here’s a breathless announcement

It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday.

This comes from Scientists Find an ‘Earth Twin,’ or Perhaps a Cousin in the New York Times.

Here is something that bothers me in this story, and in some of the pronouncements of astronomer’s in general. The way this is reported, it sounds like they know for sure that what they saw is 1) a planet; 2) of a certain size; 3) orbiting a Sol-like star; 4) orbiting in the ‘habitable zone’ of that star. All of these pronouncements are stated matter-of-fact-like.

Yet what do they really know?

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54 hair-width’s of change

In my life time, that’s how much the radius of the earth has changed, according to NASA.

The scientists estimated the average change in Earth’s radius to be 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters) per year, or about the thickness of a human hair, a rate considered statistically insignificant.

I am sure you were waiting with bated breath for that bit of news!

I’m just wondering if that means 108 hair-widths for the diameter??


lunar eclipse for christmas

Well, for Dec 21, actually, the Winter Solstice. You can read all about it here. This eclipse will be visible in almost all of North America, starting at 10:33 PM Pacific Time on Dec 20 (1:33 am on Dec 21 Eastern Time).

Just one of those cool astronomy things I love…


now this is cool

I love astronomy. I just noticed on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that Microsoft has a beta software called “Worldwide Telescope” designed in conjunction with NASA. It provides cool images of the heavens, from any perspective. You can be a stargazer right there on your own computer screen.

Yes, I know Google has something like this too. And I know this is Microsoft, the company most people have serious attitude problems about. Personally, I don’t care. Mostly I like Microsoft. (I hate the Ribbon in the new Office, but…) And space is cool, so try this one out.



I remember the exciting days of the Apollo program very well. I remember the breathless excitement of hearing Neil Armstrong’s famous words come crackling over a transistor radio as we boys listened in our bunks the first night of our week at camp.

Do you know how powerful the technology was that controlled that mission?

The flight computer onboard the Lunar Excursion Module, which landed on the Moon during the Apollo program, had a whopping 4 kilobytes of RAM and a 74 KB "hard drive." In places, the craft’s outer skin was as thin as two sheets of aluminum foil.

That was then.

This is now. NASA’s plans for the coming longer moon missions are much more elaborate with much more sophisticated equipment. You can read about some of it at the link above.

The many extremes faced by astronauts heading for the moon, and later, they hope, to Mars, seem to reinforce the notion that the earth is truly the only home of life in the universe. (Can’t prove it, but it is a notion I hold nonetheless.)

How inhospitable the rest of creation seems to be!

And how fascinating!


a little eclectica

I am in the midst of rebuilding my lawn after having a new $eptic $y$tem installed, so I am too busy for blogging. But let me note a few things of interest to me lately…

Nasa is Taking Shots at the Moon

There are places on the Moon where the sun hasn’t shined for millions of years [sic]. Dark polar craters too deep for sunlight to penetrate are luna incognita, the realm of the unknown, and in their inky depths, researchers believe, may lie a treasure of great value.

NASA is about to light one up.

For Church History Buffs
  • Christianity Today’s Liveblog provices a list of favorite Church history sites. Two I knew about, but three are new and look promising.
So, what do you think of Video Games?
  • The Canadian Christianity site has an article that raises some concerns about the addiction of many to gaming. A real concern, I think, but a typically too weak response in our child-centered era. (I think every branch of conservative Christianity is too weak on this, including Fundamentalism.)

And last, for now…

What gives with this Muslim-Christian conference?
  • And did the Christians involved give away too much in the process? And what should a prominent Minnesota Baptist pastor say to another prominent Minnesota Baptist pastor this time? [Probably he should say more than he will say, I reckon.]


coming from a space lab near you

Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy had a Tricorder device that was able to diagnose almost any physical condition. It may not yet appear in your doctor’s office, but NASA is working on a device that may be able to discern what’s bugging you:

“Ultimately we want to provide cartridges for all kinds of micro-organisms and chemical compounds,” says Morris. “We’d even like to be able to use our system to figure out what ‘bug’ an astronaut has if he or she becomes ill.”

Lisa Monaco, LOCAD project scientist, adds her vision of the future: “What we are developing at MSFC has use not only on the ISS, but also on lunar missions, long duration stays on other planets, and most certainly here on Earth.”

In the years ahead, as space voyages become longer and longer, it will be even more imperative to have ways of checking astronauts’ health and monitoring electronics. For the record, no astronaut has ever become seriously ill on any space mission. However, the scientists point out that if an astronaut did ever get sick, it would take too much time to send a sample back to Earth, have it tested, and receive a long-distance answer. With next-generation LOCAD technologies, detection and diagnosis would be quick, easy, and on the spot.

Dr. McCoy, here we come.

Emphasis mine.

Just one of those cool things going on at NASA.

Read the whole article for the current state of the project.


the heavens declare!

I don’t want to turn this into an entirely space blog, but NASA keeps providing spectacular pics of our Solar System. Check out this one of earth and moon from a Mars orbiter…

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lunar peaks and valleys

“We now know the south pole has peaks as high as Mt. McKinley and crater floors four times deeper than the Grand Canyon,” says Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

The NASA site today has an animation of a ‘lunar day’ as seen on the moon’s south pole. Yet more fascinating info concerning our Lord’s marvellous creation.

With all the stark beauty seen on lifeless planets and moons, it seems to me that the earth is unique in God’s creation. In some ways, the earth is the center of the universe.

But … there is a funny line later on in the article…

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now for something completely different

One of my life-long interests is space exploration. I wrote papers on it in junior and senior high school. I avidly followed the news of space exploration as a teenager. I remember lying in bed at kids camp, listening to the radio broadcast of “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The day was July 20, 1969 and I was 12 years old. The sounds of that crackly radio and the silence in my cabin at camp come back to me whenever I think about it.

One of the best ways I’ve found to feed my interest in space exploration is to subscribe to the NASA website with BlogLines. You can tap into it here. I don’t read every article in its entirety, but I scan all the headlines and read a good many of them. (There are often excellent sermon illustrations to be found as well.)

This week, something new came back to us from space.

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