Saturday, June 1, 2013


The Milky Way galaxy is most significant to humans because it is our home. But when it comes down to it, our galaxy is a typical barred spiral, much like billions of other galaxies in the universe. 

A glance up at the night sky reveals a broad swath of light. Described by the ancients as a "river," as "milk," and as a "path," among other descriptions. This astronomical band has been visible in the heavens since Earth first formed. This intriguing line of light is the center of our galaxy, as seen from one of its outer arms. The Milky Way is approximately 100,000 light-years across, contains over 200 billion stars, and enough dust and gas to make billions more (1 light-years is
5.88 trillion miles).

The solar system lies about 30,000 light-years from the galactic center, and about 20 light-years above the plane of the galaxy. More than half the stars found in the Milky Way are older than our sun, estimated to be 4.5 billion years old.

The most common stars in the galaxy are red dwarfs, a cool star about a tenth the mass of the sun. Once thought unsuitable for potential life-bearing planets because such bodies would have to be too close to meet the criteria, red dwarfs are now considered potential 'goldilocks planets' (not too close, not too far, but just the right distance to its closest star for life to form and thrive).

As late as the 1920s, astronomers thought all of the stars in the universe were contained inside of the Milky Way. It wasn't until Edwin Hubble discovered a special star known as a Cepheid variable, which allowed him to precisely measure distances. Astronomers then realized that the fuzzy patches once classified as nebula were actually separate galaxies.

An aerial view of the Milky Way, you would see a central bulge surrounded by four large spiral arms wrapped around it. Spiral galaxies make up about two-thirds of the galaxies in the universe. Unlike a regular spiral, a barred spiral contains a bar across its center region, and has two major arms. The Milky Way also contains two significant minor arms, as well as two smaller spurs. One of the spurs, known as the Orion Arm, contains the sun and the solar system. The Orion arm is located between two major arms, Perseus and Sagittarius.

The Milky Way does not sit still, but is constantly rotating; as such, the arms are moving through space. The sun and the solar system travel with them. The solar system travels at an average speed of 515,000 miles per hour (828,000 kilometers per hour). Even at this rapid speed, the solar system would take about 230 million years to travel all the way around the Milky Way. Consider the fact that the Andromeda Galaxy, our closest heavenly neighbors, sits 2.5 million light-years away - about 15 quintillion (15,000,000,000,000,000,000) miles from Earth - it's no wonder we have not found intelligent life in the universe.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Barska Straight Spotting Scope with Tripod

Barska Scope - $79.79
For you new star-gazers that don't have a scope, here's the perfect starter telescope.

The Barska Waterproof Straight Spotting Scope is an excellent choice. The optics are crystal clear and it's very light, 2lbs, 10 ounces, even with the tripod attached.

The zooming dial is on the eyepiece, and the focus dial is on the body of the scope. Both are easy to access while viewing.

The tripod is solid, adjustable, and smooth and the scope comes with a lens cap for the front, and a long-screw-on cap for the eyepiece. The carry case has a divided compartment so the scope and tripod don't come into contact with each other. The manual slips in easily and the body of the scope has a solid, rubberized feel. Excellent scope at a great price!

Other Features ...

  • Carrying case w/scope and tripod, 14" x 6" x 3"
  • 20x-60x zoom magnification
  • 100 percent waterproof and fogproof
  • Smooth focusing knob
  • Fully-coated optics
  • Includes pan-head tripod and soft carrying case

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer, science communicator, in astronomy and natural sciences, and a Pulitzer prize winner. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Here's the gist of what he stated in a 1966 interview. "Many of the stars in the sky have planetary systems. We know enough now about the origin of life to appear likely that life arises naturally on the vast bulk of these planets."

"It's possible but by no means certain that life, on many of these planets, evolves into beings which are advanced as we, or more advanced. I don't see any reason why we can't imagine that there's civilizations thousands or millions of years in advance of ourselves, capable of technical feats that we can hardly imagine. The real belief in flying-saucers is much easily obtained if you look at the contact myths. Several hundred people in the U.S. who claimed to have had personal contact with the inhabitants of flying saucers that have landed. If you examine these myths you will find there are some peculiar regularities."

The inhabitants of saucers are benevolent, really concerned for our well-being, they are omnipotent - extremely powerful; omniscient - extremely knowledgeable, and they often wear long white robes. This combination is something you hear in other contexts; this isn't science, this is religion. What I suspect is happening is this: we live in very unsettled times. It used to be possible to believe in a personal, benevolent, powerful, all-knowing God, who cared about individuals, who you could pray to. But now, there are very few people who believe that."


Destroying the Ecosystem

The 11th Hour is a documentary from Leonardo DiCaprio about the state of humanity and the world. Co-directors Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners conduct interviews with some of the world's leading scientists and creative thinkers in a film that asks whether or not it's too late to avoid the ecological disaster that looms ominously on the horizon.

In addition to exploring how the human race has arrived at this crucial point in history, conversations with 50 leading thinkers, scientists, and leaders including former Soviet prime minister Mikhail Gorbachev, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, and sustainable design experts Bruce Mau and William McDonough to find out just what humankind can do about the most pressing issues of our time.

Homo sapiens Sapiens is an incredibly young species. We came very late in the calendar year of the Earth. The Earth calendar started January 1 and now we're Dec 31st. We got here 15 minutes before midnight on Dec 31st and all of recorded history as gone by in the past 60 seconds.

There is a fundamental illusion in the world that someone we are separate from nature. The reality is that we are part of nature, in fact, we are nature. This is the fundamental misunderstanding in the world that is causing so much havoc. Our culture is built on the assumption that we are the superior life form on Earth; that we are separate from all other life forms; that we've been given dominion over all other life forms.

To think that we are separated from nature is a thinking disorder. You can't be separated from nature, why we think that way is what's interesting. What happens in the mind that likes to think it's separated from nature? We are living in total disharmony with the planet. We're exploring space, which is a good thing, but our explorations do not affect our attitudes. Attitudes that are based on selfishness, the economic situation, and politics. How many governments in the world have taken the environmental crisis for what it is? Very few, and certainly not the United States.