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Space and Astronomy

Updated on December 17, 2010

This lense is loveingly dedicated to all things space: astronomy, space exploration, human space flight and anything else I can think of.

I am actively seeking more content for this lense, and would love you feedback, insight and opinions. Have you seen an interesting space article? Have you heard of an upcoming space event? Have an opinion about one of my comments? Contact me!

Finally, if you like what you see, please rate my lense. I work hard to update it regularly and the feedback would be deeply appreciated. Thanks!

Save the Night Sky, Stop the Orange Glow

If you live in a big city you know that the night sky is virtually drowned out in an Orange Glow. This is especially bad on cloudy or hazy nights, but for us strange folks who like to point a telescope at creation this is a menace that we face every night of the year.

I happen to live in the Bay Area Peninsula (California), a very light polluted region of the country. When I want to gaze up at the heavens, I need to get into my car and drive for a while in the direction of the mountains. Even so, I don't even try to look at celestial targets to the east, as they are overwhelmed by the Orange Glow...

My town is relatively dark at night, but even so, star gazing within city limits is virtually impossible. Street lights are the least of my concerns. Next door neighbors are the biggest culprits. Do we really need so much outdoor lighting at 2:00AM? And if we do, why should we waste energy lighting up the sky when we really want to illuminate the earth below?

Do amateur astronomers and night lovers everywhere a big favor. Turn off that outdoor light before you go to bed. You'll save on your electric bill, cut down on global-warming-inducing carbon emissions, and will do a big favor to a bunch of guys carrying large telescopes and searching for a nice piece of dark sky.

Blue Origin Short Test Flight

This is one of a few videos released by Blue Origin - the space venture owned by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame. The test flight reached an altitude of 297 feet and landed on the same spot from which it took off.

Clearly, the space race is on. Altough I do think that Blue Origin has a lot of ground to make up at this point to catch up with industry leaders such as Scaled Composites and SpaceX.

You Vote: Will Blue Origin Ever Make it to Suborbital Space

So, with the latest video's showing flight hardware from Blue Origin actually taking off and landing safely, the question is:

Will Blue Origin ever make it into suborbital space?

See results

Space Books You Would Love

Archives of the Universe: A Treasury of Astronomy's Historic Works of Discovery
Archives of the Universe: A Treasury of Astronomy's Historic Works of Discovery

Great astronomical discoveries and how they were made. The best part: each brief chapter includes a brief excerpt from the original scientific paper announcing the discovery. Excellente!

 
If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life

Did you ever ask yourself: if the universe is so large, why aren't we regularly visited by aliens? Well, I have. This book offers 50 possible explanations to this conundrum. Fun, light and informative. Recommended for SETI fans everywhere.

 
Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship
Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship

True story folks! In the 50's there was a serious effort to build a massive space ship, that would be powered by... nuclear bombs. This is really fascinating book.

 

Excellent Space Web Sites

Here I will feature a new astronomy or space website every week. There are so many out there, and many of them are pretty nifty.

Astronomy & Space Websites

Below are some of the most useful, most fun and most interesting astronomy and space websites out there on the Internet. I will keep adding more on a regular basis.

Star Gazing: What to Take

What to take with you when you go star-gazing

If you are about to set out into the night for some serious star gazing, here are some of the things you probably want to take with you:

- Sky Map - this is a must for any amateur astronomer, especially ones that are just starting out. In this lense I direct readers to an excellent and free online sky map in PDF format. See above.

- Small Red Flash Light - your map will not help you if you can't read it in the dark. A small red flash light costs about $3 and will not ruin your night vision.

- Green Laser (optional) - the human eye is great at seeing green, which is why a green laser can act like a pointer at night. Point at the star you are talking about and everyone will see which one it is... believe me, it makes life a lot easier. A green laser costs in excess of $100.

- WARM cloths - nothing ruins a great night out faster than cold bones, and even though you think you are warm now, wait until you've been outside for a couple of hours. Trust me on this - always wear warmer cloths than you think you'll need.

- Extra Batteries - especially if you are using a battery powered scope...

Sky and Telescope has a great website for beginning amateur astronomers. It covers everything from how to choose a telescope to how to read a star chart. Also, take a look at Space.com's Guide to Astronomy for tips on how to get started in Astronomy.

An Excellent Book for Astronomy Beginners

Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope - and How to Find Them
Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope - and How to Find Them

This is the perfect astronomy guide for beginners. Simple explanations and clear illustrations make it really easy for anyone using a small telescope or binoculars to truly enjoy the night skies.

 

Interesting Space Facts

Did you know...

  • Why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is Red?

    Good question. Scientists hypothesize that Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the most powerful known storm in the Solar System, dredges up material from the lower levels of Jupiter's atmosphere, and the material then reacts with UV radiation from the sun, thus turning red...

  • Which man-made object is currently furthest from the Sun?

    Voyager 1 took over this honor from Pioneer 10, on February 17, 1998. Voyager 1 is now about 95 AU from the Sun (an AU is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, approximately 150 million km or 93 million miles). Voyager 1 & 2, and Pioneer 10 & 11 are currently the only man-made objects to leave the solar system.

  • That solar eclipse tracks move from west to east, even though the earth itself rotates from west to east?

    According to NASA, the reason for this is that the Moon moves to the east in its orbit at 3,400 km/hour. Earth rotates to the east at 1,670 km/hr at the equator, so the lunar shadow moves to the east at 1,730 km/hr near the equator. You cannot keep up with the shadow of the eclipse unless you traveled at Mach 1.5.

Movies for Space Junkies

The Right Stuff (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Right Stuff (Two-Disc Special Edition)

The story of the Mercury astronauts dramatized (but well)

 

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