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Showing posts from December, 2006

Happy New Year!

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Well, that pretty much says it all, but I'll go ahead and say it again... Happy New Year! Here's looking forward to a good one!

Carl Sagan

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Ten years ago, we got the news that Carl Sagan had died of pneumonia, a side effect of his long battle with cancer. It felt almost like I had lost a friend, even though I had only once briefly been within two feet of him and had only been in the same room with him three times.

It's hard for me to make an eloquent summary of how Sagan impacted my life, so I'll just ramble about some of my favorite Carl Sagan books and shows.

I have had an interest in science, and astronomy in particular, for most of my life and "Cosmos" came along at a good time to nurture that. I remember seeing "Cosmos" when it was originally on (I was about 8 years old) and I still enjoy watching it today on TV and DVD. Even though some of the graphics have been updated, it is amazing how well the original information holds up after 25+ years. To this day I'm fascinated by Hypatia of Alexandria and her famous library because of that show. I kept hearing Sagan's voice the first time…

The Beauty of Solar Burps

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Part of my job is working with a solar telescope and talking about the sun with school kids, so I tend to keep up with solar activity. The sun has a roughly 11-year cycle where it goes from essentially no activity (meaning sunspots, flares, CMEs, etc.) to a bunch of activity and then back down to none. Right now we're at about the bottom, although activity is starting to creep back up and this week a large sunspot has produced several flares and CMEs. The cool thing about these eruptions is that when that energy impacts the Earth's atmosphere, it produces aurorae. Folks in more northerly areas are reporting and photographing some beautiful Northern Lights this week, and some have submitted the photos to the aurora gallery at one of my favorite websites, spaceweather.com.

Being in Texas, it is rare for us to see aurorae, but with particularly large explosions they can be seen. They are usually a red glow on the northern horizon (in my experience), not the rich variety of colors …

Amazing Mars

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You know, since I'm in astronomy for a living and there are all kinds of amazing images and discoveries coming in everyday, you'd think I would have been blogging about astronomy more. And since I love science in general, you'd think I'd be blogging about all science more too! Well, hopefully this post will be the first of many more to come of things that catch my eye.

Mars is currently being studied by five spacecraft, and until recently it was six (since Mars Global Surveyor seems to have gone bye-bye), so there has been no shortage of incredible images and science coming from the Red Planet recently. Of course, there was the water announcement last week, for starters. Then there are the rovers Spirit and Opportunity that keep on roving and sending back amazing pictures. And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has the highest resolution camera ever to photograph Mars onboard. Mars Odyssey is the fifth spacecraft for those keeping count.

The picture up top is the late…