December 2008 Archives

Skeptic Astronomy Zone

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The Skeptic Zone is an Australian skeptic podcast, hosted by (among others) Richard Saunders, who is famous for (among other things) his creation of the origami Pigasus. It is published once a week, and ten episodes are out already.

Last week's episode, published on 19 December, was very heavy on astronomy content: it featured an interview with Astronomy Cast's Dr Pamela Gay, plus a review by Tiffany Day, from the Macquarie Skeptics, of Dr Phil Plait's new book, "Death from the Skies". Strongly recommended.

One more carnival

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Searching for something to read over the holidays? Search no more! The 84th edition of the Carnival of Space is here, hosted by Next Big Future.


Mars as a real place

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One of the great things about the Mars exploration program, brought about by the huge amount of high-quality images being sent by all the hardware we have there, is the sense of Mars as a real place. You know, not just as a dot on the sky, or this distant abstract "thing", but an actual place, as real as any place we have here on Earth, where things actually *happen*.

The first ground-level images we got from there, from the Viking crafts, were a start — but they were basically static. The idea was that of some unchanging expanse of rocks and dust, sort of like to Moon but with a bright sky. But the truth is very, very different.

In recent years/months, thanks to several missions (the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express, the Phoenix lander and others) we got (click on images for larger versions, follow links for more info):

I think the impact of those images, especially the animations, comes from our sense of celestial objects as places where changes take eons; they show us that this is not the case, that our neighbours can be dynamic, changing places. They give me a sense of the enormity of the universe, more than even the Hubble Deep Field did, because they make it seem more real. If all this is happening in our nearest neighbour... what else is happening everywhere else? What other wonders are we missing out there?

The universe is a great place, even if it's trying to kill us. I hope it won't be too long before more of us get to experience more of it.


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Everyone is posting photos of the spectacular conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon that happened this Monday (and that famously greeted Australians with a pretty smiley face in the western sky). So I thought I'd post a photo of a different conjunction...


I know, not quite an astronomical image. Fun nonetheless.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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