๐ŸŒ๐Ÿ”ญโ˜„๏ธ๐ŸŒŒ๐ŸŒ โ˜€๏ธ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿพโ€๐Ÿš€๐ŸŒ• January 17, 2020 10:40 AM   Subscribe

End of another long week, let's carve out a space to talk about something other than politics for those that need that space. Speaking of space, let's talk about astronomy. Open chat to talk about all things astronomical: NASA, JPL, rockets, stars, planets, planetary bodies, galaxies, black holes, life on Mars, is Pluto a planet, satellites, exploration, the moon landing, SpaceX, anything and everything related to the stars up above us. As always, be kind to yourself and to others.
posted by Fizz to MetaFilter-Related at 10:40 AM (58 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

In the 80s, when I was about twelve years old, I got the phone number of NASA from the back of a book about the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (of which I was obsessed).

I worked out the time difference and phoned NASA a few times from the UK. I loved the unfamiliar ringing tone and then the receptionist answering and saying 'NASA, how can I help you?'. My parents would have killed me if they knew I was calling the USA. In fact, they'd have been amazed I was capable of it.

One of these times I told the receptionist I needed some information on space. I gave my address and about a month later received a large brown envelope full of booklets and photos of astronauts and equipment. I did this about three times and as a consequence have a collection of 80s NASA promotional gear.

And that was it. I never became an astronaut. But I can remember the thrill of those secret phone calls and the pleasure of receiving the post even now.
posted by einekleine at 11:18 AM on January 17 [53 favorites]


I work on rockets! Did you know that navigating by the stars is still alive and well, and the applications are growing? We use stars to correct for inertial navigation errors - before the rocket is launched, a star is chosen from the catalog based on where and when the launch is happening. Our inertial measurement unit has a little camera on it; before launch, we point the camera at the star and it stays fixed on that position during the entire launch sequence. Once we leave the atmosphere, we take a picture. Position errors can be corrected by looking at where the star ended up in that picture.

There's a growing interest in reintroducing the use of stellar navigation for other vehicles, also. For aircraft and ships, we're investigating a similar use of camera-based stellar sensing to work hand-in-hand with inertial navigation (correcting gyro drift by taking stellar measurements). This technology is becoming more important as GPS jamming and spoofing gets more sophisticated and powerful. Modern computing makes this practical, as you can maintain a vast star catalog with a very high degree of precision to compare against.

One of the perks of my job is unrestricted access to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. I've walked right up to the original Mercury launch pads, seen the astronaut beach house, driven the crawler track route, and seen a bunch of rockets being assembled. Late last year, the timing finally aligned and I got to watch a launch! We got as close as possible to the pad - it was blindingly bright, like a new star had formed and was racing up to the skies. And eerily quiet, until the sound caught up and suddenly all you could hear was this pulsing roar. Really incredible.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:21 AM on January 17 [57 favorites]


I have an old, completely unused bachelor's degree in astrophysics and I remember almost nothing from it. I do remember taking a course on interstellar dust from a professor with an Abe-Lincoln beard.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:34 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Apps
posted by growabrain at 11:43 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


For some reason this reminded me that I hadn't heard Kraftwerk's Spacelab in a good while. Until just now anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:07 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


When I was 15 my parents gave me a set of binoculars that were super high powered. You can see the shapes of craters on the moon when you peer through them. I still have them. It got me super into the moon for while and I was very obsessed with the moon landing and how much we know.

I was quite excited when India made their attempt at landing a rover. I hate that it failed but that they made it that far is still an amazing feat for any nation and for the scientific field in general as a whole, very proud of that.
posted by Fizz at 12:12 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


One evening a few years back, I took a cheap-ish telescope (bought for the kids when they were around 6 and 8 years old), set it up on the back patio and pointed it up and to the left of the moon (about half-full, as I recall). I was looking for and found Jupiter. I was able to get it focused enough to see the planet and four of the Galilean moons. I stared at it for quite a while, thinking about the vast distance between planets and stars. I started to feel very, very tiny. Then I started thinking about Galileo and the early astronomers (amazing achievements with limited technology), and then about the Galileo spacecraft (even more amazing achievements at the leading edge of technological development). Thinking about what humanity has done in search of knowledge out there made me feel a little less small.
posted by coppertop at 12:14 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I love TV series and movies about space, canโ€™t wait for season 2 of For All Mankind, and loved Ad Astra and First Man.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:18 PM on January 17


My whole life (or at least beginning at age 3), I veered between becoming an astronaut, hair stylist, pianist. But Iโ€™m quite near-sighted, flunked out of music school, and ended up being afraid of scissors, so dreams were dashed. But I bought telescopes when I could afford and took road trips, looking for dark skies. Eventually, my love of astronomy drove me to volunteer at The Adler in Chicago where I got involved with unexpected things. Which then led impulsively to graduate school, then computer graphics. Now I do work that I mostly love, met an unexpected mister, and live in a beautiful country with magnificent star gazing. We ended up buying quite an odd house because of a turret room with window that has approx 140 degree FOV for the cat and my telescopes.

Every trip to North America, the highlight is to visit a new shuttle. Weโ€™ve visited them all now. And every time, I am just in tears at first view. The scale of endeavour overwhelms me every time. The unique tiles . . .

Without astronomy, Iโ€™m sure life would have been fine. But would I be here?

Is it worthwhile to visit the Independence in Houston?
posted by lemon_icing at 12:40 PM on January 17 [13 favorites]




> Is it worthwhile to visit the Independence in Houston?

The whole JSC/Space Center Houston complex is fun, and has a full Saturn V rocket among lots of other stuff. Plus the tours let you view the Mockup Facility in the JSC.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


When the space shuttle Columbia went up I was 8 years old and decided RIGHT THERE that I wanted to be an astronaut. I cracked open the encyclopedia set we had (which was from when my father was a kid and there was yet to be a moon landing), read up on constellations, and proudly told my father that I wanted to be an astronaut. He laughed sagely and told me that 1) girls could not be astronauts and 2) a rocket ride was worse than the scariest roller coaster I could imagine. We had no idea that Sally Ride even existed at that point. Some kids would have accepted that, others would have pluckily insisted that they COULD be an astronaut. I accepted what he told me, because that's the kind of kid I was and today I work in a cubicle.

ANYWAY...for Christmas I asked for and received a pair of stargazing binoculars. Last week I took them outside and looked at the full moon and it was GORGEOUS. I looked at Venus and smiled. I can't wait to finally see everything else.

As always, Fizz, thank you for these!
posted by kimberussell at 1:14 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I think I discovered it circa 2000 or so, but it's been going since 1995 -- I still enjoy the Astronomy Picture of the Day archive. It does exactly what it says!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:18 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


On reread, I wrote Dad as a villain and I regret that - he really had no idea women could be astronauts. In 1980 we were this little blue-collar family with encyclopedias from 1960 and 30 minutes of national news a day. He lives on Florida's east coast now, and loves going outside to watch rockets streak across the sky. When I visit, he wakes me up and we watch them together.
posted by kimberussell at 1:29 PM on January 17 [14 favorites]


I hope some MeFis enjoyed the lunar eclipse on January 10-11. For your lunar and solar delight, here's a list of the next eclipses in 2020.
Looking forward to more than a night of fireworks on July 4-5, and a repeat on November 29-30. I love a good lunar eclipse.
posted by TrishaU at 1:30 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I've talked a little bit about my space obsession here before.

Star Trek made me want to be an astronaut. The IMAX movie "To Fly", which I saw several times as a kid at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum, made it clear to me that I was probably never going to survive becoming a pilot, much less an astronaut.

In high school, ADHD and boredom (or is that tautological?) prevented me from doing well in almost every class. The two exceptions were French (7 As and a B in 2 years) and Astronomy (4 As in a year).
posted by hanov3r at 1:38 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


APOD also has a random picture of the day URL that will take you on an unending random walk of random lengths through what must be getting up near 10,000 PsOD.

To give an idea how much I've used that, on three occasions I've gotten the same POD twice in only three clicks.
posted by jamjam at 1:39 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Because of a bit of a cold snap, haven't seen another human for 2 weeks now; but the stars the stars! These are dark skies, winter nights are long, the cold makes everything even more clear, and Im quite high up. To see the skies rotate around Polaris- the arc of the milky way splashed across- the moon rising through the trees & lighting up the cabin... to have a sense of how late it is because of where in the sky Orion with his fancy belt is, the Pleiades... and then the northern lights come out.... dang.
in conclusion, I spend a lot of time looking at the skies.
posted by cabin fever at 1:42 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I did my last HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:47 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The whole JSC/Space Center Houston complex is fun, and has a full Saturn V rocket among lots of other stuff. Plus the tours let you view the Mockup Facility in the JSC.

My mom has a cute story about when I was 6 or 7 and we were on a tour in Houston. We're on one of those trolley/tram rides and its the concourse and we're driving by rockets and the one tour guide/astronaut stops to tell us something and I approach him and ask in the cutest childhood Fizz voice: โ€œAre we going on a tour up there?โ€ *points at rocket and then the sky*, apparently he chuckled and said, โ€œSomeday I hope.โ€ I was a very precocious and probably annoying child. :-D
posted by Fizz at 1:57 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I think my favorite star this week is the person who donated to the site and gave cortex and the staff a little breathing room. That's the brightest star in my book.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:23 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


is Pluto a planet

It must be, it's had a dog named after it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:24 PM on January 17


A few days ago I made some comment about a fictional object on the dark side of the moon becoming visible when it "turns towards the Earth" and my partner just looked at me for a long few seconds until I said, "It doesn't work like that, does it?"

"No, honey. That's why it's called the dark side of the moon."

"I thought the dark side of the moon was just whatever side wasn't currently facing the Earth."
posted by brook horse at 2:32 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


NASA

Me and a NASA scientist have the exact same first name, middle initial, and last name. Sometimes I think about emailing him just to be like "dude, what's your middle name", but I think I'd be bummed if we didn't have the exact same middle name.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:38 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


brook horse, because of libration we actually get to see about 18% of the dark side of the Moon at some point in its orbit, so you were at least partly right.
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


and about a month later received a large brown envelope full of booklets and photos of astronauts and equipment.

I never called NASA, but back in the 1970s I wrote NASA letters to ask for information on that latest flights and programs, and they always very nicely sent back tons of those big envelopes full of 8ยฝx11 color photos and booklets. Between those and newspaper clippings, I had huge scrapbooks (all long gone) of NASA stuff up to the mid-1970s, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, etc.

I also wrote to the Soviet embassy in Washington and got back some slightly peculiar-smelling but very interesting material about the the USSR's space programs and the Heroes of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who were the first to orbit Earth, first to walk in space, first woman in space, and so on.

And I built models of all the rockets (plastic scale models and cardboard-and-balsa flying rockets).

But my first space stuff, the things that hooked me, were the space cards that came in boxes of Red Rose tea. We drank lots of tea -- I drank lots of tea, almost nothing but tea, from about the age of four -- and Red Rose was what my mother liked, so I drank swimming pools full of Red Rose tea and collected all of the Space Age cards several times over.

Now I look at the moon and planets and stars. I was watching the half moon this morning before work and it's almost midnight here now and cold, so the sky should be clear. I'll go out and watch Orion and hope the local fox runs by.
posted by pracowity at 2:56 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


I've been finding How the Universe Works scratching a particular itch lately. It's not such Important Television that I feel bad falling asleep to it or half-watching while I do something else, but it's also substantial enough for a proper attentive watch, hits on all kinds of Big Topics to get the imagination going, is pretty current and science-forward (no Ancient Aliens) and has a lovely diverse group of presenters with sincere enthusiasm about the material. And it's full of endearingly unconvincing CGI, which as a child of the 80s/90s I do get weird cravings for.
posted by churl at 3:59 PM on January 17


My junior year in college, I applied for an internship at JPL. I didnโ€™t get it, and ended up taking cartooning classes that summer instead. Iโ€™d like to say either that I became a rocket scientist or a cartoonist, but... nope.
posted by moonmilk at 5:00 PM on January 17


The coolest mom in my sonโ€™s 8th grade class took everyone on a tour of JPL. She worked on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter , and after the day, her nerdy, doozy son was suddenly the most popular kid in class.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:38 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I'm knitting the stars! (It's not as cool as doing actual science, but hey, it's what I've got.) I'm turning the nerdiness up to 11 by using different bead sizes for different magnitudes of stars. And I'm adding a few things not in the original patternโ€”including the Pleiades, because poetry.
posted by cellar door at 6:37 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


cellar door: WIP pics pretty pretty please? Let me knit this shawl vicariously through you...
posted by brook horse at 6:56 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I love Star Trek, and especially Discovery, for repeatedly and substantively depicting a diverse future out in space without merely giving a "nod" to the possibility๐Ÿ––๐Ÿผ
posted by rather be jorting at 7:21 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I bought an old Galileo 20mm telescopic about a year ago. Mainly for my grandniece but by summer she moved. So I used it this summer. Set it up on my second story deck/ drone port and hey, craters on the moon. After 6 times I'm like, you took astronomy, and started doing craters, Apollo sites...then Jupiter. Holy shit, the rings of Saturn...I said aloud in a brief jubilation. Then the orbits of the big four moons of Jupiter. Arcturus Etc. And saw a faint Neptune and finally Venus. I love caring for the thing.
Best nine bucks I spent that year.
posted by clavdivs at 11:19 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I am in my mid fifties. If asked what the one thing I want to do before I die, the top of the list, it would be to go into outer space. What I would do if I won a huge lottery? Buy a trip into space. If I could just once before I die be floating in weightlessness, I would do just about anything. To have one of those jet packs on and do an EVA untethered, just zipping around the outside of the space station in orbit, I would be a happy man. Sitting on top of that candle when they light it and taking off into the sky...

I do think in my kid's lifetime, they will have a reasonable chance to go into space. Me? It is getting late. A boy can dream can't he?
posted by AugustWest at 11:46 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I like to think about habitable exoplanets, though more fancifully in a worldbuilding / pulp / TTRPG context. Tidally locked ones are neat.. The day side and night side are obviously interesting, but even a hill with one side in shadow sounds fascinating. What kind of life might adapt to eternal day or eternal night, or being in between and able to move between spots of either.

Recently when driving I've been thinking about an Earth-like planet where the axis tilted down to be in the orbital plane. At the equator you might have two winters, the sun lurking still at the horizon, then spiralling out, streaking across over the dome of the sky to go lurk on the other horizon. On a pole you'd have long single-day summers and single-night winters, weeks of dawn and twilight, the sun circling around the horizon as it appears. the sun whirling up to be lurk overhead at high summer. If I'm visualizing right.
posted by fleacircus at 11:54 PM on January 17


Earlier I watched a really cool Ken Burns profile of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, AKA Mark Twain. How is this astronomical in any way/shape/form? Here goes: Clemons was born in 1835, shortly after Helley's Comet made it's show that year, and he died in 1910, the day after the comet returned.

I *love* "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" so, so much, I've read and re-read it. And Audible has a fantastic version of it, which I'll confess here and now to listening to twice. But that's only a partial truth: yes, I did listen to it twice. But not only twice.

Any number of people have asked me over the years why I return to books that I love, when there are so. many. other. wonderful books "out there". First off: I mean, come on -- I get to spend time with Huck and Jim on that raft. I get to see Clemons craft, and enjoy it so. And: No matter how much anyone reads, no matter how many bands we listen to, no matter how many fine blues singers we hear -- it's too big. No one is going to hear it all, see it all, read it all. It can't be done.

Relax.

Jesus....

Here's a Marcus line I love *so* much: "Love nothing but that which comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny. For what could more aptly fit your needs?"

Anyways. One image from that book that has stayed with me over the years is Huck and Jim laying on their backs as their raft headed down the Mississippi, smoking, looking up at the stars. I don't know if it was Huck or Jim or both that reckoned that the moon laid them, and when a shooting star shot across the sky it was a bad egg, getting hove out of the nest.

Impossible to have "A Favorite BookTM" but this book would score highly on any list I put together. Tom Sawyer, that is an ok read, but Huckleberry Finn, that's where it's at. Six distinct, separate dialects in that book, as close as he could get them to the memory of his youth. I didn't notice until I was older what a brilliant writer he is, his amazing craft, that it's not just the stories but the way he puts them together.

Sometime, when you're looking for some fun, read the piece in his autobiography where he warns you that he is going to write, inside the next page or two, he is going to write absolute, complete nothing, going nowhere, and then back into the autobiography, and that you are going to read it and not notice it. And then goddamned if you don't read it and not notice it. He's a magician.

I trust Clemons as I trust no other.* Clemons is absolutely funny as hell but I know him well enough to not stop there -- his humor comes from a huge intellect and deep pain and wide-open eyes. And he's perfectly willing to tell tales on himself but in doing so he's lampooning us all -- don't forget to notice that part. I love him.
*OK, so maybe Marcus Aurelius. But Ol' Marc just did not see slavery as Clemons did, nor a host of other social injustices. Maybe because he wore the purple?

~~~~~

I saw this story a few days ago, gave me a chuckle or three.
17-year-old discovers planet 6.9 times larger than Earth on third day of internship with NASA
posted by dancestoblue at 2:24 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Some of the best dates I have been on have been astronomy related. My parents bought me a celestron telescope for Christmas one year, and one night I text messaged a cute boy* and said "I'm going out to look at the stars, do you want to come with?" He agreed. It wasn't the magical moment I had hoped but we had fun looking at the stars, and I discovered that he is WAY better at aiming the telescope than I am. Later on, after we began dating, we came back to that spot many times - it's a ways out of town so you cut down on the glow, and we stop midway down a road at the entrance to a paddock. I saw that a semi-famous local photographer was selling a telescope, and so we co-bought a much nicer telescope. We'd look at Jupiter, check out Saturn's rings, and then just lie back and count satellites and meteors. We stayed out so late one night that we watched the sunrise, cuddled together on a picnic blanket under a fluffy fleecy blanket.

We took our engagement photos at the spot, in daylight- you can see the mountains in the background, and when we went out, the crop was just on the verge of being harvested. It's not the world's most beautiful spot, but it's one of the more meaningful ones for me.

*Said boy was 20 something so really a man, but we are both a bit older now. :)
posted by freethefeet at 3:20 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I joined a book club whose goal is to read the Sailor Moon manga in Japanese in its entirety this year which is roughly an act a week. That's astronomy adjacent I think. It's probably why I know my planets. Anyway, It's really a stretch on my vocabulary but it's been a blast and I'm having fun stumbling through it, and I'm glad that the work I've put into building some foundational Japanese over the last however long is actually starting to be rewarding in terms of ease of access.

This week though has been rough in all the tiny ways . I came back from a trip last week which had triggered my PTSD and did not feel restful, came back to work on Monday was unexpectly given 12 hour shifts Monday and Tuesday , struggled to get myself into the groove of working nights and promptly got sick. Uuugh. My spouse has picked up a ton of my slack and I got to do a bunch of chores this weekend to make up for it now that I'm feeling a little better (and I still need to unpack).
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:45 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Somewhat space related:

With an host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To wilderness I wandered.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows,
I summoned was to a tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide worldโ€™s end:
Methought it was no journey.

Yet I would sing, Any food, any feeding,
Feeding, drink, or clothing;
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor 'bu will injure nothing.


Then I got tired of counting all of those blessings.

Then I just got tired.

So I came home :)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:47 AM on January 18


I have the almost unimaginable privilege of being able to work as an astronomer. I'm on sabbatical from teaching and other duties at the moment and really loving the opportunity to focus on my very difficult data analysis and modeling project.

I work on one of Saturn's rings and I obsess about its vertical structure. Other than me, maybe five people in the world care about this in any real way. It has the vague potential to pay off in terms of abstract understanding some of the dynamical processes that lead to, e.g., planet formation. Maybe. Mainly, I just study this thing because I have the knowledge, skills, and data to answer this particular question, and, damnit, that means I should find the answer.

I sometimes think about all the good and bad ways that society has been built to give me the privilege of doing this, and how many people pay for that privilege and in what ways.

So, anyway, all y'all 7.5 billion other people on the planet: you're welcome.
posted by BrashTech at 8:43 AM on January 18 [15 favorites]


One of my iPhone apps that I check almost every day is How many people are in space right now - they have a desktop version too, here: www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com. The answer is almost always 6. When the answer is not 6, I feel unnerved and unbalanced for the rest of the day.
posted by lyssabee at 9:39 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Back when I was a space obsessed child reading my way through the astronomy shelf at the library I happened upon "The Stars: A New Way to See Them", a book with beautiful illustrations suggesting new ways to view constellations. I loved it, read it cover to cover again and again. At some point I wondered if the author had written more space books and checked the authors bio. It was written by H.A. Rey, whom the library did not have any more space books by but did have a collection of books he'd written with his wife, all of which I'd already read. Many times. The Curious George books.

It blew my mind that you could do this, write silly fun books about a little monkey and a beautiful book about stars. It still makes me happy, people are beautiful and complex and now I want a copy of that book again.
posted by lepus at 11:17 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I have a phobia of airports (not flying, just airports and the associated process/steps). Nothing joking or funny there, it's a real anxiety.

Today, we were supposed to leave to see my new nephew in Raleigh, NC. Comrade Doll forgot her purse, setting off a kind of chaotic chain of events, ending with us missing the flight entirely. I had about a four and a half hour panic attack and I feel pretty awful. Kind thoughts accepted if you've got 'em to spare. We'll still get to go tomorrow, but everything was non-refundable so it's now half the trip for the same money, incuding missing our chance to see the lemurs at Duke. Plus, I get to do the airport again right away.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:19 PM on January 18


brook horse, it's not much to look at yetโ€”I'm only about 25% through it, excluding the edgingโ€”but here you go! (Also included: bonus stretch-dog.)
posted by cellar door at 3:37 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


I highly recommend Troop Zero on Amazon.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 4:29 PM on January 18


I've seen Saturn through a telescope, two or three times, and it's just amazing. To think that one of those bright lights in the night sky is that -- well, I wish everybody had the chance to see. My first time, I was just a kid. Inspiring, really. Maybe that's why I ended up working for NASA for 25 years.
posted by Rash at 7:17 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Now I want a telescope. A contributing factor to my decision to move away from town was that it's darker here, so I get to see more stars. occasionally the Milky Way. New people have moved in and love bright LED flood lights, sadly. The night sky is stunningly beautiful, and most people don't get to see much of it.

Sometimes LL Bean will get telescope vendors to set them up outside, so I have seen Saturn's rings, and an amazingly detailed view of the moon. Telescope technology has gotten really cool, but as noted, good binoculars or basic telescopes can see a lot. And the science prof who manages the planetarium at USM will occasionally set up a telescope or 2 outside; I've gotten to see a comet, we saw the Space Station and shuttle separate.

I have loved reading this, thanks fizz, and everyone.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 PM on January 18


Hey, cellar door, is that... Cassiopeia? Looks like an M in the middle left of the dark blue field. Yes, I Googled some star maps but I'm not sure.
This is fiber-arts obsession, not astronomy obsession, but it still counts.
posted by TrishaU at 10:27 PM on January 18


DirtyOldTown sending hugs and good luck today.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:12 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Oh that reminds me of one of the coolest and saddest things- I was at a school "Science Extravaganza" and the music teacher has a sweet telescope, so he sets up outside and lets people have a gander at the planets. It's designed to wow younger kids about science, get them enthused, (and get them to come to our school when they get older.) One of our student volunteers, probably about 16 or so, had a go looking through the telescope. She was absolutely blown away that you could SEE the planets from earth. (She has done an amazing job of re-engaging with education after some rough years, so it's not her fault that she missed basic astronomy at school.)
posted by freethefeet at 2:57 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Nicely spotted, TrishaUโ€”that is indeed Cassiopeia. :)

All this talk of telescopes is really making me wish I could drop the money on one right now. Mr. Door and I have talked about getting a telescope ever since we left the city, and particularly since we bought our house a few years ago; but it's never been a top priority, and I haven't done the research into what exactly we'd want to get. And of course, we've just needed to replace the dishwasher, so there's some $$ I wasn't expecting to have to spend. Ah, the joys of homeownership. (I'm not really complaining; challenging though it is at times, we know how lucky we are, and it's been much better for us than renting was. I 100% do not miss sharing walls with lunatics.)

Anyway, one of these days, we are totally going to buy a telescope. Hopefully, one that can be used for photography somehow, if that's a thing (I assume it must be). Because if I'm going to be able to see Saturn, I'm damned sure going to want to take a picture of it. Even a crappy one.
posted by cellar door at 6:30 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


If you were to move to the nearest star to the sun (Proxima Centauri) the night sky would look the same as from here, except there would be no Proxima, of course, and Cassiopeia would have an extra star at it's end - the Earth's sun.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:37 AM on January 19 [5 favorites]


Thank you, ellieBOA. I've gone back to my old school technique for dealing with flights/airports... getting here extremely early and then drinking a lot. Not elegant, but it works.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:20 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


There's a story I've been telling for years. When I was a really young kid my mom took me up into the hills, and we parked in a turn off and walked down a shallow slope around a curve from the road, set up sleeping bags, and watched a big meteor shower. (I suspect the perseids, maybe in a year the newspaper happened to write about it? There doesn't seem to have been a notable event in those years) We watched the sky for an hour or so.

Over time we kept hearing what sounded like big, wild animals. Strange animals that you wouldn't expect in southern California. I'm not sure if it was wolves and monkeys, but it was something similar. Eventually it culminated in what sounded like two lions fighting, and we packed up our bags and ran away.

My entire life, the punchline to that story was that we were one ridge away from Michael Jackson's ranch. I'm absolutely sure that's what my mom used to say and have been repeating it for years.

But. . . now that I actually look at a map, that seems incredibly unlikely. It's an extra two hour drive past much better viewing locations. You could walk to equally good spots from where we lived in a lot less time. Unless we were on our way somewhere, which was never part of the story, it just doesn't make any sense. Also, I had to have been young enough that the timeline just barely could work, but I'd have naively guessed it happened a few years before Jackson moved in.

I was young enough that I can't tell if any of my memory is real or if it's just the memory of a story, but I suspect we really did lie down near the road to look at stars, hear something really strange, and run away. Now, I can't help but wonder where we actually were. The Wildlife Waystation is the obvious answer, but my mom knew about them and I'm pretty sure that would have become the story if it were true. I'm now wondering if it wasn't just some non-famous private property with a few exotic pets. (I got to play with baby tigers a few years later in exchange for helping some neighbors move. . . so that possibility is not as unreasonable as it sounds.) Or, it could have just been mistaken identification. I doubt either of us would be surprised by coyotes or racoons, but sounds carry and are filtered in strange ways on a damp night. It might have been a big dog mixed with an excavator working on the highway three miles over.

Crafting a conversation that might reveal the truth without making my mom feel bad is a challenge I'm not entirely sure I'm up to. But, I'll be telling a different story from now on.
posted by eotvos at 1:54 PM on January 20


The International Space Station was visible in the night sky overhead tonight. That's the most amazing thing ever. Humans living in space and earthbound humans knowing exactly the perfect time to wave hello.

My grandmother grew up in the days before cars and knew about computers and moon landings before she died. That is a massive shift in one lifetime.
posted by mightshould at 4:34 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Kerbal Space Program. I recently introduced my boss to it. He's obsessed. Everyone who has a interest in space should experience it.

This is a mix of things, and no one will ever read this, but it's kind of mind blowing that we managed to land on the moon before you could buy a pocket calculator.

And adjusted for inflation, the first of those calculators cost $2500.
posted by booooooze at 7:20 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


ะผั‹ ะฑั‹ะปะธ ั‚ะฐะผ ะฟะตั€ะฒั‹ะผะธ.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I studied Astrophysics in college and came *this* close to becoming an astrophysicist myself. The great thing is that the friends I studied with, two of the them are Astro professors - one in the US, one in Australia. One of them actually comes from an Astro family, with a sister who works on galactic structure and a brother working on Dark Matter telescopes. So I missed that world myself but that world is all around me still.

My focus was on Radio so observing isn't confined to the night sky and can also be done in cities. It is not what people think of when they think of Astronomy It also means I studied things people don't think about when thinking of the galaxy, namely interstellar matter and molecular clouds, such as the galaxy in Carbon Monoxide.

Theoretical astrophysics was always much more fascinating to me as well. So, star formation, cosmology, galactic structure, not so much star observing. I'm not sure where in the sky specific stars or planets are. I can point out Eridanus maybe because that is the location of a supernova remnant I was trying to map in radio as an undergraduate.
posted by vacapinta at 7:28 AM on January 22


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