Saturday, July 9, 2011

Launch Pad Diary July 8

After dithering about whether to post my Launch Pad diary entries here or on my LiveJournal, I've decided (for the moment, anyway) to do both. So here's yesterday's, and today's will go up in a little bit. It occurs to me that by posting every day, I'll have a hope of remembering what day it is (which can be a challenge when one works at home).

July 8. Strictly personal: I'm in a dither -- it's been so long since I've spent a whole day in class -- my mind is telling me I ought to have been reviewing my college physics -- and reading every basic astronomy book I can find --and now it's too late -- omg -- I'm going to be such a slow and stupid person. The only thing I can do is laugh. If I've learned anything in my more-than-a-few decades, it's that we all learn at different rates and in different ways. Ask me a certain type of question and my mind is an instant blank, even though I can recite the answer in my sleep (maybe I should try that as a tactic!) Or, when faced with some utterly intimidating situation, exactly the right words fly out of my mouth. I figure, what the heck, if I'm feeling so insecure and I have a fabulous time, maybe someone else might not let that stop them from applying next year!

The schedule arrived today via email and I'm so geekily stoked, all my performance anxiety has disappeared.
Monday: welcome and stuff, Scales of the Universe; A Scale Solar System; Seasons, Lunar Phases, Misconceptions; Amateur Astronomy; Small Telescope Night (omg squee, as my kids would say)

Tuesday: The EM Spectrum, Light, Instruments, Telescopes; Infrared Astronomy and Dust; Kirschoff's Laws and Spectra; Hazards and Healthcare in Space.

Wednesday: Gravity, Newton, Kepler, Orbits; Planets, Solar & Extrasolar; All About Stars; Astronomical Worldbuilding, Biology, Culture; WIRO (Wyoming Infrared Observatory) visit

Thursday: (morning hike, undoubtedly to clear our brains!); Supernovas, White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, Black Holes; Science Education and SF.

Friday: Galaxies & Dark Matter; Sex in Space; How to Move the Earth; Computing in Astronomy.

Saturday: What Not To Do (with Stan Schmidt); Cosmology; Discussion and goodbyes.

I have been advised that my brains will be oozing out my ears by the end of the week. Thank goodness, we get to take home a textbook!

Oh, and thunderstorms are predicted for the first part of the week, so the observatory visits may get shuffled around.

The illustration is from NASA, 2007, and this is what they say about it: This is an artist's concept of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the nearby star Epsilon Eridani. Located 10.5 light-years away, it is the closest known exoplanet to our solar system. The planet is in an elliptical orbit that carries it as close to the star as Earth is from the Sun, and as far from the star as Jupiter is from the Sun.Epsilon Eridandi is a young star, only 800 million years old. It is still surrounded by a disk of dust that extends 20 billion miles from the star. The disk appears as a linear sheet of reflecting dust in this view because it is seen edge-on from the planet's orbit, which is in the same plane as the dust disk.
The planet's rings and satellites are purely hypothetical in this view, but plausible. As a gas giant, the planet is uninhabitable for life as we know it. However, any moons might have conditions suitable for life.
Astronomers determined the planet's mass and orbital tilt in 2006 by using Hubble to measure the unseen planet's gravitational pull on the star as it slowly moved across the sky. Evidence for the planet first appeared in 2000 when astronomers measured a telltale wobble in the star.

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