Waxing crescent moon near Gemini stars on April 17

The above sky chart shows the wide waxing crescent moon on April 17, 2013, near the bright stars Castors and Pollux in the constellation Gemini – and also the star Procyon in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. Castor and Pollux, the beacon lights of the constellation Gemini the Twins, are sometimes called ‘twin’ stars – allthough the kinship of these stars is more imaginary than real. Why twins then? These shimmering luminaries are named in honor of mythological twin brothers, Castor and Pollux.



Also of Interest in the Solar System This Week…


NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

WASHINGTON — An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. 

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. 

“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

Mars Rover Drills into Surface

More at NASA


Earth and Lunar Transits in Same Day



Top: The view of the sun is partially obscured by Earth as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Mar. 11, 2013, at 2:20 a.m. EDT. Credit: NASA/SDO Bottom: This image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Mar. 11, 2013, at 8:00 a.m. EDT, shows the moon crossing in front of the sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

On March 2, 2013, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) entered its semiannual eclipse season, a period of three weeks when Earth blocks its view of the sun for a period of time each day. On March 11, however, SDO was treated to two transits. Earth blocked SDO’s view of the sun from about 2:15 to 3:45 a.m. EDT. Later in the same day, from around 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. EDT, the moon moved in front of the sun for a partial eclipse.

When Earth blocks the sun, the boundaries of Earth’s shadow appear fuzzy, since SDO can see some light from the sun coming through Earth’s atmosphere. The line of Earth appears almost straight, since Earth — from SDO’s point of view — is so large compared to the sun.

The eclipse caused by the moon looks far different. Since the moon has no atmosphere, its curved shape can be seen clearly, and the line of its shadow is crisp and clean. Any spacecraft observing the sun from an orbit around Earth has to contend with such eclipses, but SDO’s orbit is designed to minimize them as much as possible, with only two three-week eclipse seasons each year. The 2013 spring eclipse season continues until March 26. The fall season will begin on Sept. 2. 

— Karen C. Fox

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


Post Zero Moon Morning / Horizons of Wonder / Parting Shots from NASA’s GRAIL Mission / Just Keep On


Three days prior to its planned impact on a lunar mountain, mission controllers activated the camera aboard one of NASA’s GRAIL twins to take some final photos from lunar orbit.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

GRAIL’s mission site:


Yes, we are still here. Feeding cats to fusion reactors and coming up with YO MAMA’S SO BACKLOGGED gags * that amused nobody, apparently, but hey, there are lots of ways to swing for the trees, the important part is to keep swinging—swing something, my hearties, do anything, do something—just keep doing it. Doing it every day helps. You’ll outlast the doubt, you’ll see. Just keep doing it.

I am several posts behind: shit I just have say share talk about, etc. It’s coming. Some news, too. As soon as I can, you’ll read it here first. Sort of.

It’s Saturday, January 12. Good morning. We have all survived another Zero Moon. And happy birthday, Rob Zombie.

*  @simondrax 


Coronal Mass Ejection

On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.

Swirls of green and red appear in an aurora over Whitehorse, Yukon on the night of September 3, 2012. The aurora was due to a coronal mass ejection from the sun, which erupted on August 31.

Credit: Courtesy of David Cartier, Sr.

via flickr


Hail and Hex for Neil Armstrong, First Human on The Moon

All the tributes paid Saturday, after his death at the age of eighty-two, took care to stress his modesty, and he certainly belongs to that chastening group of beings whose capacity for heroic action is outstripped only by their reluctance to make a big deal out of it, let alone a profit. But it would entirely wrong to cast him, on the grounds of his natural diffidence, as a hermit; he retreated to no grotto, but became a teacher—still the best way to find, and use, your public voice without being forced to raise it. Nothing is more typical of Armstrong, or more estimable, than his decision not to go into politics; heaven knows what the blandishments, or the invitations, must have been. That is not to deprecate the service rendered by, say, John Glenn, but simply to remind ourselves that political ambition, like our other passions, is in the end a low sublunary affair; and that Armstrong, by dint of being the first man to tread not upon terra firma but upon the gray dust of terra incognita, rose above the fray and stayed there.

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

Neil Armstrong aboard Apollo 11.

Goodbye Neil Armstrong, dead at 82 – first man on the moon and a true pioneer. It was said in the obituaries that Armstrong never dreamt of the moon. Luckily, he had Ballard to do his dreaming for him.*

In ‘Neil Armstrong Remembers His Journey to the Moon’, a 1991 story for Interzone magazine (well, vignette, actually – it’s tiny, just three paragraphs), Ballard attempted, seemingly, to do just that. According to former Interzone editor David Pringle, who published the piece, ‘it seems to be narrated by Neil Armstrong, the 50,000-year man. Ballard never explained it, but I took it to be a transcription of a dream that he’d had. After all, he and Armstrong were of the same age cohort, born within about three months of each other in 1930. Both could remember their boyhoods during World War II. Both probably saw the same Hitchcock movies as they grew up.’

Here’s the vignette in full, complete with reference to Hitchcock’s Spellbound:

by J.G. Ballard (Interzone #53, November 1991)

I remember the white nightclub where we were asked to wait, for reasons that I never understood, and the ceiling that seemed to be carved from ice, but this was long after we came back from the Moon. Everyone sat around the white tables, the frost shining on their tuxedos, and clearly expected me to make a speech. But no-one from NASA was there, and I felt that I had nothing to tell them that they would want to hear. Luckily, the band struck up, and an old man in top hat and tails began a mime act. He went through a series of make-believe conjuring tricks that had the audience smiling, but I knew that these were really in-flight emergency drills and that there was nothing very funny about them.

Read the rest at Ballardian.

Buzz Aldrin and the Lunar Module on the surface of The Moon

Photograph by Neil Armstrong


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