Merry New Year!

Note the movement from the sunset below. It's days respectable. This is Halloween sunset above.
Here's the stream of which I spoke before. Check it out:
Managed and manicured. Let my water go - I try and help.

Springs Falls

More redshirt originals. The spot on the horizon where Spring and Fall are defined - by the setting sun. It's been a remarkable experience - I was vaguely aware the Sun "moved" throughout the year, but I now see it defined every day on a line of mountains stretching from the North through the West to the South. I've been watching the Sun move back and forth across this mountain range like a pendulum, and I'll tell you the experience has been nigh holy. Once you see the pattern in nature, you tap into this "divinity". Worship here, Northerners:
Look see in the center of this picture, at the unmoving star - Polaris, the North Star. The center of our existence, since we spin around this point and spinning is everything, seriously. Everything is spinning around something else which in turn is spinning around something else, so on and such to infinity. It provides a clear definition as to the structure of reality: Spinning. So feel no shame in dizziness.


Under a Midnight Sky

All the photos in this post were taken by me, redshirt, on a full Moon night in mid August, 2012, around Midnight. I used a tripod and a remote shutter release, which allows you to take steady shots for as long as you want. Most of these pics were either 15 or 30 seconds. I've got tons, but here's the best. Not Instagrammed, btw. Enjoy, I hope. That's Mt. Washington far off in the center of this picture.
The Big Dipper! The best Northern Constellation, yes? Two fun facts - to find the North star, trace a line straight up from the two stars forming the right side of the dipper. You can't see Polaris in this picture though. Also, get some binoculars sometime and take a look at the second star from the left, in the handle of the Big Dipper. This is actually two stars - Mizar and Alcor. You'll see them both through binoculars, and also in this picture.  Click for big, as always.
Headin' down the mountain. Midnight, remember. And here's a good point to remind you why the Moon shines - because of sunlight bouncing off it and then hitting our eyes. Literally. A photon is created in the center of the Sun millions of years ago, spends a long time trying to escape, and when it finally does it joins many gazillions of its fellows racing towards Earth in 8 minutes. Anything that reflects (pretty much everything) then bounces these photons elsewhere, where in turn they bounce of something else, so on until there's just no energy to bounce anymore. This is light, this is sight, and color - the materials of the reflector change the photon's "color", and thus we see blue, or red, or green, and all the colors in between.
A bit back up. And in this little valley I created a stream over the past year, and now it is truly a thing of beauty, though no picture seems able to do it justice. Created is the wrong word, however. Channeled is a better idea, though does not do justice to the tons of rocks I moved to make it so. But still, it is thus, and aptly describes all our human endeavors - channeling existing materials, in some manner or other. We cannot possibly create or destroy; it is only our place to rearrange.
Gondolin, occluded. Solar lights provide the ethereal glow. I work by obsesion, I've come to realize. Not sure if this is normal or healthy or good at all, but when I obsess on something, by gum it shall be done. My latest obsession has been in manicuring a natural wall of pine trees, as a fence of sorts. I've cleared all the forest around Gondolin of dead wood and leaves (tons of work), cut down many leaf trees, and carefully nurtured every little baby pine tree that pokes its head above ground. Soon (10-20 years), I will be surrounded by lovely, sweet smelling Balsams, and these damn leaf trees can go fly a kite. Raking! It sucks! And in the Winter, where are you then, oh Oak? That's right, bare assed and creepy.



This is a redshirt original, by the way. "Moonset Over the Mountains". Click for big. Laminated lithographs available nowhere, and thus, the extreme value. There's literally no copies, so do you realize how valuable a single copy would be? Infinite. Pay me a mere fraction of infinite now - like a percent, seriously -  and I'll see what I can do.


Satellite Photographers

Earth and the Moon as pictured by Voyager 1 back in the 70's. Beautiful, haunting, evoking a wonder and loneliness that is life. And the artist is a historical explorer. Yay culture!
Earth and Moon as seen by the Mars Global Surveyor, a craft currently snapping lovely pics on assignment at Mars. MGS is the foremost auteur in Red Planet Studios.
Earth and Moon as seen by the Juno space probe, launched last Summer for a mission to Jupiter. Currently, Juno is getting ready to swing by Earth for the last time, obtaining a huge sling shot of gravity assisted speed which will scoot it on the way to Jupiter in 2016. Prospects there are rated "ridiculously good". The moons of Jupiter in all their glories!
Speaking of Moons - Saturn's got a lot of them. But, see that bright dot in the upper right, between the rings? That's no Moon. Magnified in the inset, hey, it's Earth! As snapped by a contender for greatest space artist of all time, Cassini, currently orbiting around Saturn making fantastic discoveries.

All thematic riffs on the PBD, of course, but why wouldn't you love this shot? Only a handful of photographers ever get the opportunity, and it certainly is a lesson in perspective.


Elemental Art

Thin slices of a meteorite, seen through different filters. Or a Warhol piece or knock off. Either way, I'd hang it on my wall. Fun gift idea - framed science pics! Astronomy! Genes! Microscopes! There's a lot of beautiful images. Like this one:
Call me an enormous nerd, sure, but the Periodic Table is a thing of beauty. Its elegance is stunning, and the meaning behind it is profound. The numbers on each element represent the number of protons in the atom's nucleus, and thus also the number of electrons orbiting the nucleus. Dig it: Each new row represents a new electron shell - the orbital paths of the electrons. Hydrogen and Helium have one. Lithium and all the elements in row two have two, Sodium's row has three, and so on. The columns are called Groups and each column has the same number of electrons in its outermost shell, giving each element in the column similar properties, despite the difference in number of electrons. For it is true! All matter is made up of elements - you, me, the tree, the oceans, the Earth, the Sun, all the stars, the vast clouds of gas spanning hundreds of light years, and so on - all just collections of elements. And each element is an atom that becomes the thing we know as Gold or Silver or Oxygen simply based on its number of protons and electrons. Hydrogen has 1 electron, Helium 2, Lithium 3, Iron 26, and so on. And thus our reality is fashioned. It's incredible! And all presented cleanly here in this awesome chart. Awesome work, Dmitri Mendleev!

Bonus element pic:
Earth and our Moon as seen from Mercury. All but vast collections of different elements bound together by gravity.


Begin the Begin

This was the picture in my first ever post on this olde blog, so many (4.5) years ago. I post it again because it fits the theme, it's awesome, and as a symbol of the new year.

Opportunity spotted this almost pure iron/nickel meteorite near its landing spot, and so dubbed "Heat Shield Rock" by NASA wags. Lame. But the meteorite itself is incredible - consider that iron meteorites are far, far rarer than stony meteorites, for the simple reason that an iron meteorite only comes from one place: The core of a differentiated planet. This planet of course was destroyed, a small piece of its core sits on the surface of Mars, right beside Opportunity. The odds!

Longtime fellow redshirts might recall that I have a bit of a love affair with Iron - the chemical substance. Fe 26, yo. It is only created in one place - a star. Either in the core of a huge star and as that happens, the star soon explodes, spreading the Iron hither and yon. In that explosion even more Iron is created. And every bit of Iron you know of - including the Iron in your blood (think about that, man) - came from an exploding star. This Iron now scattered to the four corners coalesced with clouds of hydrogen and helium and other gases, which if lucky began spinning fast enough to create a new star, with new planets - all of which will have Iron cores. Iron lies at the root of all creation, and destruction.

For it's true! Stars happily chug along creating all the elements up to Iron, glowing and casting their life giving light across space, and onto many, many exoplanets and exomoons, but then as soon as a star produces Iron in its core, it's doomed. So Iron is the end of the fusion line, and literally poison to stars. And yet, on the other side of the scale, all the higher number Elements - like gold, silver, plutonium, uranium, etc - all decay, over time, to Iron, and in so doing cease being radioactive. In fact, a definition of "radioactive": anything higher than Iron on the Periodic Table. This decay will take trillions of years, but eventually there will be a time when all higher elements have decayed to Iron, and lo, that will truly be the Iron Age.

Iron is literally - and figuratively - the balance point of creation, of our very reality. Everything we know of is made up from Elements (which in turn are made up of combinations of electrons, neutrons, and protons, which in turn are made up of combinations of quarks, which in turn, current theory posits but has not proven, are made up of combinations of preons, and I'm sure there's some other turn to be discovered in the future), and Iron sits in supreme harmony among them, destroyer and creator, ultimately, of all.

Yay, Iron!

Also, kudos to you Opportunity - you rule. But let's also pour one out for Spirit:
NASA lied to the rovers, of course, the cold hearted bastids.

Bonus Spirit pic, snapped 3/8/04:
Earth, as seen from Mars by Spirit. I'm on "Team Spirit" in case you couldn't tell. Opportunity's awesome and all, but too obsessed with being cool and down with the "in crowd". Spirit would talk to goths, for example. Also understands mortality, as any good redshirt should.

And so with that, I begin again. As we all do, every day. But some days more so than others.


Martian dreaming no longer

Look at that beautiful planet! Look at it - click for big. Stunning. The large scar running across the center is the Valles Marineris and is over 4,000 KM long. Picture 10,000 Grand Canyons stretched across America for reference. Awe inspiring, and that's Mars - planet of Marvels. Behold the tallest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons:
In addition to the two rovers currently wheeling over the surface, dealing with stuff like
Epic Dust Devil. True theory: It is theorized both Spirit and Opportunity were saved on several occasions by small Dust Devils, which cleaned them of accumulated dust, dust which was covering their solar panels and thus a threat to their continued operation.  Thanks!

We also have several satellites in orbit around Mars, snapping awesome pics every dang day.  Like so:
Sunrise over Olympus Mons. Sweet.

My point? Other than general awesomeness of our reality - space, time, matter, all of it - is that Mars, the Moon, and pretty much the entire Solar System is the province of robots, and not man, for the foreseeable future. I say this with much chagrin, since it has long been my dream to see space colonies and space stations and all the Star Trek/Apollo future you could give me. Which will be none.

Putting men in space is expensive, dangerous, and ultimately not very productive. Robots can do  - and will get ever better - most anything a man could do science wise, and much more. Other than a flag planting, why should man go to Mars? Sure, it'd be awesome, and I'd love to see it, but there's not much logical reason to it. Better to send the droids.

And so it will be forever, until we find a way to cheaply and safely get into orbit. Once that's figured out, and many other things (radiation, gravity, food, etc), then and only then will mankind venture into space in numbers that mean something. Till then, we're just engaging in an Extreme Sport. Alas!

Never to be. :(


Mars Curious?

Curiosity's descent to the Martian surface. Note the mountain chain below in fine detail. Curiosity's landing was described by the crack NASA PR guys as "7 minutes of terror", and for once they were close to accurate. Hitting the Martian atmosphere at incredible speeds, plowing through the first and hottest layer heat shield only, then POOF, mega parachute:
But given the thin atmosphere of Mars, even a giant parachute only does so much, thus, onto the rocket engine/sky crane:
And you think we're not living in the future? Look at this futuristic shit! Robotic rocket platform slowly lowers the Mini Cooper sized Curiosity gently to the Martian ground, then cuts the cables and bugs out, crashing as far away as possible. Check out the aftermath:
That's at least like 2000$ in littering fees. Probably far more. Keep Mars clean! Curiosity is watching.
O hai! Curiosity here, checking stuff out on Mars. Whatchya doin'? Oh, just surfing the Internet? Cool, well, I got things to do. Ciao.

Seriously, this is a self portrait of Curiosity, and despite reading an explanation, I still am not sure how it's done. Apparently the giveaway is by the front wheel. You tell me.  While you figure that out, here's one of Curiosity's first production level shots:
Click for epic. Just another day on the Martian beach. At this point we have two functional rovers on Mars - the August landed Curiosity, and the incredible Opportunity, which landed on Mars on January 25, 2004 for a 90 day mission of exploration, yet is still operating today. It's also incredible twin, Spirit, ceased operations on March 22, 2010. RIP, Spirit.  Spirit joins Phoenix, several Vikings, and some weird Russian probes as silent testimonials to Earth's achievements. Perhaps one day all these plucky bots will become museum sites or statues, at least. Right? Once mankind has colonized Mars and there's three boobed ladies in seedy bars and this dude's hiding in a cavern?
Start the reactor, Quaid.


Artist's Representation

Did you hear the big nerd news? Disney bought LucasFilms, and so now the Mouse owns The Force. I don't like it in principle cuz "Monopoly" but creatively, hell yeah! Lucas was space drunk on his own fame/wealth and turned to crap. But he only got 4 billion for it, which, combined with the many other billions he's made off Star Wars, heh. You win, George, you win. Here's a cosmic Ring:
A spiral of death, a sun-like star expelling outer shells in its old age, prelude to star's end. Fitting for the finger of such a creative titan. But here's an industry secret: False Color
Mighty Orion, most beautiful of all nebula. But this picture, and pretty much every awesome astronomy picture you've seen, is a 'shop of sorts. In some form or another, astronomers take the raw data of their images and "translate" these images into colors. Since data is just numbers, in this case, the redshifts of various elements. These redshifts are numbers, these numbers are translated to colors, the colors you see above. What you might see with your eye could be quite different. Who knows - you'll never get a chance.

But isn't "False Color" what our brain is doing with all color anyway? Without eyes to see, there's no blue, or red, or green. Just frequencies of radiation. It is the seer that defines color, and thus, all of life is "False Color".

Or at least creatively enhanced.


Of Many Suns

An artist's representation of Gliese 667Cc, a lovely planet thought to be one of the first that resides in the so called "Goldilock's Zone", that is, the area not too close and not too far from a star where water could generally remain liquid. Which, we think today, is necessary for life. I suspect we'll find this is not so limiting in the future, but that's for then.

For now - perhaps one of the coolest Exoplanets discovered to date, orbiting a small red dwarf star which in turn orbits a pair of much larger stars who are orbiting each other. Fun fact to know and share: It's estimated that about 60% of all stars are at least binaries - stars orbiting stars. Our sun is a minority in this regard.

Here's another artist's interpretation of Gliese 667Cc:
Nice, right? Only 22 Light Years away. Or, that is, they've got The Simpsons on reruns now too. But just when everyone was all fired up about GL667Cc, up and comes PH1, or Kepler-64B:
It's a big Gas Giant 5000LY away so kinda boring in that regard, but not in this - it orbits a pair of stars. One planet orbiting two stars. These two stars are in turn orbited by another pair, like this:
Confusing as heck! And night time would be a thing of rarity. Good for beach going though! Except for the Gas Giant thing. But you know.

Another cool first with PH1 was it was discovered by "amateurs" using publicly accessible data from the Kepler Space Telescope. The best space telescope, by the way. Yeah, Hubble, you heard me.


Born Again

Congrats! We all survived the apocalypse and now reside in a higher vibrational reality - can you feel these good vibes? Try - you can make it so.

Any idea when our next apocalypse is scheduled? My calendar is wide open.

Above, from bottom - Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter at dawn. Loverly.

After the Fall (Lunch Break)

Click for huge - Mt. Rainier in the sunset, a shadow stretching across the heavens. I can relate!
Satan, man.
Not a shop. African weirdness, rather.
Also not a shop, but rather a well timed cloud. Dig it.


The Plural of Apocalypse

Well, we're here. The Serpent rises tomorrow at 11:12 UTC (so close!), 6:12 AM in God's Time Zone, EST. First, I made it - a victory in and of itself! Second, it's bullshit. But I believed in it a long time ago, half-ironically, but alas, half-seriously. No longer, but the damage is done. So I will use tomorrow as you should: re-dedicate yourself towards self-improvement, and the improvement of your family and community. Further, one - you! (and me!) - should strive to expand your notion of family and community. I view all of life as my community, and try to live with that mindset. It's tough, of course, but it's necessary for all of us if we are, collectively, going to rise above our primate instincts and become fully and truly, Human. We want that, right?
It's easy to look back into history and see the flaws of all the failed nations, empires, religions or societies over time, and equally hard to look at our own society or nation and see those flaws. The very same flaws that could lead to our own destruction. Since it is unlikely that the world will end tomorrow, let us instead focus on a more localized definition of apocalypse, which is societal. Societies rise and fall, over time. Some are more successful than others for a variety of reasons, but nothing lasts forever. The apocalypse is the end of your society. The ancient Maya. The Assyrians. The folks on Easter Island. Rome. Westernized Persia.
Iranian college kids in the early 70's. Look like typical 70's college kids, right? No longer. That society is gone. Destroyed.
Famous Iranian actors from the early 70's. Skin and hair, showing! No longer. Westernized Iran is gone, replaced by Mullahs and religious police. And this is a theme in many different apocalypseseses - the rise and triumph of religious fundamentalism. It's the scourge of our species and we need to fight against it at every junction. Alas, we appear to be losing.

Behold! There once was a time when Israel promoted tourism in Palestine. And why not? A beautiful land with metric tons of history. But alas! After getting tantalizingly close to real peace in the late 90's, this area has... degraded.
The reality today, with little reason to be optimistic for the future. Sad, and only getting sadder.
So count your blessings while you can, and appreciate all that is good with your society. And the things you find wrong with your society? Address it. Organize. Get involved. Speak up and out. Religious fundamentalism is always a minority movement that wields power far beyond their numerical representation in any given society. People power works, if the people get out on the streets.

So don't accept your apocalypse! Fight it, every day.

Peace be upon us all. Good luck, and good night.