April 24, 2014

Astro-Vid of the Week- Captured: Venus Occults a Naked Eye Star

Our chart of the passage of Lambda Aquarii behind Venus on April 16th.

Created using Stellarium.

We love it when backyard observers rise to the challenge. We wrote recently about the prospects for catching the occultation of the +3.7 magnitude star Lambda Aquarii by the planet Venus on the morning of April 16th. Most occultations involve the Moon or asteroids, but very occasionally, a planetary disk will also blot out a distant star. [Read more...]

Upon a Sea of Stars by A. Bertram Chandler

A scifi classic!

Don’t mess with John Grimes, and don’t ever dare to call him a pirate. He prefers the term privateer, thank you very much. This week, we take a look at the very latest collection of tales of the Galactic Outer Rim by A. Bertram Chandler, collected in one volume for the first time.

We’re quickly getting addicted to this swashbuckling golden age of sci-fi saga, that’s for sure. Written back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the Grimes saga harkens back to an age where, in the words of the late great Douglas Adams; “…little furry green creatures from Alpha Centauri were real little furry green creatures from Alpha Centauri.” [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Adventures in Eclipse Webcasting

Totality! The April 15th 2014 Total Lunar Eclipse.

(Photo by Author).

Backyard astro-tech has certainly gotten much more sophisticated since we hand-sketched our first lunar eclipse as a kid back in the 1980’s. During this week’s total lunar eclipse, we thought we’d try our hand at live streaming the event. We’ve been a voracious consumer and promoter of eclipse webcasts over the past few years, and we thought this week it was high time to give back. [Read more...]

Review: Five Billion Years of Solitude by Lee Billings

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Where did we come from as a species, and where is the party headed? What’s the expiration date for life on Earth, and just how common — or rare — are we? Those are the big questions in modern day science. This week’s review tackles the latest thinking concerning all of these weighty subjects and more. Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by science journalist Lee Billings is a fascinating look at the state of the field. We’re talking astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence, a truly interdisciplinary endeavor that encompasses all of modern science from physics and astronomy to biology and psychology. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Happy Birthday Mars Odyssey!

Mars Odyssey as seen from Mars Global Surveyor in 2005.

Credit: NASA

An often overlooked but crucial mission celebrates its 13th full year in space today. On April 7th, 2001, a Delta II rocket lifted off into the late Florida morning from Cape Canaveral carrying the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Mars Odyssey was designed to study Mars from orbit and reached the Red Planet on October 24th of the same year. [Read more...]

April 2014- Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Tales of Lunar Totality

A time exposure of lunar totality shot on ye ole film.

(Photo by Author).

Eclipse season is neigh for 2014 this coming week, with the first of two total lunar eclipses for 2014. Lunar eclipses are always the big ticket astronomical events for any year, and the total lunar eclipse occurring on the night of April 14/15th 2014 is sure not to disappoint. [Read more...]

Review: Operation Shield by Joel Shepherd

Out on April 8th!

If there’s one thing we love, it’s a non-stop space opera action adventure. Military science fiction has really come of its own over the past decades, as first popularized by Robert Heinlein and his classic Starship Troopers.

But what of the soldiers themselves? And what of a world where soldiers are custom tailored to fight and die? This week, we’re excited to bring you our review of the latest Cassandra Kresnov novel out from author Joel Shepherd and Pyr Books entitled Operation Shield. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: An Online Messier Marathon

On your marks, get set, Messier Marathon!

‘Tis the season when it’s possible to hunt down all the 110 of the deep sky objects in Messier’s famous deep sky catalog in one night. We recently wrote about the potential for carrying out this feat of astronomical observation for 2014. [Read more...]

Review: A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

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So, you think you know maps? Author and historian Jerry Brotton will show you otherwise. This week’s review takes us through a fascinating trip back through history from an unusual perspective. A History of the World in 12 Maps looks at how we’ve perceived the surface of this planet we inhabit throughout the ages, and how we’ve grappled with depicting it over the millenia. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid of the Week: Watch the Launch of Soyuz Live!

The crew of Soyuz TMA-12M (Credit: NASA).

The population of humans in space is about to increase by three tomorrow night, when Soyuz TMA-12M takes to skies over the Baikonur cosmodrome in a brilliant night launch. The launch is set to occur at 21:17 Universal Time (UT) or 5:17 PM EDT on Tuesday, March 25th for a four orbit, six hour “fast-track” docking on Wednesday at 3:04 UT/11:04 PM EDT. [Read more...]

Review: The Enemy Within by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Out this coming April.

Ready for political intrigue?

This week, we break tradition a bit from our usual review of science and science fiction books to journey back into the tie-dyed era of the early 1960s and a murder mystery that takes the reader into the darkened recesses of Washington politics. [Read more...]

March 2013: This Month in Science Fiction

Ahh, the month of March has arrived. A time of growth, renewal and taxes. Spring is in the air, although it may not feel it for those of you stranded in snowier climes. And yes, we do indeed realize that for folks down under in the southern hemisphere, the reverse is true, as this month marks the onset of Fall. [Read more...]

Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: On Vigilance and the One That Got Away

Look! There it is!

Credit-The Virtual Star Party.

Now the story can be told.

You just never know when the universe is going to dangle a discovery right in front of your eyes. We amateur astronomers often pride ourselves on being “visual athletes,” patient steely-eyed observers who let little slip by us.

But we too can fall into the trap of routine. Just such a discovery was ours to lose a few weeks ago during the weekly Virtual Star Party held every Sunday night hosted by CosmoQuest and Universe Today on Google+. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid of the Week: Chasing Occultations

The Moon approaches Lambda Geminorum (arrowed).

The morning was damp with dew and the hour was late. I silently hoped for batteries and gear to hang on, and dared not jitter the scope or camera, for fear of bumping off kilter the perfect alignment of optics and settings that was now producing an exquisite image of a waxing gibbous Moon with a flicker of a star just off of the approaching dark limb. WWV radio clicked away the moments in the background night. [Read more...]

Review: Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin

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America’s premier space pioneer has a vision for space exploration.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been there. A veteran of Gemini 12 and Apollo 11, Aldrin was the second man to walk on the Moon after Neil Armstrong and has since been a vocal proponent of manned space exploration.

And it shows, in his breathtaking new proposal for man in space entitled Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Catch the Cosmos Reboot Online

Staring into the heart of Sol… Credit: Fox TV.

And so it begins….

Last night, the series premiere of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey aired on Fox TV. The reboot of the popular documentary series had been years in the making, and has been one of the most anticipated events of 2014.

Like many space enthusiasts, we simply want Cosmos to be good. Sure, there’ll be plenty of Monday morning pundits dissecting the show after each of the 13 episodes air, but we feel it’s just great — and timely — to see the show coming back. [Read more...]

Review: The Man Who Sold the Moon & Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

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This week, we return to “Lessons from Science Fiction 101,” with a look at a master of scifi.

We’re talking, of course, about American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. One of the “Big 3” next to Clarke and Asimov when it comes to golden age science fiction, no one was better a weaving in sociological issues into their future mythology. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Down with Daylight Saving Time

Time for sundown on DST? (Photo by author)

This coming weekend, most of North America will perform that yearly Spring ritual of setting their clocks one hour ahead to Daylight Saving Time, or DST.  Now reckoned as the second Sunday of March, the DST shift for 2014 on March 9th falls nearly as early as early as it can this year, missing that mark by just one day. And three Sundays later, the European Union follows suit, shifting forward to Summer Time on March 30th. [Read more...]