gas cloud

Jupiter is stranger than we knew. NASA’s Juno spacecraft completed its sixth swoop past Jupiter as it moves around its highly elliptical orbit. Pictured, Jupiter is seen from below where, surprisingly, the horizontal bands that cover most of the planet disappear into swirls and complex patterns. A line of white oval clouds is visible nearer to the equator. Recent results from Juno show that Jupiter’s weather phenomena can extend deep below its cloud tops, and that Jupiter’s magnetic field varies greatly with location. Juno is scheduled to orbit Jupiter 37 times with each orbit taking about six weeks.

Image Credit: NASA, Juno, SwRI, MSSS, Gerald Eichstädt & Seán Doran

Hubble Sees the Force Awakening in a Newborn Star

This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away, but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It’s inside a turbulent birthing ground for new stars known as the Orion B molecular cloud complex, located 1,350 light-years away.

In the center of the image, partially obscured by a dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust, a newborn star shoots twin jets out into space as a sort of birth announcement to the universe

Credit: NASA / ESA

Three Badass Subfields of Astronomy: Astrobiology, Astrochemistry, and Astrophysics

I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people curious to know the differences between these subfields of astronomy. So, I’ve written a post giving a simple definition and a brief description of what’s involved in each.

Astrobiology (also known as exobiology) is the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life here on Earth and—more importantly—the entire universe. Using existing origin theories and models, this relatively new branch of astronomy is primarily focused on analyzing and discovering the amazing possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Astrobiologists face some distinct problems in their work. Many planets are completely unsustainable to life as we know it. Scorching or freezing temperatures, seemingly gentle rain that would actually burn the skin off of your body, or hurricanes the size of Earth itself are quite common planetary conditions in the universe. Astrobiologists attempt to simulate the possibilities of life cropping up in these unlikely conditions. Whether or not a life form can survive in these types of environments will reveal just how diverse and adaptive it is. Despite nature seeming like a sadistic asshole, there is striking evidence for the resilience of life. Astrobiologists have outlined four requirements for life to survive:

  1. A liquid solvent in which molecules can move freely and interact. 
  2. An energy source.
  3. An atom which allows complex structures to exist.
  4. A sh*t load of time.

Considering that certain life forms here on earth have defied some of these requirements, it’s logical to presume that there is indeed extraterrestrial life. The fact that the conditions can literally be terrible and life can still survive, is enough to convince me there are almost certainly other forms of life in the universe.  

Additionally, if we do find evidence of other life forms in the universe, they will probably look almost nothing like little green men with large heads and telepathic abilities (although, that would be awesome). In fact, astrobiologists hypothesize that extraterrestrial life will most likely be far more exotic and diverse than anything we can possibly imagine. Nature has certainly shown that it has one hell of an imagination.

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Growth and Failure

The longer the story, the more failures there should be and the greater the change that should occur.

This is the case for anything you write, but the more episodic the series is, the more this holds true. TV series, ongoing web series, and web comics are the most obvious examples of this.

Basically what this means is that your characters can’t succeed at everything they try to do. One thing about shows like Supernatural (the early seasons) is that you as the viewer know that, for the most part, by the end of every episode, the Monster of the Week will have been defeated and everyone you care about will still be alive and healthy. There are overarching plots, but they are tangential to most episodes and don’t affect much.

In Stargate SG-1, on the other hand, they spend eight season facing one major enemy (the Goa’uld), and they spend many of the episodes fighting the Goa’uld in some form or another. And sometimes they fail and the Goa’uld win, and sometimes they win and that later helps the Goa’uld win, and sometimes they don’t fight the Goa’uld at all, and those missions may be either successful or not to a lesser degree. Beyond that, there are lower level failures: they try to make a spaceship and it almost kills some of them, they try to make a new spaceship, it doesn’t work as hoped at a pivotal moment and they almost lose the entire planet, they build a giant spaceship and it gets stolen (briefly), they build more giant spaceships and one gets shot down over a planet and then later they need to get that spaceship home and it (temporarily) gets stuck in a giant sentient gas cloud. All of this means that sometimes they don’t have a spaceship that can do what they need even though they’ve been trying to build one for most of the show, but at the end of the show, they end up with spaceships whose capabilities and weaknesses play a pivotal role in the show.*

My point in recounting all of that (other than to get you all to watch Stargate) is to show that, especially when you have a long series where you want to show a great deal of growth (and I’ll explain why you need that in a second), you can’t just have them win every time they try to grow or every time they try to defeat an enemy. You have to have them fail, too, or there will be no stakes and it will be hard to suspend disbelief.

So…why do you need growth?

Basically, if you end up in the same place that you started, what was the point of your story?

Well, you cry, they defeated the major enemy. Isn’t that enough?

And to that I ask (because I like holding imaginary teaching sessions): If they could defeat the major enemy (or if they could get the girl/boy/non-binary person, or if they could get into the school they wanted, or if they could do whatever else they want to do) with the capabilities they had in the beginning, why didn’t they? There is no need for a story if your characters have everything they need to succeed when the story starts.

And as for why you need failure? Here are three reasons.

One, failure is realistic. Things rarely work well on the first try, especially more than once, which means that the more things a character (or group, organization, etc.) is trying, the more they should fail. If you think about someone trying to learn a language, they basically never (without an eidetic memory) remember all words the first time they see/hear them, or use grammar perfectly on the first try, or pronounce every word correctly. They will get some, but they will rarely get all. The same should go for someone who is trying to learn how to fight, for example. Even if you get everything right the first time you are shown it (which may or may not happen), you’re not going to get it right every time. You might fail more at some things than at others, or fail at the same thing over and over. Sometimes it’s because you don’t understand how to do it, sometimes it’s because your brain and your body aren’t communicating well, and sometimes it’s because your muscles just aren’t strong enough or your body isn’t flexible enough for it to work. Those are all failures that can and do happen in real life.

Two, failure raises the stakes. If you know the main characters are going to succeed at everything they try, or that their failures aren’t going to have any consequences beyond that episode (or chapter, etc.), there are no stakes. There is no concern for whether the character will do well or whether they will be ready in time, because they always are. There is no risk, because there is no failure.

Three, failure is interesting. As we see in Stargate, entire episodes can be built around failures. Failures make for interesting storylines, and sometimes successes that turn into failures can turn into even more interesting storylines. You defeat the Big Bad only to have a Bigger Bad rise up because of it? That’s a great storyline, and shows what was ultimately a failure by the characters. You stop someone for personal reasons at the expense of stopping someone for strategic reasons? Great storyline, because it not only prolongs and changes the conflict, it also adds an opportunity for personal growth and/or conflict into the mix.

With that, failures can also cause really interesting interpersonal interactions. Let’s so all of the characters are counting on Bob to pull off one part of the plan, and despite trying his best, Bob fails. Now everyone blames Bob (or maybe some subset of them blame Bob, depending on their personalities) and it causes tension in the group. Maybe this tension ultimately leads to Bob leaving because he can’t take the blame anymore. Now you have a splintered group all from Bob’s one failure.

What types of growth and failure can you have?

(I’m glad you asked, me.)

Here are some examples (primarily for militaristic/adventure type stories, but there’s a mix)**:

  • Building an army (or a group of people)
    • Not be able to convince people to join
    • Have traitors in the midst
    • Have large numbers die/be killed
    • Have people defect
    • Have ideological/strategic differences with allies
  • Building a new form a transportation
    • Not have it ready in time
    • Have it not go far enough
    • Have it not go fast enough
    • Have it fail mid-journey
    • Have it explode mid-journey
  • Building a weapon
    • Not have it ready in time
    • Have it not work
    • Have it explode in testing
    • Have it fail during use
  • Learning to fight
    • Not be ready in time
    • Hurt self while training
    • Not have the strength
    • Not have the endurance
  • Learning magic
    • Lose control
    • Not have the magical capacity
    • Not understand the theory
    • Not perform key rituals
    • Perform key rituals wrong
    • Not have key materials
  • Learning a language
    • Forget vocabulary
    • Forget grammar
    • Not understand grammar
    • Be unable to pronounce words
    • Be unable to understand spoken words
    • Misunderstand nuances
  • Translating/decoding something
    • Misunderstand nuances
    • Mistranslate words
    • Know the wrong dialect
    • Have the wrong key
    • Looking for something
    • Follow misleading clues
    • Have someone else find it first
  • Taking territory
    • Not have sufficient forces
    • Not have sufficient ability to break walls
    • Lose too many forces
    • Be unable to hold territory
  • Getting a romantic partner
    • Cheat
    • Make bad decisions while intoxicated
    • Forget significant dates/events
    • Say inappropriate or mean things
    • Misunderstand what is being said
    • Miscommunicate
  • Getting a degree
    • Not having enough money
    • Not studying enough
    • Not getting good enough grades
    • Not having the time
    • Having other life issues that distract from it
  • Forming a government
    • Have ideological splits
    • Have political splits
    • Have factions form
    • Have coup attempts
    • Be unable to govern
    • Be unable to create a working organizational structure
    • Be unable to create adequate civil service (police, roads, etc.)

*Of course, Stargate has some of its own issues with this, like the fact that Daniel has been brought back to life more than once, so the viewers stop believing that Daniel is ever actually dead.

**When I use the term failure, I don’t mean that it is the fault of the character or organization (necessarily, though in some cases it might be). I just mean that it is not-success.

Cosmic ‘Winter’ Wonderland

Although there are no seasons in space, this cosmic vista invokes thoughts of a frosty winter landscape. It is, in fact, a region called NGC 6357 where radiation from hot, young stars is energizing the cooler gas in the cloud that surrounds them. 

Located in our galaxy about 5,500 light years from Earth, NGC 6357 is actually a “cluster of clusters,” containing at least three clusters of young stars, including many hot, massive, luminous stars. The X-rays from Chandra and ROSAT reveal hundreds of point sources, which are the young stars in NGC 6357, as well as diffuse X-ray emission from hot gas. There are bubbles, or cavities, that have been created by radiation and material blowing away from the surfaces of massive stars, plus supernova explosions.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L. Townsley et al; Optical: UKIRT; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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The VST captures three spectacular nebulae in one image

Two of Sky’s most famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbor in this massive three-gigapixel image of ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Above is the faint, glowing gas cloud called Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) in the center and the Omega Nebula (Messier 17) on the bottom. This cosmic trio makes up only a part of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are living and illuminating their surroundings.

Credit: ESO

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Doctor Who, one episode per-series: S2E08 → The Impossible Planet                                         “That’s the black hole. In the scriptures of the Veltino, this planet’s called Krop Tor. The bitter pill.  And the black hole is supposed to be a mighty demon who was tricked into devouring the planet only to spit it out because it was poison. Stars breaking up. Gas clouds. We have whole solar systems being ripped apart above our heads, before falling into that thing. So a bit worse than a storm, then? Just a bit. Just a bit, yeah”

literally all you learn from the voyager opening credits is that it’s deliberately paced and tom paris is a bad driver

“tom don’t fly the ship through a fucking solar flare”

“tom planetary rings are mostly big ice crystals and they’ll damage the deflector and hull”

“tom we don’t even know what’s in this gas cloud, please don’t ‘hang ten’”

“tom stay away from that-”

“I’M GOING IN”

“TOM NO”

nature - norwegian vocab🍃

earth 🌍

  • et jordskjelv - an earthquake
  • et landskap - a landscape
  • miljøet - the environment
  • en blomst - a flower
  • et fjell - a mountain
  • gresset - the grass
  • en plante - a plant
  • sanden - the sand 
  • jorden - the earth
  • en rose - a rose
  • et tre - a tree
  • tre - wood

water 🌊

  • en snøstorm - a snowstorm
  • en istapp - an icicle
  • en væske - a liquid
  • en bølge - a wave
  • et hav - an ocean
  • en innsjø - a lake
  • å snø - to snow
  • en elv - a river
  • vann - water
  • snø - snow
  • rain - regn
  • is - ice

air 💨

  • en orkan - a hurricane
  • himmelen - the sky
  • røyken - the smoke
  • en storm - a storm
  • en sky - a cloud
  • en gas - a gass
  • tåken - the fog
  • lufta - the air
  • wind - vind
  • støv - dust

fire 🔥

  • en vulkan - a volcano
  • en tørke - a drought
  • en flamme - a flame
  • å brenne - to burn
  • varme - warmth
  • sola - the sun
  • en ild - a fire
  • tørr - dry

other 🌈

  • en regnbue - a rainbow
  • en strand - a beach
  • klimaet - the climate
  • været - the weather
  • å vokse - to grow
  • torden - thunder
  • lyn - lightning

Lagoon and Triffid Nebula - M8, M20

First deep space image from my trip to Tenerife last week. M8 and M20 are huge interstellar clouds of gas sitting in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. Taken at an altitude of 2138m on El Teide Volcano, Tenerife. May 25th 2017. 

Canon 700D mod, Canon 200mm 78x30sec

flickr

Homer ~ New York ~ Sunflower House ~ Historic ~ Queen Anne Architecture by Onasill ~ Bill Badzo
Via Flickr:
This home, located on the corner of North Main Street and Clinton Street, is a fine example of the Queen Anne style of architecture. It was built in 1881 for the William Kellogg family, and was designed by Archimedes Russell, a well-known architect from Syracuse. His fondness for the sunflower symbol, typical of the 1880′s, is prominently featured on the gables of the house, the side entry door, the main staircase, and even the weathervane. Many original features still exist, including beautiful stained glass windows, parquet floors, fantastic woodwork, five working fireplaces, and two indoor “inhouses” (as opposed to “outhouses”)On the corner of Main and Clinton is perhaps what is Homer’s most famous Victorian, designed by Archimedes Russell, a well-known architect from Syracuse.