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Space is fun, yay!

11 May 2011

We love science here at TFFP, particularly the space part.  (We also like taking an occasional break from the constant onslaught of terrible news we know we can’t and shouldn’t ignore.)  So here’s some cool space-related stuff I/we like!

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: Originally run in 1980, we declare that this is still the best space and earth science show ever made.  The material is presented in a way that’s easy for most laypeople to understand without talking down to the audience or having an episode titled “TOP 10 MOST EXXXTREME WAYS TO BLOW UP THE SUN,” which is all basically nonexistent in more current shows.  Some of the information has since been improved upon, of course, but the majority of it is still solid.  The message was political (in a good way) when it needed to be.  Sagan himself had gravitas and lightheartedness in equal measure, and an oft-remarked-upon, quirky way of speaking that make Cosmos all the better.  I can’t read his books or essays without hearing him recite every word (they take a long time to read).  Watch this series.  Watch it once a year.  Share it with everyone you know, forever.  Actually buy it if you can.  I’m serious.

Powers of 10: This Eames clip may be a few decades old and have creepy music, but it’s still awesome.  The narrator takes us from human scale out to 100 million light years, then back in and all the way down through human cells to the sub-ångstrom level.  I love how the most massive realms in the universe kind of mirror some of the smallest stuff we can detect–‘orbiting’ bits in extensive empty space.

Galaxy Zoo: Help identify and classify galaxies photographed by the Hubble, FOR SCIENCE.  You can register and save your results and favorite images.

Photopic Sky Survey: Interactive panoramic 5,000 megapixel photo assembled from 37,440 images (apparently all done by an amateur astronomer, too, holy crap).  Objects click through to their wiki articles.

Google Earth users can also access Google Sky (and Mars) or its Maps counterpart.  I love some Google Earth.

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Like it says, a cool image with a description of what you’re looking at, where it is, and where it was taken.  RSS and archives available!

Dark-Sky Parks: There are only a few of these parks in the world, and most of them are ridiculously remote (duh).  However, if you’re into camping and visiting national parks/forests, some of the sites have other parks within a couple hours’ drive.  We’re considering a trip to Natural Bridges in Utah, which, along with southwestern Colorado, is basically entirely composed of parkland.

Clear Sky Chart: Forecast conditions for stargazing in parts of the US, Canada, and Mexico.  The charts themselves show weather and visibility.  The regional lists also shows a Bortle Scale light pollution rating for each site so you can find the darkest spot in your area.

Stellarium: This 3-platform program (free, yay) lets you track the night sky as it would be seen from (almost?) any area of the earth.  There are non-Western zodiac overlays available in the program.  You can go to set times and dates and speed up/reverse time, as well.  Paired with a clear sky chart, this is a good resource for planning the right time to go find some stars.

Universe Sandbox: If you ultimately just want to smash space stuff together, there’s this simulator.  Unfortunately the full version isn’t free and crashes sometimes.  Still, it’s pretty fun.

And finally, because it’s always awesome, this:

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