Galileo’s view of the Moon

These historic sketches of the moon were published by Galileo in his Sidereus Nuncius or Starry Messenger of 1610, not long after building his famous telescope. This is where modern astronomy began. The photo below (by Michael Dunn) shows a replica of Galileo’s telescope:

See also this 3-minute documentary on YouTube.

Chocolate and Science

A recent study reported in Nature finds that 10 Nobel prize-winners, out of a sample of 23, “reported eating chocolate more than twice a week, compared with only 25% of 237 well-educated age- and sex-matched controls.” I’d go out and buy a crateload, but…

The Register has more on this chocolatey story.

In praise of Röntgen

In November 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays; the X-ray of his wife’s hand below was taken the following month. Röntgen received the first (1901) Nobel Prize in Physics for this work. He never made a cent from the discovery, however, donating the prize to his university, and refusing to patent a discovery with such enormous medical benefits. Thanks for your generosity, Wilhelm!

A glimpse of home

This superb NASA/JPL/SSI photograph from 19 July, taken by the hard-working Cassini spacecraft, looks back 1,440,000,000 km to our home planet – the blue dot below Saturn’s rings. Click on the photograph for details, and for larger versions of the image.

I pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave me birth;
Let me rest my eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
” – Robert A. Heinlein

The planets, to scale

The above edited NASA image from 2006 shows Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, to scale. Yellow bars show the range of distances from the Sun. There is a more three-dimensional view here.

Even nicer is the image below (a team effort; click on the image for details). It shows (top row) Uranus and Neptune; (second row) Earth, the white dwarf star Sirius B, and Venus; (third row) Mars and Mercury; and (fourth row) the Moon, Pluto, and the dwarf planet Haumea. The last five are shown in more detail here.

Also displaying the orbits to the same scale is more difficult, but a variety of exhibits manage to do that, including a 10-kilometre-long model of the solar system in York, England.

A Shakespearean playground in the sky

The moons of Uranus are named mostly for characters in Shakespeare. Miranda is named after the character in The Tempest, for example. The picture on the left is from Voyager 2 (1986), while that on the right is from John William Waterhouse (1916). O brave old solar system, that has such objects in’t!

The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center

The Kansas Cosmosphere (photo by Patrick Pelletier)

The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas is the small country cousin of the fantastic National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The cockpit of the SR-71 (photo by Joanna Poe)

Although much smaller than its Washington counterpart, the Kansas Cosmosphere holds some impressive gems in its collection, including an SR-71 Blackbird in the lobby, a German V-2, the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft (launched in 1961, and recovered from the Atlantic Ocean in 1999), and the command module from the ill-fated Apollo 13.

The Apollo 13 command module (photo by “HrAtsuo,” public domain)

The Cosmosphere also houses a planetarium and a dome theatre, and provides a range of summer programmes. It’s amazing what you can discover in Kansas!

The Liberty Bell 7 (photo by “Slammer111”)

A new-found moon for Neptune

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a tiny moon of Neptune which everyone had missed until now. Even the photograph below was taken years ago, and only now interpreted by Mark Showalter as revealing an undiscovered moon. The moon, highlighted in the image below, is tentatively named “S/2004 N 1.” See the Hubble press release for more details.