Saturday, March 21, 2009


NGC 2818 is a strikingly attractive planetary nebula found in the southern constellation Pyxis (The Compass). The beautiful hues pictured here are the result of a sequence of exposures through narrow-band filters, highlighting emission from nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms showing as red, green, and blue in the image. This is an APOD image. Click through to see the APOD page, click the image there for a higher resolution version.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


This is a depiction of a pair of the most conspicuous objects in the night sky (after major solar system objects). On the left is shown one the most recognizable nebulae of all, the Horsehead Nebula. On the right, the Orion Nebula, an object bright enough to easily seen by the naked eye – it appears as the middle “star” in Orion’s sword. Both are, in fact, parts of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, an object which, despite being about 1300 light years away, has an apparent size similar to your outstretched hand held at arm’s length in the direction of the constellation of Orion. (Which itself is one of the easiest to find and recognizable patterns in the night sky.) This is one of the most beautiful and keenly observed objects in astronomy. It's a stellar nursery, (in other words a molecular cloud in which stars are actively forming) the closest such in existence, and studied pretty closely as a result.

This is an APOD image. Click the image here for the APOD page, click the image there for a detailed view.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kew. Rhone.

I had no idea I'd find this when I went hunting YouTube for a Peter Blegvad (rhymes with egg-bad) video. Peter is a god among rock musicians and is, in my totally not humble opinion among the best lyricists of all time. Kew. Rhone. was a collaboration with John Greaves who wrote the music and Lisa Herman, who had to sing this impossible stuff. Don't try to understand it, just love it for the wacky degree of complexity, the irony, and the overall musical gorgeousness.

Things I Think Are Beautiful

This is a long exposure image of the Kepler launch. The mission is, of course, a space geek's wet dream. But regardless of all that, just as an abstract thing this is a beautiful picture. Also, it is an APOD image, and all that implies. (Click image for APOD page, click image there for higher resolution version.)

Update: Not surprisingly, Phil Plait does me one better.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Limbaugh v. Obama

When Michael Steele told D. L. Hughley that Rush is an "entertainer" and that some of the things he says are "incendiary" and "ugly," it's hard to imagine that the Obama administration's political operation had predicted such a perfect event to crown their decision to engage Rush directly, after Rush's "I Hope the President Fails" became a cassus belli. Nevertheless, I have to say the spectacle appears to be one of the most spectacularly successful examples of ratfucking (cf) I've witnessed, on this scale. The image of Michael Steele kissing his ring and backing away apologetically under Rush Limbaugh's steely gaze (now indelibly the Face of the Republican Party) is an image that stings on so many levels I've lost count.

The O's can count the entire episode as a big win. It's clear to me what Rush get out of this. His ratings are way up. Rush in Opposition is Rush's strongest stance - just look back to the Clinton years. The Republican party is the obvious loser. Republicans ought to be asking themselves what it is they're getting out of their alliance with Rush.