Archives for May, 2009

The Lazy Astronomer

Every once in awhile, I’ll get an email from someone curious about getting into amateur astronomy, but with no idea where to begin. More often than not, it’s from someone with a crappy telescope who’s trying to salvage some utility out of a bad purchase/gift. The truth of the matter is that most telescopes either…

Rather than a real song this week, I instead point you to an internet classic, inspired by those Wilford Brimley commercials you see during The Price is Right. Yes, I watch The Price is Right when I can, and hence I know all about important products like Fibercon, the Scooter Store, Depends, and, of course,…

It is done! The longest-running and most famous camera in the world, Hubble’s WFPC2, has been removed and replaced. Scientists will now get to use the Wide-Field Camera 3 (below), and WFPC2 is headed to the Smithsonian. You’ve already gotten a chance to taste what WFPC2 has done for our understanding of the Universe, Planets,…

Yesterday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Hubble Space Telescope, and now the removal and replacement of WFPC2 has commenced. As you probably know, I’m going to miss that camera. It’s been unveiling the secrets of the Universe for the last 16 years, and in a way that no other camera ever has before.…

How Massive is the Milky Way?

Those of you who are astronomy buffs (or Colbert Report fans) may have heard the news this past January that the Milky Way is just as massive as Andromeda. Colbert even did a special on his show about “America’s Galaxy.” Could this be wrong? Could we really be just about the same size? Well, an…

Welcome to part 3 of our goodbyes to the Hubble Space Telescope’s WFPC2 (the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, pronounced WHIFF-pic-too) instrument. For those of you who missed part one or part two, go ahead and check them out. And for those of you who don’t remember, this was the camera that — back…

Yesterday, we started our goodbyes to Hubble’s outgoing camera, WFPC2. It was literally 16 years ago that they first installed this workhorse onto the space telescope: As I write this, the space shuttle Atlantis is up there right now, on a mission to install a new, superior camera. Welcome to part 2 of the five…

As I write this, the Space Shuttle Atlantis has just blasted-off a few hours ago, headed for the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s hard to believe that Hubble’s been up there for more than 19 years now, and has helped revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, from measuring the Hubble constant to discovering Dark Energy. It…

Weekend Diversion: My First Dream Job

This week’s song comes from Merle Haggard, one of the greatest story-song writers alive today. There are many great choices, but my favorite Merle Haggard song is the one that — I think — tells the best story: The Silver Ghost, a song about a ghost train as told from the perspective of the switchman.…

Let’s get something out in the open: not all science fiction is scientifically possible. Some of it is possible, but the laws of nature are pretty strict, and they prevent us from doing a number of things that — in principle — would be incredible to do. Examples on both sides, please? You got it.…