BAN #107: A World of Earth Day Topics

April 22, 2019 Issue #107

[Crescent Earth seen by the Rosetta spacecraft. Credit: ESA / OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA]


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Space news

Technically, Earth is in space

Today is Earth Day, and NASA wants to celebrate it with you. They want you take a picture of some natural wonder — a waterfall, animals in the wild, sunsets, the night sky — and post it on social media with the hashtag #PictureEarth. They’ll be posting photos as well, so keep up with the hashtag to see what everyone is doing.

For more info go to NASA’s Earth Day 2019 site and see what’s what.


(more) Space news

Space is big enough to have two entries in one newsletter

Speaking of which, NASA has released a digital book called, simply, “earth”. It’s available in several formats, and it’s really quite beautiful. I read through it, and it’s full of wonderful images and information about our planet, broken up into several sections: atmosphere, water, land, and ice and snow. It’s chock full o’ staggering satellite images of our planet, each described briefly and simply by NASA scientists (like my friend Mike Carlowicz, who is the editor and one of the authors!).

And oh, did I mention this is free? If you’re an American, your tax dollars already paid for it.

[Title page from NASA’s book “earth”. Credit: NASA]

Some people complain about paying taxes. When it comes to stuff like this, I think they’re wrong. This is a fantastic use of tax money. And if you’re an educator, I urge you to get your students to download it (or look at it on the website, which is also free, and has the complete book as well). This is a great way to inspire your students and show them just how beautiful their home planet is.


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Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is real, y’all

Some good climate news for once: Vermont’s largest electricity provider, Green Mountain Power, will soon be living up to its name. They’ve announced they will go to 100% renewable sources by 2030.

That’s very cool. I’ll note that nuclear, which accounts for just under 30% of their power, doesn’t count (legally) as renewable, though it’s carbon-free, and they’ll be transitioning away from nuclear over the next decade. They’re looking to increase solar, wind, and battery storage to achieve their goal.

The linked article has more info. Many of the smaller producers in the state are already 100% renewable, which is nice.

I’ll remind you that my own home town of Boulder, Colorado (kinda; I live well outside it but still in the county) has pledged to go 100% renewable by 2030 as well. It’s already on its way. I hope many other towns, cities, and states follow these leads. We can do this.

In fact, researchers have shown how the whole world can go carbon-free by 2050, mostly by using solar and wind (as well as other carbon-neutral sources). Very importantly they also show how this will result in a net gain of jobs, despite the cries of doom and gloom by folks on the right. There is a vast amount of money to be made by phasing out fossil fuels and going green, and the sooner people realize that, the better.

We really can do this.


Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is important enough to have two entries

My friend Kim Boekbinder is a musician and artist, and something of a visionary. She loves to break boundaries and experiment with art. She put together an album of science-based music I did some consulting with her on, so trust me when I say I’m never quite sure what she’ll do next but I’m always looking forward to it.

She’s been radio quite for a few weeks, and I’ve been curious what’s up. Then out of the blue, I see this appear in my social media, and it all becomes clear. Kim co-directed this, and it’s just wonderful: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s vision of future history, should the Green New Deal come to be.

I love this. I think the art is great, and the message… well, it gave me a lump in my throat. A feeling of joy, of hope, of a future I want to see.

Aside from the obvious message of how we can build our future by investing in green energy and infrastructure, there is the other message of representation, of showing kids who aren’t part of the white middle-class population that they matter, that their voices are important, and that they too are a part of all this and deserve their share of the future.

I lived in that insulated bubble a long, long time, and when I stuck my head out of it I discovered a lot of viewpoints different from mine but no less valid than mine, and it was quite an eye-opener for me. A mind-opener. It made my universe richer and more interesting, and that’s why I advocate for that now. If I can listen and learn, than you can, too.

I wonder if, in the very long run, that’s the more important message of that video. Once we fix our immediate problems — and we can — there will still be a lot out there. But if we approach all this the right way, why, they’ll be fixable, too.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[From Thursday’s article, artwork depicting two of the three planets known to be orbiting the binary star Kepler-47. Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle ]

Monday April 15, 2019: For the first time, astronomers see the birth of a neutron star binary system

Tuesday April 16, 2019: TESS may have bagged its first Earth-sized exoplanet!

Wednesday April 17, 2019: How can you measure a star's size? Wait for an asteroid to block it.

Thursday April 18, 2019: The rise of Tatooine: A third planet for the binary system Kepler-47

Friday April 19, 2019: Hubble gets crabby for its 29th anniversary


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!

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