April 7, 2020

26.04.10-Amateurs Scour the Solar System.

A quiet sort of revolution has been brewing online. Amateur astronomers have taken to the web on cloudy, light polluted nights and turned newly found computing power normally reserved for gaming and Second Life into something truly productive and phenomenal; the reprocessing of planetary images. This link includes more examples than you can shake a robotic camera arm at; the data is culled not only from the raw image archives of older spacecraft such as Mariner 10 and Voyager 2, but newer generation spacecraft such as the Cassini orbiter around Saturn and the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity pictured above. These images frequently circulate the web and are processed and discussed long before even NASA engineers get to them. And with the mounting number of new missions out there and the transparency and access to public data increasing, the trend is likely to continue. But beyond just pretty pictures, the images dug up often have real scientific merit and value as well; for example, Philosophy professor Ted Stryk actually caught Neptune’s tiny moon Despina in the act of transiting as he sifted through old Voyager data! This makes one wonder; what else might engineers and scientists have missed? Emily Lakdawalla, web editor for the Planetary Society has contributed extensively to this growing revolution of online citizen scientists, taking advantage of Cassini’s equinox mission to produce some stunning images. So give it a try; put that ultimate power sitting idle on your desk to work doing something useful and productive… you just might spot that unknown moon or monolith!


Adventures in Amazon Sales.

We have a not-so-secret addiction here at Astroguyz HQ; books and CDs. For decades now, we’ve brought several of these paper and plastic trinkets home almost daily, some to be glanced at or listened to maybe once, never to be heard from again. Heck, we love music, and a good book is just a precious discovered gem, even in today’s electronic age. But as a consequence, we nearly need a second house  just for our library! Late in 2008, I resolved to downsize our collection; with a cold eye, I resolved to only keep books that were valid research and reference resources. And as for music, I decided that all CDs would be digitized… at nearly 1,000 CDs, a monumental task! In my life-time, I’d gone from records to cassettes to CDs… I vow that digital is the last format change that I’ll endure. Time to be old and set in my ways; you’ll get my MP3’s from my cold dead hands…

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08.10.09:Enhance Your Online Schooling Experience with Polldaddy.

Looking for the next big thing online? Tired of tweeting and mindless quizzes on Facebook? Let me introduce you to hidden tool to do your bidding. Trust me, today’s news post does tie in with astronomy! After all, its my soap box, right? A couple years ago, I started my quest for an online Bachelor of Science teaching degree with Western Governors’ University. One of the very first papers I wrote had me conduct a survey. Like so many before me, I disseminated the survey the “old-media” way. I built a word doc, e-mailed it to everyone in my address book, and tediously collected the data into a spread sheet. The response was very under whelming, and the process was time consuming. Most people tend to get buried in their e-mail, and if your in-box is like mine, its simply a clearing house where things get sorted, maybe occasionally read. No, I’m not going to plug the latest Iphone email app or recommend you outsource your email wading-through to Bangladesh. The new online secret I have to reveal to you is Polldaddy. Set up is simple, and within minutes you to can have a custom built, professional looking survey. Polldaddy is one of those things that I use more than I ever thought I would, both in school and in blogging. In fact, we have a running survey on our site, and its a great way to engage your audience. Recently, I had to conduct a genetics survey for school. In the olden days, this would’ve meant constructing a survey, then calling folks, a proposition that would’ve taken all day. With Polldaddy, I had a survey built and on its way to hundreds of eyeballs via Twitter, Facebook, and ye ole Email within the hour. I just had to sit back and watch the responses roll in. All answers were anonymous, so we couldn’t reveal any potentially sensitive information even if we had wanted to. (Scenario: I’m blood type O, and my Mom answers she’s blood type AB…. hey, it happened to Moses too…) In 24 hours, I had 50 responses. The report it arranged was neat, tidy, and ready for school use. In fact, a Twitter linked Polldaddy app would be a powerful tool. Just build your Poll, and it is automatically spread to your Twitter contacts, which spreads to Facebook, which spreads to…well, you get the picture. In short, Polldaddy is a cool school hack I’ve found that any starving student can appreciate. And the baseline sign up is our favorite price; free! Bloggers will also enjoy it as a way to jazz up their home page and engage their audience. Hey, its more productive than taking “Which washed up 80′s hair band singer are you” quizzes on Facebook!