Tags: astronomy

Dublin

Cool videos

Back in March I linked to a video of the Earth setting behind the moon from Japan's Selene probe. Here is another one of those things that really gets your 'sense of wonder' juices flowing: video (okay, technically an animation of many still images) of the Moon passing in front of the Earth. This was taken from about 50 31 million miles by Nasa's Deep Impact probe, which is all finished with its primary cometary mission and is hanging around the solar system drinking beer and spraying graffiti on asteroids until its next comet turns up.



More details, and an infrared version in which the continents are more visible, at the Nasa site.

And finally...



After tomorrow Dr. Horrible becomes paid download only, so get your fix now.

Dublin

Outer Space, Cyborgs and Dragons

Things that share little in commmon except that I saw them recently:

The Phoenix has landed. The Mars probe, that is. That's a bit of a relief. Watching the video of everything it had to do on its descent I was a little sceptical1.

Sadly this good fortune does not extend to the pair of 200 year old pistols allegedly forged from meteoric iron, whose extraterrestial heritage has been disproven. They still look pretty in their own right, though.

There's some kind of slick link here to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which looks to be having a good box office weekend despite a fairly mixed critical reception. We saw it yesterday, and I enjoyed it a lot while not really rating it as a great film. Certainly it was about as entertaining as Last Crusade, and nowhere near the level of godlike perfection that is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Meanwhile Iron Man continues to rake in the cash (almost certainly fuelled by my review).

Terminator 4, which still seems to be called Terminator Salvation despite recent suggestions to the contrary, has an official website with a good-looking bit of pre-production art. Frankly the only announcement so far that has made me feel positive about this trilogy is Christian Bale's involvement, but the concept of a post-apocalyptic trilogy is potentially a great one.

Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro webchat about The Hobbit and The Hobbit 2. Following my poll to scientifically determine the title of the second film ("Back in the Hobbit" being the clear winner), Del Toro kindly tells us: "not 'H2 Electric Boogaloo', that has been discarded." So that's a relief. In a further display of good sense he comments: "Smaug should not be 'the Dragon in the Hobbit movie' as if it was just 'another' creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be 'The DRAGON' for all movies past and present." He also rates the dragon in Dragonslayer. If he were any more rightheaded he'd explode.

--
1 Obviously the evil Martians who shoot down our probes were too busy carving gigantic faces on the ground. Ahem.

Dublin

Tom McRae / Hotel Cafe

On Thursday we drove up to Edinburgh to see the Hotel Cafe tour headlined by Tom McRae. We went to the Hotel Cafe tour in Newcastle in 2006 and we saw him solo in Edinburgh last year so this fused the two experiences. The Hotel Cafe concept is a fantastic idea which manages to highlight artists you may (or may not) like while never staying still for long enough that you get bored with any one singer.

Collapse )

The gig lasted about three hours all told, ending about 11.30. Overall it was a fantastic experience.

The night sky was so clear and brilliant I actually made a brief pit-stop on the way home just to stare at it. I can't remember the last time I saw so many stars away from light-pollution. The constellations were almost lost amidst the background stars. It was a truly gob-smacking sight, and a fine end to a fine evening.

Dublin

Ever decreasing circles

This is very nice indeed. Actual movie footage of the Earth 'setting' behind the moon taken from Japan's new Selene probe which has been imaging the moon in High Definition. Amazingly smooth video (the Realplayer version worked for me). There are more images and videos at the main site, although the videos are extremely poorly indexed.

Or if you prefer your views of the Earth from a greater distance, how about a photo of the Earth and moon taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars.

(Or if that's still too close I previously posted a photo of the Earth and Moon from the Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn.)



Lastly, there are some unusually dynamic images of avalanches in progress on Mars:


Dublin

Science: practical and theoretical.

Last night we laid on a rug outside and watched meteors. The rate was relatively low--at most one every five minutes with some longer lulls--but it was still great. Even the typically light-polluted city skies didn't spoil the experience; indeed we probably saw as many stars last night as we're ever likely to from this location, and the view was stunningly beautiful. The weather was absolutely clear for once. A really lovely prelude to my birthday.

Tonight we watched Richard Dawkins's The Enemies of Reason on Channel 4. Despite agreeing with him in every way that counts I sometimes think that Dawkins is his own worst enemy, since he can come across as a strident, joyless naysayer. His recent polemic on religion fell a little foul of this. Here, although still preaching to the converted, he struck a good balance between singing the praises of reason (and, importantly, defining and demonstrating the beauty and relevance of science in everyday life) and analysing the failings of superstition and pseudoscience. Janet and I stopped the playback several times to debate the issues, but pleasingly there were very few things we raised that Dawkins didn't himself address at some point in the episode. My only complaint is more of a wish: Derren Brown's past contributions to debunking psychics and astrology have been so compelling that it would have been nice to see more of him than just a brief interview segment. My TV guide presented this documentary as something of an equal pairing between the two, and it intrigues me to think how much mileage could be gained from seeing Brown demonstrate before our eyes the ease with which apparently impossible phenomena can be faked. Even as it stands though I'm very interested to see part two next week.

Dublin

The Sky at Night

Today I've watched a couple of programmes about the 50th Anniversary of The Sky at Night. It reminds you just how long the show's been around (since before Sputnik) and how much of an institution Sir Patrick Moore is--and also how much of a twinkle he's always had. He's not one of those august celebrities who take themselves too seriously. We were even treated to a clip of him on an old episode of Wogan in which he jammed on the Xylophone with Hugh Laurie on the piano. Quite surreal. Patrick once played the piano for Albert Einstein, apparently, which is the kind of story you just can't make up.

Despite the persistent promise of gloomy wet weather, we've actually had a lovely couple of days here. We had a very civilised Barbeque last night on the patio and despite the evening chill in the air it felt very summery. I think the rain's now due tomorrow (and we certainly hope so or Janet's Carnivorous Plants may be getting a bit thirsty soon.) And of course there's no work tomorrow. Praise be for bank holidays.

Dublin

Subtle as an iBrick

It's a blizzard outside! Sadly none of it is settling on the ground. As far as I'm concerned this defeats the whole purpose of snow, which is to make the world look pretty and fresh and strange. Not just soggy.

While I'm here: Steve Jobs meets US Foreign Policy in this surprisingly amusing skit about Iraq. I say "surprisingly" because it's about as subtle as a brick, but that's part of the charm.

Lastly, I don't know why this is cool but it is: an image of Jupiter taken from the Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn (1.1 billion miles away). Now that's a zoom lens.

EDIT: Some actual snow on the ground this morning! Plenty of signs of it melting rapidly as it lands, but for the moment it's actually quite white in places.