BAN #125: Stunning solar eclipse video, Lost Soonish chapter

June 24, 2019 Issue #125

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

Subscribers are the corona of my eclipse.

Pic o’ the Letter

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

Phil Hart is an engineer by day and an astrophotographer by night. I’ve featured his work many times on my blog in the past, for example when he made a great video of a meteor with a persistent train (which inspired me to read more about them and learn the physics of why some meteors leave trails that last for many minutes), and an amazing photo of star trails above a bioluminescent lake.

He recently sent me a note letting me know that he had created another video, and this one is special: “The Moon in Motion”. Two years in the making, it shows some absolutely breathtaking and lovely views of the total solar eclipse from August 21, 2017. It’s fairly short, but packed with amazing shots, so give it a watch:

I wrote about my own thoughts on seeing the eclipse (it was my first), and seeing this video brought some of that experience back. The corona was so amazing, and to be able to simply look up and see it

Hart wrote about his own experience, and also some background info on the video. I suggest you read them, and maybe they’ll give you ideas about the next American eclipse in 2024, or the one at the end of 2020 (there’s one in July 2019 but it’s a bit late to start planning that one!). I certainly hope to see another again soon. I can wait until 2024, I think, although there’s one in 2021 that’s over Antarctica. It’s a dream of mine to head down there, and this would be icing on a trip like that. So to speak.

I recommend

Something I think you’ll like

If you haven’t read the book “Soonish”, now’s your chance: It’s out in paperback for less than $13!

It’s a really good book, and I’m not saying that just because one of the authors, Zach Weinersmith (of SMBC fame, duh) co-wrote a book of nerd insults with me (which is only $3 on Kindle!). Not just because that, at least. I mean, Kelly Weinersmith co-wrote it and she’s an actual scientist.

Really, it’s an extremely good book, fun to read and informative. It’s about emerging technologies that can transform our lives, but it’s written in a very funny way, extrapolating what these techs can do and where they might go wrong. It’s also loaded with drawings by Zack.

If you’re still waffling on it, good news: A chapter about nuclear fission power was dropped from the book when it was published, and to celebrate the paperback coming out they’ve released that chapter online for free. It’s fascinating, and has insight that you might not expect into the problems and promise of fission. My own stance on nuclear power is complicated and perhaps even nuanced — it has excellent potential and we should be looking into it to stave off climate change, but the downsides (most of which are political, oddly) are difficult to overcome — and I found myself agreeing with what’s in the chapter. Also it takes a swipe at Joe Rogan which I found amusing.

So give the free chapter a read, check out Zach’s comic-version of why you should get the book, and then, well, get the book. Incidentally I’m an Amazon associate so if you buy it through those links I get like a nickel or something.

Full disclosure: I helped Zach and Kelly on a couple of the chapters, I’m quoted in it, and also wrote a blurb for the back cover (“I loved this book so much I 3D printed myself a second heart so I could love it more.”). It had nothing to do with them keeping me tied up in their basement.

[Credit: Zach and Kelly Weinersmith]

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[Optical illusions are as fun and enlightening as they are maddening. All those balls are the same color! From Tuesday’s post. Credit: Credit: David Novick, used with permission]

Monday June 17, 2019: Ahuna Mons: A muddy, icy volcano on Ceres

Tuesday June 18, 2019: Another brain-frying optical illusion: What color are these spheres?

Wednesday June 19, 2019: Two Earth-sized planets found in a nearby star's habitable zone!

Thursday June 20, 2019: The most compact accreting binary X-ray millisecond pulsar ever!

Friday June 21, 2019: Westerhout 40: A waist of space

Et alia

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