Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hi-res images from HiRISE: a transform fault on Mars

HiRISE (The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and offers 1 meter / pixel resolution. They've just taken a few images from yesterday and released them. (The official blurb says the resolution is 25cm/pixel on this image).

Big images--this one is a 1.3MB JPEG, it shows a region in Valles Marineris called Ius Chasma.

Take a look in the middle of the big image, or look at my crop above--that sure looks like a transform fault!

HiRISE via

UPDATE: They've spotted it and added commentary. They are intrepreting it as a thrust fault tilted on its side. Great resolution on their images.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Opportunity reaches Victoria Crater on Mars

The Mars Rover Opportunity has reached Victoria Crater on Mars: a half-mile in diameter.

They've taken a panorama from the rim (2.7MB).

Take a look at this full-res sharp image of a cliff to right of the rover:
The rock has a smooth almost sculpted quality to it.

No color images yet--they've concentrated on stereo images.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Content-free update

Work has been taking over my time lately, and won't lighten up until next week, despite a great need for a vacation (not a day missed for months). That said, I've been working on a fantastic project which I am quite excited about and have spent nearly all of my free time on in the past month, but I am not ready to commit to talking about quite yet. However, someone else is working on the same idea. I have some nice test images with prior inferior iterations--at the latest moment my images are 6000x8000 pixels, 1200dpi; wide-angle up the wazoo; and I have some crazy ideas about color. Some have seen me wandering the seven stories of the library; I continue to do so, wishing the days would not wither away so quickly as they do in the fall.

Friday, September 22, 2006

NYTimes review of Posner book

"A Jurist’s Argument for Bending the Constitution"

The New York Times' MICHIKO KAKUTANI slams Posner's new book:

"...a depressing relativism in which there are no higher ideals and no absolute rights worth protecting."

"By the end of this chilling book, the reader realizes that Judge Posner is willing to use virtually any argument — logical or not — to redefine constitutionally guaranteed rights like freedom of speech during wartime."

"...this book suggests that Judge Posner does regard the Constitution as an old piece of parchment — a piece of parchment with certain rules, but rules that “are made to be broken” by a president during an emergency, no matter how long that emergency may last."

Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency.
By Richard A. Posner.

UPDATE: There is some back and forth debate on the University of Chicago Law School Faculty blog about it here and here. Posner actually states:
Civil liberties are valuable, but their values should be assessed in a practical, hard-headed way, rather than treated with quasi-religious veneration. Maybe David Hume went too far (though I don’t think so) when he said that “The safety of the people is the supreme law. All other particular laws are subordinate to it, and dependent on it.” But I am not prepared to die at the hands of terrorists in order to defend the Miranda rule, or Brady, or Burton, or Mapp, or Doyle, or the other arabesques that the Supreme Court in the Earl Warren era inscribed on the helpless text of the Constitution.

Geez... he seems to have forgotten his oath to defend the Constitution, and "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

At least Geoffrey Stone is able to contain him somewhat.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When the Cato Institute and I agree

...perhaps there is something wrong with the government. Republicans claim they are for limited government but instead have driven us towards fascism. Democrats either are unorganized, vote for these repressive ideas for fear of votes, or think the populace are polarized about some trivial issue that is not that important.

"Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism by Timothy Lynch" (PDF).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shuttle and ISS in front of the Sun

Wow. Thierry Legault in France caught the Space Shuttle undocking from the ISS while transiting the Sun from his location. Keep in mind the ISS transits the sun in about a fifth of a second. Click on the image for the full frame.

As seen on"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

2003 UB313 named!

Meet Eris and its moon Dysnomia.

From the Minor Planet Mailing list (via the IAU Circulars):

(134340) PLUTO, (136199) ERIS, AND (136199) ERIS I (DYSNOMIA)
Following the Aug. 24 resolution by the IAU to the effect that
the solar system contains eight "planets" (Mercury-Neptune), with
(1) Ceres, Pluto (cf. IAUC 255), and 2003 UB_313 (cf. IAUC 8577) to
be considered representative "dwarf planets", the Minor Planet
Center included Pluto and 2003 UB_313 (along with two other new
potential dwarf-planet candidates) in the standard catalogue of
numbered objects with well-determined orbits as (134340) and
(136199), respectively (see MPC 57525). Following near-unanimous
acceptance by both the Committee on Small-Body Nomenclature and the
Working Group on Planetary-System Nomenclature (in consultation
with the discovery team), the IAU Executive Committee has now
approved the names Eris for (136199) and Dysnomia for its satellite
(136199) Eris I [formerly S/2005 (2003 UB_313) 1; cf. IAUC 8610].

special PDF circular

Eris is the goddess of strike, discord, and rivalry, and Dysnomia is the goddess of lawlessness.

My last post about the MPC designations for Pluto & the other large KBOs

2003 UB 313, Pluto, and other related Kuiper Belt posts:

An animation of Pluto

Direct measurements of 2003 UB 313

More science on 2003 UB 313

The The definition of a planet: IAU conference and the issue of 2003 UB313

Pluto's new moons named: Nix and Hydra

New Horizons--aka the Pluto and Kuiper Belt mission

Ortiz response

2003 EL61: bulgy or salt and pepper?

Huge new Kuiper Belt Object / Transneptunian Object?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Longwave beacons part 2

An addendum to my post above longwave radio beacons heard here in Chicago--they are much easier to decode visually than aurally for me, and this might bear out that I never had any musical training or other audio mental work as a kid; whereas I spent a huge amount of time developing my visual cortex in photo work and astronomy.

So, here are two beacons recorded via Hamscope. Time is vertical, going up, and frequency is horizontal (but unimportant):



Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pluto and other KBOs (2003 UB313) get designations

The Minor Planet Center has wasted no time in assigning minor planet numbers to Pluto, 2003 UB313, and other Kuiper Belt Objects.

(134340) Pluto
Additional identifications = Object Lowell Observatory = X
(136199) 2003 UB313
(136472) 2005 FY9
(136108) 2003 EL61

Minor Planet Designations

Andrew Lowe over at the Minor Planet Mailing List figured this out.

A tradition in the minor planets was to name the "special" numbers after something special: (8000) Isaac Newton, (20000) Varuna, (50000) Quaoar, etc. A great opportunity was lost when (100000) wasn't designated as Pluto.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Longwave radio beacons

I recently got a nice digital shortwave receiver, the Degen 1103. It's pretty nice, but this isn't a place for a review. In addition to shortwave, it receives the FM and AM broadcast bands, plus a frequency region below the AM broadcast band known as low frequency (LF) or longwave.

This band is defined (PDF) as 300kHz down to 30kHz. From 525kHz (the bottom of the AM dial) to 300kHz is technically still medium-wave but feels miles away from the AM band. It is mostly used for radionavigation for aircraft and ships, plus there are small allocations for the WWVB time broadcast at 60kHz and the 500kHz maritime distress frequency.

It's been neat to scan this new piece of spectrum I've never listened to before. Once you get past all the horrific noise (from switching power supplies, powerlines, etc. you start to hear the morse code IDs of all the radionavigation beacons around the airports near you.

In Chicago, I've heard five stations and if you record the morse code IDs, you can find where they broadcast from.

frequency(kHz) / ID / bearing(degree) / power(watts) / location / airport

There is also a slow "T" morse code beacon at 317kHz-318kHz, repeating precisely every 23 seconds, that I've been unable to identify. It's faint enough that I can't find the direction because I only hear if I null out all noise, which has it NE/SW.

DXinfocentre has a NDB list that is handy for quick ID. You can get a lot (by a lot I mean a lot) of more info if you enter the morse ID into Airnav's system here

Take the coordinates from either site and paste them into Google Maps to quickly locate the beacon.

Most of the beacons line up with runway approaches at the various airports, although RZL's is just at the airport itself. In the case of "ME", you can see it's an active approach here. and here. and here.

What's neat about the bearings (which came from the Degen's internal loopstick AM antenna), is that you can figure out where you are in relation to each beacon. Two beacons, roughly 90 degrees apart at your location, can give you a good fix about where you are. Any radio with an internal antenna like the Degen can be used like this for direction finding: the antenna is most sensitive to the front and back of the radio (as the loop inside is usually mounted horizontally lengthwise in the radio).

The Degen 1103 suffers from overloading from strong AM radio stations, and it exhibits a lot of fake radio stations (called images) in the longwave band that are just nearby transmitters.

There are other beacons and radio stations out there in this band (Europe has a whole set of actual commercial radio stations down there), but I haven't heard them with all the noise in the neighborhood. It looks like I'll need to make a better antenna to catch anything else than these stations.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SMART-1 moon crash

Alas, the Europeans modified the orbit of SMART-1 to avoid smashing into a crater one orbit early at 00:39 UT tonight, so that it will most likely impact at 05:43, the next perilune. Unfortunately this moves the impact from 7:39PM CDT to 12:43AM CDT, or quite literally, the moon having set all with but a sliver left above the horizon here in Chicago.

UPDATE: An image of the crash from the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope (CFHT)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ariel passing in front of Uranus

This is great: the axis of Uranus' rotation axis is nearly perpindicular to our line of sight, for the first time in 42 years, and now moons of Uranus are transiting across the face of Uranus.

Uranus and Ariel from HST