A Galaxy of Planets

As far as we know, it was Galileo who first aimed a telescope at the night sky. This is easy to believe, since we can imagine that most other men of Galileo’s time were interested more in enemy encampments, brothel windows, and then, maybe, and a very distant third, the night sky.* Galileo was a…

Saturn’s Rings

I just can’t get enough of the Cassini probe photographs of the Saturn system. The thought that it might be shut down this year for budgetary reasons, with plenty of science and stunning imagery yet to beam us, is thoroughly depressing and I hope it doesn’t happen. Anyway, today’s Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD)…

Two Self-Portraits (of planet Earth)

Just before the holidays, I had the opportunity to do a little driveway stargazing with a guest from Syria. His hometown is just outside the city of Homs, actually, and if you read or listen to just a little news you know his people are going through a very, very hard time. Getting shot in…

Aresforming: The fine art of mucking up a wet planet

If you are a Mars-head like I am, you spend a lot of time thinking about terraforming Ares (the greek name for Mars). That is, making a pretty cold, thin atmosphere into a thicker, balmier one and planting a bunch of palm trees and laying some shuffleboard courts down and then just waiting for the first…

Life where there was no life…

The short story: over the past two decades, humanity’s space probes to Mars, Saturn, comets and other planets, as well as our space-based telescopes like Hubble have collected millions of images. Like those boxes of family photos sitting in flea markets across the world, many of those images have never been seen. There are several…

Musings on Space Exploration

I was thinking today about space exploration, and the doldrums we are, and have been, in, ever since the last Apollo astronauts lifted off from the moon last century. Actually, I wasn’t thinking, I was arguing. In my head. With the countless people who dismiss the space program as a pointless waste of money or…

Gifts from the Sky, or, Nerds on Mars

I. Every time you drink a glass of water, or pause by a clear creek to breath and listen and feel the coolness of the water emanating up, you’re literally appreciating a gift from the sky. Compared to the other planets, Earth has a lot more water, a challenge scientists have been trying to explain…