Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Light Pollution Map using Google Earth Plug-in

For anyone who's downloaded (or interested in downloading) the Google Earth plug-in for Google Maps, here's a glimpse of its power and a handy place to refer back to when checking how much light pollution there is in a given area. This gadget doesn't include a search capability, but it is pretty easy to interactively search for a spot on the map. Also, the map below is just for North America but you can Google "google earth light pollution overlay" to find similar maps for other areas of the Earth.

Note: If you don't already have the Google Earth plug-in installed, depending on your browser the gadget below may prompt you to install the plug-in or may just show a Google map of the United States. If the latter is the case, click on the ZOOM link below which will display the map in a full browser window; you will then be prompted to install the plug-in.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can You Do The Moon Walk?

July 20th is a special day for me. As one area of focus for this blog is astronomy, you would rightly assume that one reason is that 41 years ago today, man walked on the moon for the first time. If you didn't catch the special 40th anniversary special celebrations last year, you can check one out here.

However, family and friends all know the other reason... today is my brother Dana's birthday. This isn't just any birthday, either. It's his 50th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Dana!

By the way, bro, we're still waiting to see video of you doing your best Michael Jackson impression on YouTube...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday, Hubble!

This birthday wish isn't for Edwin Hubble, the astronomer famous for determining that what people then called faint nebulae were really other galaxies like our own Milky Way and the fact that the universe is expanding, but his namesake, the Hubble Space Telescope. Twenty years ago yesterday, on April 24th, 1990, NASA launched Hubble into space. Although there were issues with it as initially launched, thanks to numerous repair and servicing missions over the years it has gone on to truly become our eyes into the depths of the universe. It has been the foundation for a lot of great science as well as inspiration and awe.

Check out celebrations around the web:

NASA Flash Hubble Gallery
NASA Hubble Mission Site
Hubble Site
Amazing Space - Hubble for Students and Teachers

Also, a very cool citizen science site called Galaxy Zoo, where people like you and me get to help astronomers in their research on galaxies, is also celebrating Hubble's birthday.

Friday, April 9, 2010

STS-131 Launch in Person

STS-131 Contrails
Originally uploaded by neatonjr
If you've never seen a shuttle launch in person but have always wanted to, you only have three more chances before the fleet is permanently retired after 30 years of service.

That was the incentive for me to get up at 2am last Monday morning and drive all the way across Florida to see the pre-dawn launch of Discovery in person. We were in New Port Richey visiting our oldest son Josh and his family, so when I heard about the launch I couldn't resist.

I won't bore you with the details of the trip other than to say it was worth everything... the lack of sleep, the hour standing on the edge of a retaining wall waiting, the hours of driving there and back, even the 2 hours in traffic between Titusville and Orlando on the way home. If you have any opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.

Check out my Flickr set for more pictures. You can also see more pictures here and news about the launch here.

Oh, and thanks to Josh for joining me... that was a great birthday present!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Nine Days Left: Help Me Get an iPad for My Birthday

I've seen the light! Just saw a detailed video review of the iPad and would LOVE to have one for my birthday. What an AMAZING piece of technology! And to think, if I get one for my birthday I can blow out candles on a virtual birthday cake, just like on Modern Family! How COOL! I figure if enough of my family and friends pitch in just a few dollars each, I'm all set! Details on how to help down below the video.

Oh, and by the way... you do recall that my birthday is just 9 days after APRIL FOOLS!!!

In reality, I'm quite happy with my Windows 7 media server and laptop, and my Palm Pre phone. And for all you Apple addicts out there (you know who you are), just wait till Palm comes out with an iPad form-factor computer running WebOS!

For more April Fools hilarity, check out the Google home page and their blog. Be sure to check out all the links there, like this one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 RCYC Frostbite Regatta

Downwind Run
Photo hosted on Flickr by neatonjr
Held on March 6th this year, had a great turn out and a decent breeze.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's That Time Again... GLOBE At Night

When is the last time you looked up and saw the Milky Way at night? Or saw a meteor shower? If you live in an urban or suburban area, it may have been a long, long time. It has been many years for me but I can recall enjoying the splendor of these sights from my backyard when I was younger. Having spent a lot of time looking up at the night sky over the years since then, I've watched it change. Not noticeably from night to night or even year to year, but every few years it's obvious there's less to see.

At work, a common phrase is "what get's measured get's tended to". I think that with light pollution it's the same. It is one thing for someone to look up and realize they can't see what they could when they were a kid but anecdotal evidence isn't science. To make a case for change, to turn the tide and restore the beauty - and benefits - of clear, dark night skies, we need to measure the rate and circumstances of change. Only then can we forecast how much worse it may get in the future and justify steps to restore what we've lost. Or at least avoid losing more.

That's the point of a project called GLOBE At Night. I wrote about it last year so I won't repeat the details (you can find them here), just the invitation... please join me in making a small contribution to improving the world to which our future generations will be born. And do a little science. And learn a little. And have fun doing it.

Here's to darker skies,

PS. For more information on light pollution and ways to fight it, check out the International Dark-Sky Association.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Daydreaming: Astrophotography

I haven't had (made) any time in awhile to focus on astrophotography, so I enjoyed the opportunity last week to hear members of the Astrophotography SIG speak at the recent meeting of the Texas Astronomical Society. For more infomation about the SIG including highlights of their work and links to member sites, check out their blog at

Coincidentally, I received an email yesterday highlighting the latest project of an astrophotographer whose work I enjoy:

Deep Sky Celebration by Ken Crawford

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Special 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast

Please join me in enjoying this 365 Days of Astronomy podcast for January 26th, 2010, dedicated to my wife Linda and her peers at the DMNS Planetarium.

Share the wonder!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Planetarium for Palm OS

This is such a great tool, I am hanging on to my Palm Treo even though I've moved to using a Palm Pre simply because there isn't anything like it yet available for WebOS phones. See this review I submitted to Cloudy Nights for more information.

Clear Skies!