The Universe (Astrobiology)

January 29, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Astrobiology.” Here’s a preview…

Does life exist on other planets? Astrobiology is a visionary new science that searches for life in space by combining the disciplines of astronomy, biology and geology. How did life evolve on Earth? What will life look like on other planets? These and other pertinent questions will be answered by a diverse group of scientists. Viewers will visit the Pilbara region of West Australia where the oldest evidence of life on Earth has been discovered. Travel to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn to test a theory that life could exist in the clouds of Venus. Finally, watch as experiments are done to see if life exists on exoplanets, earth-like planets beyond our solar system.

Like the old joke states, how do we know there is life on this planet? As usual, check local listings.

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An Asteroid Threat to Earth? Not Right Now

January 25, 2008

Perhaps you have seen or heard of the claims that there is an asteroid out there (2007 TU24) that is going to pass by the Earth on January 29th and put us in danger.

Now, asteroids of all sizes and shapes pass by the Earth all the time, some a lot closer than this one. But the conspiracy theorists and doom sayers are spouting their nonsense about the “great threat to the planet.”

This chunk of rock is about 400 yards wide (give or take), and is passing over 300,000 miles from the Earth at its closest. Now, this is farther than the moon. You read that right. This piece of rock will not get even as close as the moon is to Earth. And the moon is substantially larger.

These wackos are also making outrageous claims about “electrical energy” on the asteroid. It’s pure nonsense, again.

I am going to point you to this YouTube video by Phil Plait, a professional astronomer, author, and the owner of the Bad Astronomy website (where he has an excellent blog, and debunks all this wacko stuff).

I would urge everyone who sees this kind of “out there” outrageous claims to take a minute, realize that the people making these claims never can back them up, and seek out actual science sites like Phil’s Bad Astronomy site. I mean, why panic over nothing?

Now that this is all settled, let’s talk about people seeing what they want to in images. More on that – the “Martian Bigfoot” – later.


January’s Full Moon

January 21, 2008

The full moon for January happens at 8.34am EST on Tuesday the 22nd. That moment is when the moon, in its journey around the Earth, is exactly opposite the sun in the sky. Now, unless you are very observant, the individual casually looking up at the moon won’t be able to discern the exact moment of the “full” phase, so there is a apparent leeway of time before and after that is referred to as “the full moon.” You may hear the local meteorologists talking about “tonight’s full moon” several days before (or after) the actual event. Are they being lazy in finding out the true time of the moon’s phase, or is there another reason? Only they know, but be assured, most of them are incorrect when they tell you it’s “full moon.”

The full moon for January is called the Full Wolf Moon, as the cold and snowy nights seemed to magnify the howls of the wolves as they gathered for the hunt (wolves and coyotes, can howl for other reasons too, many of them weather related).

So during the hours leading up to that point, listen closely to what’s going on outside. Do you hear any howling? Is it the wind? Is it (like me) the neighbor’s dogs barking? Or is it something wild?


The Universe (Dark Matter)

January 15, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Dark Matter.” Here’s a preview…

Scientists have no idea what it is, but Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 96% of the Universe. Dark Matter is everywhere. It passes through everything we know on earth at billions of particles every second, yet no one has ever gotten a direct detection of this mysterious dark substance. An even more bewildering force is Dark Energy, which is rapidly pushing apart our Universe. Discovered only ten years ago, scientists are struggling to comprehend its unusual characteristics and answer the ultimate question; what is the fate of our Universe? Using cutting-edge computer graphics watch as the universe is brought down to earth.

As usual, check local listings.


The Universe (Alien Moons)

January 8, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Alien Moons.” Here’s a preview…

Travel from the inner solar system to the Kuiper Belt and explore the moons surrounding the planets of the solar system. Many of these moons that were once unknown are now on the cutting edge of astronomical study. Some burst with volcanic fury another spews icy geysers and others offer the possibility of alien life. Are these strange worlds simply hostile environments unfit for humans or do other possibilities exist? Cutting-edge computer graphics are used to bring the universe down to earth and to imagine what kind of life forms might evolve in alien atmospheres.

As usual, check local listings.


Perihelion Day!

January 2, 2008

Even though it’s winter, the Earth arrived at perihelion today. Perihelion is when the Earth is closest to the Sun on its orbit. This is opposite of aphelion, which we talked about last July.

The closest point in our orbit was around 7.00pm in the evening, or 00.00 UT (Universal Time). Now we slowly head back out to the further area of our place around the Sun. And even though it’s cold out, winter doesn’t last as long as the other seasons because of our orbit. When, like now, we are closer to the sun, we move faster in our orbit. Conversely, in July when we are farthest away, we orbit slower.

You can see the sun is slowly rising from its lowest point in the sky, which was back in December. As the Sun rises higher, the days get slowly longer. We have gained eleven minutes of daylight in the evening so far, and will continue to gain minutes as the days and months go on.

So be patient… warmer (and sunnier) times are coming.