Stargazing From Space

Isn’t this the most amazing view? It will play a part in some of the Spaceport novels I’m working on.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) see the world at night on every orbit — that’s 16 times each crew day. An astronaut took this broad, short-lens photograph of Earth’s night lights while looking out over the remote reaches of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. via NASA

Light Echoes

This illustration shows a star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. A new study uses data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and four ground-based telescopes to determine the distance from a star to the inner rim of its surrounding protoplanetary disk. Researchers used a method called “photo-reverberation,” also known as “light echoes. via NASA

Simulated Atmosphere of a Hot Gas Giant

The turbulent atmosphere of a hot, gaseous planet known as HD 80606b is shown in this simulation based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer measured the whole heating cycle of this planet, determining its coolest (less than 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and hottest (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. via NASA

Hubble’s Blue Bubble

The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle WR 31a is a Wolf–Rayet nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. Created when speedy stellar winds interact with the outer layers of hydrogen ejected by Wolf–Rayet stars, these nebulae are frequently ring-shaped or spherical. via NASA
Blue's Diner

Welcome to Blue’s Bar

My story begins with an alien walking into a bar. I’ve had a very clear image of this bar / diner in my head since the story first popped into my head. While researching diners on the internet, I found one very similar located on Route 40, called the Route 40 Classic Diner.

Route 40 Diner

Today my wonderful brother went there for lunch and took pictures of it for me. He assures me the food was as good as the atmosphere.

Blue's Bar

If you’re ever in the area, stop in and sample the food…and then send me pictures!

solar flares

Imagery of a Solar Flare

solar flares

Merry Christmas! And if your cell phone coverage or GPS go a little haywire — you can blame it on this.

According to NASA:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:28 p.m. EST on Dec. 19, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an X1.8-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO via NASA

Could Life Exist in a Pyrotechnic Galaxy?


A galaxy about 23 million light-years away is the site of impressive, ongoing, fireworks. Rather than paper, powder, and fire, this galactic light show involves a giant black hole, shock waves, and vast reservoirs of gas.

A new study of these anomalous arms made with Spitzer shows that shock waves, similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes, are heating large amounts of gas — equivalent to about 10 million suns. What is generating these shock waves? Radio data shows that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing powerful jets of high-energy particles. Researchers think that these jets strike the disk of the galaxy and generate shock waves. These shock waves, in turn, heat some of the gas — composed mainly of hydrogen molecules — to thousands of degrees. As shown in our additional, composite image, part of the evidence for this heating process comes from the similarity in location between the hydrogen and X-ray emission, both thought to be caused by shocks, and the radio jets.

The ejection of gas from the disk by the jets has important implications for the fate of this galaxy. Researchers estimate that all of the remaining gas will be ejected within the next 300 million years — very soon on cosmic time scales — unless it is somehow replenished. Because most of the gas in the disk has already been ejected, less gas is available for new stars to form. Indeed, the researchers used Spitzer data to estimate that stars are forming in the central regions of NGC 4258, at a rate which is about ten times less than in the Milky Way galaxy.

What would life in a pyrotechnic galaxy look like? Is it even possible?

I wonder about the sonic booms. Would they be felt on any planets within the galaxy? Or would the size and physics of their orbit make such phenomenon barely noticeable — the way we do not notice that we are flying around the sun at a horrifying rate of speed? What would normal look like in this galaxy?

Could a planet be protected enough that life could exist within the range of these high-energy particles? Would energy be readily available? Would these theoretical beings be used to the concept of energy being freely available? Would they see energy the way we see oxygen? Would they take it for granted? Would they build ships that would fly using this energy? What would happen if they came to our galaxy? Would they find our own radiation compatible?

What inter-cultural adventures might arise as they tried to understand humanity and its approach to energy?