Hubble Flyover Photo

9:28PM, there I am, sitting at my computer, when I realized that I should check the Hubble pass timings. Turned out it was flying over just then. So I grabbed my phone, a OnePlus One, whose camera can expose up to 8s. I used my Heavens-Above app to track the exact position of Hubble, and for the first time consciously, I saw Hubble streak across the sky. Just by coincidence, when I snapped this picture, it passed right by Arcturus (the bright dot, mag -.05, 4th brightest star in the night sky). I took a few more, and then broke into my happy dance, because my first ever attempt at photographing a satellite was this epic picture 😀

[Copypasta description of my post from another site since I’m not in the mood to rewrite a similar one]

It reminds me of when people are taking photos of people taking photos.
It’s “vaguely” sexy to think about what exactly I’m looking at whenever I see a satellite, especially a popular one, pass over me. Also clicking on the image takes you to an Imgur link of the image which is at full resolution. 
Hubble Flyover Photo

Pluto the Dog Can Be Seen On Pluto the Dwarf Planet

So I’m *EXTREMELY* excited about all these Pluto and Charon pictures and whatnot! I spent a fair bit of time ignoring the talks about things I don’t care about at the UF preview (instance Rec Sports) to check out all the new Pluto news. Oh and my nickname is Pluto for my preview adviser, who put up the new picture of Pluto while the small group walked in and stuff.

But I can’t even begin to talk about all my excitement over Pluto!
Also I’m adamant that Pluto should be reconsidered to be a planet after seeing how active and complex its surface is.

If we find a planet with huge Mickey Mouse ears, I want it to be called Mickey.
Cue the “Disney is from Pluto” conspiracy theories.
Pluto the Dog Can Be Seen On Pluto the Dwarf Planet

Andromeda, Topology, and SMBC

A few things. First off, I saw Andromeda for the first time ever last weekend, on the 10th! I was at Big Pine Key and… ahh, it was so beautiful! Two and a half million year old light… it’s rather sexy, actually. And now that I know exactly where to look and what to look for, I’m able to see it from my house! Oh, it’s so beautiful. It’s a whole other galaxy. Looking at hundreds of millions of stars in about one square degree of sky… all that light traveling 2,538,000 light years, only to end that ages long journey on my retina… it’s really sexy to think about. Alright, I might be just the tiniest bit turned on by space. And by “tiniest bit” I mean quite a bit, as in, a lot.

On a random note, if I ever get the chance to name a chocolate bar, I’m going to call it Andromeda for one simple reason. There’s already a “Milky Way” chocolate. There must be an Andromeda. “Large Magellanic Cloud” doesn’t sound delicious… well, to me it does, but it doesn’t really sound like a chocolate bar. It’d be appropriate for cotton candy though.Oh great, now I’m thinking about galaxy names and what kind of candy it would be. “Arp 87” doesn’t really sound like any sort of candy. xD Now to look at the Hubble Deep Field again because it’s so beautiful… and then there’s that picture of Andromeda… mmm…

Second semester is going to start… today, really. I gotta really work on my grades now. Like, really work on them. But now I don’t have college apps to stress me out. It’s also time to put this lighting to the test. Hopefully all should work out well and hopefully my dysfunctional family doesn’t get in the way again. My dad’s a little verbally abusive… but he’s away now, and hopefully he’ll stay away for a long time now so that I can get a little peace of mind…

This reminds me. No one gave me the room number of my Government teacher. I have to go to her class today, and apparently the school never gave the students their schedule changes. Ugh, yet another reason why my high school is… unfavorable… I can’t wait until I’m in a more organized college environment.

I’ve also taken up teaching myself topology. A professor friend of mine (he won’t tell me what college he’s a professor at, but I know he’s from Boston–not MIT though, I don’t think) has given me a copy of Armstrong (1983) Basic Topology, and it’s surprisingly readable. I’m working my way through it. Of course, it being a third-year topology textbook, and having taught myself only the basics of Set Theory, the book is not easy, so to speak, but it is definitely manageable. After getting through some of it, I’ll try and watch some lectures on YouTube. I’m sure there’s an OpenCourse one, but I want to see the other ones too and see which one I like the best. Virtual teacher quality matters, too!

On a side note, if you combine xkcd and SMBC together, that’s 95% me. There’s even a post that describes my “talk mathy to me” thing so accurately: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2934#comic

Ahhh…

Andromeda, Topology, and SMBC

Comet Lovejoy Photograph

So my parents decided to take a two day, one night trip down to the Keys this past weekend. I’d recently learned about Big Pine Key, which was only about 45 minutes from Key West, and how it’s one of the best places in the southern US to stargaze.

Unfortunately, my parents are the type of people that think the darker and more unfamiliar a location is, the higher the density of rapists hiding in the trees (even though the only thing hiding in the trees were deer). My dad started cursing at me for being “stupid” (he even dropped the f-bomb, and I’ve never heard him say it in front of me) and he completely ruined my evening. My mom ruined most of my photos because she had to shine a light at every “rapist” (deer) that came from the shadows, and as you know, astrophotography absolutely cannot have any light pollution to come out right.

Then the tripod’s swivel thing decided to break, and I had to hold it steady, else holding the shutter button (on bulb mode) would cause the camera to turn wildly. The tiny movements of my hand caused blur in many of my images, and I couldn’t take an exposure longer than 2 minutes, because that’s how frequently my paranoid parents kept either bugging me or flashing lights that would otherwise ruin the photo.

Even the picture below is highly edited in order to maximize the number of stellar objects visible. Many iterations of exposure edit and levels and color balance and whatnot. I didn’t get to photograph Andromeda, but I did see it for the first time in my life. That was one hell of a sight, as fuzzy and dim what I saw.

Anyways, Comet Lovejoy appears very clearly in this image (the Milky Way is very faint, and only is visible because of extensive post processing, although it was visible when I was there in Big Pine Key), and using the position maps and its distinctive color, I’m pretty sure I’ve circled the right dot.

TL;DR: Here’s Comet Lovejoy, among many stars in a post-processed picture, taken in rather unfavorable conditions, namely paranoid parents, in Big Pine Key.

"Or maybe it was THAT fuzzy dot?"
Read the associated post for information about this image.
Comet Lovejoy Photograph

Quadrantids, Comet Lovejoy, and Caltech

So I submitted my application to Caltech. This time, I actually managed to get pretty much everything in on time (unlike how everything was late and last minute for MIT). And because I spent a fair bit of time writing the answers to the questions (instead of it being last minute for MIT because I’d decided to scratch everything and redo everything for MIT), and because I actually included a sort of portfolio this time, I think I have a much better shot this time. Also, because at Caltech, females are a minority (I mean, only a third of the students are female), I have a fighting chance. Caltech also seems to be a better place for me, as even though the dorms don’t allow cats, it’s the number one college for cosmology. That and if I get in, I can prank the hell out of MIT. 😛 On a random note, I only realized about two hours before I submitted the application that Caltech is spelled with a lowercase t.

I’ve been trying to track Comet Lovejoy, but Florida decided not to participate in Winter, and introduced to us 80+ high humidity weather, with lots of clouds. I got to see Comet Lovejoy on two nights (the disparity between the location of the dot across both nights confirmed that it was Comet Lovejoy).

I’m going to try to view the Quadrantids tonight, but with what weather we’ve been having, I doubt I’ll get to see any. And because school starts again tomorrow, I can’t stay up too late. Still, I want to catch at least one Quadrantid meteor.

And I’m not sure why, but somehow I got 41 followers in 2 months. I suppose half of them are spam follows, but the other half… when I check the profiles, the stuff they post is at least somewhat relevant to the stuff I post, so I suppose there’s a “related profiles” feature somewhere here.

Quadrantids, Comet Lovejoy, and Caltech

“The Significant Insignificants” — Our Place In The Cosmos [Happy New Year!]

Happy New Year! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 2015!!!
My resolution for this year? Pull up my grades, I suppose. Graduate, go to college, and all that jazz.

But anyways, to usher in the new year, I’ve narrated my post “The Significant Insignificants” to bring forth new hope and optimism, and inspire people to be more appreciative about their existence!

“The Significant Insignificants” — Our Place In The Cosmos [Happy New Year!]

Comet Lovejoy

It’s a long-shot to try and spot it in this suburban sky, especially since I have at most a crappy set of binoculars (I’ve wanted a telescope for a decade…); however, I can see +4.5 magnitude stars naked eye, and magnitude +7.0 distinct objects with my binoculars. I can see even fainter objects in my peripheral vision, but none distinctly. Comet Lovejoy, as of 12/29 midnight, is approximately magnitude +6.0 (which would be naked eye visibility if I didn’t live in Orlando). By January 7th, it should reach magnitude 4.0, which would make it just *barely* visible with my naked eye, and certainly visible with my binoculars. Unfortunately, since I lack the equipment and since my brother lost the CF card (after I gave it to him to match the card reader he said he would buy for me), deleting every single one of the astrophotography pictures I took the other day, I won’t be able to attempt photographing it. Still, it’ll be a treat. I’ve never really seen a comet with my naked eye (I think…)… no wait, I have. When I was very young, I distinctly remember seeing a bluish thing streak across the sky. It was *far* too large and slow to be a meteor of any sort (something of that size would have created a sonic boom), and it had to be a comet. So I guess  my exclamation to my mom (who just missed it and still doesn’t believe what I saw) saying “Look mom, a comet!” was correct…

Still, I’ve never *looked* for a comet, since I never really get the chance. I did look for ISON if I remember correctly. I don’t think I was successful, though. I think I spotted Lovejoy, so I do hope I actually get to see it properly (weather permitting of course), once it’s at its brightest.

Comet Lovejoy