September 21, 2017

2009: The Year in Science Fiction and the Look Ahead.

The isolation depicted in Moon. (Credit: Sony Pictures).
The isolation depicted in Moon. (Credit: Sony Pictures).

2009 was an interesting year in the realm of science fiction. Sure, we had our predictable, (and sometimes regrettable) run of video games and toys turned into a two hour special effects gags, but some indie and foreign flicks made minor inroads into our sci-fi consciousness. The SyFy channel shortened its name for greater texting ease, while hip publishers like Pyr and podcasts like Escape Pod and the Drabblecast continued to gain ground in terms of exponential coolness. [Read more...]

7.9.09: The September Perseids…an Encore?

   This weeks’ potential astro-event is a total wild card. Last year, automated all-sky cameras and the few dedicated observers that maintained a lone early AM vigil noted a sharp upswing in a previously unknown meteor shower. Informally dubbed the “September Perseids,” this shower appeared to have a brief peak over North America on September 9th and spawned a flurry several bright fireballs over a span of about four hours. The progenitor comet remains a mystery, as does much about this shower…could a new meteor stream be evolving? The only way to know for sure is to watch! [Read more...]

AstroEvent of the Week, January 10th-18th: The Largest Full Moon of the Year!

Does that Full Moon rising this weekend look a little larger than usual? It’s not totally an illusion, although much has been written about the “large Moon on the horizon” effect. The first Full Moon of the year will also be the largest of 2009. This is because the Full Moon on the 11th at 3:28UT (Saturday evening for the US east coast) is still occurring pretty near perigee, which happens on the the 10th at 10:53 UT 16 hours prior. I know, Decembers’ Full Moon last month was the largest of last year, as well…any collectors of obscure astronomical phenomena know how often the largest Full Moons of the Year happen back to back? Of course, it would have to be in December-January, as happened in 2008-9. This months’ Moon is also known as the Full Wolf Moon. This sets the Moon up for an annular Solar eclipse in two weeks time, as it will be very near perigee and hence too small to completely cover the Sun. The Earth itself just passed perigee for the year on January 4th; all this translates into a big eclipsed Sun/small New Moon scenario!

This weeks’ Astro-word of the week is the lunar Maria. One of the first things a lunar observer notices are these dark, flat planes that cover roughly half of the lunar nearside. Galileo mistook them for seas (that’s how poor his first handmade optics were!) and the Latin name stuck. Noticeable to the naked eye, they form the famous “man in the Moon” illusion. One of the big surprises of the space age was the near total absence of mare (the plural) on the lunar far-side! Obviously, the gravitational influence of the Earth has had something to do with their formation, but their origins still aren’t entirely clear. These Maria are now known from sample returns to be basins filled in with accumulated basaltic ejecta and dust. The Moon may look shinny and bright to a dark adapted eye, but check out some of the Apollo photos snapped from the surface sometime; the Moon is a very dark place! Astronauts returning from the surface have remarked that remnants “tracked in” to the Command Module looked like coal dust and smelled like gunpowder. So much for Swiss cheese!



Top Astronomy Events in 2009.

The International year of Astronomy presents several outstanding viewing opportunities for 2009. Here is the Astroguyz short list of highlights for the year. These are our personal +12 best, must see events; we thought that rather than laundry list moons phases and solstices, we would narrow in on some of the best upcoming opportunities;

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To the Ends of the Earth: Chasing Eclipses.

An obsession exists in the netherworlds of astronomy, and its bite is just as addictive as any; that of the secret world of total solar eclipse chasing. Not cure has yet been devised. No support group exists. (Although it might be fun to imagine such a beast in an alternate reality; “sure, I couldn’t afford that 2nd mortgage, but I told myself it was to complete saros 92…and I didn’t have a problem!)

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