BAN #293: Radical action, NGC 1333 because you deserve it

01 February 2021 Issue #293

[The planetary nebula M 2-9, winds from a dying star. Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble Legacy Archive / Judy Schmidt]

Subscribers are radical. Also gnarly.

Tweet o’ the Week

Something I liked in 280 chars or fewer

A new newsletter feature! Twitter has been bumming me out lately for various reasons, but then a couple of tweets made me happy, so I thought it would be a fun thing to pick one that is either cool or smart or thought-provoking and write about it. I can’t promise I’ll do this every week so maybe the title is misleading, but we’ll see.

So, to start this off, here’s one that’s overtly political, but covertly about life in general:

Oh my, so much this. Climate scientists have been yelling for decades about taking action, and if politicians had listened to them instead of fossil fuel donors we’d be in a lot less trouble right now. The actions taken then would have been much smaller and more bearable, instead of the huge action we have to take now. As ambitious as President Biden’s climate plan is, we need even more, and we need it sooner.

And it’s true for the pandemic as well: Had actions been taken last January instead of Trump ignoring it, downplaying it, lying about it — and the GOP following along in lockstep — how many hundreds of thousands of lives would’ve been saved? Instead, what Amy Westervelt says in her tweet came to life, and suddenly people who had no interest in math were learning a literally vital lesson on exponential growth.

Same with minimum wage. If politicians had simply let it increase with time to keep up with the cost of living, we wouldn’t have to think about doubling it now. And mind you, had they done so it would be at about $20/hour or so now. So one again, even radical action isn’t radical enough.

Small inactions now snowball into huge needs later. But then that’s part of the GOP plan for a lot of this, I suspect. If they obstruct now, say something isn’t a problem now, then when it does become a problem they can then say “But it’s too big to deal with and we can’t afford radical action!” It’s the definition of chutzpah.

But this need to take small actions early is true for so much, isn’t it? I have a big writing project to work on. If I work on it a little bit every day it’ll be done rapidly enough, but every day I don’t means more work later. Then, the panic.

I write OK when I’m under pressure (though I’m no Rodney McKay), but that’s not the point. Small steps now means not needing big ones later, when maybe you can’t afford to do them… or someone else thinks you can’t. We do need radical action on many, many issues right now but that need wouldn’t exist if radical inaction hadn’t been implemented.

What parts of your life would benefit hugely later from a small action right now?

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[Six-star eclipsing binary system is about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. From Friday’s article. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center]

Monday 25 January, 2021: A six-planet system dances in time to the tune of gravity

Tuesday 26 January, 2021: CK Vulpeculae: Something went boom but we don't know what

Wednesday 27 January, 2021: Was early Mars wet and warm, or dry and cold? Yes.

Thursday 28 January, 2021: The weirdest binary: Planet and not-a-star barely orbit each other

Friday 29 January, 2021: Cool: Six-star system found. Cooler: Made of three binaries. Coolest: Eclipsing binaries.

Pic o’ the Letter

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

Hey you! Yes, you. You deserve a jaw-droppingly awesome photo of a star-forming region, I think. So today’s your lucky day. Behold, NGC 1333!

[NGC 1333, using professional/amateur astronomer data. Credit: Roberto Colombari, Russell Croman, and Robert Gendler]

See? Told ya.

NGC 1333 is a huge cloud of gas and dust about a thousand light years away in the direction of the constellation Taurus. It’s actually part of a much larger Giant Molecular Cloud that stretches into Perseus. Think about that: It’s so big physically that it sprawls across several constellations in the sky!

Lots of stars are in their birth throes in that gas, though it’s hard to tell in this visible light image (which uses images form the Subaru 8.2-meter telescope together with amateur data from Roberto Colombari and Russell Croman, and processed by Robert Gendler). Spitzer Space Telescope images, taken in infrared, show this much more clearly. The IR light from stars can get through the dust more easily, allowing a better view of the action. Many of them are Herbig-Haro objects, very young stars spewing out twin jets of gas from their poles.

NGC 1333 is both an emission nebula — hydrogen gas excited by massive stars glows red — and a reflection nebula, with dust reflecting the blue light from those stars back to us. I wrote about these processes more in an article on the blog a while back. I also cover it in Crash Course Astronomy, in the episode about nebulae.

I’ll note that the image of NGC 1333 here is only 1,000 pixels wide, to fit the newsletter. Gendler posted in in much higher resolution on his page, including one that’s 3,000 pixels wide, and it’s a stunner, suitable for desktop backgroundization.

Enjoy. And if this makes your day better, good. You do deserve it.

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!