BAN #49: Rover naming, Saturn grazing

October 1, 2018 Issue #49

Subscribers are scientifically proven to be 0.03% more attractive than average.


Pic o’ the Letter

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

A couple of weeks ago on the blog I posted a gorgeous image of Saturn near the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae, taken by Roberto Colombari. He had taken some deep images of the nebulae, and when Saturn moved near them he added those images in to produce the spectacular shot.

Shortly after that I got a note from my pal Tunç Tezel, another brilliant astrophotographer. He had done a similar thing! But in his case he took many images over consecutive nights, showing the movement of Saturn in the sky as both Earth and it circle the Sun, making Saturn appear to shift among the stars. He used these images to make a nifty video showing the motion:

Cool! And if you look carefully, right near Saturn, you’ll see a “star” appear with it as each new image pops in. That’s actually Saturn’s gigantic moon Titan! Right near the end of the video he changes the contrast to make Titan stand out, making a wavy motion across the sky that’s a combination of the motion of Saturn and the moon’s orbit around Saturn.

I love it! Every motion you see in the sky is, in some, a combination of more than one motion. The Earth spins once every day and circles the Sun once a year, and this is on top of the planets moving and their moons dancing and and and. When you put them all together you can really get a sense of the clockworks behind gravity. Lovely.


Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news that may be too short for the blog, too long for Twitter, but just right (and cool enough to talk about) for here.

Wanna help name a Mars rover?

In mid-2020, NASA will launch the next rover to Mars. Based on Curiosity’s overall design, it will be the first NASA mission since Viking in the 1970s to actively look for signs of life on Mars. Ancient, fossilized life, but signs of it nonetheless.

[Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech] 

Right now it’s just called Mars 2020. Neat, but not really in line with Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. So NASA, as they’ve done before, is holding a contest to name the new rover. Students from K-12 will propose their names and write an essay to back it up. NASA is looking for corporate, nonprofit, and educational companies to partner with them to help sponsor the contest. The call for proposals is here.

The contest itself will be held in 2019, and you can be sure I’ll have something about it when it’s announced. Ad Ares!


Random Thoughts

Stuff I think about in the shower, typically, and which may one day make it to the blog. Until then…

I was watching the second season of “Iron Fist” (it’s waaaaay better than the first season, though I still have some issues with it… but that’s for another time) and a character introduced himself as BB, “like the little bullets”. The analogy made me laugh, because it’s so weird.

Then, a moment later, I thought to myself, they’re more like little ball bearings and I immediately mentally smacked my self in the forehead. You dummy, I thought. Of course. That’s why they’re called that.

I thought this would make for a funny newsletter section (how you don’t realize something obvious that’s been sitting in front of you your whole life), but then I looked it up to see if that was true, and it turns out, not really. Wikipedia’s entry says the term BB originally comes from the size of the steel shots used in a shotgun shell. Over time, the term ball bearing has come to be used for any small steel ball, but that’s not an accurate term. Anyway, go read it since it’s actually kinda interesting. 

The lesson? Yeah, you can overlook obvious stuff, but it may turn out not to be obvious or even right, and you should always check first before opening your yap.

Or maybe there is no moral to this story. Maybe it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

Monday Sept. 24, 2018: Robots are now hopping around on the surface of an asteroid

Tuesday Sept. 25, 2018: Mars is cracked!

Wednesday Sept. 26, 2018: Beta Pic b: An exoplanet emerges from the glare

Thursday Sept. 27, 2018: Rolling stones tour Ceres

Friday Sept. 28, 2018: A near-decade of fire dancing in the sky


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!