Bad Astronomy is a really amusing site that talks about all of the bad astronomy that can be found on TV, in movies, on the news, and so on. It seems like they could dedicate a whole site to bad astronomy in just Star Trek... And thanks to the Astronomy class I'm currently taking, I appreciate this all the more.
Next, we need a badmedicine.com or something to cover ER and also Star Trek. Or maybe there should just be a badstartrekscience.com. Wait, who am I kidding? No one in their right mind would tackle a project that gigantic.
(Link via Wockerjabby.)
Last night I went to the star viewing on the roof of Campbell hall.
Even to the naked eye Jupiter and Venus were stunningly bright, and Saturn was also easily spotted, and I was able to spot those three even as I was walking to Campbell at dusk. I wasn't quite sure who was Mars and who was Mercury until I got to Campbell hall and someone pointed out the barely visible blips, but Mercury was already so low that I wouldn't have been able to see it from the ground anyway.
After the initial naked eye tour of the sky, we went inside the telescope dome, where we checked out Mercury and Venus and Jupiter and Saturn and the Orion Belt at 225 x magnification. Mercury and Venus were frankly both kind of boring, with their most interesting aspects being the rainbow patterns caused by their light passing through Earth's atmosphere. Seeing the moons of Jupiter was pretty cool, but the telescope didn't want to focus so it was kind of hard to make out any features of the planet. And while the Orion Belt was pretty sexy, it was really Saturn that knocked my socks off. For some reason, being able to see the rings of Saturn through the telescope was just one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time.
I think I'm going to have to go to the viewing again next week, when Mars, Venus, and Saturn are all going to apparently be even closer to each other in the sky. I hope it's clear. If you're interested in checking things our yourself, this site provides some nice pictures giving you a clue of what you should be looking for. In particular, it looks like Mars and Saturn and Venus will be doing some interesting things around May 4th which should be visible with the naked eye, and with a pair of binoculars you should be able to make out quite a bit more.
And as long as I'm talking about Astronomy, this java app provides neat demonstrations of the orbits of the moons of the planets of the solar system. In particular, Saturn and Jupiter (with their impressive collections of satellites) are definitely worth looking at.
I really like my Astronomy TA this semester. Today he offered up the following gem:
"Nuclear missiles don't have aftershocks... Unless you set one off near a whole bunch of other nuclear missiles."
-- My Astronomy TA, on one way seismologists distinguish underground nuclear testing from an earthquake.
Tonight, while doing my Astronomy homework, I was also watching Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. One of Space Ghost's guests was Moby (who Space Ghost kind of ate later in the episode... but anyway), who asked Space Ghost if there was anything interesting going on in space. When Space Ghost ignored the question, Moby brought up the recent (at the time... silly reruns) impact of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter (Which Space Ghost of course also ignored)...
Anyway, I mention this, because in Astronomy this week, we heard about SL9, and one of my homework questions asked what the Roche Limit is and how it explains why SL9 broke up into smaller pieces when it approached Jupiter.
And it turns out that I'm actually enjoying my Astronomy class a lot more than I expected I would. It's still very basic, and the homework is just ridiculously easy, but it's a nice high-level sketch... For an introductory course, it's doing a good job of presenting lots of information and making me curious for more.
From today, in Astronomy lecture:
"If you could find a bathtub big enough to put Saturn in, it would float."
-- Professor "Raymond"
That made me laugh and made me feel so much better this morning.