December 6th, 2007


Astro-image of the day: Mars closes on Earth

This month, Mars reaches opposition; that is, closest to Earth at 0.60 AU or 56 million miles. Mars will not approach this close again until 2016. Mars rises just after sunset in December and is the brightest object in the sky. On the day of closest approach, Mars shines bright red near the full Moon.

Click the image to see more Mars photos.

If you go out with a telescope, you're in for a real treat this month. Mars is the only planet (besides Earth, smarties) whose surface is visible using an amateur telescope. It's full of exciting features: Even though it's only about half the size of the Earth, Mars has the highest mountains, biggest volcano, deepest and longest canyon, and vastest craters in the Solar System. Because Mars also has huge dust storms, most of these features are partially obscured by dust, so most of what you'll see through Earth-based telescopes is darker and lighter features. See if you can glimpse the dark feature Syrtis Major, as shown in this photo:

Click the image to see more Mars photos.

galaxy M51

Astro-image of the day poll

In my most recent "Astro-image of the day" post about Mars, I used a 600-pixel-wide image instead of 500, as I've used for months. This makes a larger, prettier image, but might mess up people's LJ Friends view. On the other hand, people might like even bigger images! So a poll:
Poll #1101676 Astro-image survey: Image size

Which pixel-width images would you prefer that I post for my "Astro-image of the day"?

Mean: 592.59 Median: 600 Std. Dev 101.57

While I'm on the subject, do you want to see these images?

Yes, please! Seeing photos of the universe inspires me.
Geez, I hate seeing them. Use an LJ-cut!
I don't care.
Your liberal agenda of promoting facts about science disturbs me.

To help you decide on your favorite image width, below are a variety of examples of this same image in different sizes. Collapse )

the joys of winter storms

I just got back inside from doing my duty to my neighborhood by shoveling my and my neighbor's sidewalks just in time for the high school to let out.

But as I went out to the garage to fetch my shovel, I recalled that I had thrown out my old shovel, which had broken on last year's ice. So I drove the Saab down to Ace Hardware bought a shovel - a special new kind this year with plastic that doesn't stick to snow. Well, snow does kinda stick to it, but not much, considering how snowball-happy is this snowfall. And gosh but is one of those snow-pushers a nice thing! Except when then catch on the sidewalk edges, oof.