Tag Archives: astronomy

Cosmic Calendar

You may remember Cosmos, the 1980 PBS series by Carl Sagan. Maybe you also recall Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar” from the series, where in order to put the immensely vast history of the universe into a comprehensible scale, he mapped it onto a calendar year. In other words, if the entire history of the universe were one year, with the big bang in the first second of midnight on January first, and the present day on the last second of December 31st, New Year’s Eve. A project of mine this year has been to note the major events in the Cosmic Calendar, on the real calendar, on this blog!

December 1st on the Cosmic Calendar: Plants have by now oxygenated our atmosphere. Animals can now begin to evolve beyond anaerobic microorganisms.

Imagining the big bang as January first of this year — it’s only now — December 1st, that there is even an atmosphere we can breathe

Seeing 2012 drawing to a close and likening the year nearly gone by to the history of the universe, it’s just mind-blowing to think of all that happened before we could even exist. Before us, before the dinosaurs, before fish — before vertebrates.

Like… wow, man…

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The Cosmic Calendar

You may remember Cosmos, the 1980 PBS series by Carl Sagan. Maybe you also recall Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar” from the series, where in order to put the immensely vast history of the universe into a comprehensible scale, he mapped it onto a calendar year. In other words, if the entire history of the universe were one year, with the big bang in the first second of midnight on January first, and the present day on the last second of December 31st, New Year’s Eve.  A project of mine this year has been to note the major events in the Cosmic Calendar, on the real calendar, on this blog!

September 14th on the Cosmic Calendar:  The sun, our solar system, and the Earth form.  At this point the Earth is molten, and undergoing frequent impacts, the period referred to as ‘heavy bombardment’.  There is no moon just yet either.

Think back to the beginning of the year.  Imagining the history of the universe as the year…  here we are approaching the end of the year and only just now is there even a planet for us, and it’s far from liveable yet.  This starts to give a sense of just how inconceivably vast is the span of time we’re talking about.  This is only the third post in this series — only the third event in the history of the universe that most people would care about.  There will be two more posts — one later this month and one in November, then 15 or 16 all in December!  The dinosaurs are right before Christmas and the mammals right after!  Ancient history is right at the end of the year with us today!

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Jupiter and one of it’s moons! Again!!

Jupiter, and to its left Io, I think. March 16, 2012

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So the big white splotch fringed in crimson and magenta is the planet Jupiter, and I believe the faint blob to its left is it’s moon Io.  The faint dot to the right might be Ganymede, but the more I think about it the more I think its a background star.  It is more point-like and less of a fuzzy blob, which implies it’s astronomically further away.   🙂

Can you believe I pulled this off again??  Well I can’t!!  As amazed as I am that my camera can do this, it is still basically a point-and-shoot with no manual focus.  That is fine, until the auto-focus gets confused.  The above is an enlargement of Jupiter from the one frame out of seven that the camera did not insist on defocusing to the opposite extreme.

Here is what I enlarged the above from, Jupiter and Venus in conjunction March 16, 2012:

Jupiter and Venus in conjunction, March 16, 2012. Jupiter top left, Venus lower right.

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Last, here’s another very cool Jupiter/Venus conjunction photo taken by Marek Nikodem:

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Jupiter, by Jove!!

Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction these days, meaning they’re about 3 to 5 degrees apart in the western sky at night.  Very easy and very cool to see them.  I’ve been seeing them up there the past several nights and last Tuesday night I thought, what the heck!  I’ll take a picture!  I figured it’d just be two dots, but I would know what they were when it popped up in my screen saver and knowing I had seen them with my own eyes would be so cool all over again.  🙂  Here’s the picture:

Jupiter on the left and Venus on the right; Conjunction of March 13, 2012

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But here’s where it gets really cool.  I took three frames with tripod and auto-timer, not really sure how well they’d turn out, then packed it in and went back inside.  Looking at them on my computer I noticed some suspicious specks…  and if I had not seen the same specks in all three frames I never would have believed it, but I actually captured some of Jupiter’s moons!!

Enlargement from the photo above of Jupiter, Io, and Europa I think, March 13, 2012

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According to this, I believe the speck just above the large blob (which is Jupiter) is Io, and the one above that is Europa.  This is with just my camera — not a telescope!  My camera is a Nikon Coolpix S4 — not even a DSLR with a serious lens, but what I guess you could call a ‘souped up’ snapshot camera…  I’ve never seen another camera design like it.  It has a focal length of 38-380mm, or 10x optical.  I was at max optical zoom for these shots of course.  There’s more digital zoom on top of that, but I… never go there.

I am so impressed all over again with my little 7 year old camera…  I was impressed when I bought it that I could just about fill the frame with the moon!  I mean Jupiter!!  And two of its moons!!  How cool is that?!?

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