I Can’t Stop Thinking About The Eclipse.

2017 Eclipse

I can’t stop thinking about the eclipse.

I thought I pretty much knew what to expect from the 2017 solar eclipse. I understood the science. I had already witnessed a few partial/annular eclipses. I’ve been anticipating the event for a few years now and had read about the sensory changes I could expect to witness. I had a few good viewing locations scoped out with choices depending on the cloud coverage or crowds we might run into that day. My 3 1/2-year-old twins had plenty of food, water, sunscreen, eclipse glasses, and excitement. We were prepared for the event. But I soon learned that nothing could prepare me for the experience.

We had a perfect location on a ridge near Muddy Mountain Wyoming that provided 360 degree views. We were away from the crowds. And most importantly it was cloudless with 2 minutes and 18 seconds of anticipated totality.

We spent an hour watching the partial eclipse and eating a picnic lunch in the shade provided by some old, scraggly, Limber Pines. Eventually, the temperature began to drop slowly. Soon our surroundings dimmed and crickets began to chirp. I found myself caught off guard by the strangeness of my environment. The landscape appeared rosy and dimmed – as if I was wearing sunglasses. My stomach flipped with anticipation and anxiety caused by the surreality of my surroundings.

Quickly, much faster than I anticipated, darkness descended on us. The disorienting passage of time was head-spinning. I took my eclipse glasses off to see if I could see the umbra race toward us from across the valley below. But it happened too quickly. It was with a ridiculous suddenness that the moon’s shadow had shrouded us. I quickly turned around and looked up and saw the eclipsed sun glowing in the sky and my brain turned inside out.

My fingers fumbled around for my camera phone and I somehow managed to capture the image above. I tried to take a video of the “sunset” that surrounded us in every direction, but I only managed to catch these three seconds. I was overwhelmed.

The corona was much more bright and lustrous than I envisioned. It shone bright white and with a jaw dropping brilliance. We were all bewildered with its beauty and absolute strangeness. To look up into the sky and see a sparkling shine, unlike anything I have ever seen in my years of looking at the heavens. To share this with my wife and children.

And then it was gone. And now I can’t stop thinking about the eclipse.

TRAPPIST1 Size Comparison Chart

Seven Earth-like Planets Found Orbiting Nearby Star

TRAPPIST1 Size Comparison ChartImage via Space.com

This morning NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-like planets “that could harbor life” orbiting an ultra cool red dwarf star. Three of these seven newly discovered planets are in the Habitable Zone. The exoplanets circle the star TRAPPIST-1, which lies just 39 light-years (235 trillion miles) away — a mere stone’s throw in the cosmic scheme of things.

From Washington Post:

The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have ever detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying alien worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.

“Before this, if you wanted to study terrestrial planets, we had only four of them and they were all in our solar system,” said lead author Michaël Gillon, an exoplanet researcher at the University of Liège in Belgium. “Now we have seven Earth-sized planets to expand our understanding. Yes, we have the possibility to find water and life. But even if we don’t, whatever we find will be super interesting.”

Here’s the paper in Nature: Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby star TRAPPIST-1.

Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

There Are At Least 10 Times More Galaxies In The Universe Than We Thought

The universe suddenly looks a lot more crowded.

Waaaaay back in 1995, the Hubble Deep Field images surprised the world by revealing how crammed the universe is with galaxies. At that time astronomers estimated there were about 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Recent estimates put that count closer to 2 trillion, at least 10 times as many galaxies as we thought. However, about 90% of the galaxies in the observable Universe are actually too faint and too far away to be seen or studied. Phil Plait explains:

Now, let me be clear. This doesn’t meant the Universe is ten times bigger than we thought, or there are ten times as many stars. I’ll explain — I mean, duh, it’s what I do — but to cut to the chase, what they found is that there are lots of teeny, faint galaxies very far away that have gone undetected. So instead of being in a smaller number of big galaxies, stars are divvied up into a bigger number of smaller ones.

And it doesn’t mean the Universe has 10 times more mass than we thought. The mass is the same, it’s just distributed differently than we thought. It’s like knowing there are 1 million people in a city, and finding out they live in 100,000 buildings when you thought they were only in 10,000. There are more buildings, but not more people

This discovery has also helped lead to explanations for Olbers’ paradox which states, “Why is the sky dark at night if the universe contains a multitude of stars?” NASA helps explain:

The team came to the conclusion that indeed there actually is such an abundance of galaxies that, in principle, every patch in the sky contains part of a galaxy. However, starlight from the galaxies is invisible to the human eye and most modern telescopes due to other known factors that reduce visible and ultraviolet light in the universe. Those factors are the reddening of light due to the expansion of space, the universe’s dynamic nature, and the absorption of light by intergalactic dust and gas. All combined, this keeps the night sky dark to our vision.

The sky is literally covered in galaxies! Mind boggling to be sure!

Youthful NGC 362 Globular Cluster

A Young Globular Cluster

Youthful NGC 362 Globular Cluster

Earlier this week NASA released this dazzling image of NGC 362. It is one of about 150 known globular clusters on the outskirts of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Globular clusters are giant spheres that contain hundreds of thousands of stars and reside in the outskirts of galaxies. The ESA says NGC 362 is unusual:

By studying the different elements present within individual stars in NGC 362, astronomers discovered that the cluster boasts a surprisingly high metal content, indicating that it is younger than expected. Although most globular clusters are much older than the majority of stars in their host galaxy, NGC 362 bucks the trend, with an age lying between 10 and 11 billion years old. For reference, the age of the Milky Way is estimated to be above 13 billion years.

This image, in which you can view many of NGC 362’s individual stars, was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) If you want a new desktop image, here’s the 42 MB full-size original (it will automatically download).

Bad Trip Charts

Bad Trips Gone Good

A new study (Survey Study Of Challenging Experiences After Ingesting Psilocybin Mushrooms: Acute And Enduring Positive And Negative Consequences) from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had nearly 2,000 individuals complete an online survey about their single most psychologically difficult or challenging experience (worst “bad trip”) after consuming psilocybin mushrooms.

The study found that about 84 percent of users who have experienced a “bad trip” from hallucinogenic mushrooms say they benefited from the psychologically difficult situation. Some 60% of respondents considered their experience to be among the top 10 most psychologically personally meaningful experiences of their lives. Additionally, the majority of respondents said that a “psychologically difficult experience” while on Psilocybin lead to “enduring increases in well-being.” PsyPost reports that:

34 percent of participants said the bad trip was among the top five most personally meaningful experiences of their life and 31 percent said it was the among the top five most spiritually significant. And 76 percent said the bad trip had resulted in an improved sense of personal well-being or life satisfaction. Forty-six percent said they would be willing to experience the bad trip all over again.

Interestingly, the degree of psychological difficulty was statistically associated with beneficial outcomes. More difficult or challenging experiences tended to be viewed as more beneficial or meaningful. However, longer bad trips were associated with less beneficial outcomes.

Despite the counter-intuitive findings of this study, anyone who has psychedelic drug experience can assure you bad trips are not fun. Of those surveyed for this study, thirty-nine percent rated it among the top five most challenging experiences of his/her lifetime. Furthermore, 7.6% sought treatment for enduring psychological symptoms as result of their bad trip. Three cases appeared associated with onset of enduring psychotic symptoms and three cases with attempted suicide.

Remember, Set and Setting folks, Set and Setting.

corpse flower

A Fetid Phenomena

As if 2016 hasn’t already been strange/horrible enough, now we have to contend with all of America’s Corpse Flowers mysteriously blooming at once. Over seven Corpse Flower in the US have bloomed within months of each other. Even the Denver Botanic Garden’s own “Little Stinker” made a showing this past Saturday (but has since closed up).

This is extremely unusual since there have only been 157 recorded corpse flower blooms ever between 1889 and 2008. This year in the US alone, at least seven flowers have bloomed. Typically the flowers only bloom about once every six years.

One of the most popular explanations for the rampant blooming is because US greenhouses and botanical gardens share seeds with one another, meaning most of the corpse flowers that are currently blooming are likely related (think: cousins). Or maybe this is just the stinky harbinger of events to come…

Phoenix Microburst 1

Photographs Of A Microburst Pouring Down On Pheonix

Phoenix Microburst 1

Phoenix Microburst 2

Helicopter Reporter Jerry Ferguson (with help from Pilot Andrew Park took these unbelievable photos earlier this week while filming the weather for a local television station. No, it is not an A-bomb detonated over Phoenix. The photo depicts a dangerous weather phenomenon known as a microburst.

Microbursts are small but powerful rushes of rain-cooled air that collapse toward the ground from a parent thunderstorm. They are basically like a tornado in reverse – while a tornado funnels wind in and up, a microburst’s wind is funneled down and out. Microbursts are created by the downdrafts found in strong thunderstorms and are triggered by two main physical processes — the drag that’s created by falling rain and hail, and evaporation. Once the downdraft hits the ground, the wind — with gusts up to 150 mph — spread out over the land in all directions.

Microburst Crosssection

Below is a timelapse video of the same storm shot by Bryan Snider from the vantage point of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. The rainshafts in this footage make it look like Mother Nature turned on a faucet.



Via Colossal