Tag Archives: space

Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes

It should be obvious by now that I’m fascinated by outer space, a place I’ve seen on TV but will probably never visit. If I did get a chance to leave the atmosphere, I would want a window seat and would spend most of my time looking back at the place I’d just come from.

From what I’ve seen on the printed page and the flat screen, all views of Earth from orbit are enthralling. Even the ones that don’t allow me to say “Hey, there’s my house!”

I don’t know how long it would take for the scenery to become ordinary or (heavens forbid!), boring. Maybe that’s not possible, but there’s a chance we’re going to find out now that a couple of guys have been sent to the International Space Station to stay for a year.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will help answer a boatload of questions during their odyssey.

The one that caught my eye (literally) is this one – quoted from the BBC article linked above:

“However, there are other problems that doctors still need to study and understand. They have poor data on the effects on immune function, for example, and there is considerable concern about the damage spaceflight causes to the eyes. This is a newly recognised phenomenon, and appears to be related to the way fluid is redistributed in a weightless body.

Pressure is seen to build in the skull and on the optic nerve, and a large number of astronauts return to Earth complaining that their vision is not as good as when they went up.”

So in other words, space is beautiful, but the longer you stay, the less you’re going to see. ┬áIf diminished vision is part of the deal you have to cut to experience the stunning visuals of long-term space flight, is it worth the price?

When have you agonized over a trade-off?

A Little Bend in the Light

I was trying to get my mind around the news that astronomers have observed multiple images of a supernova exploding by simply looking in the right place and understanding the strange effects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, when the phone rang.

It was Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler calling to beg for a commission.

Things have been a bit tough in the poetry game of late, and what with large companies like General Mills and Target retrenching, the slogan and tagline market has dried up almost completely.

“Give me something complex to boil down into a few lines of verse,” he said. “I have to keep my toolkit sharp in case the discount clothing and packaged food industries bounce back and there’s a sudden need for fresh jingles.”

Of course I gave him the only thing I had – that a star exploding on the other side of the universe nine billion years ago has appeared in our sky at least four times, and it all makes perfect sense. I told him I would buy him a cup of coffee next Wednesday if he could make it rhyme.

Here’s his reply:

To see a Supernova pop
is not so hard to do.
Just float some denser galaxies
between the star and you.

Then get it properly aligned
Nine billion years ago,
to let dark matter intervene
so you can watch it blow.

The light from the explosion
has to go around each side.
So when you view the fireworks
you see it multiplied!

The images arrive distinct
and separate as they please.
A single Supernova that can say
cheese cheese cheese cheese.

What spectacle would you watch over and over and over and over?

Window Shopping

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, national poster child for the campaign to end social promotion and a fixture at Wendell Willkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

I know the economy is (supposedly) picking up and people in my age group have better employment prospects now compared to just a few years ago, when the likelihood of finding work after graduation was pretty much zero.

Now they say if you study the right kind of thing you have a good chance of getting hired if your training lines up with all the jobs they say are coming – jobs that have real specific requirements.

In fact Mr. Boozenporn organized a job fair just before the Christmas Break where we had a chance to go to the gym during our study hall hour and talk to experts in a bunch of different fields about what we need to do to get ready.

There were people there from the medical fields to talk about being nurses and doctor’s assistants. There were technology people there to talk about being all different kinds of engineers.

And there was even one who said we could get work right out of high school as long as we were willing to change bedpans and take care of old people, a super-needy and traditionally grumpy group that is growing every single day.

Nobody wanted to talk to that guy.

I took a walk around but didn’t see anything interesting, mostly because I was still holding out for my dream job – being a NASA mission specialist on the International Space Station, in charge of looking out the window.

Seriously – being in space is awesome (I think) but everybody we send up there has a hundred different jobs to do so nobody gets to just look at stuff.

I was super-ready to take that job, but then I got a big disappointment. Somebody already has it!.

Still, I think this is pretty amazing, and when you consider that the universe is vast, there’s lots more to see. Notice he only spent a little bit of time looking out the windows on the other (non-Earth) side!

Now that we know it can be a “thing”, maybe there will be other openings for Space Lookout Observation Boy. My mom says I was born to be a S.L.O.B.!

Your hopeful pal,

What can you see out your favorite window?

A Few Limericks in the Mars Light

Who can blame impatient fans of extraterrestrial life for so closely watching the photos sent back by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover? There’s got to be some kind of critter up there! It’s simply a matter of time before it wanders in front of our camera.

It’s this sort of anticipation that gave us the momentarily famous Mars-rat-(shaped rock).

And it’s the very same level of breathlessness that brings us the latest frenzy over a mysterious light in the distance on one of the Rover’s photographs.

NASA was quick to debunk the alluring spark as a momentary effect that can be easily explained by anyone who understands the physics of sunlight. But for the rest of us who know nothing about the physics of sunlight, the flash is most easily explained as a desperate attempt by alien life forms to get our attention by sending up a flare!

Just as puzzling is why this disagreement over supposed evidence of Martian light technology made me want to write limericks.

On a planet that’s barren and flinty
Shone a light inexplicably glinty
But the experts said “Pooh!”
To the rumors – “Untrue!”
“It’s the lens of our camera that’s linty.”

Martian motion detectors don’t glow,
unless triggered. This much we all know.
Out on Jupiter’s moons,
they’re set off by raccoons
But the wildlife on Mars is too slow.

A mysterious Red Planet beacon
has the UFO translators freakin’.
It means “We’re over here.”
Or else, “Don’t come too near.”
Based on which dialect they are speakin’.

We will creep like a moth to the light
towards an alien campfire at night.
If we see them, in mobs,
roasting Earthling kabobs
we’ll retreat at a minimal height.

What kind of signal would draw you in?

Your Name Here

I love this new picture from NASA of the surface of the planet Mercury.

Image of the Day from NASA
Image from NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This past March, the Messenger spacecraft (launched in 2004), achieved its goal of photographing 100% of Mercury’s surface. Since it is the closest planet to our Sun, I assumed Mercury’s surface was nothing but a molten mess of bubbling goo – not too inviting as a tourist destination. But now I can see that the surface is solid and it has craters. What’s even better, a naming convention has been established to pair Mercury’s pockmarks with dead writers, painters, musicians and other artists.

One of the most recent names approved for a surface feature on Mercury honors the Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui. Alvin Ailey, Bela Bartok, Glinka, Goethe, Goya, Grainger and Grieg are other names attached to similar Mercurian blemishes .

There are more standards when it comes to bestowing space names. On Venus, the International Astronomical Union names craters for women no longer on our planet, who, while they were here, made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their chosen field.

If you want to get your name on a crater of our very own Moon, you need to be an astronaut, cosmonaut, scientist or polar explorer. All dead, I’m afraid. It appears you can’t plant your name on a distant planet as a living person, which makes sense. Otherwise everything out there would already be tagged with the names of politicians and tycoons.

There are other guidelines for naming features on various bodies in outer space, though to qualify you would have to be, among other things, a mythological deity, a character from Shakespeare, or a coal field.

I’m guessing, were you able to take a survey of those who have received this unusual honor, only the astronauts, cosmonauts and some of the scientists might have taken a moment to consider that their life’s work would someday cause their name to be permanently attached to a crater. But I’m fairly certain it never crossed Vivaldi’s mind.

Walt Whitman, however, probably knew it was going to happen for him. And it did!

What in the world (or outer space) should be named after you?

Space Sugar!

Yes, another blog post that is sugar-centric!

On the heels of Beth-Ann’s Ice Cream conquest at the Minnesota State Fair, scientists now say they have found sugar in space. Another cold and sweet curiosity, just out of reach. Or to be more exact, 400 light years out of reach, in the gas surrounding a young star called IRAS 16293-2422. I’ll admit it didn’t top my list of potential destinations before today, but now humans have a good reason to go there.

Yes, of course we already have sugar here. Plenty of it.

But sugar from space! That’s special.

And anything that’s desirable AND special will draw a crowd with ready money – funds set aside by the wealthy for the purpose of distinguishing themselves from ordinary folks. That’s how we got Audis and Rolexes.

And being able to say you top your cereal with Space Sugar – that’s the sort of thing James J. Hill could build an empire on!

The one mystery that remains – where did the galactic sugar come from?

When have you gone out of your way for something sweet?