BAN #157: Orbital newsletter, Cello Keating, Auroral Godzilla

14 October 2019   Issue #157

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


Subscribers shine like ionized nitrogen molecules 100 km above Earth’s surface.


Space news

Space is big. That’s why we call it “space”

[Technically this could also be an “I recommend” article, but I think it fits better here.]

I subscribe to a few newsletters; they seem to be all the rage these days. Most are from friends, but a few are work/hobby/interest related. One I just signed up for is called The Orbital Index. Written by Andrew Cantino and Ben Lachman, it’s a summary of the past week’s events relating to space, including launches, news, journal paper synopses, and so on. I quite enjoy it: It’s tightly written, informative, and well worth subscribing to. In fact a recent one had an article that I need to follow up on and write something about for the newsletter! So it’s helpful, too. I don’t think I need to go into more details here; go take a look and see if it’s something you’d like. I know I do.



I recommend

Something I think you’ll like

I have loved classical music my whole life (pretty much literally), and as I grew older my tastes broadened quite a bit. A genre of music I like quite a bit now is the merging of technically classical trappings (orchestral instruments, for example) with other genres. I’ve already written about “epic” music, but there’s another breed out there I don’t know exactly what to call. Perhaps, just to keep it simple, it would be “modern classical”. Orchestral (or single instrument) music that has more of a contemporary feel than from the age of the romantics.

A great example of this, and why I’m telling you all this, is the wonderful music of Zöe Keating. She is a cellist, and her cello music is just breathtakingly lovely. I’ll admit I’m partial to cello, since it has an innate depth and profound quality I find extremely appealing. Keating capitalizes on this to create lush music that has to be heard to be understood.

You can listen to her music here.

More importantly, you can buy her music there. I picked up Into the Trees a few years back, and have not once regretted it. It’s just soul-stopping. I’ll listen to it when I need some moody, impressionistic music to gently nudge me in the right direction while I’m writing. The title is apt; I feel like I’m walking in a quiet, remote snow-laden forest when I listen.

[Credit: Zöe Keating]

I’m not sure how I first heard of her, but I looked at our mutual follows on Twitter and saw we have a lot in common; she is well loved, deservedly, by the geek crowd. And hey, you’re reading this, so you’re very likely to be in that category as well.

So give her a listen, and throw her some love, too. She doesn’t sell her stuff through labels (which I do believe have always been and always will be evil), so she survives by word of mouth. Or ear.

Or, in this case, electron. Spread the electrons. I know a lot of folks could use to listen to music like hers.


Pic o’ the Letter

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

Phil H (aka SkyDivePhil) tweeted out a really cool and funny picture, including me in the @ so I’d see it. I get a lot of those, but this one really stood out.

Why? Because it’s of an aurora monster with the Pleiades for an eye eating an airplane.

I mean, c’mon. Look:

[Credit: Phil H]

As advertised.

He also has some amazing footage of an aurora, which is moving and flickering at extremely rapid speeds. Note this video is real time:

An aurora is caused by fast-moving subatomic particles from the Sun (usually from the solar wind, but sometimes when the Sun emits a flare or a coronal mass ejection) impact the Earth’s magnetic field, which then channels them down toward the Earth. The lines of magnetic force around the Earth converge at the poles (like a bar magnet), so the particles are funneled to high northern and southern latitudes.

When they slam into our air, they ionize the atoms and molecules there. When the electrons recombine with their atoms/molecules, they emit light at specific colors. Nitrogen and oxygen are the primary sources, so the colors are commonly green, red, purple, and sometimes even pinkish.

The sheets and curtains you see are due to the shape of the Earth’s magnetic field. So the rapid flickering would have something to do with the field lines changing, but to be honest I haven’t been able to find much info about this. I suspect it may have to do with how the magnetic field embedded in the waves of particles connect to the Earth’s magnetic field, but I really don’t know. If anyone knows, please drop me a line (or, if you’re a paid subscriber you can leave a comment)!



Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[Artwork showing the outburst from the center of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Stream of gas coming out of satellite galaxies. From Thursday’s post. Credit: James Josephides/ASTRO 3D ]

Monday 7 October 2019: A volcano blows its top, seen from space

Tuesday 8 October 2019: Another score for Saturn: 20 newly discovered moons for the ringed planet

Wednesday 9 October 2019: The Andromeda Galaxy ate its small friends… twice

Thursday 10 October 2019: The day our galaxy exploded

Friday 11 October 2019: OSIRIS-REx sees Earth from 100 million kilometers away


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!