News via computer in 1981

I think the most awesome part of the video is the line "the approximate 2 to 3 thousand home computer owners it the Bay Area".

Picture of the Week #24

Part of the Veil Nebula taken with the Prime Focus Camera on the 30-inch telescope at McDonald Observatory in 1998 (AASTRA participants took the images and then I combined them into the final color image you see here.)

Picture of the Week #23

The Washington Mall, looking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Photo September 2006.

From President Barack Obama's Inaugural address:

We'll restore science to its rightful place

I watched the inauguration yesterday with some people from work (with a TV hooked up with an old antenna since the internet was clogged) and not surprisingly the line above got approval from the room.

Picture of the Week #22

Shatter cone, American Museum of Natural History, August 2006.

A shatter cone is formed by shock due to the impact of a large meteorite or asteroid (the cone points in the direction of the impact). This specimen is from the Wells Creek Crater in Tennessee.

A big THANK YOU to the editors of Skeptical Inquirer

When the Jan/Feb 2009 Skeptical Inquirer arrived, I was thrilled to see that the topic of the issue was "The New UFO Interest - Scientific Appraisals". Why was I so thrilled? Because I'm the person at work who most often has to field the "I think I saw a UFO" calls, or inquiries from the press when a big UFO story breaks (especially if it is in Texas). The article on "The Stephenville Lights" was particularly helpful since that one still gets brought up at public viewing events or field trips. It was also of particular interest to me since my father is from a near-by town (which also happens to be in a probable impact crater -- the real science of the area is so much more interesting than some misunderstood lights in the sky!). So, again, THANK YOU!

As I'm sure happens to many people in astronomy, I often get asked if I "believe in UFOs". Of course, that's a tough question to answer directly, so I always break it down into what they are literally asking and what they probably actually want to know. Do I believe there are lights in the sky that are unidentified by the average person? You bet. Do I believe they are visiting alien spacecraft? Nope - at least not with the evidence currently on hand. And the other assumed question about whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe? Almost certainly. I'm just pretty sure that those alien life forms aren't visiting earth to kidnap and mutilate our cows.

Edited to add:
About 12 hours after I posted this, Rebecca at Skepchick tweeted about this: California Store Sells Beef Jerky Reclaimed from Cows Mutilated by Aliens

Picture of the Week #21

Sunset after a storm, near McDonald Observatory in west Texas, July 2007.

If you look closely, you can see the domes of the 82-inch Struve telescope and 107-inch Smith telescope on the mountain at the far right.

This photo was taken while I was out at the observatory for our annual summer board meeting. We had a BBQ and reception down at the Sproul Ranch, which was rudely interrupted by some fairly heavy thunderstorms. July is the wet season out there so the rain wasn't much of a surprise and the upside is that west Texas is green and beautiful that time of year.