Bad Astronomy Newsletter #21

June 25, 2018 Issue #21

Subscribing to this newsletter will cure acne! [This claim is at least as accurate as any made by Dr. Oz or Gwyneth Paltrow.]


Upcoming Appearances

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to

SpaceFest 9 is next week! I’ll be there July 5 – 8 with lots of other scientists, astronauts, and space artists.

And hey! The season 2 premier of “Salvation” is tonight! I’m the tech consultant for the show, and this season I’ve been very, very busy with it. If you watch it and the ratings are good we’ll get a season 3 and then I’ll be able to continue to do things I like such as eat and support my family and pay my internet bill so I can complain about things and post pictures of my animals. Win-win.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

Monday, June 18, 2018: Erosion... on the Moon?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018: Astronomers watch the aftermath of a star ripped apart by a huge black hole (this went viral, picked up by Google news)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018: Asteroid Ryugu starts to come into focus

Thursday, June 21, 2018: A huge dust storm engulfs Mars

Friday, June 22, 2018: An ancient galaxy hides among the young


Pic o’ the Letter

A cool or lovely or mind-bending astronomical image/video with a short description so you can grok it

As I mentioned on the blog last week, the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is approaching the small (900-meter-wide) asteroid Ryugu. I posted images taken from about 200 km away, but as the spacecraft approaches every day, better images are arriving. This was taken from 100 km away on June 20:

[Credit: JAXA] 

Coooool. You can see the craters and equatorial ridge more clearly, and even some boulders and mounds on the surface! The big mount near the bottom left is about 30 meters across, I think, about half again as big as a tennis court. So yeah, we’re starting to see details. 

The horns at the top left are likely due to lighting around a crater rim or some other terrain. The bright spot is interesting. It’s persistent in many images, and I’m not sure if it’s just due to the angle of the surface reflection sunlight better, an albedo feature (literally brighter material), or a combo of both. I suppose we’ll know in a few weeks as Hayabusa gets even closer.

Stay Tuned!


Follow o’ the Letter

Someone you should follow on social media

I expect that most of you reading this probably already follow my friend Katie Mack on Twitter, but for those of you don’t, now’s your chance to correct that oversight.

Katie’s a brilliant cosmologist, and a good person. She frequently writes about astronomy and social issues, and I find myself agreeing with her pretty much all the time. She also brooks no babbling; when she posted about global warming an arrogant climate science denier decided he should step in, and her response smacking him down was both sublime and brutal.

Katie Mack@AstroKatie

I dunno, man, I already went and got a PhD in astrophysics. Seems like more than that would be overkill at this point.

August 16, 2016
[Click to see the original tweet that spurred this response.]

Then there are real-world observations based on obscure astronomical references:

Katie Mack@AstroKatie

Don’t let anyone tell you an astrophysics education is too esoteric to be useful in the real world. #stellarlifeadvice pic.twitter.com/rwVLzHYWXm

May 8, 2018
[Again, click the link to the pic.]

That one had me laughing out loud.

Katie was interviewed by another friend (and previous Follow ‘o the Letter subject) Alie Ward for her podcast “Ologies” and was so cool Alie had to split it into two episodes to squeeze in all the coolness.

So go ahead, follow her. You’ll be a better person for doing so.


Link o’ the ‘letter

Just a fun link I found or someone told me about

I love rock, especially Queen — I’m a human being, after all — and I love orchestral classical music. I was raised with the latter, and have played in an orchestra or two in my time (bass trombone, if you must know). When the two genres are mixed, it can be magical. Evanescence’s first album is completely overwrought and goth and amazing and I love it, too.

So if you take Queen, orchestral classical, and add them to a Marvel MCU edited clip reel, what do you get? 

This. You get this:

Oh, yeah.

The music is Queen + Helmut VonLichten, a mashup VonLichten did with Brian May, guitarist for Queen (and, I’ll note, an astronomy PhD holder for his work on zodiacal light).

Here’s the whole piece. You wouldn’t think you could improve on “We Will Rock You”, but here we are. It’s incredible.

“Waving your Banner all over the place”. Brilliant.


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!