Archive for the Astronomy Category


Posted in Astronomy with tags on September 13, 2012 by The Prince of Pithy

I was just outside and saw a fireball!  I saw the meteor start, and then it became very bright with a bluish tint, something I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Then it disappeared.  And what was even cooler, and something I’ve probably only seen a couple of times, is it left a train.  This is a faint, persistent glow after the meteor is gone.  This train lasted for at least fifteen seconds.  It was very cool.

I saw a Dragon this morning

Posted in Astronomy, Spaceflight on May 28, 2012 by The Prince of Pithy

Well, I saw the light reflected from the ISS, part of which may have come from the SpaceX Dragon capsule currently berthed there.  😛

I am a big fan of SpaceX, so I knew that I had to watch the ISS fly overhead sometime while the Dragon capsule was up there.  Unfortunately, most of the ISS passes where I live are in the wee hours of the morning, and since I usually don’t get up until 10 or 11, it was unlikely I could see it.  But fortunately, while looking on Heavens-Above, I saw that there would be a pass this morning just after 3:00 AM which I could easily stay up for.  And there were two really cool aspects of this morning’s pass.  One, it would have a magnitude of -2.4, which is always cool, and two as you can see from this star map of its path from Heavens-Above:

I would see it come out of the Earth’s shadow!  It was a little foggy, but I could still see the brighter stars, and after waiting for a few minutes, I saw a nice bright point of light come into existence and slowly move eastward.  I tried to get a picture of it, but my camera sucks.  But I saw the ISS with the Dragon attached, and that was cool.

Astronomer porn?

Posted in Astronomy, Humor, Writing on December 21, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

I maintain that a lack of sleep was a large factor in this, but the other day I was working on a story and I realized it sounded like astronomer porn.  I was describing how this unknown object was first detected with the “125 meter optical telescope at the Lunar Farside Observatory.” I just pictured astronomers having to put the book down and go take a cold meteor shower.  Ba-dum ching.

In case you’re wondering, I’m more embarrassed about the pun.

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to moving back home

Posted in Astronomy, Odds on July 5, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

Last Friday I took a load of my stuff home.  I arrived home about 11:30 at night.  After driving for a couple of hours with my headlights on and triggering the motion sensor light by going up the driveway, I stepped out, stretched, and looked up.  At night in King of Prussia, if the sky is clear I might be able to see ten stars.  That’s about all I can see with all the light pollution from Philly and all the streetlights around the apartment complex.  But when I looked up at home – without even waiting for my eyes to adapt to the dark – I saw hundreds of individual stars, as well as sections of the Milky Way.

Home, it’s full of stars.  😛

I’ve been busy

Posted in Astronomy, Humor, Spaceflight, Writing on March 18, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The first time MESSENGER flew by Mercury in January 2008, I wrote the story “Impacts.” For the second flyby in October 2008, I wrote the story “Small Step.” I’m pretty sure I sent out a tweet linked to those stories when MESSENGER flew by a third time in September 2009. But now that MESSENGER has gone into orbit around Mercury – the first spacecraft ever to do so – I just wrote up this blog. 😀 As I said, I’ve been busy.

Fear the aliens. Really?

Posted in Astronomy, Science, Spaceflight on January 11, 2011 by The Prince of Pithy

I was killing some time at work today when I saw this article: “Study: If We’re Not Alone, We Should Fear the Aliens.” I was shaking my head before I even read it. Once I did start reading it, I wanted to smack anybody who thinks this. The basic point of the referenced paper in the article is: “Either we’re alone, or any aliens out there are acquisitive and resource-hungry, just like us.”

I doubt we are alone for the simple reason that we can’t be it. The stuff for life is everywhere in the universe, and given enough time, life should develop. Given more time, that life should become intelligent. I can’t prove that there is life out there, but the odds are for it.

Now, the real issue I have is people who believe that any aliens out there will be “resource-hungry.” As I said almost a year ago when Stephen Hawking brought this subject up:

First, if these aliens are so advanced, wouldn’t you think they would have figured out how to recycle? Mining an occasional comet or asteroid for certain materials is understandable, but – bad scifi movies aside – why would they have an insatiable thirst for raw materials?

Second, in all of human history we have only landed twelve people on the moon, but every day untold millions of condoms are used. Isn’t it likely, that long before these aliens figured out how to warp time and space to travel interstellar distances, they would have figured out how to not have baby aliens? Wouldn’t their ships have stable populations, and with recycling (and an occasional comet or asteroid) wouldn’t they already have the materials they need? Or are you suggesting they don’t do family planning because of some Space Pope, so their population is exploding which is why they have to consume everything?

A third option which I didn’t think of then, is, would aliens waste their precious resources on worthless crap? The next time you go shopping, look at all the products produced for the sake of looking good or following the latest celebrity inspired fashion and ask yourself, Is that the best use that could have been done with those resources?

Why can’t people accept that any advanced aliens out there will be smarter than us? Or, that they will have different values than us? In my Human Republic Universe, the spacefaring race that makes Contact with us are the Pentans. Now, one of the interesting things about the Pentans is that – unlike what we humans will do – they have no colonies. They don’t go out and find a Class P planet and set up a colony, because they don’t want to disturb whatever lifeforms may call that planet home. It may be a billion years before the scum looks up at the stars in wonder, but the Pentans don’t want to destroy that chance. They just mine asteroids and comets to build ships, and they live in their ships, in space stations, or back on their homeworld. Why couldn’t real aliens do that?

Meet Comet Hartley 2

Posted in Astronomy, Science, Spaceflight on November 4, 2010 by The Prince of Pithy

Taken by NASA’s EPOXI which flew by this morning.