Tuesday, April 15, 2014

lunar eclipse from siding spring observatory

after a disappointing start, with a cloudy eastern horizon and a lovely sunset on the western horizon, the eclipsed moon finally rose above the clouds and sat right underneath the star spica and to the bottom right of mars!

i was not impressed by the clouds on the horizon blocking the rising moon.

unimpressed by clouds
it's fascinating to watch the regrowth of the warrumbungles since the fires swept through SSO 16 months ago.   here is the view as the sunset's colours were intensifying.

regrowth in the warrumbungles

clouds do make for the most beautiful sunsets, even if they are bad for most attempts at astronomical observation.

sunset from the catwalk around the 4 metre AAT telescope

finally the clouds thinned and i captured a quick view of the lunar eclipse. the sun's light scattering through earth's atmosphere is why the sky is blue, why sunsets look red, and why the moon looks red during a total lunar eclipse.

the eclipsed moon, spica above, and mars to the left.

Monday, April 14, 2014

total lunar eclipse: 15 april 2014

a total lunar eclipse will occur tomorrow!  will it be visible to you?   check this site to find out.

the eclipse is visible from the red regions (credit: timeanddate.com)

for those on the east coast of australia, the moon will peak above the eastern horizon around 5:30 pm fully immersed in the earth's shadow.   it will be glowing red instead of the bright white of the normal full moon.  the full eclipse will last for about an hour as the moon rise continues on the eastern horizon and the sun sets in the west.

also, dont miss a very bright mars very close to the eclipsed moon.   such an astronomical treat!

the eastern horizon from sydney at 6:30 pm 15 april 2014 (credit: ian musgrave)

looking forward to the views!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

on the beach at night

i attended a funeral today for a woman i did not know well, but who made a strong impression on me.  i work with her husband.   the times i saw them together i was struck by how much they adored each other.  in many photos i've seen of the two of them, she touched his face in a noticeable, natural way.  she will be missed.

in her honor i share this poem by walt whitman, on the beach at night.

On the beach, at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower, sullen and fast, athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends, large and calm, the lord-star Jupiter;
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters, the Pleiades.

From the beach the chil, holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower, victorious, soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears;
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky–shall devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge–be patient–watch again another night the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal–all those stars, both silvery and golden, shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure;
The vast immortal suns, and the long-enduring pensive moons, shall again shine.

Then, dearest child, mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding, I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than sun, or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters, the Pleiades.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a starbug sings starwars

one of the major technologies we develop at the AAO is various ways to position hundreds of optical fibres before astronomical observations.

my current favourites are the mini-robot starbugs.   they are stuck to a glass plate by vaccuum and then "crawl" across the glass, which is located inside a telescope's light path.  each starbug moves independently, programmed to stop where the light from a particular galaxy will be aligned.

when a voltage is applied to the inside cylinder shown below, it bends slightly, and lifts the outer cylinder, allowing the whole thing to shuffle along the surface.

Credit: Australian Astronomical Observatory
here is a quick demonstration of many starbugs moving (this is from an older model of the little bugs).

what happened when AAO engineer jamie gilbert decided to get creative with the frequency, and therefore pitch, of the bugs' feet shuffling across the glass?   a geek's delight: star wars!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

tiny sydney

i just found a few videos of sydney by filippo rivetti that are stunning!

the first is a tilt-shift timelapse called "tiny sydney."

Tiny Sydney from Filippo Rivetti on Vimeo.

the second is a few minutes long, but has some incredible sequences of motion around and moving through sydney.   i particularly love the sunset and zoom that starts at 2:00.

Time to Sydney from Filippo Rivetti on Vimeo.

worth watching both of these all the way through at fullscreen!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Solve a Physics Problem

most of my undergraduate days... i tried to let 13 and 14 linger before reading parts b and c of the problem :)

How to Solve a Physics Problem by SMBC.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

dear blog

dear blog,

i do think about you, sweet blog.   i think about things i'd like to write and post and share and comment on, and then i cant seem to find the time.   it's some combination of my new(ish) job, that has me doing outreachy type things for the AAO during my days, and rekindling a couple old hobbies, that has taken my attention away from you.

i'll try to do better.  i want to do better.   in fact, i want to move you to a different host and redesign your look a bit. i've talked about this before, but i promise i will dedicate time and take action to do this soon. maybe some kind soul will even help (actually, i would pay them for their skills and time).
i have some good photos and stories in the works to post to you soon, so please be patient.  until then, old friend, to tide you over here are a few photos from last week when i was working in new zealand, so that you dont forget me.

(upsidedown) orion and a bright jupiter (lower right)

In the Land of the Long White Cloud

the southern cross over the ocean

thanks for your continued dedication :)


Saturday, March 22, 2014

cosmic inflation

did you hear about the big physics news that came out this week?  a "spectacular" discovery showing observations consistent with the illusive theory of cosmic inflation?

the topic is subtle, but the PhD comic below does a fantastic job of explaining the discovery.

as with any science experiment, i will let myself get much more excited when another experiment verifies the result, but in the meantime,  there's a fascinating discussion happening on a facebook page created just before the press release came out.  there are many eminent physicists taking part in the discussion, and it seems like an interesting avenue for real scientific debate in the future.