March 30, 2015

Astronomy Video of the Week: Watch the April 4th Total Lunar Eclipse Live!

Totality as witnessed during the 2003 total lunar eclipse.

(Photo by author)

Ready for the next big eclipse? The big ticket celestial event for April is coming right up, with the first of two total lunar eclipses for 2015 occurring on the morning of Saturday, April 4th. This eclipse features the shortest lunar totality for the 21st century at just four minutes and 43 seconds in duration, and the eclipse will be visible from around the Pacific region, including most of North America. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Shadowfall Part 1

As eclipse season one of two continues, so does the eclipse-fueled scifi here at Astroguyz.com. This week, we start in with an original four part tale: What kind of bizarre eclipses might occur on distant worlds? Our latest tale Shadowfall gives eclipse chasing a bizarre — and deadly — twist:

 

Shadowfall

Chapter 2

by David A. Dickinson

 

“C’mon kid,” Kendra heard Merak huff under his breath. “You’ve just gotta make it over this salt pan…”

Kendra knew it was a joke, of course, but she still lacked the will to turn around and slap him.

“What do you mean,” she heard Yeara call out from far in front, not even bothering to look back. “Out there, from behind the next barren salt pan?”

“You guys are just wasting energy,” Garath hollered back to all of them. “I’ll pass your drying skeletons next saros ‘round.”

“A lovely sentiment,” Kendra said under her breath to no one in particular.

She’d tried not to notice the appearance of an occasional skull and rib cage that jutted up from the crust of the desert pavement under her feet. Instead she ran faster, keeping her eyes focused on the distant flat horizon, with its flat grey expanse reaching up to meet the metallic blue sky. All around them, brighter stars and planets burned through, though the bloated red sun was high overhead, trying its best to fry their soft bodies to a crisp. Kendra knew that only the ancient backwards moving moon and their own two feet kept this grim fate from becoming a reality.

“Why don’t they just haul the old bodies off?”  Yera asked, half knowing the answer.

“It’s not worth the effort,” Kendra replied. “No one comes here to this old husk of a world any more. Why would they?”

“Just us,” Merak called out. “We’re the only ones crazy enough to tease hell.”

Kendra tried to ignore the burning in her lungs that stretched down to the very soles of her feet. She felt like someone had struck a match inside of her and was now slowly roasting her from the inside out.

She stuffed the sensation as deep inside of herself as she could. These weren’t her friends anymore. Not if she wanted to survive.  She tried not to think of home, or the lush blue waters of Slonath.

“Folks used to live here, y’know,” Merak said, pulling up along side of her. “Heck, they used to spend fortunes back on old Terra just to witness what’s going on over our heads just now.”

“Folks are crazy,” Yera barely huffed under her breath.

Was she faking it or dropping? Kendra thought to herself. She was so strong back on Grimm’s Planet…

“…and besides, those are just stories parents tell their kids when they don’t want ‘em to grow up and become spacer pilots.”

“The umbra is life,” Garath quoted their instructor, “Stay inside it and live.”

Kendra looked above her as the ghostly white glow of the corona shown down on them. Was that a flash? Was she falling behind? Were they even moving in the right direction? She saw rows of shadow bands race past her, a sure sign that she was on the grim edge of the moon’s shadow as it raced across the ancient and desiccated face of Priea.

She squinted to get a better look at the Elites. Herrick would be there, their trainer from back on Grimm’s Planet.

“They… say… if you run fast enough, you can get ahead of it, and take a ten minute break… before it catches up.” Kendra didn’t want to know who said that, and she forced herself to not even entertain the idea of stopping now.

“Don’t listen to him,” Yeara told her. “We’ll be passing his body burnt to a crisp at marker one.”

“I wonder how long you can really manage to live outside the shadow…” the boy continued, slowing pace. “Maybe they’re lyin’ to us…”

Kendra continued to concentrate and focus straight ahead. “There,” she said. “There’s Herrick.”

She could just see his tall wiry form in the muted light, rhythmically slapping out an intimidating pace. Unlike many of the other Elites, he disdained use of polarizing visors or smart wicking fabrics and preferred instead to run mostly unencumbered.

“And he’s not even augmented,” Yeara once whispered to her in training.

“This is his third Shadowfall,” Kendra said, noting the three diagonal hash marks tattooed on his leg. “He does this for fun.”

In the days leading up to their drop off on this scorched world, Kendra had tried to wrap her mind around what that meant. Fun had been the furthest thing from their minds when Kendra and the hundred-odd eligibles of the Diaspora had signed up to complete their first Shadowfall. They were 16 Terran years old, and some of them came from as far away as the outer Comet Cloud just for a chance to compete. Of course, most of the Diaspora tried to ignore the bleak reality that was Shadowfall. Many thought it was at most a diversion, a nod back to the days of human savagery.

“Most of you won’t make it,” Herrick told them in a flat baritone voice on their very first day.  “In the 30 hours it’ll take to reach the Terminator, most of you will simply fall back beyond the umbra and fry. Others of you may succumb to… other hazards. This isn’t your Mom’s garden tea party on Jangor now.”

Kendra had looked around her on that first training day at the glowing faces of hopefuls. Shadowfall was legend on some worlds, and some trained their whole lives for it. On other worlds, participation was expected; a family rite that bordered on the religious. You could tell the type, kids like Garath with a thousand-yard stare that looked old beyond their years.

And then there were the thrill seekers, those who’d grown tired of the predictability of virtual reality and now seemed bent on taunting the real thing.

Kendra was none of these. She could have declined the chance to run Shadowfall, but like most of the kids on Slonath, she’d thrown herself at a chance to escape the life in the slums that she would face otherwise. Completing a Shadowfall was a threshold, a gateway to a life as a Guardian and a way out of crushing servitude. A Guardian’s word was law, and those of the old Legion Order — like Herrick — were rarely trifled with.

“Less than 1 out of 20 of you will survive Shadowfall,” Herrick had continued during their training. “Few can keep pace with the umbra… and fewer still have the will.”

Kendra remembered looking around her that day in training, at the glowing young faces that drank in Herrick’s every single word. She wondered how many of these eager starlets would jump into the sack with Herrick right then and there, if given the chance.

“The shadow of the moon moves just fast enough during eclipse for you worms to keep up with it… that is, if you can manage to keep and sustain a brisk pace.”

“Why the astronomy lesson?” Merak had whispered to Kendra that day.

“Because I’ll be pissing on your dried bones next Shadowfall if you don’t pay attention,” Herrick shouted at them. “This is a testament to your ability to survive. If the Swarmers come back into this system again, we’re the only thing that can stop ‘em.”

To be continued…

Read Shadowfall and other original science fiction tales by David A. Dickinson.

Astronomy Video of the Week: A Stratospheric Eclipse

A fine partial eclipse as seen from the UK.

(Credit and copyright: Blob rana).

Our mind has been consistently blown this past weekend as photos continue to pour in of Friday’s total solar eclipse.  We’ve been doing live coverage of eclipses for various venues now for a few years, and it simply amazes us how quickly video and images now flows in to us from the field. The path of totality for the March 20th solar eclipse only made landfall over distant Svalbard and the Faroe Islands, and yet within hours, we had photos, animations, Vines and reports of the eclipse from Earth and space before it was even over. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Exeligmos Part 3

Here it is just in time for eclipse day: the final chapter of our time-spanning eclipse adventure Exeligmos. We’ve got lots more original sci-fi, eclipse-based and otherwise, on our Amazon author page… don’t forget to start this three-part tale back on Chapter 1.

Exeligmos Chapter 3

by

David A. Dickinson

Ever watch those the old vids made as the shadow of the Moon swung across the old United States for the first time in decades on August 21st, 2017? If you look hard, you’ll see me. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Watch the March 20th Total Solar Eclipse Live!

A partial solar eclipse as seen from space.

(Credit: NASA/SDO).

It is now almost upon us. The first eclipse of 2015 and the only total solar eclipse of the year is coming right up this Friday on March 20th, as the shadow of the Moon crosses the North Atlantic. And although the path of totality for this eclipse only makes landfall over the Faroe and Svalbard Islands, millions across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East will witness a fine partial solar eclipse. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Exeligmos Part 2

We’re just one week out now from the first and only total solar eclipse of 2015. Can’t wait that long? Then travel through space and time in our chapter two installment of our sci-fi tale Exeligmos. Chapter 1 is also available online, and we’ll have the conclusion up next week!

Exeligmos chapter 2

by

David A. Dickinson

You can travel the length and breadth of our galaxy and not find the unique alignment in space and time that our own Moon offers. Some of my brethren have given up career and family to sit on the surface of Enceladus and watch Saturn’s Rings shimmer and drift over a pale distant Sun overhead, or catch Phobos transit the Sun as seen from the surface of Mars. Perhaps, the transits and eclipses of a terrestrial variety seem pedestrian, and dare I say… boring in this context to some. Me, I don’t try to guess the psychology of such benighted souls… if you get yours collecting tawdry 18th century postcards or by performing feats of astronomical improbability, hey, it’s alright by me. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Chasing Shadows

An animation of the March 20th 2015 total solar eclipse

Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair.

Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse? Perhaps you’ve seen a partial solar eclipse as the Moon takes a bite out of the Sun. But true umbraphiles will tell you that it’s just not the same as standing in the shadow of the Moon during totality. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Exeligmos Part 1

Welcome to our weekly serving of free and original science fiction here at Astroguyz.com. As the first eclipse season of 2015 draws neigh, we though we’d feature one of our many eclipse inspired tales entitled Exeligmos. What started as one eclipse sci-fi story soon grew into half a dozen, two of which are already completed and an are available online. Exeligmos is an adventure through space and time, and highlights one man’s dangerous obsession and his new-found ability to use a cutting edge technology to push it to the very limit. Enjoy!

Exeligmos

By

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 1

 

I was first bitten by the eclipse bug on October 19th, in the year 3000 AD as reckoned on the Old Calendar. I was eight years old, and my parents thought the trek to the Bolivian Andes might just feed that spark of interest in astronomy they saw in me as I rattled off the names of all 101 of Jupiter’s moons, or recited in discovery order every habitable world in the Local Group. Boy, they had no idea. [Read more...]

Going to Mars: Reality Versus Reality TV

The harsh reality that is Mars.

(Photos by author).

How is Mars One like Amway?

Last month, the Mars One project announced that its initial candidate pool of 600 candidates had been whittled down to 100. Excitement then swirled around the ‘net and the space community immediately following the announcement, as local media plugged the candidates selected for future Martian colonization.

But is Mars One a project destined to settle a brave new world, or a modern day pipe dream? [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: An Arctic Total Solar Eclipse!

A ‘diamond ring’ seen at the end of totality during the 2008 solar eclipse.

Credit: NASA/Exploratorium

The month of March sees the beginning of meteorological and astronomical Spring in the northern hemisphere. March also gives us another reason to celebrate, as the first of two eclipse seasons for 2015 begins. 2015 features 4 eclipses — 2 solar and 2 lunar —and the first one is coming right up on March 20th. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: The Hunt For Beagle Part 9

It’s Friday, and here without further fanfare is the conclusion to our Mars-spanning adventure The Hunt For Beagle. You can start back at chapter 1 and read the entire tale here a chapter at a time on Astroguyz, or read the tale in its entirety over on Amazon.com.

Enjoy!

The Hunt For Beagle

by

David A. Dickinson

What happened next was a force unlike any Andrea had ever experienced. A blast of air slapped her in the back of the head, knocking them both off of their feet. They were both tossed like rag dolls down the passageway, towards the bay and the open Martian desert beyond. Andrea caught a glimpse of the clear, airless pink sky that lay beyond. It was like a bad dream. Everyone on Mars had a lingering subconscious dread of getting caught out in its near void unprotected. The guards, surprised at something that was never supposed to occur, barely had time to slide their breather masks in place before they could be sucked off their heads.  She closed her eyes and dug her head hard into Zeke’s side, fearing the final end was near… [Read more...]

A Close Pre-Historic Brush with Scholz’s Star

An artist’s conception of Scholz’s Star and its brown dwarf companion passing through the outer solar system.

(Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester).

A fascinating announcement out of the Astrophysical Journal caught our eye last week, as researchers announced that a newly discovered star made a close pass through our very own solar system some 70,000 years ago. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video Of the Week: Seeking Ceres

Ceres on February 12th, 2015 from 52,000 miles distant

(Credit: NASA/Dawn).

Getting closer…

Fresh off of its exploration of the asteroid 4 Vesta in 2011-2012, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been delivering some pretty mind-blowing images of the largest asteroid of them all: 1 Ceres. Dawn just passed the quarter million mile distant mark from Ceres last month, and is now closer to the worldlet than the Moon is to the Earth. And next week, Dawn will reach another milestone on March 6th, when it becomes the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a second world in the course of its mission. Dawn has achieved this via its revolutionary ion drive propulsion, which gives it a slow but steady push offering an optimal thrust to fuel weight ratio. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: The Hunt for Beagle Part 8

And here it ’tis… chapter eight of our young adult, Mars-spanning adventure! For Chapter One, head here. You can read The Hunt for Beagle in its entirety over at Amazon.com.

The Hunt for Beagle

Part 8

by

David A. Dickinson

Andrea’s mom, Alexi, got off the call. She breathed hard and sighed. “They say all of the Gliders are grounded,” She began to Andrea’s older sister Kara, who had just arrived. “They won’t be able to mount a search until the storm wave passes”

“That could be weeks!” Kara shot back, nearly spilling her tea. The Terran Legion doesn’t give a damn…” [Read more...]

Happy 85th to Pluto!

An artist’s conception of New Horizons

passing Pluto and Charon.

Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Where were you in 1930?

If you were American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, you were announcing the discovery of a curious object caught moving through the constellation Gemini just the month prior. [Read more...]

AVOW: Watch the Launch and Docking of Progress 58 Live

Progress-58P rolls to the launch pad.

Credit: Roscosmos.

It’s back!

By popular demand and the never ending quest for content, we’re proud to be reinstituting one of our most popular features from over the years here on Astroguyz, the Astronomy Video Of the Week (AVOW).

Hardly a day goes by in our online adventures that we don’t come across an amazing lecture, live broadcast or animated gif highlighting the wonders of space. It’s a brave new world out there, and with AVOW, we strive to distill ‘em down to the very ‘best of the best’ along with some brief commentary. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: The Hunt For Beagle Part 7

…and here it ’tis: Part 7 of our Mars-spanning adventure The Hunt For Beagle. You can read the entirety of the tale, or start from Part 1 online. Expect more tales from the Solar Winds Universe to come!

[Read more...]

2015: The Year We See Pluto Up Close

An artist’s conception of New Horizons at Pluto. Credit: NASA.

The late American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh got a birthday present yesterday when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft released an image of Pluto and its moon Charon.

Born in 1906, Mr. Tombaugh would’ve been 109 this year. And although yesterday’s image snapped by New Horizon’s LORRI navigational camera wasn’t a spectacular one, expect that to improve drastically as the NASA spacecraft heads towards its historic July encounter. [Read more...]