May 23, 2017

Review: AstroMags.


Two of the leading competitors for your astro-dollar!. (Photo by Author).

Two of the leading competitors for your astro-dollar!. (Photo by Author).


  If you’ re like us, the modern electronic era has seen our magazine subscriptions dwindle over the last decade. Gone are the piles of magazines threatening to take over our attic or garage, as we consume more and more of our information digitally. No field changes quicker than astronomy, and up to the minute info is what we all seek on the new comet or solar flare activity that may or may not be eminent. But is there still room for astronomy magazines in our ever-dwindling astro-budget? [Read more...]

14.10.09: The Earth-Moon System as viewed by HiRISE.

A Crescent Terra & Luna as seen from Martain orbit! (Credit: NASA/HiRISE/JPL).

A Crescent Terra & Luna as seen from Martian orbit! (Credit: NASA/HiRISE/JPL).

The image above floated through our tweet-o-sphere yesterday, thus prompting today’s news post. HiRISE, NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter(MRO) is the spacecraft that you’re probably not following, but should be. In orbit about the Red Planet since early 2006, its been transmitting some pretty mind blowing images, all definitely worth a daily peek! Housing a 0.5 meter reflecting telescope which would be the envy of any backyard astronomer, its the first true “spy satellite” quality orbiter that we’ve fielded about Mars. Able to resolve targets about 0.3 meters across, some of the highlights have included stunning views of the polar caps and dunes, snapshots of the Opportunity and Spirit landing sites, and even catching the Phoenix Lander in descent! In fact, eagle-eyed desktop amateurs may even prove successful it divining the fate of the many (more than half!) errant Mars-bound landers over the years. But as is often the case with space exploration, we travel millions of miles to find…ourselves. Some of the most memorable images are actually those of the Earth, whether its “Earth-rise” aboard Apollo 8 or the “Pale Blue Dot” as viewed from Voyager 1, images such as these and the HiRISE pic above of our tiny home remind us how special our place is. Snapped back in 2007, it shows us that the Earth is not only a pretty, but dynamic place were things are happening. Mars is tiny and cratered, and through a backyard telescope, generally yields little detail. Venus, although dazzling, is perpetually shrouded in sulfurous cloud. Not so with the Earth. Cloud cover changes, the surface shows a variation in sea, land, and seasonal growth, and at night, an experienced telescopic eye might just pick out the lights of cities, evidence of human activity. Views like this always remind me of Arthur C. Clarke’s little known but classic short story Report on Planet Three, where Martian scientists argue that life couldn’t exist on Earth! Clarke wryly points out that life elsewhere may not be remotely Earth-like. I personally can’t wait to spread my telescope tripod legs out under a night under Martian skies; and without a doubt, the slender crescent Earth-Moon duo will be my first astronomical target!