If Andromeda were brighter…

…it would look like this:


Stephen’s Quintet

Stephen's Quintet

Meteor Shower this weekend

Check it out:

Early Sunday (May 5), just before dawn, we’ll have an opportunity to see some of the remnants of the most famous of comets briefly light up the early morning sky.

The famed Halley’s Comet made its last pass through the inner solar system in 1986 and is not due back until the summer of 2061. But each time Halley sweeps around the sun, it leaves behind a dusty trail — call it “cosmic litter” — that is responsible for two meteor showers on Earth each year. The first of those “shooting stars” displays, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, will peak on Sunday.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower occurs each year in early May because the orbit of Halley’s Comet closely approaches the orbit of Earth in two places. The first is the May timeframe, which leads to the Eta Aquarids. The other point occurs in mid-October, producing the Orionid meteor shower.

This may be one of the exceptionally few times where there’s a clear sky and no full or near-full moon where I am during one of these events (or at least it seems that way).

Lyrid Shower

I really need to get back to my astronomy alerts.

Lyrid shower

The Universe is 13.8 billion years old

Findings from the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft have updated our knowledge of the age of the Universe:

Closer scrutiny of radiation left over from the creation of the universe shows the Big Bang took place about 13.8 billion years ago, 100 million years earlier than previous estimates, scientists said on Thursday.

The findings are among the first results from analysis of data collected by the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft, which is providing the most detailed look to date at the remnant microwave radiation that permeates the universe.

This relic radiation was first detected in 1964 and later mapped by two NASA spacecraft – COBE, launched in 1989, and WMAP, which followed two years later. With even greater sensitivity, Planck has picked out details of tiny temperature variations in the so-called cosmic microwave background.

The fluctuations, which differ by only about 100-millionths of a degree, correspond to slightly more dense regions of space, places that later gave rise to the stars and galaxies that fill the universe.

Interestingly, religion has still yet to yield any useful information about the Universe.

Keep your eye on the sky

I’m particularly excited about the comet ISON. From a little I’ve read here and there, it should be visible to the whole world (at one point or another) and it will be brighter than the moon for a short period.

Star gazing events of 2013

It’s out there

I can’t say that I absolutely believe there is life teeming about throughout the Universe, but I believe there is good reason to think there is.

Goldilocks zone

Orionid meteor shower

Take a look outside late tonight:

According to NASA’s website: “Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, (the) source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect 25 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Oct. 21.”

The best part of this cosmic display: No telescope required—but you may need an alarm clock. According to L.A.’s Griffith Observatory, the brightest displays will fall between 11 p.m. Saturday and 5:40 a.m. Sunday, Pacific time.

At this point I’m just going to assume there will 100% cloud cover where I am since that seems to the trend for these sort of things. However, I will still at least take a peak outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of things.

This is why I don’t respect William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig was presented with this from a fellow Christian:

Dear Dr. Craig

I have a question regarding the cause of the universe. We Christians hold God to be the cause and explanation of the natural world, yet Atheists frequently respond to me saying that you cannot apply causality to the universe itself. Because the universe is all of time and space, and since causality presuposses time and space, therefore the universe cannot have a cause.

So asking what the cause or the explanation of the universe is becomes meaningless.

So how can we say that God caused the universe or is the sufficient reason for the contigent existence of the universe if you cannot apply causality outside of time, or better said, if you cannot apply causality to time and space itself?

Could you help me out? Does the whole notion of causality indeed require the existence of spacetime?

God bless


I’ve addressed the First Cause argument in the past. Layman logic can get one to the point where it is obvious that God cannot be outside time and be the creator of the Universe as a result of causality. In fact, Janey already put a neat little bow on the issue for us: “Because the universe is all of time and space, and since causality presuposses time and space, therefore the universe cannot have a cause.” Naturally, whereas William Lane Craig fancies himself a student of broad, theoretical science – that is, he has read the Conservapedia page on physics – one would hope he would understand the problem being presented to him, thus causing him to surrender the point and never again use the First Cause argument. But instead, we get this:

I must confess that I’m baffled why atheists would think that causation presupposes time and space or at least time. Janey and John, you need to ask them what they mean by “causality” and what reason they have for believing that it presupposes time and space. They’re the ones raising the objection, so make them shoulder their burden of proof. After all, it’s not just obvious that causality presupposes time and space. So ask them for their argument.

No problem, bucko. Causality is a reference to force. Force is mass multiplied by acceleration. Acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Ergo, for there to be a force on something – that is, for something to be caused – time is necessary. Without time, there can be no change in velocity; without velocity there can be no change in acceleration; without acceleration, we have no coherent idea of what force even is, much less a way to measure it.

You’re welcome, Janey.

Curiosity: Doing it for the right reason

Mars rover Curiosity apparently has a frickin’ laser which it has used for the first time and for the right reason:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

During the target practice on Sunday. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor.

Oh. And it also has the goal of determining if Mars is inhabitable or something.