Arrival: First Contact with Grace, and Ideas

First Contact between humanity and an extraterrestrial species has been anticipated and imagined in popular culture for a long time. Sometimes the speculative aliens offer peace and knowledge, like the Vulcans who visit nuclear-war-ravaged earth in Star Trek (portrayed in a film called, suitably enough, First Contact), and sometimes they arrive to blow up the White…

Bicycle Astronomy Makes a Housecall!

Yesterday was my first day on the Bicycle Astronomy cargo bike in many months. I rode to work and then to the grocery store to reprovision the Spartan Manor travel trailer. When I left the store with three bags of groceries and loaded them into the giant pannier on the cargo bike, it was a…

Visit Vesta on a Vespa…

…okay, not really. But Dawn, NASA’s ion drive-propelled space probe launched in 2007 is a better ride anyway. Dawn visited Vesta, a protoplanet in the asteroid belt, in 2011, and just arrived around another protoplanet, Ceres, on March 6th. Asteroids are of keen interest to solar system scientists, who are keen to unlock the origin…

Telescopes I have known, part II

In the first part of this post, I talked about three telescopes I owned in the years following the reignition of my passion for the night sky in 2001. I won’t follow a strict chronological order in this installment, but rather will group my telescopes into two categories: small refractors and big refractors. While I…

A Journey of the Imagination

Erik Wernquist, a Swedish computer animator, has produced a remarkably beautiful little film called Wanderers. A labor of love, Wanderers, which refers to the ancient Greek names for planets (wandering stars), imagines humanity’s eventual colonization of the solar system. It resonates nicely at this time when we seem to need as a people to dream…

Philae probe bounces on a comet…

Rosetta and Philae are now in contact again, and we have more detail on yesterday’s landing, including the first part of a panoramic image of the probe’s surrounding, including what looks like a craggy cliff. Yesterday mission team members told us that they think that Philae bounced, and now they believe it bounced three times…