Archives for August, 2011

How the Sun works, from the inside out

“…it is reasonable to hope that in the not too distant future we shall be competent to understand so simple a thing as a star.” -Arthur Eddington, 1926 (For Mike H., who wanted to know.) The Sun — like nearly all stars — burns bright through its nuclear reactions, sending light, heat and energy out…

The Lifetime of an Opportunity

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” -Henry Ford Back in 2003, a twin pair of rovers — Spirit and Opportunity — were launched from Earth to Mars. For no good reason at all, Opportunity has long been my favorite of the two. Opportunity landed in January of 2004 in…

Why the Earth wears an Antimatter Belt!

“Magnetism, as you recall from physics class, is a powerful force that causes certain items to be attracted to refrigerators.” -Dave Barry One of the first “invisible forces” people encounter in this world is when they’re first exposed to the humble magnet. As the image above shows, you’re most familiar with what magnets do to…

“Dang it, I am sick and tired of everyone’s asinine ideas about me. I’m not a redneck, and I’m not some Hollywood jerk. I’m something else entirely. I’m… I’m complicated!” -Hank Hill One of the most common questions I get from writing all I do about the Universe is whether or not I believe in…

Why Dark Matter Rules Mini-Galaxies!

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” -Max Planck (For Alan L., from the comments on this post.) When you look out at the night sky, with…

A Quick Look Back Home, and Thanks

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of…

If I had a Telescope this Summer…

“A birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip.” -Author Unknown Each of us has a birthday; mine is tomorrow, August 3rd. And while we’re mucking around here on the ground, the Earth relentlessly orbits the Sun. And while a sidereal year, or the time it takes…

The Smallest Mini-Galaxy in the Universe!

“Keep up the good work, if only for a while, if only for the twinkling of a tiny galaxy.” -Wislawa Szymborska Our Milky Way Galaxy is home to not only our Earth and our Solar System, but hundreds of billions of other stars. Held together by not only the incredible gravity of all of our…