BAN #119: Kiwi sky photos contest, following Jameela Jamil, Count rocks for science

June 03, 2019 Issue #119

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]

Subscribers rock. Count on it.

Pic o’ the Letter

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

Normally, in this space I’d post some pretty or pretty interesting picture and describe what’s going on in it to you.

However, this time, the tables are turned! I want you to take a picture.

Provided, that is, you’re a Kiwi. The Auckland (New Zealand) Astronomical Society is holding their annual Astrophotography Competition! Not only that, but I’m a judge. I judged this a few years ago and had a wonderful time… if a tough one. There were a lot of wonderful submissions, and making the final decisions was very hard.

But I’m looking forward to it. The rules are online, and there are three categories: Solar System, Deep Sky, and Nightscape/Artistic. The prizes haven’t been announced yet, so stay tuned for that.

The competition is open to New Zealanders, and the entry form for submissions is online as well. The deadline for submitting your masterpiece is September 30, 2019. Start snapping!

Follow o’ the Letter

Someone you should follow on social media

I am going to violate a tradition here, where I only recommend folks I personally know in this section.

I don’t know Jameela Jamil personally, but I really wish I did. She’s smart, funny, bold, brassy, sweary, and has a very strong sense of moral conviction when it comes to women’s rights and body shaming.

Now, you may know her from the small indy comedy “The Good Place”, which is also where I first saw her. I think I first saw her on social media on Instagram, where she posted a photo of herself unretouched, because she rightly feels that human bodies are the way they are, and the way the media and fashion industries manipulate them is a serious problem for young (and not-so-young) women and men. Then I saw some picture she posted making herself look dorky (I think she honestly is a dork, which is fabulous), and I was hooked.

I started watching some interviews she’s done, where she lays out the problems with societal pressure, especially on girls, and the way she speaks is just a thing to behold. I do a lot of interviews, and it can be tough (sometimes impossible, especially off the cuff) to form coherent sentences, or plan out what you want to say and then say it that way. I’ve seen interviews with a few folks who clearly are several sentences ahead in their mind of what they’re saying, and it’s amazing to hear that play out. Jamil is one of these people, and its really impressive.

And then I saw this interview she did with singer-songwriter Sam Smith, and it’s wonderful (NSFW language, BTW):

She’s started a community online called I Weigh, where people can be free and unashamed of their body types. She frequently posts such things to Instagram, and it makes my heart sing. When I was younger I let societal “norms” pressure me, and it took me a long time to pull my head out of my posterior and realize how small-minded, mean-spirited, and just plain wrong I was. I Weigh is a paean to that realization for everyone.

So go check out her IG, and follow her on Twitter. She’s doing good work.

I recommend

Something I think you’ll like

A misconception people still have is that scientists wear lab coats and do experiments in University labs somewhere (and I won’t even get into the stereotypes of scientists being white males). Obviously, this isn’t true. Science can be done anywhere. And it can be donbe by anyone.

Including, dear BAN reader, you.

Specifically, the folks running the OSIRIS-REx mission that’s orbiting the small asteroid Bennu need your help. The asteroid is covered in rocks, from north to south poles, and these rocks are all different sizes. One big part of the mission is the grab a sample of the asteroid, but the area they approach has to be free of hazards. They need maps of the rocks and craters in these areas.

And this is where you can jump in. They’ve partnered with the very good folks of CosmoQuest, a project that supports “citizen science”; volunteers who can do simple tasks like measuring things in images, tasks that are critical to the science, and which, it turns out, you don’t need a lot of training to do.

[Credit: Cosmosquest]

Go to the CosmoQuest Bennu page, register, and launch the application. It will tell you what you need to do, and then you can dive in. You’ll get a brief tutorial showing you what to do, and then you go to actual OSIRIS-REx images and begin marking them up! It’s really simple and quite fun, and you will be really and truly contributing to science in an important way.

CosmoQuest is a wonderful group that does lots of important work, and I support them in their efforts. I heartily urge you to join up and be a part of the team furthering humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.

Et alia

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