April 23, 2014

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: 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...]

November 2013: The Month in Science Fiction

The pre-holiday movie season has begun. As we approach the cusp of the holiday season, several fine science fiction offerings are already in theatres. We were duly impressed with Thor 2, and glad to finally see Orson Scott Card’s science fiction classic Ender’s Game at last get its big screen due. Heck, we even enjoyed the movie Gravity, despite its minor (and one major) science faux pas… spoiler alert: you can’t journey to the International Space Station from the Hubble Space Telescope! Now, all eyes are turning towards the big screen adaptation of Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. [Read more...]

Review: Assignment in Eternity by Robert Heinlein

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Why read old scifi? We’ve often heard this question kicked around in the darkened corners of science fiction conventions and on ye’ ole cyber webs. Hey, it’s true that we now live in an age where such red-letter sci-fi dates as 2001 and 1984 have come and gone… and even The Terminator’s Skynet was to have been long since operational by now. [Read more...]

October 2013-Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: The 2013 NecronomiCon!

The armillary sphere logo for Necronomicon 2013! (Credit: Stone Hill.org)

October for us means cooler climes, Halloween, pumpkin beer, and the “busy ‘Con season,” by way of the Tampa Bay NecronomiCon. Now in its 32nd year, this was our 3rd “Necro” event as fans from all over Florida and beyond gathered to celebrate all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Thankfully, the feared government shutdown-induced zombie apocalypse never came to pass, making it that much easier to spot the cosplay zombies, or at least tell them from any would-be real ones. [Read more...]

September 2013-Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Touching Mars

A fragment of the Zagami meteorite!

It’s a long journey, from the shores of the Florida Space Coast to the surface of Mars. This past week, we made the journey from Astroguyz HQ in Florida to the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASC) to attend the New Media Workshop in Boulder, Colorado for the upcoming launch of MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Watch the Trailer for Europa Report

(Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures).

The indie film season is almost upon us.

August occupies the entertainment realm betwixt the summer blockbusters and the holiday shopping season flicks. It’s also time to track down those indie gems that often pass us by like an asteroid occultation in the night.

One such film that we’ve been anticipating is Europa Report. Directed by Sebastián Cordero and starring Sharlto Copley and Embeth Davidtz, the film is already generating a buzz, drawing comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2009 indie flick Moon. [Read more...]

Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2013

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It’s the dream of many a science fiction author.

The Nebula Awards are one of the biggest recognitions in the world of science fiction. Every year, the Nebulas honor the very best in sci-fi novels, novellas, short stories and poetry.

This week, we take a look at the best of the best in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2013, edited by Catherine Asaro and out from Pyr Books. Whether your interest leans toward the fantastical, or harkens back to the hard “rockets & rayguns” of science fiction past, the 2013 compilation brings it all together for you in one tome. [Read more...]

Review: Rocket Girl by George D. Morgan


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The untold tales of the early Space Age are legion. Many of these were shrouded in secrecy, while others simply fell to the bureaucratic wayside. There’s no doubt some amazing stories are still left to tell in the piles of dusty documents and long lost archival footage in vaults that no one remembers… [Read more...]

July 2013: This Month in Science Fiction

The mid-point of the year, and with it the middle of the summer blockbuster season, is nigh. This year has brought no less than three each smashed moon sightings in the films Oblivion, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel. Just what is it that Hollywood has against planetary companions, anyway? It almost seems that having a smashed moon is mandatory these days, whether the planet of discussion is Qo’noS (I say Kronos), Krypton or Earth. [Read more...]

Review Rising Sun by Robert Conroy.

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History is filled with “What Ifs”. What if Einstein had never immigrated to the US? What if Lincoln had never gone to Ford’s Theatre? While many decisions in history might have been inconsequential, others may have radically altered the course of history and our role in it today.

[Read more...]

Review: The Princeton Tec Red-Light.

An indispensable piece of astronomical gear!

We always find astronomy in unexpected places. Recently, a new review product came to our attention while reading No Easy Day, an account of the Navy SEAL/DEVGRU raid that took out Osama bin Laden. The May 2nd, 2011 raid was timed to coincide with the darkness afforded by a New Moon (another astronomical tie-in), but it was a piece of SEAL gear and its cross-over potential for astronomy that caught our attention.

[Read more...]

Week 4-The Quest for Dark Skies: Into the Appalachians.

A very slender Moon…

(All photos by Author).

The mountains always beckon. In the end, all astronomers must heed the call of dark, pristine skies and head into the foothills beyond the suburban lowlands in search of the universe only hinted at from our backyards. This past week we did just that in our week four installment of the great American Road Trip as we explored the U.S. Southeast and beyond. And, hey, we arrived under pristine skies just in time for this year’s Geminid meteor shower!

One Geminid of MANY seen!

Sunday saw a breakfast that couldn’t be beat at the Nosedive Bar and our departure from Greenville, South Carolina. As reported in week three of our 4-state spanning sojourn, we thoroughly enjoyed this town, a hip Portlandia-esque oasis in the South.

An armillary sphere-spotting at the Red Horse Inn!

A short drive saw us posed to hop across the North Carolina border in Landrum, South Carolina. Actually, we crisscrossed the border twice into “The North,” hitting the two outstanding wineries of Green Creek & the remarkable Overmountain Vineyards. We stayed at the charming Red Horse Inn in Landrum, where we consumed our days’ booty (a bottle of wine) under the stars in the hot tub adjoining our cabin. The Red Horse Inn would make an excellent star-gazing destination, as a short trip down the road finds you in total darkness away from the cottage lights… this would also make a fine group astronomy expedition area, especially as a good jumping off point for the graze line of the August 2017 total solar eclipse passing over the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area just to the west.

Mmmm… beer… line ‘em up!

For our next adventure we headed northward into Asheville, North Carolina. If Greenville is the Portland (Oregon) of the South, Asheville is its Seattle, set long before Grunge became a name brand. We stayed at the enormous Grove Park Inn, a massive hotel complex perched just outside the city. Asheville itself is a wonderful, rambling city sprawling over dozens of foothills that put us in mind of Amman, Jordan, repleate with art spaces and breweries instead of mosques and sheesha bars. The Arts District alone was fascinating, as was the encaustic work of Constance Williams. Hey, we’d never even heard of encaustic in our High School Art I & II days! The Moog factory was also a fascinating stop. Based in Asheville, Moog has been the proud manufacturer of keyboards and synthesizers since 1978. And hey, who knew that they still make the theremin? Sheldon would be glad know… check out the action on Moog’s YouTube and Twitter feeds!

At Moog, where the theremin still reigns!

After hitting the local Asheville  Brewing Company and a fine Tapas meal at Cúrate, it was off to Mars Hill, North Carolina and the Scenic Wolf Resort for a night of dark sky observing. Located at about 4,000 feet elevation in the shadow of Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the Appalachians) our cabin afforded a fine view of the 2012 Geminid meteors. And this was none too soon, as BBC 5 Live called us up that very night for a Skype interview! With a limiting magnitude of +5.5, I’d say that the Geminids put on one of the best displays in recent memory, with dozen several meteors seen gracing the sky before midnite!

The skies over Mars Hill, North Carolina.

But alas, we had to depart the beloved darkness for light-polluted climes all too soon. Having reached the northernmost apex of our journey, our ingress into society saw a brief stop in exotic Lincolnton, North Carolina… more to come next week!

 

Astro-Challenge: Hunting for Van Maanen’s Star.

A Earth-sized star. (Credit: NASA/RXTE).

It’s sobering to ponder the ultimate fate of our Sun. We orbit a middle-aged main sequence star, one that will continue to happily fuse hydrogen into helium for our energy consuming convenience for the next few billion years. We see the ultimate fate of our Sun, however, when we look out at planetary nebulae and burned out cinders known as white dwarfs. [Read more...]

Review: The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley.

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By now, we should have given you, the curious reader, a firm grounding in the sub-Sci-Fi genre of all that is Steampunk. From The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack to Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special to the Society of Steam series of books, there are copious alternate history timelines to explore with a snifter of brandy by the e-reader cyber-light…

[Read more...]

In Search of the Green Flash & More in Naples, Florida!

A Florida Gulf Coast sunset!

(All photos by author).

Sometimes, you have to go just beyond your own backyard to catch what you’ve traveled the world for and never seen. Earlier this week saw the start of our triumphant “return to the road,” and our grand tour of the U.S. southeast. We’ll be reporting on our adventures from the road weekly, and of course, you can always follow our daily escapades, musings, and ramblings on Twitter @Astroguyz, 3G willing. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A Spectacular Dawn Appulse.

Venus versus Regulus: the view on October 3rd.

(All simulations created by the Author in Starry Night).

It’s a question we have posed before, worthy of a sequel to Arthur Upgreen’s alternate astronomy book Many Skies; what would Venus look like if it had a moon? As a kid, I remember a science book on the solar system looking back at the Earth-Moon system from Venus, assuming that you could get above the cloud tops. At greatest elongation, Earth’s Moon would be 9’ arc minutes from the planet’s -3.6 magnitude disk this month and would itself shine at +0.5 magnitude… what a view that would be! [Read more...]

AstroEvent(s): Hunting the Lunar V & More.

An uber-thin crescent from September 2011.

Take heart, residents of the northern hemisphere; Fall and hopefully cooler climes and darker nights are almost upon us. Growing up in northern Maine, autumn was always our favorite season of the year. It’s the season without the aggravations of all the others; lacking the chill of winter, the mud of spring and the bugs of summer, Fall is the best. If we ever find an exoplanet with a climate that resembles a perpetual New England Fall, I propose that a multi-generational ark be constructed immediately… [Read more...]