Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.10.03

Geometry of a Lunar Eclipse

Geometry of a Lunar Eclipse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This last Sunday night was the time of a rare supermoon and total lunar eclipse, and I was happy to see it, even with cloudy local skies — through live video feed elsewhere! Of course there were “Dawn of the Dead” jokes galore and other references to a zombie apocalypse that night, but what a spectacle it was, even when not visible outside my own window – There’s concern about inebriated troublemakers outside at that time of night as well(Not a safe neighborhood for nighttime viewing out of doors.). We (humans) got some new pics and details of Pluto’s moon Charon, The announcement (a BIG one!) of the discovery of liquid briny water on Mars, and the successful 100th launch of an Atlas V rocket with a new satellite into orbit. I’m on a new project, to figure out the full range of planetary data for some of my fictional worlds using the math from GURPS Space from GURPS 4th Edition, though I’m not saying which worlds they will be for now.

Stay warm, stay dry, and stay safe for those of you on the Northeast US coast, and as always,


A Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

Total Lunar Eclipse over Waterton Lake

Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse and Lightning Storm

Seasonal Streaks Point to Flowing Liquid Water on Mars

Eclipsed in Southern Skies

Charon, Moon of Pluto

A Blue Blood Moon

Image of the Week:

Weekly Astrognuz:

Mobile Launcher Upgraded to Launch NASA’s Massive “Journey to Mars” Rocket

Lunar Eclipse: Photos & Videos of the September 2015 Event

Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Water on Mars | Evidence of Flowing Liquid

Videos: Buoyant Rover for Under Ice Exploration

Can You Kill a Star with Iron?

Space Images | Recurring “Lineae” on Slopes at Horowitz Crater

ISS Photo: Denver and Boulder

Crash Course Astronomy: Black Holes

Liquid Water on Mars is BIG News!

Big Picture Science Radio Show | Skeptic Check: What, Me Worry?

Comet Feature Named After Late NASA Scientist Claudia Alexander

Atlas V Streaks to Orbit in 100th Successful Mission

Charon: New Close-Up Color Photos

Rosetta’s First Peek at the Comet’s Dark Side

Life on Titan: Is There a Kraken in Kraken Mare?

GOP Candidates on Climate Change: Denying Reality in Every Possible Way

What’s Up? October 2015

Weekly Space Hangout: October 2, 2015

Phytoplankton Bloom: Two Satellites, Two Views

Mount Sharp Comes in Sharply

Magnetism and The Search for Life

Rockykins: On Ur Printr…Scannin’ Mai Fluffy Butt!


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Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.09.26

approximate trajectory of New Horizons after P...

approximate trajectory of New Horizons after Pluto flyby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

G’day! This Caturday, there’s been a bit to glom on in astroscience, with NASA’s announcement of an upcoming solution to a Martian mystery, China’s plan to send a mission to dear old Luna’s far side within the next five years or so, US presidential candidate Ben Carson’s absurd anti-science views, and the bizarre “snakeskin” terrain of Pluto discovered in pics sent back by New Horizons as it ventures deeper into the Kuiper belt.

I’ve been informed of the upcoming total lunar eclipse on the 27th by the awesome Sharmishtha Basu (With one of her many wonderful blogs here.). I’ve been reading further, and will be watching it live via webcast if the sky is cloudy in my region as it has been so far this week (grumble…). This will be extremely cool, as it is a relatively rare occurrence, but NOT a sign of the End Times as is trendy and hysterical to claim during these astronomical events.


Global Ocean Suspected on Saturn’s Enceladus

Spiral Galaxy M96 from Hubble

Milky Way over Bosque Alegre Station in Argentina

Antarctic Analemma

LDN 988 and Friends

Pluto’s Snakeskin Terrain

M31 versus M33

Image of the Week:

The Carina Nebula: Star Birth in the Extreme

Weekly Astrognuz:

Carnival of Space #424

Pluto: Stunning Full Disc Color Image

September 27: Watch a Total Eclipse of the Moon

Weekly Space Hangout | Sept 25 2015

Ben Carson: Anti-Science

Completing the Census of Exoplanetary Systems by Microlensing

Astonishing “Snakeskin” Textured Mountains Discovered on Pluto

Earth Without Water: Nope

Big Picture Science Radio Show | No Face to Hide

Is the Universe Dying?

NGC 1783: An LMC Globular Cluster

Could We Really Find ET?

Dramatic Imagery from NASA of Supersonic Shockwaves

Microburst: Sudden Downpour

Integrating Planetary Protection in Human Missions

China Plans Lunar Far Side Landing by 2020

VLT: Lightning over the Observatory

Jill Tarter Elected President of California Academy of Sciences

NASA to Announce Mars Mystery Solved

Hubble’s Pluto Mission

Caturday’s (Big) Cat


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The Call’s Gnuz & Lynx Roundup | 2015.09.13

English: Qutb Minar, Delhi, India

English: Qutb Minar, Delhi, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welp, it’s a new week, and that means uncertainty in what’s to come…but that’s okay, since I don’t believe that certainty in matters of contingent fact is possible anyway. It’s a category mistake to try to apply logical certainty to a domain where it doesn’t belong. But I’m confident that things will turn out well — not certain, just confident. It’s a confidence based on evidence, and subject to revision by whatever evidence turns up in future. I’ve created new digital flashcards for my Hindi lessons, and am currently using them in my study this week. Very effective so far, and fun too.

I’m listening to a mindfulness lecture as I type this, and it’s not that bad, but has a different flavor from a previous series of lectures on the subject. This lecture’s about thought-conditioning and unskillful thinking, something this writer is frequently guilty of…even as a skeptic.

I’m a skeptic, not because I’m rational or logical, but because I know damn well that I’m not, at least at some critical junctures.

I’m a skeptic so that I can know of and acknowledge my weaknesses, and I know that if I’m not very, very careful, I can and will be fooled like anyone else.

I do myself no favors in not conceding my limitations, for I cannot overcome an enemy that I do not or cannot admit exists.

That enemy is a seething morass of possible self-deception, illogical thinking, poor argumentation, biases and fallacies in thought, memory, or sensory perception that can easily lead me astray when I’m not careful. And all of that under everyday circumstances.

No, I don’t need mischievous incorporeal beings to mislead me when I have a perfectly ordinary human brain that’s quite capable of doing that all by itself.

No Cartesian ‘evil genius’ required.

Well, I hope to make it a good week, and I hope the same for all of you as well. May your days be bright, and your nights illumined by those mighty faraway suns we know as stars.


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Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.09.12

Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and und...

Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Caturday to you! This last week I was working out some of the math behind my fictional monster planet Bruticus, and sadly had not the time to post it in complete form online, at least what’s finished. I’ve got the mass, diameter, and gravity of the planet figured out, but with that must come the data on its five large moons, and the number-crunching for the takeoff mass and delta-V of the biological spacecraft used to travel to and between them. That will be by the end of the next week, either for this coming Thursday or next Caturday in complete form. This has taken longer than I’ve expected, but it will be good to get it all down on paper and online. Thanks to Ray and Anneliese for the help so far, and may you always get at least a few clear nights out of a month!



The Shark Nebula

Distorted Green Flash Sunset over Italy

NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

NGC 4372 and the Dark Doodad

A Giant Squid in the Flying Bat

ISS Double Transit

Image of the Week:

Weekly Astrognuz:

Weekly Space Hangout 2015 September 11: New Horizons Pluto-Palooza

Crash Course Astronomy: High-Mass Stars and Supernovae

Direct Imaging of Extrasolar Planets, and Discovery of a Young Jupiter

Herschel and Planck Honored with Space Systems Award

The Gas (and Ice) Giant Neptune

Climate Change: What Climate Deniers Sound Like to Normal People

Big Picture Science Radio Show: The Pest of Us

What’s Up: September 2015

Could We Terraform the Sun?

Ceres: Hi-Res Bright Spots and Cracks

Planet Occurrence Rates with Kepler: Reaching Towards the Habitable Zone

Vista from Curiosity Shows Crossbedded Martian Sandstone

What Causes Ceres’ Bizarre Bright Spots?

WASP 94: Two Planets, Two Stars

Searching for Life… and Death… in the Universe

Study Contrasts Effects of Two Types of SoCal Fires

SpaceX Provides a Peek Inside Their New Crew Vehicle

M96: Hubble and VLT Images of a Nearby Spiral Galaxy

Separating Facts from Nonsense about Asteroid Impacts

NASA Telescopes Find Galaxy Cluster with Vibrant Heart

The Opposite of Infinity

Willow the Pillow…


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Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.09.05

Illustration of the relative sizes, albedos, a...

Illustration of the relative sizes, albedos, and colours of the largest trans-Neptunian objects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

G’day, and happy Caturday. As of Thursday the current blogging schedule began, and fortunately things have been busy. This week, there was a satellite launch via Atlas V booster, and news of the extension of the New Horizons probe’s mission out past Pluto, deeper into the Kuiper belt of trans-Neptunian objects (Whew! I almost typed trans-Newtonian! – Huge difference!). On the Pluto flyby, the really cool thing was the naming of a whole, kinda whale-shaped region of Pluto after Cthulhu, and another was Mordor from LoTR. There are some really nifty images with this piece, excepting this week’s newly captioned Cat for Ze Caturday, the dire and infamous Mr. Eccles plotting mischief with the home furnishings. May you always find at least a few clear nights out of the month, and reach for the stars!

Talotaa frang, talotaa kas, talotaa tranga suulat.

M31: The Andromeda Galaxy

Pluto in Enhanced Color

Distant Neutrinos Detected Below Antarctic Ice

The Flare and the Galaxy

ARP 159 and NCG 4725

Milky Way with Airglow Australis

Atlas V Rising

Image of the Week:

Proxima Centauri – Hubble

Weekly Astrognuz:

What Do Other Planets Sound Like?

Ice Loss: Greenland and Antarctica lost 5 trillion tons since 2002

New Ultrathin Optical Devices Shape Light in Exotic Ways

Searching for Life… and Death… in the Universe

The (Possible) Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10

Aurora: Intense activity seen in Sweden

At Saturn, One of These Rings is not like the Others

The NASA K2 Mission: Extending Kepler’s Legacy

More Spectacular Images From the MUOS-4 Launch

Photobomb: ISS transits the Sun by Thierry Legault

NASA’s TES Satellite Instruments Gives New Insight into Water Cycle

Big Picture Science Radio Show – What Lies Beneath

A Fiery End for Kosmos 1315 Over Hawaii

Global Warming: Sea levels are rising rapidly

What Happened to Early Mars’ Atmosphere: New Study Eliminates One Theory

SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center Stars…

A God’s Eye View of the Universe

via SpaceRip

 Evil monkey-cat…museth evil things…

IMG_0735 (1)

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Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.08.22

A NASA cassini image of dione a moon of Saturn.

A NASA cassini image of dione a moon of Saturn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good morning! This week’s video features the final pass of Saturn’s moon Dione by the Cassini probe. Doesn’t it have the power it needs to continue its mission?

Well, I think that the main problem is the probe’s running out of fuel it needs to maneuver and position itself in its exploration of the Saturn system. Once that runs out, for all real purposes, it’s game over, thank you much and goodnight, Mister McSpaceprobe!

So that means that there will be no more passes of Dione, as lovely as the moon looks to us apes on this tiny blue world far from Saturn. I hope that your weekend starts out well.

However, there’s a grey lining in the silver cloud…

I’m currently a bit worried about a friend of mine with a recent medical incident, with no word yet on his current condition.

Here’s knocking on plastic – one must adapt one’s superstitions to modern conditions, after all – that things turn out well, and a speedy return to wellness for Christopher R. Rice of the blog Ravens N’ Pennies!

I’ve had far too many people die this year alone, much less last year in addition, and that wears on me, especially close friends.

Stay cool, stay brilliant.

…and reach for the stars.

M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble

Andromeda Rising over the Alps

Announcing Comet Catalina

Central Cygnus Skyscape

M27: Not a Comet

Sprites from Space

Little Planet Curiosity

Image of the Week:

Ring of Stars and Nucleus of Hoag’s Object Galaxy

Weekly Astrognuz:

The story behind Curiosity’s self-portraits on Mars

Tricks to Remember the Planets

The United States of Space Advocates

How to Find Rosetta’s Comet in Your Telescope

Nathalie Cabrol to lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute

An August Moment to Check in on NASA’s Budget and Future

NASA Invites the Public to Send Your Name to Mars on InSight – Next Mars Lander

No Major Problems with SLS Design NASA Managers Say

Astrophoto: The Southern Owl

Lightsail Lands New Hardware for Laser Ranging

Watch the You-Know-What out of this Trailer for The Martian

Sprite: Red Lightning Seen from Space

The Dwarf Planet (and Plutoid) Makemake

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Long Exposures

New Instrument Images a Young Cousin of Jupiter

Perseids: Photo and Video

Final Enounter: Cassini and Dione

The Weekly Pick:

Big Picture Science Radio Show | Skeptic Check: Skeptic Seth

Ze Cat for Ze Caturday:


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Caturday’s Astrophenia | 2015.08.15

The universe is dying, so goes the title of this week’s video… But I would add, yes, we already knew this, just not to this level of precision. It seems that nothing lasts forever, that all existence, indeed, all life, is ephemeral. It seems that short of human goals, human objectives, and the meaning and purposes we give life through our own agency, there just doesn’t seem to be meaning or purpose, at least, not outside ourselves. We can give our lives purpose, and I think that we’ve been doing that all along, even when we suppose various Purposers outside of our own selves, outside of our own social systems and mystical traditions. I think that we are the purposers, even when we think purpose and meaning are handed down from above or beyond ourselves. Is that hubris? Is that arrogance? I don’t think so. I think it’s more humble, more honest, to recognize that we are projecting our own intents and needs, and personas, upon the universe. It could very well go on just fine without us, until it too dies. I learned many years ago that nothing lasts forever. And in recognizing that, I expect nothing excessive out of the wonderful ride of life I’ve had here on Earth. I don’t want to live forever, and maybe that’s a good thing. I think eternal life would grow dull, and eventually horrific. All the more to enjoy what time remains of this life, and to demand nothing more than what life can offer.

Talotaa frang, talotaa kas, talotaa tranga sulat. (Be well, be safe, be brilliant as the stars.) ~ Kai’Siri greeting and departure salute

HCG 87: A Small Group of Galaxies

A Sagittarius Triplet

A Blue Halo over Antarctica

Milky Way and Exploding Meteor

Moonless Meteors and the Milky Way

Comet Dust over Enchanted Rock

Perihelion Approaches

Image of the Week:

Interacting Galaxies Group Arp 194

Weekly Astrognuz:

Ride Along with New Horizons on Its Pluto Flyby

Rosetta and comet 67P: Eruption at perihelion

Successful Test Firing of NASA’s SLS Rocket Engine

Sen: Space Odyssey

The Dwarf Planet Haumea

Ceres: Crater saturation

Why is it Tough to Land on a Comet?

Mars as big as the Moon: Not in 2015 or ever.

Cassini to Make Last Close Flyby of Saturn Moon Dione

Gecko Grippers Moving On Up

How CubeSats are Revolutionizing Radio Science

NASA’s Europa Mission Team Joins Forces for the First Time

One Decade After Launch, Mars Orbiter Still Going Strong

The Universe is Dying


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