Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moon 101

This is from the 11/11/2008 LPOD by Chuck Wood:

A few years ago I taught online courses about lunar geology. Now NASA is actively working to return to the Moon and finds that many of its engineers and others need to learn about the Moon. Not just geology, but especially information about the physical characteristics of the soil and near surface material that will effect living and working there. So this year Johnson Space Center sponsored Moon 101 - A Course in Lunar Science for Non-Specialists, ten lectures apparently organized by Paul Spudis. The wonderful thing is that the Powerpoints - all 80 MB of them - are online for download and study by anyone interested. I printed them all out and spiral bound them, adding another significant reference to my lunar library collection. The presentations include basic geologic topics such as the surface, crust, and interior, and also more practical matters such as the environment, poles and lessons learned from the Apollo missions and where future bases should be sited. The last talk is on lunar meteorites, a wonderful source of free samples of the Moon (although you have to pay to go to Antarctica, the Sahara or Australia to find many), but their origin locations are unknown. Many LPOD readers will find some of this material familiar, but other parts, especially the geochemistry and petrology of lunar samples, will be new and somewhat complex. But download it, and as you read through remember that you are getting the same information as the NASA scientists and engineers who will take us back to the Moon. Thanks, Paul, for sharing these Powerpoints!

I'm downloading the files now. I've looked at some of the pages and they are great - if you're a lunatic like me!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today in Astronomy: Vesto Slipher

Vesto Melvin Slipher, born on November 11, 1875 (d. November 8, 1969), was an American astronomer. He spent his entire career at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was director from 1916 to 1952. He used spectroscopy to investigate the rotation periods of planets and the composition of planetary atmospheres. In 1912, he was the first to observe the shift of spectral lines of galaxies, so he was the discoverer of galactic redshifts.

John Peacock,
head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, states:

a very large share of the credit for the discovery of the expanding universe is due to Slipher, and yet he tends to take very much second place to Hubble in most accounts.

While it was Edwin Hubble who received all the publicity, Vesto Slipher actually made the discovery that galaxies are moving away from us. He also determined that the Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards the Milky Way!

Slipher was also responsible for hiring Clyde Tombaugh and supervised the work that led to the discovery of Pluto. His brother Earl C. Slipher was also an astronomer. The Moon crater Slipher and a crater on Mars are named in his honor.

Vesto Slipher died in Flagstaff, AZ on November 8, 1969 at the age of 93. He was one of the giants of astronomy and deserves greater recognition.


Notes from the Blogosphere: Stealth and Attitude

One of the coolest birds in the park was a roosting eastern screech owl. The bird is perched on the edge of a cavity in the tree trunk. Check out how well the bird's feathers blend in with the bark--incredible. This was a particularly exciting eastern screech owl, park staff told our group that it was amccallii, and it's quite possible that the American Ornithologists' Union will make it a separate species from eastern screech owl. So, I kind of banked a life bird for another day.

No wonder I've never seen a screech owl in the woods! From Birdchick.com.

[Mystery bird] endemic to thornbush and acacia country in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and East Africa. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image:GrrlScientist, 2 September 2008 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Now, here's a bird with an attitude! Notice the 'band' on the left leg. These bands help scientists follow the migration and territories of birds. From: Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hawk Mountain Hike

Lee, Katie, Jill and I took a hike up Hawk Mountain today. It was a beautiful day; sunny, not too cold and there was still some color in the trees. 

We went up to North Lookout and there was a large crowd. We even saw a bunch of Hawks - Red-tailed Hawks. There were probably 20 that flew past in the 2 hours we were at the lookout.

They also had a live display of a Broad-winged Hawk and a Barred Owl. It is fascinating to see them up close.

See all the photos from today here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chandrayaan-1 enters Moon orbit!

NDTV Correspondent
Saturday, November 08, 2008 5:25 PM(New Delhi)

India's first unmanned lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 successfully entered moon orbit on Saturday. With this development, India's moon mission has been declared successful.

When India's first mission to the moon took off nearly a fortnight ago, there was both joy and anxiety. There was joy because the mission put India in an exclusive club of countries.

Though scientists rejoiced as the Chandrayaan blasted off, they knew they had a tougher job at hand, to put the satellite in moon's orbit. That happened on Saturday evening and the mission was declared a success.

Indian scientists were worried because the last part of Chandrayaan's journey was dangerous, as it had to go through an area in which the gravitational forces of the earth and moon nearly cancel each other out. Even a small deviation could have sent the spacecraft into a crash course towards the earth or on a path leading into deep space, but everything went according to plan.

When the spacecraft was about 500 km short of the moon, it was to be slowed down. The moon's gravity would then pull the craft into its orbit. Later, it would be stabilised in a 100 km circular orbit.

This is great! I can't wait for the new images and the science reports to start coming out. With Selene in orbit as well, we have a new era of Lunar exploration.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Math and the Mona Lisa

"No human inquiry can be a science unless it pursues its path through mathematical exposition and demonstration."
   - Leonardo da Vinci

I just finished this excellent book. There are many quotable passages but the above quote struck me. This is what comes to mind when I hear about the push to teach "Intelligent Design" in science classrooms. ID is not science. Leonardo knew the distinction 500 years ago. Teach science at school and religion at church.

OK, my rant is over. I highly recommend this book - the story of the intersection of art and science.

Thanks to Chris for loaning this book to me.

Math and the Mona Lisa ; The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci
Bulent Atalay
p. 245

Amazon review:
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and Science Synthesized in Leonardo's Mind and Method, April 23, 2004
By Nicholas Murray (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This is a genuinely astonishing book. Its essential idea is that the dichotomy between art and science is a relatively modern idea, that the distinction is not present in Leonardo's method of looking at the world. I've read a lot of good histories of art, and even a good history of science or two, but I've never seen an organic history of both, and that's Atalay's achievement. The illustrations alone -- showing the art in science and the science in art -- are a wonder, and well worth the price of the book. A very elegant entertainment.