The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'astronomy'


In the latest advance in cosmotheology, the Vatican's chief astronomer has stated that extraterrestrial intelligence may exist—and may even be free from original sin.

aliens astronomy catholic religion science theology 0


Hubble captures baleful Sauron-like eye around the star Fomalhaut, which I recall was the home of some of H.P. Lovecraft's elder gods/eldritch abominations (including Cthugha, said to resemble a "giant ball of fire").

Meanwhile, a Google search for "fomalhaut lovecraft" returns, among its top 10 results, the Suicide Girls homepage of someone who's into H.P. Lovecraft and Ayn Rand.

(via FmH) astronomy ayn rand cthugha fomalhaut lovecraft sauron science suicide girls 2


An asteroid has been officially named in Douglas Adams' honour. The space rock Douglasadams, formerly named 2001 DA42, joins another asteroid named Arthurdent. In the same round of namings, asteroids were named after Mary Wollstonecraft, Ball Aerospace, genetics pioneer Rosalind Franklin and the city of Las Vegas.

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Developing a computerised typesetting system that is adopted as a de facto standard by the world's scientific community can have its privileges; such as getting a planet named after you. (via gimbo)

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10th planet found in solar system; the new planet, which is further away than Pluto, has been christened Sedna, after the Inuit goddess of the ocean. (Perhaps Disney wanted too much in the way of royalties for naming it Mickey?)

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The Quiet Zone is a rectangular area the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined (however large that is) surrouding a radio-astronomical observatory in West Virginia. In this area, by law, radio transmitters are restricted, providing with enough blessed electromagnetic peace and quiet for an ultra-sensitive receiver to detect faint signals from space. Except when an electric fence malfunctions or the area is invaded by radio-tagged squirrels or tourists with mobile phones:

The subjects of radio astronomy are astronomically large, but the signals they produce are astronomically weak by the time they reach Earth. These emissions are measured in Janskys, named for the father of radio astronomy, Karl Jansky. A Jansky is based on 0.00000000000000000000000001 watts - and that's a big signal at Green Bank. Even a musical greeting card playing at the base of the telescope could produce anomalous spikes in the data of an unlucky astronomer trying to study stellar gases. If the interference is strong enough, the telescope's ultrasensitive first amplifier - cooled by liquid helium to minimize internal noise - shuts down.
Although just about any electronic or electromechanical device can blind Green Bank's telescope, the biggest culprit in the first category is the observatory itself. After all, it's a high tech operation crammed with sophisticated electronics and PCs. Green Bank director Jewell believes that some of the steps taken to mitigate interference at the facility may someday be adopted in the wider world, such as innovative circuit board designs and extensive shielding. The cafeteria's microwave oven is kept in a shielded cage. Large chambers designed to absorb radio waves - including a 5,000-square-foot conference room - have been built to make sure that, as Sizemore tells it, "radiation generated in the building stays in the building." Outside, spark plugs are notorious radio-frequency emitters, so Green Bank maintains a fleet of diesel-powered, electronics-free '69 Checker cabs and '70s Dodge trucks.

Needless to say, keeping the Quiet Zone quiet is getting progressively harder.

astronomy environment radio usa 3


Surprise, surprise: You know that company that, for a sum of money (insignificant compared to immortality) will name a star after you, your loved one, your dog or whatever? Well, what they don't tell you is that nobody else recognises those names; in other words, astronomers will not start referring to gaseous interstellar objects as "Joey Bloggs" or "Fluffy the Wonderhamster" or whatever just because you were gullible enough to part with US$48. Still, the scam has taken in many po'buckers, and some high-flyers including Nicole Kidman. (Who'd have thought she'd be gullible enough to buy into such hairbrained schemes?)

astronomy scams 4


There is now an asteroid named Arthurdent; it was so christened by a German astronomer who identified it in 1998, and confirmed by the International Astronomical Union -- one day before DNA passed away. (via Found)

astronomy douglas adams 0


For some time, astronomers have noticed strange glows on the Moon's surface; now one astronomer has proof that something is happening. His theory is escaping gases from inside the Moon. (BBC News)

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