to mind, is the Voyager image of the tiny blue marble in a mote of dust. This was the image that inspired Sagan’s Reflections on a Mote of Dust and his book Pale Blue Dot.  And if after that you need an explanation of why that dot springs to mind, I don’t know why you’re reading this blog!

Of course, there are many other very beautiful images of Earth.  After all, we’ve been looking down on our home for 50 years now, and there are really some lovely images. The crescent Earth is an unusual look at our home, seeming more like our nearest neighbor than home. The aurora image is also a unique perspective, especially since I was just looking at some very similar images of aurora on Saturn this morning.

The selection of images goes beyond iconography and art however.  There are the beautiful and important images of seas and lakes that have changed due to global climate change.   It also goes beyond basic imagery, and includes images with temperature data or population measurements mapped onto the surface. These images are pretty in their own right, but when you start to think about the meaning behind the images, it takes on a depth similar to an impressionist work.  Of course, as a scientist, I might be a little biased in my perception of beauty!

So head over to http://geoserver.isciences.com/DataBlog/?p=1908 and take a look at their favorite images. And don’t forget to vote for your favorite!  I’m still not sure which one is mine.

SL Astronomy – Science School November 27, 2008

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, education, Science, Second Life.
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This may be the information overload location for astronomy in Second Life.


Right around the corner from where Science Friday meets is a Physics and Astronomy exhibit on Science School island.  There is a big display of intro-astro type exhibits, with a LOT of explanatory text.  The nice part about that is, you don’t end up with 50 notecards in your inventory latter. But only a couple of the exhibits are actually interactive or 3D, so it’s not much better than using the web.

Behind the exhibit is something that looks like it was modeled after the Hayden planetarium.  It is filled with more astronomy, or maybe I should say planetary science, exhibits.  There are some really good ones on the ground floor. I love the one just to the right as you walk in, where you can send an IR photon at a CO2 atom to see what happens.  There are fewer exhibits higher up, and I couldn’t actually see the one in the dome do anything.