Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Goodbye, Greg

January 14, 2009

I’ve started and stopped this entry four times now.  Apparently I’m having trouble putting exactly what I want to say into words, so I’ll instead just be to the point:

Greg Hawley, curator of the Steamboat Arabia Museum and therefore my boss during my short but treasured time as a tour guide there, a man I admired very much for his vision, perseverance, geniality, and cleverness, died on Saturday in a car accident.  He was only 50.

My condolences and best wishes go out to his family and the staff at the museum.

If you have never been to the Arabia Museum, I encourage you to visit; it is a venue like no other, thanks in no small part to Greg and his tireless efforts.

He was truly an exhibit unto himself, actual walking, talking history, vibrant and enthusiastic, and will be missed.


Happy New Year, Etc.

January 2, 2009

I hope you enjoyed your extra second of 2008, though personally I couldn’t wait until that jerkwater disappointment of a year was off the calendar for good.

Now we can look forward to the inauguration of a hopefully pro-science, pro-reality president that has the ability to bring our country honestly and actually into the 21st Century.

I’m very optimistic about the coming year:

Firstly, I’m excited that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, as declared by the IAU, the IPS, UNESCO, and a handful of other important and noteworthy organizations. It’s the anniversary of a couple of pretty important events, not just in astronomy, but modern science as a whole, and planetaria, science centers, museums, astronomy clubs and the like, are celebrating with expanded programming meant to bring the cosmos home.

Unfortunately, the Blank Blank Planetarium hasn’t planned any extra programming, primarily because of monetary limitations, but if we get lucky and find some nice people willing to donate a significant chunk of grant money (and things are looking positive, but you really never can tell when it comes to grants), hopefully we can put together a pretty significant theater rehab that will definitely bring us up to industry standard, and maybe even a little ahead of the curve.

More details on that as they emerge.

On the personal front, my wife is pregnant, and just yesterday we (joyfully) learned that it’s another girl, continuing a tradition my maternal grandparents started (two girls: my mom and my aunt), and my aunt and uncle continued (two girls: my teenage cousins).

(I’m definitely going to have to do something to bring up the testosterone level in the house…)

Just before Xmas, my wife was laid off from her job, and there was much consternation.

Yesterday, my wife scored another job, and there was much rejoicing.

In a mixture of my personal and professional lives, I have some plans brewing that I’m positively atwitter over, and will continue to refine as they develop. One of them is a sort of harebrained idea for an industry-related social experiment that could either be really, really interesting, or fall flat without so much as a whimper. We’ll see.

As far as Bearable Skyglow is concerned, my hope is to continue to shape it into a non-traditional aerospace/media/museum blog. Remember, I Am Not An Astronomer™; if you want news about what’s happening in the night sky, there’s dozens of spots on the intartoobs that can give you the skinny better than I could ever manage (there’s a trio of them on the sidebar to the right–check them out and bookmark their RSSes, right now).

I will continue my dispatches of eclectic calendar and aerospace science factoids, and give more inside looks into the planetarium industry and non-profit museum life.

In the meantime, if you can, when you can, support your local planetarium and science center! If there’s ever a time when these kinds of not-for-profit instutitions need loyal and interested visitors, it’s now.

Happy New Year.


A holiday classic

December 14, 2008

Dark Flow

November 10, 2008

xkcd had a funny sappy strip this morning:


Click to read the whole thing.

I wasn’t 100% sure exactly what they were referring to, but a quick click on the Goog brought up this couple-month old article from New Scientist, which is pretty dang cool.

The alt-text on the xkcd strip referred to the Pioneer Anomaly, which I have to admit I also didn’t know anything about.  Wikipedia has the score.

It’s counter intuitive and mysterious: basically, the now-interstellar Pioneer spacecrafts (10 and 11) are not traveling quite as fast as they should be (to the tune of some 5000km per year), and nobody knows exactly why.  There’s a handful of precursory explanations, with a smattering of evidence for a few, and it’s possible that it could be something mundane but unforeseen like a cracked tank or something, but it’s equally possible that we’re seeing some as yet-unobserved physical phenomenon that is only apparent to us because of the vast distances the Pioneers have traveled.  Figuring this out could be incredibly important.

The Planetary Society agrees, and put out a call for increased research on the Pioneer data.  (That page also has a nifty summary, if you don’t want to believe Wikipedia.)

TPS posted a report on one of the study’s progress over the summer, written by space hottie Emily Lakdawalla.  Pretty nifty stuff, and plus it’s got cool pictures, so win-win.



November 9, 2008

Bottom right picture.


I really hope they do get their new projector…  I don’t know the specs of their rehab, but I imagine it’s some high-end high-rez full-dome, fitting for one of the most famous planetaria in the world.



November 9, 2008

President-elect Obama made a poorly-worded statement equating Nancy Reagan with woo woo such as seances and speaking with the dead:

When a reporter asked Obama if he had spoken with any ex-presidents since his election on Tuesday, he responded that he had spoken to all former presidents “that are living.”

“I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances,” he said.

The reason it was poorly worded is that Nancy Reagan didn’t do seances, she used an astrologer to “help” her husband with guidance in his presidency.

While P-e Obama was trying to make a joke, which admittedly was poorly-timed and only marginally funny, I see no reason for him to apologize: astrology is 100% bunk, doesn’t work in any demonstrable, repeatable way, and has absolutely zero basis in reality.

His glib remark, a gentle chastization for Mrs. Reagan employing such ridiculousness (whether he meant it that way or not), is hopefully a sign of his firm grounding in the real world.

While some may balk and cry, “How insensitive!”, one doesn’t need to be a seer to predict skeptics of all likes met this statement with a fist pump and a, “Hell yeah.”


Totally Live Sun on Earth Action!

November 7, 2008

Aurora LiveThis is totally cool: a webcam taking images of the northern sky and the aurora b., from the T. Neil Davis Science Operations Center in the Poker Flat Research Range (they launch rockets there!) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  (Whew)

It’s a spherical view (which would be good for projecting on a dome… hmm…), and it’s considerably farther north than most American N. Americans are used to seeing the night sky, but my god, check out that fantastic constrast…  If you look closely, you can pick out some familiar constellations. Pretty freaking cool.

By the way, look over the list of publications for this astronomer T. Neil Davis.  A true scientific powerhouse.  He’s into medicine, geophysics, optics, seismology, and pioneered a measurement of solar/terrestrial interaction called the “auroral electrojet” (which would be a sweet name for a band), and plus there’s a whole science operations center named after him, so he’s got that going for him too.

(Via Phil at Bad Astronomy.  Bookmark it.  Know it.  Love it.)