Ridley Scott's revenge?

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Did Ridley Scott plan the most brutally delicious revenge against JPL or am I just making this stuff up? Read the rest

Watch all the exoplanets orbit their stars simultaneously

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The Kepler telescope has found 685 systems with 1705 exoplanets, and you can watch them whirr around together in this mesmerizing animation by astrocubs.

The data is from the NASA Exoplanet Archive. I made the visualization in Python: source code available here.

The fact that the worlds and systems we've observed are so different from our own is a limitation of our observations, not of the universe.

The orbits are shown to scale, but the planets are much larger than the orbits would suggest. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to see them. The planets are not to scale with one another, either. Also, the orbits wouldn't be perfectly circular, though I guess the animator might have made the simulation adhere to the laws of planetary motion an all the observed worlds have roughly-circular orbits. Of course the solar systems aren't this close tog—look, sshhhh, just watch it, it's pretty. Read the rest

These procedurally generated space bowls are killer

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Mirror Lake will make a procedurally generated bowl for you. Sometimes the bowl is empty, which sounds like a parable, but mostly it is just a bowl. Sometimes it is in space.

Click again, and you'll be greeted with another bowl. Other features of its landscape may include: mountains, trees, stones, ponds, birds, comets, planets, stars.

Mirror Lake was created by Katie Rose Pipkin for the recent Procedural Generation Jam, which encouraged people to make generative games, tools and art—to "make something that makes something." In this case, hauntingly pretty monochromatic space bowls.

Pipkin previously made a bot that creates tweets peppered with tiny star fields, and co-created another bot that draws and names procedurally generated moths.

If you want to see Mirror Lake in all its odd glory, trying expanding it to full screen; make sure the sound is up so you can hear the ambient hum. Even the bugs are nice to look at:

Read the rest

Our Generation Ships Will Sink

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As noted in Cory's review, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora makes an undeniable case for ecological stewardship through a rigorous, gripping technological speculation about climate science, biology, space propulsion and sociodynamic factors. In this exclusive feature essay, Robinson explains the technology behind the best science fiction novel of 2015.

Watch 'xkcd' explain space travel using the simplest words possible

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"Rocket" is not one of the 1,000 most common words in the English language, so it's called an "up goer" in the excellent xkcd video that explains space travel in simple terms. It's adapted from xkcd creator Randall Munroe's book, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words." Read the rest

Tiny planet spotted, 3x as distant as Pluto

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Astronomers have spied a cold world three times as distant from the Sun as Pluto. Read the rest

Moon Photography 101

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Are you planning on taking a trip to the Moon? If so, you'll want to create a commemorative photo album.  

The moon is a pretty desolate place and the truth is, you just don’t have a whole lot to work with. You’ve got moon dust, some craters and if you’re lucky, you’ve got some shadow and light.

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Explore the solar system in an immortal transhumanist body

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The space exploration game Sun Dogs comes with a promising description: "Sun Dogs is about exploring our inner solar system, altering your body, and embracing death." After playing, I deem it accurate. Read the rest

NASA looks directly at the sun so you don't have to, and it's gorgeous

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NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in orbit keeps a constant vigil on the Sun to help us understand how solar variations impact life on Earth. Launched in 2010, the SDO is part of NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program. NASA just released this magnificent 4K video shot by the SDO of our star's nuclear fire. It's titled "Thermonuclear Art."

Read the rest

Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora": space is bigger than you think

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Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora is the best book I read in 2015, and by "best" I mean, "most poetic" and "most thought provoking" and "most scientific," a triple-crown in science fiction that's practically unheard of. I wouldn't have believed it possible, even from Robinson, had I not read it for myself.

Astronomer, NASA advisor, and serial sexual harasser Geoff Marcy to resign from UC Berkeley

Geoffrey Marcy, possibly contemplating his next victim. [NASA photo]

Geoff Marcy, a famous and respected American astronomer, has announced his intention to step down as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Marcy also works with NASA on the search for extraterrestrial life, via the NASA Kepler Mission.

Buzzfeed first broke today's news of Marcy's plans to step aside. It is the first real fallout he's facing from sexual harassment claims that the reported victims say were ignored for years.

Why would those claims be ignored by UC Berkeley? Because Marcy is kind of a big deal in the field of astronomy, and his name meant money for the struggling California academic institution. Read the rest

Far out space film made from NASA Apollo Archive images

Tom Kucy dug into the incredible motherlode of NASA's Project Apollo Archive of photos released last week to create this beautiful short film "Ground Control." Read the rest

A distinctive, discontinued telescope: the Edmund Scientific Astroscan

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I am frequently asked about this beautiful telescope! People think it is a bong! The Edmund Scientific Astroscan sits in the center of my living room coffee table.

I have heard astronomy buffs screech like wounded monkeys at the idea of my actually using this telescope to view the skies. I'm no celestial connoisseur, and this beautiful post-modern masterpiece offers me all I need in an at-home or camping telescope. Screw telling you about the optics, how much magnification it offers (variable based on your eyepiece,) or any other technical data! Here is the important thing:

I love how it looks!

Several years ago, I asked Mark what telescope he'd recommend. He sent me a picture of this one and I bought it immediately. Only later did I find out he just liked how it looked, neither of us did a bit of research on its utility as a functional sky viewing telescope.

Honestly, it is fine. Here is a great video that'll tell you more than you need to know:

If you'd like to find an AstroScan, try eBay! Mine is a lovely, functional conversation piece. Do not attempt to use it as a water pipe. Read the rest

Rush Limbaugh: water on Mars is a leftist conspiracy

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Who needs the Onion? "Don't know how long it's going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda." Read the rest

Water on Mars, NASA reveals

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate from the walls of Garni crater on Mars. [NASA]

NASA says these streaks are proof that water flows on Mars. NASA

Well, this is big. NASA today revealed that new findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” Read the rest

Latest Pluto image is most amazing yet

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From NASA's New Horizons Image Gallery, this is described as a "high-resolution enhanced color view" of the distant world. Read the rest

Ian McDonald's "Luna: New Moon" - the moon is a much, much harsher mistress

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We've projected our political and spiritual longings on the Moon since antiquity, and it's been a talismanic home to science fiction's most ambitious dreams for generations. But no one writes like Ian McDonald, and no one's Moon is nearly so beautiful and terrible as Luna: New Moon.

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