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July 29, 2005

10th Planet Found

Mike Brown of Caltech has announced the discovery of a tenth planet orbiting our sun. The planet, designated 2003 UB313, is thought to be perhaps 50% larger than Pluto and orbits the sun at three times as great a distance in an orbit tilted 45° from the ecliptic plane in which the orbits of the other nine planets lie.

Earier today the discovery of another significant object in our solar system was announced, this one a third as massive and 30% smaller than Pluto. This object, designated 2003 EL61 orbits the sun with a smaller companion in a path almost entirely beyond the orbit of Pluto.

I learned of this evening's announcement when I sat down to the computer after watching my new DVD of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It's been an interesting day.

Don't Try and Intimidate a Blogger

When Accordion Guy Joey DeVilla asked his readers for suggestions about movers to use or avoid he received several pieces of advice, one of which caught the eye of the company whose possibly criminal behavior it described. Now Quick Boys Moving & Storage is attempting to intimidate and threaten the blog's author, warning of [apparently groundless] legal action if he dares leave the comment up. Well here's some news for those who didn't know: stuff like this doesn't just disappear, and bad news travels fast. Why just look at what's happening to those thieves at Maui X-Stream (or do I mean those those thieves at VX30?).

July 26, 2005

Shuttle Discovery Has Launched!

Ninety seconds after takeoff they're already 18 miles up. After letting the solid rocket boosters go they're going over three thousand miles an hour. One of these days I'm going to have to go and watch a shuttle launch in person.

Shuttle Discovery to Launch

I'm watching NASA TV online. The official clock just reached the scheduled forty-five minute delay at -00:09:00:00. The launch is scheduled for 10:39 AM EDT.

NASA offers an official countdown clock online (which seems only to work in IE) as well as a steady countdown to launch (which also works in Firefox). This latter clock has the scheduled delays factored in, so it keeps ticking through them.

Update, 10:33 AM EDT:The countdown has resumed on schedule, the access arm has retracted from the Shuttle, and they're six minutes away from liftoff.

Update, 10:37 AM EDT: They're retracting the arm/cap from the top of the external tank and telling the crew to close and lock their spacesuit visors. Ninety seconds to go.

Update, 10:39 AM EDT: Ten seconds ...

Update, 10:39 AM EDT: Hurray!

July 20, 2005

To the Moon!

Google has introduced Google Moon, in honor of today's anniversary of the first manned Moon landing in 1969. They use their excellent Google Maps interface, and they've added the six Apollo landing sites as points of interest (indeed!). Good for Google, again.

Don't forget to zoom in!

July 07, 2005

Playing in Asbestos

In El Dorado Hills, California, outdoor exercise is perhaps not the best thing for your lungs. The town recently got the bad news that a particularly nasty form of naturally-occuring asbestos is scattered throughout the earth in their community. I was much struck by the following passage, from the AP Story:

In October, contractors in white suits and respirators spent a week simulating child's play to measure exposure. In the name of science, they slid into the bases on the ball field, pedaled and jogged along a popular trail, played basketball and soccer and gardened behind an elementary school.
That surreal image sounds like something from a dream. Not a good dream for local homeowners, though, whose decision whether to stay or go must be made without much help from the balky EPA.

July 04, 2005

Deep Impact Confirmed!


Congratulations to the mission team; what amazing jobs you have, and what amazing jobs you do.

There will be much better images available later today when they get through the necessary processing., but this is the first photo I could grab that shows the initial impact confirmation image. This was posted on the JPL web site in the last couple of minutes.

Now I'm off to bed.

July 03, 2005

Deep Impact Tonight

Good luck, Deep Impact. Better luck, at least, than Cosmos-1. Comet Tempel 1 is going to run down the Deep Impact projectile after the comet has set in my sky, and after I'm sound asleep. I look forward to the mornings news with crossed fingers. In the meantime, I may go out and see "War of the Worlds."

Updates (early on 4 July 2005) :

12:10 AM (EDT): I'm still awake after the movie but don't really plan to stay up. I hope that those of you who do get a great show. As for the movie? I agree with A.O. Scott.

12:36 AM: Still awake. Watch live coverage of Deep Impact on NASA TV online!

1:27 AM: Can't believe I'm still awake. Watching NASA TV; there are some very excited looking people at JPL.

1:40 AM: Last engine burn started. This will take 40 seconds. The impact is in twelve minutes.

1:46 AM: Last engine burn finished with an error of only 0.23%. I'm more awake now than I was. Impact in six minutes.

1:52 AM: The flyby craft should start capturing images now.

1:52 AM: 10 seconds to impact!

1:53 AM: Watching for pictures and data.

1:56 AM: The impactor's camera has been sending back images of the ride in to the comet's surface. Pretty thrilling and a little scary. Quote from NASA TV: "I can't believe they're payin' us to have so much fun."

1:58 AM: IMPACT IS CONFIRMED! Quote: "Oh my God lookitthat!" "Oh, yeah!"

1:59 AM: Holy cow, that's a hell of an image!